Keywords: People

In the context of go, a professional (abbr: pro) is a go player who has received a professional diploma from one of the professional go associations. The more general English usage of the word professional, which denotes a person who receives a portion of their primary income and/or means of living through a profession, is not generally used in go.

Chinese 1: 职业 (zhi2 ye4)
Chinese 2: 专业 (zhuan1 ye4)
Japanese 1: 棋士 (kishi)
Japanese 2: プロ (puro)
Japanese 3: 専門家 (semmonka)
Korean 1: 바둑기사 (badukgisa)
Korean 2: 프로 (pro)

Table of contents

Professional organisations

Go professionals are generally affiliated with one of the professional organisations in Asia. The major current organisations are:

These were all founded during the twentieth century. There is another near-defunct group in Japan (Keiinsha). For historical associations in Japan, see Outside The KiIns.

Other countries do not currently possess a professional system.

The International Go Federation includes some of the above organizations as members.

Although the current professional organizations are relatively recent, the concept of "professional" players has existed for centuries. The traditional terms for such a go player in Japan were 碁打ち (Go-uchi) , 碁士 (goshi or possibly kishi) and later 棋家 (kika). The word 棋士 (kishi), now the most usual, became common after the Nihon Kiin was established in 1924 and began using the word for its pros.

Sources of income as a Pro

There are many possible sources of income for pros:

  • Teaching is the primary source of income for the majority of professionals.
    • Becoming the regular teacher of a few big company/industry organization Go clubs is a sure way to make a living. You may succeed the position from your retiring teacher, elder colleagues or even parents, who are also professionals.
    • Personal lessons/teaching games, face to face or online. However, this source is exposed to more competition than before, because today having a high-dan rank on Go servers is sufficient to find pupils. You don't have to be a pro to earn money by teaching. And more recently, many pupils began to think AIs are better and cheaper teachers.
    • Teaching at educational institutions from universities to kindergartens and adult education centers.
    • Annotations to amateur games by mail or e-mail.
    • A few professionals offer high-level training to talented children for becoming professionals. Examples:Kweon Kapyong (Korea) and Hon Seisen (Japan).
    • Sometimes, government agencies or cultural foundations sponsor professionals for teaching in foreign countries. For example, Kobayashi Chizu was a Cultural Ambassador appointed by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs for some years. Chinese pros also visit friendly countries lacking professional systems such as Russia.
  • Game fees and prizes from Tournament play and exhibition games provide an income supplement for many professionals, but is the primary source of income for only a small number.
  • Media activities are complementary sources of income for many pros.
    • Writing books and magazine articles (including ghost writing for more famous pros).
    • Game commentaries for paper media, on TV or at seminars.
    • Composing tsumego for newspapers and general magazines (again, including ghost composing. Or silently copying classical problems...).
    • Serving as a technical advisor to Go related manga, movie or software (still again, including ghost advising...).
    • Selling teaching video/DVDs, streaming advertisement fees, and so on.
  • Selling autographed merchandise like mugs and fans (sensu).
  • Diploma commission. When an amateur pupil applies for an official diploma, the recommending professional indirectly receives a part of the diploma fee (at least in Japan. This was the fundamental cause of amateur rank inflation).
  • Refereeing in amateur tournaments. These are also good opportunities for finding new pupils.
  • As a variation, pros may accompany Go tour/camp/cruises combining sightseeing and Go experiences.
  • For low-dan pros, game recorder duties for important matches.
  • Supplementary pay from the organization. For example, the Nihon Kiin monthly pays to players according to their past performances (and its financial situation, which is gradually worsening).
  • Stipends from the state, like Japanese pros in the Edo era and current Chinese top pros.
  • Personal patronage/sponsorship is also possible for promising (and lucky) young players and famous enough players. A rich admirer of him/her may ask for a teaching game and pay generously.

Other Jobs

And of course, there are 'part-time' professionals who have other jobs than Go. Examples:

  • Running a Go club/salon is a natural side job. The premise can also be used for teaching purposes. Or even a Go cafe/bar is possible, as once tried by Enda Hideki 9p.
  • Becoming a paid director/employee/coach/advisor of the organization you belong or any other Go-related organization may also be regarded as a side job.
  • Ichiriki Ryo is a staff reporter of a local newspaper owned by his father.
  • Hei Jiajia (Joanne Missingham) 7p is involved in some show business activities.
  • Kasai Koji 7p is also an attorney at law.
  • Ch'a Min-su (Jimmy Cha) 4p is a very successful poker player.
  • The late Kitamura Fumio 3p was unique; he was also a Shogi pro 5 dan.
  • Takatsu Masaaki 2p was an able employee of real estate company in his youth and now is running his own small company.
  • Shibano Ryunosuke 2p is a full-time employee of a game app development company.
  • China has more than 600 professionals and weaker ones usually have other jobs to make a living. Some even abandon pro status to participate in amateur tournaments with prize money. In Japan, they say "It's happier to be a strong amateur than to be a weak pro".

Professional status

In the context of go, the word 'professional' is reserved for those who are awarded a professional go diploma.

Some amateur go players make their income from teaching and writing about go. Unless they are affiliated with one of the Go associations, they are still considered 'amateurs', i.e. not professionals. Kikuchi Yasuro is one example of a very strong player who is not an accredited professional. Yasunaga Hajime had a pro diploma, but did not claim pro status or compete (he played in the WAGC).

On the other hand, there are also former go professionals. They obtained a professional rank, but subsequently retired from the professional go scene to become an amateur again. An example is Fu Li, who won the 2002 WAGC.

Historical go professionals

In Japan, prior to the Meiji Restoration, the four houses essentially controlled Go. They were sponsored by the shogunate, and indeed played their most important games before the shogun. These castle games, as they were known, were the central fixture of historical Japanese Go, and helped to establish the reputation of several players we study even now. Shusaku, for instance, is famous partially because he never lost in a castle game. After the eventual collapse of the four houses, the professional organizations as we know them today--the Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in--arose.

There have been also some changes in ranking systems and titles. Historically, there could be only one Meijin, which is the equivalent of 9-dan professional, at a time. Today, there is no such distinction. There are many professionals who have attained a 9p rank, as determined by their respective Go associations. The title "Meijin" is now given to the winner of the Meijin Tournament, one of the Japanese big titles. Similarly, the last hereditary Honinbo, Shusai, allowed the title to be made into a tournament. None of the other four houses followed this route, however.


Notable Historical Pros

This list is extremely cursory; there are many more historical professionals, some of whom may be discussed elsewhere on Sensei's Library.

Notable Twentieth Century Pros (inactive or deceased)

Notable Active Pros

Notable Migrant Pros

  • Western Pros - Western Go professionals usually achieved that status after a staying a considerable period in Japan or Korea, however, many of them returned later.

Other Resources

[1] Go World Summer 2005, issue number 104, page 6

[2] Cho Chikun is technically a migrant from Korea to Japan but since he left Korea at the age of 6 and did not return until he had won the Meijin title (age 24), he is Japanese both by go training and culturally.

See also:

Professional last edited by PJTraill on July 7, 2023 - 20:00
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