AI's impact on chess & go


Haylee! :smiley:

I reverse the question

So according to Haylee’s quote, pros have now more difficulties to get students?

I was just half expecting that, half because the pro organization didn’t change yet that much, same recruitement, no mass ending of careers…
But still frightening words coming from the mouth of a pro player.

Like her i find that with AI, go lost some magic, becoming more a mind sport as a lifetime pursuit. Motivation moved from practicing an art between humans to beat the beast and its underpowered variants.
It’s painful because all a world community of cumulative knowledge and efforts to progress, remunerate a few, spray for free the theory, wisdom and the discoveries for many, all is at the edge of a cliff, ready to mostly disappear and let everyone explore in his own corner.

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Ever since I dug into history research, I come to realize sometimes the line between correlation and coincidence is not easy to distinguish. My personal opinion is this is more of an unfortunate coincidence, than a simple correlation.

The rise of easy access online free economic model might be the first stone to cause the change. Do you know who Shin jinseo’s teacher is? He would tell you his parents, but mostly from training online in his early pro years before AIs. Most early online play platforms struggle to survive, and their solutions were usually pay-to-play or membership fee, etc., But this normally just shrink the user base instead of increase them, and they go bust anyway. However, with the rise of all type of freemium model borrowed from free-to-play online games, we finally settle down to a few big platforms where most players congregated and can be sustained. And the need for physical congregations and in-person training finally moved to online practice and online review. This is a gradual process, but I think around early 2010 the old models started to die out, and the ones that embrace the new model replaced them. A lot of amateurs now can access to wider range of pros and top players anytime for free (or much cheaper and flexible fee)

On top of that, there was another change in streaming and remote lecturing that shifted the traditional lecturing model. I have a personal example. In my old high school Go club, we usually invite pros (or famous high dan amateur teachers) for lectures several times per semester, and they usually required additional travel stipend on top of their lecturing fee. But when free and easy-to-setup remote video call became popular, some lecturers would just accept cheaper skype lecturing instead of in-person lecture, where both sides can save travel expanses, time, money and the lecture is not that much different (and I got to be the meat hand, placing stones on the teaching board). And our selection of lecturers also widen for those lived far away (even abroad). The adverse effect is local pros lived nearby who are not famous but can waver travelling stipend lost their advantage. When I looked up the lecturers’ history since the social media era, I saw exactly this trend, more remote lectures for big names, less local pros. This is a trend started years before AI, but became more and more common till today.

The same shift toward online class happened for private tutoring, and exacerbated by the unfortunate timing of COVID 19. The shift from in-person to online, is not limited to Go, but all activities that required gathering and travelling. Covid hit CJK area earlier than everywhere else since late 2019 to early 2020, which coincidently around the same time right after the easy-to-access AIs started to show up. AI is more like a supplement but not replacement for online tutoring, and the downward price of private tutoring had already begun for decades before it. Those who get hit the hardest are those who don’t realize the online free-model with microtransaction, advertisement, gift-economy, freelance market is no longer a seller’s market, but buyer’s market. The AIs are just another type of competitors. (and the solution should be finding their niche, instead of mimicking competitors)

And finally, the scarcity of commodity. The brand of “becoming pros” had been diluted for quite a while, along with several rapid expansions. The policy to include special promotion of very young players dated back for decades. And teenager pros exploded in this decade, and now they start to face the reality of living in a tough time. Let’s think about the pros numbered in the hundreds who were mostly in their 20s to 30s, even 40s in prime before, to thousands pros where more than half are below the age of 25 today. The sponsorship from corporations doesn’t change much, and the number of competitions remain relatively stable (even shrinking) over the decades, and their prize money can only support so many pros. This caused a fundamental shift between pros and their associations. Most pros now are forced to find other income than competitions, and the friendly terms between pros and their associations deteriorated over time (which is one of the main cause for Lee Sedol’s “retirement”, he doesn’t want the association to get a cut of his prize, and the association threaten to forbid him from competing in pro matches, and chose to “retire”). The increase of supply for pros in the “outsourcing job market”, inadvertently compete with each other for price. It is a niche market and has already going through merger, commercialization over the years. The family style tutoring had already given way to large corporate style Go schools (there are only 3 major ones in Korea IIRC) for decades. This is nothing new, and a gradual culture shift. The master-student traditional became teacher-students, or just study groups with administrators. The need for long-term carrier planning had been an increasing issues more and more, started long ago before AI. To correlated it with AI is missing the bigger picture.

Just think about the example of buying coffee. Everyone can brew coffee in their home with cheap or expansive coffee machine, why people would still pay top dollars to go to Starbucks, or cheaper ones in other corner coffee shops? I think what pros really need, is to be more artisan instead of less in this day and age.


That’s quite a deeper Analysis, thanks for sharing.
In french we say "c’est la goutte qui fait deborder le vase " (Translate as "It’s the drop of water which makes overflow the bucket "), so we can say that about AI considering the context.

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Studying history also taught me not to be blindsided by views from a particular group in just one era.
Think about the end of the Edo era in Japan, the great houses for hundreds of years had relied on the Shogun as the sole economic sources, and the collapse of the Shogun system, seems to push the end of the Great Houses system.

However, was the end of the Great Houses system, where Go no longer been a status symbol for cultured upper-class marked the end of Go? People in the Great Houses certainly thought so, and were all very pessimistic of their future, many players changed their professions. Even the future Honinbo Shuho left to wonder and lived by playing gambling games to make ends meet. But players at the time, didn’t give up, they found other economic sources to sustain them. The remaining Great Houses started to find corporate sponsors to replace the Shogun. Shuho and others who believe Go should not be limited as a pastime for nobles, published newspapers, magazines, wrote books, tried to survive with Hoensha and other privatized associations, eventually found their voice in the people. Go became more popular than ever before, and Go clubs, private Go schools, popped up everywhere (and despised by the Great Houses, and Hoensha in general, since they didn’t have “former training”). Even newspaper Go games were considered sell out by older players at the time. And this process took many decades to become the new norm, where the old structure and culture lived on for even longer. House Inoue even survived all the way to 1960s (technically till 1980s, more than 100 years after the end of the Edo period), and the master-apprentice system continued to this day.

History is a series of changes, and communities evolved. As long as Go is being played and remains a culture phenomenon, it will continue on, and likely getting more and more popular with cheaper and easier access for almost everyone (even a novice with no idea can cheer a game using AI to get some indication of the game). The views from pros are just that, a group of people who saw the shift in their familiar structure in the current form, and try to react. But new structures and culture will form regardless and replace them (or evolve from them). New variants of Go could pop up or merge with other games. When we look at a larger timescale, trigger events due to the collapse of dynasties had happened many times in ancient China, but the community lived on.

Rules change, and people still play similar games that slightly changed over time, thousands of years later we called Go today.


Here is an interesting discussion from several major pros who are now in the political positions in the Korean Go communities (association leader, professors, Go schools managers, etc.)

Google translation actually doesn’t do a good job auto-translate it, but a translation into Chinese and then auto-translate is much better

Chinese translated version

Auto translate to English (no perfect, but good enough)

It’s clear that pros and people make decisions are well-aware of the economic foundation issues (due to the number of pros, and the not-easily-scalable sponsored competition system). And the increasingly diluted authority from associations and the pro brand nowadays. It reminded me what happened at the end of the Great Houses era more than a hundred years ago. Different associations only saw problems within themselves and tried to change within, and forgot that players were facing full blunt impact head on, and were seeking solutions themselves. Whatever we call Go as noble’s pastime, upper-class symbol, sports event, or art performance, it doesn’t matter, what matters is how can players keep playing Go when they want to. Any association relies on exclusive right, is bound to be left behind when players start to seek other arena as long as they can be sustained.

And I think reducing the number of pros or redefined who can compete isn’t going to solve the problem, since the issue is about who would watch and learn and be part of the community, and now it’s already spread beyond CJK regions with people all around of world in an increasingly online activities world. As Hoensha found out in the early 20th century, stick with old structure isn’t going to help the growth, but to unite and welcome more people becoming interested and to play is the key. The divide between pros and amateurs might be a thing of a past in a not too distant future.

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The Dutch go association is very different from pro organisations in CJK (we are volunteer and amateur only). But we also are facing some issues that seem to be related to times changeing. Maybe not as much by AI, but definitely by reduced incentive to become member of a club or association, because of increasing competition from online play and online study resources.

When I started playing in 1988, physical clubs and tournaments were just about the only places where you could find opponents, teachers and study resources. Back then the Dutch go assocation had about twice the number of members as we do now (I think the Dutch chess association has had similar issues, albeit a bit earlier than us).

That has changed significantly in the last 15 or so years. The Dutch go association is now not focusing as much anymore on membership numbers. That may be a lost cause. Instead we just try to get more people to play go and get involved in go activities online or offline, without looking at our membership numbers as a measure of success.

And there is still hope. I think there are some offline activities that still do surprisingly well, despite the overall decline of local clubs and local tournaments: go congresses, go camps and go schools seem to increase in popularity (at least in some EGF countries).