Recently there have been persistent rumors about an upcoming ten game match between Lee Sedol 9p and Gu Li 9p.
Friends and rivals: Lee Sedol (left) and Gu Li at the 23rd Fujitsu Cup.
We didn’t mention this news earlier (at Go Game Guru), because there was very little detail to discuss.
However, over the last few weeks, more concrete details about the proposed event have emerged.
Lee Sedol and Gu Li
Both Lee and Gu were born in 1983, and became pros in 1995.
Many Go fans regard Lee Sedol as the top player in Korea and Gu Li as the best player in China, so there’s been a lot of interest in a ten game match (jubango) between the two for several years now.
Gu Li and Lee Sedol at the 16th Samsung Cup.
A Gu Li – Lee Sedol jubango
The Dong-A Ilbo, one of the major newspapers in Korea, published some details about the proposed matches recently and I’d like to share some of this information with Go fans from other continents.
We might be able to see the first game of the jubango between Lee Sedol and Gu Li in October 2013.
According to the Korean Baduk news on this topic, both players have agreed to play the ten games between October 2013 and May 2014, in various locations throughout China.
The venue for the first match and the final details are not completely settled yet, but they should be soon.
Gu Li and Lee Sedol at an interview in 2009.
Details of the proposed jubango
According to reports, the budget for the match is around $1.15 million USD and the winner’s purse would be approximately $620,000 USD (at the time of writing).
In an interview earlier this year, Lee Sedol suggested 1.5 million USD, when asked to nominate a reasonable amount of prize money for this kind of event.
He explained at the time that the loser of a jubango between Gu and himself would suffer severe damage to their reputation, throughout the Go world and in the history books.
Because of that, Lee regards this as a very high stakes match, which should offer enough prize money to make the risks worthwhile.
This would be a winner takes all event, with the remaining budget slated to be used for promotion and other expenses.
It appears that the sponsor – a furniture company in China – has convinced the players to agree to the prize money on offer.
Gu Li and his wife are expecting a baby in September. Because of that, the match won’t start until October at the earliest.
Gu Li’s wedding.
The Jingdezhen agreement
The arrangements for the match progressed rapidly at the recent exhibition match in Jingdezhen, China (March 20, 2013), where high ranking Go officials were in attendance.
Lee Sedol defeated Gu Li in that game.
At the time, the Chinese Weiqi media published interviews with Gu Li and Lee Sedol.
Gu Li said, “I always fight intensely whenever I play against Lee Sedol. I’d like to create more exciting games for Go fans.”
On the other hand, Lee Sedol said, “Gu Li is the best rival for me to play against, but he’s also a best friend of mine for life.”
The official record between them is 17-15 (1 draw – quadruple ko game) in Gu Li’s favour, but it’s 17-17 (1) including exhibtion matches (like the recent game in Jingdezhen).
Gu Li and Lee Sedol at the banquet for the 3rd BC Card Cup final.
Rumors and reasons for doubt
According to Cyberoro, there was a rumour about the jubango during the draft for the 2013 Korean Baduk League, and some teams didn’t include Lee Sedol in their picks because of the possibility of his absence during important league matches.
On the other hand, some pros still doubt that the jubango will go ahead, with one player saying, “even if there’s a sponsor for the matches, it’s still not easy to make it happen in this case.”
It’s worth noting that neither the Korean Baduk Association, nor the Chinese Weiqi Association have officially confirmed that the match is going ahead yet.
Despite this, the Weiqi media in China are still very interested in this topic and several interviews with Gu Li and representatives from the Zhongguo Qiyuan (Chinese Go Association) have been published.
Lee Sedol and Gu Li play an exhibition match on a giant Go board in Hunan, China in 2009.
A tight lipped Chinese Go Association
A journalist asked Liu Siming, the director of the Chinese Weiqi Association, about the planned jubango. He neither confirmed nor denied the news, saying only, “I have no idea.”
He added, “I haven’t yet read the news about this online, and nobody’s talked to me about it recently either. There have been some concrete discussions about the matches, but nothing’s been decided. I haven’t seen any official documents relating to this match.”
When the reporter said that there was news about the match in the Korean Baduk media, he said, “If it’s organised in Korea, it’s their matter. I have no idea what’s going on.”
He wouldn’t be drawn to talk about how deeply the proposed jubango had been discussed previously or why negotiations didn’t go well earlier.
Lee Sedol and Gu Li’s human Go stones on the giant Go board in Hunan province.
Gu Li’s take
At an interview about the proposed jubango, Gu Li said, “If Lee Sedol is still playing Go at the ages of 40, 50, and 60, I’d like to play matches with him at 40, 50, and 60.” [Both players will be 30 years old this year.]
“If I’m still playing at the age of 60, I wish to have played 100 official games with Lee.”
“I’m always happy to play Go with Lee. Those are the matches I really look forward to. However, I know it’s hard to organize this sort of event and that there are many obstacles to deal with.”
I think there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before we can be certain that the jubango between Lee Sedol and Gu Li will go ahead.
One thing’s for certain though, Go fans around the world will be looking forward to it! And that makes the proposed event more enticing to potential sponsors.
I think we have reasons to be optimistic.
Who do you think would win a jubango?
The win rate in games between these two friends and rivals currently sits at exactly 50/50.
They’re both excellent players, but who do you think would win a ten game match between the two and why?
Click here to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!