My Pipe Dream

Ever since I was 13 when I read (surprise) Hikaru No Go I wanted to try Go professionally, but never had the time (wasn’t good at it either). Now I’m 19 almost 20 and things have happened that make me want to try again but there is some issues I live on a farm so I don’t have much for study nor would my family think this is a good pursuit. So should I try to play Go professionally or should I just give up on it. Or is it too late, I don’t know if there is a age limit in the USA. Thank you for your time and input.

Before you decide to study and become pro, I suggest setting smaller goals. Once you reach them, ask yourself if you still want to become a pro.

I understand but at this point I just want to know if this is even possible for me or I should just give up on it.

Nothing in the world is impossible, but I gotta warn you that the odds are strongly against you. The wall separating the professional from the casual player is one of those things you see more and more clearly the stronger you get… which is part of the reason why a lot of the HnG kids (I myself was one, back in the day!) start off talking about going pro, but few are still saying it by the time they reach 1 dan.

If you’re serious about it, you’re gonna have to work hard: you’ll need lessons from pro and high dan players, you’ll need to commit hours every day to playing games, reviewing them, and solving tsumego problems. Go will basically need to be a second job for you, except it’s one you’ll have to spend money on, rather than making it.

You’re starting considerably later in life than most who make it into the pro ranks, but anything’s possible with the right mix of effort and talent. I won’t be the guy to tell you it’s impossible.

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You have until 30 to become a pro in Japan and I believe longer in the AGA, Canada or England. Not sure about the EGF. You say you’re on a farm so I strongly suspect you’re American.

Look at a world map. 7 billion people. They would not have spread far and wide if somebody did not pursue their dreams somewhere along the way.

I knew a guy in college who grew up on a farm but he dreamt about getting a PhD from Princeton in his undoubtedly non-farming interest and did not want to drive tractors anymore. I suspect that guy is now a PhD from Princeton. My last info with that he got accepted into their program. He probably not teaching at Princeton but I’m certain that he is teaching somewhere. His conviction was strong enough.

Now, you. Don’t be an idiot kid who is worried about what anybody thinks. Instead, be a normal kid who doesn’t give a damn what anybody else thinks. You have 10 solid years to do it. But if you want it, the process began a few minutes before you made your post.

First, non-go related stuff: where are you going to go? Staying at home to study is not going to work unless everyone under that roof supports the idea that you will spend every free minute playing go.

If you are okay with cold weather, get yourself a job teaching English in Korea. You need to get a Celta certificate to prove you have a general understanding about how people learn English but really it’s a matter of this: you live with a family in Korea or China. They pay you to speak English to them. You will live with them.

Implicit in the above paragraph is that you need your passport. Google State Department. It’s about $110. Get your photos taken at the nearest drugstore or look up instructions on how to make it yourself. Unless you really, really know you can pull off your own passport photograph for the documentation, just let the drugstore do it.

Drop everything in the mail and the State Department will return a passport to you in under a month.

When you’re winning, you might as well take the brakes out of your car because nobody is stopping you. But as a go player, you know about losing. What’s your worst-case scenario?

Not a whole lot of bad can come out of spending time overseas. You make friends and you are the ex-pat translator/reporter for some TV channel or newspaper or a foundation.

You know what will happen if you stay on the farm. Regret. Regret is the worst feeling in the world.


Wow that is very inspiring and to be honest I don’t know what to say but thank you, so thank you.


I really like the suggestion about spending time teaching English in Korea, but I want to add some remarks.

Deciding to become a pro is not really so much different from deciding to make it in Hollywood or becoming a world-famous researcher in domain X or becoming a successful opera singer. (So no surprise that your parents (?) are unhappy about you taking such big risks.) I’d say that it is much more like teaching at Princeton than getting a PhD from Princeton.

I know a lot of people who have pursued some simliar goals, including myself, and I fully endorse reaching for the stars. What I don’t endorse is people doing it in a “success or death” fashion. I have had friends who have purposefully avoided to get the additional accreditation for the fall-back career because “you dance better on a rope without a net”. They changed their opinion 10 years down the road when they had children. I have known other people who have hung around the fringes of their chosen profession for decades without enough money to heat their apartments.

Are you fine with spending years in Korea pursuing this goal and looking back at it as a very happy period of your life instead of wasted years because you did not reach the goal? Are you open to let the ex-pat community inspire you to potentially settle on another dream in five or ten years or will you only interact with go players?

In one of my personal endeavors I had a (professional) teacher who assessed me after our first lesson and told me that it would not be wasted time to continue my lessons but that I would not become world-class in it. I don’t know how you would go about finding a go teacher whose assessment you would trust as much as I trusted this teacher’s assessment, but I did find it useful to be told this (and knowing this person, I knew that it was as much praise as I could reasonably expect).

Invest in your dreams even with hard choices but don’t let them eat up your whole life indefinitely. And good luck.


I understand that this will be next to impossible but I have to try and I have a fallback if I don’t succeed.


Not a whole lot of bad can come out of spending time overseas.

This. A thousand times this.