Top 20 Go Players: Kang Dongyun and Heo Youngho

Since it’s already 2012, let’s start wrapping up our series on the Top 20 Go players of 2010.

Kang Dongyun 9p was ranked number 5 and Heo Youngho 9p was ranked number 6, according to Dr Bai Taeil in early 2011.

Kang Dongyun

Kang Dongyun (9 dan), Korean Baduk League MVP for 2011.

Kang Dongyun became a pro when he was 13 years old. He was regarded as a prodigy along with Kim Jiseok.

They were both born in 1989, and they have become two of the top players in the world.

In 2005, he won both the 5th Osram Korean Cup for Rookies and the 9th SK Rookies Cup. In 2007, he won the 4th Electric Land Cup by defeating Lee Changho in the final.

Kang wins his first title

The Electric Land Cup was his first title and it was very shocking for Baduk fans in Korea at the time. Most fans expected Lee to win the title, because Lee was still very highly regarded, but Kang hadn’t reached that level yet…

After taking the title, he became even more confident. In 2008, he won the gold medal in the 1st World Mind Sports Games beating Gu Li, Li Zhe and Park Jungsang.

The 22nd Fujitsu Cup

In 2009, he won the 22nd Fujitsu Cup, defeating Lee Changho again in the final, and it was the first time he’d done so in an international title. In the same year, he also won the 13th Chunwon (Korean Tengen) title, defeating Lee Sedol in the final.

Kang Dongyun (left) and Lee Changho in the final of the 22nd Fujitsu Cup (2009).


Kang Dongyun’s style

His reading is very fast and accurate, so he’s very good at lightning games. However, he sometimes makes simple mistakes because he plays so quickly, but not carefully enough. You can also feel that his moves are speedy and light.

Kang riles his critics

There’s a joke that Kang has lots of detractors in Korea. It’s because he’s beat Lee Changho so many times and, as you might imagine, Lee Changho is like the god of Go in Korea.

Secondly, he’s usually very confident and frank in interviews, and some conservative Go fans don’t like that. For example, in one interview a reporter asked ‘who do you think will win the title?’ and he replied ‘I think I will’.

Kang Dongyun plays Lee Sedol in the 13th Chunwon (2009).

After he beat Lee Sedol in a domestic tournament, he said ‘it’s not strange that I beat him, because it was a domestic tournament.’ He said that because, at that time, lots of Go fans sarcastically said that Kang only does well in domestic titles, but not in the international matches.

Actually, most of the interviews from top pros are too modest and humble, but his way of giving interviews is more humorous and funny.

He’s introverted but he has a good sense of humor. His character is quite unique compared to other top pros. He doesn’t mind being alone, so he prefers to study Go by himself, rather than research with other pros.

Teaching Kang

When he was 11, I used to give him private lessons at my home. I played even games with him, for him to practice, and he occasionally beat me, even though I was playing quite well in those days.

Back then, whenever I asked him a question, he shyly answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and nothing more. So I thought he very quiet and calm. But others have said he’s rather talkative and humorous when he’s with his friends.

At that time, I asked him to read more good books and listen to beautiful classical music, as well as studying Go, to become stronger. I’m not sure if he did as I asked, but I think those things can also help Go players to improve their skills.

Korean Baduk League

Recently, his team in the Korean Baduk League won the championship. He was awarded MVP (Most Valuable Player), the Best Captain Player (the first player of the team) and the Most Wins.

As he is still quite young, I expect we’ll see more of his games in international matches this year.


Heo Youngho

Heo Youngho (left) with Gu Li at the 15th Samsung Cup (2010).

Heo Youngho was born in 1986 and became a pro when he was 15 years old, but for first few years his performance wasn’t very impressive. He was not regarded as a prodigy, like some other pros are, but he studies Go very hard when he’s alone.

In 2006, he won the 16th BC Card Rookies Cup, and it was his first title. In 2007, he won the 1st Masters Tournament, but neither of these were major titles.

Heo’s breakthrough

In 2010, he suddenly jumped up to the top level. In the 8th Chunlan Cup, he beat Kong Jie in the quarter final, but was defeated by Xie He in the semi final. He also reached the final of the 15th Samsung Cup and it was the first time he’d done so in an international title.

Kong Jie (left) and Heo Youngho play in the 8th Chunlan Cup.


The 15th Samsung Cup

His opponent in the Samsung Cup was Gu Li, who’s very scary, but many Korean Baduk fans expected Heo to win because his play in that tournament had been excellent and he seemed to be in the best form he’d ever been in.

However, Gu Li was still strong. Heo won the second game, to make it a tie, but couldn’t do his best in the final game. It was such a great chance for Heo to win an international title, but sadly he wasn’t able to grasp it. Gu won.

Heo Youngho (left) plays Gu Li in the 15th Samsung Cup.

After the final of the Samsung Cup, he seemed to go into a slump, but he’s overcoming that now.

Heo Youngho’s style

His style of play is similar to Kong Jie’s, but yet a bit lighter and slightly less steady than Kong’s. He’s good at the opening and his sense of balance in the game is the best part of his Go.

He specializes in reducing moyo lightly, so if you want to study how to reduce or invade your opponents’ moyo, I’d recommend you take a look at his games. When he’s behind, he plays rather well and has the ability to make games complicated.

Heo’s personality

His nickname is ‘Heo bong’. It doesn’t have any meaning on its own, but it’s an easier and friendlier way to address him.

As he is easy going and humorous, he has many friends. He is also handsome and stylish, so one of my pro friends said he’s the most handsome guy amongst Korean pros. What do you think?

He’s a bit sensitive, but does his best to be nice to everyone, and is also thoughtful and considerate even if he might not appear to be.

His favorite hobbies are traveling and skiing, so you might have a chance to meet him when he travels overseas in the near future. If you meet him, greet him warmly and ask him for a teaching game, and then he’ll gladly play a game with you.

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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. thank you very much MR.Younggil it’s very helpful. I saw some games of heo youngho and i like vey much.

  2. Your articles about pro players are really awsome! Thanks!

  3. I love your articles, An. They are always great!
    Thanks for your hard work!

  4. This article was a very good read, especially since I don’t know any famous go players. It seems that you know these players quite well, so you can write many interesting facts about them =). I found it very inspirational. Thank you!