Top 20 Pro Go Players of 2010

Dr Bai Taeil, who created the Korean ranking system, made an announcement of the World Go Ranking for the end of 2010.

Calculating a world ranking is very difficult because of the differences between the systems in Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan. Each country has its own leagues or tournaments, and the domestic competitiveness is different too.

Although there are several international tournaments every year, it is still very hard to get the proper ranking because of the difficulty for pro players to join the main international tournaments.

In my case, I only participated in an international tournament once in my lifetime so far, even though I was a decent player in Korea in 2000~2003. Nowadays, domestic title matches are still lot more common than international ones.

How professional Go players are ranked

For the world ranking, Dr Bai researched the winning percentage of the nationalities’ against other countries amongst Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan, and he adjusts the points according to his research. Dr Bai Taeil is a ranking specialist. He works in physics at Stanford University.

In this system he uses statistics for the last three years of each country, and newer records are worth more than the older ones. Apparently, this system can show you the current ranking of the Go world, and if anyone knows of a better system, please let me know. Next time, I’ll explain more about this ranking system so that you can understand it better.

The top ranked professional Go players in the world – 2010

The list below is the World Ranking top 20 in December 2010

1. Lee Sedol (Korea)

Lee Sedol tops the world ranking for 2010

2. Kong Jie (China)

Kong Jie comes second in the world rankings for 2010

3. Park Junghwan (Korea)

Park Junghwan, third in the world ranking for 2010

4. Choi Cheolhan (Korea)
5. Kang Dongyun (Korea)
6. Heo Youngho (Korea)
7. Gu Li (China)
8. Xie He (China)
9. Won Seongjin (Korea)
10. Li Zhe (China)
11. Zhou Ruiyang (China)
12. Tuo Jiaxi (China)
13. Lee Changho (Korea)
14. Qiu Jun (China)
15. Kim Jiseok (Korea)
16. Wang Xi (China)
17. Cho Hanseung (Korea)
18. Chen Yaoye (China)
19. Park Younghun (Korea)
20. Lee Younggu (Korea)

What do you think about ranking Go players in this way? Is the list what you expected? Do you think someone has been left off? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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. It takes my attention that there wasn’t any japanese player there, and also i wanted to know if choi chul han is the same than choi cheol han

    • David Ormerod says:

      Good point Rayheart. The Japanese professionals have been struggling internationally in recent years. It could be that they’ve fallen behind in skill, which is what a lot of people think. Other people have said that they are more preoccupied with domestic tournaments.

      Another factor, which I think is worth considering, is the increasingly short time limits imposed in major international tournaments. In the Japanese domestic tournaments the time limits are still quite long, with some games going over two days. In contrast, Chinese and Korean domestic Go tournaments are getting faster and faster.

      This is probably due to the demands of the media for faster and more action packed matches. The powerful influence of the media isn’t unique to Go, and it’s not always for the good of the game. Think about what’s happening in sport. 20-20 Cricket matches are getting very popular. The Australian Open Tennis finals are being held at night (for prime time viewing). During the Beijing Olympics, the swimming finals were all held early in the morning, to catch prime time in the US.

      I would like to see at least one international Go tournaments with a relatively long amount of time allocate for play. I don’t know if it would change the results, but it would be interesting to see what happens. However, the media pay the bills and they get to say what goes.

      Also Choi Chul Han and Choi Cheol Han are the same person, as you thought. The names of Korean baduk players are particularly difficult because there is more than one system for romanising them.

      • Iyama Yuta, when he want’s to, is more that competitve with these guys. Witness last year.

    • I know Yamashita Keigo should have been there

  2. I don’t agree for all the names in this list because i dont see any Japenese players like Iyama Yuta or at least Cho U.

  3. hu yao yu isnt on list

  4. iryumika says:

    omg Cho U and Li Zhe surely need to be in that list !

  5. David Ormerod says:

    A lot of people have players that they think should be on the list. Younggil’s just reporting Dr Bae’s ranking of the players, but there are other ways to rank too.

    No matter how you do it, some top players are always going to be left off because there’s only room for 20. Also, when this was done, Japan’s lack of success in international tournaments meant Japanese players didn’t rank well. Because that’s a factor in this system, Japanese players will never rank well until they start doing better internationally. If Iyama Yuta keeps playing well though, maybe we’ll see him in the top 20 for 2011.

  6. aaaaaaaaaaa says:

    maybe number 10 Li Jie is Li Zhe?

  7. I know this doesn’t have a lot to do with the subject, but what is the difference between the Chinese and Japanese rules, and are there Korean rules? Also, I messed up when I made my board, and it’s twenty by twenty, does that make a big difference?

    • An Younggil 8p says:

      In my opinion, Chinese rules are more complicated, but more practical compared to Japanese rules. Korean rules are almost the same as Japanese ones.
      For the board, 20×20 isn’t symmetrical, so it may be hard to dot the star points. 😀

      • That is strange, because I thought it is exactly the other way around. If you think about the game purpose as “the one who has more stones on the board, wins”, Go is very easy to explain to a novice. Also, there is no need for all those rule beasts deciding whether one must add a stone in their territory. But you fill the board until the very end which is impractical.

        The Japanese have introduced the beauty of omission, leading to an earlier end to the game and a practical counting method, but with more scope for disagreement and above all a (needlessly) complex tutorial for newcomers.

        I therefore advocate stone counting as a teaching method, switching to territory + captives when the novice is hooked. I also believe that’s how the game historically evolved.

        • David Ormerod says:

          I guess it depends on what you’re used to. I’ve never been able to work out how to quickly count the score during the game using area counting. I guess that you might have to constantly keep track of how many stones you have on the board?

          If you read John Fairbairn’s and T Mark Hall’s ‘The Go Companion’, I recall that they suggest somewhere that territory scoring originated in China and was transferred to Japan and Korea along with the game itself. Later in China they invented area scoring as an improvement, but that didn’t get transferred because the rules were already entrenched. I can look it up for you if you’re interested.

    • It does make a difference, but nothing fatal. For a change of pace playing on a 20×20 board is good.

      Looks like you were trying to make a 19×19 line board. To get 19 lines by 19 lines, one must draw 18 squares by 18 squares. Each line must be spaced at exactly the same intervals along width and length of the board, or the board will appear funny. I know because I once made a board where I messed up the line spacing and it… just didn’t look right.

      I notice that the normal goban, which is rectangular BTW, looks perfectly square. A board with perfectly square squares will appear slightly “flat”. An optical illusion causes this. Whenever I make a board, I make the parallel (i.e., of the left-to-right lines) spacings 1 mm higher than the meridional (i.e., of the top-to-bottom lines) spacings. So, if along the width of the boards the lines are spaced 23 mm apart, along the height they will be spaced 24 mm apart. The lines themselves should be 1-2 mm thick and these can be either incised with the sharp knife and T-square or water-soluble ink pen and T-square. When incising with a sharp knife, be sure to apply a couple of coats of clear lacquer or varnish. Most importantly, a high level of concentration and relaxation is needed to make a proper line; one mistake and it’s back to square one. After incising all the lines, rubbing black shoe polish or similar substance into the incised lines will help the lines show, after which a clear lacquer can be applied to seal the surface.

      There are some websites online that illustrate the process of making a goban. Among these are those that describe the manufacture of Japanese-style floor gobans. Those who make them are highly trained and acquire their skills over many years. However, I imagine you would prefer a simple table board.

      Here is one website for making your own board.

  8. Thank you very much! It is hard to spot the star points! I put some duct tape over the two edge lines that meet at an angle, so now it’s 19×19, but the star points have messed me up on it, since I’d already marked them!

  9. Clossius says:

    You said Dr Bae Taeil goes to Stanford University? Does that mean he speaks english? If so, is it possible to contact him like e-mail or something?

  10. Thomas a giles says:

    i see now females, “this is why, as long as females are not allowed to
    compete with men, then females will never compare. although NEI WEI
    RUI beat a man in a world titil match, but this may have been allowed
    to happen.

  11. Iyama Yuta should be in top 20. He’s killing everyone in Japan.
    Lee changho # 13?? u serious?

  12. There are some major differences between Chinese and Japanese scoring in the case of moonshine life in which kos are not all local

  13. I also noted the absence of Japanese players and the preponderance of Korean ones. Surely China can match Korea?
    Re the 20×20 board, you could play on the squares rather than the intersections — that would make it 19×19, if you could get used to it.
    I did that with an Excel spreadsheet and got used to it.

  14. Gerald Hill says:

    it’s interesting how the relatively recent history of the game has shifted from country to country, and i wish i knew more of the back story (and remembered more of what i *had* heard in the past!). the japanese acquired the game from china; the japanese studied the game, enhanced it, polished it, for four hundred years, and were the undisputed world’s best until the 1970s. a very committed and studious nei weiping, with the encouragement and support of important (if later discredited) government officials set a goal of challenging the japanese 9 dan professional monopoly, of playing the japanese on at least equal terms — to be able to win against their best players. and so it came to be. in a similar way, in korea a player emerged who also had the support of a patron, a baron, and cho hunyeon had the driving will and ambition to push korea into the international arena. cho laid a foundation for a national go association that would later explode into world-wide fame with the success of his protege, lee chang ho, known in his prime as the strongest player in the world. nowadays the competition is fierce between korean and chinese players for precedence on the world stage. witness the drama of the current jubango between lee sedol and gu li. i wonder if perhaps the japanese players, dutiful and firm in their traditions, should rightfully be compared to the players willing to compromise thinking time for media exposure and advertising income? has lee sedol ever competed in a tournament with 8 hours on his clock? against someone used to spending 8 hours in match games? i don’t know — it’s a real question, not rhetorical…

    • Gerald Hill says:

      nie weiping — misspelled his name, oops

    • Gerald Hill says:

      i fear i may have misidentified the korean player who was so instrumental in creating the korean baduk association. i read that historical information several years ago, before several years of treatment with four different kinds of chemotherapy. i would welcome correction!

      • Gerald Hill says:

        yoo changheouk?

        • Younggil An says:

          Thanks for sharing the short history of Go. Most of your memory was right I guess. For your answer, Cho Namcheol 9p was the founder of the Korean Baduk Association. And Lee Sedol 9p hasn’t played any 8 hours games as far as I know.

          • Gerald Hill says:

            thank you! and i meant no disrespect by omitting rank information with the players’ names — i omit capitalization, too 🙂 also, i recognize the value of shortened game times and media access for spreading the popularity of baduk — not only for the sake of advertising revenues. [i admit to cynicism in this area: living in america, i am all too sensitive to the primacy of the profit motive above all else…]