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 Post subject: Age limit on Japanese pro exam for foreigners?
Post #1 Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 6:14 pm 
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Does anyone have current info on the age limit for foreigners to take the pro exam with the Nihon Ki-in or the Kansai Ki-in (possibly with the special test format for the Kansai Ki-in)?

The most recent info I can find says foreigners are able to take the exam qualifier as long as they are younger than 30, but all the info is a couple years out of date.

For reference, I'm about to turn 28, and I've been fortunate enough to have a career that's allowed me to save up a couple decades of living expenses, so I'm considering quitting my job to study go full time and try to pass the pro exam while I still can. I know this would be an insane thing to do, but I've spent the last several years chasing money, and I think it might be time to chase my dreams.

I'm planning on contacting the Nihon Ki-in/Kansai Ki-in directly, but people here seem super knowledgeable, so I thought I'd ask here. (Also, it looks like it's even less realistic to become a pro in China/Korea, but if I'm mistaken, please let me know.)


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Post #2 Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 10:04 pm 
Honinbo
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Hi TTT,

Pretty insane, but hey, it's an adventure.
May I ask what's your current approx. level ?

Please keep us posted, and good luck! :)

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Post #3 Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 10:41 pm 
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Hello, good dream.

I don't know much about the age limit but as an assitant teacher in korean baduk school I'm more concerned with your training. Of course I don't know your level but your training must be the most important part in this adventure. I am not sure that Japan is the best place to train.
I know a lot of amateurs who came in Korea or in China to get a real training.
Hope this website can help you and if you need MP me, I will be happy to help you too.

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Post #4 Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 10:56 pm 
Honinbo
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Quote:
your training must be the most important part in this adventure.
Well, that's a thesis...

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Post #5 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 2:13 am 
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The Kansai Ki-in is the easiest organisation to get into. The Nihon Ki-in snobs think that's because the standards are lower but the KK tends to try that little bit harder in many ways. Two late-coming "foreign" players there who speak good English may be the best to help you with their impressions and experiences, though both have oriental language backgrounds which may have been a special help.

They are Li Ting and Francis Meyer.

But do note that Meyer became 1-dan in 2014 and Li Ting in 2010 (aged 29) and both are still 1-dan, as of 2018. So you need to decide whether your dream is just to become a pro or to make a career as a tournament pro.

Being foreign or part-foreign is not necessarily a major issue. Joanne Missingham has had a successful career. But she became 1-dan at age 14. Age is a major issue. It's difficult - not quite impossible - to find any pro, foreign or otherwise, who gets beyond the beginning grades after starting late in life.

As an informal guide to what becoming a pro takes, consider the problem below (Black to play and live). Michael Redmond gives it in his autobiography. He says it was presented at the end of a lecture by Iwamoto to a large group of amateurs players, including at least some high dans, in Michael's hometown of Santa Barbara. Iwamoto asked who could solve it. Only Michael, who said he found the rest of the lecture very hard to understand as he was so young, was able to put his hand up. He was 11. But it took him another four years to be accepted as an insei and a further three years to become 1-dan, while just still a teenager (he has, however, since become the first non-Asian to reach 9-dan). If you read Japanese, his book provides plenty of insights for a budding pro. Chapter 3, the title of which will appeal to you (Achieving the Dream and Becoming a Pro), for example, starts off with the common problem of starting as an insei and posting awful results - in his case compounded with homesickness and language difficulties. In other words, you need to be a special person beyond the go board, too.



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Post #6 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 3:44 am 
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Thanks everyone! It looks like the answer is that foreigners can probably still take the exam, but knowing that Li Ting and Francis Meyer might be people to ask is really helpful if I can't find another good way to ask the Kansai Ki-in.

I'm only 3k online right now (several years of pretty light recreational play), so I have a long way to go to even get to the starting line. My current plan for training is to train with strong AI--since it hasn't been available to the public long, it seems like the most likely form of training to give me an edge (between age and language, I don't think a traditional approach is likely to work--even going to Korea to train, I'd only give myself a 10% chance of succeeding to get in the Kansai Ki-in).

I'll probably try reaching out to the Nihon Ki-in or Kansai Ki-in next, then. I'm okay with trying to succeed with crazy odds, but I do want to make sure I'm not too old to try.

Thanks!

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Post #7 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 4:40 am 
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If you are 3-kyu why are you thinking about turning professional?
Wouldn't it be smarter to see how fast you can shift your rating upward with 1 or 2 months intensive training first? You can even consult your trainer at the end of the course.

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Post #8 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 5:09 am 
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If you want and are able to spend the next 2 years of your life playing/studying Go intensively then cool, have a blast! (I recommend going to BIBA). However, some realism if the purpose is the destination of pro rather than having a fun journey. It is a long way from 3k to pro, even if a weakie foreign pro rather than world class pro. For example Nikola Mitic was a Serbian strong 5d going on 6d who studied as an insei in Japan (Nihon Ki-in) recently. He rose through the insei groups and took but failed the pro test (Antti Tormanen passed). He's now back in Europe and playing as a 7d and probably a bit weaker than the Euro pros like Ilya and Pavol, see his rating graph below (he was in Japan 2015-16).

Image

So 6d to 7d is hard. 7d to 8d is harder. You probably don't need to be 8d EGF strength (like Ilya) to get pro in Kansai Ki-in (Li Ting isn't) but if we take that as the end point then maybe give 1 year for 7d-8d, 6 months for 6d-7d (Nikola took over a year), and 6 months total to 6d. I got to 2d in 2 years and have taken about 4 years per dan grade since, so let's give you 2 weeks to 2d and about 1 month per dan grade to 6d. So here's my "Are you on track to pro in 2 years?" rank progression timeline:

1 week: 1d
2 weeks: 2d
1 month: 3d
2 months: 4d
4 months: 5d
6 months: 6d
1 year: 7d
2 years: 8d/pro.


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Post #9 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 5:21 am 
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If one's goal is just to get to 1p, note should be taken of the fact that many Western pros qualified by some special process, not by passing through the tournament test. Another point is that some Western players function at the 1p level but without the official imprimitur. Some Oriental pros have qualified without going through the insei route. One noteworthy one is Hideyuki Sakai who became a KK pro by special promotion after winning the WAGC (twice?). Sakai was, however, a very strong amateur at a young age. Finally, qualifying as pro is difficult even for Oriental players who start at an "old" age. The late Nakayama Noriyuki began studying to become a pro at age 21, with his mentor Suzuki Goro, but it still took him until age 30 to pass the qualification test. He did reach a rank of 6p eventually.

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 Post subject: Re: Age limit on Japanese pro exam for foreigners?
Post #10 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 5:47 am 
Oza

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Quote:
One noteworthy one is Hideyuki Sakai who became a KK pro by special promotion after winning the WAGC (twice?). Sakai was, however, a very strong amateur at a young age.


Yes. Sakai Hideyuki was a special case in many ways. To be pedantic, he became a pro by special permission rather than promotion (having passed the cut-off age of 28 while qualifying to be a medical doctor), but had a series of trial games to assess his starting grade, after which he got the special promotion straight to 5-dan, which surpassed even Go Seigen.

He was, however, as you remark, very strong from a very tender age and was marked out early on for special treatment (e.g. games with pros).

But even with his stellar talent and advantages you could argue that he never quite made it to the top (a single major title notwithstanding). Would he have dominated the go world if he skipped medicine?

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Post #11 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 7:47 am 
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well if you have enough money its a great idea!
i recommend you to visit a korean yunguseng doyang(like private go school)and learn there its quite tough,you probably need to learn korean too,i cannot recommend biba if you want to become pro,its way too soft.The school from kwon kap young is really the most famous and succesfull school in Korea.(Players like leesedol park jung hwang trained there)If you study there 2 years 12 hours everyday,you might have a chance to become pro in Japan.But how strong are you right now?below 4 dan is pretty much hopeless,but anyway worth a shot.

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Post #12 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:08 am 
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physically its possible to become pro in 2 years but there are some risks i should mention,you will definetely face desperation,also you may start to hate the game of go since its not likely everything goes as planned(it never does)Go will become a struggle and hard work,far away from an enyoyable game,if you can overcome this you maybe have a little chance but its really really tough,in China and Korea you shouldnt even try to become pro the competion is way to tough.(sry for these harsh words)Actually if you are strong enough(like strong pro) you can become pro even if you are older than 30,so dont worry to much about it.If you get strong enough you can become pro in Europe there is not really an age limit i think.What i want to say is ,during your journey Go wont be really fun for the most time,keep that in mind and have a try!

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Post #13 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:18 am 
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The Nihon Kiin allows those under 24; I think this has been the case for at least a decade, possibly lowered due to increased competition. I doubt there is a different limit for foreigners.

The insei limit is under 19(?) for Japanese and under 24 for foreigners.

Exams are run at the Nihon Kiin headquarters in the form of three round robins (non-insei league; winners enter the preliminary league with B-Class insei; winners of that enter the main exam with A-Class insei). A similar exam is held at the Nihon Kiin Kansai office.

I believe that exams at the Kansai Kiin are conducted based on a direct assessment of strength relative to current Kansai Kiin professionals rather than what may be the increasing strength of young aspiring professionals; you must defeat one. I am unsure as to the age limit for the Kansai Kiin exam.

Best wishes!

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Post #14 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:31 am 
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I may also note that in Korea I think that you may still have a chance via special recommendation, maybe if you are at least 7d EGF in strength or so...

Antti Törmänen 1p passed by special recommendation with the Nihon Kiin after winning over half of his games; he was 7d EGF (a little over 2650 rating points) at the time (the two players out of fourteen with the best record pass so 7.5d-8.0d range seems to fit new Nihon Kiin professionals).

Best wishes!

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 Post subject: Re: Age limit on Japanese pro exam for foreigners?
Post #15 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:39 am 
Judan

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baduk wrote:
i recommend you to visit a korean yunguseng doyang(like private go school)and learn there its quite tough,you probably need to learn korean too,i cannot recommend biba if you want to become pro,its way too soft.The school from kwon kap young is really the most famous and succesfull school in Korea.

I agree that if you want to be pro in 2 years BIBA is too soft, I was recommending it as more balanced and fun, with fellow foreigners to reduce culture shock and isolation (Mateusz Surma studied at some Korean schools and got quite lonely, he has now made Euro pro but was about 5d I think when he first went).

@Elom, 2650 was Antti's European rating before his main period of insei study, so I expect he was a fair bit stronger than that when he turned pro. Not sure how strong he is now, my guess is he would be mid to high 2700s EGF.

P.S. @TTT: Are you female? That might make it easier (in terms of lower skill level needed, in terms of living alone in a foreign country it could be harder).

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Post #16 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 4:19 pm 
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Uberdude wrote:
For example Nikola Mitic was a Serbian strong 5d going on 6d who studied as an insei in Japan (Nihon Ki-in) recently. He rose through the insei groups and took but failed the pro test (Antti Tormanen passed).


Minor point but Antti didn't pass the test. He became pro based on having a good performance during the test and given pro status due to being a foreigner.

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Post #17 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 4:24 pm 
Judan

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Well, the pass mark for foreigners was 50% and top 2 or whatever for natives :). I presume Nikola faced the same conditions?

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Post #18 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 5:46 pm 
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I imagine the native candidates might be angry at having to meet a higher standard.

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Post #19 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:43 pm 
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What is the reason for foreigners to have lower standards? Is this to encourage the development of go in the rest of the world?
And a slightly related question, one I've wondered about before; what sort of level are insei typically when they start? I see a lot of amateur 9D on Tygem, Fox etc. that play against pro's; is it likely that all possible pro's are already at the kind of level before they start studying to try to pass the pro exam?
I have much more modest goals, but have made a commitment to consistently work at the game. I spend 2-4 hours every day playing/studying, and have so far kept that up since the start of this year, so today is day 123, with somewhere around 350-400 hours+ spent playing, solving problems, watching lectures, reviewing, playing through pro games... I can't imagine the talent and effort that is required to make it to the top levels.

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Post #20 Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 9:42 pm 
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In Japan, the weaker insei are probably 1-4 dan (in a solid system, not japanese rank). Antti won nearly all his game in class E and D during his first months as an insei in Japan, and got to the middle of class C. He was 6d EGF at the time.

It still took him something like 4 years to achieve pro status.


I'm pretty sure it's impossible to attain pro level in two years if you're "stuck" at 3k level without studying. But I'll be glad to be proved wrong !

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