I wondered over this for some time. How come when people create games tjat they dont set handicap to automatic? I mostly see no handicap.
I my selv always set handicap to automatic.


I really don’t know, so I am just speculating.

It seems like it is just ingrained in the culture of this server. Games are mostly played without handicap since the people here seem to mostly prefer to play without handicap. I know that on some other go servers, playing with handicap is the norm.

There is possibly also a bit of a herd effect reinforcing this behavior. Since most games are played without handicap, the people that prefer that tend to stay and play more games. Maybe default game options (and the ladder being without handicap) helped to initially start the trend.

Some people prefer no handicap since they feel that handicap stones distort the game, or maybe they don’t trust the ranking system to properly estimate the appropriate number of handicap stones. Others prefer to play with handicap, maybe because they hope for games with a more balanced chance of winning, but those people seem to be in the minority here.


I prefer to play with handicap on, because I find that I have more interesting games that way. Playing without handicap can result in more unfair matches one way or another. I try to join groups that use handicap in their tournaments.

If you would like to have a handicap game, let me know!


I cannot speak for anyone else, but i personally like to play without having any ‘extra’ stones on the board. This will let me play the opening i want. Also i rather play with players who are close to my rank when i can, so games will be reasonable close even without assistance from handicap.

Only exemption is when my opponent is more than few stones weaker than me, then i usually want my opponent to have some extra stones, so that it won’t get boring near end-game.

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I don’t like playing with handicap stones, because it distorts the opening. When I play IRL (most of my games), we use reverse komi if there is a disparity in strength.

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Well, there is something to be said for no-handicap games, because it more accurately reflects the rating system. Handicap stones are a fairly alien to rating systems predicting the probability of winning an even game in a game with greater rank disparity (than 0), so technically it’s more sensible to play even games even with rank disparity. Of course the higher risk for higher ranked players is a factor (they risk a lot of rating pts while potentially only gaining very few), so in a sense it’s beneficial to the lower ranked people. They get to play stronger opponents on even and don’t even lose that many points if they lose, so yea.

The aesthetic bonus is that people get to play actual openings. The downside is that fewer people gain experience playing with or against handicap stones. I think KGS is the most handicap-friendly server, followed by IGS’ weird handicap system.


yeah, tbh I keep thinking “maybe I’ll start doing handicap” but I keep getting incredibly annoyed whenever there’s a handicap challenge…

a big part of it is probably the fact that I feel like I have to make moves I wouldn’t normally make in order to win…

1 stone for each kyu difference is just too big, especially when the ranking is just a range and the uncertainty (technical term: standard deviation) could be up to +/- 1~2 kyu). I know someone will jump in and say that was the definition of kyu in the first place, that each kye difference corresponds to one stone difference, but I still think is too much.

And the second point is, there is only so much space on a board and when the handicap is too much, the whole board is jammed with black. I was playing one game with 6 and another game with 8 stones handicap and it’s like black everywhere. I just couldn’t find anywhere that I can play that will not help him strengthen his territory.

My feeling is that as the number of handicap goes up, its effect is exponential.

This is part of why I like handicap, it forces you to come up with new strategies and keeps the game fresh and interesting.

This statement probably carries some truth. After the 3rd handicap stone in 9x9 and 8th in 19x19 I stop seeing these as a fair start. I think those levels should be the max, and I wish you could set that as an option when using automatic handicap. ie: Max Handicap = x

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Exponential? So the appropriate handicap is logarithmic? Let’s be generous and call it ceil(log(n))

diff(rankA,rankB) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
log2(n)           - 0, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4
loge(n)           - 0, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3

I don’t know about that. :3

I mean… we can play a 3|4 handicap game and you tell me afterwards if you think that’s a fair number of stones. :slight_smile:

This is only logical.

There is only so much space on the board. Each stone is worth more than the previous stone and in theory the 181st handicap is worth infinity (although in practice I would say about 30 stone handicap is enough for any 10k to beat any human, machine or alien ever). This couldn’t be linear so it must be logarithmic. The only remaining question is what base.

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The kyu/dan amateur rank system is defined by the principle that the difference in rank should correspond linearly to the appropriate handicap. Rating systems are designed to adhere to this principle when working with smaller (single-digit) differences in rank, even if this principle must necessarily break down for very large handicaps/differences in rank.

Further, I don’t believe the breakdown in the extremes is necessarily exponential. Instead, I think the notion of appropriate handicap becomes ill-posed when there is a vast disparity of skill. Here is a counter-argument against the notion of the exponential effect of handicap: If each additional stone is worth exponentially more and more, then that seems to suggest the existence of some pair of players with a very large skill deference where the weaker player is hopeless at say 29 handicap stones, but easily wins at 30 stones. If a weaker player is still hopeless to win with a 15+ (or so) handicap, then I think it becomes very difficult to set an appropriate handicap that would reliably yield even games.


I agree. That is the reason for having a max difference of 9 handy. Players more than 10 kyu apart are simple not comparable, the difference is just too big.
Somewhere I’ve read that single digit kyu is the only appropriately measurable kyu since 9 kyu player is the weakest that can be compared to a 1d master.
If someone is afraid of giving 9 handy to a weaker opponent, try to play against a more than 10 kyu stronger opponent with getting 9 handy and still loosing at the end! That is something one cannot believe at the beginning.


to be fair, our ELO/glicko to rank conversion is exponential, so since ranks are supposedly equivalent to handicap stones, then it is technically exponential (from a rating standpoint)