30 of the world’s best Go players 2011-2012

Recently Dr Bai Taeil announced an updated World Go Ranking for the top 30 Go players in the world.

Chinese players

As you’ll see below, Chinese players have improved their standing relative to the 2010 World Go Ranking.

That’s because Chinese players had good results in both BC Card Cup and Bailing Cup preliminary matches.

Lee Sedol 9 dan.


Korean players

As a result, even though numbers 1 and 2 are Lee Sedol and Park Junghwan, numbers 3 to 10 are all Chinese players.

Here’s the full list of players. This data goes up to the end of April 2012.

Top 30 professional Go players

Rank Player Rating Wins Losses (last 3 months)
1 Lee Sedol 9733 6 4
2 Park Junghwan 9724 22 5
3 Xie He 9706 13 6
4 Chen Yaoye 9669 16 4
5 Tan Xiao 9665 15 7
6 Piao Wenyao 9650 16 5
7 Gu Li 9646 4 9
8 Kong Jie 9641 10 8
9 Jiang Weijie 9635 7 4
10 Zhou Ruiyang 9606 11 2
11 Kang Dongyun 9600 17 10
12 Fan Tingyu 9598 16 4
13 Choi Cheolhan 9586 7 8
14 Won Seongjin 9583 7 8
15 Kim Jiseok 9583 16 6
16 Shi Yue 9580 15 7
17 Park Younghun 9568 12 6
18 Hu Yaoyu 9551 13 4
19 Qiu Jun 9540 13 9
20 Cho Hanseung 9529 16 8
21 Iyama Yuta 9523 12 3
22 Baek Hongseok 9510 18 8
23 Li Zhe 9509 5 6
24 Tuo Jiaxi 9504 10 7
25 Meng Tailing 9491 9 5
26 Wang Xi 9491 7 5
27 Lee Younggu 9484 9 6
28 Lee Changho 9484 6 6
29 Niu Yutian 9483 10 4
30 Liu Xing 9483 9 2


How the rating system works

Dr Bai, who works at Stanford University wrote a paper in English that you can read if you want to know more about how the players are ranked.

Young players are improving quickly

Chen Yaoye and Piao Wenyao gained many points in the three months up until the ratings were calculated (end of April 2012), while Gu Li lost lots of points.

Young players in China are improving sharply.

In particular, Fan Tingyu (born in 1996) was ranked number 12. Mi Yuting (1996), Yang Dingxin (1998), Zhou Hexi (1994), Tao Xinran (1994), Peng Liyao (1992), and Dang Yifei (1994) are all doing well, even if they’re not in the top 30 yet.

Comparing four Chinese players

Let’s look at a rating chart for some of the top Chinese players. The x-axis is the month, starting in January 2011, while the y-axis is Dr Bai’s rating for those players.

Xie He (blue), Tan Xiao (red), Gu Li (green), Kong Jie (purple).

You can see the change in the four top Chinese players’ ratings. Gu Li, Kong Jie, Tan Xiao and Xie He.

Tan and Xie are both currently ranked number 1 in China, and Gu and Kong used to be the best in China.

Kong was number 1 in the world ranking in early 2010, but he’s been trending downwards since then. In the last few months though, it appears that he could be recovering.

Gu was trending upwards for most of 2011, but since last November, he’s been gradually declining.

On the other hand, Xie has been gaining points steadily, and his rating is the highest amongst them. Tan’s rating increased dramatically througout 2011, but it seems to have peaked for now.

A problem for Korean Baduk

As you can see, young talented Chinese players are improving very quickly, but there aren’t so many young players from Korea.

Dr Bai pointed out that many of the official Korean matches are lightning games, so players can’t play creatively in the opening and that could make them weaker. In Chinese domestic games the players have more time to think.

According to Dr Bai, China has already started to overwhelm Korea, and if nothing is done about it, after three years, Korea won’t be able to stand against China in Go anymore.

Iyama Yuta and Japan

Iyama Yuta was the only player from Japan who’s ranked in the top 30. Today, most of international title matches are played only between China and Korea players.

For some time, Japan seems to have been fading away from the scene, and it makes the Go world less interesting and fun.

Now it looks as though Korea could be going the same way as Japan, so the Korean Baduk Association should try to find a solution to this problem.

Related Articles

About Younggil An

Younggil is an 8 dan professional Go player with the Korean Baduk Association. He qualified as a professional in 1997 and won an award for winning 18 consecutive professional matches the following year. After completing compulsory military service, Younggil left Korea in 2008, to teach and promote the game Go overseas. Younggil now lives in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the founders of Go Game Guru. On Friday evenings, Younggil is usually at the Sydney Go Club, where he gives weekly lessons and plays simultaneous games.

You can follow Go Game Guru on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube.


  1. DanielTom says:

    Thanks for the update on the ratings.
    As for the comment “Japan seems to have been fading away from the scene”, I would like to share one opinion I read in Life in 19×19: “lemmata” wrote an interesting post on why Japan is not competitive anymore in international competitions (basically, he thinks that the Japanese titles have prizes that are comparatively too big, and so there is no incentive for them to focus on international events).
    A quote from his article: “it makes perfect sense that the top Japanese pros focus on domestic titles. Not only do the domestic titles have prizes comparable to or greater than the international titles, you only have to face 10 top players instead of 20.”
    (Full post at http://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5570&p=93088)

    • That’s a exaggerated excuse and not convincing at all. In 1990s , Japanese players(especially the top 6 grandmasters)also competed very fiercely in high prize domestic titles but they still won a lot of international title and showed competitiveness on international stage. There are also many other often-heard excused from japanophiles such as 2-days match, style of play but none of them can justify the lopsided performance of Japanese Go players on international stage after the rise of Korea. Maybe it’s better to admit the gap and start hard-working than continue resort to excuses. Japan is great, has huge contribution for the devolopment of Go, she will certainly come back someday.

  2. There are enough tournaments in either Korea, China and Japan. It would be a great idea to open up for instance the top three tournaments of these countries to all players in the world who can qualify, like for instance in tennis. Of course, nobody can participate in all tournaments, but that never has been a problem in tennis, and the ATP and WTA ranking lists. The most prestigious tournaments, with the most money, would draw the strongest players, while the less prestigious ones would naturally attract maybe the lesser local players. I am fully aware of the differences between tennis and go, like playing schedules, but wanting to arrange this, coordinating the playing schedules like for instance Roland Garros and Wimbledon would be a great thing for international go, and go as a whole. As a side effect, we really would know who would be the strongest players, like Djokovic and Sharapova right now in tennis.

    Kind regards,

    • The thing with sponsors is that they want a return on their money. They are not organizing tournaments for altruistic purposes. So Japanese sponsors want Japanese players (or at least Nihon Kiin/Kansai Kiin players) to win. If they continue to lose and not even score within the top 4 or 8, the sponsor loses interest and the tournament can be cancelled. That is why Japan will certainly not open up national tournaments to the world. Also prize money is somewhat matched to the monetary value in that country, so the prize money of Japanese tournaments is naturally higher.

  3. jangalf says:

    I heard somewhere that most pro from Japan don’t play international titles no only by the money, else because they don’t like to play with little time to think. Is that true??

  4. Only Iyama Yuta from Japan is in this list? =O
    This makes me remembering Hikaru no Go where they tell that Go in Japan is fading. Japan and the rest of the world need to improve to participate more in this list. =)

  5. I do not know if Japanese pros stay home because of the aforementioned reasons, only that it could be: the strength of continental soccer is not at all measured by the results World Cup for clubs. The UEFA Champions’ league is where the money is. The world cup for clubs may matter to other continents but European clubs see it as a ceremonial smoothie after the main dish has been digested.

  6. personally the reason why Japanese has look like its fading away from the go world is because of its history on having longer times in this one article where they were interviewing lee sedol he said it would be interesting if they have an international tournament on where they play a match for a 2 days period if they actually have an international tournament like that anything could happened during a game and who knows by then china and Korea would have a tough challenge and good experience from this

  7. Norimasa Kobayashi says:

    I am grateful that many people seem to be generous about Japanese players. I am a Japanese and feel three inter-related things.
    1) Training System — Apparently, Chinese youth training system seems much more coherent and severe than Japanese.
    2) System and Genius — I may possibly say that the “very” top (like top 10 at most in each country) are relatively more independent of the “training system” in which one is raised than the rest. They are simply too genius to be trained out of some system. The similar may be said regarding science, sports, business and other fields. I would say Japanese top 11 – 20 players in Japan are hardly within top 100 in China and Korea.
    Lee Changho and some other Koreans, likewise, have become the very world top decades ago, not because of the excellent environment, but more so because of their unique genius, I think.
    3) Genius and Playing Atmosphere — I would love to see the two days’ tournament for the geniuses. The difference I see between Japanese local championship and the international tournament is even more on the whole atmosphere than time per se. In most of the international tournaments, even those held in Japan, the games are played in a huge room, you have to play semi-final and final consecutively, which apparently degrades the top condition, the meals are totally different. Everything is different. The championship events in Japan are really extremely special events held in prestigious traditional hotels in the country side mainly. I would really love to see the full potential of Chinese and Koreans in this sort of playing environment.

    • Younggil An says:

      Thank you very much for your opinion. I didn’t think about those aspects, but it sounds reasonable. It also explains why Japanese players haven’t had good results in the international tournaments these days.
      Sorry for very late reply.

    • Norimasa,
      I especially liked your point about geniuses being outside the training system. I read some things about how Sakata had to struggle for years before he became the dominant player we now know him to be.

      It also reminds me of something the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz said in an interview. From age 11 he wanted to sound like no one but himself. When his mother complained to his teacher that he wasn’t practicing his lessons the teacher told her to leave him alone.

      Albert Einstein did poorly in school and could not find a good job.

      In today’s throw-away world would we be deprived of these three geniuses?

  8. The discussion of the rise of China in the Go world is interesting. One factor not discussed is the enormous population differences; e.g.
    the China:Japan ratio is about 13:1. There is bound to be more talent of all sorts in China, and that will show up in every field the Chinese exert themselves in — science, maths, music, technology, Go, sport, possibly even Western chess. Add to that their selection of talented persons at an early age for intensive training and you have a talent superpower. The only way to overcome it is by better selection and training methods — but they will copy them pretty quickly!

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, that’s a good point, and I agree to your ideas. However, I don’t think it’s that easy to copy the system. Korean Baduk Association tries to change its system, but it doesn’t seem that easy, and it’ll take quite a long time to change.

  9. neil wilson says:

    Does anyone know when these ratings will be updated?

  10. Younggil An says:

    We’re soon going to update the latest ratings. Thanks for your concern. 🙂

  11. It would be interesting to see where Iyama is ranked on the updated list. Goratings.org has him at world #2 or #3, but surely that’s a mistake.