Go Commentary: Lee Sedol vs Choi Cheolhan – 41st Myeongin

This is the 5th and last game of the 41st Myeongin (Korean Meijin) final, played between Lee Sedol 9p and Choi Cheolhan 9p on December 15, 2013.


Choi Cheolhan 9 dan (left) and Lee Sedol 9 dan play in the final of the 41st Myeongin.

Lee won the first game of the final, but Choi won next two games to lead the series 2-1. Lee fought back with a win in game 4, and this was the deciding game of the 41st Myeongin title match.

The head to head record between these two players is 31-19 in Lee’s favor. Up until this game, there had been four finals matches between these two, and Lee had won them all.

The Myeongin


Choi Cheolhan and Lee Sedol with former Myeongin title holder, Seo Bongsu (center).

The Myeongin is domestic Korean Go title which started in 1968. It’s the Korean equivalent of the Japanese Meijin and Chinese Mingren titles.

The winner’s prize in the Myeongin is 80 million Won (about $75,000 USD at the time of writing) and the runner up receives 25 million Won (about $23,000).

The final is played as a best of five match and the time limit for the games is 2 hours and 3 x 1 minute byo-yomi for each player.

Let’s have a look at the game!

Commented game record

Lee Sedol vs Choi Cheolhan


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


41st Myeongin photos

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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. What a game. Am I right that B 301 was a mistake because B lost one ko-threath with that move and in the end he lost because of that? If so, what would happen after WK19, BJ19 if W then plays K17 as a ko threath?

    Thanks for the comments again.

    • Also: what’s the point of B 255? Didn’t B just throw a big ko-threath away or was it a time tesuji?

      • I guess B needed time, at this point they should be in byo yomi.
        Sometimes, i relax my nerves by playing a move like this one.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your question.
      If white ataris at K17 for a ko threat, black would eliminate the ko at T11,and then there’re still some ko threats for black at N8 and B6. Since white needs to spend one more move to win the ko, black would still win the game.

      For the second question, B 255 was to reduce one point of white’s. Black can’t atari here as a ko threat anymore after white cuts at C11, so Lee wanted to reduce 1 point before eliminating the ko at R1.

  2. Good day Mr. Younggil,

    How does a professional estimate the score throughout the playing of a game? As an example, after White 42, what should a professional be looking at exactly to determine the leader?

    Thanks, it’s a privilege.

    • Younggil An says:

      It’s very hard to answer to your question.
      Generally, pros consider of the flow of the game first. If there was any mistake from the beginning, the game shouldn’t be perfectly even, and pros are able to feel the subtlety. Every player has one’s own preference, so it depends on one’s style of play as well. In this game, they both players might have thought there wasn’t any mistake in the opening, so the game should still have been even at the move 42.
      I’m sorry, but my answer is not clear.

      • Your answer was helpful, Mr. Younggil… Because the playing field is still so vast, (after W42) no professional cannot determine through any means of point-counting how much his/her influence is worth, as they are not able to fully anticipate how their influence will be utilized. This is because a player’s style will often dictate the way in which the game flows.

        What would happen if Black omitted 37? Are there any alternatives worth mentioning? White 38, looks scary to me.

        • Younggil An says:

          B 37 is a big move. If you feel scary, you can also reinforce your weak group for B 37. There’s no special move even if black didn’t play at B37, but Lee would have thought the top group was not in danger, and the right side was big.

    • Anonymous says:

      Also, to determine who is winning in the game, Myungwhan Kim ALWAYS counts. However, you also need a very strong sense of positional judgement to determine if the fight in the center is favourable for one side or the other. AGA YouTube Channel
      – IGS 3Dan

  3. Poor old Lee Sedol! So much fighting spirit and so close to a magical comeback it’s a shame he made that small but crucial mistake at the end and then the dame blunder. I hope he doesn’t get depressed about this game and not winning a title this year and can play with all his power and genius against Gu Li.

  4. Why not keima to p14 at move 24? In the game black gets a very big corner. Or is the keima unreasonable since M16 is so close to white´s shape?

    • Younggil An says:

      Good question!
      If white plays at P14 at move 24, black would hane at O18. Then W N18, B P18, W M17, B L17, and black can get a nice shape at the top. That’s why white didn’t play at P14. 🙂

      • Of course, black could play the same moves after O14. But then O15 is a serious threat after P14 and not after O14 – I assume that is the point: having to defend that slows white down helping black achieve good shape.

        Actually, could black not even play O15 at once instead of L17 in your sequence, Younggil?

        • Younggil An says:

          That’s a a nice point.

          O15 is also possible instead of L17, but I don’t think Black needs to rush. If you want to play there to fight, there’s no problem though.

  5. If you don’t love ko, you don’t like go.

  6. Hi, what if w tries to kill the big group like L16 instead of M9. What is the meaning of M9?

    • Younggil An says:

      I’m not quite sure, but it looks as if Choi thought it was too risky to try to kill the big group right away, so he wanted to have a profitable exchange before doing it. On the other hand, Lee might have thought his big group was in danger and more urgent, so he chose to save the one first, and tried to catch up very hard.
      It’s a psychological issue, so it’s very hard to explain.

  7. That was really an amazing game..!! Best game I’ve seen for a long time!

    But I was wondering… This was such a complex game with so many variations to read, so many trades, kos and so on.. and the time settings were only 2h each and 3×1 minute (which seems very short to me)!
    So, at move 292 you’re saying that Lee can’t just make his group alive, but has to play a yose move and provoke a ko for life. With the game coming to its end and all the reading and pressure they had, that means they still could count with such a precision?

    I think this is the most amazing part of this game for me. At this stage, if I saw that I could make my group alive, I would not even have thought of playing some “small” yose move instead of living and then play a ko..^^ because the ko has to be worth the yose move he played, and it’s a pretty big ko..!

    Anyway, amazing game! Thanks for this comment!

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, this game was really amazing for me too.
      Top pros always count and think about the situation who’s leading and how much, but it’s still very hard to count with such a precision under the time pressure. If they’re losing only by half a point, they’ll take a risk for a big group, because losing by a small margin isn’t good enough. 🙂

  8. What an entertaining game ! Lee Sedol should won a spirit fighting award if such thing exists.

    I was a bit sad too see (thanks to your explanation) he missed a chance to win that game, but on the other hand I like Choi Cheolhan a lot and I’m very happy he won that game and title due to his strength and talent.

    My hope is that game would be a kind of prelude, in entertainment way, to the Gu Li – Lee Sedol jubango !

  9. Thanks heaps for the commentary Younggil. I will be going over this several times to improve my understanding of such a close game.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, that’s a good idea. This game is particularly difficult to understand, so that’s good to have a look again. 🙂

  10. The winner get the lady @[email protected]

  11. Steven Chen says:

    Hello, I was wondering why didn’t black from around move 30 to 40, didn’t invade the topleft corner? it seems to me that black has a lot of eye space and black 31 could definitely be omitted to invade the corner. It’s worth a little over 30 points so it seems that it is definitely the largest point on the board