Nongshim Cup

Overview: 

The Nongshim Cup is a team competition for the three major Go-playing countries - China, Japan and Korea. It is named after sponsor Nongshim, a Korean food company producing instant noodles. This tournament was first held in 1999, replacing the Jinro Cup.

Tournament Format: 

The three countries each starts with 5 players. The selection is often based on a combination of preliminary tournaments and appointments. Two countries are randomly selected to start the first game. The winner continues playing a player from the third country. The winner of each subsequent game stays in to play the next opponent from a different country. In the end the team with players left standing is the winner of the tournament. These games are played over three stages in different cities (and online due to COVID-19).

Prize Money: 
The generous prize money has increased over the years. The prize for the winning team stands at 500,000,000 KRW as of the 17th edition. There is also a separate prize for players winning consecutively - 10,000,000 KRW for winning three games in a row and 10,000,000 KRW for each additional victory after that.
Time System: 
1 hour main time for each player followed by 1 minute byoyomi.
Ruleset and Komi: 
Korean rule with 6.5-point komi.
Key Players, Events and Statistics: 
  • noodleThe full name of this tournament is 'Nongshim Spicy Noodle Cup'. Instant noodle (ramyun) is a popular fast food in oriental countries. Nowadays, the particular brand of noodle, as shown in the picture, is widely available even in western supermarkets.
  • Korea dominated this tournament by winning most times and never finishing third. China really struggled in early years but its performance improved a lot in recent years.
  • Korea's domination was mainly because of the stellar performance of Lee Changho, who single-handedly terminated the tournament 8 times, including a winning streak of 14 games over 6 years. In the 6th Nongshim Cup, he beat 5 opponents when his teammate failed to perform.
  • In all but 8 terms, the winner was decided by the 14th and final game. The winning team was always properly challenged. This is what makes the tournament exciting.
  • The winning team is not necessarily winning the most number of games. Team with the strongest captain often benefits from the three-team arrangement.
  • For all editions so far, at least one player won the special prize for winning 3+ games consecutively.
  • Four members of the Korea team are selected from a qualifying tournament. The sponsor then determines a wild-card player. The decisions in the past were often controversial because the sponsor favoured famous players over other players in better forms.
  • Up to 14 games are split over three stages. The split was 4/6/4 but quietly changed to 4/5/5 in term 17, apparently to avoid the awkward situation in which one poorly performing team gets knocked out in stage 2 (this is still possible).
  • The longest winning streak was by Fan Tingyu winning seven consecutive games. Believe it or not, he did this twice! Yang Dingxin managed to do the same in 2019.
Historical Results: 

Term

Year

1st place

2nd place

3rd place

Final game & terminator

Winning streak

1

2000

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Chang Hao: 3

2

2001

Korea

Japan

China

Lee Changho

Choi Cheolhan: 3

3

2002

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Luo Xihe: 3

4

2003

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Hu Yaoyu: 5; Park Yeonghun: 4

5

2004

Korea

Japan

China

Lee Changho

Kobayashi Koichi / Weon Seongjin: 3

6

2005

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Lee Changho: 5

7

2006

Japan

Korea

China

Yoda Norimoto

Yoda Norimoto / Cho Hanseung: 3

8

2007

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Peng Quan: 5; Park Yeonghun: 4

9

2008

China

Korea

Japan

Chang Hao

Chang Hao: 4; Mok Jinseok / Wang Xi: 3

10

2009

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Sedol

Kang Dongyun: 5; Tuo Jiaxi: 4

11

2010

Korea

China

Japan

Lee Changho

Xie He: 5; Kim Jiseok / Lee Changho: 3

12

2011

Korea

China

Japan

Choi Cheolhan

Xie He / Choi Cheolhan: 4

13

2012

China

Korea

Japan

Xie He

Tan Xiao / Kim Jiseok: 4; Xie He: 3

14

2013

Korea

China

Japan

Park Junghwan

Tan Xiao / Wang Xi / Choi Cheolhan: 3

15

2014

China

Korea

Japan

Shi Yue

Fan Tingyu / Chen Yaoye: 3

16

2015

China

Korea

Japan

Lian Xiao

Wang Xi: 4

17

2016

China

Korea

Japan

Ke Jie

Ichiriki Ryo / Gu Li / Lee Sedol: 3

18

2017

China

Korea

Japan

Fan Yunruo

Fan Tingyu: 7

19

2018

Korea

China

Japan

Kim Jiseok

Shin Minjun: 6; Dang Yifei: 5

20

2019

China

Korea

Japan

Dang Yifei

Fan Tingyu: 7

21

2020

China

Korea

Japan

Ke Jie

Yang Dingxin: 7

22

2021

Korea

China

Japan

Shin Jinseo

Shin Jinseo: 5; Gu Zihao: 3

Go4Go Collection Note: 
All main tournament games are in the Go4Go database. Some games from preliminary tournaments are also available.

Comments

I believe it isn't only the Korean team that's chosen mostly by qualifier, since all teams have to use the same system with the sponsor selecting a wildcard from each.

Interestingly I remember a non-team tournament in which Lee Changho didn't qualify and there being a little controversy over there not being a wildcard option to select him, so I guess there's be dissatisfaction either way . . .

Korea has played in the first round every year for the last 8 years, a very small disadvantage, but a disadvantage nonetheless.