American Go Professionals coming soon?


When my phone pinged an email as I was getting comfortable for some nap-time before my next work shift I did not expect perusing it would have me hot-footing it back to my computer. What I’d received was the newest edition of the AMERICAN GO E-JOURNAL which I’d recently started receiving.

It contained a headline reading Cho Hun-Hyun 9P ‘s Message to American Go Players and contained this:  Cho Hun-Hyun 9P – considered one of the greatest players of all time – has sent the American go community his congratulations “on starting your professional system and hosting the Cotsen Open,” adding that “I hope the American go community develops further through this tournament and that many will enjoy go as a mind sport.”

Wait, What?! American Go Professionals?

Which at first made me very confused, and very exited. Not because I, myself at 22-kyu have any hopes of soon of becoming one. No, it’s because we haven’t ever had a qualification for becoming Pro in America. Any ‘American Pro’ players were given their Pro status by other countries like Korea, China, and Japan among others.

Such an exciting concept I needed more information on, ASAP!

I found the 2012 Cotsen Go Open with 1st AGA-Tygem Pro Prelim information which states:

“Two candidates will be selected for the AGA’s first ever professional certification tournament to be held at the US Go Congress this summer in Black Mountain, NC.” 

I set to work scouring the internet.

What I’ve found is that the AGA inked a deal with Korea to develop a US Pro System.

What this means is still unclear. There are at least 2 tournaments prior to the Go Congress which are considered Professional Prelim tournaments. One in Seattle and one in Los Angeles. I was also able to find a rumor floating around that there may be one on the east coast that hasn’t been announced yet.

Well now I know the US Pro’s will automatically be qualified to play in several Korean tournaments. However I’m still shaky on what qualifications a US Pro will have, how many will become pro this year, and if there is planned to be an age-cap in the future for becoming Pro. The latter of which I’m sure is an important question for those who are dan-level but already over most Asian age-limits.

A professional rank for Americans (and possibly Canadians if I read correctly) can only be a good thing in the long run. However I’m worried about finances for those who do become Pro Players. We don’t have a lot of big paying tournaments tournament prizes. Would there be wages paid to professionals to support them? Traveling to Korea or any other country to take part in tournaments is going to be a hefty expenditure for a lot of people.

It’s also unclear which tournament at the US Go Congress will be the Pro Qualifier. The broadcast dates/times for the TygemBaduk don’t seem to be announced yet either.

Then as I was reading I suffered a moment of confusion.

“As many as six Korea Baduk Association (KBA) rank certificates will be awarded to dan players between 1d and 6d, courtesy of Kim Myung-wan 9p and the KBA.” Which is swiftly followed by “…KBA Secretary General Yang Jae-ho 9P, who will be commenting, teaching and observing the opening phase of US pro certification process” 

What exactly IS a KBA Rank Certificate? Just a shiny piece of paper that helps us determine how strong someone is? Is that Rank Certificate based on Korean standards for determining rank, or AGA standards? I’m leaning toward thinking these KBA certificates are just that – some nice pieces of paper to be very Very VERY proud of.

What else they mean, I couldn’t tell you since I can’t find any information written in English about them. However since Korea is helping us set up a professional system, these may have more weight and meaning than I realize.

After thinking about it for a while I became marginally less confused. I’ll admit the way these things are written is so brief and un-educational it’s pretty hard for someone like me who doesn’t follow every drop and scrap of information out there to understand. So yes I initially did have a brain-moment that said “wait, are we becoming professionals in America, or in Korea?”

Regardless of my confusion about what a KBA Rank Certificate is, I think it will be safe to say we are in fact getting our own “American Pro” players. Who as a added bonus get to play in Korean Tournaments. Pro status under an American qualification could even have further reaching implications for how we are received in other international tournaments.

I’ve included all the link’s I was able to find.

AGA Article References:

Professional Prelim Tournaments:
Other Sites:
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