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.

Book Details

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

Table of Content

  • 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

Before I Read This Book…

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.

My Review

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.


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!

  • 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.

Where Can I Buy It?

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

Other Books in This Series…

Last Updated on September 10th, 2013