Another couplet for Lee Sedol: Gu Li vs Lee Sedol jubango – Game 6

Lee Sedol 9p extended his lead against Gu Li 9p to 4:2, when he won game 6 of their 10 game match on July 27, 2014.


From left: Lee Sedol 9 dan, Ni Zhanggen (sponsor) and Gu Li 9 dan.

The sixth game of the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango was held in Liuan, Anhui Province, China.

Another early lead for Gu Li

Once again, Gu Li’s skill in the opening gained him an early lead and the game favored Black after 27 moves.

Black was still in the lead up to move 41, with a large territory in the top right, but then…

Lee Sedols seizes an opportunity

…When Black played a double hane at the bottom, and then extended with 45, Lee Sedol didn’t miss a beat. He cut White’s group in two and started a fight in the bottom right corner.

Black fought back resolutely, but White promptly sacrificed two stones – gaining sente moves in the center and turning to attack Black on the left side.

In the fighting that followed Lee was able to catch up again.


Lee Sedol at game 6 of the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango.

A brilliant empty triangle

White’s empty triangle at 112 was hard to see, but it was a brilliant move which made miai of L9 and G4 for White. This instigated a large trade.

When the dust settled at 122, White had captured Black’s right side group and made two of his own groups strong in the process.

A sure thing turns to chaos

It looked like White was well on the road to victory when he played 134.

However, just when we were were thinking it was over already, the game became unexpectedly complicated, with White 146 and 148.

Spectators were left on the edge of their seats for another 30 moves – where any move could decide the game.

It was no longer a sure thing, but Lee Sedol pulled through and grasped his fourth win for the match. Black resigned after 178 moves.


Gu Li is under pressure after another disappointing game.

Gu Li needs to find another couplet

The players have alternated between two games each in the match so far.

Lee Sedol won games 1 and 2, but Gu Li came back in games 3 and 4, and so on. It’s as if they were exchanging rhyming couplets!

Gu Li better hope this pattern continues, because if he loses game 7 he’ll have to face three successive kadobans (match deciding games) and will be up against the wall.

Game 7 will take the players back up to the heavens, this time in Lhasa (August 31). Since altitude sickness was a factor in game 5, we might see the players doing some altitude training in the next month.


Lee Sedol is in a good position as the match passes the halfway point.

We’ll be back with a commentary soon, but in the meantime here are An Younggil 8p’s preliminary comments:

An Younggil’s preliminary analysis

Gu Li started the game with a nice opening up to Black 27. White 20 and 24 looked questionable in this sequence.

White 36 was an unexpected ladder breaker, but the result up to Black 41 was still good for Black.

Black 43 and 45 were too much, and White countered with White 46 and 48. White caught up by sacrificing two cutting stones at the bottom.

White 62 and 64 demonstrated Lee’s unique attacking style. They were practical moves, well suited to the situation. The continuation up to White 72 was successful for White and the game became even again.

Black 85 and 87 were sharp, but White’s responses were accurate up to White 96. The game was still playable for both players.

White 98 and 100 were nice haengma, but White 104 and 106 were overplays.

Black 109 was careless, and the game suddenly became difficult for Black.

White 112 was a brilliant move, and Black was in trouble.

The trade up to White 122 was very good for White, and White took a solid lead. I couldn’t find any other options for Black after Black 109.

Black 123 to 129 were a nice way to resist, but White didn’t give Black any chances to catch up with 134 and 138.

White 146 and 148 were big mistakes and they made the game very complicated. White didn’t need to play aggressively like this, because he was already well ahead if he just played it safe.

Black 153 was an incredible move and the game descended into total chaos. However, Black 157 wasted a good opportunity. Black should have played at 162.

White 162 seemed to be a mistake, and Black 167 was the last losing move. He should have played at 169 first, and it still would have been difficult for White to wrap up the game.

White 168 and 172 were the finishing blows and Black resigned.


Lee Sedol (left) and Gu Li – Game 6, MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango. Wang Runan 8 dan (center) oversees the match.

The MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango

Two of the world’s top Go players, Lee Sedol and Gu Li, will play a jubango throughout 2014, to decide which of them is the stronger player.

A jubango is a 10 game match between two players. The term originates from the Japanese language and has been imported into English language Go parlance. The first player to win six games wins the match.

The official name for this event is the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango. MLily is a mattress and bedding company that also sponsors the MLily Cup.

Game record

Gu Li vs Lee Sedol – Game 6


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


David Ormerod, with Younggil An and Jingning Xue

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About David Ormerod

David is a Go enthusiast who’s played the game for more than a decade. He likes learning, teaching, playing and writing about the game Go. He's taught thousands of people to play Go, both online and in person at schools, public Go demonstrations and Go clubs. David is a 5 dan amateur Go player who competed in the World Amateur Go Championships prior to starting Go Game Guru. He's also the editor of Go Game Guru.

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  1. Yeah, I was really hoping Black would turn with 157 @ 162.

    Maybe White was too tired for an endgame so played for an all-or-nothing situation with moves 146 and 148, haha :)

    It’s a minor thing, but it was still instructive to me how Lee warped Black’s double hane into an attack on the left group — showing that even in situations where this type of maneuvering into an attack can’t go far, it’s still enough to catch up a few points. It seems obvious when it’s played, but how many people could also imagine and play out the exact sequence Lee did? Actually, it’s probably pretty easy for many professionals, but I’m pretty weak, haha.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your comment logan.

      I was also hoping Black would turn at 162 amd see what will happen next. :)

      Yes, Lee’s moves from the bottom to left side were very nice and instructive. It’s not even easy for pros to play like Lee played in the game.

  2. I wonder whether Lee would agree that he was worse after 27 moves: would he then play 28, just enclosing the corner, it being gote? As I see it: white enclosed two corners, as did black. Black’s top right is big, but white already has stones at the right, where black has no stones at the left. Furthermore, the black position at the top is still fairly open, so no sure territory. I wonder what were the less than perfect moves by Lee at the start: was the double attack with 6, 8 too strong? I liked the 13 connection, was 14 a mistake, strengthening black? Was 18 really necessary for defence, or was it rather a start to possibly attack the two back stones at QR11 later? Questions, questions, I am looking forward to the answers.

    Kind regards,

    PS. Replaying without zooming is worse than with zooming: I like the fit to screen possibility, like still possible on go4go.

    • Younggil An says:

      You’ve got many questions Paul, and I’ll answer them at the commentary.
      I need to study and research the game first. :)

      Thanks a lot for your feedback for the zooming as well.

      • I, too, am surprised that move 20 is wrong. In one sense it obeys old theory of “corners before sides”, though modern play seems to ignore this a lot more than it used to!! – I was quite impressed with the combination of 20 and 22… now I don’t know what to think! :-)

        I also feel move 24 is a bit odd, though. But not strong enough to come up with an alternative (I would probably have “guessed” at M14).

        The meaning of move 30 would be nice to understand… also why move 41 is ok here (we have always been taught C9 is tesuji in this shape).

        OK that is 4 queries, rather a lot, but I hope one or two are good ones. I shall look forward to see the commentary, as always. :-)

  3. Thanks for the review! Looks like Lee is ready to cash in before retirement. I hope some variations will be added later to explain mistakes of players.

    Is it typical to make so much mistakes? Isn’t 1 or 2 almost game over at heights of mastery?

    I remember reviews of Shusaku games when even one slight mistake gave a great advantage to players. I mean no disrespect to players or pros. I simply would like to understand whether pros consider these games as masterpieces or just a duel between strong players?

    • My guess is, that in games with such fierce fighting and limited time, masterpieces in the sense of games without mistakes are very rare indeed. Furthermore I wonder whether in games without komi where black wins by one point, where nowadays white would have won by about six points, one was that critical about some black moves, as long as the game was won. White had to try something unreasonable maybe, and that could not be considered a mistake either. In my opinion: put Shusaku against Lee with komi and limited time, and Lee would win without creating a masterpiece. But what an interesting game it would be!

      Kind regards,

    • Charlie H (3D) says:

      Hi, I don’t know, time limits are much more restrictive nowadays, with historic matches having no time limit, and unlimited adjournments possible. Generally since the time of Shusaku there has been a lot of development in the early game and endgame which would see old players struggle against today’s pros. However, the pure reading ability and strategy of the middle game I think is generally considered to be of similar strength over the decades/centuries, so with the extra time I’m not surprised if historic games show fewer mistakes in the kind of places younggil has been kindenough to highlight in this match. Very interesting game, and thanks to GGG for the commentary.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks all for your informative comments.

      I agree that players these days seem to make more mistakes because of the time limit and komi system.

      Furthermore, when I replayed studied the old historic games, some small mistakes weren’t regarded as mistakes. Maybe the commentators thought it’s not nice for the great players to pick many mistakes up from their games, and they said nothing about some mistakes from my point of view.

      However, I’m trying to find nice moves and mistakes as much as possible, and some mistakes from the Jubango match would be a really tiny mistake that wouldn’t be regarded as a mistake in old days.

      That’s why it looks like there’re more mistakes in Lee and Gu’s Jubango games, but actually their games in this series are another masterpieces like the old famous games. :)

      • Thank you Paul and Chralie for brigning up the info. I’d like to see some old masters compete with modern stars as well, especially their judgement in middle game.

        Yoyngill An, thankyou for telling about your exprience of studying old games and showing what Jubango is regarded by pro world. It didn’t occur to me that some mistakes of old masters were not commented out of respect, but you made it clear as day!

        • Younggil An says:

          Thanks for your comment Lake. It was just my opinion, so other pros might think differently about that issue.

  4. Where would you have played 109? I haven’t been able to find any good moves for black.

    • Younggil An says:

      H6 would be a better move for Black.

      I’ll figure it out if there’re another better options or not. :)

      • I agree, thanks!

        Do you think the follow up is playable for white? Assuming H6, J7, H8, and then also that white H10 is sente (black has to play L9?), G5 might work for white. Now, it seems that due to the dangerous cut at G7 and F6, black cannot cut off the J7 stones (lack of liberties, etc.). There’s a lot of danger for black in this case, as in his leftmost stones might get cut off, but I haven’t entirely convinced myself this works for white yet.

        • Younggil An says:

          Thanks V for your nice continuation.
          I also thought about that. After white plays at G5, Black can attach at G4, and it’s still very complicated. I’ll explain more about this variation at the commentary, because it’s hard to show in this comment box.
          Thanks. :)

  5. “Black 153 was an incredible move and the game ‘descended’ into total chaos.”

    Don’t you mean ascended.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks a lot for your correction.

      I think you’re right. :)

    • If chaos is thought of as negative, like hell, then descended seems quite OK by me, it is like falling down a mountain without much to grope on.

      Kind regards,

      • Younggil An says:

        Thanks a lot Paul for your kind explanation.
        I’m still confused… English is not easy to learn. :)

        • David Hogarty says:

          Your English is very good, ‘descended into chaos’ is a fairly common idiom, but ‘ascended into chaos’ is not common at all. J might have been making a play on words to say that the game got more interesting at that point.

  6. 43 and 45 undid all the great work before.
    L3,J4,L6 instead would have been so simple and good.
    I guess mere mortals can’t fathom why Gu Li would even consider any other moves. Ofcourse, I realize that it’s hypocritical to praise his extraordinary moves, and then to complain when it goes wrong sometimes.
    But I can’t help myself. :-)

    • Younggil An says:

      So do I. I was really impressed by his nice and sharp moves when I was watching this game, but I was complaining about his mistakes too. :)

    • To be fair, 46 and 48 were a pretty unlikely looking combination afterwards. To play these moves – knowing they would be captured – for an incomplete but crucial squeeze was pure magic. Rather than criticize Gu Li I would prefer to praise Lee’s brillliant play here.

  7. wmscottp says:

    greetings, i’m a beginner go player and value being able to view and review these matches, typically on Go Panda. unfortunately, the program crashed and the match was erased from my ‘observe’ room. does anyone know where i might find a move by move reviewable board of the match? thanks in advance…..

  8. It’s really nice to treat this series of games as a whole because it really shows the styles and strengths of the two players, even to the untrained eye :)

  9. cyclops/satie says:

    It seems b73 has an easy ladder at G8. Too small??

    • Younggil An says:

      You’re right. That’s a ladder, but small and slow.

      Gu wanted to take sente, so he exchanged B 73 for W 74 before cutting at B 75.

  10. An, your comments about the small mistakes in these games as compared with older games, where they would not have been called mistakes, was enlightening. I wonder if it would be appropriate to consider a different word for the book in order to designate what is actually a mistake (where the player should have known better) and what was simply an inferior move that could only be discovered through detailed review.

  11. @N Good:
    Instead of mistake, maybe “minor misplay”, “blunder”, or just “slip”? Anyway, An Younggil is aspiring to create something incredible here, while explaining to us in detail which Gu Li and Lee Sedol moves were at their best, which could be improved and how. This is no easy task, but I have absolute faith in your work :)

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your question N Good, and thanks for the nice answer Darius.

      You’re right that there’re other words like Darius mentioned to call mistakes. Thanks a lot for your kind words! :)

  12. H11?

  13. Joe Know's Squat says:

    I think that after White 18, Lee’s position looks retarded. This cannot be what he would aim for. They haven’t read things thoroughly. ….Yes, I think that today’s players have more knowledge about the generalities of the game, but there’s no work ethic. They want to win with dazzling effect, even though their games are filled with unreasonable blunders. Complacency mixed with fun. Lee is the kind of player who waits for his opponent to make a mistake. Gu was winning 4 of those games, and he only defeated himself! As for Gu, he just ain’t strong enough.

  14. Looking at the game again I think I can now see why white’s position after move 20 is a problem. ( Or maybe I am just being delusional!)

    Up to 18, white is building towards the centre (large scale) while lightly(?) reducing the right side. He may also be aiming at the aji around S12, albeit distantly, which should help to keep black’s right side in check. At least that is worth a little bit extra.

    The problem is that after black 21, 22 is so big – but after 23 white is cut off and cannot think of playing moves around Q9 to activate that aji at S12 or otherwise reduce the right (as he can be split) and suddenly the group on the right looks heavy – potentially a liability rather than influence.

    So I suppose that 20 should be at 21 (or maybe D11?) to keep white stones connected and strong, leaving the black right side commensurately weaker. That would be consistent. Black 21 puts white on the spot somewhat, as whoite’slarge scale game seems broken.

    Still, if a move like 20 is bad, I do wonder if the overall strategy can actually work… though retarded seems a very harsh judgement.

    As for no work ethic, that is just crazy, rude. Ability counts for so much, but no one gets to 9 dan on merit without a huge amount of work. 99% perspiration required to utilise that 1% of inspiration.

  15. Hello,

    fist of all, thanks a lot for your work at bringing us westerners such great games, such inspiration in developing go overworld.

    My question regarding the Jubango is that it is such an important event, I wonder why they didn’t make the games slower, like in title matches in Japan where they have 2 days straight ?

    Best regards

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your opinion Vendredi.

      Both Gu and Lee never played 2 day matches, so it’d be hard for them to manage their time properly in that new circumstance.
      Lee thought four hours each is long enough, and Gu agreed that. Lee said he expected that Gu wanted to have faster games like three hours, but he agreed to four hours.

      The time limit is longer than any other tournaments in China and Korea, so it’s actually the maximum for this Jubango match I think.

      • Thanks a lot for your answer, I didn’t know time settings were chosen by the player themselves, neither that 3 hours was the maximum for games in China and Korea.

        Thus this makes me wonder :
        a lot a people were wondering if Japanese players didn’t perform as well as Korean and Chinese due to the fact they are less used to “fast” games settings. What would be your opinion about how relative strength is effected by time settings (would Sedol or Gu stand a chance against Iyama Yuta with such length) ? Does longer games actually provides a much higher accuracy at reading (the almost 3-hours move by Fujisawa Shuko in 5th game of 1978 Kisei) and how does it effects other parts of the game ?

        Thanks again

        • Younggil An says:

          That’s an interesting question.

          I’ve never played 2 day matches, but when I talked about this issue with other top pros in Korea a while ago, they thought it’s too long, and it’d be hard to manage the time.

          In my opinion, Gu and Lee will still have more chances to win against Iyama Yuta in 2 day games, because they’re stronger than Iyama, and the time won’t change that much.

          If the time is longer, the players are playing more carefully because overplays would be easily punished with longer time limit, and relatively the game would become more peaceful.
          There would be less mistakes, but at the same time, it could be less exciting to watch. Just my opinion.

        • If the Japanese really felt that the reason that they’re not doing well in international competions are the fast time settings, leading to punk games, they could create attractive international tournaments with the time settings of their chosing. But I think, they don’t really want the answer. I think the real reasons are a.) japanese players beeing less willing to share information (shame on the Japanese), and b.) Korean and Chinese pro student institutions neglecting regular educational contents in favor of playing even more go(shame on the Koreans and Chinese, most students don’t make it, and have a harder time in life afterwards)

          • Don’t forget the only international title the Japanese players won recent years is Asian TV Cup, which is a tournament with super fast pace. All the “reasons” people likes to talk about to give excuses for Japan’s underperformance is becoming increasingly stereotypical and self-defeating.

  16. Thanks a lot for your answer, that’s quite an insight to be able to have an opinion directly from professional community :)

  17. Next (maybe last) jubango game in one week, and Lee Sedol takes time to win Asian TV Cup 😀
    What did you think of the games ?

    Thank you very much Sir

    PS : I didn’t know where to put this comment, so I apologize if it’s out topic and maybe a bit soon considering you usually grant us with a article/review.

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s alright Vendredi.

      The final game of the Asian TV Cup was interesting. You’ll soon see the commentary of the game as well. :)

  18. Hi everybody !

    Thank you very much for this new episode of the MLily Jubango’s saga, as always i read all the comments and learn a lot from them.

    A question haunts me since i looked at the game from my holidays’ spot : White 24 O9 astonished me. I couldnt get why White abandon his O17 stone.
    Then, i came to suppose that after Black 23, any move to put the O17 stone in movement would give Black a nice tempo for a splitting attack. Should those splitting moves came to retain Black’s sente, he would enclose the large area between his iron pillar (Q11-R11) and his shimari (R4-P3).

    So i went back one move and here is my (amateur) question : after Black 21 L16, would something like White M16 be playable ? After all, is it not an application of the principle “push the stones towards thickness” as far as the White corner can be seen as “thick” ?

    Thank you very much, again, for all you share with us, all of you on GGG 😉

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for your good questions Songe.

      You’re right that it was hard for White to save the stone with White 24, because it can give Black a nice tempo.

      White wanted to develop his top left area, so extending from the other side at M16 wouldn’t be appropriate in that case.

      You’ll soon see the commentary of this game, and that will give you some more ideas. Thanks! :)

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