Baduk TV English: Perception of Meijin – Episode 9 – The Great Feat – Nine Consecutive Wins

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 9 is titled ‘The Great Feat – Nine Consecutive Wins’ and looks at the final game from the 5th Jinro Cup, played on February 23, 1997. Seo Bongsu plays black and Ma Xiaochun 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 Ma Xiaochun

Video: Seo Bongsu vs Ma Xiaochun

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Game record


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Transcript of the video

Translated by Oh Chimin 7d

Edited by David Ormerod 5d

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

Episode 9: The Great Feat - Nine Consecutive Wins

Today, we're going to look at a game in which Seo Bongsu set his unbreakable record in the Jinro Cup.

Hello, master Seo!


Do you still feel excited to see this game?

I played the game a long time ago, so I don't fully remember.

Some of the games from this tournament resulted in dramatic reversals.

That's what I remember from the Jinro Cup.

Did you earn a lot of money from this tournament?

Yes, quite a lot.

Anyway, when I think of you, Cho Hunhyun 9p comes to mind first.

Even though you struggled a lot in your rivalry with Cho, you defeated him in one out of three games.

Sometimes, you took titles from him.

Because of that, I described you as a nomadic warrior from the north.

On the other hand, I depicted Cho as the central ruler.

You often were driven off by the ruler, far away to Siberia.

Some time later, you came back and challenged again.

You sometimes stayed calm for a while, and then did something amazing!

I think that part is surprising to me.

I've been lucky in Go.

Is that luck?

Yes, I'm weak, but luck has been with me all along.

Many players become frustrated by losses at crucial stages in tournaments.

But in your case, when you had big chances, you usually succeeded through your tenacity.

Am I right?

Yes, I became tenacious at moments like that.

I think this is your inborn ability.

You said before that you were timid in your normal life.

But you've never been timid in your games.

Your final opponent was Ma Xiaochun 9p, who was the strongest player in China at the time.

What did you think of his Go before the game?

To be honest, I thought he wasn't very strong.

Is that so?

I was younger than now.

However, I wasn't that young at the time of the game.

Anyway, I was brave, at least.

Strangely, you underestimated Chinese Go.

On the one hand, it's a kind of prejudice. On the other hand, it may be the sense of an experienced player.

In my opinion, these were the factors that contributed to your nine win record.

After you established your record, people had a lot to say about you.

Let's have a look.

This is a collection of comments from shortly after Seo's Jinro Cup victory.

Kim In 9p said, "The last game is Seo's lifetime masterpiece."

Cho Hunhyun 9p, "I could hardly imagine Seo's fantastic, powerful moves."

Yoo Gunjae 8p, "Seo kept playing excellent moves, even during byo-yomi."

Chinese Youth Daily, "Now we can feel how strong and scary the Big Four are."

You received many rave reviews!

Cho's remark is interesting. He mentioned your repeated strong moves.

I don't think this was because you underestimated Chinese Go.

How can you explain it?

I've noticed something odd about you.

You seem to be scared of Lee Changho 9p.

You rated him very highly, but you had the opposite view of Chinese players.

Lee and Ma often met each other at crucial stages, like in the final of the Samsung Cup.

In my opinion, when it comes to the fine details of the games, Ma was ahead of Lee.

But Lee was highly praised by you, whereas Ma wasn't. That doesn't make sense to me.

Did I say so?

Yes, you did. What do you think?

Since I was young, my judgment probably wasn't very good.

Looking back on the past, I underestimated Japanese Go too.

I was wrong.

When I was young, I was overconfident.

I have a different opinion. Considering your background, what you needed most was confidence.

I think such confidence played an important role in your great success,

Such as your victory at the Ing Cup and your nine game winning streak at the Jinro Cup.

That's my opinion. Let's look at today's game.

Seo Bongsu played black, Ma Xiaochun played white.

This was the final round.

Up to here, it was a very common progression.

This fuseki is still played often, isn't it?

Yes, it is.

It was very popular at the time.

Many players loved this opening.

By my estimation, this fuseki would be in the top three most played fusekis.

Instead of this tiger's mouth, Takemiya Masaki 9p normally connected here.

Then he extended on the fourth line. This is his style.

His moves are based on developing thickness towards the center.

He'd think that black's position in the game was somewhat thin.

And other players who dislike thinness wouldn't like it either.

This move was ahead of its time.

Previously, this enclosure wasn't considered to be an urgent move.

But now this move has become essential.

Ma played that move very often.

I think he's a talented player.

As time passes by, people copy moves which have been played before.

But the players who first come up with such moves are brilliant, I think.

Ma played that enclosure very often.

What do you think of his Go?

Can you point out some of his characteristics?

I would compare Ma with Lee Sedol 9p.

I think their personalities are similar.

Yes, and their style of play is similar too.

So you mean their moves are severe.


Around that time, the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping passed away.

Do you remember the circumstances in China at the time?

No, not at all.

Because of his demise, all events were canceled.

They included both domestic and international events.

The level of security was high. In addition, the North Korean Politician Hwang Jangyop sought refuge in the South.

There were several political incidents at that time.

But, amazingly, this Go event was still permitted in China.

Deng Xiaoping loved Go throughout his life.

He was the biggest supporter of Nie Weiping 9p.

Deng Xiaoping's theory, "it doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice," is famous.

That theory was derived from Go, wasn't it?

Yes, I think so.

Factions don't matter, as long as people are capable. That's what Deng stressed.

Despite the atmosphere in China, many reporters came to the venue to watch the game.

It drew the national attention to your winning streak in China.

If not for his demise, I wouldn't have been able to play this game.

No, despite Deng's death, the Chinese government permitted this game, as an exception.

It was the only international event at that time.

Anyway, I'd like to point out this move, which could be played by anyone now.

Lee Changho also loves it.

He started playing this knight's move instead of this jump, which was more common at the time.

When Lee first played that move, there were some objections to it.

But now everyone plays like that. But I've been seeing this jump again recently too.

Sometimes there's a trend in certain moves.

Here are two options. Amateurs often play this extension, while pros prefer the two space extension.

How would you evaluate these two moves?

This one is more solid and stable, and the other one is more influence oriented.

Because this move is placed on the third line. This two space extension looks more suitable.

I think it's a matter of personal style.

This approach is more common, but Ma chose to extend here.

It was a very solid move.

Did he intend for black to play a kosumi here?

Probably. Then white would extend once more.

The game is likely to be long.

In this case, how should black defend his moyo?

I don't think it's easy to do so now.

This move looks nice, but it isn't good for defense.

Let's try this move.

This invasion is annoying.

So black can't secure his area properly.

How about this shoulder hit? Many players have played like this recently.

Then white can easily destroy black's moyo with this invasion.

Before that, white could also exchange this move.

That shoulder hit isn't as good as it looks.

So you played here instead. The balance of black's stones looks nice.

If white wants to focus on territory, this knight's move is conceivable.

I've often seen that move in Go books. Should black push here now?


After that exchange, black defends his moyo like this.

I think this progression is possible. After this, white can invade here.

With this sequence, this extension looks very good to me.

You're right. Black's position is very nice indeed.

Ma sought thickness at this point, so he pushed here.

After that, black had two options.

I think this was a difficult decision.

After blocking, black pushed.

When white has three stones in a row, so this extension should be further away.

But this stone was here and, locally speaking, white's position was over-concentrated.

Because of that, Ma wouldn't have wanted to extend.

However, this extension was still good.

This is one of the hard parts of Go. Ma is a strong player, of course.

He'd know this point was good based on instinct.

But it'd be painful to see the unbalanced position, wouldn't it?


Moreover, black's top side looks big.

How can black defend the moyo? How about this move?

I think this is the most efficient move.

Is that possible now?

Indeed, it looks very large.

So Ma didn't like this prospect?

Probably not.

Instead, he invaded here.

If black defends the corner, white will extend and try to settle at the top.

It's a success for white.

So you played here.

I think it's hard for white to survive in the corner now.

I think this move would be still possible.

What if black captures this stone?

Then white can escape to the center like this.

And a fight will break out immediately.

So you think it'd be better for white to erase black's moyo like this.


In the game, Ma invaded here.

You attached like this, but how about this jump to reinforce the moyo?

I think that's possible.

Is it too crude?

This kind of move isn't played often.

Maybe it's too focused on territory.

Black tried to build influence on the outside.

In my opinion, Ma was at a crossroads at this point. What do you think?

Yes, I think he should've exchanged this move first here.

Now black has no choice but to answer here.

After that, white pushes here.

Let's try several moves played in the actual game.

Now black has to hane.

After this, black can't block white's hane, so he needs to extend here.

Now this hane is possible.

Then white bumps and connects.

The aji here looks very bad for black, so I think he should defend around here.

Yes, black should respond there.

How about this hane instead?

Is that possible?

In fact, this exchange isn't necessary.

Black still has to answer in the same way.

But a white stone was there.

Is that so?

Then, obviously, this exchange is necessary.

Isn't white OK? Because he erased black's moyo, aiming at black's weakness here.

However, I think it's playable for black too.

It's because striking at the head of white's three stones is very good.

I think this is a pivotal point for both sides.

I agree.

I can't emphasize enough how talented Ma is.

But he made a crucial mistake here.

He pushed here first.

He should've haned.

Black has to extend, then white can push one more time.

At this point, it was too late for white to hane here.

So he needed to exchange these moves and connect to the corner.

White should've exchanged the hane while he still could.

After black haned, the timing was off.

Nevertheless, Ma haned here, but it was too late.

Because of the exchanges here, black could resist like this.

How about living in the corner? Is that bad?

Yes, white made many bad exchanges earlier.

By the way, how can white survive in the corner?

White has to play here, then black cuts.

In fact, it's not even easy to make two eyes on the inside.

Black can capture this stone in sente. White has to play here to live.

This hane is too painful for white, and these three stones are nearly dead.

It doesn't seem nice for white, so Ma changed his mind.

I'm wondering why he haned here at this point.

Above all, this peep was very severe.

Living in the corner was small, so Ma looked after his top side group.

After this hane, black could block here.

Without white's previous exchange, black would have to extend.

After this, black could play at the pivotal point.

How painful is this kind of move for white?

Very painful, so we call it 'striking at the head'.

Black double haned, then pushed here.

Pushing along the seventh line is usually bad, but in this case, white's position was over-concentrated.

Black could keep pushing because white's shape was weak.

I think white should've haned after cutting here.

What if black cuts?

After this atari, white defends here.

It's impossible to move these stones out, right?

Yes, connecting here is sente.

Black has to rescue his two stones, but white can capture black's three stones with a hane.

If black can't cut, white should hane like this, but Ma chose this extension.

I think you were lucky on that day.

It seems that Ma was in bad form, he fell back here!

White couldn't respond to black's continuous pushes.

After this exchange, white played a tiger's mouth.

So this area was settled. But was there something wrong with this move?

Yes, I should've played here instead.

What's the difference?

Because of this move, I had to play another move here later.

Was there any aji in the corner?

Yes, white can extend here.

Before that, white can atari and play a tiger's mouth like this.

What if black ataris and extends?

After this atari, white can connect under.

Black has to capture these stones, then white can connect along the first line.

Black has to spend several moves in his own territory.

This area doesn't look that big.

This aji would become quite big later.

If black plays here, he won't have to defend later.

If white connects here, black can simply cut and capture this white stone.

If white chooses this move, black can atari here.

So I could have removed all the aji with one move.

However, cutting here looks more powerful.

From a common sense perspective, cutting seems more plausible, but it was a mistake.

After this, white capped here.

Ma intended to erase black's center, by aiming to invade the left side.

Cho said that you played strong moves which he never imagined.

I think this move was one of them.

You played there despite your own weaknesses.

I couldn't agree more.

You might not have noticed, but everyone thought this was a very strong move.

What if white tries to make a ko here? He's got many ko threats at the top.

It'll be complicated.

But in this situation, Ma seemed overwhelmed.

I'm curious about how black should answer this attachment.

Wouldn't this be complicated?

This kosumi is the strongest response.

In this case, black can let white connect like this.

What if white comes out?

It doesn't matter. Black just encloses this area.

White will get lots of points on the left side.

You're right, it's a big territorial loss for black.

However, black can begin to attack white by blocking here.

It's a bit risky for black.

If the attack isn't successful, the territorial loss will be huge.

Anyway, you played fiercely here, and Ma didn't fight back.

To be honest, white's moves here don't look very sophisticated.

This attachment was a good choice.

Black successfully managed this area.

Yes, it was very good for you.

Some people were curious about Ma's form on the day of the match.

From his moves, I feel he was under psychological pressure.

He had fallen back several times up to here.

White reduced the potential in the center considerably.

Ma's response here was also controversial. Some players thought it was too passive.

This attachment was a strong move too. I guess white could've persevered here.

However, that exchange was necessary. Because cutting here was very big.

After making this exchange, black can connect. It's a big difference.

And this move is sente.

Isn't cutting here sente now?

Yes, it is.

The exchange was profitable for black.

Many people argued that white should've resisted somehow.

I don't think white could do so at this point. He just had to block here.

After that, you enlarged the moyo.

Before that, there were some exchanges here.

Then black played here.

After this, the territorial outline had been drawn.

What do you think about this territory and the aji inside?

Despite the aji, black got a lot of profit.

You mean black was successful in both battles?

Yes, I felt I was ahead here.

White approached here.

In general, this position is considered to be solid.

However, it seems a bit thin now because of white's wall.

The strength of stones is determined by their surroundings.

After this approach, to what extent is black's position vulnerable?

We see that often in real games.

And white can even survive in black's corner.

Is that always possible?

Yes, if white invades, black can't protect his territory.

Anyway, you left the bottom right corner, and removed the aji.

It was huge indeed.

I believe black still had some points in this corner. Let's do some positional judgment.

Black has two territories.

How would you assess this big territory?

If I draw a boundary like this, about 45 points?

We calculated 50 points earlier. Your calculation is quite conservative.

And the left side?

I ignored the potential around here.

Then 45 points is correct.

Black had 12 points on the left side.

If black plays here, he can get more.

This is nearly sente, but not guaranteed.

If white tenukis, black can separate this white group and attack it.

Anyway, black's got at least 12 points there.

Then 57 points in total, and 3 points in the bottom right? Is that too pessimistic?

Let's count it as komi, because there were already three stones here.

It's time to assess white's territory.

If black descends here after pushing, white has to answer.

Then white has 20 points in the top left.

The bottom left corner is worth slightly less than 15 points.

Let's count it as 15 points, because descending here is almost sente.

So white had 35 points in two corners.

Ten points on the right side, so 45 points in total.

According to this, black was leading by more than ten points.

If white extends here, he can add some points at the bottom.

But if black defends the corner, he'll also get lots of points here.

Then the bottom right corner will be worth more than 15 points.

Therefore, if he doesn't do something about the corner, white's position will be hopeless.

At this point, you were leading by a significant margin.

Did you start to think about your possible nine game record at this stage?

Yes, I believe I would have.

Can't you remember?

No, I have a bad memory.

But in that case how did you possibly become a strong Go player?

I think I've trained myself through repetition.

I think memory is an important aspect of being a strong Go player.

Is that so?

Since I don't have that ability, I'm still weak!

Let's keep going after the break.

You said you were lucky in big matches.

In contrast, Ma wasn't a very lucky player in that way.

Nie Weiping 9p couldn't overcome Cho Hunhyun 9p.

As a result, he stepped down from the top level.

In 1995, Ma became the top player in China, after winning two international tournaments.

Later on, he met Lee Changho in semi finals or finals several times.

In the games against Lee, Ma was always ahead.

They played the fourth round of the final, with Ma leading 2-1.

Ma was overwhelmingly ahead throughout, but Lee dramatically reversed the game.

Such results were repeated several times. After that, Ma disappeared from the international Go scene.

Meanwhile, Lee ascended to the throne.

Do you think a game can change a player's Go career or life?

I have no idea.

Many people are surprised by your long struggle against Cho Hunhyun.

You'd lost so many games against him.

Yes, I had.

How did you come back and challenge him again in spite of it all?

Because of that, people gave you many nicknames such as 'weed' and 'miso'.

In Ma's case, he's regarded as one of the renowned, talented players.

But he couldn't recover from the psychological damage after repeated losses to Lee.

When I think about this, I feel sorry for him.

I guess he couldn't forget the loss of this game either.

We omitted some exchanges.

Cutting here was sente.

After white came out, black's response was well timed.

But the following forcing moves were painful.

White blocked here in sente.

These three stones seem to form a solid position.

The result will tell us how stable the position was.

Was this a vital move? Yes.

How about this? Can white survive in the corner?

Black will block, then white has to push here.

Does black need to let white connect?

No, bumping here is good.

In response, white has to hane and play a tiger's mouth.

Without this move, white can't survive in the corner.

If black has enough ko threats, he can start a ko.

But it seems like white had many threats on the left side.

Then black can still manage his group with this hane.

What if white cuts here? Would black sacrifice his stones?


Before giving up his stone, black will exchange this atari, of course.

That's sente.

After that, black plays a tiger's mouth.

That move is half sente.

Even though black's area has been destroyed, he can still develop the bottom side.

In addition, there's ko aji here and the right side is thin now.

This area became smaller too.

I think this move is possible.

It isn't good for white.

It looks like white gained a lot of profit while destroying black's corner.

But in fact, it's not true.

Ma chose to attach here instead.

In the game, you extended here, and the progression looked very dangerous to me.

What if black answers here?

Then white hanes.

If black cuts, white ataris.

Instead of connecting there, black normally captures a white stone.

Anyway, if white bumps here, he can capture this black stone.

Let's try this move.

White will play an empty triangle.

After that, black has to play here.

Then white hanes and cuts.

Black dies.

This single stone looks huge in this case.

If black captures this white stone, white has a strong move.

This atari is very powerful.

This stone will die. It isn't good for black.

I think black needs to fall back.

Black should extend now.

Should black play like this?

It's better than previous variations.

But now black's territory vanishes.

Black has no territory, and this group isn't alive yet.

It's a big problem.

If white successfully develops the bottom side, the game will be close.

This extension was the strongest answer.

Black couldn't let white connect under.

If he wants to do so, black will hane like this.

But black will lose many points.

In addition, he needs to live in gote.

After that, white will develop the bottom side.

It'll be problematic.

Both sides gained a similar number of points in the corner.

So black's territory is practically a zero here.

Because of that, I couldn't allow white to connect.

At this point, black didn't have many ko threats.

What if black just blocks here?

After this tiger's mouth, black has to atari here to capture white.

But there are no ko threats.

White has a ko threat factory on the left side.

In addition, white has some threats in the top right.

After this threat, black has to respond.

White has a number of ko threats there.

Black's in trouble. He can't play like this.

If he does, white can tenuki and attack this black group.

White can even attempt to capture black's group.

It's a ko. But if black loses the ko, his whole group will die.

Even if white just lives in the corner, it's troublesome.

And here's a cutting point. Black needs to defend it. This is the worst kind of situation.

So black couldn't block like that.

Instead, this placement was a nice tesuji.

Many players know this life and death problem.

After white haned, black descended.

White had to hane again.

It was a forcing move.

After that, black played a tiger's mouth.

Didn't white have to make another eye?


Wasn't this the proper move?

That's right.

But the result would be unsatisfactory for white.

Black will hane here. What do you think of the outcome?

White made five points in the corner.

If black manages to block here later, it's a seki.

But because of the cutting point, black can't play there now.

Black also made five points here, and white's potential at the bottom was erased.

If white fails to protect this area, he'll lose the game.

The bottom side was the only hope for white.

Because of that, Ma put up serious resistance here.

Instead of making another eye, he cut.

It was the strongest move.

This atari is safer.

But isn't white's territory big?

Yes, white will get ten points in the corner now.

In addition, black needs to defend his cutting point in gote.

After that, white will jump here. It's no good.

So you had to play the strongest move.

And with this move, you delivered the coup de grace.

After this atari, you tried to capture the white group.

This was a capturing race.

White needed to attack black with this peep.

But if black connects here, he can capture the corner.

White's short of liberties.

Black wins by two liberties.

Because of that, Ma chose to atari, aiming for a ko.

By making the ko shape, Ma could persevere for a while.

What about this black group?

Was this move necessary?

To attack white, does black need to atari here?

I think so.

It'd be nice if black could jump, but the capturing race with the other group will be complicated.

This extension is tricky.

This black group doesn't have many liberties.

It's a capturing race.

If white chokes black like this, black has to capture this white stone.

After white captures, this placement is needed.

It's a direct ko.

But black doesn't have enough ko threats, so the game will be reversed.

If black loses the ko, both of black's groups die.

I don't think black has an appropriate threat.

Even though the battle was already favorable for black, there were still some obstacles.

And that was what Ma was aiming at.

If I hadn't played the hane, the game would have been reversed.

So black played here.

Finally, the capturing race began.

The final battle was very exciting.

After black jumped, white wedged here to reduce black's liberties.

By connecting here, black can increase his liberties substantially.

Therefore, this kind of wedge is very important in a capturing race.

After black pushed, white sacrificed one more stone.

Before that, Ma exchanged these moves.

We'll show you the capturing race slowly.

This kind of sacrifice can be powerful in a capturing race.

Normally, white would answer here.

But if black plays here, he'll have one extra liberty.

White has to play here, then black chokes white's group.

White has to either atari or descend here.

Is it the same? Yes.

This is the same. It's a direct ko.

But this variation would be better for black.

Ma sacrificed one more stone to increase his liberties.

What if black answers like this?

What's the result? Isn't it a direct ko?

Black has to atari here.

It's a one step ko. Since the ko is favorable for white, the tables will be turned.

This is a lot better for white.

White can even respond to some of black's threats.

It's no good.

The capturing race was very complicated, and it was the last crucial battle.

White played here.

How did you see this move?

You were in an urgent situation.

It looks like connecting here might kill black.

In that case, black can block here.

After that, this hane works.

This atari is sente.

If white cuts, black ataris.

White has to answer here, then black connects.

After sacrificing this stone, black connects again.

White has to fill black's liberties, then black plays here.

Black wins by one liberty.

Indeed, after this atari, black can play here! What an interesting capturing race!

It's an extremely complicated variation.

What if white lives like this?

Black can connect and save his group.

It's nonsense. This white group is in grave danger.

Blocking here is the strongest response.

It's a ko again.

However, there's no proper ko threat for this ko fight on the board.

Because black can capture the entire group if he wins.

Even if white captured the whole left side, black would still win.

This won't happen, but even so, black is OK.

That was Ma's do or die move.

However, extending here was a good counter!

Inevitably, Ma had to fall back.

So black got one more liberty here, and the ko fight began.

Black played here first.

After white captured black's three stones, black played here.

Did white play here? No matter how white reduced black's liberties, the result would be the same.

The ko began like this.

The black group looks huge, but it started as a small group.

Since the group grew inside white's territory, this ko wasn't particularly heavy for black.

Because of that, this ko threat worked.

Ma had to finish the ko. If he answered, it would create many more threats.

Finally, white captured black's group.

Even though it looks very big, black didn't lose many points.

Black captured this white group. How would you assess the outcome?

White gained 32 points by winning the ko.

However, this area became smaller, so the loss should be deducted from the capture.

In total, white got less than 30 points.

I think capturing this white group is worth roughly 30 points.

I think white lost nine points here.

Yes, that's right.

Black gained 23 points.

In total, black got 32 points, so the trade was profitable for black.

In fact, white had thickness on the right side.

All things considered, the exchange wasn't bad for black.

As a result, the positional gap didn't change.

This game lasted for a while, but in the end, Seo won by resignation.

In defeating Ma, Seo established his unbreakable nine consecutive win record.

Even though a lot of time has passed, congratulations again on your success!

Thanks a lot.

Today we've seen a game in which Seo achieved a great feat in the Jinro Cup.

Thank you!

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