Book Review: Commented Games by Lee Sedol: Volume 1


Com­mented Games by Lee Sedol: Vol­ume 1 — One Step Closer to the Summit

Descrip­tion: Described as many as the Korean ver­sion of Invin­ci­ble, this series con­tains some of the most detailed com­men­taries that I have read thus far. In addi­tion, it is evi­dent that Lee Sedol (9P) and Lee Sena have worked work to make the con­tent acces­si­ble to both that begin­ner and inter­me­di­ate play­ers as well. This book not only goes into Lee Sedol’s thought on go strat­egy and his thoughts on the moves that occur; but also talks about his feel­ings and men­tal state dur­ing each game along with anec­dotes from his jour­ney to being one of the strongest go play­ers in the world.

[expand title=“Book Details” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

Title, Com­mented Games by Lee Sedol: Vol­ume 1 — One Step Closer to the Sum­mit
Series, Com­mented Games by Lee Sedol
Author, Lee Sedol (9P) & Lee Sena
Trans­la­tors, Daniela Trinks & Lee Seong Keun
Pub­lisher, Baduk­topia
Pub­lished, “June 2012″
Lan­guage, Eng­lish
ISBN, 978–89-90965–37-0
Length, 319 Pages


[expand title=“Table of Con­tent” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

  • Commentator’s Pref­ace
  • Writer’s Pref­ace
  • Chap­ter 1
    • The 8th Baedal­wang Tour­na­ment, Title Match — Game 4 (Yoo Chang Hyuk 9P) vs. Lee Sedol 9P)
    • Episodes
      • First Encounter with Baduk
      • Baduk Study I
      • The Pizza Tree
      • Baduk Study II
      • Fetch­ing Makgeolli
      • Father’s Tears
    • Chap­ter 1 — Epi­logue 1
    • Chap­ter 1 — Epi­logue 2: The Chal­lenger Deter­min­ing Match
  • Chap­ter 2
    • The 5th LG Cup Inter­na­tional Tour­na­ment, Title Match — Game 3 (Lee Changho 9P vs. Lee Sedol 3P)
    • Episodes
      • Favorite Books and Movies
      • The Most Dif­fi­cult Part of Baduk
      • Accom­pany
      • Play­ing Online
      • Com­pe­ti­tion and Men­tal Discipline
      • Improv­ing Skills
    • Chap­ter 2 — Epilogue
  • Chap­ter 1
    • The 15th Fujitsu Cup, Final Round (Yoo Chang Hyuk 9P vs. Lee Sedol 3P)
    • Episodes
      • Baduk Style
      • Tour­na­ment Par­tic­i­pa­tion and Debts
      • A Game with Yoo Chang Hyuk 9P
      • Father’s Teach­ing Philosophy
      • Nam­ing
    • Chap­ter 3 — Epilogue


[expand title=“Before I Read This Book…” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

When I first began my jour­ney as a go player, I bought Invin­ci­ble and was excited at the prospect of work­ing through all the games of one of the great­est go leg­ends of all time, Shusaku. Although I’m sure the qual­ity of infor­ma­tion in it is incred­i­ble, the expe­ri­ence of try­ing to work through it was rather trau­matic since it was so incred­i­bly advanced. Need­less to say, I learned the hard way how incred­i­bly inac­ces­si­ble pro­fes­sional com­men­taries can be.

Around the time this book came out, I had just started being exposed to the mod­ern pro­fes­sional go scene. Like most peo­ple, I grav­i­tated toward the most well known and strongest play­ers (i.e., Lee Changho, Lee Sedol, Gu Li, etc.). So Lee Sedol’s book came out and it was being hailed as the Korean ver­sion of “Invin­ci­ble,” I was a lit­tle ner­vous at first. When I found out how­ever that it was writ­ten to try and be acces­si­ble to beginner/intermediate play­ers as well, let’s just say I couldn’t pur­chase the book fast enough.


[expand title=“My Review” trigclass=“expandTitle” expanded=“true”]

When I first started work­ing through this book, one of the things that absolutely shocked me was how short the sequences were for each dia­gram. I was so used to other pro­fes­sional com­men­taries where game dia­grams were often 10 moves or longer with such advanced dis­cus­sions that this new approach was such a relief. In addi­tion, since each game dia­gram is usu­ally only a few moves long, the game dis­cus­sion is bro­ken down in far more detail and pro­vides weaker play­ers like myself an actual chance at learn­ing some­thing! In addi­tion, at the end of each game, Lee Sedol high­lights all of the impor­tant moments along with each game. This is some­thing I had never encoun­tered before and found it really helped me gain per­spec­tive on the game.

And as if that weren’t enough already, the fact that every dia­gram is accom­pa­nied by Lee Sedol’s actual thoughts on the game along with introp­sec­tive thoughts on his men­tal­ity at the time makes the expe­ri­ence sur­real. In fact, the only way I think that the game reviews could get any bet­ter would be if Lee Sedol him­self were sit­ting with me one on one while going over his games and answer­ing my ques­tions. And yes, I’m being com­pletely serious.

In terms of my abil­ity to under­stand the dis­cus­sion about the vari­a­tions how­ever, I would have to say that there were times it was a bit dif­fi­cult for me to fol­low. How­ever, this is actu­ally a really good thing since you will notice that I did not men­tion my eyes glaz­ing over or any­thing. It’s just that it cur­rently feels just slightly out of my reach, so I imag­ine that it won’t be too far in the future when I will be able to really appre­ci­ate all the dis­cus­sion in the book.

And finally, yes, it may take a long time before I’m able to fully com­pre­hend the book in its entirety and apply it to my own games; but the fact is that I had an incred­i­ble time read­ing this book. The com­bi­na­tion of learn­ing about Lee Sedol’s per­spec­tive on go along with being able to get to know Lee Sedol as a per­son made the book an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. This will def­i­nitely be one of my favorites of all time and I am look­ing for­ward to revis­it­ing it many times in my jour­ney as a go player.


[expand title=“Synopsis” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

What did I enjoy about the book?

  • When you first open the book, you are imme­di­ately greeted by col­ored pic­tures cap­tur­ing some of Lee Sedol’s high­lights in life. While this might seem irrel­e­vant to some, I found that it added a really per­sonal touch to the book since it felt as if I was look­ing through a scrap­book and get­ting to know Lee Sedol personally.
  • The intro­duc­tory page for each game was immensely appre­ci­ated since it gave con­text as to the kind of game being played along with how high the stakes were.
  • The game com­men­tary is extremely detailed and you get to hear Lee Sedol’s per­sonal thoughts on both the go dis­cus­sion along with his men­tal­ity at the time.
  • The way Lee Sedol high­lights the impor­tant moments of each game is new and really helped to wrap up the game in a very thor­ough manner.

What did I gain from read­ing this book?

  • A much broader per­spec­tive on the game in regards to how to approach it.
  • The real­iza­tion of just how impor­tant accu­rate read­ing is when it comes to go.
  • A new aware­ness of how often things can change and that trade-offs can occur at any time in the game.

How is the book structured?

  1. A one page intro­duc­tion to the game with the fol­low­ing information:
    • Prize Money (1st Place)
    • Winner’s Purse (2nd Place)
    • Tour­na­ment Reg­u­la­tions (Time Allot­ted for Each Game)
    • Short sum­mary of the tournament’s back­ground and gen­eral structure.
    • The tour­na­ment pair­ing chart.
  2. A title page featuring:
    • A black and white pic­ture from the actual game itself (with the respec­tive play­ers included).
    • The tour­na­ment and round that the game was played in.
    • The date that the game was played.
    • Indi­ca­tion of who played which color and what rank they were at the time.
  3. For the com­men­tary por­tion of each chap­ter, each fig­ure had the fol­low­ing structure:
    1. A large kifu that made it easy to read and fig­ure out where each move was.
    2. Below each kifu was at least a few lines from Lee Sedol com­ment­ing on his men­tal state of mind or thoughts he was hav­ing at the time. This is not to be con­fused with go related com­men­tary, since it is more of a psy­cho­log­i­cal intro­spec­tion than any­thing else.
    3. Approx­i­mately a para­graph long of Lee Sedol’s expla­na­tion of what hap­pened in the fea­tured sequence and some of his thoughts on it (e.g., why he played the way he did, etc.).
    4. As you can expect from any game review, the dis­cus­sion of vari­a­tions and numer­ous dia­grams appear with each sequence.
    5. At the end of each game, Lee Sedol goes through and sum­ma­rizes the high­lights of each game and dis­cusses the impor­tance of that moment.
  4. An epi­logue of Lee Sedol’s thoughts of the tour­na­ment as a whole along with any thoughts he had about him­self as a player and his psy­cho­log­i­cal state at the time. In other words, it’s as if you got the oppor­tu­nity to talk to Lee Sedol and hear his thoughts on the tour­na­ment. Extremely enjoy­able to read.
  5. Finally, spread through­out the chap­ters, play­ers will also find anec­dotes and ran­dom tid­bits (called Episodes in the Table of Con­tents) about Lee Sedol that serve as an extremely enjoy­able break.

What aspect can be improved on?

  • No com­plaints here!

Is this book easy to read?

  • Yes. The tone of the book was pri­mar­ily con­ver­sa­tional that really helped alle­vi­ate any dif­fi­culty weaker play­ers might nor­mally have when read­ing a book with pro­fes­sional level commentary.

Bot­tom Line

  1. The first book where a pro­fes­sional pro­vides com­men­tary that can be acces­si­ble by begin­ner and inter­me­di­ate play­ers (though a bit more towards inter­me­di­ate players).
  2. The for­mat of the book makes for an incred­i­ble and unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence where the reader can be immersed in go and Lee Sedol’s thoughts while also get­ting to know him at the same time.
  3. It takes pro­fes­sional level com­men­tary to a level never seen before.
  4. Worth every penny and more for the con­tent and expe­ri­ence you get with it!


[expand title=“Recommended For…” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

  • Any play­ers who are fans of Lee Sedol.
  • Play­ers who have run into issues under­stand­ing pro­fes­sional com­men­taries in the past and are look­ing for a book that tries to bridge that gap.


[expand title=“Where Can I Buy It?” trigclass=“expandTitle”]

  • GoGame­Guru — $42.00 (ship­ping and han­dling not included)


[expand title=“Other Books in This Series…” trigclass=“lastExpandTitle”]


Last Updated on Sep­tem­ber 10th, 2013

  • David Ker­schner

    Great. Now I want to buy it. Thanks a lot T_T

    • Ben

      Hahaha. Well if you do, be sure to let me know what you think of it when you read it! I really enjoyed it and will be post­ing the review for his sec­ond book soon! =D

      • David Ker­schner

        Maybe I’ll get it when I get a firm SDK ranking.

        • Ben

          Totally under­stand­able. If you’re ever look­ing for some­one to review your games or help you take that next step, don’t hes­i­tate to let me know! I would be glad to help.

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