I played 60 auto handicap games so you don't have to

General impressions:

  • If you don’t restrict rank, as I didn’t for this series, generally people of your strength join so no handicap is set. Another large group of players is a few stones weaker than me. Significantly weaker than me players are rare (I assume no one reads it’s handicap game so they’re scared). And players are stronger than me were ultra rare.
  • Games with fewer handicap tend to be more exciting and fun. In this aspect playing no handicap with equal opponent is better than playing handicap with significantly weaker opponent.
  • Handicap restricts the ways you can play go and that’s not very interesting to play.
  • With 4 or fewer handicap one could sorta pretend that this is a normal game but with 5 or more it’s just way too different. White’s influence is automatically negated and they’re always under attack.
  • Handicap takes away the sense of accomplishment. Winning against someone stronger doesn’t feel super great because oh it’s handicap, it’s literally designed to give you 50% chance. Winning against someone weaker doesn’t feel good because you won against merely a weaker player. Losing against someone stronger feels kinda bad because you had such an advantage and still lost. And losing against someone weaker feels really bad because they play noticeably bad.
  • Some people don’t seem to know how to play handicap so you can get some easy wins. And they’re counted as winning real games by Glicko.
  • Rank adjusts reasonably steadily and predictably. Around 10-ish glicks or 0.1 rank for every game. Volatility (?) in luck has greater effect on the result than volatility in rank.
  • Subjectively a lot depends on whether I can get something good going at the start. Lots of games are just terrible from the beginning.
  • There’re some learning opportunities to handle weird moves.
  • It is often true that once the position seems equal-ish black is already lost. And some players take it too seriously.

For more details it was 15m+5x30s Japanese games, I always created the custom challenge and let anyone without restrictions join.

I played on a fresh account so first 10 games are for getting a rank and are excluded since they can’t have handicap anyway. Of the rest, 7 games were cancelled. I cancelled one of them because opponent started passing (to give back handicap?). 5 games were against new players so no handicap was applied. And 60 games were valid auto handi, out of which 46 had any actual handicap.

I finished with the rank of 2.0d because that’s a nice number to finish with.

I won 65% of games which doesn’t make a lot of sense, if you think about it, that’s 2 wins for each loss, should be closer to 50%. I guess as I was playing I was remembering how to play so it’s as if I was improving and thus winning more than losing. Or maybe at some point I started tryharding. Playing 50 more games would solve it but I spent a lot of time as it is.

Handicap sux, play even.


I appreciate your effort and the presentation with nice graphics of your result.

I guess when there’s enough available players to play even games I can understand all the points you’ve mentioned about why one would prefer to play even games.

It still seems that’s there’s utility to playing and practicing handicap games from both sides though. I’ve seen small in person tournaments use handicap, larger in person blitz tournaments with absolute time use handicap, and then small clubs where the players have large rank differences and even the handicap games are still possibly as one sided as then even games as far as results are concerned.

So it’s still probably useful as a teaching tool and in a limited set of circumstances comes up competitively too.

So really it’s just more of a comment on the last line conclusion - though of course for you and anyone that doesn’t like to play handicap, or doesn’t want to, that’s perfectly fine :slight_smile:


Amazing dedication - it makes me feel that it’s pretty subjective. A bit like some people like 9x9 and others don’t

All seem like they could apply to 9x9 too for example.

I feel it’s a matter of taste.

OT language observation

I may be confused but this made me think that you restricted rank. I think it’s clearer if you reuse a negative for what you did - “If you don’t restrict rank, as I didn’t…”. I’m absolutely not criticising your English, just observing that this seems a weird thing with negatives in English that I can’t really explain satisfactorily. And I might be talking nonsense of course and it’s completely clear to everyone else!


As a subjective counterpoint, I’ve recently started playing handicap games, and so far I enjoy it, mostly as the stronger player – though it might just be the novelty of it.

During the game, White is technically losing until it isn’t – and that activates my “I’m screwed” instinct even though it often leads to a win, which as far as I’m concerned is the most fun experience you can have in Go (winning after being really unsure about the result, especially in faster games).

As a guess, I think your conclusions about the enjoyability (enjoyableness? They’re both underlined red in the editor :sweat_smile:) of handicap games might be accurate for stronger players, but for DDKs and below, especially inexperienced ones like me, playing as White can be a lot of fun.

Though I do agree that playing Black is not very enjoyable, and it does take two players to have a game.

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Nice review of your experience although you didn’t convince me.
Well i am happy that it is possible to find handicap games without too much difficulties, and that they will be most of the time played to the end.

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As one of the “for handicap by default” brigade, I just want to point out that I’m not saying people should be playing large handicap games if there are opponents of your strength for even games available (though having some helps calibrate the ratings system). What I’m against is the mindset that handicaps should not be used by default between players of vastly different ranks. The 25k who learnt on OGS and walks into a go club and wants to play even against a 1d (because there’s no other 25ks around to play even) .


If you can find enough suitable opponents within a range of ±3 ranks, there is not much need for handicap and even games are probably more fun.
Finding opponents suitable for an even game shouldn’t be a problem on OGS, except maybe for TKP newcomers on OGS (see various topics about that) and high dan players.

With such a wide gap, I don’t think handicap will even suffice to make this an enjoyable game. If such disparate players want to play a game, they should probably play on a small board and then still with a (large) handicap. The stronger player may still want to consider it a teaching game (not competitive), to increase the chance for the weaker player to show up again next week.

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