Handicap Go

In a game between players of equal strength Black will compensate White by a few points “komi” in an attempt to eliminate first mover advantage. Komi ca be calculated in different ways and to a degree depends upon how you score the game. In the scoring method we use, described here Black give White 7.5 points komi

You can establish an informal idea of your relative strength after a few games with players that have a better idea of their strength and as a beginner you might hear someone describe you as “about 20 kyu”. If you have ever studied Judo or Karate you probably recognise “kyu” it has the same meaning. Again as with Judo or Karate as you as you get better at the game your kyu rating will decrease (19, 18, 17 etc.) and depending on a number of factors in time you will reach “dan” and again as you improve your rating will increase (1 dan, 2 dan etc).

You might hear someone say something like “I’ve got two stones stronger”. This phrase reads directly across to handicap Go

As a beginner you are likely to play a good deal of handicap Go. Your first move will be a number of stones placed on the handicap points (“hoshi“) based on the difference in strength between you and your opponent. You can see the hoshi on a Go board if you look carefully).

For example: a 17 kyu strength player playing against someone of strength 8 kyu will get a nine stone handicap and their first move will look like this:

The handicap system creates equality of opportunity. In certain situations refinements might be necessary but these will arise naturally as you play some games. We think this “equality of opportunity” is a feature unique to Go.