Lee Sedol strikes twice! Quadruple ko in the Chinese A League

Lee Sedol 9p was involved in another quadruple ko on June 5, 2014. This time in a game with Jiang Weijie 9p, in the Chinese A League.

The referee declared the game a draw at move 276 and an immediate rematch took place. Jiang Weijie won the rematch by resignation.


That face: Lee Sedol (left) and Jiang Weijie’s game ended in a quadruple ko.

A different kind of quadruple ko

This quadruple ko was quite different to the one in Lee Sedol’s game with Gu Li 9p in 2012 – which occured in the group stage of the 17th Samsung Cup.

Last time, there were four separate kos between two entangled groups, and there was no way for either player to avoid the situation.

However, this time, there was a double ko on the right side as well as two half point (endgame) kos elsewhere on the board.

Why did Lee Sedol fight the ko?

Black (Lee) was winning by 1.5 points (not counting the kos).

However, if Lee wanted to avoid the ko fight, he’d have to spend another move on the right side to eliminate the ko, which would lose one point.

Furthermore, White would then be able to win both the half point kos, so Jiang would win the game by half a point.

Lee counted and realized that he couldn’t avoid the ko, without losing the game, so he played the quadruple ko and the game was ruled a draw.

If Lee had been winning the game by a margin of 2.5 points or more, he would have been able to avoid the quadruple ko and still win the game.


Lee Sedol 9 dan and Jiang Weijie 9 dan play a rematch after their quadruple ko game.

The Chinese A League

Lee Sedol is the team captain for Guangxi Province in the Chinese A League. He plays in the Chinese Weiqi League as what they call a ‘mercenary’ (what we might call an import in English). Jiang Weijie is also the captain of his team, Shandong Province.

This is the second drawn game in the history of Chinese A League. There was a triple ko between Gu Li 9p and Li Zhe 6p in 2011 and it was also declared a draw.

Lightning strikes twice

This sort of triple or quadruple ko (which voids a game under some rulesets) is extremely rare, but this is already the second such event involving Lee Sedol.

There’s a great deal of complicated, large scale fighting in Lee’s games, and that might increase the likelihood of these sorts of shapes arising.

For further reading, here’s a link to Younggil’s commentary of the last quadruple ko game, between Lee Sedol and Gu Li.

In 2013, there was also an ‘Eternal Life’ game between Ahn Seongjun 5p and Choi Cheolhan 9p, which some readers might be interested in.


Jiang Weijie: Happy to win the rematch against Lee Sedol.

Is a triple ko or quadruple ko unlucky?

Traditionally a triple ko is thought to be unlucky. This is because of a story (and it probably is just a story) involving a triple ko game between Honinbo Sansa and Kashio Rigen (also probably not a real person) in 1582.

Supposedly, a game which ended in a triple ko was played in the presence of the warlord Nobunaga. Shortly afterwards, one of Nobunaga’s allies turned against him, surrounded the monastery where he was staying and Nobunaga lost his life.

There’s historical evidence for the part about Nobunaga and his ally, but not for the story about Honinbo Sansa and the triple ko game.

According to John Fairbairn, a well known Go historian, the story was most likely a construction of later Go players. In The Go Companion he wrote:

“The famous ‘Legend of the Triple Ko at Honnoji Temple’ is almost certainly an invention of the later Go world. There is no historical evidence for it in text where it should appear, such as the Nobunaga Koki, the annals of Nobunaga’s reign. The first reference to the legend was over 100 years later…” – The Go Companion, page 195.

However, the story lives on and there’s even a supposed game record featuring a triple ko floating around on the internet.

Because of this, a triple ko is still regarded as unlucky, at least in Asia.

A quadruple ko is only slightly different, but one thing we can say for sure is that it’s unlucky for Lee Sedol. In both the games he’s played which involved a quadruple ko, the referee intervened and he lost the mandated rematch.

Game record – Quadruple ko

Lee Sedol vs Jiang Weijie


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Here’s the link to the rematch, which Jiang Weijie won, for anyone who’s interested.

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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. Flagellator1974 says:

    “That face” 🙂 And in the background maybe Zhou Ruiyang and Fang Tingyu?

    • David Ormerod says:

      Yes, Zhou Ruiyang and Fan Tingyu are at the computer. In all the photos I saw, Zhou seemed to think it was hilarious 🙂

  2. Flagellator1974 says:

    🙂 “Fang”, just a mistake. By the way, at the 276th who was in leading? I think white was that. (Sorry for my english.)

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s alright. 🙂
      Lee Sedol (black) was winning at the move of 276, by 1.5 points. However, he couldn’t avoid the quadruple ko to win the game, and it went draw.

  3. Great photo 🙂

  4. Hi, i don’t understand the first “joseki”, once younggil said that h2 was bad for black because white could play f4 e3 e4 c3 d11, so what happened since then?

    • Younggil An says:

      That’s a good question Florent.
      Joseki’s always changing, and it’s been quite a while since I saw this pattern last time. They might have found out that variation you and I mentioned was ok for both. Or Jiang thought the actual game was even better than the one we talked about.
      Every player has different style, and it looks like Jiang prefers that way in the game.