Baduk showdown thrills with drama
Lee Se-dol, a Korean professional player ranked ninth, and Gu Li, a Chinese player also ranked ninth, were to play a 10-game tournament. The winner would take home 5 million yuan, or about $826,000, the biggest prize money in an international baduk competition, while the loser would get 200,000 yuan to cover the expenses. Aside from the prize money, both players were considered baduk masters, and a defeat would be fatal to their careers.
This is how a real showdown should happen. The two players have conquered the world between them, and now they were putting everything on the line. A game can never end halfway. It concludes with a victory for one and defeat for the other. The cutthroat game was played in Japan in the 1930s until the 1950s. Two masters played 10 games, and a winner was announced when one fell behind by four wins, with the defeated vanquishing into a life of misery.
I had slept on baduk books when I was young. Records of old matches inspired me more than any other textbook. When there was no time limit in the old days, a master might contemplate for several days and win a game with a deadly move. The stories of baduk expanded my imagination infinitely.
The game of baduk today is less vigorous. Baduk is now a sport, and after a time limit was enforced due to the introduction of televisions, minimizing mistakes became more important than playing the best move. I was told a game of baduk was all about spirit and the “way,” but nowadays safety-first is the secret to success.
So I was thrilled by the 10-round match. Most international matches have three-hour time limits, but each round could be four hours for the Lee-Gu tournament. The two players would play until they were exhausted. The first match was a game of dreams. Lee aimed his sword at Gu’s neck, and then Gu’s sword cut off Lee’s leg. When the dust settled, Gu was kneeling.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the rules of baduk. Many of the baduk moves and terms are used in our daily lives. Baduk has become a part of our lives.
For the next nine months, I will make sure not to schedule anything else in the afternoon of the last Sunday of the month (when each Lee-Gu game is played). It is the least I can do to respect the match of dreams, the likes of which may never come again. But I am not confident that I can defend the remote control from my wife and children. I cannot afford to trade it for my credit card every time. I need a deadly move here.
*The author is a culture and sports news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY SOHN MIN-HO