Alternative handicap systems

Of course White can hane, since black can only ‘abuse’ his power once. If black chooses to do so for a relatively unimportant hane, e.g. at the beginning of the game, he throws away his only handicap. And still then, if black uses it to capture a relatively large group (say 20 points), that still is nowhere near as powerful as 9 stones handicap

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Sorry I must have missed the point where we switched to talking about single use powers. I believe OP spoke more generally about multiple such moves being available at black’s discretion?

I mentioned a “limited number of times”, that could be a single time, or three times, or however difficult the handicap should be. :slight_smile: Perhaps I should clarify it in the OP

If you allow black free use of any of these you would indeed break the game completely


It would certainly be interesting, I think due to its incredible difficulty to balance it could only be played casually and probably not as an all the time method of play if the weaker player is hoping to improve.

The thing about handicap stones is that they teach an important aspect of go that weaker players usually lack (that being an understanding of the relationship between influence and sente). These other variants, while indeed sounding fun, move further away from developing and training real go skills.

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Park Jeong-Sang (White 3p) vs. Cho Han-Seung (Black 5p), Black gets 11 handicap, White gets 2 opportunities to order Black to play somewhere, komi 6.5.

Order moment comes at


For other types of freak matches, visit here: lifein19x19.


This is a very interesting idea because black needs to make sure there is never a game losing point on the entire board… that would be hard!

How about this:

Once (or twice) a game (prob within the first 100 moves), white can flip a coin to switch sides. Or roll a d20.

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That’s pretty interesting… Maybe give both the players the option and whoever asks first gets it? Although that makes both players susceptible to start playing suicidal in an effort to outperform the other in being terrible…

Or perhaps force white to flip a coin on the 100th move, that way white must try to keep the game equal until then.

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or fill the board with half resolved positions that they are confident they can gain an advantage from no matter which side they play


Yeah, so instead I was thinking have the weaker side (I know I said white, but I really didn’t care) choose when to flip it as long as it’s not too late in the game. (Move 100 is arbitrary).

If both sides can gain an advantage, then it’s still somewhat even. Also the higher the handicap, the more flips, and the later in the game they can make those flips.

Chinese rules allow this, and for high handicap games it is really fun ^___^

Or a negative komi, where white gets -6 points per rank difference! I think it would be great to have this as automatic option for handicap setting ^^

The rest of those feel like white will lose on first semeai, thus making the game almost impossible for w. Maybe they could work nicely and be fun for drunken club games xD

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We play ‘pepernoten’ go at our club around ‘sinterklaas’ (Dutch version of Santa Claus who comes on December 5 to bring children presents and gingerbread candy called ‘pepernoten’ . The candy is roughly go stone shaped, the name translates to pepper nuts). Both players get three of the pepernoten, to be played instead of a normal stone. The candy causes the intersection to become border, thus taking away liberties or an eye.

If you want to use it as alternative handicap, give the candy stone(s) only to the weaker player.


I got reminded of this topic in my discussion with @le_4TC during our Thue-Morse game, so here I revive it.

Anybody else who wants to try some of these weird alternative handicap systems or other strange go variants?

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Black can take any number of free placement handicap stones at the beginning of the game, but must take a shot of liquor immediately after placing each one.


Kill-all-go, but the attacker has to take a shot for every group they kill.

I’m open for those kind of variants too :stuck_out_tongue:


I like the first, second, third but the rest are kinda too strong for black

I like the second and the 4th.

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Or to generalize upon my previous idea…

After playing each move, black may choose to immediately take a shot of liquor, which will force white to skip their next turn.

Another way to change the balance in a game is to combine it with another game/sport, for example…

Perhaps we could combine Go with darts. As a handicap, White has to throw darts at a paper copy of the board on a wall in order to play their moves. Or maybe both players have to play by throwing darts, or maybe it is something that Black can force White to perform by taking a shot.

Maybe we should just start a new topic: Go Drinking Games!


Another way to remove the need for komi…

Le Mans Start Go

To begin the game, the players line up at a fixed distance from the board, say 100 meters. At the sound of a starting gun, they race to the board, and the first player that is able to place a stone gets the advantage of the first move, in a game without komi.


I couldn’t find a tongue-in-cheek emoji, so I use this one instead.


Don’t know if this is already mentioned …
If you don’t want handicap and komi, the difference in strength could also be compensated by less time for the stronger player.
This time handicap should be related to the difference in rank; the bigger the difference in rank, the more time handicap for the stronger player.


Just an example:
if every kyu difference between the players is awarded a 2% reduction in time for the the stronger player;
than a match between a 6 kyu and a 12 would imply that the 6 kyu would get 12% less time than the 12 kyu.
In a 9 x 9 AST (5 minutes) that would mean that the stronger player would have 36 seconds less than the opponent.


  1. 2% is just the first thing that came up when I wrote this. This 2% is not backed up by any form of go science whatsoever.
  2. I don’t know if OGS is capable of supporting such a time-handicap system.

I’ve done this kind of handicap before, but the problem is that thinking during your opponent’s time is quite useful, so it doesn’t feel like blitz too much. In fact, I think this will only be truly a handicap if the difference in rank is small. A blitzing 1d will probably always outplay a 10k with unlimited time.