Baduk TV English: Lee Sedol vs Xie He – Searching for Exquisite Games: Episode 33

Searching for Exquisite Games is a Baduk TV series that reviews some of the best games of Go from the last few decades. The commentators are Yoon Seonghyun 9p and Shim Wooseop 7d.

Episode 33 looks at game 1 from the 8th Chunlan Cup final, played on June 27, 2011. Lee Sedol plays black and Xie He plays white.

Lee Sedol vs Xie He

Video: Lee Sedol vs Xie He

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Transcript of the video

Translated by Oh Chimin 7d for

Edited by David Ormerod 5d

Searching for Exquisite Games: Episode 33.

Hello everyone, welcome back to 'Searching for Exquisite Games'!

Today's theme is 'natural enemies'.

This game is from the final of the 8th Chunlan Cup, between Lee Sedol 9p and Xie He 9p.

Lee was already one of the top players in the world.

Even so, he has his natural enemies.

Everyone knows his strength.

Only a few people are ahead in terms of their head to head record against Lee.

Xie He 9p is notable as Lee's natural enemy.

Back in 2006, Lee was fighting to become the #1 player in the world.

At that time, Xie wasn't even in the top ten.

As a result, many people were curious about Lee's losses against Xie.

In addition, Lee was the first Korean player in the 10th Nongshim Cup team.

But he was eliminated early by Xie.

Their head to head record was 1-4 before this game.

Now Xie's ranked #2 in China.

He's regarded as one of the strongest players in his country.

At the time, Lee wasn't performing very well.

Many Chinese Go players thought this was another good opportunity to defeat Lee.

Several wins against Lee would give Xie confidence in his Go.

I think their opposing styles of play have played an important role in this.

But this game would be different to their previous ones.

Let's have a look at the game.

Lee Sedol 9p plays black, Xie He 9p plays white.

A one sided head to head record can appear between players whose style is similar.

However, we often see the opposite case [of players with opposing styles].

In fact, the latter situation is more common.

Xie's weakness was that he'd never been in the final of an international competition before.

In contrast, Lee has experienced big matches on many occasions.

Lee began with a solid position.

This game was the first of a three game match.

Xie had advanced to the final for the first time.

If he lost the first game, he'd be discouraged.

Therefore, Lee would would be very keen to win this game.

So that he could take the initiative in this match.

In response to black's enclosure, white split here.

After this approach, Xie jumped.

When he approached, Lee was planning to extend here.

He wanted to spread out with a double wing formation.

However, this double approach is a bit painful.

We need to investigate this in more detail, to see which move is more valuable.

Recently, many players tend not to build large moyos, due to the uncertainty of that strategy.

When an opponent invades, it's not always easy to attack.

Therefore, players usually don't allow double approaches in exchange for a moyo.

But Lee wanted to confuse Xie by varying his moves.

Since Xie's style is calm, creating lots of possibilities would be favorable for Lee.

Stability is Xie's strong point.

Lee attached, to avoid being enclosed.

Xie chose to invade at 3-3, which is a simple way of playing.

This tiger's mouth is a common answer.

Since white already had two stones here, Xie could connect.

This variation is uncommon.

It's an old fashioned joseki.

Children who started learning Go recently wouldn't know this variation.

This move is the worst choice.

White will connect up.

White takes the corner, with many points, and a thick position.

Can black attack this group properly?

Black has bad shape, with two empty triangles.

If he can't capture this group now, it will be a failure for black.

Since white's group is light, it won't die.

So black mustn't block like that.

This move used to be considered to be the right answer.

White has to connect here first.

After this push, white extends.

Since these moves are all sente, white's group is stable.

And white's position looks very good.

White has managed his groups on both sides.

This joseki was developed in Japan, but it hasn't been played for a long time.

Some josekis have disappeared.

And this is one of them.

So it's not a joseki anymore.

This hane is the joseki move instead.

In most cases, black has to hane like this.

And this push applies pressure to white's group.

I thought it was bad for black, since he's crawled twice on the second line.

But black's moves are meaningful.

In the actual game, Xie jumped like this. Why didn't he play here instead?

If black comes out, white will jump again, and it's good for white.

But this attachment is a tesuji.

How about this hane?

Then black can wedge. And if white double ataris?

Then black has to save this stone, and he can enclose this area.

This atari will be sente too. It's painful for white.

So this attachment is a nice tesuji.

White's shape doesn't look very nice.

That's why white jumps like this.

Because it's the beginning of the game, this jump isn't very powerful at all.

But, leaving many other big points on the board, Lee played here.

In response, Xie secured his corner.

Choi Cheolhan 9p was in the observers' room during this game.

So I asked him what he thought about this situation.

He said that black wouldn't be able to complete this moyo.

In addition, Lee allowed the double approach and took gote.

So this wasn't good for black.

Instead of this tiger's mouth, Choi suggested this approach.

This peep will be a forcing move though.

If white pincers, black can invade at 3-3.

If white responds like this, black can extend and pressure white's group.

This will lead to fighting, but black's group is safe, thanks to forcing moves like this.

So it shouldn't be attacked too severely.

In addition, the upper side is open.

Even though this kosumi had the full value of a move, it was too early.

So he should have tenukied and played elsewhere.

This second line move was a bit problematic.

There was one more thing Choi mentioned.

Suppose that black has a stone here.

In this case, this attachment is a nice move.

If white hanes, black bumps here, aiming at both points in miai.

In response to this extension, black pushes.

Because of the cutting point, white can't hane.

This cut will lead to trouble for white.

But, since white had a stone here, he could block.

Can white withstand black's cut?

Yes, white has time to jump out here.

The difference is huge.

If there's a black stone here, this attachment is a nice move.

But it isn't as powerful when white's stone is here.

It's important to select your moves in the context of the whole board situation.

This approach was a strong move.

Lee often falls behind in the fuseki.

So many observers didn't worry much about the result in the top right.

After this pincer, Xie attached here.

Lee would have been a bit nervous, since his record against Xie wasn't good.

In the past, black would enclose this area after exchanging the hane.

But no one plays like this recently.

That's because black has many weaknesses.

In addition, it's hard to expand this moyo.

So this variation vanished quickly.

That's why Lee chose to extend here.

Instead of looking after the corner, Xie jumped here.

After that, Lee tried to shut white in.

It'd be better if white could exchange this move in sente.

But black would tenuki and invade here.

A trade can be expected.

However, it's playable for white,

Because he can erase black's area.

But Xie thought he could fight with this attachment.

This was what he was aiming for.

However, it was quite complicated for both sides.

The ladder favors black.

So did Lee capture this stone in a ladder?

Well, white can wedge here.

Then it seems like black can't block like this.

Right, this cut works for white.

Inevitably, black has to capture, then white connects here.

In a way, black's moyo is solid.

However, playing like this isn't in keeping with Lee's style.

He'd rather take points first, then invade his opponent's moyo.

Regardless of the result, Lee wouldn't choose this variation.

It's just not his style.

So, after exchanging the atari, he extended here.

But this push was painful.

Lee had to play an empty triangle.

He's a real fighter.

It'd be better if black could kosumi, after extending.

This move looks a bit scary, but black can hane.

Since white can't cut anymore, he has to enclose black like this.

If black cuts, this battle is very complicated.

It's playable for black.

But white will choose another move.

He can still wedge here.

If black cuts, white ataris, sacrificing his single stone.

Black's enclosed again.

It's unpleasant for black.

After this atari, white can peep here in sente.

Above all, white's influence here is very thick. It's better for white.

To avoid this variation, Lee ataried here.

This turn is painful though.

Before attacking, white played an asking move here.

Then Lee looked after his weak group.

White could have played a knight's move to attack black.

Lee persevered, like this, but this invasion was very powerful.

It's hard to manage both sides.

I think Lee seems to enjoy such hardships.

The observers said that Lee's flow wasn't that good. But, on the other hand, this is his style.

So we thought that Lee was kind of ok.

There was something peculiar here.

Instead of playing in the corner, we expected this move, which is more in keeping with Lee's style.

Because of white's weaknesses, this hane seems right.

Then black can cut.

It's very complicated.

Can black manage his group and this cutting point at the same time?

This knight's move is almost a forcing move.

This would become a crucial fight for both players.

Before cutting, Lee pushed here first.

With that exchange, this group can be strengthened a little.

Exactly, white could block here later.

And black's placement is also powerful.

But it was questionable.

If Lee had foreseen the outcome, he'd have attached here immediately.

Does it mean that the actual progression wasn't favorable for Lee?

Instead of answering here, Xie attached, and it was an interesting move.

Under normal circumstances, such a move is never played.

If black blocks, white can wedge and cut off these two stones.

Locally, the attachment isn't a good move.

Black has to capture this stone, then white can play here in sente.

However, this group isn't alive yet.

Even though black gets some points at the bottom, white will take control in the center.

Black's center group is floating.

Therefore, Xie's attachment was a good improvisation.

Lee couldn't follow this variation, so he resisted.

To avoid it, he wedged here.

But Xie descended here!

The game was becoming more complicated. This cut was inevitable.

A capturing race began.

Couldn't black push through from the right?

Isn't this point sente? Black might find a way out.

Yes, this move is conceivable.

Black can hane and capture white's three stones.

After that trade, white will invade the bottom side.

By sacrificing those stones, white got sente and managed his group nicely.

We can compare this variation with the actual game.

It's one possible choice.

In terms of territory, black is ok.

But this moyo will be damaged.

Lee built this moyo at the cost of territory in the top right.

So this doesn't work well with black's original strategy.

So it's time for a comparison.

In the actual game, Lee ataried and captured this stone.

Xie spent another move here, due to bad aji.

If black can peep here, a ko will occur.

The potential of this ko would be a heavy burden for white.

Let's look at what happened in the actual game and analyze the result.

Was black's pinch possible?

White mustn't atari here.

It's a big mistake. White will die.

So Xie had to connect here instead.

White couldn't resist, so he just ataried here.

After that, Lee squeezed.

Black took this corner, while white became very thick on the outside.

Before we analyze the result, there's one more question.

If white could exchange this move in sente, it would be much more profitable for white.

Yes, it would be quite different.

In the previous variation, black's groups were all connected.

But, in this case, the connection isn't guaranteed.

I showed the aji here before. But it's still early in the game.

There are no ko threats in the opening.

There are no threats for black now.

If black loses the ko, the corner will be captured.

So black can't resist with this ko.

Why didn't white play like this then?

I asked the players about it, and they said that playing here wasn't scary.

But that black could push here first, then cut.

I think this atari is inevitable.

When white pushes, to avoid being enclosed, black can peep here.

The previous exchanges were made in preparation for this ko.

When white captures this stone, black can atari here.

Black only needs one ko threat.

These four stones are just huge.

I don't think white can stand it.

So white has to remove this aji.

After black answers here, white still can't tenuki.

Let's see what will happen he white does so.

Black can simply reduce white's liberties.

White can't throw his stone inside this tiger's mouth.

If white plays from the outside, black hanes and captures white's group.

So white has to respond.

In other words, this peep helps to capture black's group.

But it doesn't help white to defend this weakness.

And this bamboo joint isn't helpful in the capturing race.

White has to atari, then black extends here.

In doing so, black gets a good position on the right.

It's quite different to the actual game.

These exchanges are submissive for white.

In conclusion, this jump wasn't possible.

Xie read these moves and the variations.

It shows how deep his reading is.

Both players reached a compromise.

With this exchange, the battle settled down.

Black was successful in the fight.

All the observers agreed.

However, the problem was the placement of the stones.

Black started with a double wing formation.

But it was gone at this point.

And this stone was too close to white's wall.

Despite the profit on the left, black's moyo was erased considerably.

On the whole, white was still leading.

Since black had also built a wall, Lee invaded right away.

Xie's answers were simple.

He attached and cut.

Let's see the actual progression.

Lee resisted like this.

There are also other possible variations, which can be compared to the game.

Lee sacrificed his two stones.

Up to here, a trade occurred.

After cutting here, white can reduce black's territory later.

Black gained about 20 points from this trade.

But he already had a wall, and he started the fight.

There had been some aji in the corner, but white had removed it by capturing these two stones.

White had gained about ten points.

In addition, he took sente and invaded here.

So this trade wasn't satisfactory for black.

So I asked the players about some other variations.

I suggested this atari and the tiger's mouth.

Choi Cheolhan 9p gave me the answer.

According to him, white can descend here, instead of answering in the corner.

Black has to live.

After taking sente, white can invade here.

What about the aji on the left side?

I thought about that too, but white has a wonderful move here.

Well, are these stones dead?

Yes, if white tries to shut them in like this, black can resist with the wedge or attachment.

But this move removes the aji and simultaneously blocks off the exit.

Black can't rescue his stones.

So white can capture the cutting stone in sente, and invade here. It still seems better for white.

Yes, it makes no difference to the result.

The conclusion is a bit weird though.

Xie's choice, the attachment and cut, was very well timed.

He left black with very few choices.

And white was also able to erase black's moyo.

After securing the corner, Lee escaped.

This stone was too important to sacrifice.

White had 22 points in the top left.

10 points in the top right, and 13 points at the bottom.

Including the komi, white had secured 50 points.

On the other hand, black had 35 points on the left, 10 in the bottom right, and 5 at the top.

If white jumps out here, this area will be erased automatically.

At this point, it was hard for black to pay the komi.

It made many people think about the relationship between these players.

Because Lee didn't perform well against Xie.

On the other hand, some trusted in Lee's experience in big matches.

So some observers expected Lee to catch up soon.

Another battle was about to begin. Let's continue after the break!

We're reviewing a game between two natural enemies!

Both players created many interesting variations.

And they'd reached the middle game.

Xie dealt with Lee's provocations in the bottom left very well.

Even though he might've lost a few points, he managed his groups successfully.

In the top left, he secured the corner by sacrificing two stones.

Up to here, Xie's defending was better than Lee's attacking.

I think this is the reason why Xie is strong against Lee.

Yes, Lee says Xie is even harder to play against than Gu Li 9p or Kong Jie 9p.

Anyway, Lee wanted to start another fight, by moving his group out.

After that, Xie played many interesting moves.

He invaded here. Wasn't this group weak?

This invasion was ok though.

And after these exchanges, Lee attached here.

White had some weaknesses around here.

Yes, the connection looks a bit uncertain.

But it'd be too slow to spend another move to defend here.

I think Xie should have jumped here, which would have been normal.

Black has to avoid being enclosed.

Then white can also jump out.

Although white has a weakness, black has no time to cut him, because of his weak group.

Or, white could've just jumped with this exchange. Black needs to answer.

White was ahead in terms of territory.

There was no need to rush.

This looks like a good combination.

But it left black with an aim here.

It's dangerous to give such an opportunity to players like Lee.

White could still attack black.

Xie successfully separated black.

This peep was sente.

After that, the sequence of moves was fascinating.

Lee's strengths will be shown from this point onwards.

Anyone can see this move.

But it's hard to exploit white's weakness immediately.

White can counter-attack with this atari.

Can black go on fighting like this?

Despite the weakness, it was hard for black to find the right timing.

But, at this point, Lee attached here.

Normally, black pushes and cuts like this.

Even though Lee removed that aim, this attachment was meaningful.

It was a bad exchange, because it let white connect.

In addition, black couldn't enclose the center.

But then Lee could play here at last.

Now black could withstand white's atari.

White can't come out anymore.

These exchanges were very helpful.

So Xie tried to live on the inside.

Instead of attacking immediately, Lee haned here again.

He dealt with the center first.

Even though white came out, he was finally shut in.

Nevertheless, neither of white's groups were dead.

And he connected this stone by peeping.

Up to here, white didn't suffer any damage.

All black had achieved so far was to cut and separate white.

Lee kept strengthening his group.

In response, Xie jumped here.

When Lee connected, Xie played here!

If white saves his stones, Lee would attempt to capture this group.

This move is a tesuji.

Black can connect along the second line!

Now black's position is very solid.

So white couldn't rescue his stones.

After this exchange, Lee captured white's eight stones.

The observers said it was a big success for Lee.

But, after assessing the overall position, that turned out to be wrong.

Weren't these stones big enough?

We analyzed the result.

Black gained 20 points from the capture, plus the thickness in the center.

Since the invasion, white had erased black's moyo and made about ten points there.

And by connecting at the bottom, white got another five points there.

In total, white had acquired 15 points, and sente.

Despite our our first impressions, black's profit wasn't significant.

Even though these eight stones looked quite big, white got many points in other areas.

Was there something wrong with black's moves?

Earlier, Lee connected here.

It was exchanged with white's jump.

Playing here would be more forceful against white's bottom group.

Then white must answer here, to save his group.

In fact, this exchange isn't that urgent.

So, eventually, black would have time to rescue his right side stone.

White couldn't cut black anyway.

So Lee should've connected here.

In response to this jump, black can attach and continue to attack.

Capturing this stone is worth ten points.

Once this stone is saved, white can't tenuki.

White's group looks very thin.

This kosumi is inevitable, but black can keep attacking the entire group.

Black can exchange this move now.

This variation would change the flow.

Rather than gaining territory, taking control of the game is more important.

The value of black's thickness can be maximized when attacking.

Once white connected, this thickness lost its value.

Lee overlooked Xie's sacrifice.

The move order made a huge difference.

His attachment and the overall strategy were excellent.

However, he made a mistake at the end.

Xie made a great choice in sacrificing his stones.

He thought he would still be leading after the sacrifice, and he was right.

Since Lee connected the top, Xie could captured the right side after this exchange.

So it was another compromise.

As a result, white got sente.

After the game, the players said something interesting.

Their views were different to those of the observers.

The observers praised Lee's wonderful reading and thought it had turned the tables.

It took us quite awhile to realize what had really happened.

Overall, Lee had caught up a little, but he hadn't reversed the game yet.

White approached here, to reduce black's territory.

After that, he blocked here, to expand the top side.

I think this black group looks unstable.

But Lee didn't have time to look after his group.

Black invaded immediately.

When Xie blocked here, Lee couldn't leave his group anymore.

Black couldn't allow white to wedge first.

If white does so, the whole group is threatened.

However, this combination was good.

Since the potential of these black stones was used up, it was ok to sacrifice them.

So white connected here, and black prevented white's wedge in sente.

After that, Lee looked after his group on the top side.

In response to white's push, Lee blocked here.

At this point, Xie pushed here, to attack black's top right group.

Did he intend to capture it?

Yes, and Lee chose to cut, instead of defending his group.

So it became the most crucial battle of the game.

However, if white had defended like this, he'd still have been leading.

Wasn't this area erased?

Well, black can even leave his group and capture white's stone.

If white attacks, black has to rescue his group.

Due to the cutting point, white can't play here.

Black will be able to capture white's four stones later.

White can play many forcing moves.

Many pros assessed the position.

They concluded that white would win by 1.5 or 2.5 points.

It seems like a big margin among top players.

But amateurs would never play like this, because it's extremely close between them.

Even though Xie's answers were very calm, he was aware of the fact that Lee was catching up.

I think he'd have had this variation in his mind when assessing the position.

Presumably he thought the game was very close now.

Since black had erased white's moyo, Xie would have wanted some sort of compensation for the loss.

He wanted to take profit first.

If black attaches here to live, then white won't need to defend here in gote.

If white can live at the top, there's no need to play like this.

But Lee's eyes were widening, and he cut here.

Instead of just rescuing his group, he wanted to start a capturing race between these two groups.

After this move, the game became more complicated. Let's have a look at the result!

Many players are well aware of Lee's fierce attacking skills.

Once they give Lee a chance, he doesn't miss it.

Lee had always aimed at Xie's flaws.

By sacrificing the center stones, Xie got dodged Lee's earlier attack.

Then he attacked black's group in the top right.

But Lee wanted him to do so.

Lee needed a fight, otherwise he had no hope.

Lee's resistance was obvious though.

Xie tends to play safely when he's ahead.

But, this time, he played severely around here.

It provoked Lee's counter.

This was somewhat different to Xie's usual style.

Now the focus was on the result of Lee's counter-attack.

Yes, that's the highlight of the game.

Black's previous cut was a typical move to reduce white's liberties.

Though not alive yet, black had lots of liberties on the outside.

It was a big capturing race.

Whoever won it would win the game.

Xie tried to increase his liberties first.

Attacking black is conceivable, but white didn't have many liberties.

Xie would decide whether or not to attack depending on black's response.

A single mistake could lead to death.

Instead of looking after his group, Lee choked white's group of liberties.

It was very hard to read accurately here.

Both players must've been very nervous at this point.

After black's wedge, white's liberties were significantly reduced.

Yes, it defied white's expectations.

White only gained one or two extra liberties.

Black came out. Could white separate and attack the top group?

Xie tried to increase his liberties again.

Black could've pushed and reduced the liberties.

Black had to decide whether or not he would attack white's group.

However, black could save his top right group!

Xie didn't attempt to capture this group.

So Lee decided to rescue it first.

Now black's top right group was alive.

But white's group wasn't alive yet.

Xie had no choice but to cut.

He had to fight against another group.

Instead of cutting, Lee haned in the top left.

It'd be enough to win if he could capture white's two stones.

In addition, he'd be able destroy white's territory.

His reading was very calm.

169 moves, black (Lee Sedol 9p) wins by resignation

Lee's do or die move was a big success.

But there were many complicated variations during the final battle.

Xie resigned without finishing the fight.

Lee's counter was successful.

Black's cut decreased white's liberties considerably.

Therefore, Xie's extension here was reasonable.

This cut is also conceivable.

It's reasonably complicated too.

Black can't extend, because of this cutting point.

So it's still a capturing race.

Well, black will atari here.

Then he'll push and white's liberties will decrease.

Black wins the capturing race.

Because of the white's shortage of liberties, white can't atari black.

That's why Xie couldn't cut here.

Avoiding this variation showed Xie's good judgment.

Instead, he connected here.

White still had a weakness here.

Yes, if black pushes, white has few liberties.

After that, black lived.

What would have happened if white had continued playing here?

He could've resisted with this hane.

How about this double hane?

If white connects, black can extend here.

After white captures, black can cut.

Isn't it a capturing race?

Does white need to make an eye?

Well, then black can atari and live on the inside!

So white has to push and remove black's eye shape.

This is complicated. Let's look at another variation.

This extension is better.

White still needs to connect here.

White can't abandon his stones.

Even if he captures some black stones on the right, he can't win the game.

So white has to continue the capturing race somehow.

After this exchange, black cuts.

Now black has one more liberty here.

If white cuts here, black can also cut and live on the inside.

So white has to push like this.

Then black will kill white's eye shape too.

The problem is that it's hard for white to remove black's eye.

If white pushes, black can make one eye after this atari.

Then black wins the capturing race.

So, playing here is a good move.

But black will connect and block like this.

Now white can't attack here.

Because this move is sente.

Because of this weakness, white needs to capture these two stones before reducing black's liberties.

Now white's dead.

White couldn't win the capturing race, so Xie resigned.

In order to maintain the balance of territory, Xie had to make a seki, but he couldn't.

That's why he decided to resign when he did.

Through many struggles, Lee finally won this game.

By winning the first round, Lee made up for his bad record against Xie.

After this game, Lee said that he'd discovered Xie's weakness.

According to Lee, Xie lacks the ability to wrap up a game without giving his opponent any chances.

Lee didn't miss the opportunity to change the flow.

And it led to Lee's (2-1) victory in the 8th Chunlan Cup.

The perception of their 'natural enemy' relationship changed after this final.

I imagine that there are many other natural enemies that you can think of.

We're looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

Thank you!

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