Lee Sedol on top of the world: Gu Li vs Lee Sedol jubango – Game 5

Lee Sedol 9p literally soared to new heights to defeat Gu Li 9p in game 5 of their jubango today.


Gu Li 9 dan (left) and Lee Sedol 9 dan in the mountains of Shangri-La – the venue for game 5 of their jubango.

The 5th game of their 10 game match took place on May 25, 2014, in Shangri-La, Yunnan, China.

Lee Sedol won by resignation, reclaiming his lead in the match with an overall score of 3-2 in Lee’s favor.

Gu Li takes an early lead

In what seems to be a ‘joseki’ in games between these too, Gu Li’s superlative sense of play in the opening saw him take an early lead.

Up to White 38, commentators agreed that Gu (playing White) had the advantage.

Sensing his disadvantage, Lee wasted no time in complicating the game, going all out with Black 45 and 47 – a rarely seen pattern of play.

Lee Sedol fights tooth and nail

Lee Sedol fought back doggedly, complicating the game through a series of hard negotiations.

All sorts of subtle trades were offered. All sorts of silent threats were made.

However, Gu responded masterfully – seeing through Lee’s snares, maintaining his balance, and preserving his advantage.

Gu was able to end the negotiations in sente, and began the macro endgame with White 106.


Lee Sedol fought hard in a difficult game and, through a combination of skill, luck and raw willpower, was eventually able to turn things around.

Lee resisted hard with Black 117, refusing to give an inch and daring White to fight a ko – an offer which Gu happily accepted.

It seemed like the game was almost over (and I was getting ready to write this article). Lee was fighting a difficult ko, but he managed to launch himself off the ropes and land several blows against Gu in the complicated fighting that followed.

Gasping for breath

It seems that Gu may have succumbed to altitude sickness. From White 140 onwards he made several questionable moves.


Lee Sedol gets some ‘fresh air’. The game was held more than 3000 m above sea level, where the air is very thin. In this photo, Lee’s breathing from an oxygen tank.

The venue for the match was apparently well over 3000 m (10,000 ft) above sea level. Usually when tourists visit Shangri-La, they stop in Lijiang for several days to acclimatize.

In fact, both players were struggling with the climate, but it seems like it may have affected Gu Li more.

While Shangri-La boasts a world heritage listed national park, I’m not sure why the sponsor chose to hold games in these elevated locations.

Game 7 will be held in Lhasa, which (according to the Chinese media) is even further above sea level than Shangri-La.


Joanne Missingham 6 dan (right, MLily spokesperson) and her sister wearing the traditional outfits for this region.

Random Go trivia: China’s legendary Nie Weiping 9p had oxygen tanks and breathing appartus on standby at many of his major matches.

In his biography, it was explained that Nie needed to use the breathing apparatus because he concentrated so hard during his games, but Nie was also a prolific smoker, so make up your own mind. 🙂

More trivia: Shangri-La, in Yunnan Province, used to be called Zhongdian (or Jiantang in Tibetan), but was renamed to Shangri-La in 2001 to attract tourists!

It was named after the fictional Tibetan land in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. The novel has also been turned into a movie.

An Younggil’s preliminary analysis

For those of you who enjoy more detailed analysis, and less trivia, here are Younggil’s preliminary comments on the game (you can find the game record below):

Black started the game with the Chinese Opening.

Black 17 was unusual (the attachment at S16 is more common) and the result up to White 28 was playable for White.

Black 33 seemed questionable. Jumping at E14 would have been better.

Black 37 was very solid, but the result up to White 38 was better for White.

Invading at Black 39 was good, and Black 45 and 47 were a nice combination.

White’s responses at 48 and 52 were good, and the result up to White 62 was still favorable for White.

Gu made a good choice in sacrificing with White 66 and the game became simple and easy.

White 76 was very big, but there was bad aji at the bottom and Black was able to move out with Black 77 and 79. The game became complicated.

White 84 and Black 85 were unexpected, but nice, moves. The trade up to Black 105 was (locally) even, but White still maintained a slight lead.

White 106, 110, 112, and 114 were nice endgame moves. The game was still better for Gu.

With Black 117, Lee played an astonishing move. It seemed to be an overplay.

White 118 and 122 were an excellent combination and Black was in trouble.

Black 127 was a subtle and tricky ko threat. Gu made a mistake here. He should have answered the ko threat with White 128.

There was another big trade up to Black 133 and the game was still playable for White. However, the game became more complicated. It wasn’t a good sign for Gu, because he was already in the lead.

White 140 looked questionable. White should have played at N12.

Black 141 was a brilliant move. There was some bad aji at the top, and Black was able to enlarge the center while eyeing the bad aji.

White 146 was another questionable move. Gu should have ataried at M14.

Black was happy to move out up to Black 153 and it seemed that the game had been reversed at this point.

White 158 seemed to be another mistake, and the game was practically over when Black took two stones with Black 163.

Even though White was able to capture Black’s stones at the top, with White 172, the game already favored Black.

Gu resisted with White 182 and 184, but didn’t succeed because of he was short of of ko threats.

It was an incredible game between Lee and Gu, and it was the most spectactular game of the match so far.


Gu Li (left) and Lee Sedol begin game 5 of the MLily Gu vs Lee Jubango.

Now let’s cut across to the FIFA World Cup

As many readers will be aware, the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12 and continues for one month.

Both Lee and Gu could do with a rest and it turns out that they also want to watch the football like the rest of us. Gu Li actually plays in a social football team and has played in a team with other Go players from time to time.

Because of that, the Jubango will now take two month break and game 6 won’t be played until July 27.

This is a good thing! We were having great trouble keeping track of what was going on when game 1 of this match was scheduled at the same time as the Australian Open final back in January.

Lee Sedol will be able to enjoy his lead for two months, while he watches the World Cup.

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.

Go Game Guru is writing a book about this match and posting news and commentary about each game as it happens.

More photos


Game record

Lee Sedol vs Gu Li – Game 5


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. Spctacular game indeed, thank you for showing it so quickly. Two questions, I couldn’t find out the answers myself:
    – at w78, why h2 and not j6? I thought both the white corner and central pillar of stones are strong enough to be able to attack black;
    – at w204, how can this be a ko threat? I thought black is able to defend subsequent white moves if tenuki.

    Kind regards,

    • David Ormerod says:

      Hi Paul, good questions!

      If w78 is at J6, then Black can exchange H2 for C2 in sente. After that there’s bad aji when Black pushes at H6 (aiming to cut) and turns at J2 (aiming to create weaknesses or gain liberties depending on White’s response).

      There are many possible sequences, but here’s one example: bH4, wJ6, bH2, wC2, bH6, wJ7, bH7, wH8, bJ8, wH9, bJ2, wK3, bK2, wM3, bK8 and then J10 (net) and K5 (breakout) are miai.

      For your second question, w204 looks like it’s sente to me. If Black tenukis, wL9, bM10 and White calmly connects at N11. I don’t see a move for Black after that, but I think N11 can be a kind of blind spot because the usual techniques would be some sort of ladder or squeeze.

      White would probably choose to force at J9 first (before playing N11) if it was a real game.

      • Uberdude says:

        And if I answer k8 with k7 empty triangle to take a liberty…

        • David Ormerod says:

          As I said to Paul, there are lots of variations, so I can’t post them all here. It will probably be easier to discuss them in the context of the game commentary later on.

          Responding to Black K8 with White K7 only temporarily delays the double threat. Black has good moves at L8, L7 and L2 (the last of which threatens to connect under at N2 in ko – Black has lots of local ko threats and losing the ko is bad for White). The move order is a bit tricky, but I think enlarging the weakness first with Black K5 is a good approach.

          If bK5, wL5, then bL6 is powerful. Black will either get to play L8 or L7 in sente. Either way the enclosure at J10 will work again. Black can exchange bL2, wM2 in sente in cases where he needs to gain liberties before enclosing at J10.

          If Whites answers bK5 with wJ5, then L7 will be sente at any time, so Black can play J10 again.

          White can also go all out to kill with: bK5, wL8, bK9, wJ10, bL2, wM2, bM5, wM4, bJ5 and then White doesn’t have a good move – she’s too thin to seal Black in and her lower right group is in serious trouble. So it appears that white has overplayed.

          Gu Li actually thought for a long time at this point in the game. I think he would have been well aware of these variations, but they don’t work for White.

  2. Hi, bit unrelated question, but is there any chance to extract commentaries and diagrams from WBaduk game? who is actually “entering” the game into WBaduk? whose commentaries are this? also some korean Pro? is An also partially using those, to prepare his commentary?
    thx, Marek

    • David Ormerod says:

      The commentators on WBaduk are pros, but I’m not sure who the commentators were for this game (for a high profile game like this there would probably be several commentators). On Baduk TV, the commentators were Yu Changhyeok 9p and Kim Seongryong 9p and an amateur player/Go journalist whose name I don’t know off the top of my head.

      I don’t think it’s possible to download the commentaries from WBaduk. I’ve sometimes seen people transcribe them by hand though – there was one like that in the AGA E-Journal for one of the games I think.

      Younggil usually makes his own commentary first, and then sometimes asks other pros for their thoughts or compares his commentary with that of other pros if he wants a second opinion on a certain situation. A lot of the commentaries on this site are just made by Younggil on his own though.

      We also spend quite a long time analyzing the game together when I’m editing the commentaries (especially for these jubango games, because we’re working on a book).

      My role, beyond editing the English, is basically to ask stupid questions and to point out where things are too complicated for non-pros to understand (so Younggil can explain it further). I also add basic variations and explanations that seemed too obvious for Younggil to contemplate. 🙂 Everything I add, gets reviewed again by Younggil (for quality control) before we publish it.

      • Thank-you for the insight in your writing process. Which go diagram and publishing software are you using for the cover and book design?

        • David Ormerod says:

          For the book we’re using new software called ‘Glift’, which Josh Hoak is working on. It’s actually pretty interesting and exciting (in my opinion), because what Josh’s software does hasn’t been done before in the Go community.

          Glift can generate books in various formats from the commented SGF files (with some extra markup for formatting). You may have noticed that the commentaries for this match are different to the ones we normally post, this is partly why.

          Josh will probably write some posts explaining it on GGG and post some sample pages soon, when we’re ready. I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your questions too – I’ll let him know that you asked. He’s a big part of the team making the book happen behind the scenes.

          The cover design will be done separately by a graphic designer.

          • Josh Hoak says:

            Hey, that’s me! Yes, I’ll give an update on Glift in the nearish future. =)

      • mateoxx59 says:

        I could help with some original dumb questions for the book 🙂

  3. I was expecting 135 at P15, squeezing a bit crudely perhaps for a bit of outside shape. I know it was gote but it made white N18 not sente I think. I guess K8 was too importnat though? What do you think?

    • David Ormerod says:

      I think that’s playable too. My guess is that Lee chose b135 instead because he was already aiming to play M13 soon.

  4. The people who have set up this 10 game match may have been following the wrong strategy. The sponsors should have made the conditions ideal for those two godlike go players to produce the best games of our era. Instead, these players seem to be forced to keep participating in other events during the match, in which they even encounter each other again. On top of that, they’re being dragged to places which have interesting promotional features but which eventually seem to have a detrimental effect.

    The players have a break now. I hope both organizers and players can recover well and produce the best (conditions for) go in the second half of what is still a fantastic event.

    • David Ormerod says:

      I agree Dieter. The match schedule in April seemed hectic and I was disappointed when I realized that the altitude could be affecting the players during this game. 🙁

      Whether anything changes will likely depend on whether this becomes an issue in the Chinese or Korean media. Let’s hope the organizers give it some thought during the break though.

  5. …I was thinking P15 O15; O14 Q15 (resistance helps black eyeshape), P17 P15; P13 R15; S18 – I read white N18 not sente, though not 100% on that….

  6. You say 158 is a mistake – but it is quite large, no? S14 looks nasty… Though I do see that it seems to lead to a lost game. Were you imagining J7 as an alternative, and if L10 later, L11? Would that be better? Of course you have to suffer S14 then I suppose…

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, W 158 was large hippo. However, there wasn’t any chance for White to win afterwards, so he should have played in the center first. There’s some bad aji in the corner though.

      • Fair enough. I found it hard to win playing in the centre too (I’m doubtless missing something though), but after the move played I can see the game was clearly bad. Thanks for the reply.

        • David Ormerod says:

          If White plays 158 at M11, it’s very hard for Black to capture his stones in the center. After that, K5 is very big, because if White plays there he can aim at P9 in combination with O3.

  7. Just to provide feedback that I really like the scene-setting and trivia and photos, as well as the game comments.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Thanks Stuart, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It makes writing these articles more fun too 🙂

  8. Graeme Parmenter says:

    Very keen to see how 146 at m14 would have worked out. I guess B living on the side with the k16 group (loss of 25 points for W) was way smaller than W gaining points in the centre (and denying B the 25 points he got there).

    • David Ormerod says:

      Right Graeme, I was trying to work that out too. w142 seemed like a sharp response to b141 and, after that, if 146 is at M14, Black M18 and the sente squeeze that follows looks like tesuji.

      However, the capturing race in the top right after Black connects at R17 seems really complicated to me and I couldn’t figure out how Black could win it. Let’s wait and see what Younggil thinks 🙂

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Graeme and David. There would be some other possible variations after White ataris at M14. I’ll try to figure it out, and you’ll soon see the commentary.

  9. Thank you very much!!!

  10. lostbeef says:

    If i’m not mistaken that is Louise Missingham that is with her sister Hei Jiajia. They’re both cute. xD

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Game 7 will be held in Lhasa, which (according to the Chinese media) is even further above sea level than Shangri-La.”

    Are oxygen masks allowed?

    • Why not? In the Korean Baduk League arctic coats are allowed against the bitter cold of the air conditioning. So why not masks here? (In der Baduk League, one does wonder though, why the players are forced to adapt. And maybe that’s been changed)
      Alternatively, if extra oxygen is not allowed, the players could train with xenon gas added to their air, to simulate high altitude. That’s what all russian athletes do.

  12. “It was an incredible game between Lee and Gu, and it was the most spectactular game of the match so far.”

    Indeed. Too complicated for mere mortals. Youngil will have his hands full, trying to explain it to us.

    • Younggil An says:

      Actually, it’s also quite hard for me, but I trust you’ll soon see the commentary. 🙂

  13. I have been watching the game from move 134 onward and it looked to me (at that moment) as if White was fighting an uphill battle. Lee had lots of cash in the pocket and just needed to deal with his upper side scatterings with good damage control. That’s precisely the kind of game Lee loves.

    Later I learnt that White had had a good position, even at that point but that the game had become complicated, so that the course was bad for him.

    The complication seemed to start with White 116: there was no need to provoke a ko. Black 117 is an overplay according to Younggil, but Lee was not to blame to take his chance there. Then Gu messed up in the sequence of answering ko threats.

    After 134, when White played all these moves to capture the top, I could not see how it would ever compensate for Black’s bottom. It seemed so obvious that the battle needed to be fought in the centre.

    However, at 153 I felt that it was Black who now needlessly went for complexity. I thought he could sacrifice that part too for a larger and solid centre. Apparently that would not have been enough or Lee was sure to move out these stones and take a big win. I liked 156 but then did not understand why 158 needed to remove the top aji (yet another move there!)

    Interestingly, on my device I could not see who was who. It looked like a one sided game (from 134 onwards), not one between two rivals. Of course I will not have understood half of it but the first comments indicate that my feeling was right and that Gu has been unsettled by the conditions.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Dieter for your nice summary. I also felt that Gu has been unsettled by the conditions especially by watching his moves after W140.

  14. Once the low-Chinese opening happened I was worried it was going to become another boring game, but the game shows that it’s mostly the players who make the game interesting, not the particular opening they choose. I remember Jennie Shen 2p beginning a game review that had the mini-Chinese with, “first i want to say i hate this opening. so this opening has been going on and on for over 15 years. i think they should do something else. i hate this opening as black.” Besides being the clearest example I’d ever heard of opening fatigue from a professional, it had an affect on me. It took me some time to realize I could choose any opening I wanted without worry, because it was partly up to me to make the remaining game interesting — whether or not the opening had been played a 1,000 times before or my opponent thought it was boring/trite.

    • David Ormerod says:

      Thanks for your comment Logan. I sometimes feel bored as White too, especially when playing against the Chinese Opening or the Sanrensei! I need to change my attitude 🙂

  15. “Black 127 was a subtle and tricky ko threat. Gu made a mistake here. He should have answered the ko threat with White 128.”

    Amateurs 1 – Gu Li 0. We all would have answered. 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi An Yougil.
    If white 96 play at O3,what’s happend?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question.
      Then Black could cut through at L4, W L3, B M3 to capture White’s stones at the bottom. Black can squeeze from H6, W K6, B K5 in the center if White resist.
      I’ll explain about this in the commentary. Thanks.

      • Anonymous says:

        I hope that the game will see comments in the next few days
        Thank you very much for commented game.

  17. What’s next, will game 6 will be held in a snake pit? This is ridiculous. I can’t believe they created a situation where the players are reaching for oxygen masks.

    • David Ormerod says:

      It is disappointing, but let’s wait and see what the organizers do for the next games Andy. As far as I know, Gu and Lee have a lot of say in how this event is setup, so maybe they’ll ask to change things.

  18. As for stupid questions: I would have expected W110 to be C12. It seems big. Can you explain why is it wrong? Thanks.

    • David Ormerod says:

      If you don’t mind me answering a question with another question, do you think that W110 was sente?

      A few moves later, after White made a few endgame exchanges, W114 was at B12, which is similar to what you wanted to do, right? So your instincts were more or less right.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hi An.
    why don’t you post commented game 5 Junbango ? I’m waiting too.

    • David Ormerod says:

      We’re working on many things and doing our best (often for free). We recently posted Younggil’s commentary of Go Seigen’s game which was more important at the time: http://gogameguru.com/go-seigen-turns-100-today/

      Maybe you can look at that instead?

      The commentary for game 5 is almost finished and it’s coming next week.