An interview with Kang Dongyun, 20th LG Cup winner

Kang Dongyun 9p returned to the top by winning the 20th LG Cup, 2–1, against Park Younghun 9p on February 4, 2016.

The three games of the final were played from February 1–4, in Pyeongchang, Gangwon province, Korea.

It was the battle of two past world champions, both looking for another elusive world title.

Kang won his first and only international title at the 22nd Fujitsu Cup, by defeating Lee Changho 9p in 2009.

Park has also won the Fujitsu Cup in the past (twice), by defeating Yoda Norimoto 9p in 2004 and Lee Changho 9p in 2007. He also won the now discontinued Zhonghuan Cup in 2004.

Park Younghun 9 dan (left) and Kang Dongyun 9 dan, at the title deciding game of 20th LG Cup.

Park Younghun 9 dan (left) and Kang Dongyun 9 dan in the deciding game of 20th LG Cup.

Kang Dongyun’s 2nd international title

After Kang’s Fujitsu Cup win, no one doubted that he would go on to lead the Korean Go world, like Lee Sedol 9p.

Kang Dongyun 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup final.

Kang Dongyun 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup final.

However, his best subsequent result in international tournaments before this LG Cup was the quarter final stage.

His opponent in the quarter final of this LG Cup was Ke Jie 9p.

Ke was undefeated in international tournaments in 2015 at that time, but Kang defeated Ke by 1.5 points to proceed to the semifinals.

The semifinal against Shi Yue 9p was also very tough. Shi is currently ranked number 2 in China, just behind Ke Jie.

In that game, Kang showed his accurate reading and power – reversing a lost game and reaching the final.

In recent days most Korean Go fans have regarded Kang as a national hero who rescued Korea in the international Go stakes. Many were cheering for him in this final

Kang defeated Park Younghun by 2–1 to win the second international title of his career, 7 years after his first.

Park Younghun, the runner up

Park has also been working towards another international title for a long time, but unfortunately his 9 year drought continues.

Park Younghun 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup final.

Park Younghun 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup final.

He reached the final of the 12th Samsung Cup in 2008, but he lost to Lee Sedol 9p. Park hasn’t made it to another international final until now.

Park’s style of play has changed recently, and he’s become more flexible, but still powerful.

He played very well in 2015, and his winning percentage in international matches was the highest among Korean players.

In this LG Cup, he defeated Park Junghwan 9p, Yo Seiki 7p and Tuo Jiaxi 9p to reach the final.

He had a really good chance to win game 1 at the end (Black 171 should have been at F3), but he missed that opportunity under time pressure.

In game 2, he showed his special sense of balance and accurate endgame skills, and won.

In the deciding game, Park played a great opening, but he allowed his center group to become weak and the game was reversed.

Park tried his best to catch up, but Kang’s defense was calm and solid.

During the final, both players appeared to be very nervous, but they still played very well.

I hope that Park Younghun will continue to play well and be in his best form in 2016.

Interview with Kang Dongyun

Below is a translation of an interview, which has been widely published online in Korea, with Kang following his win.

Kang Dongyun 9 dan with the trophy and a bouquet.

Kang Dongyun 9 dan with the trophy and a bouquet.

Congratulations! It’s been 7 years, how do you feel?

Kang: Last year, I promised to my girlfriend that I’d win an international title. I’m happy to make it happen, although it’s a little late.

What’s your goal for 2016?

Kang: The Ing Cup will be held this year. I’d like to win that.

You chose Black in the deciding game of the final. Was there any particular reason?

Kang: Honestly, I would have preferred for my opponent to choose but I suppose 6.5 points komi doesn’t hurt.

As you know, Ke Jie is very good when he plays White. Would you still prefer Black when you play against Ke?

Kang: If I had a choice in the quarter finals, I would have chosen Black, but I’ll try White the next time I play Ke.

I know that Park Younghun is a close friend of yours. Did this final feel different compared to others?

Kang: Normally Park and I chat a lot when we see each other, but we didn’t do that this time. That’s because it’s an international final, and I adapted to the situation.

Do you feel any difference between playing against Chinese players or Korean players in finals?

Kang: Not really. I always try to play my best. Actually, I didn’t talk to Park during this final, so it almost felt like I was playing a foreign player [laughs].

Many Korean Go fans have been cheering for you since you defeated both Ke Jie 9p and Shi Yue 9p in this LG Cup, how did you feel about that?

Kang: It felt strange, because I’ve never been treated that way in the past. There used to be so much bad commentary about me. Sometimes there were bad comments about me even if the actual article wasn’t about me! It felt very nice, but strange at the same time.

[Note: In the past some older members of the Go community have been intensely critical of Kang because of his candid and humorous approach to life, and the jokes he makes when giving interviews.]

Many Korean fans thought you were the best Korean player in 2015 because you defeated the top two Chinese players. Did you know that?

Kang: Yes I knew that. I read the comments about me on Korean Go websites!

It’s been 7 years since you won the Fujitsu Cup. How do you feel when you look back over this time?

Kang: A big difference is I’m playing better now. Sometimes I feel like ‘wow’ it’s already been 7 years?! I think I’ve been playing well all this time [laughs].

Who do you think the strongest Chinese players are at the moment?

Kang: There are many strong players in China. So many world champions…

How strong do you think they are?

Kang: They’re stronger than me, but I think Park Junghwan 9p is stronger than them!

AlphaGo is currently a hot issue, what do you think about the upcoming match against Lee Sedol 9p?

Kang: I saw the games of AlphaGo, and it played really well. However, it made some big mistakes in joseki. I don’t understand how computers can make such big mistakes. Most people seem to think that Lee will win easily, but I’d be scared if I were playing against AlphaGo.

Some say we don’t know AlphaGo’s real strength because Fan Hui 2p didn’t play well. What do you think?

Kang: I thought it played very well and it showed its full strength.

How much would you be happy with in terms of prize money for a match against AlphaGo?

Kang: I’d even be happy with $100. You can’t imagine how many people want to play against AlphaGo. I think everyone wants to play it!

What would happen if you played against AlphaGo?

Kang: Frankly, I feel I could lose based on reviewing the games with Fan Hui 2p.

I heard that Kim Jiseok 9p said that AlphaGo won’t lose that easily against Lee Sedol 9p.

Kang: Oh, he has the same opinion as me! He’s very learned… [laughs]

What kind of studying method do you recommend to young talented children?

Kang: They should play many games against players of a similar level.

Some say you should replay pro games, but I wonder how effective that is if you don’t fully understand what’s going on. Park Younghun 9p is quite a special case. [Park is known for replaying game records all the time.]

Everyone is different, but I recommend that people play more games.

What’s are your strengths in Go?

Kang: Delicacy and accuracy are my strengths. Commentators say Shi Yue’s moves are ‘accurate and strong’, but if I play the same move, they say ‘tricky and tenacious’.

If I play a move which can’t be punished, people say it’s typical of my tenacious play. But actually my move was accurate and delicate. I try to play neat and clean games [smiles].

What are your weaknesses?

Kang: My games are unstable and I’m not happy about that. When I play against a weaker player, I play badly along with my opponent. I should overcome that.

What time limits do you prefer?

Kang: For three hour games, I can play well with 1 minute byoyomi. I don’t mean to imply that I dislike the LG Cup though! After all, I just won it!!! [The LG Cup has 5 x 40 seconds byoyomi.]

Park Younghun 9 dan (left) and Kang Dongyun 9 dan at the presentation.

Park Younghun 9 dan (left) and Kang Dongyun 9 dan at the presentation.

LG Cup

The LG Cup is a major international Go tournament. It started in 1996 and the prize money is currently 300 million Won. The runner up receives 100 million Won.

The main draw of 32 players is part invitational, comprising of 5 Korean players, 5 Chinese players, 4 Japanese players, 1 Taiwanese player and including the previous year’s winner and runner up.

The rest of the main draw is determined through a preliminary tournament. The format is single knockout, with the final played as a best of three games.

The tournament is sponsored by LG Electronics, a multinational consumer electronics company whose headquarters are in South Korea.

Game records

Park Younghun (Black) vs Kang Dongyun – Game 1

 

Download SGF File (Go Game Record)

 

Kang Dongyun (Black) vs Park Younghun  – Game 2

 

Download SGF File (Go Game Record)

 

Kang Dongyun (Black) vs Park Younghun  – Game 3

 

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.

Comments

  1. Congratulations to Kang Dongyun! The games are interesting. It is nice to see that all types of characters are part of the go community, and that apparently Kang is full of mischief, alongside him being very strong.

    Kind regards,
    Paul

  2. I’m a big fan of Kang. I love his style, and I think he’s very modest, so I’m kind of surprised people say bad things about him…

    I also wanted to add another international achievement of his: He took a gold medal in 2008’s World Mind Sports Games..
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_at_the_2008_World_Mind_Sports_Games
    Perhaps that tournament isn’t considered so important…

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Ofer for the additional information about the 2008’s World Mind Sports Games.

      That’s a big achievement, and I just missed out. 🙂

  3. Great interview Younggil! Classical music definitely improves go strength :p

    -Random question for you or anyone who might know: I have seen 2 games of a Korean amateur named Jeong Ingyu (who may have been Park Yeunhuns teacher?) He played on the dashn server. He was one of the best Korean amateurs but I think is pretty old now 🙂 I really like his style as well as Hironori Hirata and was wondering if there is anywhere I might be able to find game records from amateur tornaments or dashn games?

    thanks!!

    • Younggil An says:

      Hi Sam, thanks for your question, and that’s interesting.

      I’m afraid that it wouldn’t be easy to find game records from amateur tournaments played in Korea. Usually, there’re no recorders at amateur tournaments.

  4. Congrats to Kang! He strikes me as kind and worthwhile person to know. I hope he continues to keep this momentum rolling.

  5. Kang sure looks a lot like Rui Naiwei with his shorter and thinner hair.

  6. In order to be a leading star, Kang should display his full personality and not mind what people say about him. He’s clearly a more extraverted person so that may be hard to accomplish. If you look at Lee Sedol, Lee ChangHo, Cho Chikun, Takemiya Masaki, Cho HunHyeun … all of them have distinct personalities which show through their games, their interviews and even their appearances. Many of the younger players today are lookalikes, they are modest and earnest. Perhaps Kang is an exception but it seems his persona has not fully blossomed yet.

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