There is a fundamental problem with the way that the site allows players to exit scoring, and it is particularly confusing and damaging to new players, both in terms of fairness and in terms of them understanding the game, why it ends, and how it is scored. Since I think this is a pretty important issue, I’m just gonna lay it all out there on what’s wrong with it, why it should be fixed, and why it might not seem like a big deal, but it is.
When both players pass, the game is supposed to be ended (except AGA, where three passes may occur if white passed first. This is to make sure Area and Japanese counting come out the same) and scored. Occasionally, especially with beginners, there is a dispute as to the life and death of a group. In fact, even the rules of Go dispute life and death in some situations, such as Bent Four in the corner and some weird ko situations! It’s confusing. Disagreements happen. For this reason, the site allows players to exit scoring after a five minute period to try to come to an agreement.
BUT there are some fundamental problems with how this is done. Either player can exit scoring of their own power. They just click the button to return to game and BAM, it’s magically their turn again! Seems innocent, but it actually causes some very serious problems
1. It can be used as a forced takeback
We all know score estimator is not always accurate. Let’s say someone uses score estimator near the endgame. Says they’re winning by a couple points. They play out the last of the endgame and, uh oh, go to count the game and they’re losing by 0.5 pts. Guess it was a little off. Well, that’s okay, since I’m losing, and I now learned that DURING (I might make a bigger point later, but there is a fundamental issue with gaining information like this then retroactively changing a decision based on it) counting, right before I should click “accept” and lose, I think I’ll expend every possible trick play I can in hopes of a silly oversight or time pressure slip. See, the “exit scoring” is being used in a way it is entirely not designed to be used. It is being used to FORCE your opponent to take back a move with no say. White cannot say “no, I don’t dispute any life and death of any groups, we must count.” If this is a fast game or a game with little time left, they might not even be able to call a mod and the mod might not show up in time. At very least, it is an undue burden.
2. Infinite stalling!
When you design something for social interaction, 100x so on the internet, you have to think of the worst way it can be used. If you pass, go into scoring, exit scoring at 4:59, then just pass again and enter scoring, you get a whole fresh 5 minutes. You can stall eternally. Even in other stalling methods, you will run out of moves eventually. Not this. Just straight up can’t end the game without moderator intervention.
3. It’s simply not the rules of Go
We already talked about how two passes is supposed to end the game. There are protocol for what happens when players can’t reach an agreement, in tiers of severity to fix the disagreement. In AGA rules, first is that the LAST player to pass gets to play in the contended area. Not the first. As it is now, if B passes, W passes, B decides he wants to try to fish for a cheap win with trick/time pressure moves, he exits scoring and it’s his turn! This should never happen. It should be white’s turn! Never would it be black’s move. Exiting scoring should be akin to an undo. This means the last player to pass is getting their pass undone, and therefore gets to play instead, making it to where two passes in a row effectively never happened. Now think about how it happens in the other example. White’s turn is simply skipped. Just doesn’t exist at all. And again, by force. This is simply not the rules of Go.
Why it matters
First, it’s just not good for one of the biggest Go servers to have a functionality that makes it actually not follow the rules of the game. Now there will likely be people saying “you just need to call a moderator,” but I want to nip that in the bud and say that this problem happens to beginners mostly. I don’t personally deal with this and I know how to deal with this. Double digit kyu often don’t even understand exactly how or why a game ends or is scored. I have witnessed this happen to people I teach and they feel like it’s not right, but aren’t sure if it’s actually wrong or not. I have spoken with some single digit kyu who don’t even think this is incorrect.
My wife is ~17k has run into this problem three notable times. The first time, she was pretty upset but didn’t know if it was right or not. I had to explain to her “no, this should not be legal.” The second time, she was very upset, but did eventually get resolution after trying to get ahold of a moderator and trying not to time out of the game while her opponent played with the time controls. The third time, finally she was equipped to deal with it. But this was only with my reassurance that she was correct. She tried to explain why this was unfair to her last opponent, but he did not believe her. People had done it to him, he said. Thought it was just part of the game, and I believe he’s being honest.
Beginners are the affected audience, and they are particularly fragile and valuable
This setup is confusing and incorrect.
It is difficult for beginners to know what to do or if they are even being wronged.
It spreads poor understanding of the game, how and why it concludes.
It puts power in the hands of those with the worst intentions.
There are better alternatives, such as requiring an undo to exit and if no resolution happens in 5 minutes, giving the proper player the next move and agreement to continue play, it is queue’d to a list of games for moderators to decide. Since this is rare, I don’t think it would result in a huge burden.
Beginners are easily discouraged, especially when they are confused or feel cheated. They often just quit.
For these reasons, I must insist this is a high priority issue for the developers to look at changing. I also have other ideas on how to fix this if you’d like those, but I want to wrap this up for now. It’s already too long.
tl;dr exiting scoring, as its set up, actually violates the rules of Go and leads to bad situations in malicious hands and needs to be changed