Handicap stones vs reverse komi in tournaments

As i said, i would love someone to explain me why, in tournament is the handicap stone more used than reverse komi. I remember when i was ddk i would’ve love to play without handicap stone against stronger player because they feel forced to make trick play and i remember i never grasp something usefull from those game. Instead when i played some reverse komi friendly game aganist stronger opponent i loved the feel of improvement and i understanded more, also when i went to play against people of my same level i remember feeling so much stronger. Sorry for the dumb question i was just curious :smiley:


Reverse komi is not supported on (native) OGS Tournaments Afaik


Both handicap stones and reverse komi have their own advantages, there’s no reason why a reverse komi tournament wouldn’t work. (edit: actually, something might need to be done about mirror go)

So the lack of reverse komi games is mainly because of inertia, handicap stones is the established way of equalizing winning chances (which makes sense historically since komi is a relatively recent invention).

We might see more reverse komi tournaments in the future, there has been at least one organized here on OGS.

[Edit] Here it is:

As benjito mentioned, OGS tournaments doesn’t support it, so it had to be organized “manually”.


I wasn’t talking about ogs, but real life tournament sorry for my english :smiley:


Thank you


Oh Oops! Your english was fine, I just assumed you were talking about OGS because we’re in the OGS forums heh.


I think past a certain rank it becomes easy to keep up in the opening against a stronger player, brining the stronger player’s winning condition to the same idea of having to outfight you, with the only difference that you have a much more fine-tuned control over the type of the game it will be via the opening, so I think it’s relatively easy to set up a board position that is slow, but also overly strong, leaving the stronger player nothing to play off of to make up the disadvantage in raw points. Also a raw deduction of points is very harsh and it’s something you can’t lessen by outplaying the opponent.


Yeah sorry ahah my bad :smiley:

My experience is otherwise. As White I prefer reverse komi so that I get to play the opening more fully.

[Edit]: Perhaps what you say is more true of dans than kyus?


There are pros and cons but to answer the question directly, handicap has history (and books, studies…) while reverse komi don’t.


Sadly :(, i would love to see much more reverse komi game!. Thank you for your answer!

I too prefer reverse komi, which is all we play in our IRL group. It does not distort the opening the way handicap stones do.


I think another reason is that it is less trouble for the tournament organisers.

With handicap stones, stones = difference in rank. Simple, no debate.
But many people have different ideas about reverse komi. Should it be 30 or 32 or 35? The answer is less clear. We already argue enough about regular komi, so I think tournament organisers even if they prefer reverse komi in theory prefer even more saving themselves one extra headache.


Then it’s a problem for tournaments organizer in another way. Komi could be fixed by a pie system

My personal experience is that handicap stones are real: they’re there, you can see them, you can use them.
Reverse komi is virtual: you know you’ve an advantage but you don’t really appreciate it because you can’t feel it in the game.

I’m SDK on OGS, 10k EGF, I definitely can’t estimate score in the fuseki and I struggle at counting in middle game. It’s quite useless to have, say, -40 pts komi if the only moment you can compare that with the board happens when it’s too late.

I’m not a fan of handicap games. My opinion is that white can still crush black because of their greater knowledge.
I played IRL against a 2d in my local club. We tried both methods. With stones it was all about fighting and he was way better than me, but at least I felt the advantage of having those stones on the board. With reverse komi I just felt crushed after the fuseki, since he was able to punish all my joseki mistakes. In the end, knowing that I had lost by, say, 30 pts instead of 70 because of komi was of no use.

That was instructive for sure!
But for a teaching game we don’t really need handicap. It’s about learning. You don’t even need to complete the game.

Handicap is meant to give some sort of fair game to uneven players and I don’t think it really works, but in the case I prefer stones.


High handicaps are hard to balance at the DDK level because players rarely understand strength and influence at that level. If you keep playing handicap games, especially with a teacher, you will find as you get into mid to high SDK that the advantage flips from white to black. Either way, I think it’s usually a challenging and interesting game for both sides.

1 Like

Once i saw a topic here asking what’s the trick to win.
Obviously there is no trick, unless you play handicap. Handicap makes the game easier with something to put on the workbench.

Reverse komi is in some way harder on this side.

Handicap games stop the weaker player getting massacred (for a while at least).


The answer to this is basically as @BHydden said I think. There is essentially universal agreement on handicap stones (for 19x19 anyway) but no agreed method for calculating reverse Komi.

There are tournaments that use bidding for Komi (i.e. offer Komi to play black) but only for even games in my experience. I think it would be difficult to agree in a tournament setting on an acceptable reverse Komi for the reason above.

Sounds like you just need more stones/reverse Komi!


Yeah i think bidding the komi doesnt work with reverse komi (between players of different strength)

1 Like