Fun tournament/game formats?

Sorry for the vague title, this is a pretty ambiguous topic, and all comments welcome.

Go is a very serious and skill-based game, which I love. However, it means that if you play a game with a very strong player, the outcome is pretty much predetermined. Same for tournaments - the winner is inevitably one of the top skilled players.

I’ve started to see benefits of games like Among Us that are so random and chaotic that skill does not play a massive role in who ends up winning. Sure there are strategies, but often inexperienced players can have a good time because the game is set up such that most people win most of the time.

Now Go’s handicap system offers some ability to level the playing field, but in online systems it seems like it becomes “May the best sandbagger win” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I guess I’m wondering, are there any tournament formats that optimize for fun (and perhaps leave order and fairness by the wayside)?


How about EGC beer tournament? Beer Tournament – European Go Congress 2020 – 2021

  • The tournament will be played in a pub, players will pair themselves – they will find an opponent and board to play. Every pair is allowed to play at most two games in the tournament.
  • The thinking time is 20 minutes without byoyomi. Handicaps according to rank difference up to 9 stones are used, in even games colours are decided by nigiri.
  • Winner of the tournament is the player with the highest sum of wins and drunk beers (one point for 0.5l beer). Tied placements are decided by: fewer games played, higher EGF rating.
  • First three players get a prize – vouchers for 15, 10 and 5 beers.

Beer points, beer prizes? I gotta say I like everything about this tournament!


I don’t get what you’re talking about.
Fun in Go is in even fighting. Stronger players will just crush you. And sandbagging isn’t really fun, except for douches.

We look for reliable ranking systems just to have the best chance to have even games.
So, if you’re looking for that in tournaments, I think that any pairing based on strength will work.

But you said

Well that’s the opposite of Go.
Better, it’s the opposite of skilled Go: DDK games are chaotic and can be quite unpredictable.

Maybe you can find a similar situation in blitz games. Or in huge fightings. Maybe that’s why some people play so aggressive.


Nick Sibicky has made several challenge videos, in which he’s restricted from doing something.

These are:

  • the C-Line Challenge (no playing on the C file)
  • the D-Line Challenge (no playing on the D file)
  • the X Challenge (no playing on points radiating diagonally from tengen)
  • the No-Tenuki Challenge (no playing more than seven (?) points away from the opponent’s move)
  • the Tsuke Challenge (presumably a prohibition of non-contact move)

Just search for “challenge” on his channel and you’ll find them.


Does this mean just not on those 19 points in that one column, or avoiding the third line (around the board) altogether?

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Just those 19 points. It was plenty difficult anyways :stuck_out_tongue:


I really like these “no moves of this type”-variants, since you can play them against an un-knowing opponent (there are loads of other fun variants which should be mentioned in this thread, but most of them require you to find a willing opponent :stuck_out_tongue:).

So anyways I got reminded of such variants by this thread and decided to record myself trying a “No starpoints” challenge, same spirit as the other challenges mentioned above, but more playable against an opponent of equal skill, really recommend trying it in your own games :slight_smile:

To get closer back to the original question, hidden move go is the best variant I know for introducing more fun and luck while still rewarding go skill. You can tune the amount of “luck” by increasing the number of hidden moves, here’s one with quite a lot of hidden moves:

And here’s some quicker games on the variant go server:


I think it comes down to a question of what do we really find fun about Go?

In other activities where there is not so much focus on rank and winning, or with hobbies that are not competitive pursuits at all, it seems easier to focus on enjoying the activity simply for what it is, rather than for attaining some achievements or signs of progress.

When I was younger, and lived in the city proper, I would frequently join informal, pickup games of football (both of the association and American variety) at local parks. It was never about winning, we didn’t keep score and even the teams would have to be occasionally adjusted as people joined or left, but we had a lot of fun just by playing. I would also sometimes go play tennis with my friends, who were all much better at it, but I still had fun just by playing and hitting the ball around.

I’ve also participated in many large races, where the field would be greatly varied in running ability, and I’d inevitably finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Such events could be made more “interesting” (in some sense) if everyone received a time handicap in relation to their skill, but this is virtually never done (and maybe not just because of the logistical difficulties to arrange). Instead, I think most people derive enjoyment from trying to do better than their personal best, rather than beating any other arbitrary competitor running next to them, as well as simply enjoying the intrinsic pleasure of the exercise.

My point with these analogies is to express that there are different (overlapping, but still distinct) ways of enjoying a competitive pursuit:

  1. Winning games and tournaments
  2. Improving one’s own abilities and better understanding the game
  3. Simply enjoying act of performing the activity

To elaborate on the distinction between the first two items, consider that it is always easy to win a game by finding a weaker opponent, but then that isn’t very meaningful, and for the sake of learning, it’s often losing against stronger opponents that is most instructive. Even when we are not winning nor noticeably learning, such as when we are just talking about the game (like on a Go forum), it can be enjoyable to just think about the game, just like how some might enjoy watching videos about Go and of other people playing.

I think that “fun” is highly subjective and more about the mentality that we bring to the activity, rather than how we might try to reshape it.


One idea I’ve had is to mimic esports.

Teams of 5 go players. Teams share in the total number of points of each player (with some max cap per game). Team with the most points wins. (This will be available on badukclub in 2-ish weeks)

Another interesting team variant here would be to actually allow players to switch opponents mid game.

In both cases it would help make the game more fun for weaker players and instill some comradery without truly changing the nature of what Go is.


Heh unfortunately Go absolutely is my game >.<

I think my question is really about the setting in which to play the game, rather than the game itself. After all, I would say ladders are a more “chaotic” format, and yet they are just as valid a way to play the game as any tournament. So I thought I’d explore the idea of this fun/chaotic optimization (and perhaps no such thing exists :grinning: edit: people posted a lot of “fun” variants in the thread so I am scratching this last parenthetical comment)

Agree that even fighting is the most fun. Are there tournament formats that optimize for time spent playing even games better than others?

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The former.

I like to avoid this ambiguity by separating out the different terms.

  • The line is ordinal (first, second, third) and counts from the edge inwards.

  • The file or column is vertical and counts in letters (A, B, C) from the left edge.

  • The row is horizontal and counts ordinally, usually from the bottom (but sometimes from the top).

The distinction between file and row is a useful part of chess terminology.


Interesting idea. I would like to play in something organized around it.


What about playing two games, and once per match, a team can make their opponents switch boards.

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I think features should be:

  • a lot of players
  • pairing = strength

Then any swiss or McMahon would do.

@trung12ly 's series “beat the kyu, be a dan” works very well for SDK.
It’s a simultaneous McMahon with lots of players. Each round you get 8-9 games against people about your strength.
There are many rounds, so pairing is refined also by games result. Very funny.

At the moment I actually play only 3 kind of games:

  • tournaments described above
  • weird tournaments (large handicap, 25x25, etc.)
  • site 19x19 ladder

All of them are quite funny for different reasons.


I really like these team variants you propose. It means that you can still try to win, but that failure/success doesn’t fall on any one person at a time.

Also, it kind of incentivizes winning by a lot if possible. While I like that Go is generally a game that should come down to a few points, I think a format that encourages big wins would be quite entertaining :slight_smile:


I’m behind this idea if and only if you can work the Thue-Morse sequence into it, such as the order in which the members of each team get Black vs. their respective opponents. :smiley:

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Exactly! Thank you for taking the time to fully consider those variants.

Additionally it helps with unbalanced teams. So let’s say someone is paired up with a much better player (think 5 stones stronger). The outcome is obvious but the weaker player can still attempt to minimize the loss and thus benefit the team.

Also, it would yield “hail-mary” type plays where an entire team could come from behind due to the skill/luck of one tesuji. And thanks to Katago, we can track live score estimates of everyone’s games and get a feel for the overall 5v5 match during the game.

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