In the Dark? Professional Titles

Oriental Names

In Oriental countries, such as Japan, China and Korea, the family name is given first. Cho Chikun would not sound right as Chikun Cho, and so the BGJ usually follows this convention. However for oriental players living in the west their name will usually appear in the BGJ in western fashion, for example Shutai Zhang or Yuki Shigeno; there are some exceptions: Guo Juan and Lee Hyuk sound better with family name first. The BGJ usually obeys these rules but sometimes the same name has appeared both ways on the same page. For added confusion there are also different ways of spelling the same name in Roman characters: Lee Chang-ho or Yi Ch'ang-ho for instance.


A title meaning "teacher" as applied to a school teacher or in Go to a professional, or other player, of higher rank. It can be used by amateurs when addressing a professional, with or without their name, for example "Sensei" or "Takemiya-Sensei."

Go Seigen

Name of a top player of the 20th Century, originally known in his native China as Wu Quan. His great games were played in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, often against great rival Kitani Minoru.

Big Seven Tournaments

In Japan the top three tournaments are Kisei, Meijin and Honinbo. The next four are Judan, Tengen, Oza and Gosei. All are sponsored by various newspapers and are open to all Japanese professionals or all above a certain grade. The largest prizes, 25 million yen (150000 pounds) or more, are in the top three, these being best of seven games (each played over two days). All players also receive a game fee for each game played (starting at a few hundred pounds).


Literally "Go/Chess Saint", the top Japanese title has run since 1977. The tournament system involved players of subsequently higher grades joining in at various levels. In 2000 this has been amended to include two six player leagues and a play-off to determine the challenger; lower levels are now structured differently at the two Japanese professionals' organisations, the Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in.


The title previously given to the strongest player or "Master" of a historical period. The last Meijin was Tamura Yasuhisa, who is better known by his other title Honinbo Shusai, who died in 1940. The book "Meijin" or "The Master of Go" by Kawabata (available from Penguin Books) immortalises the last match against Kitani. In 1962 Meijin became an annual title match, one of the Big Seven Tournaments. The stage before the title match is a nine player league.


The priest Kano Yosabiru, known as Nikkai, started a hereditary go school and took the name Honinbo Sansa in 1605. Honinbo was the name of a pagoda at his temple in Kyoto. Honinbo Shusai was the 21st and last holder of the title and ceded the name to a tournament first held in 1941. One of the big seven tournaments, the stage before the title match is the eight player Honinbo League.


Literally "tenth grade", one higher than the normal ninth grade or dan. Since 1962 Judan has been a tournament, one of the Big Seven. It is characterised by a double knock-out to choose the challenger.


The centre handicap (or heaven) point on a go board. Also the name of one of the Big Seven Tournaments in Japan. The Challenger for the title is determined by knock-out tournaments, the play-off being best of five.


Literally the "throne", the Oza is one of the Big Seven Tournaments, run since 1953.


Literally "Go saint", one of the Big Seven Tournaments, restricted to 5 dan and above and run with its current name since 1976; its antecedents go back to 1951.

Women's Professional Tournaments

In Japan, the Women's Honinbo and Meijin are smaller versions of the equivalent Big Seven Tournament. They have less prize money (30000 pounds for example) and fewer games (best of 3 or 5 in the final). Women's events are growing in popularity in Japan as women's standards continue to increase, but men still dominate the Big Seven. In China and Korea there are also women-only events, however Rui Naiwei (Chinese 9 dan) has actually won open tournaments in Korea.

This page is one of a series of In The Dark articles.

Last updated Fri Sep 22 2017.
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