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 Post subject: Scenarios for the future of pro go
Post #1 Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2023 2:48 am 
Oza

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There just happened to be a story in the UK today that offered a glimpse of what may become of pro go. It does not involve chess, which makes an interesting change.

The story concerned pro snooker, which is currently contesting a world championship. The parallels with go are numerous.

Pro go is nearly entirely limited to the Far East. Snooker is UK based but because of old colonial links it does have tentacles throughout the world. Of particular note is China (originally through Hong Kong). But the game also has a presence in the likes of Australia, Canada and South Africa, as well as some outposts in Europe, so "world" championship is not enmtirely a misnomer, unlike baseball's World Series (and yes, I know about The World newspaper connection).

Snooker is also like go in that matches a long tome: sometimes two days. It is televised, like go but on a similar basis - rather like watching paint dry. Pros can also do exhibition games, doing trick shots and signing sessions. Fans can attend in person but, like go, the venues are very small, you need strong buttocks and you have to keep quiet through the game. Go pros appear to have an advantage in that they can write books and give lessons. I gather that snooker pros don't normally have these options. In both go and snooker careers can be pretty lengthy,

One big difference appears to be the prevalance of betting in snooker. This seems to be a big interest factor for fans but it entangles pros and there is a current mess with ten Chinese players accused of match fixing. Go seems to have avoided this issue, not out of any moral superiority, I suspect, but simply because fans who want to gamble can play each other for money. In snooker the equipment is enormous and so play usually has to be in public halls. On the other hand, go now has a potential problem of cheating with AI.

Now down to some specifics (I am quoting a BBC story). Pro snooker has a World Tour of 130 players. The total prize money in the game is currently £11 million. Before the pandemic it was £13 million. Top players say the game needs £50 million. (Pounds can be equated to both US dollars and euros here to give a passable feel for the order of magnitude.)

It is claimed that 90% of the 130 pros can't make a living from the game. The Tour recently introduced a system of paying every pro a guaranteed £20,000 a year, and one pro estimates that most earn £30,000 a year after expenses. Which you can get (he said) from stacking shelves in a supermarket.

42 snooker pros earned £100,000 over the past two years. A very tiny percentage can make serious money but product-endorsement work in advertising seems even rarer than for go players.

I couldn't see what sort of companies provide the most money to snooker, but from seeing it on tv I think it may be the likes of insurance companies, betting companies, breweries and the like. No newspapers, and 100% male apart from a couple of referees, as far as I know.

This is all looking through a glass darkly, but I can see go having to move towards this sort of version of reality. I think chess already has, although chess seems to have had little success with tv.

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 Post subject: Re: Scenarios for the future of pro go
Post #2 Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2023 1:49 pm 
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I can certainly see the analogies to snooker. I am curious how many go professionals in Japan can make a living on nothing but game fees and prizes? My memory is that the prize money earnings drops off quite sharply if you're not in the top 5.

One thing that does give me hope for paying players is the world of online streaming, where content creators are paid for ad delivery to viewers. We could imagine a talented content creator putting together enough quality material to provide supplementary income. Michael Redmond seems to be embracing this to some extent with his YouTube channel, and of course other players stream on Twitch.

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Post #3 Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2023 4:33 pm 
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Some interesting comparisons. I remember snooker being big in the 1980s, then all but disappearing...
John Fairbairn wrote:
42 snooker pros earned £100,000 over the past two years. A very tiny percentage can make serious money but product-endorsement work in advertising seems even rarer than for go players.

Before anyone says £100,000 sounds like a lot of money: I suspect this is gross income, and the amount that players get to take home after paying for travel and other expenses is only half of that.

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Post #4 Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2023 1:12 pm 
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pwaldron wrote:
I can certainly see the analogies to snooker. I am curious how many go professionals in Japan can make a living on nothing but game fees and prizes? My memory is that the prize money earnings drops off quite sharply if you're not in the top 5.

One thing that does give me hope for paying players is the world of online streaming, where content creators are paid for ad delivery to viewers. We could imagine a talented content creator putting together enough quality material to provide supplementary income. Michael Redmond seems to be embracing this to some extent with his YouTube channel, and of course other players stream on Twitch.


There are quite a lot of people providing go lessons and commentary on Youtube, besides Michael Redmond. For example, there is Baduk Doctor (Park Youngwoon, Korean 7-dan) who plays, comments and gives lessons/lectures online. He regularly defeats Chinese and Japanese pros in rapid games. Recently he won a 10 secomds per move game from Cho Chikun. There are also Go Pro (Yeonwoo Korean 1p) and some popular amateur "influencers" such as Nick Sibicky,

As for the health of the go community, how are the online go servers doing? I'm thinking not of the Asian servers but of the English language ones such as KGS and OGS. I also wonder how the in-person go clubs are faring. Attendance at in-person go clubs had been declining before the COVID pandemic due to the advantages offered by the online servers. I think the health of the amateur go world has to be strong to support a healthy pro go world. Amateurs make up the fan base for pros, after all.

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Post #5 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 1:19 am 
Oza
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Even in a highly televised and sponsored sport like tennis, 90% of the players living the life of a professional are spending money to try and jump into the 10% where they can provide in their livelihood. The top 1% can become extremely wealthy. This isn't only because prize money grows exponentially at any step of the knockout, but also because private sponsorship is only for the ones frequently televised. So it happens that Federer and Nadal are among the wealthiest sportsmen while someone like Jan-Leonard Struff probably saved his career by reaching the quarter finals in Monte Carlo, having recently dropped to 200th place. Struff is no slouch by any measure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBNF7U_tpWE

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Post #6 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 4:49 am 
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Snooker didn't hit the big time until colour TV came along and the BBC decided to commission Pot Black. Then came the Hurricane and the Whirlwind to excite the tabloids and the public. It was then for quite a while a stable attraction, with cigarettes and alcohol paying the bills. I suppose when those got canned, things started going downhill. I wonder what axing the Top 32's safety net did to the TV figures as well - whilst being fairer in terms of competition, it was perhaps less interesting not to be able to see your old favourites on the telly, and have to cheer for new players you'd never heard of before. The complaints about money have been around for a long time now.

I suppose that Snooker is in the same class of events like Darts and Golf. Sneered at by some, enjoyed by others in their armchairs. I'd put it clearly above Chess and Go in terms of pecking order from sponsors and public awe.

Is it possible to find an inflation adjusted index of NHK total prizemoney funding to see how things are progressing? The fate of the academic Baduk course in Jeonju looks like a bad omen for Go there - but I don't expect to hear a death knell any time soon. China still finds the spare change to fund the European tour!

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 Post subject: Re: Scenarios for the future of pro go
Post #7 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 6:13 am 
Oza
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Have you heard of Finn Andersen, Russel Van Duiken or Robin Kool? Neither have I but they made 240 000 dollars over the past month. The sports?
E-sports.

Stats for 2023

Total Prize Money: $31,678,590.12
Total Tournaments: 864
Total Active Players: 8266
Mean Tournament Prize Pool: $36,665.03
Mean Earnings/Player: $3,832.40
Median Tournament Prize Pool: $2,000.00
Median Earnings/Player: $700.00


https://www.esportsearnings.com/

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 Post subject: Re: Scenarios for the future of pro go
Post #8 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 6:55 am 
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Flipping things around, if there is a go event/player streaming something and they are able to consistently bring in eyeballs then sponsors/advertisers will follow.

I was reading John Fairbairn's Shuei book over the weekend and he noted that in the 1930's marked the entry of professional journalists into the go world, and the texture of written go material changed dramatically. I'm looking forward to seeing what professional video editors think of.

Knotwilg's point of e-spots is a good one--I've watched Starcraft streams for a number of years now and it has been a striking transition from broadcasts by enthusiastic amateurs to a much more professional events in recent years.

As I write this, I also think of televised poker. A few years ago it was everywhere, but it's dwindled some. But the essential trick to making it big was the invention of the "hole cam", which allowed viewers to see the player's cards in real time.

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Post #9 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 8:17 am 
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Golf is an interesting case. It is very popular among amateur players, in the US there are golf courses everywhere. Amateurs play golf partly, I believe, because it can be a social activity. Business people routinely make deals on the course, and there are opportunities for people to talk during the course of a round. The pro tour resembles pro go tournaments. Many players start a tournament but lots of them don't make the cut and don't make a lot of money. Many golf pros can't make a living from tournaments and depend on teaching at golf clubs to make a living. Makers of golf equipment sponsor tournaments and make money from amateurs by convincing them that they need more or different clubs, bags, shoes, etc. In go, how well a person plays doesn't depend on what equipment is used and it is difficult to persuade someone that they should spend a lot of money on very expensive go equipment. In fact, many go players now don't even own boards and stones, they just play online. The biggest difficulty in getting sponsorship is the small population of fans.

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Post #10 Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2023 2:06 pm 
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gowan wrote:
The biggest difficulty in getting sponsorship is the small population of fans.


This is definitely true in the west, but I think we should also be looking to Asia to see how things evolve. There's a cadre of professionals for whom go really is a livelihood, whether by winnings or teaching. If, in fact, newspapers are pulling away from go sponsorship then we have to see what comes next. Will professionals find new ways to bring go to fans (streaming, etc?) or will it all just dwindle away?

Harkening back to the days of state support for Japanese go, do we know roughly how many players were supported?

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Post #11 Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2023 5:45 am 
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The big news here today is that the World Snooker Championships have been disrupted by climate change protesters. One man threw paint on a table and a woman tried to glue herself to another table.

When will go have similar protests? After all, we've had depleted clam stocks, depleted kaya forests, and plastic go stones abound.

In other climate change news here, cows are to be given special pills to save the atmosphere. The posh papers call them "methane suppressors." The yob papers call them "fart blockers." Having sat next to someone a few days ago who was farting in time to some music as he responded to a concert, I can "sense" other uses for them. If a fading memory still serves, maybe they should be de rigueur in meat-space go tournaments, too.

There was also news of a couple of pop musicians' voices being cloned by AI and a fake record being (temporarily) distributed by Apple and Spotify. Presumably a go or chess player's style can be cloned by AI, too, so that he could pass any sniff tests arbiters might try to impose?

We see more and more that AI has been a fart in the perfume factory.

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Post #12 Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2023 7:50 am 
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In the Flemish idiom, "much ado about nothing" is expressed as "a fart in a bottle". Maybe one day AI turns out to be just that.

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Post #13 Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2023 8:52 am 
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Go has been compared here to golf, snooker, tennis, even e-sports. TV and streaming brings money. Why? Because there are people willing to watch it, mised with some ads.

Aren't we missing a point here? The development of a go game is/can be really slow. You can watch the fourth game of the Kisei, leave the room, come back 1 hour later, and what will you have missed? I know, I know... some interesting comments, variations and blah, blah, blah. We are talking about most people here, not a few dedicated fans.

The NHK tournament has been running for a lot of time. Time limits are reasonable for the audience (maybe not for most players), people can watch a game, listen to some useful comments,... all in 1 hour (and a half? I don't know). The New Ryusei is even faster. And dramatic. None of the games played in these tournaments will be in a book ten years later. But they might attract people to the game.

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Post #14 Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2023 1:48 pm 
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Doesn't seem like kids or parents have been mentioned uet.

But one huge difference from Snooker, and huge advantage that Go has (which has been mentioned) is that Go pros (and others) can teach. But more than that, Go is family friendly. In my local tournament I played against a 5 year old, a 6 year old, and a 70 year old (there are only a few of us in between). Some parents are willing to spend lots of money on their children and people are willing to take it. So if a clean respectable organization offers a summer Go camp teaching a quite, classic, and mentally challenging game, that is quite attractive. Why send your kid to space camp if the local Ki-in has a spot open for the same price? Plastic stones are a lot cheaper than soccer cleats.

I just don't think there's much money in pub sports. But there's always money from parents and there's always children to babysit. Of course, this isn't strictly related to pro go. But I do think accreditation is important for teaching.

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Post #15 Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2023 6:14 am 
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What is happening with shogi in Japan? Is that game having the same difficulties that pro go is having?

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Post #16 Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2023 7:48 am 
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Quote:
Harkening back to the days of state support for Japanese go, do we know roughly how many players were supported?


About a dozen at most, sometimes half that.

That's not much different from today, if you strip out all those who have to teach to make a living (as was common in Edo times, too).

Edo go is over-romanticised, and maybe that's true of pro go today.

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Post #17 Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2023 11:02 am 
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The weird habit of pessemism, passivism and fatalism among igo players bugs me. If there is a problem start with the self and expand outwards.

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Post #18 Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2023 1:59 pm 
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I just wrote to NHK through their form about the possibility of interviewing 최정先生。I mention that I did this embarrassing thing because if enough people do it it would at least signal to the NHK that this game may be worth exploring in they're international channel.

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Post #19 Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2023 3:24 pm 
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NHK was modelled on the BBC and, as to what they are supposed to do, the clues are in the N and the B.

The rest of the media is less constrained, and their coverage of international go is not really easy to fault. Ch'oe Cheong (Che Jon in Japanese BTW) was featured heavily when she won the recent Senko International Women's Cup. She was praised as charismatic, and that event featured the Chinese woman Zhou Hongyu (who got to the final), a Japanese of recent Chinese heritage, Nyu Eiko, and a lady from Vietnam, Quynh Anh Ha. The event was in a trendy new hotel, and of course this is the 5th year of the event.

Elsewhere, I can recall features or stories about Yu Zhengqi of China, Sin Chin-seo of Korea, Antti Törmänen of Finland, etc, etc. And of course the even heavier coverage of the main title events brings into focus Taiwanese players such as Kyo Kagen. Even sponsors join in: apart from Senko, recall the International Pair Go Championships.

I feel very confident in saying you won't find any organ in the go media that doesn't have a generous sprinkling of information about foreign players in every issue.

There is also a wealth of fan-based material on the internet, supported by the many websites pro players put up.

I therefore don't think the main challenges lie in these areas of international links or fan bases. In no special order, I think the go world needs first to work out how AI will affect go, how to recover from the lifestyle changes brought about by the Covid pandemic, and (assuming those two things have tilted most people digital-wards) how to compete with other digital pastimes such as gaming. These challenges apply also in Korea and China, and they also apply to many organisations outside go - newspapers, for instance.


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Post #20 Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2023 5:58 pm 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
NHK was modelled on the BBC and, as to what they are supposed to do, the clues are in the N and the B.

The rest of the media is less constrained, and their coverage of international go is not really easy to fault. Ch'oe Cheong (Che Jon in Japanese BTW) was featured heavily when she won the recent Senko International Women's Cup. She was praised as charismatic, and that event featured the Chinese woman Zhou Hongyu (who got to the final), a Japanese of recent Chinese heritage, Nyu Eiko, and a lady from Vietnam, Quynh Anh Ha. The event was in a trendy new hotel, and of course this is the 5th year of the event.

Elsewhere, I can recall features or stories about Yu Zhengqi of China, Sin Chin-seo of Korea, Antti Törmänen of Finland, etc, etc. And of course the even heavier coverage of the main title events brings into focus Taiwanese players such as Kyo Kagen. Even sponsors join in: apart from Senko, recall the International Pair Go Championships.

I feel very confident in saying you won't find any organ in the go media that doesn't have a generous sprinkling of information about foreign players in every issue.

There is also a wealth of fan-based material on the internet, supported by the many websites pro players put up.

I therefore don't think the main challenges lie in these areas of international links or fan bases. In no special order, I think the go world needs first to work out how AI will affect go, how to recover from the lifestyle changes brought about by the Covid pandemic, and (assuming those two things have tilted most people digital-wards) how to compete with other digital pastimes such as gaming. These challenges apply also in Korea and China, and they also apply to many organisations outside go - newspapers, for instance.


I guess I somewhat agree that it would be misleading to say there is a dearth of international coverage, although what's good level of international coverage for a national game like shogi is not necessarily enough for an international game like igo. But even before that, I think there lies a deeper problem since I read a Japanese comment saying that you more easily find information and coverage about the charms of shogi players compares to what's put out by the 囲碁 bodies and news coverage. Perhaps the international competition has made 囲碁 organisations lose sight of the people focus while the 将棋 world in it's more leisurely environment didn't.

In my personal experience, my sisters are much more interested in playing on a real life board than a computer, yet alone an AI. I think the AI problem began way before AlphaGo, it began when internet go players started becoming reliant on orienting beginners to play computers when they should. This is another consequence of the traditional preponderance of computer types in the western 바둑 sphere that you accurately noted which is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps I am biased because I see the game as a representation of personal relationships, or of biological cells surviving through coorooative behavior with friendly cell against hostile cells, but at least in the west there is still a major deficiency in the people-oriented approach to promoting, which is a mighty irony considering that is probably one of the strongest points of the western 바둑 scene. As for the east, because unlike 将棋, 囲碁 is a 世界棋. It would be foolhardy to rely on national icons as priority over international icons and expect the same results. Most people who watch Wimbledon in UK don't do so because of a 20 something ranked brit, unless they where a former top ten. Most would watch anyway for the top players from elsewhere. And I'm not sure, but I think the BBC covers not just Wimbledon but at least one other Grand Slam in a foreign country, the US Open isn't it?. And at least the French Open is covered by a freeview corporate channel The Japanese 囲碁 media only adopt this attitude to a lukewarm degree for 囲碁 consideration the urgency of the situation, yet they don't adopt the leisurely approach of the 将棋 world, so both effect forms of promotion are neglected a bit. Overnationalition of the game may be a problem, some may think, I don't know if it's a hinderance or benifit. But lack of intersectionality is a major sin by all the pro organisations if surviving and thriving is the goal, wasting a golden opportunity to take advantage of the international go scene while scoring those precious woke points half of us loathe but we all seem to need these days or you'd be considered a meanie. Although to 12 year old me what would convince most people was not the the wokeness, otherwise it would have been done long ago, but simply the win-win logic for all sides in just the most basic reasonung for having events for those groups in the first place. But I don't know if even that would convince no one, but leftists. I've harked on enough about it elsewhere to sound like a professional virtue signaller to account for being 12 years to late to raise the alarm so I'm not sure how much benefit it would be for me to go into detox here would be, but for the sake of survival, not wokeness, any form of of restrictiOn of player group, be it geographic, Age or Gender should all play each other regularly, and thr GG Auction Cup isn't nearly enough.

So yes it's N and B for a reason but it's not North Korea or Bermuda Triangle! Especially considering how world-wide oriented young people like to think of themselves as, seeming world-wide focused is a way the 囲碁 organisations in 日本 can not only attract young people but one-up the 将棋 association. But maybe I'm wrong, haha!

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