In countries where the game of Go is popular, there are ranking and rating systems. These are the measurement tools to determine the current strength of the player.

Go rankings are measured using a system of Dan and Kyu ranks. Players who have Kyu rank is considered as a student; however, as soon as you reach Dan rank – you’re a master of the game of Go.

Go rankings and ratings

Go rankElo rating
25 Kyu100
20 Kyu500
15 Kyu1000
10 Kyu1300
5 Kyu1650
1 Kyu1900
1 Dan2000
3 Dan2200
7 Dan2500
1 Pro2700
9 Pro3000+

25 Kyu – You just played your first games and are very confused about what to do

20 Kyu – You can beat some players and enjoy watching when the opponent attempts to escape the unbroken ‘ladder’.

15 Kyu – You know the basic concepts of Go and win more games than before.

10 Kyu – You win even more games and easily recognize life and death patterns.

5 Kyu – You’re a very good player, maybe the best in your city.

1 Kyu – You have a huge chance to win some tournaments in your country.

1 Dan – Congratulations! Now you’re a Master. In Japan and Korea, you’re allowed to open your own Go club.

3 Dan – You actually understand the brilliance of the game of Go!

7 Dan – You are one of the best players outside of Asia!

1 Dan Pro – Now, you are a professional player. Millions of people dream to become a pro, but very few achieve this.

9 Dan Pro – You are one of the best Go players in the world!

Origin of Go rankings

Origin of Go ranking

Around the 16th century, the Japanese formalized the method of training and the ranks of the players, indicating their strength in go.

Nowadays, Japanese ranking system is the most common. It is similar to martial arts:

Beginners receive a rank of 25-30 Kyu . 30 Kyu corresponds to the level of a player who has learned the rules, but has not played a single game yet. As the player becomes stronger, his Kyu rank decreases. Those who are enthusiastic on improving the game seriously, eventually, reach rank 1 Kyu.

Usually, in the first stages, training passes quickly and most reach 8–12 Kyu in a few months. Players exceeding the rank of one Kyu receive a rank of 1 Dan (Shodan in Japanese ).

With the further growth of the skill of the game, the rank of Dan grows, in contrast to Kyu. The traditional limit is 7 Dan, given to true masters. There is also the concept of additional 8 or 9 Dans, but this is no longer a rank indicating the player’s skill, but one of the titles.

By definition, the difference between bordering ranks is equal to one stone. that means, theoretically, an 8 Kyu player will have equal chances of winning with a 5 Kyu player if he places 3 additional stones on the board.

Usually, the handicap begins with two stone: one stone simply corresponds to Black’s first move, that is, with a difference of one rank, the stronger player simply plays White with 0.5 points Komi.

In China, Japan and Korea, there are two separate ranking systems – one for professional players, the other for amateurs.

Amateur ranks

Amateur ranks are assigned based on the results of the participation of players in amateur tournaments. To obtain a professional rank, a player under the age of 30 must submit an application, go through the annual qualifying tournament and take one of the first places in it.

When entering a professional league, a player receives a certificate of 1st Dan, after which he may qualify for the assignment of the following Dans if certain requirements are met.

Professional ranks

As opposed to amateur ones, the ranks of professional players, are based on a different principle: the difference between neighboring professional Dans is about a third of the stone; the difference in the strength of the game of the strongest and weakest professionals amounts to 2-3 stones.

Ranks are assigned to players by their respective organizations. For example, in Japan, they can be assigned by two professional go associations: Nihon Kiin and Kansai Kiin.

In the past, in order to increase the rank of a professional player had to score a certain number of points in a special qualifying tournament (tournament Ootheai ), which took place throughout the year.

However, due to the small number of prizes over time, more and more players (especially high-level ones) began to ignore this tournament.

As a result of which in 2003 the tournament was canceled and a new system of assigning professional Dans was adopted; this takes into account victories in major tournaments, the amount of prize wins, total career wins, etc.

Similar systems exist in Korea and China. For a long time, it was believed that the 1 Dan Pros are approximately equal to the strongest amateurs. This means that the level of play of the professional of 1 Dan approximately corresponds to the level of the 7 Dan amateur.

However, by the end of the last century, the situation has changed quite dramatically. Now, the strongest amateurs are not inferior to professionals.

Thus, Hideyuki Sakai, the 2000 world amateur champion, qualified for the professional certificate of Kansai Kiin, refused the 1st Dan diploma and declared that he was playing no weaker than the 5th.

To substantiate his claims, he played a match against four players of the 5th Dan and won all the games.

Rating system

Go rating system

Ratings and grades of AGA The American Go Association (AGA) and European Go Federation (EGF) use a rating system based on win and loss statistics similar to Elo.

In this system, the rating value can be a positive number more than +100 or a negative value less than −100. The traditional Japanese Kyu-Dan scale is used as a rank system.

Negative ratings correspond to the rank of kyu, positive – given. It is considered that the player’s rank (Dan or Kyu) approximately corresponds to the rating value divided; respectively, by 100 for positive ratings and −100 for negative ones, but such a match cannot be absolute, it is only approximate.

I know, Go rating system is way harder than the traditional one (ranking), but I thought you should have at least heard that this system also exists.

About the author

Irakli Khizanishvili

Hi, I'm Irakli from Georgia.
I've been playing the game of Go for a few years now. During that period I've read lots of books about all aspects of this interesting and beautiful game.
On this website, I'm glad to share my game knowledge and experience with you.
I hope I'll be able to help improve your skills and proficiency in the magnificent game of Go!
Remember, it's never too late to learn new things!

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