Bias against the handicap system at online-go?

When I started learning about go I was impressed by the simple to use system with handicap stones. Therefore I was a bit surprised that none of the standard game formats here at online-go have that part activated. Yes, you can set up your own game variation, but the default is without.

Is there a particular reason for this? It was my impression that when playing go irl, at clubs for example, it’s more common to use it than not, but perhaps that is wrong?

In deed, compared to other go servers, OGS is biased against it.

That does not mean that handicap games are not common. I used handicap games a lot in live or corresponding games.
It may be because I am usually OK to continue the game eve if the other party ranking is very wrong, say 14kyu overall, but
acted as 20 kyu with me. I am OK with that, many people do not. There is consequences obviously to accept a game like that wrong. I hope more people at OGS can accept wrongly ranked human so that the rank can be more real in the future. If nobody wants to play with wrongly ranked person, then he/she is stuck with that rank.

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I see, when you create a Custom or Computer game it’s necessary to Enable Handicaps. On the other hand you have to disable Ranked.

I think that’s a bad choice. Most people would probably chose a Ranked game with Handicap Enabled. As it is, there’s more chance of mistakenly creating a Ranked game with Handicap disabled. Suggest both should default to Off or if the default for Ranked is to be On, the default for Enable Handicaps should be On.

Any particular reason the current defaults were chosen?

Look on the bright side: at last you get a chance to find out if it’s ranked and has handicap. The blitz, live and correspondence options shockingly instantaneously post a game for which you have no idea what the exact settings are.

My personal reason for not playing handicaped games here on OGS is because I get plenty of them AFK. My brother has very slacking attitude to studying go so he needs 4-5 stones on me and last time I tried to play even game with one of those SDKs and Ds in my go club I ended up with negatory score :joy:. So when on OGS I usually go for games with people ±2 my rank (blurry anyway since OGS ranking system needs too few wins/losses to change range for my taste (just copy pasting system developed for live tournaments is a bad idea IMHO).

One tendency at OGS is biased against handicap games. Another is more frequent cancellation when the rank is wrong on one party.

Granted, I myself cancelled one game on 6 handicap games against a perpson that I believe is stronger than me. Like live ranking at 20 kyu, overall is 10 kyu.

Other party also cancelled games against me at first few moves for several games. Not sure why, but maybe other people felt my rank was not correct.

Yeah. I think OGS should do away with whole 3 rank type system. Everybody goes to the profile and looks at the real one anyway…

I started to get more cancellations when I started to disable in-game live analysis haha.

I don’t think the 3 types of ranks are necessarily a bad idea. A disparity between the ratings gave me the idea that one opponent was using losses in one type of game to hold down the overall rating. Maybe it can give on some insight into something one does in one type of game that helps or hurts one’s results and by identifying that one might be able to change it.

Is a cancellation different than a resignation? It doesn’t seem right that you invest time playing a game and then the opponent can just cancel it.

Cancellation within a couple of moves does not hurt rank. That is very different from resignation.

@Shoreline @Aten
19 moves to be precise :wink: (on a 19x19 board). If a game ends earlier it is annulled.

I think that hc isnt as prevalent here as on other servers because it doesnt work as well. it is implemented cosmetically. the ranking system considers hc games as equal games, but whos to say 100 elo points are worth a stone?
for the handicap-system to work it should be the basis for the ranking-system, in which case all ranked games between players of different strenghts would be hc games.

So there is Annulment and Cancellation?

What do you mean HandiCap is " implemented cosmetically"? When you say “the ranking system considers hc games as equal games”, what does that mean?

“all ranked games between players of different strengths would be hc games” Why should this be so? If I know I’m 8k even though my current rating is 10k, I should be able to play an even game with an 8k and expect that if I win it will give me a bigger step up in rating.

If OGS uses ELO, there is information from EGF:

There are tables of probabilities for outcome for various differences in rating. Those go into how much of a rating change you get out of a particular game. If you are rated 10k and achieve a low probability result against a higher ranked player with a good confidence level for his rating, it is most likely that your rating is inaccurate and should be adjusted upwards more than if you achieved the higher probability result of winning a handicapped game

“19 moves to be precise (on a nineteen 19x19 board).” -> N moves on an NxN goban?

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Not wrong, not right… Depends on what you want.
The handicap is designed to keep the game of two different ranks fun for both sides. (maybe with a stronger emphasis on the stronger player). The stronger player is not bored, because he has to compensate for the handicap and try hard to catch up… The weaker player, on the other hand, stays motivated throughout the game, because ha actually has a chance to win.

I on the other hand, do not like to play handicapped games that much, because in my opinion it hinders the learning process. To close the initial gap the stronger player usually has to “overplay” a little playing moves that would not work against an equally ranked opponent and the overall style is also different from equal matches. Thus the weaker player can learn bad habits and stronger player reinforces them. If you play without the handicap it is much easier to play simple, solid moves that the weaker player can mimic to improve his game (but granted, not so much fun).

It is my believe also that handicapes are far from being “precise”. Even a very strong player for example can lose easily in a handicapped match if he has no experience with it, because the style of play is so different. Thus it is no reliable way of comparing ranks. Thus it should unranked. (In my opinion)


i never talked about cancellations… games that end before move 19 (on 19x19) are “annulled” games, as per my game history. it means no player wins/loses points.

yes, afaik. i dont know about custom sizes though.

i mistyped. its supposed to be “even games”.
i guess my wording was bad. but hey :slight_smile: i can try again. i meant that i am doubtful of how well a rank compensation can do in a system, where it is no longer the basis of ranks. if player A has 1000 elo points and player B has 1500, then there would be a handicap of five stones in the game. but obviously there is no telling whether 5 stones is appropriate when both players havent played any handicap games in the first place. if every ranked game was a handicap game, then each rank would be worth 1 stone (not 100 points). in such a system there is no need for elo points at all. i believe kgs doesnt use elo in fact. more handicap games are played there. thats why i feel rank difference (here) isnt very well represented with handicap stones. it is a difference whether B is 500 elo points stronger than A or 5 stones. in a way it is a vicious circle… more ranked handicap games would need to be played for the rank to represent the strenght difference in stones. but because the compensation through handicap is inaccurate there arent enough ranked handicap games.
of course handicap has its place in go, but in my experience it takes more than a game (and certainly more than knowing both players elo) to finetune it. it is therefore most useful when playing the same opponent many times, so you can measure your progress against that player (and noone gets bored, as @Adam3141 said).

now, dont know about EGF ratings. do they play even games in their tournaments? im guessing so.

i might be entirely wrong about all this, but thats how it feels to me. im also not saying i want things to be like that, since handicap games can be quite strange.

P.S: also… am i wrong when thinking that the proportional loss/gain of points in an elo system is compensation for different levels of play. if (ranking-system wise) the difference is already compensated, why would you then try to compensate it in the game as well, only to make the ranking compensation null?.. just thinking out loud at this point :wink:

that would be the other (far easier to understand :joy:) side of my argument.

Mh, not sure about that … IMO with growing strength also the expertise with fighting against handicap should also grow, meaning that people who rise in strength “should” also keep playing weaker players and not only peers, like weaker player “should” also play stronger players and not only peers, always with appropriate handicap. Thus the chance for a 9k to win w/ 9 stones against a 1d should be 50/50.

I’d definitely prefer it if the default game setting would include …

  • automatic colour,
  • automatic handicap,
  • and automatic Komi
    … and …
  • if it were ranked.

Custom sizes cannot be ranked, so this is irrelevant.


I think one reason why Handicap is less common at OGS is because of the good ELO rating system.

You don’t need handicaps in a ranked match for the ranking outcome to be fair under ELO. That’s great. It means that, as Adam3141 said, lower people can play higher people and learn “proper play” … sure they lose lots, but their rank is calculated suitably so that side of it doesn’t matter so much.

Then you’re only left with wanting handicap if the lower player wants to experience winning :slight_smile: At the price of learning how proper gameplay flows.

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This is a great point. Handicaps games are different and require an almost different skill set. I have only played on OGS and mostly without handicap but when I play someone in person we always use handicap. On OGS I normally only play people who are +/- 3 kyus from me so I feel like an even game is still challenging for both players.

In a high handicap game, it doesn’t matter if I am playing black or white, suddenly all my joseki knowledge and fuseki knowledge and even my whole approach to the game goes out the window. As black, I start fights early because I have all ladders and all the influence so feel like I have to use it. I know that as black in a high handicap game, white will have to overplay and this changes my mentality as black. I become overly aggressive.
As White in a handicap game, I try to play like I would in an even game at the start but then even up really far behind and having to invade.

I think playing well in high handicap games (as either black or white) is a skill unto itself.

As an example, I am 7kyu OGS, and a friend is 14 kyu OGS, so 6-7 stones would seem right at first glance. However, 4 stones seem to be correct for us from playing in person.

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I mean, i’m happy if i get to play against dan level player on even game and learn from it etc.
But if i’m going to play with 15 kyu, i’d rather make them take handicap stones instead of even game, because without handicaps game turns out somewhat boring to continue after ~40 moves

So i feel like handigames are more fun to play as white than they are as black, especially if the handicap is big (like 4 or more stones)

But of course when i was 20 kyu myself, there wasn’t anyone around to take 4 stones against me, so i rather played without handicaps until i was strong enough to take white xD


i get where you are coming from. this is a matter of taste though. for me its the other way round, i dont like playing white against handicap stones, because i have a hard time overplaying on purpose. it just feels wrong :slight_smile:.
i prefer playing teaching games over high handicap games, but of course ill do both :slight_smile:

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To me, a major fun part of go game is handicap setup. Without handicap, I know I am going to lose to a stronger player before the game or to win against a weaker player before starts. Handicap setup removed that kind of certainty.
Not sure who is going to win or lose, and I have a shot to win against stronger player or against weaker player on heavy handicap stones. That uncertainty built-up a motivation for the game and joy of winning eventually.