Baduk TV English: Perception of Meijin – Episode 1 – The Emergence of the 20 Year Old Meijin

Perception of Meijin is a Baduk TV series where Seo Bongsu 9p analyzes the games of past and present masters, offering insights based on his unique perspective of Go.

Episode 1 is titled ‘The Emergence of the 20 Year Old Meijin’ and looks at game 4 from the 4th Myeongin title match, played on May 5, 1972. Cho Namcheol plays black and Seo Bongsu plays white.

Seo Bongsu isn’t as well known (outside Korea) as some of his contemporaries are, but he’s an honorary Myeongin (Korean Meijin) because of his past dominance of that title and many players are fans of his practical and creative fighting style.

Seo is joined by veteran Go journalist Park Chimoon 7d throughout the series.

Cho Namcheol vs Seo Bongsu

Video: Cho Namcheol vs Seo Bongsu

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Transcript of the video

Translated by Oh Chimin 7d for

Edited by David Ormerod 5d

Commentators: Seo Bongsu 9p and Park Chimoon 7d

Hello everyone, welcome to the first episode of 'Perception of Meijin'.

Seo Bongsu 9p is the most stereotypical Korean player in Go history.

When he was young, he was famous for his creative style.

Later on, people started calling him the 'Field Commander'.

If you look at his games, you'll see that his moves are more practical than anyone else's.

Throughout this series, all the games will be analyzed based on Seo's perception of Go.

Today's theme is 'the emergence of a young Meijin'.

Hello, long time no see!

Normally, people call you 'Meijin Seo'. [Ed: Myeongin in Korean, which usually is being translated as Meijin throughout this series.]

One reason for that is that you performed very well in the Meijin tournament.

How old were you when you won the tournament for the first time? Were you in high school?

No, I graduated from high school first.

A year after you became a pro, you became the challenger, and finally became the champion.

This was an historic event.

Let's have a look at a summary about that period.

Episode 1: The emergence of the 20 year old Meijin

Cho Namcheol, Kim In, Ha Chanseok, and Yoon Gihyun were all top Korean players who studied Go in Japan.

In contrast, Seo studied by himself in Korea and became strong by playing in many Go clubs.

He became a pro when he was 18, which was late compared to other players.

Two years later, the Korean media dubbed him the '20 year old Meijin'.

His opponent was Cho Namcheol 9p, who was the strongest player in Korea at the time.

But the result defied many people's expectations.

It was dramatic event at the time, to see a homegrown player become the Meijin.

After that, Seo became a rising star in the Korean Go community.

The pioneer of Korean Go, Cho Namcheol 9p (deceased).

When he was young, he learned Go in Japan, under Kitani Minoru 9p.

After he came back to Korea, he founded the Korean Baduk Association.

He became the first Meijin, and was awarded a second class honor, for cultural achievements, from the Korean government.

After he passed away, he was awarded a first class honor.

Here's the league table from the 4th Myeongin [Korean Meijin] tournament.

Practically speaking, this was the era of Kim In 9p.

By defeating Kim, Seo became the challenger with a 6-0 record in the league.

Why Meijin Seo?

Because Seo was extraordinary in the Meijin.

He achieved five consecutive victories in this tournament.

Other top players are usually called Kuksu [literally 'national hand'].

But Seo is an exception.

Let's have a look at the game from the final round, which made you Meijin.

The 4th game of the 4th Myeongin, played on the May 5, 1972.

Cho Namcheol 8p (at the time) is black, Seo Bongsu 2p (at the time) is white.

The 4-4 point was popular at the time.

However, not only the 3-4 point but also 3-5 were played in this game.

Many players played at 3-5 and 5-4 at the time.

Aren't there many trick plays related to these points?

Yes, that's right.

This two space high pincer was very popular too.

How about this kosumi? Wasn't it considered to be almost the only response in the past?

But it's rarely seen recently.

What's your opinion? Why don't players play there anymore?

People don't regard it as a good move anymore. I think that's become the general consensus.

Is it because inactive in terms of movement?

I think so. It's a bit too slow.

Both approach moves were low.

Cho was a territory oriented player. His moves were low in general.

White normally jumps here, but this attachment looks interesting.

Did you investigate it before the game?

Or, was there such a joseki at the time?

I didn't know many josekis, nor did I read any joseki books.

I can't remember why came it came to mind.

Black tried to shut white in like this.

Shouldn't black make an exchange around here first?

Yes, that was necessary.

This wedge is better because it defends the weakness better.

Then this push is also sente.

After that, this kosumi is good.

Now white's two stones are practically dead.

But white can gain territory at the top.

Cho omitted that exchange, so Seo wedged here.

What if black ataris here?

It's impossible now. White will connect and come out here.

These two points are miai, so black's in trouble.

So Cho had to push through like this.

However, the weakness here was critical for black.

White could've played more simply.

If I'd jumped here, it would have been easier to play.

After black captures this stone in a ladder, white can extend here again.

Later, white can make use of a ladder breaker in the bottom right.

I think it'd be simpler for white.

However, you had fighting spirit. I think you were too young to choose this variation.

Weren't you 19 years old?

[Ed: Seo was born in 1953, he was 19 years old at that time, despite the title of this episode.]

I don't quite remember the atmosphere, it was 40 years ago.

The news was posted on page one of Hankuk Ilbo, a Korean newspaper.

[Ed: Hankuk Ilbo is a major newspaper in Korea.]

Yes, I remember reading this on the first page.

It was the first time that your news was posted on page one.

At the time, Cho's star was in decline.

However, no one in the Korean Go community predicted that you'd become the challenger.

I didn't even imagine it.

How did you feel after becoming a title holder?

To begin with, I just wanted to learn from the tournament.

Fortunately, I became the challenger.

I heard that you learned Go in a Go club in the Youngdeungpo market.

I also went to another Go club near my school.

It was close, so it was very convenient.

The name was Noryangjin Go Club, and Mr Lee Wonsik was the manager.

I heard you didn't go to school very often.

No, I went to the Go club instead.

You played with players who didn't play professionally.

So you didn't learn the game in institutions like the Korean Baduk Association.

Mr Lee taught me a lot.

He's a strong amateur player.

Since you improved your skills under amateur players' instructions,

Your style was described as 'weedy' and 'coercive'. How did you feel about this?

It didn't worry me. I was glad to be viewed in that way.

I didn't have much knowledge about Go at the time.

I heard that your family was poor.

You only had enough money for the bus fare and some noodles each day. How much was it?

A round trip bus ticket cost 30 Won at the time [approx. $0.03 at today's exchange rate].

And noodles were 60 Won, so I spent 90 Won each day.

How did you spend the prize money after winning the Myeongin title?

My mother's wish was to buy a house.

The average house price at the time was about 100,000 Won [approx. $100], and the prize money was 250,000 Won.

So we upgraded our house to a 250,000 Won one.

You are a filial son.

The first battle began after black attacked white.

I thought you'd sacrifice these two stones.

But this knight's move was quite severe.

It's good to take note of this push, since it applied pressure to white's two stones.

And it also aimed at the followup here.

However, this jump was a forcing move, which was pleasurable.

Then white moved the cutting stones out.

Connecting here was a good move, since it made black's group solid.

Up to here, black built a wall and white got territory on the left.

Black sacrificed a lot for the thickness in the center.

Therefore, it was important for black to attack white's group effectively here.

This move was Cho's choice. What do you think of it?

In terms of the modern sense of play, where's the key point?

Playing in the center looks nice.

But what if white runs to the right side? Won't the side be reduced?

I think so. This area was very big too.

But players like Lee Sedol 9p would never build a moyo like this.

Anyway, Cho chose this move.

He believed he could still attack white.

This area was getting bigger, but there was a weakness at the bottom.

This slide upset black's plans.

It would have been painful for black to see it.

This exchange was played earlier.

Since black's territory was erased a little, Cho wanted to make for it on the left.

I should've extended here. It's the proper move.

But in the game, I haned here.

Was it bad?

Yes, it was.

What if black cuts and ataris like this?

The corner's split. The damage is considerable.

How about this? Isn't it even?

I think the game would be hard for both sides now.

White gained many points here, but the corner is lost.

So the game looks well balanced.

But Cho didn't choose this variation.

I think he was worried about the connection here.

In fact, this attachment works.

Because of that, he attacked white first.

Black was forcing white to escape or live inside.

White exchanged some moves.

Black couldn't allow white a tiger's mouth here, so this move was inevitable.

But at this point, you tenukied and double ataried.

Cho hoped that I'd answer, but this group was already alive.

Here's one eye.

There's half an eye on the top side, and there's aji here.

Because of this hane, black had to play here.

This extension was necessary.

After black haned, white jumped here.

Was this move urgent? Why didn't you look after your large group?

If white tenukis, black plays here, saving the two stones.

White has to respond, and the aji is very bad here.

After that, black started attacking. What happens if white just connects here?

Then this group will die.

You played an interesting move. This push was nice.

If black answers here, white can cut immediately.

This peep hits a vital point.

You read everything out at the time!

Cho had to push through white's shape, then white extended here.

Black attached here, but this jump was the proper move.

Then did Cho make a mistake?

Yes, let me show you a variation.

After white blocks here, this tiger's mouth is the strongest response.

White has to make an eye at the top.

Well, this hane looks possible.

If black throws in here, it's a ko.

How should we evaluate the ko?

It's far too big. White can't respond to any threats.

I think the atari here is a good ko threat.

Psychologically speaking, white would have felt the pressure if Cho had played like this.

Because you'd be worried about the ko.

Wait, instead of connecting here, this move is even better!

It's still a ko.

But in this case, black can start the ko whenever he wants.

On the other hand, white has some local threats.

Even though it's tough, black had an opportunity to make a ko and pressure white.

Since Cho attached here, white lived easily.

The previous exchanges were unnecessary.

By managing this group, white's lead became clear.

Yes, I felt I was ahead.

I should've simply extended, like this, now.

But I resisted.

This move exemplifies your style of play.

It gave black a chance.

Cho activated his dead stones.

His moves were delicate and nice.

Yes, it was a wonderful move indeed.

And then Cho ataried here.

After leaving some aji in the corner, he moved his group out again.

The sequence was great.

White couldn't omit this move.

Everyone thought black was dead, but Cho rescued his group.

Did you think this group was dead at the time?

To be frank with you, yes.

As far as I know, this move appears in life and death problem books.

Hadn't you read any books which showed this move?


When I studied Go, I had no books.

There were some written by Sakata Eio 9p. I didn't read many Go books.

Didn't you study life and death problem books either?

No, I didn't.

Recently, many talented kids master classic life and death problem books.

Yes, it's become a lot easier to improve now.

At the time, there weren't many books.

In addition, there were no formal teachers.

So you relied on your instincts.

In contrast, Cho would have learned this tesuji in Japan.

I guess so. There were many nice books there.

The two extensions were such a nice combination!

It was the only way to save this group.

How about this move?

Black needs to be careful. This atari is the only answer.

So this group is safe.

It was a great combination by Cho.

White had to capture this stone, but black rescued these stones too.

In order to maintain territorial balance, this move was essential.

Although black saved his group, he couldn't afford to give these stones up.

No, black got behind before.

How about this jump?

I don't think it's a good idea.

So Cho played a more severe move. If white had haned, black would have cut immediately.

The next move was crucial for white.

And this was a very powerful blow.

Surprisingly, this invasion was the move!

You didn't touch these three stones right away.

It was a kind of do or die move.

Black played a kosumi here. How about moving this stone out immediately?

This exchange is conceivable, but black has many options now.

This iron pillar is a strong attack.

And white can't make two eyes on the inside.

After this exchange, what about blocking off white's exits like this?

I think it's another option.

So the push is a dangerous move. It's hard for white to manage his group.

In the actual game, you played here.

White intended for black to block like this.

Then by pushing here, white can capture black's three stones.

Even though white sacrificed this stone, capturing these ones is sufficient compensation.

Because of that, black had to resist.

It's clear that white was successfully managing his group here.

Everything began with this invasion.

After that, isn't this connection a proper move?

But then white can easily live by descending here.

The tiger's mouth is enough to live, but white can even counter-attack.

Because of this cutting point, black can't persevere.

So black can't extend here.

And white can also just live with ease.

Black can't capture this group.

After this placement, white can make another eye here.

That variation meant a loss for black, so Cho captured this stone.

Black didn't have a stone here.

White had to come out like this first.

White had lots of liberties. How much could black increase his liberties?

I think to six or more.

But the problem is that black couldn't shut white in.

He wasn't able to attack white at all.

If black extends, white plays here first.

Capturing white's stones is inevitable, but cutting here is a nice move.

White can connect easily.

And there's still a cutting point here. It's no good.

After this move, Cho had to come back.

This atari was painful for black.

You played here again, as we showed earlier.

At this point, were you sure you'd win the game?

Well, this game was played 40 years ago, so I can't remember precisely.

But I guess I would've thought so when I descended here.

Because black's territory was completely destroyed.

During a game, do you feel pleasure when you successfully manage a situation with a tesuji?

Yes, I even feel ecstatic.

You were very young, and you'd become a title holder after winning this very game.

How did you feel? Weren't you nervous at the time?

To be honest, I was always nervous.

But I didn't see your hands trembling.

Then you didn't watch carefully. They certainly would have been!

Do you think all games are like this?

The bigger a match is, the more I tend to get nervous.

I always thought pros didn't do that. Does your heart pound sometimes?

Yes, It often does.

Really, is that so?

I don't notice that when watching you play.

Many young pros today don't seem to become nervous.

Anyway, this move was wonderful.

It's a good one to learn.

It's also in keeping with the proverb "add one stone, then sacrifice both".

In addition, this move is a good model of sacrifice.

Black had no choice but to capture them.

It was a one way street.

After that, you ataried here. Was that necessary?

Because of that move, the game lasted longer.

Wouldn't the game have been over with this move?

Yes, you're right.

I guess you were too nervous at this point?

I think I played there for more profit.

This move would weaken the aji here.

This atari implies your mental state at the time.

I was still weak.

By winning this game, you became the Meijin as a 2 dan player.

It was such a sensational event!

White wins by resignation. Seo Bongsu 2p defeated Cho Namcheol 8p 3:1 in the series.

You became the Meijin when you were a teenager.

I heard that you began Go very late. Were you 14 or 15?

It wasn't late at all. No elementary students played Go at the time.

But Cho Hunhyun 9p became a pro at the age of nine.

He's a special case.

In Japan, there was a general consensus that players who became pros after the age of 15 couldn't reach the top level.

At that time, Korean kids would get scolded if they played Go.

[Tr: He didn't answer the question.]

After becoming the champion, did you go out for a drink to celebrate?

I didn't drink.

Then how did you spend the prize money?

Well, I earned some money from playing in the main tournament and the preliminary rounds.

And there was a small allowance for pros. That's how I maintained my life.

I didn't know where to spend money, so I gave it to my mother.

You really are a filial son!

As I said before, my mother's wish was to purchase a house.

Since my family had moved many times, she was sick of it.

As a result of success in tournaments, I was finally able to buy a house for her.

You're a great son.

We'll continue with another game between Lee Sedol 9p and Kim Kiyong 6p after the break.

This game is from the fifth round of the 2011 Olleh Cup.

It was played two years ago.

Let's see what the Korean Go world was like at the time, through a short summary.

Lee Sedol was the #1 player, and he'd maintained that status for 20 months.

Choi Cheolhan 9p also had a good year, winning the Kuksu and the Chunwon.

Park Junghwan 9p won the Fujitsu Cup.

Both Won Seongjin 9p and Park Younghun 9p became title holders too.

Lee Younggu 9p won the Price Information Cup, for the first time in his life.

We're going to review a game played between Lee Sedol 9p and Kim Kiyong 6p.

We'll see the game through the perception of Meijin Seo Bongsu 9p!

Kim Kiyong was black, Lee Sedol was white.

Kim started with the Chinese Opening, which has been very popular recently.

Players tended to approach very often in the past, but they tend to enclose corners a lot more recently.

After that, Lee enclosed his corner too.

Lee likes playing high [on the fourth line instead of the third].

However, this move seems a bit old fashioned.

How about this move?

I've seen this extension very often.

That move is normal.

In terms of territory, white's moves weren't profitable.

But they were good for developing the center.

Do you like white's strategy?

I don't know. It's hard to say.

Black chose to secure the corner.

This sequence has become very popular recently.

In practical terms, it's considered to be joseki.

After that, black normally plays here. How about this?

It's one of the most common followups these days.

But in the game, Kim played here. What do you think?

If white plays here instead, this moyo will become larger.

And it'll be hard for black to reduce it.

I think white could've made this exchange before playing in the top right corner.

It seems like that would be more normal based on my instincts.

It'd be better to make territory and reduce black's area.

Since Lee omitted that exchange, Kim split here.

It was a light and good move.

The distance between the stones looks a bit odd to me. Was this move ok?

If white tenukis, black will play here and settle down easily.

If black plays a tiger's mouth here, the corner will become thinner.

The whole corner might be attacked.

Though narrow, this point was vital.

In response, Kim jumped out.

Since black's group was in white's area, Kim needed to play lightly.

Lee took territory with a kosumi.

Up to here, the flow was calm.

After that, Kim invaded at 3-3.

Then he tenukied. What did that exchange mean?

Black usually answers here.

That's a common sequence.

However, Kim thought those exchanges were already profitable for him.

And he started attacking white.

Unlike this move, Kim intended to attack the whole group.

It'd be very good if black could connect his weak group, while attacking.

I think black wanted to prevent this invasion.

Before that, Kim threatened white first.

In response to white's jump, Kim chased Lee's group.

This group still looks thin. I think Lee needed to continue looking after his group.

Lee's especially good at sabaki (managing weak groups).

Yes, his sabaki skills are outstanding.

Lee's style is evaluated as attacking-oriented, or territory-oriented.

What's the strongest aspect of Lee's Go?

First of all, he's extremely good in complicated situations, during battles.

Complicated fighting, including attacking.

On the other hand, one needs to be able to manage groups, and Lee's very good at that too.

His sabaki skills are sometimes uncanny!

Ordinary people can't even copy it.

I was surprised when he created a draw using four kos.

And he often plays brilliant moves.

Among these skills, Lee's sabaki ability is the best.

Lee's style of play is categorized as being similar to that of Cho Hunhyun 9p's.

Both players are adept at sabaki.

Yes, strong players are generally good at this skill.

To become a strong player, we need to study sabaki deeply.

Kim approached from behind.

Did he mean to force white to defend?

Yes, but Lee wouldn't answer. Instead, he counter-attacked.

This situation was interesting.

Kim left his group and shut white in at once.

This move looks quite severe.

I think white can make two eyes with this kosumi. How about it?

After black wedges here, the continuation will be a bit tricky.

If white extends, this placement is vital.

White can't live on the inside, and there's no proper response for white.

So the diagonal attachment isn't a good answer now.

Lee chose another move instead.

If a player isn't good at sabaki, he'll suffer greatly from this sort of attack.

If this group dies, the game is over immediately.

In response to black's knight's move, I'd just look after white's group by connecting.

Lee attached here, and Kim haned.

If white captures this one, black can counter atari.

This stone is getting weaker.

Now it's placed aimlessly.

Lee never answers in the way his opponents intend.

He attached here instead.

This cut was the only way to get the group out of danger.

Is capturing this stone white's intention?

After this atari, white will play a tiger's mouth.

White can easily live, with plenty of eye space.

But Kim resisted strongly.

He managed to break through white's shape.

White seems to be in trouble.

I think white had to connect.

Normally, white should extend here, instead of capturing this stone, but this was a special case.

Black's atari was quite painful though.

Lee extended, then attached here.

Before capturing white's stone, Kim pushed here.

This sequence should be understandable to everyone.

At this point, Lee cut here. It was an interesting situation.

Because of the aji in the corner, black should extend here.

Then this cut is a great asking move.

Black has to atari here, then he'll lose some points.

This area got smaller.

In addition, a weakness was exposed here.

Kim didn't like it, so he just connected.

If black had chosen this move, the fascinating variation wouldn't have appeared in the actual game.

Lee recognized the difference between these two moves very clearly!

Because of that, Lee captured this stone, enduring bad shape.

If black had extended here, Lee would have just lived on the inside.

Yes, it's no big deal.

This atari is sente too.

This was how white was supposed to manage his group.

But because Kim resisted, Lee played differently.

White cut here, and black connected, to block off white's escape.

That move was essential for black.

Lee descended here, and it was the strongest move.

What if black captures these two stones?

In that case, white ataris twice, then jumps here.

It's a capturing race. I think this is black's only response.

White will connect and extend like this.

Although it's a complicated fight, the result is a ko.

Because of this weakness, black can't attach here.

So this is a proper move.

If black exchanges this first, it's a ko.

But it's a hanami ko for white (a ko in which one has nothing to lose).

There are so many ko threats in the top right corner.

Kim saw another move instead.

Black couldn't capture these two stones.

Kim peeped here first.

Lee didn't answer, and captured these two stones.

Kim separated white like this. It was a strong move.

In this situation, Lee sacrificed his stones to connect. It's awesome!

Although white appears to be separated, Lee had a way to rescue the whole group.

By sacrificing those stones, white was able to connect under.

This move was a good way to connect.

We need to pay close attention to the way in which white connected.

Surprisingly, Lee had read this whole sequence at the time when he cut in the top right corner.

It's such amazing reading!

Kim rescued his three stones, and it was fair enough.

Now white had only one eye.

Kim was trying to capture white, but he didn't see this move.

It looks awesome. Let's investigate some variations.

This attachment is conceivable.

Then white wedges here.

If black ataris, his group will be killed after white ataris and squeezes.

So black needs another response.

How about this atari? Did Kim play here?

Yes, he chose it, then Lee attached here.

If black tries to separate white like this, white will move out and capture black.

As the proverb says "the enemy's vital point is your own." So how about this move?

Then white will extend here. It isn't good either.

If white answers here, black can capture white.

White has to connect. If he plays here, black will capture these two stones.

After white connects, black can destroy white's eye here.

So white can't play at 2-2.

This empty triangle move is the strongest response for black.

However, extending here is a good answer.

How about the capturing race?

These exchanges are necessary.

Black needs to throw in first.

White wins the capturing race by one liberty.

Black dies.

It's fascinating.

Kim had tried to capture white's group.

But he had to release white. Let's see the actual progression.

Up to here, white was completely alive.

White captured these two stones, and black captured three stones.

But black lost many points in the top right corner.

Moreover, the aji here was nasty for black. In the end, the game ended with Lee's victory.

Let's go back a little.

We need to focus on white's extension on the first line.

This is the sequence both players played.

When black enclosed him, Lee cut here.

If black had extended, the actual progression wouldn't have occurred.

When did Lee see the possibility of this extension?

I think he was already aware of it at this point.

I don't know how many moves they played from here, but Lee's reading is amazing!

Let's see the sequence again.

This extension was brilliant.

If black captures these two stones, the result will be a ko.

Because of that, Kim tenukied and peeped here first.

This move was good indeed. What if white just connects here?

White can still save his group.

Black has to atari here.

Then white connects.

This group is still alive.

These two points are miai.

However, white can't destroy black's corner in this variation.

In the end, Lee Sedol won by 3.5 points.

But the difference is a lot more than that.

With this progression, black might've won the game.

Sadly enough, Kim didn't see this move.

Although he was the winner of a tournament for young players, he overlooked two important moves.

But Lee saw them.

Lee pushed and cut.

This peep was powerful though.

Because of the cutting point here, Lee couldn't cut this stone off.

I think black's attack was very severe.

Without this move, the entire group would die.

It's amazing that Lee read the tesuji, as well as the whole sequence.

It's clear that reading is an essential requirement for professional players.

Thanks to his outstanding reading skills, Lee's been able to reach the top level.

Without that ability, one can't become a strong player.

Today we've reviewed games through the perception of Meijin Seo Bongsu.

See you next time. Thank you!

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