# Herman Hiddema / What Grade Can I Achieve

Sub-page of HermanHiddema

What is the maximum kyu or dan grade can I achieve? A question on many a players mind. This page attempts to give a rough estimate of the maximum grade you are likely to achieve.

# New version

## Factors

I propose that there are two main factors in the equation to calculate your go potential. These are:

• A - Age you started playing go seriously
• T - Talent for the game of Go
• C - Circumstances, such as dedication, teachers, time spent studying, etc.

A/2 - (T + C)

• The result is a number, if the number is greater than zero, this is your maximum kyu grade.
• If zero or smaller, negate it and add 1, then:
• If it is 7-15, subtract 6, this is your maximum pro grade
So what is T (talent)?
T is a number in the range 1 trough 20. Think of it as a sort of IQ, divided by 10. People of average talent have 10. People that are very talented have 15. People that are a brilliant go genius have 20. This will rarely be more than 15.
And what is C (circumstances)?
C is a number between 0 and 5 that represents how much time a player invests, whether they have access to a professional teacher, etc. For most western amateurs, this will be low (no more than 2). Insei, who study full time under tutelage of a pro and are very dedicated may reach 5.

unkx80: Looks like C can vary over time. For me, A = 9, T unknown (assume 10). Through age 15 or 16, I took group lessons by professionals at my Go association and put in a lot of effort, so C should be high. Subsequently I discontinued the lessons and played a lot less, so C should drop.

Herman Hiddema: Yes, but for purposes of the formula you can take the number C you had when you were actively studying. The grade resulting from this formula is a maximum grade, something you can approach asymptoticallly. Definitely not something that is realistic or average. If you stop spending as much time and effort, you'll simply not reach your maximum, but a lower grade. For you, I would say with A = 9, T = 10 and C = 3 (regular pro teaching), then A/2-(T+C) = -8.5 which means you could perhaps have become pro if you had continued studying at that level.

How can something like this be quantified?

Herman Hiddema Thorough research might quantify something like this, but I have not done any. I personally think there is little doubt that learning gets harder as you get older though.

(jantje) May I respectfully tell you that I do not believe any of this? For example, I started playing seriously at 40 and reached 1k (Europe, Netherlands) some 10 years later. According to your equation that's impossible or very unlikely, yet I feel I did not even do well. Anybody with enough intelligence and dedication can reach 1d, imho. Still has to happen for me, though :) It may be interesting in this context that I played chess very seriously as a boy (started at 7) and only got as far as ELO 2200 which is not all that much better than 1k at Go.

Herman Hiddema: Ofcourse, anyone is free to have their own opinion on this. The above is not thoroughly researched or anything, just based on my general experience. I think achieving 1 kyu if you started playing at 40 is quite good, I do not think I have ever met anyone who was a dan level player and had started after 30. Not that such a thing cannot exist, but I think it is very rare. Having played chess may help, as chess and go do require similar mental skills. Also, I would classify Chess ELO 2200 as being similar to at least 4 dan.

(pupu)if this is right i will be able to reach 3 pro grade, this may not be accurate

# Older version

## Factors

I propose that there are two main factors in the equation to calculate your go potential. These are:

• A - Age you started playing go seriously
• T - Talent for Go

A/2 - T

• The result is a number, if the number is greater than zero, this is your maximum kyu grade.
• If zero or smaller, negate it and add 1, then:
• If it is 7-15, subtract 6, this is your maximum pro grade

So what is T (talent)? T is a number in the range 1 trough 20. Think of it as a sort of IQ, divided by 10. People of average talent have 10. People that are very talented have 15. People that are a brilliant go genius have 20.

## Notes

Note that this is aimed at European grades. See "Rank Worldwide Comparison" to estimate your local grade.

Note that 7 dan amateur and 1 dan professional overlap in this system. This is also assumed in the EGF rating.

## Examples

You started at age 20 (in college). You are talented, so lets say T is 14. So A/2-T = -4. Negative, negate it, add 1. You can achieve 5 dan.

You started at age 14 (high school). You are very talented, lets say T is 15. So A/2-T = -8. Negative, negate it, add 1, which is 9, so subtract 6: You can achieve 3 dan pro.

You start at age 40 and are mildly talented, say T = 12. So A/2-T = 8: You can achieve 8 kyu.

Tapir: Say, I started at age 26. I don't know my talent. But since A/2 is 13 already, I can't hope to achieve even shodan without assuming extraordinary talent. (More so friends who are some years older.) Since I am hanging around 4k since a while it may be 9, which is something to be expected. So maybe I should think about leaving go before it is too late...

Herman Hiddema: I must say, that leaving go because you can't achieve shodan seems like a really strange idea to me. Is your enjoyment of the game really that tied to your grade? Personally, I still feel like I had the most fun when I was between 1 and 4 kyu. Also, I think you should realise that talent 10 is the average over the entire world population. Most active go players will have at least 12 because they find mind sports interesting...

MrTenuki: I think there are several other factors to consider...

• A third parameter might be necessary. If anything, players who did not grow up in (or live in) East Asia are at a disadvantage due to lesser access to instruction from high dans or professionals, and "available time" might be an issue (see tderz's comment in Player's age). Likewise, motivation is an issue.

Herman Hiddema: Yes, this is certainly a factor. Actually, I was not completely done with describing talent yet. I think talent includes factors like "motivation" and "stamina". These are mental qualities that are important in go. I did not mean to imply that talent is simply your IQ divided by 10. That was meant as more of a guideline on what kind of numbers to consider. I also agree that access to (and time to receive) teaching is an advantage. I would say that people with full time access to a pro teacher should add at least 2 to talent.

• The equation might not necessarily apply at low A or high A. For example, while your A = 14 and T = 15 example does suggest that starting go early and high talent can result in a professional player, only a small fraction of go players do become pros. On the other extreme, the equation also suggests that a player will never reach SDK if he/she starts playing after 40.

Herman Hiddema: Unless someone is very talented, I think it will be hard for them to reach SDK if they start after 40. I have a friend who started in his late 30's, who was already a good bridge and draughts player (indicating some talent for mindsports), who has now, after 3 years, reached about 10 kyu. I think he will reach SDK, but nothing better than 5 kyu.

Then again, if the value obtained from your (A / 2 - T) expression is meant to be an asymptotic value, one that can only be reached very slowly under ideal conditions, then the equation might be reasonable.

The value is meant to be a "maximum", so yes, you can consider it as an asymptotic value. I think most people will not reach it, but may get somewhere close to it.

Just for fun, I'll try the equation on myself: A = 18, T = unknown (let's assume 10). 18/2-10 = -1, which would be amateur 2d. But that disagrees with the fact that my maximum KGS rank ever achieved was 2k (and that was only due to rank drift).

Tapir: Actually, you made an equation (up) with two unknown variables. The talent (a concept as flawed as IQ) and the highest possible rank. I did like to show that such an ad-hoc equation might be good for self-esteem if your current rank indicates you are a forgotten genius who started learning too late, but it is discouraging e.g. for elder people who try to improve but are said by such an equation that this won't help anyway.

Dieter: I started playing at 24. I am 2d at this very moment. This means 12 - T =< -2 or T >= 14

Herman Hiddema: 2d is T = -1, so actually that implies T >= 13.

Assuming Herman's equation holds true, I'd use it to calculate my talent boundary rather than my rank limit. Seriously, I think a mot of factors matter much more than age or talent. "Talent" in itself is a disputable concept indeed, while the linear dependency of age is definititely disputable. I'd make the dependency logaritmic, i.e. it matters whether you start at 6 or 18, but it doesn't really matter whether you start at 40 or 52. Other factors (which can be incorporated into talent) are the time you invest and the strength of the teacher you have been exposed to. I've been taught by a 6 kyu for a year or two and immensely grateful I am to him, I still feel this has been a major obstruction for me to reach higher levels.

Malcolm I think talent is less important than hard work and dedication! So I'm a bit dubious about this idea. There are examples of people learning go at fifty or sixty and getting very strong - say european 5D. Of course this is rather rare, but still... Maybe T represents both talent and commitment/work a player is going to put into their game.

Herman Hiddema: There are people who learned the game after 50 who are 5D? I've never heard of such a thing, do you know any names?

Perhaps talent is a misnomer though, it was meant to include commitment, access to teaching, etc. I'll adjust the formula.

Tapir: Age includes money (access to material, teaching etc.), available time (say maximum commitment), etc. as well. So are A and T' independent, at all? I accept that learning is easier and more productive for young learners, but to make up such a fantasy-equation is discouraging for people 50+ in SDK-levels for it propose even if genial they will not learn more. As shodan the 50+ fellow will understand the equation he read on Senseis is nonsense, but discouraging him before is a bad way to promote the game anyway.

Malcolm I found one reference I was thinking of, it's in a post by Bill halfway down Players Age. However it seems the player already knew go when he was 50, so this is not quite what we are looking for. I am now not so sure I can produce an example.

Herman Hiddema: Hmm, now that I think of it, I did know player who started that late. When I started playing (1995), there was another new member at the club who had just started a year before me. He was a university mathematics teacher who had started playing go when he retired (so he was around 60-65 when he started playing). He played for years at the club, but never managed to become stronger than 15 kyu. Not that this bothered him, he enjoyed playing and came to the club every week.

Dieter: I think that is a major point. Somehow older people engage in a leisure activity for pastime and joy only and do not seek greater personal development. Moreover they have already found a balance in their life with several commitments. Children have a natural focus. Certainly their brain has greater potential for wiring but I think the social consequences of having become an adult are underestimated. If a 45-year old were enabled and willing to commit himself, say particpate in the Chinese training camp, I'm quite sure he'd be able to reach 5 dan.

tderz A=18, I learned about Go when I was 17 1/2, thought only 5 people where playing it. Turning 18, I entered my first tournament as xx kyu.
T = only 10 (average), I guess. Although my IQ was tested once at school ~140 if I recall correctly, I think that's only because I entered school quite late (7 years old). I belonged to the best in school, then hopped one grade (the 6th in Germany at age 13) and tried everything not to excel or stick out (in the new school, new class, new class mates, puberty). Slowly I got more normal in grades and everything.
In retroperspective, I think that I have not much talent for Go, although it's the only game which caught my attention.
C=2, never had a professional teacher, although, with [Jürgen Mattern] we had a tactically quite strong 6-dan in Berlin.
A/2 - (T + C) = 9 - (10+2) = -3 negated & add 1 => +4
Outcome is 4-dan (EGF), yes that is my next goal and expectation for the nearest future.

The formula needs some adaption for the intensity with wich you can play.
Partly that is certainly expressed by smaller T's, however it can be refined.
I agree with Dieter above, with enough free time, 5 dan is nothing special, equivalent to speaking a foreign language with an accent and small mistakes.
Adults having a job, partner, children don't have this time for quite some period.
I guess the formula has been established empirically and is supported by some data?

Tapir: "I guess the formula has been established empirically and is supported by some data?" - No, it isn't. It is just made up...

Herman Hiddema / What Grade Can I Achieve last edited by 80.213.254.202 on August 3, 2008 - 16:05