Club fees for dan players

    Keywords: Clubs & Places

I'm a member at the Massachusetts Go Association, where we recently had an email discussion on how our club fees should work in the case of dan-level players.

Someone opined that dan players, especially strong dan players, should have reduced fees. I'm not clear on whether this was meant to refer to visiting fees or both visiting fees and membership fees.

The position as I understand it: Since dan players are less focused on learning the game and more focused on playing it than kyus they should be given reduced fees. Dan players will probably have an easier time getting a good game on IGS than at their local go club, and if they show up regularly at the club they'll probably end up spending a good deal of their time teaching. In deference to this it would make sense that they shouldn't have to pay as much to visit, and maybe not as much to join. A club without many dan players will have difficulty being a healthy club where the rest of us can progress as far and as fast and having as much fun as would be possible. So give the dan players a break because you want them more than you want their money.

This makes basic sense to me, but it seemed controversial. Does anyone have any input on this matter?

Andrew Grant: Speaking as a (weak) 3 dan, and thus a potential beneficiary of this policy, my view is that everyone should pay the same. This is basic fairness. Anyway, where do you draw the line? The dan / kyu division point is purely arbitrary, and why should a strong 1 kyu pay more than a weak shodan? Also some of the assumptions above are dubious to say the least. Dan players are more focused on learning, not less. That's how they got to be dan players in the first place. They don't suddenly say to themselves when they reach shodan, "Well, I can stop learning now." It's the players who can't be bothered to study that hard and just turn up at the club to play who get stuck at 15 kyu or whatever.

Also, many dan players enjoy teaching. It's a socially acceptable way to show off :-)

At my local club we used to have a "dan players play for free" policy many years ago. It was abandoned pretty quickly as the beneficiaries just found that kind of preferential treatment embarrassing.

Sebastian: I think this argument is similar to the one about handicap stones yes or no (see Go and Zen both break down hierarchies.) I think dan players should no more be embarrassed about getting a little preferential treatment than other artists or teachers. Why is it that artists and teachers have this love-hate relationship towards money? Let's just regard it as nothing more than a very convenient tool to reward each other.

BTW, It doesn't have to be at the dan/kyu border. You could even use a much finer granularity and subtract a certain number per grade. Go players are good at simple math, and in a club you don't have to check if they do it right.

Andrew Grant: I have learnt to be suspicious of arguments that say that people "should" believe such-and-such. Maybe dan players "shouldn't" be embarrassed about preferential treatment but the truth is that many of them are. That is a fact, based on human nature. Reformers who try to change human nature have a poor track record.

At the very least you should make such a policy voluntary so that those dan players who want to pay full price can do so.

Actually, it's not just about money. This argument reminds me of another argument I had many years ago on rgg, with a club organiser who had a policy of forbidding weaker players at his club from asking the strong players for games (or "pestering" them, as he put it). Why do people insist on treating dan players as if they were superior beings? They're just ordinary people who happen to be a bit better at Go.

Sebastian: Why do you jump to extremes? Nobody here wants to dictate dan players how they have to feel, nor prescribe others to treat them like superior beings.

My point was just that it is normal and fair if they get a little recognition. If they feel embarrassed, then this is less determined by their genes than by how all of us as a group perceive the issue at hand. I feel our perception could be improved, and I'm contributing my 2 cents because I believe that thinking humans more often than not are willing to be convinced by a good argument.

I agree with you, though, that it should be voluntary. (Here's that damn word "should" again!). This was implicitly included in "you don't have to check". I trust that people, in a social club, in average do what they feel is right.

I also agree that the anti pestering rule is ridiculous. I don't understand why we need rules for everything. Can't we just trust that people can pronounce the words "no, thank you", even if they're dan players?

Charles A different kind of point. You might be able to tell a dan player by the criterion 'gets more out of having played a game' versus 'has more fun while playing a game'. In the same way, I think a real dan player will get more out of having supported a club, than having received a service from it. Well, that's actually a polemic; but take it as my view.

kokiri Although the grading system is a pretty good (albeit not perfect) way of enabling players of different strengths play a decent game, I think that there is a risk that it engenders what is, to my thinking, a dangerous attitude: that stronger implies better in some way. As such I would be pretty uncomfortable with this idea.

That said, in my limited experience most stronger players are a pretty friendly lot and quite willing to provide help and advice; as the likes of SL and the GTL show, there is an impressive sense of community in the go world and I'm sure that most dan players have benefited in turn from it as they learnt the game.

Niklaus: How much are those fees anyway? At my club the fees are so low (like about 1/30th of the minimum monthly wage for a year, for students even much less), there wouldn't be much of a point in reducing them. (You don't even have to be a member to be allowed to play)

  • Fhayashi For the Massachusetts Go Association, the fee is quite significant, because the MGA maintains it's own 'club room' that is accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week. Probably one of the few full time clubs that weren't bankrolled by Iwamoto Kaoru.

BobMcGuigan: I sympathize with the desire to have more dan level players attend club meetings regularly. I once belonged to a club in which several dan level players rarely attended meetings. They called each other on the telephone to arrange playing dates. Ostensibly this happened because too many weaker players were asking for high handicap games and the stronger players felt uncomfortable saying no. Anyhow, that issue aside, I think if there is to be a differential in membership fees dan players should pay more. As Charles said above they get more out of it. Some professional teachers charge dan level players higher fees for lessons though I suppose that has more to do with the pro having to work harder.

Bill: I owe so much to the dan players who played with me when I was starting out. I feel an obligation to the game to help other players. My first reaction to a policy of reduced fees for dan players is that it sucks. There are other ways to attract dan players. For instance, invite the strongest player you can to come and give lessons. Somewhat weaker players are almost sure to show up.

Alex Weldon: What about a system whereby people get reduced fees by playing a certain number of teaching games a month with weaker players? Then it doesn't arbitrarily draw the line at dan level players, and is also taking a more direct route at the primary goal which is to encourage lots of teaching games at the club which will then attract more new players, and more money and success for the club.

Karl Knechtel: This sounds the most reasonable to me - except why not just let the dans charge for lessons like they normally would? That's what Derreck Fan? is doing locally now.

Our club fees/dues are a mind-bogglingly low $1 for 5 years (a token payment that shows enough commitment that they'll bother to write your name on a list, or something, I think) and membership in the CGA was $10/year last I checked. It'd be pretty hard to get a reduction on rates like that.

anonymous: In our club, the fee is about 20 dollars for a year. Reducing it would be embarrassing indeed. Like Bill, I am grateful to those who taught me and I take pleasure in teaching. However, when no one asks for analysis, when no one shows a desire to progress (or better, put some effort into it), when players literally say they are satisfied when they can make you think hard (and while you're thinking chat with the other people) and thus when there is little chance of anyone coming close to your level, it is hard to remain enthusiastic to go there. A reduced fee wouldn't change that. I mean, they're free to play purely for fun and I respect such an attitude but I do not have to be part of that.

Andrew Grant: Anonymous, that statement should be framed and hung up in every Go club in the world. I couldn't have put it better myself. This attitude, and not a dollar or two on or off the board fees, is what drives dan players away from some clubs. Fortunately they aren't all like that.

As Bill says, dan players are where they are because earlier dan players helped them, and they therefore have a moral obligation to help those who come after in the same way - and it's fun to do so, anyway. But if people don't seem to want your help, it's hard to care about them.

Karl Knechtel: Now hold on there a second. I've gotten to somewhere around 5k hardly ever doing review - not deliberately, anyway. Of course I think about the moves that seemed to be mistakes... Anyway. It's been rare over my time learning Go that I've played someone who could give me six or more stones, and much rarer still that they specifically told me anything useful. Most of my advice has come from peers (stronger in other areas), a couple of snippets from books - and the majority from SL (though of course I don't deny, there are a lot of very strong players here). Realistically I'm a very casual player, this game is a lot of fun for me.

Of course, I do feel the aforementioned "moral obligation" to contribute what I can to SL :) But you guys seem to be saying I can't reach shodan if I don't "ask for analysis, ... show a desire to progress" - in short, if it isn't an important objective for me (and it isn't really). Somehow I don't believe that.

Fhayashi: The problem is, because MGA is a full-time club, the yearly dues are $180, which is a significant sum of money to most people. How many dan players are dedicated enough to teaching new players to pay $180 for the privilege?

Velobici: The club annual dues are an obligation upon all the members. Some clubs reduce the dues owed by disadvantaged (presumably less income) groups, such as students and children. This practice is widely adopted in go clubs, go tournaments, hotel room charges (children), restaurants (kiddies menu), and airfare. (hmm...why isnt airfare a charge for the seat and a charge per kilogram of body and baggage weight -- and i weigh 200 lbs, so this ain't feathering my own nest.) Players come to a club to meet other players and to socialize, to get an community interaction that can not be obtained as readily online. (IGS seems to be very impersonal.) Dan level players could be offered the opportunity to give group lessons. The club could be a place where they may meet players willing to play for private lessons.

Perhaps I dont understand the problem. Is it a lack of money, a lack of strong players? Could a grant from the [ext] AGA be of assistance? How many players are there at MGA that there is a full-time club open 24x7? Having a club that is always open may result in people coming at such different times that everyone is scattered and the community is lost. I dont understand, having never lived anywhere with a club open more than one night a week. In the Washington DC area there are enough clubs that one can play every night of the week at a different club. (well, not Saturday night.) All of these clubs receive discounted or reduced pricing housing. Each club meets only once a week.

BlueWyvern: There are specific nights when people meet to play, like Tuesday and Friday, but to members, they can access the club whenever they want via door combo. That can be useful if they want to stop in and play a game, or go through the library which has a whole pile of books and amagazines.

StormCrow: Of course $180/year is only $15/month (I spend almost that much for dinner at the restaurant my club meets at weekly). Perhaps for those who have a hard time saving up the whole sum at once, a monthly or quarterly payment plan could be offered.

SnotNose I suspect that money isn't the reason dan players don't routinely come to the Mass. Go Assoc. I think there are other reasons. For one, it is self-fulfilling. If few dans show up, then there are not enough for other dans to play. Recently, the club activities (mostly lectures) have been aimed at kyu players. What's in it for the dans if they can't get top notch instruction or lectures and can't find an opponent? Another possiblity is the atmosphere. Maybe it just feels like a room full of noisy kyus and isn't the place a dan-level player wants to have a game. As a nearly dan-level player myself, I can see a time when I would do better to make arrangements with a friend than to come to the club. Unless, of course, all the other nearly dan-level players keep improving along with me. If this happens, the club will grow right out of this lack of dans problem anyway.

Charles Yup, pulling up the ladder is the default, isn't it? Problem is, in the Western world, without some sustained period of exponential growth in the game, we shall remain relatively short of face-to-face opponents. Permanently. And what would exponential growth in the game look like? A room full of kyu players asking for teaching games ...

SnotNose Sounds more like bootstrapping.

BobMcGuigan: As we know, almost no one reaches dan level without "help" from stronger players, either via teaching games or game commentaries. Pulling up the ladder, i.e. dan players refusing to help weaker players, is both ungrateful and counter-productive for the growth of go. On the other hand dan level players may find the atmosphere at club meetings not to be serious enough or maybe too many weaker players are constantly asking for teaching games or comments. Some suggestions for solutions:

  • Have a club policy regarding quiet in the playing room.
  • Have a "teaching night" when dan level players are available just to help weaker players (or maybe a teaching room if the club is blessed with space)
  • Suggest that dan players who care about these things could arrange for a game or two to be played at the start of the "meeting" and after that teaching games would be given if convenient.

DrStraw: I just came across this page using "Random page" and it seems like it has been dormant for many years. However, there is one point of view which is, suprisingly, omitted. Made at the top of the page is the comment "A club without many dan players will have difficulty being a healthy club where the rest of us can progress as far and as fast and having as much fun as would be possible. So give the dan players a break because you want them more than you want their money." Well, what about the alternative viewpoint: a club without many low kyu players will have difficulty being a healthy club where the rest of us can be assured the the club will never die. So give low kyu players a break because you want them more than you want their money.

Tas: I agree. Copenhagen Go Club, it seems, used to be nothing but a bunch of the same old dan players playing each other. So it is the other way around. When someone new shows up, they are very friendly and eager to teach. And I definitely benefitted from this and from the more than half-priced first-year-discount.

Club fees for dan players last edited by on September 4, 2007 - 22:03
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