snakeeater on Go

Monday, July 24, 2006

Scaling Mt Everest; Becoming a Go Professional

This past week saw the 2006 Professional Shodan Go Examination in China where promising Inseis and strong amateurs battle life and limb to claim the mere 20 Shodan spots allowed this year. At ~400 participants, mostly consisting of kids in their early teens, that's a 5% acceptance rate. And remembering that the 400 competing for the spots are all best of their schools and regions, those that become professionals are truly the creme de la creme de la creme, many times over. As if that's not competitive enough, China will begin instituting a new 'U15 rule' next year --- no one above 15 will be allowed to try out. So if you can't make it by the time you are 15, professional Go isn't for you. As depicted in Hikaru No Go, choosing the path of becoming a Go professional is hard and cruel. Many spend years as a child studying the game over everything else, most abandoning regular school (unless you are blessed like the mythical Hikaru and can attend school at the same time). It is no easier than scaling Mt Everest. In fact it is harder, it is a path of no return. Once you are on that path, you have effectively chosen to abandon all other pursuits in life. You must succeed, within a small number of years, or become a washed up amateur for the rest of your life, probably struggling to make a living teaching others with the only skill you have.

Life doesn't get easier even when you do become a professional. At the end of the day, you are just one of the hundreds of professionals around. Only the top pros enjoy the fame and wealth covered on TVs and newspapers. Most will suffer anonymity and struggle on with their meager professional salaries.

So unless you are talented and obsessed with Go, AND you have wealthy parents, don't bother. Enjoy Go as a side hobby, not a profession.

Some pictures from this year's examination below:


Place where the examination is held:



Room full with kids with their parents looking on:



Probably an eight-year old, too short for the Go table but ready to become professional!:



Staring down your opponent:



Everyone deep in thought:

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