Quality of one's life and Kyu ranking? Go in Life/Death?

Hi all,

Just wanted to generate some discussion; Do you think there’s any correlation between a Go player’s rank and the quality of life they live outside of the game?

I had read the story of how the game of Go was used by an ancient Chinese sage as a tool to help correct the behaviour of a king’s son. From thenceforth, the young prince played the game throughout his life and became a worthy heir to the throne(?).

In saying that, it seems that the higher ranking professional Go players lead good lives with a career rooted in the game, being able to make a living off their skill.

However, I would like to clarify that this is all based on observation: I may never really be able to know whether or not one’s success in the game has any discernible relation between their livelihood outside of it.

But isn’t a fundamental part of the game being to able to see a few moves ahead of your opponent?

As someone who is 14±13kyu currently with a goal of reaching 12kyu, I have seen things happening in my own life which I can somewhat make a connection to with on the chart of my Go Rank Progression: certain routines and obligations that I have to fulfil are being seen to, and I am on a stable path in life. Things are looking up, slow and steadily.

To be honest, I feel like the game saved me in some respects, just before I started playing, I was going through (upon reflection) the early stages of an existential crisis. I wouldn’t say it completely changed everything for me but I will say that it has taught me to take my time, but to keep alert about things simultaneously. Paradoxically, even.

I don’t know, just thought I’d pose the question.



im convinced go can affect our lives for the better :slight_smile:. so can other hobbies, like sports or travelling for example. but i would be careful about comparing those who play go as a hobby and feel that it helped them in other respects with those who made it a profession.
i dont believe that the rank has anything to do with what you are observing, rather it is the improvement that motivates us further. it doesnt matter if a player improves from 18k to 15k or from 1d to 2d… well… maybe making dan for the first time is something special :star_struck:.
in the long run though, it seems like some level of dedication is needed to improve your rank further and further, which makes me think, that a person with that kind of personality can also do well in other areas of life, but there is no guerantee that is true :wink:.


While that’s true, I feel the need to balance competing issues in the game is more likely to have a beneficial impact on the way we think and our quality of life.

To answer your question directly; I doubt there’s much of a correlation between rank and QoL but I am confident of a correlation between playing Go regularly and QoL if only because you have more in life to appreciate. :grin:


I remember reading a possibly apocryphal story about some Japanese pro who was quite the lush when not playing matches. So I’m guessing no.

That’s a very interested question, and I’ve been thinking about it in recent years.

Rank is objectively measurable, but “quality of life” is more difficult to evaluate objectively because it must encompass subjective, inner aspects of the person.

Go in my opinion is a quite simple way to work on yourself.
By “working on yourself” I mean, identify negative attitudes and correct them.
It’s like a mirror, it shows how you are. But it’s also a playground, where you can actually practice and this practice causes some change in yourself.
So it offers 2 benefits:

  • know yourself a bit better
  • offer some way to improve

The context in which we play go (community, clubs, teacher-student relationship) is an important part of the picture. You can’t improve 100% alone and your attitude towards the community (including books or other resources) will also reflect in your play.

Some years ago I observed a lot how beginners learnt and which obstacles they had to pass. For example:

  • accept to lose a game
  • accept that someone reviews your game
  • accept mistakes pointed by a reviewer
  • not being greedy or jalous
  • not over-estimate your positions (too confident) or over-estimate opponent’s positions (too fearful)
  • understand opposites/dualities (territory vs influence, light vs heavy, strong vs weak)
  • learn to use those dualities efficiently depending on situation

This list is not exhaustive and if players were requested to retrospectively look back to their path and list which obstacles they had to overcome, those lists would be very different (and could negatively/implicitly say a lot about what is currently blocking them).
Any person struggling against an obstacle could remain blocked at a certain rank, or cope with it by putting more efforts on other aspects (eg: some player with a lot of greedyness or with poor sense of direction could compensate with strong reading skills).
The “blocking factor” could be overcome later, or not…
Some people with natural skills (eg light speed reading) may reach a high level quite quickly but will stumble against “moral” principles (greed, agressivity,…) or vision of the whole board. So it’s difficult - to correlate the rank with anything.

Also, each “obstacle” is revisited spirally through cycles of improvement:

  • the obstacle is totally ignored
  • the obstacle is experienced in games against stronger players or randomly in other cases.
  • the obstacle is identified (either by yourself or by some teacher)
  • a proper knowledge about how to deal with the obstacle is found (medicine found)
  • medicine is applied only in clear situations
  • medicine works or fails depending of correctness of execution
  • medicine is applied correctly and succeeds
  • medicine is “forgotten” and now appears totally natural
  • medicine is applied not only in “clear” situations but more generally when it is relevant.
  • medicine is evaluated in comparison with other tools and part of a broader set of strategic principles.
  • medicine is challenged by some strong player (or alphago) showing that medicine may have some limits and some hidden factor lies somewhere… (go back to step 1)

If we take the most basic one, “accept to lose a game” [optionally, against a human]: in the case of go it would manifest but such people would play only computer programs, or would just avoid playing, or would play only weaker player, or would sand-bag,…In any case, it prevents progress.

Any real Art would offer the same benefit of “working on yourself”, but could focus on different qualities. If we adopt a universal repartition of triple aspects of ourselves in body/emotions/mental, the game of go would be focused more on emotion and mental, but less on body. About the body: the hand playing a move by itself; or breathing as a reflection of our emotional state; It’s a very limited use of the body, but as in any high-level practise it is emphasized that the body must be healthy.

Other Arts, like dance or martial arts, for example, might focus more on the body and less on mental. This concept of Art as a way of development is a common concept in Asia (“Way”, or “Do” in Japan) and doesn’t apply only for martial arts but also for calligraphy, music, etc. When speaking of “Way” it’s usually a way of spiritual development, towards the divine in ourself.

In the case of Go, the analogy with the spiritual appears through terminology: “go saint”, “god’s move”, and more recently Alphago being granted a “honorary professional dan certificate […] in recognition of AlphaGo sincere efforts to master Go’s Taoist foundations and reach a level "close to the territory of divinity” (source)
The theoretical existence of a perfect play is equated to “god” in go, but it seems that no human player has been able to achieve this.

If such spiritual dimension actually exists in Go as a “way”, best chances to find a genuine “master” would be in Asia. In my case I’ve not met many pros, but I remember I was impressed by Saijo Masataka 9p as expressing something - as a person - way beyond the mere skill at playing go.

Thus I would conclude that Go can help anyone willing to improve himself.
A virtue of Go is that it’s a game, apparently simple and accessible, with no big stake (unless you put stakes by yourself), so it can offer some help in a smooth and progressive way. People with some initial attraction towards the game will probably benefit from it without knowing explicitly in which way they will improve (“you don’t know what you don’t know”).


I am 7k and my life sucks :smiley: I will let you know once I hit dan

Thank you for your deep answer/comment. I apologize for not replying earlier, as you raise some great points. Good stuff