Go Seigen turns 100 today!

Today is Go Seigen’s 100th birthday.


Go Seigen 9 dan. Photo: Zhang Jingna.

Go Seigen is regarded by many to be the greatest Go player who ever lived.

He was born in China on June 12, 1914, where his name is Wu Qingyuan (吳清源). In Korea we call him Oh Cheongwon and Go Seigen is the Japanese reading of his name.

If you haven’t heard of him before, you can learn more about Go Seigen here.

A new paradigm

Go Seigen created a new paradigm in the game of Go and raised the understanding of future players to a new level.

Even though many decades have passed since he played most of his famous games, he still loves Go and studies it every day.

In his book, A Way of Play for the 21st Century, Go Seigen said:

I still study Go every day, placing stones on the board.

You might think study is meaningless for me, since I retired so many years ago. But for people who play it, Go is like an eternal friend, a permanent art form.

I’ll continue playing and studying Go. Probably just like you.


Go Seigen still studies Go every day. Photo: Zhang Jingna.

Many players still study Go

Many players, including pros, still study and learn from Go Seigen’s games today.

In 2003, there was a poll amongst Korean pros, about who they thought the greatest player in the history of Go was.

Lee Changho took second place in the poll, and Go Seigen was voted the greatest player ever.

Even though most of the pros who were polled had never played against him, they still regarded him as the greatest Go player, because they’d replayed his games.

A commentary to celebrate Go Seigen’s 100th birthday

When I was studying to become a pro, I replayed most of Go Seigen’s official games at least three times.

Today I’m going to show you one of his most memorable games against Kitani Minoru, who was his best friend and rival.

Even though this game was played almost 75 years ago, Go’s play still feels modern and he plays many moves that normal players wouldn’t even imagine.

Happy birthday Go Seigen

I’m very happy today to see that Go Seigen is still alive and well on his 100th birthday, because he’s been one of my idols since I was very young.

I hope that today many Go players around the world can replay Go Seigen’s great games and reflect on his contributions to the Go world.

Happy 100th birthday Master!

Commented game record

Go Seigen vs Kitani Minoru


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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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. Jermelle MacLeod says:

    Nice! I’ve tried to play like Go Seigen, and failed, but he is still such an icon today and I’m amazed. Thanks for the commentary, I learned a lot and enjoyed it.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I understand. It’s not easy to mimic his style. It’s very hard even for me to do. 🙂

  2. afterbreak says:

    hello, thanks for commentary, gonna study it hard 🙂

    any idea where You can download all his games?

  3. Drawout says:

    “Go created a new paradigm in the game of Go” XD had to read it twice to understand that go itself did not create a new paradigm on itself but that it was go seigen ^^ 🙂 nice and happy birthday to this great go legend!! 100 impressive to reach the triple digits! 🙂

  4. What a fantastic feat, this man is incredible. Congratulations Go Seigen, today June 11, or in a few days, June 14. I studied his games, but I was far too weak to take something away from this.

    Indeed, this game is slow by today’s standards, faster is probably better, or today’s players would play a bit more like Kitani too. I wonder if one could say that the old day’s sente isn’t today’s sente anymore. Ignoring “sente” was one aspect that characterised Go Seigen for me, so he truly is modern, showing the way right from the past.

    Kind regards,

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a hard question to answer Paul.

      Today’s games are obviously faster compared to Go Seigen’s era, but Go’s play in the opening was faster than other top players as you can see. Lots of old day’s sente is still sente today, but some moves aren’t necessarily sente anymore. In this game, Go just tenukied and played a big move, and that’s his typical style of play.

      For the date, his birthday is June 12, and it was 12th in China where he was born (and in Japan where he lives), when we published this article. June 16 is also right in Lunar calendar for 2014. 🙂

  5. moboy78 says:

    If Go Seigen is considered one of the greatest go players of all time, would changing my name to Go increase my go strength =)

    • Younggil An says:

      You can try it and let’s see. 🙂
      Let us know if you got stronger from that! =)

  6. Thank you for this article, I think Go Seigen is not as widely appreciated as he should be.

    • Younggil An says:

      Hi Tony. I see. he’s widely appreciated in China, Korea and Japan I think I think. However, I’m not sure about Western Go societies.

  7. B29, var. 1 (D17): I agree that this move doesn’t have significant pressure on the White group, but I view it more as a type of move that players like Otake Hideo or Takagawa Kaku would make — a shape with ‘latent energy’ or ‘reserved power’. It might not fit or work with Go’s style, but I feel like these kind of solid and latent moves are the style of many other players. In this sense, I don’t view them as purely defensive. On a side note, I enjoy making these kinds of solid moves, but they require more long-term strategic thinking to use. It can be difficult to tell whether I’ve successfully maximized their use or not.

    However, at the same time Go wants to make moves that can maintain sente or be forcing for as long as possible. The latent moves let you more easily do this in the later part of the game, but they trade-off early pressure. As I’ve been trying to hone the balance of maintaining ‘forcing moves’ and ‘pressure’ throughout the entire game while using different styles, such as Shuei, Takagawa, and Go, I’ve been wondering: Is there really a style that does this best? One with latent moves, one without? One with a focus on miai, one without? One that starts fights from the beginning, one that doesn’t? Etc.

    I guess I was just wondering if you (or David) have any thoughts, advice or insight about this and the move B29, var. 1 (D17)?


    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your long comment.

      I think there’re many possible different ways to play. That move you mentioned is also conceivable, but then Black would better play at L17 for Black 17. It looks like Go planned to play like the actual game when he played Black 17, but others can have different ideas.

      I think it’d be good for you to play in different style of play, then you can learn and get experienced more compared to play in your own style all the time.

      When I teach my students, I ask them to play in different style, so they can learn more from the experience. On the other hand, it’s good to have your own style, especially if you’re already 5 dan or stronger. You don’t need to mimic someone’s play, and there’re many possible moves in the opening. If you can enjoy more with your own style, that’s good enough I think.

      • It is a great idea to do mimic quite consciously.

        We are all your pupils now! 🙂

      • Thank-you for the reply.

        Sorry that my comment wasn’t clear enough, I’ll try to write more simply here in the future.

        • Younggil An says:

          Oh, sorry if I couldn’t get your point. If you write more simply, it’s better for me to understand clearly. 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:
    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for sharing this video clip about Go Seigen. That’s quite a nice video. 😀

  9. Only Go Seigen plays like Go Seigen. The rest of us mortals – even on our very best days – can only play like Go Seigen wanabees. Happy 100th Birthday Wu Qingyuan, Oh Cheongwon, Go Seigen! No matter how your name is pronounced you will and always will be as the movie title has it in English: The Go Master!

    • Younggil An says:

      I agree Poka. He’s style of play was very unique in his era. His greatness of Go overwhelmed other top players too.

  10. Thanks for that commentary. And a happy birthday Go Seigen from me too! 🙂

  11. I often wonder if current top pros’ reading, especially ones who love fighting, is better than past masters’ reading, from early 20th century or even 19th century. Go Seigen reading was reputed extremely deep, better than most of the other players of his era, but is it comparable to the reading of players like Lee Sedol, Gu Li or Cho U ?
    By the way, happy 100th birthday Master and thanks for this excellent post !

    • i think the level of reading between the past master and the present aren’t that big of a difference since the past master has solve harder Tsumego. i think the main difference between the past and present are the time on each game…today games it often between 2-3 hours per person, some are lighting games which is 10 minutes per person…. the past master can play a game almost a day and continue it on the next day…so basically time is the main issue for professional today…hope that help a bit

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question Simon. And thanks for your answer LUCKY.

      I agree to LUCKY’s opinion. The time difference is big, and there’s some more.
      The reading itself would be probably the same compared to modern top players, but modern players have more knowledge about opening and endgame. Those two parts have been significantly developed and improved since then.
      Shapes and haengma are also quite different to these days, and they make people who replayed old games feel different.

      For the conclusion, even though the ‘reading’ itself is about the same, other skills can make it different I think.

      • Johannes says:

        Hi, this comment is very interesting: I didn’t know that modern top players know much more about the endgame.

        Is it possible to give some concrete example of some endgame concept / technique that would be considered modern?

        • Younggil An says:

          Hi Johannes, thanks for your question.

          It looks like the top players in old days didn’t pay attention about the endgame compared to these days. Even just before Lee Changho’s era, top players in Korea didn’t really care of endgame. It’s because they thought the game will get decided in the middle game, and the endgame is just finishing part of the game which’s not important.

          However, after Lee Changho came, the paradigm’s changed, and people realized that the endgame’s far more important than it was regarded.

          Nowadays, most of endgame skills and techniques were discovered, but in Go Seigen’s era, it wasn’t yet. Because of that, modern players have an advantage in the endgame. 🙂

  12. Thanks for this great tribute to go seigen.

  13. Guillermo says:

    Thank you for such a great game commentary. Its very thorough and easy to understand.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your comment Guillermo.
      I’m happy that the commentary was easy to understand. That’s what I focused on. 🙂

  14. Great quote from the master.
    Were there any major festivities in China or Japan?

    • Younggil An says:

      I’m not sure, but since Go Seigen is very highly regarded, there must have had some festivities in China and Japan.
      There’s an tribute article about Go Seigen on his birthday in Korean Baduk websites. 🙂

  15. Thanks for this great article and happy birthday Go Seigen.

    If anyone is interested, we (ASR) have 8 of Go Seigen games deeply comented by himself plus some story about him, his oponent and historical context here:


    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks climu for sharing the link.
      Actually, myself is very interested in those commented games. 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    What is the best way to study the endgame? Any good resources?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question, but hard to answer.
      There’s no such best way to study the endgame, but you can improve by doing a few ways.
      First of all, if you play games and pay attention more in the endgame, your endgame will get better.
      If you want to get good resources, how about reading some nice books about endgame? http://shop.gogameguru.com/go-books/go-game-strategy/go-endgame-books/

      In general, endgame is strongly related to reading, middle game and Life and Death, so if you study those parts, your endgame will get stronger too.
      I hope my answer helps you for your endgame. 🙂

  17. I THANK YOUNGGIL AN VERY MUCH! I’M VERY HAPPY *v*! I will study your this commented Go Seigen game, to I Chinese Go is still a very later choice! I always and still vote the best for and love Changho Lee *v*!

  18. Congrats to Go Seigen.