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 Post subject: What is a professional association?
Post #1 Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:49 am 
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I don't know if we have something equivalent in other traditions, but in the Japanese tradition, professional associations start with the Honinbo house, then the mish-mash of associations during the Meiji restoration, ending with the Nihon Kiin and its decendants (the Kansai Kiin, the KBA...).

The Houses were a means of government control of an "aristocratic" [*] passtime. When that disappeared, high level players, mostly from those houses, grouped professionally to continue their trade. In order to continue that, they set up a system of promotions, tournaments and reach-out.

I think I have it right so far. Feel free to smach me if not.

Now, that was in the late XIXth - early XXth. The Hoensha dissolved almost a century ago. You read J. Fairbairn's 'Honinbo, The Early Years' [shame on you if you haven't], and you get a glimpse of the difficulties of simply attending a competition.

These days, a guy in Antartica can play against a top pro online. Hell, a guy deep in a nuclear sub can play against a superhuman opponent.

What's a pro association for, these days?

Now... using sports... There are tiers. Top level UEFA championship teams, for example. Then there are second tier, female teams, all the way down the peewee leagues. All under the same umbrella association. But now and then there seems to be some rattling: small clubs angered with the powers that be and their top players, amateurs under this or that association who make some sort of insurance agreement but don't join the official association [+].

But there are lots of people who use the association as a nameless provider. They don't care about the association, they care about their team, or the insurance. Except for Chinese Go (and I'm not sure how it works, there), and maybe the Kansai-Nihon rivalry, Go has no professional teams. Sure, Haze vs. Kaio High schools. But, really?

So, there are no teams. There are better players (AI). Are there better teachers? That's where pros might have an edge... And yet, most people don't need a 9p as a teacher; can't even use it properly, I'm afraid. I don't see the Japanese top Ama doing this, but an association of professional teachers (emphasis in teacher), made of Ama and low dan pros, might be a force to reckon.

So, what do professional associations offer to those not their member? What could they do better? How does that affect non-primary associations? I'm not even talking about the Kansai Kiin or the Taiwanese association. The Western ones? If those SE Asian pros at the Nihon Kiin manage to seed their countries, there might be others. Then, what?

Take care.

[*] I think historians would disagree and apply "aristocracy" to the Imperial environment only; I'm using it to refer to daimyo and such.

[+] I'm never really sure if the first or the second Spanish sports federation by members is the Karate association. And non-sports karate practitioners often join something else; to say noting of not-quite-karate arts.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a professional association?
Post #2 Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2020 6:48 pm 
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They aggregate and monetize reputation.

They pay the best players, and develop a reputation of supporting excellence in Go, and producing content (tournaments) that people care about. Then businesses pay to be associated with that reputation, or newspapers pay for exclusive coverage of that content, or rich people bequeath money to support the game, or advertisers pay for eyeballs, or fans pay for attendance, or whatever.

You could still have matches between top players without professional associations, but I can't imagine you'd get the same degree of sponsorship and support, and certainly not the breadth (perhaps the top few could make it, but not the 2 and 3 dans)

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Post #3 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 2:05 am 
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Polama wrote:
They aggregate and monetize reputation.
[...]
You could still have matches between top players without professional associations, but I can't imagine you'd get the same degree of sponsorship and support, and certainly not the breadth (perhaps the top few could make it, but not the 2 and 3 dans)


Well... That's the theory, yes. Thing is, I've read very similar things regarding, for example, the Big V in publishing. I've glimpsed similar things in music. And so on. And it works... until it doesn't.

And your reference to lower-dans... Well, those can't earn a living on their Go games alone, AFAIK. Not at 4p and below. Those who don't have another job are also teaching to make ends meet. In that sense, an association of teachers, with courses on systems of teaching or different learning paradigms and psychologies, might be more useful. Again using publishing as an example, midlist writers don't really get much from the Big V. I know Spanish basketball and soccer have had issues with the equivalent level of players.

And this does not even address what does the association provide to amateurs. If I travel to Japan (and I'd say if I *lived* there I'd have even more information and resources) do I mail the Kiin? Or do I check the web? Some years ago, all I had was SL's page on Go in Japan (I think there wa only one; these days, there are several were you can find info on parlors, associations...). Nowadays, I can get Google maps to find me a parlor, with links to their websites. Or I can ask on my server of preference. Or check YouTube. Or reddit. You name it.

Then, again, what does an association provide those not its members? Because what it provides those is part of what makes it worthwhile to their members. And what can be done to futureproof it?

Take care.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a professional association?
Post #4 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 3:16 am 
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Ferran wrote:
what does an association provide those not its members?


From your posts on this forum, it seems that you like to watch pro games.

A pro association organizes pro tournaments. Games may be commented by pros not participating in the tournament. Isn't that a good justification of the existence of the association? Are you expecting more?

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Post #5 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 4:29 am 
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Quote:
A pro association organizes pro tournaments. Games may be commented by pros not participating in the tournament. Isn't that a good justification of the existence of the association? Are you expecting more?


I got the impression his question was slightly rhetorical. I thought he was making the point that professional associations have to ask themselves what they are for, and if they are out of kilter with the times - which seems a very plausible supposition in these AI times - what are they doing to cope with the future.

The models are not good. FIDE in chess is a long-running mess. Sports such as tennis and golf have a separate Tour for pro tournaments and they don't concern themselves much with teaching or amateurs, except as milch cow fans.

Then there's the fact that a national organisation has to work within the culture and laws of its own country, and these are bound to differ in each case. The Japanese organisations have evolved (or mutated if you prefer) to take account of laws on charity status, tax status and so on and so have one hand tied behind their backs already, with the extra drawback that laws change very slowly. They have issues with domestic culture - in Japan the newspaper sponsors except them to be repositories of tradition - and they have issues with international culture in that their book income has been decimated. While the internet may offer new avenues, it also has culs-de-sac such as the need to stamp out cheating.

Going by past experience, I think we can expect Japan to weather the storm, but they will lose a mast or two. Korea lose may more; fans and sponsors there have always been more fickle, but go does have friends in high places there. In China's case, government paternalism is a blessing for a change, but there too fans and sponsorship can be fickle.

Personally, trying to take the long view, I think the fickle fans who have been seduced by AI and suddenly lost interest in human players are just as reprehensible as those who use AI to cheat. It's all part of evolution, of course, and that in itself is no bad thing. But it is the rate of change that is usually what is most disturbing. What we seem to be seeing with AI in go is a microcosmic equivalent of chopping down the Amazon rainforest at its current speed. Habitat loss for pro orientalis. But I only have views and regrets. No answers.


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 Post subject: Re: What is a professional association?
Post #6 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 5:29 am 
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jlt wrote:
From your posts on this forum, it seems that you like to watch pro games.


I like to watch good games. I'm a bit too old school for many opening stages these days. And I don't give much of a damn about titles. I'd be about as satified if they scrapped the titles altogether and resurrected the Oteai, for example. And I'd like longer time limits and jubango and... Well, you get the idea.

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A pro association organizes pro tournaments. Games may be commented by pros not participating in the tournament. Isn't that a good justification of the existence of the association? Are you expecting more?


Answering your last, first: Yes, I do expect more. But, first and foremost, I expect them to thrive. Not because of the association, but because of its players: I assume if the Kiin imploded a bunch of people would suffer. The association? Well, I'm partial to the Kansai Kiin, but even so... As long as its history was preserved...

Tournament organization and comments do not need much of a permanent organization. Some coordination, to avoid scheduling conflicts, but... And comments? Me, for example, I have better access to YouTube comments, or even here, than those of the Asahi. I don't even know if the NK publishes its own comments online. So the professional commentary out of the Kiin doesn't bother me much, one way or another.

Do I like high level comments? Sure. But, again, I prefer good communication than high rank or rating. If Guo Juan, for example, commented on a private Jubango in Japan... I would be enjoying it as much, or more, than an official Nihon Kiin commentary on the final league of the Kisei.

Take care.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a professional association?
Post #7 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 6:04 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
I got the impression his question was slightly rhetorical. I thought he was making the point that professional associations have to ask themselves what they are for, and if they are out of kilter with the times - which seems a very plausible supposition in these AI times - what are they doing to cope with the future.


Mostly, yes. I'm pretentious in that I'd hope to start a discussion that, who knows, might get someone some ideas. Because, for example, I think the EGF might use our brainstorming, if someone gets a good idea.

Quote:
The models are not good. FIDE in chess is a long-running mess. Sports such as tennis and golf have a separate Tour for pro tournaments and they don't concern themselves much with teaching or amateurs, except as milch cow fans.


That's my fear, indeed. And if things go that way... then I hope the lower pro dans have business oriented imagination, because they're going to need it. I'm not worried about 100 MYen a year pros, I *am* about those who've been 3rd dan for the past 6 years and don't even have time to compete because they're juggling too many things.

Quote:
[...]in Japan the newspaper sponsors except them to be repositories of tradition


Trust the Japanese to box their own traditions. Specially when someone else's day job's on the line.

Quote:
[...] and they have issues with international culture in that their book income has been decimated. While the internet may offer new avenues, it also has culs-de-sac such as the need to stamp out cheating.


I'd think the internet does offer new opportunities, but... That needs some reflexes. I have seen, for example, some books on 13x13 and 9x9. I have seen none of them published in the West when HnG or when AlphaGo. They let that wave pass over them. And I think it was you who mentioned that translations had become way too expensive.

Quote:
Going by past experience, I think we can expect Japan to weather the storm,


They deal with typhoons on a regular basis. They do that. And yet, it worries me.

Quote:
Personally, trying to take the long view, I think the fickle fans who have been seduced by AI and suddenly lost interest in human players are just as reprehensible as those who use AI to cheat. It's all part of evolution, of course, and that in itself is no bad thing. But it is the rate of change that is usually what is most disturbing. What we seem to be seeing with AI in go is a microcosmic equivalent of chopping down the Amazon rainforest at its current speed. Habitat loss for pro orientalis. But I only have views and regrets. No answers.


Sorry for the block quote and the short answer, but, basically: Yes.

Take care.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a professional association?
Post #8 Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2020 8:13 am 
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Ferran wrote:
Polama wrote:
They aggregate and monetize reputation.
[...]
You could still have matches between top players without professional associations, but I can't imagine you'd get the same degree of sponsorship and support, and certainly not the breadth (perhaps the top few could make it, but not the 2 and 3 dans)


Well... That's the theory, yes. Thing is, I've read very similar things regarding, for example, the Big V in publishing. I've glimpsed similar things in music. And so on.


Publishing is different: a consumer is buying the book, not the reputation. Maybe the publishing organization can offer value in distribution and marketing or whatever, but at the end of the day the writer is paid because people decided the book was worth purchasing.

That's different then a sponsored tournament, where it is literally the reputation and audience eyeballs for sale.

Boxing, especially pre-20th century is a good example here: you didn't have associations, you had promoters who would hire boxers to fill a ring. People paid to see two people punch each other, and the promoter/managers/boxers would split the revenue. If you had fans and could fill the ring yourself, you could demand a bigger cut, fit in larger venues that brought in more cash. But that worked, because the professional pay was ticket sales. If enough of us were paying $5 a match to watch go games live, other models start making sense.

Quote:
And it works... until it doesn't.


Absolutely. Advertising is fickle. The one I mourn most is investigative journalism and classified ads, especially at the local news level. If you wanted to reach an audience for your goods/services, you had to fund expensive journalism as a side effect. The internet dis-aggregated the two, and now we're still trying to figure out how to pay for that valuable service as a society.

Quote:
And your reference to lower-dans... Well, those can't earn a living on their Go games alone, AFAIK. Not at 4p and below. Those who don't have another job are also teaching to make ends meet. In that sense, an association of teachers, with courses on systems of teaching or different learning paradigms and psychologies, might be more useful. Again using publishing as an example, midlist writers don't really get much from the Big V. I know Spanish basketball and soccer have had issues with the equivalent level of players.


I think those stipends still matter for access. Minor League Baseball players aren't paid a living wage. But the wages help, they at least allow prospects to devote their summers to the game, if not their lives. And same with mid-level writers: they need a day job, but maybe they don't need to work 50 hour weeks to seek promotion into a more comfortable life, because they can use writing as a supplement. And that gives an opportunities to improve, to possibly break into the elite. Or to develop parallel skills, enough writing chops to enter some adjacent market.

A number of less popular Olympic sports just require the competitor to have wealthy parents supporting them. I think that greatly drags down the level of competition.

I do think these systems are exploitative, mind. But if we want people to have the opportunity to devote their lives to these pursuits, we have to find ways to get more money into them.

Broadly, we see these other sorts of approaches:
eSports tournaments are largely sponsored by game publishers, to promote the game they're selling.
Sports with expensive equipment often get sponsorship by manufacturers, to sell to enthusiastic amateurs.
Sports people like to watch (soccer, football, ...) can survive on ticket revenue, jerseys, tv contracts. This is a more direct sale, so the association is less necessary.
Government/Wealthy patronage has been a part for long stretches of history.
Public patronage (e.g. Patreon) is fairly new and hasn't shown great success yet, but is possible.
Sports people like to watch can also just monetize the eyeballs via advertising whatever, especially if the fans are of a desired advertising demographic
People can gamble (e.g. poker), with the majority of weak players subsidizing the winners.

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