Go professional

Go professional

A Go professional is a professional player of the Asian game of Go. The minimum standard to acquire a professional diploma through one of the major go organisations is very high. The competition is tremendous, and prize incentives for champion players are very large. For example, the Honinbo Tournament has a grand prize of about $175,000.

Almost all professional players are from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. This is because only China (Zhongguo Qiyuan), Japan (Nihon Ki-in, Kansai Ki-in), Korea (Hanguk Kiwon), and Taiwan (Taiwan Qiyuan) have professional Go organizations.

Professional rankings are separate from the amateur ratings (approximately "30 kyu" through "7 dan"). Professional rankings are "1 dan" through "9 dan" (sometimes written "1p" through "9p"). "1 dan" professional is roughly equal to (European) "7 dan" amateur.

There have also been professional Go players from the West, specifically Romania, Austria, Germany, Russia, Hungary and the United States of America. With the proliferation of Go literature and the emigration of Go players from the East to the West, their number can only be expected to increase.

Reaching professional level

Professional dan rankings are normally awarded in Japan, China, South Korea or Taiwan, through one of the professional Go associations, most notably the Hanguk Kiwon (Korea) or Nihon Ki-in (Japan).

The attainment of professional qualification differs in different countries:
* In China a few amateurs are given the 1p grade as probationers, on the basis of success in amateur tournaments.
* In Japan student professionals are called "insei", and have to play in internal insei competitions to qualify; mostly they are adolescents, and must decide whether to continue based on their chances of a career in Go, or go to university. Insei rarely take part in amateur events, but some of the top amateurs are ex-insei.
* In South Korea four amateurs become professional every year, at the top of a ferocious league system of 80 aspiring pros. Once within the professional system, promotion is based on game results.

Most professional players begin studying Go seriously when they are children, with some (such as Cho Chikun) turning pro before age 11. In order to qualify as a first dan professional (1p), one must have deep resources of game experience and study. Tactically, professionals thoroughly understand good shape, tesuji, and life and death. Pros mostly have similar levels of pure technical skill. They differ more in "positional judgement": deep evaluation of future game positions and a great variety of tactical and strategic means to obtain that imagined future position are requirements for professional players. It is of basic importance for a player to know whether they are behind or have the advantage, because it influences the risks that should be taken and subsequently the strategies chosen in a game.

Knowledge of opening patterns ("fuseki") and tactical patterns ("joseki") are by-products of years of study and playing Go; memorization is not the basis for strong play. Fuseki and joseki knowledge is far less central in Go than openings are in Chess. The decisive part of the game, resulting in win or loss, may occur 100 moves or more later.

Discrepancies among professionals

The differences between professional levels are much smaller: perhaps of the order of three to four handicap stones between an average 1p and a prime 9p, as a rough rule of thumb. Thus the difference between professional dan levels corresponds to one-third or one-fourth handicap stone, with even 1-dan professionals being stronger than almost all amateurs.

Each country has different rules for promotion. Ranks may therefore differ somewhat from country to country.

Professionals may also differ in actual strength for a number of reasons, including promotion not keeping up with actual gains in strength, or the fact that professional ranks, unlike kyu or amateur dan, may rise but never fall (even if the player grows weaker). This has posed some of the problems. There are currently over one hundred people who have the rank of 9p (the highest professional rank), though many of them no longer play competitively due to age. A further distinction is that some 9p players regularly hold titles, others won some titles, some entered the title leagues, and many 9p never had the luck to achieve any of above.

There are some instances where a low pro dan can beat some of the highest pro dans, although it is not very common. [At the extreme, it is possible for a 1p to beat a 9p: for example, see [http://www.yk.rim.or.jp/~kiseido/GWINDEX/gwi.html Abe Yumiko 1-dan beats 9-dan] .]

The Japanese "Oteai" system, dating back to 1924, was reformed in 2004 to alleviate some rank inflation that had crept in over the years. Today's system uses various benchmarks; for example, winning certain tournaments or a certain number of games, to be promoted a rank. The Korean system has also been similarly changed in the past few years.

Pro and amateur dan

In theory, professional dans should beat all levels of amateur dans. In reality, the very top amateurs have proven very strong, even against professionals, though they do not have an official, professional rank. The conventional wisdom is that such players may achieve some of the insight of a pro, though perhaps not the detailed knowledge.

In China, Japan, and Korea, there are two distinct ranking sets, one for amateur players and one for professional players (who receive a fee for each game they play, bonuses for winning, and fees for other related activities such as teaching).

In the Japanese professional ranking system, distinction between ranks was traditionally considered to be roughly one third of a handicap stone (making the difference 3 pro dan equal to one amateur dan). The strength of new professionals (1 dan) was usually comparable to that of the highest ranked amateurs. Currently the professional ranks are assumed to be more bunched together, covering not much more than two amateur dans; so that pro 1 dans win some games against 9 dans. There are also a number of amateur players acknowledged as having pro 6 dan understanding of the game.

In South Korea, there are several amateur systems in use, with the recent introduction of official 7, 6 and 5 dan amateur ranks, each of which is somewhat stronger than the corresponding European grade. A 7 dan amateur will have won three national events, and will be effectively of lower-ranked pro standard. The older gup system does not easily match others. In practice, in Korean clubs, grades may be worked out against the resident strongest amateur.

The Taiwan Chi Yuan Culture Foundation also employs a dan system similar to that in Japan. It ranks its professional players from beginner dan (初段) up to 9 dan, being the highest. [cite web
url = http://taiwango.org.tw/info.asp
title = List of professional players in taiwan
] However, the amateur ranking system is established by another organization. [cite web
url = http://www.weiqi.org.tw/default.asp
title = Taiwan Go Association
] certifies amateur player through competitions, ranking player from beginner dan (初段) to 6 dan with 7 dan being honorary.

In Germany and The Netherlands a "classes"-system (German: "Klassen") was established. It comprised a further subdivision into Kyu/Dan half-grades with classes 18 and 17 = amateur 1 dan with the 17 being on the stronger side. It is still in use for club ladders where players get promoted or demoted after a won or lost game, respectively.


ee also

* Go ranks and ratings
* Go players
* Go competitions

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