American Go E-Journal

New in Print: Commented Games of Lee Sedol (Volume I)

Sunday September 23, 2012

by Roy Laird
What does the world’s top player do when he’s not playing go? In the case of Lee Sedol, the answer turned out to be: write wonderful go books. In June 2009 Lee abruptly retired from tournament play in a dispute with the Korean Baduk Association, which was later resolved. During the break, as Lee reflected on his career, he reviewed several of his most important games in detail with his sister Lee Sena, a former female amateur Myeongin (Meijin), who had just returned from a long stay in Australia. Three books emerged from this collaboration, and, as we reported last week, the first  has just been published in English by Baduktopia as Commented Games of Lee Sedol I. In unparalleled depth, Lee explores his first title-winning game in 2000; his loss against Lee Changho in the 2001 LG Cup; and the game with which he won his first international tournament, the 2002 Fujitsu Cup.  Using dozens of game records and hundreds of explanatory diagrams per game, Lee takes us through each contest step by step, with more than 100 pages of analysis per game. As a mid-level player, I was slightly daunted to find that the very first page of analysis explains why Lee decided, at move 6, to avoid a 30-move variation of the hard-to-fathom takamoku taisha variation. But as I kept reading, I also found clear and insightful points on many different levels. There’s something for everyone in these wide-ranging game analyses. The large format, open layout and use of multiple game records – some contain only two or three moves — make everything so easy to follow, you may not even need to play along on a real board. Lee also offers personal reflections on subjects ranging from his life growing up on a farm on Bigeum Island off the southern coast, to his thoughts and feelings during and after the games. Lee’s father was a crucial figure and great go aficionado — we learn that he even included the word “Dol” (“Stone” in Korean) in his children’s names.  (“Sedol” means strong stone.) With more than 300 7.5”x10” pages in quality paperback form, it’s a hefty volume, with a price to match – over $40. But if the best way to improve is to study professional games, this is the most thorough discussion ever in English of play at the highest level. It’s found a home on the top shelf of my library with Invincible and those great classic game review books that John Fairbairn has been putting out lately. I’m looking forward to Volumes II and III.
photo: Lee Sedol with his daughter in 2008

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