Can i start the game at 19 and hope to become pro

It’s maybe sound like a joke for you , but i need a honest answer please

Honestly? I don’t think it’s ever happened.

If you are really really motivated, I’d say give it a try. Study hard for a couple months and see where it takes you. If you can’t reach OGS 1D in 6 months then there is little hope.

Honestly too, I’ve met a few pros in my life and it’s not as glamorous as it might sound, unless you reach the very top. For all these young inseis the dream is to become a 9 Dan pro, not just a pro. It’s not unusual for young pros to give up and go back to college when they realize they won’t reach the top level.


For context, (according to a source I found) all but one pro is under 32 years old in the Korean Baduk League. With a few exceptions, most players tend to start young, become professionals in their late teens, and reach their peak ability in their 20s.

However, there’s at least one guy who became a Chess “Grandmaster” at 77 years old… (no idea when he started playing). If you happen to be extraordinarily naturally gifted and are willing to put in an absurd amount of work… maybe? But realistically - almost certainly not.

That said, becoming a Dan is an entirely feasible goal at 19. It’s even possible to get there within a year if you’re extremely dedicated. Maybe start there and decide if you want to continue.


The writer of “lessons in the fundamentals” wrote something about that in the introduction of the book.

I lost any hope to become pro ever when a 7 years old young chinese beat me (i played 3d) i would say crushed me… he was already 6d.


Warning: old, old thread

Nakayama Noriyuki is famous for taking up Go late, and also becoming a professional very late as well (30).

In the AGA E–Journal of 2004, it was reported:

Nakayama sensei began playing go when he was 15 years old, just after the end of the Second World War. He had watched the game often, and knew the rules, but had never held the stones himself. “Go was not a children’s game. Of all the Japanese pros, I probably have the latest start.”

Sensei’s Library, though, claims that he began at 13. This tallies better with his birth date, which is given as September 3, 1932, supposing as SL says that he took it up in 1945. I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been some confusion over Oriental age notation, which can produce “ages” a year or even two older than in the Western system.

I think it’s safe to say that one must be exceptionally gifted to, in the 21st century, reach the professional level without having played seriously before one’s tenth birthday. Some of the strongest professionals, like Cho Hunhyun, were even able to qualify before that time.

Outside of Go, Joseph Blackburne was able to become a chess professional, and even a top one, after learning the game at 17 or 18 “in, say, 1859.” I thought I’d read that Paul Keres (b. 1916) was forbidden to study chess for a time as a child, but Wikipedia doesn’t mention this, and in any case by 1930 (13 or 14) he was the Estonian schoolboy champion.

I’ve also read about some classical (ie. pre-1900s) Go players who were noticed as particularly strong children but, for financial reasons, weren’t able to train as insei until teenagers or young adults.

By the way, Ronald Schlemper (who could have been a professional if he had wanted), was not a massively high-ranked child. At 12 he was “only” a shodan.

However, this was in 1973 when there were actually very few dan players in Europe. The BGA lists less than twenty in the UK, iirc. Note also that he was studying in Tokyo around that time, so there might well have been significant rank lag. Schlemper was looking to qualify around 1990 but dropped out to pursue a more lucrative career in medicine.

Michael Redmond (b. 1963) only started playing at the fairly late age of 11. James Kerwin even began Go in college, which would have been in the early-mid 1960s, and moved to Japan to study at 25. However, Kerwin did not have to qualify via the insei system.

If Kerwin was as old as 19, then some kind of answer could be provided to the OP question:

“I very much doubt you can in this day and age. One perhaps could, if “one” can include players like Kerwin, Redmond, Schlemper and Nakayama who learnt before the '80s, and a more generous range “10–19”.”

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I checked on it. In 1971 the British dans were, in no particular order, Diamond, Daly, Dunn, Bates, Bock, Cooper, Cock, Goddard, Hitchens, Hall, Wells, Irving, Tilley and Fairbairn.

14 players.

That lets us guess at a number of, what, about a hundred European dans in 1973?

Now, was a shodan then stronger or weaker than now? That can only be established by studying kifu.

By the way, a much more realistic and, perhaps, more fun goal for a player starting at 19 might be like this:

  • Play online and study, go to tournaments. Try to reach EGF 3d before 25, if possible.

  • Once you’re 3d, incorporate some Japanese study. Look for an excuse, like teaching, to live and work in Japan for a few years.

  • Now that you’re in Japan, find a club. Go there at least a few times a week. Buy teaching games from professionals.

  • With no small amount of luck, suppose that you’ve managed to bulk up to the level of about EGF 5d before 35. Now endeavour to leave Japan and go somewhere new, where Go isn’t all that strong.

  • Begin spreading the game! Get involved with the association if there is one; start to run a club from your house or in a cafe; start giving lessons and teaching games.

  • Welcome to a way to spend the next few decades in Go that could be more interesting and fulfilling than being a low-dan professional anyway.


When I hear these types of questions, I always wonder - “What does being a pro mean to you?” What is it about being a professional Go player that makes this goal worth pursuing?

Do you want to be able to play this game full-time and make enough income to support yourself from tournament winnings? Do you want to become famous and dominate the other players in the field?

To me, it is akin to someone who takes a few tennis lessons, realizes that they enjoy the game, and immediately jumps to “I want to play at Wimbledon!”. Well, you have to ask yourself, how realistic is that goal and what sort of work would one have to do to reach it?

Part of that question is - who would you be competing against? In this regard, (both in tennis and in Go) youth is definitely a factor, because at age 19 a lot of your competitors would have a ~10 year head start on you. At each point in your journey, you would be competing against players who have the advantage of having more energy, more flexible minds, etc.

The other advantage all those young Go playing kids have over you is they don’t need to make a living while they do nothing but study Go all day every day. You have to go get a job and support yourself somehow for 10 years while you make that long climb to being a paid professional - meaning you’ll have to do all that studying after working 6-8 hours a day.

Can those obstacles be overcome? Sure - but is it worth the effort of putting in 8 to 12 hour days, 6 days a week for 10 years doing nothing but playing and studying Go? What rewards would you need at the end of that journey to make the whole thing worth it? A yearly income? Being famous? Is there a way that you can enjoy this game, and work towards a more attainable goal (i.e. reaching amateur Shodan etc) that would satisfy you?


My usual response to these questions is: see how long it takes you to go from beginner to 1 dan. Then multiply by 10 for a rough idea of time to get to pro strength (if you have talent and keep studying hard and don’t plateau like most people, myself included). And hope you aren’t over 40 by then because your brain will be turning to mush.

And this is more like a lower bound than any guarantee, that’s plenty of people who make 1 dan in a year and they are generally mid to high dans but not pros after 10 years. I was never officially 1 dan, but 2 dan after 2 years, and am just 4 dan after 16 years. If I didn’t get married and kept studying hard I think I could have been 6 dan by now, but not pro. Most of the people who ask this question never make 1 dan.


Note that R. Schlemper did get a pro level not only in go and medecine but in music too!


There is Catalin Taranu who started at 16 and reached 5p.


Even this… This can produce a lot of disappointement because it’s not true.
It happens for very few players which are not only dedicated but talented too, usually they will rank much higher as 1D soon enough. But for a huge majority of players it will take much longer as a year if it ever happens.


Imagine if someone asked this:

I am 19 years old and I have just discovered and started playing the wonderful game of football (soccer). I’ve never kicked a ball before last week but now that I have I love it! Do you think I could become a professional football player?

No chance! Effectively all professional football players (I’m sure there will be a small number of exceptions but the vast majority will follow this route) started as young children to learn and practice the basic skills, started to get good and did some more serious youth training, joined a club to get some competitive experience, got spotted by a talent scout and joined a youth development programme, started playing professionally in their 20s or more likely late teens, retire in their 30s.

None of them started playing at 19.

When you think of Go as a sport (a mind sport but a sport nonetheless), it’s no surprise that the route for professional Go players is somewhat similar.


And Catalin fits pretty well to my “pro is 10x 1 dan” heuristic. Pavol Lisy 2p is someone who doesn’t: he spent a long time as a kyu child and then raced through the dans in almost linear fashion once he started playing more seriously.


Here’s a weird question - rather than being a Go professional - have you ever considered being a famous Go-related YouTuber? If you look at someone like




these are people who have managed to turn their interest in Go - and helping other people understand the game - into something that rewards them with income and a moderate amount of fame, all without having to compete on the professional level.

Now, building up a YT channel with an adequate following to get noticed - much less paid on a regular basis - has its own significant challenges, but I would argue that this type of goal might be a lot more realistic than playing Go on a professional level and being able to making a living off of it.

I guess the question I keep coming back to is - what types of satisfaction and reward are you looking to get out of these achievements? Can you find a more realistic path forward that is still rewarding for you?


That’s answering about the money side but the dream to be really one of the best player remains.

And somewhere as long as a dream is a dream I’m fine with it.

The problem comes when one ask how his dream is adequate with the reality .

You could always make it to 2 Dan and then hope that a new rating system comes out which magically makes you 6d!


And I guess that was part of my question - is the dream “to be the best in the world”? or “to do something Go-related and make a living from it”? because one of those is much more attainable than the other…

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Sure. Now put yourself in that 19yrs old skin:

Do you think he is asking to be the guy sitting in the glass box relaying the race or the guy sitting in the formula1 car?

OK, sure, but since the majority of this thread has been trying to gently break the news that sitting in the Formula1 car is highly unlikely - would they rather be sitting at home watching the race on TV, or in the glass box commenting from the track? :wink: