Lee Sedol vs Gu Li showdown scheduled for 2014 – MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango

The dates for the much anticipated jubango between Lee Sedol 9p and Gu Li 9p have been announced, and the match will start in January 2014.

The MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango will go ahead with MLily as the sponsor. The official launch of the match was held on November 24, 2013, at the Conrad Hotel in Beijing, China.


Lee Sedol 9 dan (left) and Gu Li at the launch of their jubango.

What the … is a jubango?

A jubango (十番碁 in Japanese – literally ‘ten boards of Go’) is a 10 game match between two noteworthy players, which has traditionally been used to determine who the stronger player is.

Jubango rose to prominence in Edo period Japan as a way of resolving disputes between top Go players and their houses and have been a popular format for sponsored matches between top players in the modern era.

The most famous jubango in recent times have been those played by Go Seigen, against various top Japanese players, in the first half of the 20th century.

A statement from the Chinese Weiqi Association

Liu Siming, the president of the Chinese Weiqi Association, said:

“The jubango between Gu Li and Lee Sedol is finally going to start in 2014 and many Go fans have been looking forward to it. Each of the 10 games will be played in a different city.”

“I think these two players are the best choice for a jubango, and the games will be very exciting. There hasn’t been a jubango like this in the last 70 years, but we’ve pushed ahead to make this one happen.”

“Gu Li and Lee Sedol were both born in 1983, and Lee is just one game ahead in their head to head record.” (currently 18-1-17 in Lee’s favor – with one draw because of a quadruple ko)

“There are many rising stars today, but Lee and Gu are still the best, since they’ve won 14 and 7 international titles respectively.”

“It’s a very special event with a lot of prize money, and I hope that both players can create great games, which they can be proud of.”

Note: We believe Mr Liu’s “70 years” comment refers to the famous jubango between Go Seigen and Kitani Minoru, played between 1939 and 1940.


From left: Liu Siming, Lee Sedol, Gu Li and Ni Zhanggen.

Comment from MLily

Ni Zhanggen, the president of MLily said, “I hope that many people will follow this match, and I hope that both players will play their best, regardless of the prize money.”

MLily, the sponsor, is a mattress and bedding company which also sponsors the new MLily Cup.

The match schedule


Lee Sedol stands in front of a commemorative banner with his name (李世石) written in calligraphy.

The games will be played on the last Sunday of each month, with the first game scheduled for January 26, 2014, in Beijing. See the Pro Go Calendar for other dates.

The players will take a break in June, when the 2014 FIFA World Cup is held in Brazil. (Go players like to stay up late and watch the football too! :))

The time limit for each game is 4 hours and 5 x 1 minute byo-yomi for each player.

The first player to win 6 games will win the match and the winner will receive the entirety of the prize money – 5 million RMB (approximately $820,000 USD at the time of writing).

There’s no official prize for the loser, but there’s a consolation prize of 200,000 RMB (about $33,000 USD).

If the score is tied at 5-5, the prize will be split 50/50, with no tie breaker planned.

An interview with Lee Sedol and Gu Li

The generation of players who were born in the 90s have been putting up a strong challenge against the 80s generation players in recent years. How long will you be able to rule the Go world for?


Gu Li stands with a commemorative banner of his name (古力) in calligraphy.

Lee: I’ve lost some important games against 90s generation players over the last two years. Some of them are already playing at the top level, but it’s hard to answer your question. I’m more experienced so, if I play with them at the moment, I think it’s 50/50.

Gu: The 90s generation players are already very strong. I sometimes feel they’re stronger than me. I can’t agree that the 80s generation still rules the Go world. There are many top players today, but I still feel confident when I play against one of them in the final of a tournament.

The time limit for this match is 4 hours each, which is quite unusual these days. What do you think about this? And most of the games will be played in China, does that put Lee Sedol at a disadvantage?

Gu: This will be my first experience playing a game with this much thinking time. I normally play faster than Lee Sedol does, so it’s not good for me. However, I want to show my potential in this series, in 2014.

Lee: It’s reasonable to have more thinking time for such an important match. I’ll be able to play better with more time to think. I’m already used to playing in China, so that won’t be a problem.

How will you prepare for the jubango?

Gu: I’ve been studying by myself to prepare for the match. This match will be a very important part of my career and my life.

Recently, you’ve reclaimed the #1 rank in Korea. Is that related to this match in any way?

Lee: No, I don’t think so. There were many lightning games in the first half of 2013, and I lost many of them. However, there have been more games with longer time limits in the second half of the year, and I’ve been able to achieve better results in those games. That’s all there is to it.

Follow the Gu vs Lee Jubango in 2014

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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. Despite the commentary of those two giants about the 90’s gen players, I feel this jubango will be a fantastic event. Some might think that to play such jubango is more a symbol to the auras of two already mythic players but there is more. 4h games. I like more the “who will read deeper” than the “who will read faster” that seems to rule our over-connected world nowadays.
    Hey, suggestion and blinking eye, what about a glimpse at Go Seigen – Kitani Minoru series… There are two games in this jubango that i felt so overwhelmed when i studied them.
    Maybe even a review ? Just to tease us for the event to come 🙂

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. For the review, I’ll think about it, but I’m afraid that there’re already some reviews for their games.

  2. Seems like the first question in the interview is missing?

  3. @Johannes

    You’re correct. Based on their answers I’m guessing “Is this match the confirmation that the 80’s generation still dominate the Go world?”

  4. I am excited about this jubango and I really hope it will get the coverage that it deserves in quantity and in quality. Such jubangos are amongst the events where legends are built, legends who will inspire the generations to come to strive for excellence. This can be an important part in the worldwide success of go in the future if it is approached with the needed care and passion.

  5. I am very lucky to be living and witnessing this great event!! I can’t wait for it to start, I’m sure the games will be fantastic!!!

  6. calendar:

    1st: 26 Jan Beijing
    2nd: 23 Feb Shanghai
    3rd: 30 Mar Chengdu, Sichuan province
    4th: 27 Apr Korean
    5th: 25 May Xianggelila, Yunnan province
    6th: 27 Jul Liuan ,Anhui province
    7th: 31 Aug Lasa, Tibet
    8th: 28 Sep Chongqing
    9th: 26 Oct Hongkong
    10th: 30 Nov Wuhu ,Anhu province

    stones: youzi from Baoshan, Yunnan province,China
    board: from Japan

  7. Just to be clear: even if another player wins six first games or so, rest of the games will be played?

    • Younggil An says:

      Oh, good question. I forgot to mention about it. When a player wins six first games, the series will be finished right away.

      • Oh too bad !
        We were talking about it with friend and according to that page : http://senseis.xmp.net/?Jubango, jubango used to be finished despite the current result (except 2 times with the “Stopped for saved xxx face.” comment)

        I hope score will be very close until the end 🙂

        Anyway nice to know, thanks for everything Mr Younggil !


  8. Will these matches also be broadcasted on Wbaduk or some other server? And do we know the exact time of the first match already? I’d love to see these matches live.

    • Younggil An says:

      I’m sure the games will be broadcasted on some severs since it’s a big event.
      I don’t know the exact time yet, but normally official games start in the morning at 9:00 or 10:00.

  9. Probably the most exciting event ever since I started following Go. Wait, the most exciting event ever was the release of Hikaru No Go. That was really a fantastic time. But as a “real” event, this must be it. In 2014 I’m going to follow Go.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Yes, 2014 is going to be a good year for Go players 🙂

      I’m really looking forward to these games too, and they’ll give us at GGG something to motivate us to stay organized.

  10. Wow! It sounds like the long time limit favors Lee Sedol, though. Since Gu and Lee are about even, will that advantage be enough to decide the winner? Will Gu be able to make effective use of his time?

    • Younggil An says:

      The time won’t matter for either player. I can’t say it’s an advantage for Lee, because Gu can also play better with the longer time, especially in the endgame stage.

  11. People in their thirties considered old in the game of go. Not too long ago people in their forties were the best, like Go Seigen, Takagawa, Sakata. Review the comment of the game between Go Seigen and Fujisawa Hosai, and see how marvellous it is, what wonderful moves were found because there was time enough to consider the extraordinary. I hope this Lee – Gu match will show some glimpses of this brillant Go Seigen game: four hours each could make this possible.

    Kind regards,

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I agree to your opinion Paul. They’ll be able to show something more extraordinary in 4 hours games.

  12. Four hours is hardly long. It’s half the length of the big games in Japan, and I thing MUCH slower than the jubango matches of 70 years ago. Expecting something significantly more profound than what these players have already shown is unrealistic. I just hope and expect to see less blunders – in the fast TV matches, Lee Sedol in particular sometimes makes what are quite poor blunders by his standards.

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, 4 hours is a half long compare to Japanese top three title matches. However, it’s still long enough to finish a game in a day. I also saw that Lee Sedol made some simple mistakes which he’d never shown. This time, they both won’t make that sort of blunders, and the game will be more profound and higher quality.

  13. Alan Yoshida says:

    Do anyone knows if someone will do the review of the live event in english? Maybe here on gogameguru, or twitch.tv ?

    • Younggil An says:

      We’ll broadcast on the Baduk Live, but it’s in Korean. I’m sorry, but I have no idea about twitch.tv

  14. MrTortoise says:

    appears kgs may be doing a live broadcast