What Is a Go Insei?

A Go insei is a professional Go player apprentice - someone who enrolls in the official Japanese Go Association system in order to be eligible to become a professional. China and Korea have their own insei systems, too.

I had a pretty rare chance to be insei in Japan. I didn't manage to become a professional Go player; after being an insei for 18 months, I returned back home and continued my college studies. But the time spent as an insei increased a lot my knowledge about Go and about Japan. You can read about my experience as an insei.

Here is a video from a Go school for children in Korea:

There are a few tens of insei who compete among each others, but only the top few are promoted to professional status every year. The rest of them will have to try again next year - or to give up... It is a very tough competition.

How to become an insei?

In order to become an insei in Japan, at the Nihon Ki-in one needs a sponsor, meaning a professional Go player that accepts him or her as their student, and vows for that person's potential in becoming a professional later.

The sponsor files a standard application at the Nihon Ki-in. If the student's current rank is low, one of the official insei instructors will play a testing game with the student before they decide whether to accept the application or not.

The most difficult part is convincing a professional Go player that they should file an insei application for you. There is no official way to find a professional player to recommend you, unfortunately. You should privately contact one and ask. Your best bet would be with:

If one shows great potential for the future, the actual strength is not so important. If you can get a professional to play a teaching game with you (you may need to pay them for that, by the way), don't focus on winning - that really doesn't matter when they decide whether you are fit to be an insei or not - but on playing bravely and showing fighting spirit.