Yu Zhiying’s 2015 Samsung Cup breakthrough

Yu Zhiying 5p stunned everyone this week, by defeating heavyweights Mok Jinseok 9p and Choi Cheolhan 9p, in her breakthrough performance at a major international tournament.

Yu Zhiying 5 dan: The marketing department at Samsung need to get Yu a Samsung Galaxy... pronto!

Yu Zhiying 5 dan: The marketing department at Samsung need to get Yu a Samsung Galaxy… pronto!

From September 8-10, players from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the USA gathered in Beijing, China for the group stage of the 2015 Samsung Cup.

Yu’s impressive play earned her a spot in the upcoming round of 16, as the only woman remaining at this stage of the tournament.

Yu Zhiying

11 year old Yu won two gold medals at the 1st Chinese National Mind Games.

11 year old Yu won two gold medals at the 1st Chinese National Mind Games.

Yu was born on November 23, 1997 and first came to the Go world’s attention in 2009.

At the tender age of just 11, she scooped up two gold medals at the 1st Chinese National Mind Games, in the amateur division.

Since turning pro, she’s become quite a formidable opponent among female professionals.

2014 was her most successful year (until now), because she won the 21st Xinren Wang (Rookies’ Cup).

Day one

(Note: the Samsung Cup is a bit different to other Go tournaments, click here to learn how it works.)

Yu Zhiying defeated Mok Jinseok 9p on the first day of play. That caused quite a stir, because Mok is the current GS Caltex Cup title holder in Korea and has been a consistent performer for over a decade.

Mok Jinseok 9 dan (left) faces Yu Zhiying 5 dan on day one of the group stage.

Mok Jinseok 9 dan (left) faces Yu Zhiying 5 dan on day one of the group stage.

China’s top rated player, Shi Yue 9p lost to Park Younghun 9p. The latter seems to be in excellent form lately.

Japan’s Yoda Norimoto 9p was the oldest player in the group stage and he almost defeated Park Junghwan 9p. Yoda was ahead, but he couldn’t maintain his lead until the very end, and eventually lost by half a point.

Korea’s Choi Jung was defeated by Zhang Tao 4p in her first game.

The USA’s Benjamin Lockhart 7d, the only Western representative in the group stage, was defeated by Gan Siyang 4p.

Benjamin Lockhart (right) at the 2015 Samsung Cup.

Benjamin Lockhart 7 dan (amateur, right) at the 2015 Samsung Cup.

Gan is well known for his unconventional openings. In his game with Lockhart (below) he played a 6-4, 6-4 opening, which is fairly tame by Gan’s standards, but was still interesting!

Day two

Koreans Park Junghwan 9p, Lee Sedol 9p, Kim Jiseok 9p, Park Younghun 9p and Lee Changho 9p chalked up two wins each and proceeded through to the round of 16.

Front row from left: Kim Jiseok 9 dan, Park Younghun 9 dan, Lee Sedol 9 dan and Lee Changho 9 dan.

Front row from left: Kim Jiseok 9 dan, Park Younghun 9 dan, Lee Sedol 9 dan and Lee Changho 9 dan.


Ke Jie 9p, Tang Weixing 9p and Jiang Weijie 9p also qualified for China, leaving eight places to be decided on day three.

Japan's Ida Atsushi 8 dan was knocked out in the group stage.

Japan’s Ida Atsushi 8 dan defeated Choi Jung 6 dan, but was knocked out of the group stage on day three.

Choi Jung 6p lost to Japan’s Ida Atsushi 8p and was knocked out. Choi’s elimination left Yu Zhiying as the only woman remaining in play.

Yoda and Lockhart faced one another and Lockhart was eliminated.


Day three

The third and final day of the group stage was the last chance for players with one win and one loss to stay in contention.

Yu Zhiying knocked out another Korean title holder (Choi Cheolhan 9p), astonishing onlookers and becoming the darling of the media for the round. The game record is below.

Yu Zhiying 5 dan (right) knocked out Choi Cheolhan 9 dan on day three!

Yu Zhiying 5 dan (right) knocked out Choi Cheolhan 9 dan on day three!

Chinese representatives Shi Yue 9p, Yu Zhiying 5p, Zhou Hexi 5p, Zhang Tao 4p and Gan Siyang 4p survived the round.

Meanwhile Na Hyun 6p, Byun Sangil 4p and Kim Dongho 4p bolstered Korea’s representation in the next round.

Unfortunately, none of the players from Japan, Taiwan or the USA were able to run the gauntlet of the group stage, leaving only Chinese and Korean representatives in the next round.

The knockout phase

When the Samsung Cup resumes, from October 6-8, 2015, Yu Zhiying will come up against her toughest opponent yet – none other than Lee Sedol 9p!

The next two rounds of the 2015 Samsung Cup will be in Gyeonggi-do, Korea. Here are the full pairings for the round of 16:

  • Na Hyun 6p vs Ke Jie 9p
  • Kim Jiseok 9p vs Shi Yue 9p
  • Kim Dongho 4p vs Jiang Weijie 9p
  • Lee Changho 9p vs Tang Weixing 9p
  • Park Junghwan 9p vs Zhou Hexi 5p
  • Byun Sangil 4p vs Gan Siyang 4p
  • Lee Sedol 9p vs Yu Zhiying 5p
  • Park Younghun 9p vs Zhang Tao 4p.
Kim Jiseok terrorizing everyone with Go problems, as usual.

Kim Jiseok terrorizing everyone with Go problems, as usual.

Will Yu Zhiying’s dream run continue?

I’m excited to see Yu’s success in this tournament so far and hope that she can continue her run in the next round.

Go Game Guru readers have been following her career for several years now, and the 17 year old is approaching the age where many top players win their first major tournament.

Can she do it?

Lee Sedol is an incredibly formidable player, but he’s not invincible.

I’ll be back next month to pick up where we left off with the round of 16!

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More photos

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 best of three matches.

The time limit for games is 2 hours and 5 x 1 minute byo-yomi.

Samsung is a well known Korean conglomerate.

Game records

Yu Zhiying vs Choi Cheolhan


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Shi Yue vs Park Younghun


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Yoda Norimoto vs Park Junghwan


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Lee Sedol vs Ida Atsushi


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Benjamin Lockhart vs Gan Siyang


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


Ke Jie vs Peng Liyao


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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About Jing

Jing likes writing, and can occasionally be convinced to play a game of Go. Even though she doesn't play Go as often as she once did, she still enjoys following the professional Go scene and writing about it on Go Game Guru.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. Flagellator1974 says:

    Lonely Lee Changho…

  2. Thank you Jing for another great report! Actually, taking into account the fact that she won the 21st xingren Wang, her performance is a little ahead of a few of other top professional’s when they were around the same age.

    I have a small question on the Gan 4p – Lockhart 7d game, after white played at w22, black used o16 as a response. Why did he choose that move out of other less interesting alternatives like l17?

    “Kim Jiseok terrorizing everyone with Go puzzles as usual”

    Haha, I think I’ll take up the habit!

    • It would be great to have a commentary of the Yu-Choi game. I didn’t really understand if the upper left corner is a huge failure for black or if it’s somehow joseki to give so many stones away.

      • The original 4 stone sacrifice are a standard joseki. The next group on the outside I don’t know of as a standard pattern, but black’s wall (and getting rid of the burden of defending the 7 stones) seems like adequate compensation.

      • I’ve seen the sequence at the top-left before in professional games. It is a fairly new joseki, it seems, but in my opinion not for amateurs. White’s corner is big, but Black gets a group at the left and a strong wall at the right, looking at the black stones at the top-right. Exploiting the thickness of the black wall is difficult for amateurs, they would do much better with the white side. But when you look at some games of Lee Sedol and Ke Jie, you see successful attacks seemingly out of nothing, based on these thick positions. I cannot do this myself, but I admire their prowess in doing so.

        Kind regards,

    • Younggil An says:

      From the Gan and Lockhart’s game, Black 23 seems to be fine to me, because Black didn’t have a good position to fight at the top since White’s top left group was settled.

      That’s why Lockhart chose 23, and that was reasonable. Although Black 31 was premature, and White started to be ahead from there…

      • Ah, thanks, it makes sense.
        It was interesting when white came in with 32 right after 31 as well.

  3. Yu’s win against Choi was a brilliant game, full of nice twists. It felt almost like the game took on a life of its own, independent of the players!

  4. Uplifting news. Now I’m torn between her and Lee Sedol.