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.
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Go professionals are generally affiliated with one of the professional organisations in Asia. The major current organisations are:
- the Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in in Japan
- the Hankuk Kiwon in South Korea
- the Zhongguo Weiqi Xiehui (under Zhongguo Qiyuan, an umbrella organization for all tablegames) in China
- the Taiwan Qiyuan and Zhongguo Weiqi Hui in Taiwan
- The American Go Association started AGA professionals system in 2011 (succeeded by the North American Go Federation in 2020), and
- The European Go Federation followed suit with its own European Professional System in 2014.
Other countries do not currently possess a professional system.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
This list is extremely cursory; there are many more historical professionals, some of whom may be discussed elsewhere on Sensei's Library.
- Inoue Gennan Inseki
- Ito Showa
- Yasui Chitoku
- Yasui Senchi
- Cho Nam-ch'eol (Cho Namchul)
- Fujisawa Hideyuki (Fujisawa Shuko)
- Fujisawa Hosai
- Go Seigen
- Hashimoto Utaro
- Honinbo Shusai
- Iwamoto Kaoru
- Kageyama Toshiro
- Kato Masao
- Kitani Minoru
- Lee Sedol
- Maeda Nobuaki
- Ohira Shuzo
- Otake Hideo
- Sakata Eio
- Takagawa Kaku
- Ch'a Min-su (Jimmy Cha) From South-Korea to U.S.A.
- Chan Ka Yui From China to Hong Kong and then to Japan.
- Cheon Seu Wien From Taiwan to South-Korea and back (still goes to and fro).
- Cho Chikun From South-Korea to Japan.
- Cho Nam-ch'eol From South-Korea to Japan and back.
- Cho Shoen From South-Korea to Japan.
- Cho Sonjin From South-Korea to Japan.
- Cho U From Taiwan To Japan.
- Fan Hui From China to France.
- Feng Yun From China to U.S.A.
- Go Seigen From China to Japan.
- Guo Juan From China to Netherlands.
- Ha Yeong Il From Japan to South-Korea.
- Huang Yan From China to South-Korea.
- Jiang Zhujiu From China to U.S.A. Then to Korea. Now in China again, together with his wife Rui Naiwei
- Kim Hyeon-cheong From South-Korea to Japan.
- Ko Reibun From China to Japan.
- O Meien From Taiwan To Japan.
- O Rissei From Taiwan to Japan.
- Rin Kaiho From Taiwan To Japan.
- Rin Kanketsu From Taiwan to Japan.
- Rin Shien From Taiwan to Japan.
- Rui Naiwei From China to Japan, then to the USA, then to South-Korea. Now lives and plays in China.
- Ryu Shikun From South-Korea to Japan.
- Shigeno Yuki From Japan to Italy, now back in Japan.
- Wu Songsheng From China to Australia to South-Korea to China (and then back to Australia?).
- Yang Yilun From China to the U.S.A.
- 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.
- Alphabetic professionals list
- Lists of professionals by region
- Number one professionals in history
- A discussion of the difference between pros and amateurs
- Go4Go provides information and news regarding the professional Go scene. They also have a running series of games commented by Alexandre Dinerchtein, though these require a subscription fee.
- GoBase is a large collection of professional games, news, and other information managed by Jan van der Steen. Downloading the SGF files requires registration.
- GoGameWorld.com has current pro news, photo galleries, player profiles, and a list of tournament titles. Commented pro games are also offered, for a subscription fee.
- GoGoD is a (commercial) database of professional games, historical and modern.
- Professional players' Go styles
- Rating of professional players, by Ales Cieply, last updated sometime around 2006, now available via the internet archive
- Professional Rank Histograms as of 2014-01-10
- Professional Records
- Professional Milestones
- Pros on Fox
- Korean World Ratings of Professionals
- Go Ratings A serious, ongoing attempt to rate go players based on performance, updated daily.
 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.