Baduk TV English: Perception of Meijin – Episode 7 – The Climax of Seo Bongsu’s Go Career

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 7 is titled ‘The Climax of Seo Bongsu’s Go Career’ and looks at game 5 from the 2nd Ing Cup final, played on May 20, 1993. Seo Bongsu plays black and Otake Hideo 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.

Seo Bongsu vs Otake Hideo

Video: Seo Bongsu vs Otake Hideo

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Transcript of the video

Translated by Oh Chimin 7d for

Edited by David Ormerod 5d

Hello everyone, welcome back to 'Perception of Meijin'.

Many famous games in this series will be reviewed based on the perception of Meijin Seo.

Episode 7: The Climax of Seo Bongsu's Go Career

Today we're going to look at game 5 from the 2nd Ing Cup final.

In today's game, you'll be able to observe Seo's tenacity, as well as the Korean style of Go.

And you'll also get to see Otake Hideo's beautiful Go style.

These players met one another in the final of the 2nd Ing Cup.

Hello, master Seo!


I'm sure you have many memories about this game.

Yes, it was the happiest moment of my entire Go career.

Your opponent, Otake Hideo, was the leading proponent of 'aesthetic Go'.

On the other hand, your style of play was wild, which was the antithesis of Japanese Go.

Aesthetic Go is based on a belief in the power of beauty and shape.

Though unrefined, your style of play is based on practicality.

This match was a clash of two opposing styles, so it drew a great deal of attention.

Did you know much about Otake before the final?

I knew a little. I'd looked at some of his games.

He fought against Cho Chikun 9p for the Japanese Meijin title.

And he had experience in a number of big matches.

Above all, as the chief Go instructor at the Kitani Dojo, he trained many Go prodigies.

[Ed: The Kitani Dojo was the most prestigious Go school in Japan, in the 20th century.]

He studied with Takemiya Masaki 9p and Kim In 9p from Korea.

Undoubtedly, he's played an important role in the modern Go history.

Leading up to this match, many people anticipated your victory.

Perhaps that's because Korean Go fans wanted me to win the Ing Cup.

To be honest, I felt comfortable when I met him in the final.

But, in reality, I think I was weaker than him.

This was revealed in the games.

Let's have a look at the tournament bracket and an interview with Seo.

Here's the bracket. We already talked about this in the previous episode.

You defeated the 'Monster', Fujisawa Shuko 9p, as well as Takemiya Masaki 9p.

In the semifinal, Seo defeated Cho Chikun 9p, who plays for his life.

You got to the final by beating three stars.

On the other side of the draw, Otake defeated Hashimoto Shoji 9p and Rin Kaiho 9p.

And, in the semifinal, he defeated the strongest woman, Rui Naiwei 9p.

The first round was played on Jeju Island, in Korea, and the second round was in Singapore.

Here's Seo's recollection of the final round.

"Because of the komi (8 points in the Ing Cup), I felt uneasy."

"But I believed that I could overcome this by playing a large-scale game."

"What was really important was willpower and guts, rather than things like komi and opening strategies."

And below is my impression of the game, from my book "The Story of Seo Bongsu".

"Despite the painful scars caused by a loss, strong players yearn to play in big matches."

"That's a natural instinct, and Seo desperately wanted to play in such a match."

"Finally, he seized the opportunity to play the match of a lifetime."

"However, Seo's attitude towards the match was unexpected."

"To exaggerate slightly, he was trembling."

"He'd learned Go in a Go club, located in an alley, without a teacher."

"In those conditions, he grew in leaps and bounds, like a weed."

"Because of that, thinking of his anxiety still makes me smile, because he's such an experienced player."

Do you remember the occasion?

I was in Singapore to watch your games.

After winning game 3 in Singapore, you took a 2-1 lead.

However, something strange happened in the next game.

You resigned without spending enough time to think first.

When asked about it, you said that you were scared by the Ing Cup time system.

Did I say that? Yes, you did.

Did you become too nervous as the prospect of victory drew closer to you?

Yes, I was out of mind during one or two games.

You tend to underestimate players who focus on shape and patterns, like Otake.

Yes, at that time, I did.

In table tennis, wild players are scarier than those who have a good stance.

Did you think this analogy applies to Otake's style of play?

To begin with, I thought so.

But I've since realized that shape plays an important role in Go.

In this game, the power of the aesthetic style can be clearly seen.

Before the final round, there was a one day break.

We went to a park located in Singapore.

We spread out a Go board on the lawn, and you were worried about your opponent's 5-4 point as white.

At that time, every player wanted to take white in the Ing Cup, because of the large komi.

[Ed: The normal komi at the time was 5.5 points. It's larger these days.]

Nevertheless, some players still chose black.

Before the game, you decided to take black.

But you were afraid of your opponent's 5-4 point as white.

Actually, this surprised me.

It was unavoidable. I was going to choose black, and Otake would choose white.

That meant drawing for color was meaningless. You were going to play black.

That's right. It was determined before the game.

Why were you afraid of the 5-4 point?

I didn't know much about 5-4 and 3-5 joseki!

Well, let's get started.

Seo had decided to play the game as black.

In the Ing Cup, the person who wins a draw has the right to choose their color.

Because of the eight point komi, practically everyone would choose white.

But Seo had decided to take black, so choosing the color was meaningless.

A day before the game, you'd already decided to play the two star formation.

Otake really played the 5-4 point! I was astonished by that.

Was this some sort of insight, or premonition?

I think I'd studied some of his games.

And, in his games, I saw 5-4 played quite often.

So I expected him to play at the 5-4 point.

However, you were worried about that move. It was very surprising.

You'd played so many games and you told me that the 5-4, 3-4 and 4-4 points were all the same.

I realized that even pros sometimes worry about certain moves, like the 5-4 point.

It was very strange to me.

The 5-4 point has almost disappeared from pro games recently.

As I said, I didn't know many josekis.

Anyway, 5-4 was played in the game.

It may have affected you, because the game didn't proceed as you wished.

Seo is known as a territory oriented player.

But in this once in a lifetime game, he spread out with the sanrensei.

The komi was large, so I felt like I was under pressure.

If the board is split into many territories, it will be unfavorable for black.

That's why you started with a large moyo?

I believed that it was a better strategy.

That move was very big.

Was this move good too?

Yes, it was.

This enclosure is another option.

This joseki was very popular for a time.

In response to white's attachment, black needs to hane and capture this stone.

It's a joseki.

In the game, Otake played this knight's move, instead of this jump.

I think the jump is slightly better.

And after that, white can reduce black's moyo with a knight's move.

Otake's moves focus on the beauty of shape.

In other words, many Japanese players at the time never played a move which looked bad.

Even if it might avoid a loss, they wouldn't play bad shape. This was their creed.

And Otake was one of the main proponents of this style.

He places great emphasis on shape.

In this kind of classification, good shape is beautiful and bad shape is ugly.

They always strive to create good shape. That's a key element of aesthetic Go.

The combination seems a bit strange though.

You exchanged this move at 3-3 now.

And some players suggested that black should've postponed this attachment.

But if black does so, white will invade here first.

This progression can be expected.

It's quite annoying. Black has to capture this white stone now.

And once white hanes here, his territory becomes very big.

In addition, this group isn't alive yet.

Therefore, this attachment was huge.

I didn't like the prospect of white's invasion.

Because of those exchanges, these two black stones died.

But it was a practical defense.

After that, this shoulder hit was a good move.

Black reduced white's moyo.

Up to here, the fuseki was over.

I think both players had played peacefully so far.

There are always mistakes in big matches.

I think this game is an example of this.

I'm sorry to say it, but this game wasn't exquisite at all.

You're right.

Black played here.

It was a bad move.

I should've cut here right away.

What did you expect from this move?

I wanted white to answer like this.

If white connects, this atari is pleasurable.

After that, I was going to attack white's group like this.

So this was your intention.

But Otake wouldn't make an empty triangle like this!

Yes, it's a bad shape.

If he made a such a shape, it would bring shame upon his Go.

But, nevertheless, you expected this variation.

What's the alternative for black?

Cutting here is better, then white will atari here.

White has to capture this black stone with an atari.

After this exchange, black can still attack white's group.

Was it necessary to exchange these moves?

I wanted to forestall white's invasion here.

After black makes these exchanges, how can he counter white's invasion?

Since there's a black stone here, the invasion is an overplay.

After black separates white, both groups will be in danger.

If white pushes here, black can capture this stone.

How about this connection?

I think it looks nice too.

Then this group will be in grave danger.

At the same time, this group will automatically become stronger.

It isn't good for white.

This was Seo's aim.

White aimed at the invasion, while black planned to attack white's group.

Whoever won battle would take the initiative.

However, this move was a bit careless.

Because of that, black got to play this atari.

It was very painful.

Wasn't connecting here still a proper move?

I didn't feel like playing there.

Where would white play next if you did?

He'd tenuki. Do you think I should've tenukied?

In my opinion, that would have been better.

But the atari was so painful.

Even though white would attack this black group, it would still be better than the actual game.

Seo took territory here.

Otake captured a black stone. It would've been better if you could tenuki now.

What happens if black tenukies?

White can cut here. Then black has to capture these two stones.

After that, white will atari and destroy black's territory. It's no good.

It's a disaster.

Because of that, black turned here.

Then white invaded here.

You tried to exchange several moves in this area, then white played here.

It wasn't good for black, was it?

No it wasn't.

From here on, the situation got worse for black.

You experienced the horror of Japanese aesthetic Go.

So you shouldn't underestimate it.

White double haned here.

Japanese players love to double hane so much.

It looks wonderful, and it was painful for you.

Everyone likes double hane!

White not only managed his group, but also applied some pressure to black's right side group.

Several of black's moves around here were bad exchanges.

That's right.

However, I couldn't avoid it.

Black couldn't extend like this, because white would push here.

Then these four stones will be in trouble.

Inevitably, I had to atari.

But all of these moves look awkward and pitiful.

After white extended, you had to exchange this move too.

I think this attachment is better.

This kind of move is called "snake's head".

It's another shape that Japanese players love.

With this move, white took control of the game.

On the other hand, this kind of move is regarded as a terrible exchange.

Though inevitable, it's not permissible from the aesthetic Go perspective.

After that, I blocked here.

That's why you exchanged this move earlier.

At this point, white's cut here was so annoying.

Japanese people call this "suji" [as in tesuji] and it's called "maek" in Korean.

This move was extremely painful.

If possible, black would like to play here, but white can turn here now.

Black can't atari like this.

Black can't win this capturing race.

White can simply throw in and descend here.

The atari at 1-2 is also fine.

Actually, connecting here is a common response.

By sacrificing his stones, black can reduce white's liberties.

Since black can't connect, he has to come out here.

White will throw in, but black can't capture that stone.

If black does so, white chokes black's group by playing here.

So this move is inevitable, but white will jump out.

Black can't persevere like this. White's liberties have increased greatly.

Black has no proper answer now.

Furthermore, black can't capture this white stone. I'm not sure if black can capture white's group.

Even if he can, his top right group would end up in in grave danger.

I think white's group has more liberties.

I was surprised when I saw the cut move.

How about connecting like this?

In that case, this move is sente.

It was very painful to atari like this, but there was no other choice.

White captured this stone.

Still, black could atari here in sente!

But this cutting point was a burden for black.

This move was fierce, and sharp.

Without it, I'd easily lose this game.

It created a kind of fear in white.

Before saving his group, Otake exchanged this atari.

Then black pushed and connected.

After that, white cut here.

This game has been reviewed many times, and many people have discussed this situation.

Black had to rescue his group, but it was impossible.

In fact, It was hopeless.

After the attachment, black cut here.

If white had pushed here, the game would have been over.

Then you wouldn't have won the Ing Cup.

What if black plays around here?

White simply captures this stone.

Despite the double atari, black can't capture anything of value.

It's hard for black to make two eyes on the inside.

Black can't go on playing like this.

If black extends here instead, white will atari anyway.

It doesn't work either. Black can't live.

It's mysterious that Otake missed this.

It's a fairly simple move.

Didn't you see that either?

No I didn't, actually.

Black can't double atari here now. What about this?

White will counter-atari here.

After black captures this white stone, this hane is a good move.

Black's in huge trouble.

I don't think I saw it at the time.

Both players were over-excited about the game.

Instead of pushing, white just ataried here.

As a result, the pressure on this black group was relieved.

White connected and black captured a white stone.

It's a one way street.

After black cut here, this group was nearly alive.

I was still behind though.

In addition, this attachment is very severe.

What if black answers like this?

It's impossible. The ladder favors white.

Black can't capture white's stones in a ladder.

To play a ladder, black has to atari here.

It's close, but black can't capture white.

We can also see how nervous Otake was around here.

I think he really wanted to play here.

It feels very good indeed.

Black had to fall back, and white destroyed black's position.

Even though you weathered the crisis, you were still in trouble.

Black tried to manage his group with a knight's move.

If you were white, where would you play?

This simple tiger's mouth is fine.

Clearly, black's in trouble.

If black hanes here, this atari is very severe.

Pushing here is very painful for black.

If white becomes thicker in the center, that move will be even more powerful.

I don't understand why Otake played so aggressively here.

I think he changed his mind suddenly.

He might've found the push from earlier, which would have finished the game immediately.

Do you think he regretted not playing there?


At such a crucial stage in a game, sudden emotions can change one's mind.

People think professional players are calm in general. But aren't they impulsive sometimes?

I often think they are somewhere between hot and cold.

In response to this hane, this extension is a normal response.

And it fits with Otake's preference for beautiful shape.

But he played the most severe moves here.

As a result, black got to play this atari.

Otake decided to wrestle instead.

Yes, he chose to fight fiercely.

White's shape doesn't look so nice.

Connecting here was a good move, and it saved black's dragon.

But black wasn't alive yet.

White couldn't tenuki here.

If black wedges here, white will be short of liberties.

It white connects, it's a ladder.

Black can also capture in net.

There was a white stone here.

After white moved out with a kosumi, black pushed here.

White played a knight's move, then black lived at the bottom.

This descent was a very nice move. It's worth learning.

Black made miai of connecting along the edge and making two eyes with this tiger's mouth.

A single mistake, and the entire group could die.

If white cuts here, he can capture black's five stones and win the game.

But Otake didn't play there.

Was he afraid of black's attack?

If white extends, this group can't be captured.

Should black play here?

White can still make a ko here.

Or he can live with these exchanges.

It's very simple.

White has many more points than black.

If white had captured these pivotal stones, the game would have been over here.

But he didn't cut here. Instead, a ko occurred.

Locally speaking, it was a nice move.

However, black was in a desperate situation.

In other words, Otake's severe moves gave black chances to recover.

After this exchange, white captured.

What if white ignored the ko threat?

I think that's possible.

We can see how nervous Otake was at this stage.

Did he worry about the safety of the corner?

No, white can easily live.

But he was worried about his center group.

Since black doesn't have many liberties, white can now capture this group.

But he didn't want to be attacked in the center.

Maybe he thought he would lose if this group died.

I think Otake was thinking too much here.

Because of that, he responded here.

After that, white used a threat in the center.

Black exchanged this move.

Then black pushed here.

After rescuing the pivotal stones, black could aim at white's center group.

I don't remember when lunchtime was.

But there was a discussion during lunch.

Go Seigen 9p and Rui Naiwei 9p were watching the game too.

Interestingly, they were cheering for you.

It seemed that Rui didn't have a good impression of Japan, a country which rejected her.

And even though Go Seigen lives in Japan, I couldn't feel a close tie to the country from him either.

His comments were biased towards you, I think.

When he was young, in Japan, Japanese players strongly criticized his 3-3 opening moves!

Despite a long stay in Japan, it seems that he wasn't appreciated by some of the locals.

Anyway, Go Seigen said that black had to attack white desperately.

He added that a compromise wouldn't be enough to win this game.

Later on, after the game, I passed Go Seigen's comments on to you.

The game was so intense, and many Korean immigrants came to cheer for you.

I still remember that.

Let's see how the battle unfolds after the break.

A number of Korean immigrants visited the playing venue to watch the game.

As we can see on the calendar, there are 24 solar terms.

[Ed: On traditional East Asian calendars.]

On that day, it was 'heukseung'.

[Tr: Which literally means 'black wins'.]

It was so bizarre.

In fact, no one knows the origin of the division 'heukseung'.

But it can be translated to the same meaning in the Chinese language.

At this point, you were in a desperate situation.

However, I still had some hopes for your victory.

You pushed here. Attacking white's center group was the last resort.

What sort of plans did you consider to reverse the game?

First of all, I needed to capture this group somehow.

That was the only way I could win this game.

The situation was hopeless.

Even though this black group was dying, neither player played there.

That's because the center was more urgent.

Did you peep here to take away white's eye shape?


During the game, I thought I couldn't win without capturing the group.

In my opinion, such determination contributed greatly to your victory.

I had to overplay, but it eventually worked out well.

I'm not sure that this was the right kind of attack.

After white hanes here, what if black comes out here?

White can easily manage his group with this tiger's mouth.

So you started a ko here.

Was this white group safe?

If black wins the ko, white has to defend.

Therefore, this was a strong move.

As a ko threat, black came out here.

Did white connect here? Yes.

Did this group die?

Yes, it was dead.

Capturing this white group was your last resort.

White peeped and jumped here.

Was it sente?

Is this wedge a tesuji? What if white prevents black's connection?

Then black wedges here.

Ok, we'll see that variation later, so let's leave it for now.

It seems like both players missed something here.

To begin with, yes.

Instead of connecting, you wedged here first.

After that, white attached.

Some people said it was a brilliant tesuji.

Yes, it was.

In fact, this move was controversial. Some players criticized it as a bad exchange.

You kept complicating the game.

White can just connect here.

To summarize the situation, black's right side group was already dead.

In contrast, white's center group was hard to capture.

Well, it's not as simple as that. Black can bump here afterwards.

I think white should hane and connect instead.

That was how Otake played in the game.

Did he play there immediately?

No, he captured here first.

Then black kosumied.

After that, white haned here.

I think it was a proper move.

I think some moves are missing here.

Did black block here?

Yes, sorry.

Before that, white played here first.

Then white haned.

You kept irritating Otake, and this was one of those moves.

In fact, black should've answered here.

White captured again.

Then black connected.

If white connects here, this group is alive.

Black has no choice but to push through here.

What if white plays there?

Then the game's over.

This game must have been bitter for Otake.

I can't imagine how he feels about the game.

He'd had so many opportunities to win.

He should've connected here. Where should black play then?

Black has to push through, and white will cut here.

This atari is a strong move though.

Blocking here is the strongest move.

White has only half an eye in the center.

Descending is sente, black has to play here.

Then white can hane.

Let's slow down a bit.

What if black cuts like this?

If white connects, black's in trouble.

By pushing here, white can separate black.

If white cuts, black's group will die.

Let's go back. Are there any other options for black?

This move doesn't work. And this was the actual progression in the game.

Because of these weakness, white's group was supposed to live.

Let's see this again.

I've never seen a more complicated and dramatic game than this.

So white needed to connect here.

But Otake suddenly played here.

He believed this was a forcing move, because he'd exchanged two moves in sente there.

However, it wasn't sente.

In the game, I cut here.

Then another battle at the bottom started.

White blocked here.

After that, black connected.

White couldn't play here.

Because this move is sente, right?


White has to defend his cutting point, and black can attach here.

Cutting here is easier.

Indeed, these exchanges help.

If white tries to connect, black cuts here.

If black separates white after this atari, white's in trouble.

It's too simple, so white needs to kosumi like this.

At this point, white should play here.

In response, black pushes here first.

After white connects, black ataris.

Is it a ko then?

Well, there's another move here for black.

Instead, black should cut here immediately.

Now white can't capture black's two stones, because of his shortage of liberties.

This atari is the only possible move.

After that, pushing in here is wonderful.

White can't connect here.

Instead, he needs to connect here, then black captures a white stone.

It's a ko.

Black has many local ko threats.

If black wins the ko, white's whole group will be in danger.

And black has many other threats in other areas.

White can't withstand the ko.

Black's group is flexible. How about a capturing race then?

What if white plays here instead?

Black has to throw in first, then he can continue the ko.

Or, this atari is also possible.

After black captures white's four stones, white has to play here.

Locally, black's group is dead, so it's a capturing race.

White has to cut here.

Black has to choke white's group.

This is the expected sequence.

By cutting here, black wins by one liberty.

However, these moves are sente.

Black has to answer like this.

Black can capture white's group, but this jump is severe.

Even though black captured white's group, I think white would still win this game.

That's because white captured black's dragon on the right earlier.

Black has to spend many moves, inside his own territory, to capture white.

It's relatively small.

We need to look at another variation.

This battle was so complicated!

This is the situation.

Otake misread here.

If he'd connected here, he'd have easily won the game.

He'd have been very surprised by the fact that he couldn't capture black.

It meant the death of his big group.

He thought he could kill black's dragon.

Because of that, he made a crucial mistake here.

If he'd followed the previous variation, he'd still have won.

But he played here. I guess he never thought about it.

He'd thought his group would never die.

I think he was very nervous.

White wedged here.

Finally, white connected here.

After white's cutting move, this counter-atari was nice.

It's very complicated.

The move order isn't correct. I ataried here during the ko.

Black cut, then connected here.

What about the capturing race between the two groups?

If white descends here, black's dead.

You connected here to start a capturing race.

After this exchange, black descends here.

Without connecting here? White will atari anyway.

The ko is meaningless now.

White has one more liberty.

Black's group dies.

Why didn't Otake play like this then?

Even if white captured the black group, he'd lose the game.

I think there's an excellent move in the corner.

White haned here.

What if white didn't play there?

This pinch works. Do you think Otake knew that?

Yes he did.

To rescue all of white's stones, this atari is the only move.

After that, black can extend here in sente.

Then black plays a knight's move.

If black squeezes like this, black will win by a big margin.

Otake would have been distressed by the result.

Even though his group died, he still could've won.

He should've started the capturing race anyway.

Do you think it was too late at this point?


As black repeatedly ataried around here, it created the aji in the corner.

Otake recognized that, so he defended with a hane.

After that, black connected here.

Now it's seki.

No, it's a ko.

Let's see the result.

It's a ko for seki. But still it's a hanami ko for black.

There were so many ko threats in the top left corner.

If black's group comes back to life, the game is over for white.

So Otake couldn't play like this.

This game is so inconvenient, even for observers. How complicated!

Otake persevered, and black played here.

Was white's group dead now? Yes.

This black group died earlier.

It's like you were almost dragged to the next world by the Grim Reaper.

However, you managed to escape somehow - I don't know how you managed it...

Black (Seo Bongsu 9p) wins by resignation.

By winning the final game of the match, Seo won the 2nd Ing Cup.

This kind of game makes us think about the nature of competition again.

The stronger player doesn't always win.

The stronger we are, the more easily we can win games.

But I don't think that's everything.

You became a world champion by winning this match.

There are many world class players, but only a handful of players became a world champion.

You're right.

A player needs a measure of luck to win a big tournament. Do you have a better definition?

Something strange determines a winner.

What is it?

I don't know.

I was very fortunate to win the Ing Cup.

We can only say it was 'luck'. It's inevitable.

Today you've seen the most triumphant game Seo has ever played.

Thank you!

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