Almost pro: An interview with An Jungki

An Jungki 5d defeated Chen Yaoye 9p in the round of 32 of the 20th LG Cup on June 8, 2015.

Since then, many Go fans have been interested in learning more about him.

An Jungki

An Jungki is a yeongusaeng (Korean insei), which means he’s training to become a professional Go player, but hasn’t formally qualified yet. Nevertheless he’s already very strong.

An qualified to compete in this year’s LG Cup and MLily Cup by winning his way through the preliminary rounds.

He defeated many pros in the process and earned 95 out the 100 points required to turn pro through the new system that saw Cho Insun become pro in 2011. He only has to win one more game in a professional tournament to qualify.

Yeongusaeng aren’t allowed to compete in normal amateur tournaments within Korea, which means they can’t earn a promotion to 6d or 7d through winning important amateur tournaments. That’s why An Jungki’s rank is still 5d at the moment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Jungki and this is what he said…

An Junggi 5 dan amateur (left) and Chen Yaoye 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup.

An Jungki 5 dan amateur (left) and Chen Yaoye 9 dan at the 20th LG Cup.


The game against Chen Yaoye

An Younggil: Hi Jungki, thanks for agreeing to do an interview for Go players overseas!

First of all, How did you feel when you faced players like Chen Yaoye 9p and Kang Dongyun 9p?

An Jungki: I was so nervous when I faced Chen Yaoye.

In an interview, after I won the final of the preliminaries, I said that I wanted to play against Chen Yaoye in the main tournament. That’s because I like his style of play very much, even though it’s quite different to my own.

There are so many aspects of Chen’s game which I wanted to learn from. It was the most exciting moment of my life so far.

In the game against Kang Dongyun, I had some chances to attack his weak group in the middle game, but I missed them and I eventually lost the game.

I like fighting, but the game proceeded at Kang’s pace somehow. However, I tried to do my best, so I don’t regret being defeated. I was happy enough in the end.


The road to yeongusaeng

An Junggi 5 dan amateur.

An Jungki 5 dan amateur.

Younggil: How old were you when you first learned Go and who taught you?

Jungki: I started playing Go when I was 7. I learned to play at a baduk academy in Jeonju.

[Ed: Jeonju is Cho Hunhyun 9p and Lee Changho 9p’s hometown.]

I went to Seoul to study Baduk more seriously when I was 9, and it was very tough at the beginning.

I cried a lot at first, because I missed my family, but eventually I adapted to my new life at the baduk school in Seoul.


Younggil: And when did you become yeongusaeng?

Jungki: In 2010.


Younggil: You moved to Seoul in 2006 and became yeongusaeng in 2010, so it took almost four years?

Jungki: Yes, right.


Younggil: I see. The first few years must have been very hard for you. I understand that, because I also moved to Seoul to study baduk more seriously when I was 11.

By the way, how do you think the level of the players you’ve faced in the LG Cup and MLily Cup compares with your yeongusaeng classmates?

Jungki: Pros like Chen Yaoye and Kang Dongyun are obviously stronger than yeongusaeng.

Their reading ability might be similar, but they have a deeper insight into the game and seem to manage the whole board better than yeongusaeng usually do.


Becoming a pro

Younggil: I hope you don’t mind me asking this next question – I’m asking because I imagine many people would like to know.

If you played a jubango (10 game match) with one of today’s top players, such as Park Junghwan 9p, what do you think the right handicap would be?

Jungki: That’s a difficult question to answer… I think maybe 3.5 points komi would be appropriate.


Younggil: That’s interesting! Anyway, I heard that you’re ranked #6 in the yeongusaeng class. Is that right?

Jungki: Yes, that’s right.


Younggil: And you currently have 95 out of 100 points under the new pro qualification system.

If you win your next game in an international tournament, you’ll be able to turn pro, right? How do you feel about that at the moment?

Kang Dongyun 9 dan (left) and An Junggi 5 dan amateur at the 20th LG Cup.

Kang Dongyun 9 dan (left) and An Jungki 5 dan amateur at the 20th LG Cup.

Jungki: I don’t really care about the points in the new pro qualification system, because I can still become a pro in other ways [e.g. the normal pro qualification tournament].

I’ll do my best in the MLily Cup, but at the moment, I just want to study baduk as hard as I normally do.

Younggil: Yes, I agree. Becoming a pro can’t be the final goal for you. You should have a higher goal in baduk.

Turning pro is just a new beginning in your Go career, I think.


How to get better at Go

(An Jungki style)

Younggil: The next question will be the last.

Do you have any advice for Go players outside of East Asia who want to get better at Go?

Jungki: Hmm… I think playing many games is the most important thing if you want to get better at baduk. Improving one’s reading is also very important, I think.

Younggil: Yes, everyone says so. But, how can you improve your reading in that case? Could you explain in more detail please?

Jungki: There are many ways. I think reviewing your own games is one of the best ways.

You can review your games and try to play differently, and continue exploring what you were planning, on a board. In the process, you can improve your reading.

You can also replay your favorite players’ games and try to understand the meaning of their moves, why they played like that, consider other possible options, and so on.

You can learn a lot from pros’ games and you can also improve your reading in that way.


Younggil: Thank you for your time today and good luck in the coming months!

Go players around the world will be following your story and cheering for you!

Jungki: Thank you.

An Junggi 5 dan amateur at the opening ceremony from the 20th LG Cup.

An Jungki 5 dan amateur at the opening ceremony from the 20th LG Cup.

Game records

An Jungki vs Chen Yaoye


Download SGF File (Go Game Record)


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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. Hao Sun says:

    Could you please post the game?

  2. Interesting article, thank you 🙂

  3. Antonio says:

    Wow, being separated from your parents so so young, I feel sad for that kind of sacrifice, even if later you will think was worthy.

    Is very interesting what he says about how a top pro is stronger than a student, the global vision of the board

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, top pros also have lots of experience, so they’re better especially under the big pressure compared to the students who are generally younger.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with An Jungki that “Their reading ability might be similar,”; but i think An Jungki is very strong(perhap 3-4 dan).

  5. Dan level means nothing in Korea in terms of one’s strength. It often only reflects the age of a player.

  6. Short but informative 🙂

    I was wondering: does anyone have the link to the latest yeongusaeng-ranking page? Thanks.

  7. I don’t think 3.5 points komi is enough for a insei to fight a jubango with top pros.

    Is it should be a burden when a top pro give a “normal” pro 3 points handicap? (So that he must find a creative opening to overcome that handicap?)

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, I agree that the gap would be a bit more than that.

      I think that should be a burden for a top pro, but it depends on how long the time limits.

      3 points handicap wouldn’t be big for a lightning game, but that can change quite a bit in a long limited time game.

  8. Gil Dogon says:

    I have a few questions An.
    What exactly does it mean “turning professional” in Korea ? Except for the title that is ?

    Does it mean that as an “Amateur” Junki can not join several competition/leagues that are open only for “Professionals” ?

    Also does it mean that he gets a different amount of prize money?

    Also financially as a yeongusaeng, how does he earn a living/ pay for his studies , are you supposed to be sponsored by sombody at this stage ?

    • Younggil An says:

      Thanks Gil Dogon for the questions.

      ‘Turning pro’ meant becoming a pro through the qualifier or getting enough points in that case.

      Yeongusaeng including Junki can’t join pro tournaments only excepts LG Cup and MLily Cup as far as I know. And they aren’t allowed to participate most of amateur tournaments either.

      I’m sorry, but I’m not sure about the prize money, but probably he’ll be paid I assume.

      Most of yeongusaeng are students, and they’re normally supported by their parents. They’re primary and high school students, so they don’t earn money for living at that stage.

      I hope my answer is useful for you to understand yeongusaeng system more.

  9. Gil Dogon. says:

    Ah, I think I understand.

    So basically, this means that they are indeed very young, and are naturally sponsored by their parents, and I guess that the top ones “become pro” at the time, that they are supposed to start making a living for themselves, more or less after finishing high school.

    Do you think that now, there is more prize money in Korea/China/Japan, so more people can aspire to be “a pro” compared to say ten or twenty years ago ?

    Also I was wondering, how many of them continue to study in higher education (University) , or is the demands of pro career and Go study too difficult to balance with other studies ….

    • Younggil An says:

      Yes, you’re right that they’re making a living for themselves after becoming a pro.

      I can’t say there’s more prize money in Korea and Japan, but yes for China.

      For their education, around a half of young pros go to uni these days in Korea, but many of them quit studying when they were in high school to become a pro, and they start studying again later.

      However, for most of top pros, that’s too difficult to balance with that because they’re already too busy, and they can’t concentrate in their pro career.