How many points do you want in the opening to ensure a win?

I was reading up on something and I got curious. I don’t want to reveal the purpose or what I’m looking at, although it may be obvious. I’ll post the results in a while. Anyway…

Suppose you’re playing an even game against an opponent of equal skill. Say you’re around move 15 and nothing bad has happened yet.

What is the minimum number of points would you want to magically gain in order for you to be able to say “it will be extremely difficult for my opponent to win now”?

  • 100
  • 75
  • 50
  • 40
  • 30
  • 25
  • 20
  • 15
  • 10
  • 5
  • 2

0 voters


For me, it’s N for NxN board size. An eight-point deficit, for example, is much easier to climb back from on a 19x19 board than a 9x9 board.


What win% is “extremely difficult”?

My answer reflects about a 95% chance of me winning.


Very interesting question since there are so many variables. I think a lot of players after they get a big lead tend to play safely immediately after and end up chucking 10-30 points sometimes more causing the game to be closer then it should have been. Obviously if we assume that it was a perfect game then you could say 10 points is enough. So I will take a guess around 40.


There is no lead I can’t blunder away, I always take care no matter my lead, ESPECIALLY in the early game


15 points is the same as 7.5 reverse komi, maybe I’ve been a little conservative - i guess it would be at least very difficult to come back against that with an equally strong opponent ^^

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Interesting poll, and the results are exactly in line with what I expected.


Sometimes game becomes one huge tsumego. Or you have to start ko battle with huge sacrifices. So you win or lose by more than 30 points.
Kyu can use handicap stones to play passive and safe. But komi alone not always helps.


Interesting question. I suspect the results are also correlated with rank, i.e. stronger players are more comfortable with smaller margins.


That was the idea, but wasn’t sure. I read the pros are really upset if they’re behind by 5 points in the opening, but to me that’s like normal lol.


Actually Mark convinced me of the opposite. You should use handicap stones to attack.

That idea alone let me get stronger, since it make things like “kick when you have the star point on the side as a pincer” make a lot of sense.


Well yeah, it’s definitely rank-based. When I was DDK, 80 pt games happened quite often.

I assume people who answered lower than me are mostly stronger.

I played normally with 9 stones against kata-bot and lost 9 / 9 games
it just kills everything
then I started to play as safe as possible and only then I was able to survive
only by doing so, I started to win with randomly placed 8 stones

I tend to take a lot of cash in the opening. I only eyeball it, though, so I can’t say how much.

I feel like I’m stronger at the opening than the middle game so I like to get a bigger margin from the opening than other players at my rank might be comfortable with.

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Playing super safe and conservative might make you win more. But if you are knowingly playing moves that are giving away lots of points to reduce risk even when you can’t read out the danger, and defending in gote all the time, instead of playing more normally and carefully reading and trusting your reading and taking sente or attacking sometimes, that is probably not as good for learning how to improve.


I don’t count like that. I want a difference margin. I focuse on playing good moves in all the ways possible.

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Oh most definitely when you place handicap you should never just lay down and let the stronger player continuously kick and slash at you. The higher leveled player is going to know more then you do and slowly slash away at your points. This is why a lot of people on KGS use handicap back in the day to get higher ranks. There were people who would get 9d giving 4d players 6 handicap stones and the player giving 6 handicap would only be like 6d in actuality. So you can kind of see how handicap stones don’t actually make a difference if you aren’t actively trying to beat your opponent on the board. So the idea is that you need to make the game not only complicated for you but also your opponent. Basically you need to take them out of there comfort zone otherwise no matter how many stones you have on the board they will just slash away at them.

It’s still very hard for me to correctly guess how many points I’m ahead before around the 80s moves.

But let’s assume I’m cheating and have AI estimate score for me. From review experience, when I’m feeling I’m leading after opening, it’s totally just my self delusion.

AI could give the other player up to +15 point, just to put salt in my wounded self esteem.

I pick the choice based on my decision at around move 80ish, where maybe 1 or 2 final fight could occur before the game end. At around that time from my experience 1-komi lead is still managable, but 2xKomi lead is almost certainly sealed fate. When I’m 2xKomi ahead, I only ever lose because of attitude-fault (e.g. didn’t pay enough respect to opponent’s strength, playing “whatever just resign already man” moves).

From 2xKomi @ move 80 value, I guess I should increase it a bit to buffer for more possibilities of the opening, so I increased it to my poll choice which is 20.

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From review experience, when I’m feeling I’m leading after opening, it’s totally just my self delusion.

I know that feel… especially in positions where I have more territory.