American Go E-Journal » Korea

Top pro titles: A primer

Saturday August 21, 2021

by Yuan Zhou 

73rd Honinbo title match (2018), Iyama Yuta 9p v. Yamashita Keigo 9p.

Most western go players are probably familiar with the top professional titles in Japan, but less so with those in China and Korea. Here’s a quick primer.  

The top three tournaments in Japan are the Kisei, Meijin, and Honinbo, all currently held by Iyama Yuta 9p, who’s been dominant for some years. The Honinbo is the oldest pro title in the world, first held in 1941: the current occurrence of the contest for that title is the 77th. The other four big Japanese titles are Gosei, Oza, Judan, and Tengen.  They also have been running for many years, and in terms of a long, stable tournament history, Japan is the best in the world.

The oldest title in Korea is the Myeongin, equivalent to the Japanese Meijin and to the Chinese Mingren. Currently being contested for the 44th time, it was discontinued for several years, but is being actively fought for this year. The last previous winner was Lee Sedol 9p in 2016. The final match this year is a five-game contest between Shin Jinseo 9p, who holds several other Korean titles and is currently considered number one in Korea, and Byun Sangil 9p. Shin Jinseo also holds several other Korean national titles and the Asian TV Cup. He defeated Ding Hao 6p of China for the latter title.

The oldest title in China is the Tianyuan, which was contested for the thirty-fifth time this year: Gu Zihao 9p defeated the previous holder of the title, Yang Dingxin 9p, by a score of 2-1. The next oldest Chinese national title is the Mingren, which was won most recently by Mi Yuting 9p. Ke Jie 9p, who has won more international titles than any other player currently active, has not done as well at the national level, but he does hold four national titles currently, including the Changqi Cup, which is one of the more prestigious titles, and the Qisheng. As a result he is considered number one in China.

There are also pro titles in Taiwan, of course, though the Taiwanese pros have not had much success at the international level. This is partly because the best Taiwanese players usually moved to Japan to play very early in their careers. Some of these have done quite well in Japan, such as the well-known Cho U 9p, Rin Kaiho 9p, and O Rissei 9p, all of whom have held some of the top Japanese titles. In fact, O Rissei 9p recently won the 1st Shinan International Senior Baduk Cup, playing for Taiwan and defeating such famous older players as Japan’s Kobayshi Koichi 9p and China’s Yu Bin 9p as well as Seo Bongsoo 9p of Korea. Both Cho U and O Rissei won the Japanese Kisei title three times in a row when they were playing as members of the Nihon Ki-in. O Meien is also a native of Taiwan who joined the Nihon Ki-in and won the Honinbo title in 2000 and 2001.

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Yoonyoung Kim 8P and women’s team hold 2-0 lead over the veterans at 15th Korean Gigi Auction Cup

Sunday August 1, 2021

Yoonyoung Kim 8P won her two opening games against Sujang Kim 7P and Yoo Changhyuk 9P on July 26 and 27 at the 15th Gigi Auction Cup veteran-women Go Challenge in Seoul, Korea. Each team, a women’s team and a veterans team – with players all 45 years old or above – has 12 players and sends out one competitor at a time. All games are live on BadukTV and can be found on their YouTube channel. On Monday morning, August 2nd, Kim 8P will take on Lee SungJae 9P hoping for a three-win streak, which will mean an additional prize. The winning team prize is $100,000 (120 million won). Since 2007, the women’s team has won eight times (the 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th) and the veterans team has won six times.

-photos from BadukTV
-report by Capital Go Club

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Shin Min-jun wins first major world championship

Monday February 15, 2021

South Korean baduk player Shin Min-jun has won his first world championship, coming first in the LG Cup World Baduk Championship.
The 22-year-old who’s ranked 4th in South Korea, defeated top-ranked Chinese player Ke Jie, giving him his first major victory since his debut eight years ago. Shin lost the first game, before winning the next two. Shin also became the 15th South Korean to win a major event.

Arirang News

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Go stones found buried at the feet of 5th century princess in Korea

Wednesday December 9, 2020

Natural Go stones excavated from an ancient tomb in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, 
South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

During the excavation of Silla ancient tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, ongoing since 2014, archeologists unearthed a variety of treasures including about 200 Go stones buried beneath the feet of the tomb’s occupant. The size and location of the tomb, along with the jewelry and other ornaments found inside, indicate that the tomb belongs to a young woman of very high class, likely a member of a royal family. The find sheds new light on the nature and players of the game around that time.

Under the feet of the buried person, about 200 pieces of small black, white and gray stones, presumed to be used for playing baduk, were excavated. In the past, baduk stones of the Silla era were unearthed in tombs of people belonging to the highest classes. 

In “Samguksagi” (History of the Three Kingdoms) and “Samgukyusa” (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), there are records of King Hyonseong, who reigned from 737 to 742, playing baduk. 

“It has been deduced that baduk was the exclusive property of men. As the tomb occupant at this time is presumed to be female, it is expected to raise new interpretations of and meaning in baduk culture,” the GNRICH official said.
-Kwon, Mee-yoo. “Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess.” The Korea Times [Seoul], 07 Dec 2020.

The story was reported in the Korea Times on December 7th, and a following article in the Archeology News Network was reported to the EJournal as a Go Spotting by Richard Neer at the University of Chicago.

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Korea plans Go stadium

Tuesday August 11, 2020

In a bit of welcome good news in the midst of the uncertainty around in-person play during the global pandemic, an exclusive stadium for Baduk – as Go is known in Korea — is being planned for a municipality north of Seoul, reports Korea Bizwire. The proposed Baduk stadium will be located on the grounds of the former Defense Security Command (DSC) in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, according to an official at the city government.

According to the proposal, the Go stadium will cover an area of 10,000 square meters with four floors above ground, along with one basement level, and the city government is planning to complete the construction by 2023.

The stadium will include Baduk playing rooms, viewing rooms, education halls and exhibition rooms, as well as media rooms and reception rooms for broadcasting Baduk games. The city of Uijeongbu has already completed a feasibility test for the proposal and held a final report meeting on Tuesday. The project cost is estimated at 30 billion won, excluding land purchase costs.

Go drew worldwide attention in 2016 when Google arranged a groundbreaking match in Seoul between South Korean Lee Sedol, one of the world’s best Go players, and AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence system designed by a team of researchers at DeepMind.

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AGA Seeks player for 15th Korea Prime Minister’s Cup

Thursday June 18, 2020

With no US Open tournament on which to base eligibility, the AGA will hold an online qualifier to select one representative to the 15th Korea Prime Minister’s Cup, which will be held online this year (Tygem) throughout August. Any AGA amateur member who is a US Citizen and rated 6d+ may participate. Please respond to tournaments@usgo.org no later than Wednesday, June 24 to participate in the event. 

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Lee Sedol drops to AI player in final career match

Saturday January 11, 2020

South Korean Go icon Lee Sedol closed out his illustrious career last month in a three-game match with home-developed artificial intelligence (AI) program HanDol, according to a report by the Yonhap News Agency.

Lee, who turned pro at 12 and went on to capture 18 international and 32 domestic titles, defeated HanDol in the opener of the best-of-three match in Seoul, playing with a two-stone advantage. The second match was played without any handicap, and HanDol was victorious. In the decisive third game, HanDol, developed by South Korea’s NHN Entertainment Corp., took down the 36-year-old master after 181 stones in Lee’s final match, held in his hometown of Sinan, 400 kilometers south of Seoul.
“I should have done better early, and then the (final game) would have played out much like the first one,” Lee said. “To be honest, I don’t think HanDol is particularly strong when playing with an advantage. I think some of the younger players would have beaten HanDol.”

Looking back on his career, Lee said, “I’ve enjoyed this ride. In the past, I used to say, ‘Baduk is my life,'” he said. “But now, I think there’s more to my life than baduk. I take away a lot of fun memories. Even though I lost today, I was happy to have played a good match.”

Note: This post has been updated to clarify the game sequence.

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Lee Sedol retirement reported worldwide

Wednesday November 27, 2019

Lee Sedol plays the first move in the first game of the AlphaGo series

Korean Go champion Lee Sedol has officially retired. “The 36-year-old, who scored 18 victories in international competitions and 32 victories in domestic events, submitted his letter of retirement to the Korea Baduk Association (KBA), which oversees Go professionals in South Korea, on Nov. 19, terminating his legendary 24-year career,” reports the Yonhap News Agency. In an interview with the Korean news agency earlier this week, Lee attributed his desire to retire to the rise of AI and the invincibility of programs such as AlphaGo, stating that “with the debut of AI in Go… even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.” Lee’s retirement and his AI-based reasons were reported internationally by the media with American media such as Vice, the Guardian, Business Insider, and others reporting the story.

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Kim In Kuksu International Baduk Championship seeks players

Thursday August 29, 2019

If you’re a male Go player born before December 31, 1969 or a female player born before December 31, 1989, the 13th Kim In Kuksu International Baduk Championship could be just the ticket! The tournament is set for October 25-28 and all you have to do is get yourself to Gangjin-gun, Jeollanam-do, South Korea and the Korea Baduk Association will cover your room and board, ground transportation in Korea and sightseeing costs for the participants during the period of the event. AGA president Andy Okun has been there before and calls it “an amazing Go trip and culinary delight; not to be missed!” For details and to register, email assam1023@nate.com

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Kuksu Mtn. a hit with kids

Wednesday August 28, 2019

Children compete at the Kuksu Mountains Tournament in Korea.

The Sixth Kuksu Mountain International Baduk Festival was held in Korea August 2-7, in Jeollanamdo. Children from ten countries attended, in teams of varying sizes, and local Korean children participated as well. The US sent three kids: Jiayang Su, Henry Lyman, and Sun Lee.

“Henry and Jiayang won all of their matches and got a special certificate,” reports his mother Christin Lyman. “The team got to play a simul with a pro. They had 3 pros playing 8 kids each. The closing ceremony was amazing with traditional folk performances (dancing and singing). We visited Lee Sedol’s birthplace (a remote island called Sinan), a celadon museum (Gangin is the celadon capital of Korea), and a water park that was lots of fun for the kids.”

Jiayang Su, Sun Lee, and Henry Lyman, representing the US in Korea.

Sponsored by the Korean Baduk Association, the Kuksu Mountains event has been drawing lots of kids in a spirit of international cooperation. Children attended from China, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, the US, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico and Korea this year. – Paul Barchilon, EJ Youth Editor. Photos by Christine Lyman.

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