Ke Jie wins his 2nd international title – 2015 Samsung Cup

Ke Jie 9p won the 2015 Samsung Cup by defeating Shi Yue 9p with a 2-0 score!

The final of the 2015 Samsung Cup was held on December 8 and 9, in Shanghai, China.

Shi Yue 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan. The first move of the final from 2015 Samsung Cup.

Shi Yue 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan. The first move of the final from 2015 Samsung Cup.

Ke Jie’s 2nd international title in 2015

This is Ke Jie’s second international title.

Ke also won his first international title in 2015 by defeating Qiu Jun 9p in January, 2015 in the final of the 2nd Bailing Cup.

Ke Jie becomes the first player to win two major international titles in a single year since Lee Sedol 9p won the 3rd BC Card Cup and the 8th Chunlan Cup in 2011.

Until Ke’s win, all the younger (born after 1990) Chinese world champions have been one-hit-wonders.

Ke Jie 9 dan takes his second international title.

Ke Jie 9 dan takes his second international title.

They are Shi Yue, Zhou Ruiyang, Jiang Weijie, Mi Yuting, Tuo Jiaxi, Tang Weixing, Tan Xiao and Fan Tingyu, but Ke Jie becomes the first man to overcome the jinx.

In this Samsung Cup, Ke proved that he has the potential and strength to become a new leader of the Go world.

His games in the semifinals against Lee Sedol, and this final against Shi Yue were wonderful and faultless.

So far, he has been practically undefeated as white throughout 2015.

The year is nearly over and I can’t recall any other player who has set such an amazing record.

Ke Jie aims for triple crown

Ke Jie isn’t celebrating just yet because he will play the final of the 2nd Mlily Cup against Lee Sedol from December 30, 2015.

This will be a crucial milestone for both players. If Ke wins, he will be the triple crown winner as a teenager, and undoubtedly, he will dominate the Go world.

However, if Lee Sedol wins, it will mark his resurgence after he won the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango in 2014.

Runner up, Shi Yue

Shi Yue 9 dan at the 2015 Samsung Cup final.

Shi Yue 9 dan at the 2015 Samsung Cup final.

On the other hand, this final wasn’t particularly memorable for Shi Yue.

He was also aiming for a second international title after his breakthrough win back in 2013 at the 17th LG Cup.

He is specialized at complicated fighting, but he didn’t find opportunities to show his power and strength either game.

That’s because Ke Jie used his sharp play to ensure neither game became too complicated.

During an interview after game 2, he said “I found quite a few problems. I thought I’d played pretty well but there were obviously some mistakes. This final was a priceless experience for me.”

The Samsung Cup

The Samsung Cup first started in 1996 and uses a rather convoluted draw.

Though, arguably, it is fairer than a straight knockout format.

The 32 players in the main draw are split into 8 groups of 4.

Players must win two games in order to proceed from the first stage; two players from each group will advance to the knockout stage.

In some ways it’s similar to the group stage of the FIFA World Cup, except that only two wins are necessary to continue.

The round of 16 and the quarter finals are played as a straight knockout.

The semifinals and the final are played as best of three matches.

The time limit for games is 2 hours and 5 x 1 minute byo-yomi.

Samsung is a well known Korean conglomerate.

Shi Yue 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan, at the closing ceremony with trophies.

Shi Yue 9 dan (left) and Ke Jie 9 dan, at the closing ceremony with trophies.

Game records

Ke Jie vs Shi Yue – Game 1

It appears that Ke Jie likes the opening up to Black 23.

White 24 was unusual, but Shi Yue didn’t want to follow Ke’s plan. If White attaches at E3, Black at K3, White at F4, and Black will approach in the top left corner.

Black settled the bottom left group from Black 25 to 29, and White developed the left side with White 28 to 30.

Black hit White’s vital point at 35, and White 36 was necessary.

Black 37 was the right direction, because of White 30, and White 38 was questionable.

White 38 would have been better at E16, because Black 41 was well timed invasion, and that was hard to attack.

Black 45 was the proper move, and Black 53 was a good technique for sabaki. If White extends at B8, Black will cut at E11, White 42, Black at C12 to live on the left side.

The result up to Black 59 was satisfactory for Black.

White 60 was big, but Black 65 and 67 were efficient moves to neutralize White’s influence over the center.

White 74 was necessary to live, and Black took the lead up to 79.

White caught up in terms of territory from 82 to 94, but Black was still ahead with 97.

White 112 to 118 resisted well, but Black threatened White’s bottom group with 119.

White saved his bottom group with 146, but Black kept playing solidly and safely with 145 to 147.

White 166 was big, but Black started to harass White’s top from 169 to 185.

White 192 was a sharp endgame tesuji, but Black maintained his small lead up to 205. If White blocks at N11 instead of 196, Black at L12 makes miai of L11 and M13.

Ke Jie’s endgame was excellent, and White didn’t have any chance to catch up afterwards.


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)



Ke Jie 9 dan (left) an Shi Yue 9 dan, reviewing game 2 of the final.

Ke Jie 9 dan (left) an Shi Yue 9 dan, reviewing game 2 of the final.

Shi Yue vs Ke Jie – Game 2

Entering the corner with White 12 is still quite popular these days.

When Black jumped out at 25, White 26 and 28 were the right sequence.

Black 29 was a probe, and the result to White 40 was playable for both.

White 46 was in a good place, and White 50 was a strong followup.

White 56 was sharp and the game became favorable for White up to 58.

White 68 to 70 were the correct move order, and Black’s bottom group was under attack by White 88.

Black 91 was a subtle tesuji, and White chose a safe way with 92 and 94.

Black 97 was a nice place to reduce White’s left side, but White 106 and 110 formed a strong counter attack.

Black’s sequence from 111 to 119 was good, and Black managed successfully up to 123.

White 124 to 132 were necessary to live, but Black 135 was the losing move. Black should have reinforced the top right corner.

White 138 to 146 were flawless, and there were no ways to capture that White group.

Black started to attack the top left corner with 157, but White’s sequence up to 176 was exquisite, and the game was practically over, simply because White was too far ahead on territory.

This was another excellent game by Ke Jie and he became the winner of the 2015 Samsung Cup.


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. One thing to note is that while top pros’ levels may be roughly comparable between China, Korea, and Japan, China has by far the deepest strength when examining the pool of their players lower than the top 10 ranking. I wonder how long he can maintain this dominance in such a fiercely competitive environment in his country. As good as he is now, my opinion is that in five years time or less, a different Chinese player will replace his present standing.

    I’m curious about this upcoming final between him and Lee Sedol. What kind of odds do other readers have about this match. I think maybe it’s around 7 to 2 in Ke Jie’s favor. Personally I am rooting for Lee Sedol as I have enjoyed his games for a long time and I believe this is perhaps near his last opportunity to challenge a top young player in an international final. If he starts losing now, he might do what Lee Changho did and get 2nd place a thousand times. I still think he has enough ability to perform, maybe even show Ke Jie something. But who knows…

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment. About the odds, some math professors calculated the probability:
      Assuming Ke’s winning chance for 1 game vs. Lee as black is 60%, and winning as white is 94%,
      Then for him winning the 5 game series (3 wins out of 5) is about 95%. So Ke’s math was about right 🙂

      Btw, in the major 2015 international tournaments, Ke has been approximately 75% winning as black and 100% as white.

    • @Anonymous

      “One thing to note is that while top pros’ levels may be roughly comparable …”

      I’m not sure how long you’ve been following the world of Go, but Japan has been lagging badly for the past two decades. Japanese professionals’ record against their Korean and Chinese peers has been absolutely atrocious and could make all the Honinbos spin in their graves. Iyama Yuta is undoubtedly the strongest Japanese pro right now by some considerable distance, and yet I doubt he’d be even ranked in the top 10 in China, let along top 20 in the world.

      • I know one chinese pro who asked Gu Li 3 years ago about Iyama strenght. He said he was probably in world top 20.

      • This international games are played very fast, 2-3 hours maximum.
        In Japan the games are much slower: 4 -5-6 h for each player.
        I wonder how these Chinese and Koreans would play in a 2 days game, like in Japanese title finals.
        The difference is like playing beach-volley or ordinary volley 🙂

        • I used to think this way as well, but it’s actually false. First of all, the difference between having 3 hrs and 6 hrs is not nearly as big as beach volley vs normally volley. The difference is very, very small.

          Secondly, it’s not like all or even most games in Japan takes 2 days. It’s only in the finals of the top title tournaments that that happens. How many Japanese players get to play in the final of a top title tournament? Very few. Even those who do play it at most a few times a year. The rest of the time they’re playing faster games as well.

  2. Hi. Thanks again for the nice commentaries, interesting as I have already looked at the games and tried to follow them.

    I found Ke Jie’s win in game 1 amazing, he seemed to manage the whole board so completely, and win without getting into any unreadable complications. To be able to do that against a top player like Shi Yue impressed me massively.

    In game 2 the timing of 39 was nice, and I shall try and remember it as that kind of position sometimes occurs in games! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the brief review. I am in awe of move 50 in the second game. I’d never consider such a move!

    • @ Philigo,

      Iyama of today might crack top 20, maybe, but surely not top 15. There are at a minimum half a dozen Korean players and more than 10 Chinese players who are stronger than Iyama.

      • @Jeff,

        I’m not sure how you are drawing your conclusion about Iyama’s strength. At least one data driven system ( ) has him ranked third in the world. Before you suggest bias, please note he’s the only Japanese player to crack its top-50.

        In my opinion, it’s tough to draw a conclusion either way. He’s currently the big fish in a small pond, and due to his schedule, he rarely swims in deeper waters. For the metaphor impaired, I mean he plays in very few international tournaments, so we just can’t know for sure.

        We will learn a little more in March when the Nongshim Cup continues.

        • @Brady,

          The sample size of Iyama playing against international competition is simply too small, as is the case for his peers in Japan. I wonder how the ranking website you provided compensates for this.
          More problematic is that Japanese Go is simply too insular today to make cross border comparison a straightforward task. Remember, Chinese and Korean pros go at it frequently, not just in tournaments but also in Chinese league play.
          I find it a bit conceited to attempt to normalize (statistically) such an isolated group of (Japanese) players based on a tiny sample size. That ranking of Iyama as number 3 doesn’t pass the statistical eyeball and smell test. Some dubious assumptions must have been made to offset the small sample size, with the said assumptions inadvertently serving as inflators.

  4. Roland California USA says:

    Thank you very much, Younggil, for your elegant and thoughtful article, analysis and game records.

    Ke’s play in the games vs. Lee, Shi and Park have been the most impressive I have seen in a long time, including some of Gu’s and Lee’s games during their peak times.

    Ke’s moves were wonderful, creative and brilliant, a combination of art and power.

    Some of his opening and midgame moves were like Impressionist painting: a brush here, a stroke there, and together they form a wonderful composition.

    He is a rare genius, and his style more impressive than Lee’s and Gu’s. He may have some of the innovative spirit and vision of Go Seigen (Wu).

  5. Ke Jie reminds me of Magnus Carlsen in a way.

  6. Great games, with enlightening comments, thank you! I have the feeling we are witnessing go history. The natural and flawless flow of the games of Ke reminds me of the games of Shusaku, but then in the fierce setting of today. I really hope that Ke keeps his cool and goes on developing: staying on top being the even greater challenge than getting there.

    I think people here are underestimating Iyama. Japan is certainly struggling, but Iyama is way on top of his compatriots, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could compete on even terms with the top players of China and Korea. The ranking list of Go ratings puts him on spot 3 in the world, it would be nice to see this confirmed by games of Iyama against the other top players.

    Kind regards,

    • Most of the games are from a 4-5 years back so it’s not exactly the best data but I think it’s worth pointing out that Iyama is 2-2 against Gu Li and 2-3 against Lee Sedol in tournaments according to

      Again, since it’s been 4 years, it’s hard to draw any solid conclusions, but I think it’s very fair to assume that he’s competitive at that level.

      • The problem is how you define competitive. Meng tailing, who is ranked 25 in China, can be considered “competitive” against world champions. He probably has a good record against some of them. He’s also (according to himself) play Iyama a few times online and never lost.

        The strength difference between no.1 and say no.50 of the world is not all that big. Iyama has a good chance of beating no.1 but also has a good chance of losing to no.50.

        • Really ? Do you know the nicknames of Ke Jie and Iyama on Tygem ? Sometimes I watch Professional games online but I don’t know who they are… I think Iyama is really strong he beat several times Park Jungwhan he beat players like Park Youghoon Mi Yuting Gu Li Lee Changho he’s probably in top 10 but it’s sad that only one japanese player can compete with other countries.

  7. Roland California says:

    “Iyama is 2-2 against Gu Li and 2-3 against Lee Sedol in tournaments according to”

    So his records vs. Gu and Lee are very good.
    Before a major match vs. Iyama last year, Ke Jie said he would make Iyama’s “blood spills out 5 feet”. Then Ke did indeed capture Iyama’s dragon during their match 🙂

    Ke may sound very forceful, but his games recently are rather gentle.
    Shi Yue is very gentleman, and studied Confucius classics such as the Analects, but his games have often been violent fights.

    Looks like Ke has successfully transitioned from a fighter to a balanced player with both power and art.

    I am 95% confident that Ke will be the Triple Crown winner this year 🙂

  8. The level of Japanese Go nowadays is abysmal compared to S. Korea and China. Iyama looks dominant compared to the withered domestic competition, which undoubtedly statistically inflates his ratings because the sample size of Japanese pros playing against their East Asian counterparts is far too small to be representative, making statistical normalization very tricky, to say the least. Iyama’s rating is almost certainly (very wildly) inflated.

    I just can’t imagine Iyama being in the top 15 worldwide, much less top 3! There is no way Iyama is stronger than the likes of Tuo Jiaxi, Gu Li, Mi Yuting, Chen Yaoye, Choi Cheolhan, Kang Dongyuan, Park Yeonghun, Lan Xiao, Shi Yue, Zhou Ruiyang, Fan Tingyu, and the great Lee Sedol!

    Simply and absolutely no bloody way. Full stop.

    Time for to take a hard look at its algorithm because its results simply don’t pass the statistical smell test.

  9. I get the impression that Chinese and Korea pros play a lot more games than the Japanese. Is this correct? When I was playing quite a bit, back in the 90’s I realized after a while that only by playing a LOT against strong players could I increase my strength (AGA 6 dan rated after my first tournament, so I had a good start). I had to put my career first; besides, the local Koreans (the best players) refused en masse to play me, so that I wouldn’t overtake them. Anyway, if the Japanese play fewer games, that alone may explain some of the gap.

  10. Roland California says:

    Most likely, Ke will be this year’s Triple Crown winner, i.e., 3 crowns out of 4. As he publically stated 95% vs. Lee, he will aim to get 3:0 or 3:1.

    In my view, his chance for 3:0 is 30%, 3:1 45%, 3:2 20%, 2:3 5%.
    The best case for Ke is 3 games: white win, black win and white win, 3:0. And capture 1 or 2 dragons 🙂
    What do you guys think?

    He will be next year’s Triple Crown winner also, 3 of 5 crowns in 2016.
    I think he will continue to improve his opening game which will raise his win rate for Black, from 75% to 85%, and white at 95%.

    In that case, he will have a chance for the Grand Slam (5/5 Crowns).
    But most likely, Triple Crown for this year and again in 2016, which would still outshine both Gu and Lee in their peak years. Did they get Triple Crown in any one year?

  11. On the topic of Iyama. You cannot just say that the sample size is bad for Iyama internationally (where he is consistantly winning about 50% vs top 10-15 players). And therefore conclude that he is worse. The low sample size means that there is more variance, not that the acual strenght is lower.

  12. Iyama-detective
    Ke Jie- Lurk(P)

    • Do you have any idea on who could be the Tygem player “Loong(P)”? I see some coincidence between the emerging periods of this top player and Ke.

  13. Younggil An says:

    That’s interesting to see the discussion about Iyama Yuta, and thanks everyone for sharing your opinions. Here’s my opinion.

    I sometimes talk about Iyama with my Korean friends (pros) on the phone, because I’ve also been wondering how he would compete against top Chinese and Korean players.

    Some say Iyama might be ranked around 20 to 30 in the world, but some say he’s surely be top ten.

    When I look at his games in Japan, his play is far superior to others, and I believe he can be in top ten at the moment.

    His games against top Chinese and Korean players for the last couple of years have been quite impressive.

    Once he lost a won game due to the Chinese rules.

    And he also lost a couple of games in byo-yomi due to shortage of time limit. Compare to other top players, he’s got disadvantage about that because most of domestic games in Japan have much longer time limit compared to China and Korea.

    If you replay his games against Lee Sedol, Gu Li and Park Junghwan, you will feel his strength and power, and you can also notice that his style is quite unique and creative.

    I’m one of go fans who wants to see his playing more often in the international matches, because he’s arguably the best player from Japan, and the Go world will be more interesting and richer if he competes against other top players.

  14. It is becoming clear that Ke plays his best vs. top players:

    2:0 vs. Lee in Samsung cup;
    2:0 vs. Shi in Samsung cup;
    2:0 vs. Park J. in Bailing cup;
    And captured dragon vs. Iyama 🙂

    He is 3.5: 0 vs. Lee so far. 2 briliant wins in Samsung cup. And 2 more wins last week. 1 of them in team play: Ke and Shi vs. Lee and Park Y.

    Considering Lee has been in good shape this year, got in MLily Final, Samsung semifinal, and winner of Asian cup, Ke’s dominance is very impressive.

    Again, it seems that he is at his best vs. top players.