Keywords: Culture & History, Go term, 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).

Other countries do not currently possess a professional system.

Sources of income

Although the current professional organizations are relatively recent, the concept of "professional" players has existed for centuries. The traditional term for such a go (or shogi) player in Japan is 棋士 (kishi).

The primary source of income for the majority of professionals is teaching. Tournament play provides an income supplement for many professionals, but is the primary source of income for only a small number.

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 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 Dieter on July 26, 2021 - 17:09
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