Lee Sedol wins 40th Myeongin

On December 26, 2012, Lee Sedol 9p defeated Baek Hongseok 9p 3-2 to become the 40th Myeongin title holder (the Myeongin is the Korean Meijin title).

This is 41st title of Lee’s career so far.

Baek Hongseok (9 dan, left) plays Lee Sedol (9 dan) in the 40th Myeongin final.

Reverse sweep

Lee unexpectedly lost the first two games in the title match series on December 17 and 18.

But he came back against the odds, to win the last three games, and claimed the title in a reverse sweep.

Lee Sedol defeats his natural enemy

Baek Hongseok 9 dan – Lee Sedol’s natural enemy.

Before this final, Lee and Baek’s head to head record stood at 6-4 in Baek’s favor.

Many Go fans regard Baek as Lee’s natural enemy, because Baek’s a powerful infighter, and his style is unusually strong against Lee’s.

Just before the final, Lee Sedol beat Gu Li in the final of the 17th Samsung Cup, so the majority of Go journalists expected Lee to win.

On the other hand, since this was the last title match for Baek before joining the navy, some expected Baek to give it everything he had and pull off a win.

Anyhow, Lee reversed a very unfavourable situation and won the title match – demonstrating his mental toughness once again.

Congratulations Lee Sedol!

Lee Sedol’s 41st title

Lee Sedol 9 dan gives an interview after the match.

This is the third time Lee’s held the Myeongin title in his career.

He currently holds five different titles, including:

Coming second

On the other hand, Baek’s won second place for two years in a row now.

He was defeated by Park Younghun 9p in last year’s Myeongin final.

Military service

Baek’s going to join the navy on January 7, 2013 [Ed: to complete compulsory military service], and he’ll be in the navy for 23 months.

That’s such a pity, because he won’t be able to study and play Go much while he’s there.

This was discussed briefly when I interviewed Baek Hongseok earlier this year.

A year to celebrate

Baek Hongseok plays a final title match with Lee Sedol, before joining the navy.

For Baek Hongseok, this year has been the best of his life.

He won the 4th BC Card Cup in May, defeating Dang Yifei 4p in the final.

He also won the 24th Asian TV Cup, defeating Kong Jie 9p, in August.

Baek’s absence from the field will also be a big loss for the Korean Baduk world.

2012 Korean Baduk Awards

Since Lee won the Myeongin title, he’s become the front-runner to win the MVP (most valuable player) at the 2012 Korean
Baduk Awards.

For the first half of this year Baek Hongseok was the favorite, but Lee Sedol performed well in the second half of the year, making it a close thing.

This Myeongin title match series was kind of a deciding match for them, and Lee won the title.

I hope Baek Hongseok gets stronger, both physically and mentally, after the hard training in the navy, and makes a successful return to the Go world in two years time!

40th Myeongin photos

Game records

Baek Hongseok vs Lee Sedol – Game 1


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Baek Hongseok – Game 2


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Baek Hongseok vs Lee Sedol – Game 3


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Baek Hongseok – Game 4


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Baek Hongseok – Game 5


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. It seems to me that Lee Sedol is worldwide Go Player of the Year 2012. Is there such a honorary title in Go, like in tennis, or football? If not, would it be a good idea, is the Go World unified enough to award a title like this?

    Kind regards,

    • An Younggil 8p says:

      I don’t think there’s a such a thing.
      I like your idea, but I don’t know if top players would like that or not.

  2. well, i’m kinda lost in the last three games when Baek resigned all of them in positions for me far from clear…my rank aint high enough anyway, but sometimes i was lost completely…if u guys have time in te future, maybe a few words why the resignation in those positions would be helpful ;))

    thx for the upload and for all the work 🙂

    • An Younggil 8p says:

      I see. Sometimes, I’m lost too. 🙂
      I’ll think about that. Thank you for your suggestion.

  3. I may be so wrong, but still: my impression is that the second game is the key game of the series. That game is so full of fighting, swaps. Lee lost it, and I think that in the few days he had to think it all over, he decided to change his strategy, to try and secure big territories whenever possible. This flexible attitude, admitting Baek might be the stronger fighter at that moment, certainly after some kind of wipe-out in the first game, gave him victory. Of course, nothing is as simple as put here, but still, I wonder if this is what happened.

    By the way, seeing B141 in game two: was Lee ahead? It seems so slack to me, and the area is not secured by it, as the bottom right corner was still open. But I would not be able to point a better move.

    Kind regards,

    • An Younggil 8p says:

      When black played at 141, the game was already a bit better for white, because black can’t secure the bottom side and the corner at the same time. If black concerns more about the corner, white can invade on the side, so it’s very hard for black to save the whole area. Black could consider of N4, but I can’t say it’s better than B141.

  4. next year’s Super Meijin tournament will be nice: Lee Sedol vs Tan Xiao vs Yamashita Keigo