Lee Sedol edges out Gu Li to win the 17th Samsung Cup

On December 13, 2012, Lee Sedol 9p defeated Gu Li 9p 2 games to 1, to win the match and the title, at the 17th Samsung Cup.

Lee Sedol gets off to a good start

Lee Sedol 9 dan at the 17th Samsung Cup.

Lee Sedol won the first game of the match on December 11. It was such a spectacular and thrilling game to watch.

Gu Li took the lead in the late opening, and he maintained it until the endgame.

Even though there were so many trades and exchanges throughout the game, Lee wasn’t able catch up until the game was almost finished.

However, Gu made several small mistakes, and Lee eventually reversed the game to win by half a point.

Update: I’ve commented game 1 of the 17th Samsung Cup final here.

Gu Li fights back

Gu Li seemed to be dispirited after losing, but he won the next game on the following day (December 12), scoring a one sided victory over Lee.

Gu took the lead in the opening, as usual, and Lee couldn’t catch up, even though he tried his best.

Total domination: Gu Li fought back strongly in the second game to even the score.

Gu Li showed his deep and profound reading, and there didn’t seem to be a single chance for Lee in the whole game.

It was an absolute victory for Gu Li, and the atmosphere of the match changed.

A nailbiting final game

On the following day (December 13) the final game of the match was played.

Lee Sedol played black, and he took an early lead for the first time in the series.

Both players showed us their unique and brilliant intuition, and the position favored Lee.

However, Gu Li’s middle game was excellent and he managed to reverse the game.

After Gu took the lead, he made some tiny mistakes in the endgame and Lee was able to claw his way back, little by little.

The game became incredibly close, at which point Gu made a crucial endgame mistake, and Lee eventually reversed the game to win by half a point.

Lee Sedol (left) and Gu Li review the final game amidst a sea of reporters.

Gu Li’s Achilles’ heel

Many people say Gu Li is the best Go player in the world, but the endgame is his ‘Achilles’ heel’.

He’s lost so many important games in the endgame, and it affected two of his games in this final. That’s very unfortunate for Gu.

Lee Sedol wins the Samsung Cup

As a result, Lee won the final series by a total of just 1 point (0.5 + 0.5) and takes home the 17th Samsung Cup! That’s amazing!

Congratulations Lee Sedol.

A rematch of sorts

Lee Sedol and Gu Li already played one another in the round of 32 (group stage), and their first game was ruled a draw as a result of a quadruple ko.

It was the very first time such a thing had happened in the history of international Go tournaments.

Gu won the rematch and Lee had to win one more game to survive their group. He did, and they both fought their way through the remaining matches to meet again in the final.

Gu Li still leads by one game

After this final, the head to head record between Gu and Lee so far is 17–1–16 in Gu’s favor.

Friends and rivals

Friends and rivals: Lee Sedol and Gu Li with their trophies.

Many Go fans expected that this final would be very special.

Lee Sedol’s currently ranked #1 in Korea, and he’s already won 14 international titles throughout his career.

On the other hand, Gu Li’s currently ranked #10 in China, but most Go fans regard him as China’s #1. He’s won 7 international titles so far.

Both players are the same age and they seem to be good rivals, who learn a lot from each other.

In that sense, we can say they’re both very lucky, and happy, to have such a good rival and friend at the same time.

I hope to watch more of their exciting and spectacular games together for a long time into the future.

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 a best of three matches.

Samsung is a well known Korean conglomerate.

17th Samsung Cup photos

Game records

Gu Li vs Lee Sedol – Game 1


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Gu Li – Game 2


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Gu Li – Game 3


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Related Articles

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. Lucian Corlan says:

    This was a great final and I hope I will see them in a final again. Thank you An Younggil for your great comments and insights, as always!

    Regarding “The game became incredibly close, at which point Gu made a crucial endgame mistake, and Lee eventually reversed the game to win by half a point.”, can you please tell us which move is that mistake?

    Also, I am curios about your point of view on a potential ten-game series between Lee Sedol and Gu Li. Is there any chance for finding sponsors for such an event, do you know if there were any talks? I think this kind of event would be a thrill for all Baduk fans.

    Thank you!

    • An Younggil 8p says:

      Thank you for your comment.
      I’m going to review the first game, so wait a little bit please. 🙂
      For the ten-game matches, I have no idea. There’re some news about it, but nothing yet seems to be fixed. We should wait how it’s going.

  2. hello i have watch all the games between Lee and Gu at the 17th samsung cup but doesn’t understand much about the the first and last games when it reach the end game. i’m very hoping that you can comment on these games. as i’m very excited to learn all their games.
    thank you….. =)

  3. That second game was insane! Gu Li blew my mind a number of times in that one.

  4. Some very exciting games. Two players at the peak of their powers with what seem to be very aggressive approaches. A longer series would be interesting, to see how they develop their approaches.

  5. Charleschapple says:

    I got up in the middle of the night each night (I live in New Hampshire) to watch the Baduktv coverage. Holy riveting go. Younggil, I wish you could review all the games, but I understand that you put a lot of work into each one, can’t wait for your review, I always learn so much!

    How many times can we repeat how good this rivalry is? It has to be one of the best in Go history. I definitely think we’re lucky to be witness to it.

  6. http://senseis.xmp.net/?Samsung2012Game1

    Who wants to join in an analysis by mortals before Younggil pours his wisdom over our heads?