Monday, February 27, 2012

Professional Profiles: Naiwei Rui

From now on, every Monday, we'll have a new section called "Professional Profiles" where I'll introduce a new professional Go player, briefly detailing interesting things about their life and who they are.  Hopefully this will be a good way to introduce the world of professional Go to those of you who do not yet know too much about the game.  Professional Go players spend their lives studying the game so that they can face off in do or die battles on television.  They started training at a really young age, sometimes as young as three, so it's not exactly something you can pick up in an afternoon.  Really good Go players can earn quite a pretty penny playing in tournaments; Changho Lee brought in over $1,000,000 one year.  Of course, there is a pretty big gulf between what Li Gu and a new 1 dan pro can pull down, but if you're good, Go is not a bad profession.  Alright, without further ado our first pro is my favorite professional player of all time:

Naiwei Rui

Naiwei Rui (left) vs. Changhyuk Yu

When I first started to play Go I studied three professional players: Honinbo Shuusaku, Chikun Cho, and Naiwei Rui.  Of course, I was like 25 kyu, so I never came close to understanding their games, but they were the first Go professionals I was exposed to.  They were that big in the Go world.  Naiwei is known to her Korean fans as the "Iron Lady" for her hard nosed fighting style.  Her games usually feature a huge capturing race where either she or her opponent are left in shambles.  Naiwei Rui currently plays in Korea, however, she was born in Shanghai, China on December 28th, 1963.  She became a professional in 1985.  She is one of the strongest female players in the world, and one of only a handful who can claim to have earned the highest rank in Go: 9 dan.  Naiwei has been all over the world playing Go.  She originally played in China, then left when she thought that there was no future for her there, and went to Japan.  There, she became a disciple of Go Seigen, a man many consider to be one of the best Go players in all history.  While in Japan, Rui did not play as a professional, and was not invited to be one at the Japanese Go Federation.  She married Jiang Zhujiu, another professional 9 dan and moved to San Francisco for a stint, until traveling to Korea to play as a "Guest Professional."  She and Jiang Zhujiu are often jokingly called the "18 dan couple." Naiwei has dominated women's Go in Korea, earning title after title with her razor sharp style, including the Women's Kuksu and the Maxim Cup.  She even held a positive record against Changho Lee, confounding his calm, cool, collected Go style with her unpredictably aggressive play.  Her very presence has spurned on the growth of women's Go in Korea.  It comes as no surprise that many of the other female 9 dans also come from Korea, as Naiwei has encouraged them to work harder and try to outdo her phenomenal success.  Naiwei's games are great to look at if you want to sharpen your senses at attack and defense.