Handicaps on OGS

It seems to me that handicap games are generally unpopular here (or maybe in general) – correct me if I’m wrong about that, of course. The large majority of tournaments seem to be no-handicap, and most advertised real time games also.

Someone told me that this is because many people feel that handicap games are a fundamentally different game than non, and don’t like them because they aren’t “real” go, or at least aren’t the flavor of go that most people are interested in (?).

This seems unfortunate to me, since a good handicap system makes go much more accessible to lower level players. Without handicaps, a 20k player who can’t find anyone below 12k to play is likely to get discouraged after not too long.

So – if starting with stones already on the board changes the play in a bad way, how about handicap through komi, beyond just the 0.5 vs 6.5 for one rank? (I doubt this is a new idea, but I haven’t found what’s been discussed about it.) For example, of players are three ranks apart, maybe komi is 12.5, and if they are 10 ranks apart, maybe it is somewhere in the 65 range?

Would this result in handicap games that play more like even games as far as the actual game play, and if so, what’s an appropriate amount per rank difference, roughly?

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A quick search of “handicap” and “reverse komi” here on the forums will give you plenty to read.
Here ya go:


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Ah, “reverse komi” was the term I missed. My searching skill was weak. :slight_smile:



Reverse komi can be good for unranked play.

Unfortunately, the ranking system doesn’t know how to deal with it - so you can’t do it ranked. This is because reverse komi is even less well calibrated to rank difference than stone-handicap.

People are willing to accept that 1 kyu of rank difference is worth one stone. And where ranked handicapped games are played, this calibrates that (obviously on OGS the calibration is weak because it doesn’t happen much).

We’d have to wire up the ranking system to the agreed points-per-rank to confirm whether the number is correct.

An interesting thing I had found in playing reverse komi against much more skilled opponents in an unranked game is that it is largely irrelevant. As soon as the game is unranked, personally I care less about winning, and just play the best I can and learn the best I can.

I have been learning a lot and enjoying that. It’s actually better in some ways not to specify a reverse komi, the AI analysis is more helpful with the proper komi set.


I just expect it’ll be harder to adjust play to deal with the extra points in reverse komi.

I would expect the reason using stones works well is that the stronger player could in theory be able to play so that the extra stones aren’t as much of an advantage as they appear, that they end up misplaced/inefficient later in the game.

There’s no way to make the reverse komi inefficient. You just have to make better decisions during the game. Even more so than if you just played the same player with ordinary komi. (Well maybe it’s the similar with the extra stones)

In principle it should work if you knew that a player x ranks stronger tends to win by y points. I’d expect it’ll be skewed in that in principle if someone is ahead they (at least by the proverbs) are supposed to play safer than if it were a closer game.

Also I like handicap games and would like to play more, especially since when I go to tournaments theres usually some handicap games.


The reddit group has several handicap tournaments active right now. It’s likely that there will be more.

I guess there’s also this group (that I didn’t think to look for before)

Not sure how active it is, but it’s an idea.

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Handicap stones change the game somewhat and I would suggest that people don’t like that when they don’t have enough of an understanding of the meaning of moves but rather have learned joseki and sequences. Just speculation. I think it’s important to play and understand handicap games as part of complete go learning.

I also think it’s somewhat painful for black in a handicap game to know they have this enormous advantage and not the first idea how to make use it. Similarly for white the game can feel lost for a long time and it’s an effort to continue in such a situation of you are used to even games and resigning when you are in a clearly losing position.

I feel there is less of a difference between a game with handicap stones and one with reverse komi than it might initially seem. The person with the advantage of the handicap can play more safely/cautiously while the person giving the handicap must play more adventurously. The difficult, as has been mentioned, is to know the “correct” reverse Komi to give. I think something around 8-10 points per stone but that makes quite a variation at 9 stones!

Edit: feel free to challenge me to a correspond handicap game! I should practice that more


Senseis has a table with approximated reverse komi values.

The biggest, but most times ignored advantage of reverse komi is, that either player can take black and play first. White either takes or gives the additional Komi.



La verdad es que no se que rango tengo ni que handicap necesito. Mi sugerencia sería empezar sin Komi ni rango y a medida que avanza las partidas entre jugadores ajustar el komi y el rango, Por ejemplo, podría existir una regla tal que si se por cada 9 piedras de ventajas en 19x19 se concediera una jugada piedra adicional de handicap y el komi disminuyera un punto. Este proceso se debería ir iterando de manera que se consiguiera que el jugador de menor rango convergiera al de mayor que casa vez sería mejor gracias a enfrentarse a un jugador más débil pero con mayor ventaja. Las partidas serían más igualadas e interesantes y los dos jugadores disfrutarían y aprenderían hasta equilibrar sus fuerzas.Creo que esto es la esencia del Go. Belleza, arte y equilibrio vida.



Translation courtesy of google:

The truth is that I don’t know what range I have or what handicap I need. My suggestion would be to start without Komi or range and as the games between players progress adjust the komi and range, For example, there could be a rule that if for every 9 advantage stones in 19x19 an additional handicap stone play was awarded and the komi will decrease one point. This process should be iterated in such a way that the player with the lowest rank converges with the player with the highest rank, and that this time would be better thanks to facing a weaker player with a greater advantage. The games would be more even and interesting and the two players would enjoy and learn until they balanced their strength, I think this is the essence of Go. Beauty, art and life balance.

Have you ever tried the online translator DeepL?
The translations are much better than those from Google.


Good to know thanks - we face the challenge of translating reports/complaints from time to time.

Interestingly, in the above case the translation is basically identical.

I’m in the process of de-googling myself… reliable translation has been one of the biggest hurdles to this endeavour… THANK YOU !!!