Are all of the strongest amateurs ex-inseis?

Or at least did insei-like study period in China/Japan/Korea. Seems like it?
I know the usual correlation vs causation argument. But is there any super strong amateur that didn’t do that kind of insei study?

I’m talking about those national champions and representative for international tournaments. Or possibly super strong players in some go servers. Near or at pro strength.


The 100 strongest amateurs in the world are surely all from the East Asian go powerhouses of China Korea Japan Taiwan. Vast majority of these will be former insei (or yunguseng, or whatever the Chinese call it) who didn’t make pro, maybe a few just studied in a go school but weren’t insei.

If you are talking about top amateurs from other countries, then there’s not many at the top insei level of European 7d+. To take example of Stanislaw Frejlak 7d from Poland who recently beat pro strength Chinese amateur Ma Tianfeng in the WAGC he hasn’t been an insei, but he has studied in a Chinese go school as part of the EGF CEGO training program. Older top European players like Cristian Pop 7d and Csaba Mero 6d did study as insei in Japan (Christian’s friend Catalin Taranu made pro). I know Cornel Burzo 6d is unusual in being one of the top Romanian players who didn’t study as insei.


What about Dai Junfu and Thomas Debarre?

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Dai studied in a go school in China when younger, not sure if it would count as officially insei as the Chinese professional system was less developed back then but basically the same. If I recall correctly some future top Chinese pro was his classmate, maybe Ma Xiaochun?

AFAIK Thomas hasn’t been insei in Asia, but he has studied fairly seriously with pros in Europe like Guo Juan and Fan Hui. And think he went to BIBA for a bit.


Pretty much yeah, its this. Those top amateurs from outside JAP/CHI/KOR have usually been top amateurs before they have gone to study in those countries. Not all of them had the goal of making it to professionals in asia, but just to learn under professional teachers and improve their own go even further.

Maybe nowdays with modern bots its easier to improve at very high level, but back in the day improving from 5-6D was almost impossible without having a professional teacher. And those teachers were pretty much all located in those few asian countries.


I think this is overstating the need to study in Asia to become European 6d. If we are talking 20th century so pre-internet (which made it far easy to play lots of strong players from around the world and improve) then there were probably a few dozen such players and most of these didn’t study in Asia. One example would be Matthew Macfadyen 6d, 25 time British champion and 4 time European champion in the 80s. He wasn’t insei, just lots of self study with go books (his copies of Ishida’s joseki dictionary are very worn). His level is quite a bit lower than top Asian amateurs nowadays, not sure about in the past as there weren’t loads of super strong Korean 7ds in the 80s before the Korean Go boom.

With the internet and some Asian pros moving to Europe in the 21st century, more people can improve to 6d on their own plus local teaching without needing to go to Asia, though there are also rather less formal go camps than being insei (I’ve been to one in China for 2 months in 2007, and Korea for 1.5 months in 2013). It’s at the European 7d level that you’ll find a significant proportion have studied seriously in Asia as insei or similar, but even then there’s probably 100 Korean or Chinese amateurs stronger than them.


Heh yeah, i’m still a kyu so i don’t know what it takes to get among the top xD

But what you said is kinda what i meant, for getting stronger from that 5 or 6d level into 7d’s and pros, most people have needed really good teachers and have spent time on studying in Asia. Not all of them of course, but quite big percentage. Maybe not in a insei-like programs meant to produce future pros, but have attended camps, private go schools, or something similiar. I dont see many names on top 50 by EGF placement who haven’t studied in some of those countries at some point of their life ^^

And i guess that it requires huuuuge amount of effort and dedication to reach that that 5 or 6d in the first place, people like you are a rarity, most of us never even reach 1d >___>
I can imagine how someone so motivated would want seek the strongest teachers and best training possible, even if that means going aboard to get it.


Yes, it takes a certain amount of natural aptitude/talent and lots of effort to reach 5 or 6d, more than I have put in as I’m still only 4d EGF in real life! My higher OGS rank is a correspondence one based on putting lots of effort into games, using analysis board and eliminating the mistakes in time pressure that lose me many real life games.

To reach high dan, you have probably been pretty obsessive about Go at some point in your life, which could be to the detriment of other things. Matthew tells a story that when he was working for the meteorological office (which I think was his first job after studying physics at Oxford) he wanted to take 2 weeks off to go to the European Go Congress but they said no. So he quit and went to the EGC. He then worked as a freelance electrician as it gave him the flexibility to play lots of Go.


The chinese pros retire younger and younger nowadays due to competition. 25+ is considered old. What do they do after retiring from pro competition, they teach. they are widely accessible now. So it is very hard to imagine top chinese amateurs nowadays don’t seek help from those pros. but what type of learning from pros can be considered as insei, i don’t know.


Westerners who became insei but did not proceed to become professionals (last updated 2017)


One example would be Matthew Macfadyen 6d, 25 time British champion and 4 time European champion in the 80s.

I stumbled on this in the AGA E-Journal, from 2006:

Matthew Macfadyen 6d now has won 68 straight games in the Welsh Open.

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Yohei Negi 3d ended his run a few years later.


Before internet I think a majority of the strong ama didn’t go to Asia to study go. Thinking of A. Moussa in France too for ex but not only.
It looked maybe more expensive or less accessible to go there.
Then new coming young players started to be invited and it became more usual . Even a kind of business with training programs.

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