Go Commentary: Lee Sedol vs Gu Li – Jubango – Game 3

This is game 3 of the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango, between Lee Sedol 9p and Gu Li 9p.


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Gu Li 9 dan discuss game 3 of their jubango shortly after the game.

Since Lee Sedol won the first two games, he should have had a psychological advantage going into this one.

However, the mood of the series changed shortly before this game took place.

The 4th Zhaoshang Cup

One week earlier, there was another game between Gu Li and Lee Sedol at the 4th Zhaoshang Cup and Gu Li won.

When I was watching that game, I felt that Lee was in poor form, and I thought that perhaps he was saving his energy and stamina for this jubango game.

When Lee isn’t in good form, he rushes and plays thin, territorial moves instead of solid moves that emphasize power. If you look at that game, you’ll feel that Lee’s play was different from these jubango games.

The Zhaoshang Cup is a team competition and neither player would have cared about the winning or losing as much as they usually do. However, there was another game shortly afterwards which changed the flow of this match.

The 16th Chunlan Cup

The Round of 16 at the 10th Chunlan Cup took place just two day before this game. Gu and Lee were paired to play together once again (based on drawing lots). And this game was different.

Both players did their best and you could feel their fighting spirit from the beginning until the very end of the game.

Gu Li took the lead, after making a big trade on the right side, and maintained it throughout most of the game. Lee Sedol caught up near the end, with his characteristic fierce and powerful moves, and almost reversed the game.

However, Gu managed to hold on to the smallest of leads amidst the chaos. Lee knew that he was losing by half a point, and that there was no way to catch up, so he resigned.

Gu Li restores his confidence

Winning those two games seemed to restore Gu Li’s confidence, and relieve the mental pressure he felt about playing Lee Sedol in this match.

On the other hand, Lee Sedol suffered some psychological damage in losing that game and the bad news for him was that he only had one day to recover and calm his mind before this game.

Some pundits said that Lee was only concentrating this jubango, and that if he won this game the earlier losses would soon be forgotten.

We’re writing a book about this match

This commentary, and others, will form the basis for our Go book about Lee Sedol and Gu Li’s jubango.

The actual book will contain a more extensive commentary of this game, but you can regard what you see below as a draft (learn more).

Please help us to make our first Go book as good as possible. There are several ways you can help us to improve the commentary below:

  1. Ask questions about the game – if anything is unclear, please let us know so we can explain it better!
  2. Point out any mistakes, even minor typos – our first draft is below, because this is going to be a book, even small mistakes need to be fixed.
  3. Tell your friends and ask them to help too.

The rules of the game

The time limit for these games is 3 hours and 55 minutes, with 1 minute x 5 times byo-yomi. It’s traditional to subtract 5 minutes from the 4 hour total, because of the 5 x 1 minute periods.

There’s no lunch break scheduled for these games, but food is provided and the players are free to get up and eat whenever they want, throughout the game.

Anyway, let’s have a look at game 3 this 10 game match.

Commented game record

Lee Sedol vs Gu Li – Game 3


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Related Articles

About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He qualified as a professional in 1997 and won an award for winning 18 consecutive professional matches the following year. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea in 2008, to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now lives in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the founders of Go Game Guru. On Friday evenings, Younggil is usually at the Sydney Go Club, where he gives weekly lessons and plays simultaneous games.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. Anonymous says:

    After white 8 san-san, black Q17 and white Q18, can black tenuki ? I have seen this in some game. I have played it myself as i don’t want to choose between P18 and R16 now.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, that’s possible, but White can have a nice shape with S18 later, so Black normally continues with P18.

  2. Dear An

    Thanks so much for keeping up with the commentaries. I have a few questions, feel free to answer or ignore any of them.

    Move 12 var 4: I’ve never seen W9 like this. Will White sacrfice two stones if Black cuts after B10 is ignored?

    Move 18: var 2 then var 2 then var 2. Can W12 resist here and move into the centre i/o cutting the top stones?

    Move 32: after explaining Black is thin on the left, we of course anticipate an attack there. 32 comes as a surprise. Is it because the left is in a state of equivalence?

    Move 35, var 2: at the end you speak about a “hane” at W8, which is in the same position as the end of move 37 var 2, reordering the moves. It seems that the “hane” explanation is better placed there. Also, you may want to emphasize this sameness of diagrams.

    Move 90, vars: so this is how pros read …

    Move 118 var 2: scraps of comments left (editing mistake)

    Move 184 var 2: I think most of the readers will shiver at the thought of the ko this leads up to, so you may want to expand on the reasons for White to be able and take this variation lightly still.

    The variations throughout the game are mind boggling, but they do make the story of this game very clear. It looks like this must have been an exhausting game, not only for the players.

    • Younggil An says:

      Hi Dieter,

      Move 12 var 4: I’ve never seen W9 like this. Will White sacrfice two stones if Black cuts after B10 is ignored?
      Yes, White will extend and sacrifice the two stones.

      Move 32: after explaining Black is thin on the left, we of course anticipate an attack there. 32 comes as a surprise. Is it because the left is in a state of equivalence?
      Yes, even if Black plays one more move from the left side, it would still be a bit thin, so White can easily reduce the area. That’s why the right side was more urgent to invade.

      Move 18: var 2 then var 2 then var 2. Can W12 resist here and move into the centre i/o cutting the top stones?
      If White pushes up, black will connect at 12. And if White cuts at 17, the ladder from 13 will work for Black.

      Move 35, var 2: at the end you speak about a “hane” at W8, which is in the same position as the end of move 37 var 2, reordering the moves. It seems that the “hane” explanation is better placed there. Also, you may want to emphasize this sameness of diagrams.
      Oh, my mistake. That wasn’t hane, but a diagonal move. Thanks for the correction. 🙂

      Move 90, vars: so this is how pros read …
      You’re right.

      Some variations might be too hard and difficult to follow, but it’d be ok to just have a look. You can consider that many moves are available, though they didn’t play those moves. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand white 102. Why not a move around C4 ?

    • Let me try this one.

      Up until this point, White has been exchanging territory for strong influence. Black has major cash in the bank, with territories and captured groups on the lower right and upper right. White has a strong group at the top and two spheres of influence in the lower left and upper left.

      In these conditions, White cannot afford to play a simple territory making move like C4. This would be a good move if White were ahead, forestalling an invasion. But White still has work to do.

      Therefore, White 102 turns around Black’s group with two purposes:
      – increase the lower sphere of influence and turn it into a potential territory that matches the size of Black’s
      – continue to pressure Black’s group and drive it towards the strength at the top

      If 102 were at C4, Black would play at 102 instead and achieve the negation of the above purposes:
      – White’s lower right, though firm territory would become smaller
      – the Black group would be reinforced and expand its influence, away from the strong White group

      I leave it up to An or David to confirm or deny this 2 dan judgment.

    • Younggil An says:

      Your explanation was excellent Dieter!
      That’s exactly correct. 🙂

  4. Could you make this field larger? It is so hard to read commnets.


    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I agree with you. I’ll talk about this with David if we can make the field larger.
      Thanks for your idea.

  5. Thank you for the beautiful commentary, Younggil

  6. I suggest whenever you state a move was good or not so good you always go on to explain why that is so. Example, you noted regarding Black move showed “good technique” but went on to explain how a black move to, “A” would have in this case been better. But you never explained why it would have been better compared to the move actually made by Lisa Dall. I believe whenever you comment on the efficiency or effectiveness of remove it would be helpful to explain why you feel or think the way you do. Please keep in mind there will be many double-digit kyu players who will want to read your book and they will constantly struggle with this type of question. Otherwise I think you have done a tremendous job and a spectacular service to the go community in your well considered commentary.

    • There are a few instances already where An takes some time to explain certain tactics which are trivial for professionals or even experienced amateurs, such as why Black can’t move out with his two stones at the bottom. I understand that double digit kyus (to make this artificial distinction) could use more of those but at some point the authors will have to draw the line.

      If you want, you can send me the sgf provided by An and include some questions. I’m willing to give it a try and explain beyond what’s obvious from a professional’s perspective. That is, if you indeed have some questions yourself – perhaps your comment was meant to think of others.

      Another solution could be for An to refer to Sensei’s Library, if the remainder of the explanation boils down to standard practice.

      For my level (about 2d) the commentary does provide the feeling that I can understand a pro game with not too many instances of superfluous thoughts. I guess at the DDK level indeed there is some more effort needed (from the DDK to start with …)

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your suggestion Rob, and thanks a lot for your kind reply Dieter.
      I tried to explain more, but as you said, it would still be hard for DDK players to understand pros’ game. I’ll try to explain why and compare the actual move and the others more for the next game.

  7. Wonderful job!

  8. Graeme Parmenter says:


    Thanks for making this very complicated game understandable! I’m looking forward to the book!


  9. Hi,
    Younggil, you said at move 55 for black in the variation that he couldn’t connect at R2, because it would result in a bad ko for him. What if he played the N2 sequence before ?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question.
      If Black plays N2, O2 in sente and R2, White will play at S8, and S9 and Q1 will be miai for White. The exchange of N2 and L3 is good for White, so Lee wouldn’t have considered that.

  10. Thanks for the review Younggil! It was great to see things through a pro’s perspective since us (amateurs) have such limited knowledge in comparison.

    One suggestion I would have for the game review would be to have the comment for the move to be explained on the move instead of later. An example of this is how Move 11 is explained at Move 12. This would help reduce confusion for weaker players like myself.

    Great commentary as always. Thanks again!

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your idea Ben.
      I normally do as you mentioned for other commentaries However, the format for the Jubango is a bit different because we’re planing to make a book. I’m sorry that it made you confused, and I hope we find a solution for the next game.

  11. You use “inevitable” a lot, in situations where it is not incorrect, but it does not really fit English idiom either. I’d suggest considering whether “unavoidable” or “forced” might be more appropriate in some of those situations.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks a lot Warren for your pointing it out. My limited vocabulary is the problem, but I’ll try to use those terms next time. 🙂

  12. “The atari at white 65” should be “The atari at white 66”.

  13. On move 90, should “maintained Black’s potential” be “maintained White’s potential”?

  14. Yudong-nick says:

    At move 117, chose option 2 for White:
    ‘Black 117 was’
    It looks like it had additional explanation for that move.

  15. When White plays T2 at move 54, you give a variation starting with Black R2 and ending with White T3 and you comment: “…Black can start a ko fight with A to C, but it’s a picnic ko for White. This is a bad result for Black…”
    But actually, after those moves, White can’t fill the ko, and if he captures at Q2, then Black takes the ko, white’s corner group is in atari, and white has no big ko threat.
    So if I missed something and your assessment is correct, it would be helpful to give 2 more moves to make it clear.

    • I believe that the qualification of a picnic ko refers to the fact that this was black’s corner to start with. So if black wins the ko, in exchange for say two moves at the left, his gain is not really big, whereas if white wins, he has conquered enemy ground. The picnic does not qualify the likelihood of winning the ko, rather whether the ko is An acceptable result altogether.

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question Nick, and thanks for the nice reply Dieter. Your explanation is correct. I should have explained about it clearer.
      In addition to Dieter’s answer, if Black plays A to C, White would play somewhere else. If Black wants to win the ko, Black should still need two more moves at T1 and T4, and White’ll be happy to play two moves somewhere else.
      That’s why I said it was a picnic ko for White, but it wasn’t clear enough.
      I hope it makes more sense for you now with those answers. 🙂

  16. Hi Younggil

    Are u actually updating the sgf file after putting your comments here? Or sgf remains in the “old” version? Is it a matter of let’s say mimutes to update it or does it require more work?

    Thank you

    • Younggil An says:

      Hi Marek,
      Yes, it’s more work to change, not just minutes to update.
      Thanks for your concern.

  17. it was interesting commentaries…but i getting lost a lot during reading the game…… a lot of variation…XD it is my own weakness for not able to follow it up……another great commentaries by An…

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, there’re more variations than other commentaries. If a variation is too long or difficult to follow, you can just skip. If you look through the game next time, you’ll probably understand more, and you can look at more variations which you skipped before. 🙂

  18. David Britt says:

    Hi Younggil,

    Thanks as always for the commentary, I enjoyed it very much. A few corrections for the book:

    1. In regard to the use of “inevitable,” I think it’s okay on move 65, but not as good on move 43. I would use “unavoidable” there as Warren suggests above. The words are very similar (inevitable is just a slightly more “Latinized” version of unavoidable) so I don’t know if I can give you a general rule.. inevitable just sounds more final and non-negotiable at least to my ear. So since that sentence refers to an opinion that may or may not be correct I would use “unavoidable.”

    2. On move 69, “as best he could” is common in verbal English, but not technically correct so it should probably be avoided in writing. “As well as he could” is the correct version.

    3. If at move 89 you follow variation 2, then at move 92 follow variation 2, at move 107 there is a typo where “a” is in place of “1.”

    4. At move 178 “…but this cut became…”

    That’s all I found!

    • It is inevitable that the earth will perish one day but if we continue to pollute it at the current rate, it may become unavoidable in the near future.

      The difference is fate versus consequence of choice.

      • David Britt says:

        That’s a nice way to sum it up. Though for any non-native speakers it’s worth mentioning that inevitable can be used in cases that you wouldn’t normally call “fate.” For instance, if a game moves in the direction of a very large moyo for one player I would say the invasion is “inevitable.” I would prefer that to “unavoidable” actually. But in that case it pretty much has gotten beyond a matter of choice; the invasion must happen.

      • Younggil An says:

        I see. Thanks, I feel the difference a bit more now. 🙂

      • Jimmy Kudo says:

        The legitimate difference is quite simple actually, if something is unavoidable there is nothing YOU CAN DO to stop it. If something is inevitable, there is NO WAY it can be stopped. Something unavoidable can be stopped, just not by your choices or actions. It will need to be resolved on it’s own some how. Such as an asteroid flying at an ancient earth with NO technology capable of stopping it, to the earthlings, it is unavoidable. Although to an alien race with futuristic technology, it is not. Now if this was a meteor sent by god, that cannot be stopped by anyone other than god, and god spontaneously dies, leaving no one to stop it, it would then be INEVITABLE.

        • Younggil An says:

          Thanks a lot for your vivid description Jummy Kudo.
          That’s very helpful for me. I can feel the difference between the two words more than before. 🙂

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks David a lot for your kind explanation and correction.
      They’re all new for me, so that’s really helpful for me. 🙂
      I’ll try to avoid all those mistakes and typos for the book with GGG team.

  19. Brian David says:

    I think several of you are being way too obsessive about the English language. Inevitable and unavoidable are synoynymns whose difference is so arbitrary as to be barely worth mentioning. In fact, I would say that as far as modern usage is concerned, there is no difference whatsoever. The only reason to choose one over the other is a matter of taste.

    • David Britt says:

      I hope the comments don’t come off as overly critical. As someone who spent many years learning to speak a foreign language, and took that pursuit seriously, the minute differences in how a word sounds to a native speaker is very interesting to me. I’m sure Younggil understands that this isn’t a criticism of his English, but rather a discussion of how the words sounds to us as native speakers. Either one would be fine in the book, but in some cases one will sound more natural than the other. I believe it’s this sort of thing that Younggil is asking for above, along with random little grammatical stuff.

  20. Paul Dejean says:

    Minor typo in move 132 of the main branch.

    > Only Lee Sedol pull off this kind of magical reversal against Gu Li.

    Should probably be:
    > Only Lee Sedol can pull off this kind of magical reversal against Gu Li.

  21. Very well commented. Thorough and logically consistent.(No “good for white” branches with a “good for black” variation hidden within)
    Your heart must really be in this project. It makes me fear that you might take a financial loss, by printing a bibliophile version, and not selling enough to turn a profit.
    If you really are contemplating printing a high quality version, how about testing the waters with a crowd funding project? Don’t bother about bonuses, except maybe signing copies.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks a lot for your idea Stefan. I talked about that with David before, but we decided not to do. Maybe I should consider of that again. 🙂