Question about the true power of stones and handicap

Is it true that playing with handicap is the only way to know the true power of your stones?

  • Yes it’s true.
  • No that’s not true.

0 voters

I will be grateful if you disclose your opinion in the comments.

Why do you think that the only way of knowing the true power of playing go lies in playing a variant of go meant to get rid of the difference between opponents of different levels?

It’s like saying that the only way to know the true length of your body is by measuring yourself while standing on your knees / toes instead of your feet.


Personally, I don’t think so. I just heard this thought from another person, a little more experienced in Go than I am. Personally, I think that handicap is a great way to play an interesting game between players with a significant difference in strength. Handicap works well when there is not a large selection of opponents and there is no way to pick up an opponent who is approximately equal in strength, for example, in a small club.
As for me, I prefer to limit the possible levels of opponents when creating a new party on the OGS.
But these are my thoughts and I would like to know the opinion of more people.

I agree with your point of view.

I think the best way to learn how valuable your stones are, is by playing a stronger opponent without handicap. That way you’ll feel the consequences of playing bad moves more readily.

I do think that playing handicap might be helpful in learning the same, it hurts more to see your advantage disappear. But on the other hand, handicap invites the taker to play solid slow moves, so the true value of your stones does not seem so apparent. Invasions are an example where it’s most important to know how valuable your stones are, yet it’s something rare for black to do during a handicap game. And when you’re giving a handicap, invasions are easy, since you’re playing a weaker opponent, who cannot punish you.

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certainly not the only way, simply playing and looking for it will show you all about relative weakness and strength, and as such the capabilities of your stones.

But it will show you just how powerful each extra turn in the beginning is… kind of. The stronger you are the more effect you can make of each handicap stone, and I can tell you as an SDK: playing against someone who has 9 stones is terrifying at this level, I can’t even imagine what it’s like at dan level. The stones are just soo… strong… and also somewhat flexible, that waiting for the weaker player to make a mistake can be somewhat unnerving.

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I think that when you are learning Go, handicap stones can create a false sense of security, so I prefer the empty board with reverse komi (depending on the level difference), so that both players will use practical moves without the extra help of the handicap stones. I think that helps the player that is learning more.

On the other hand a handicap game is useful to a stronger player when he wants to learn a lot about invasions and coming back after a bad move or losing a fight, so that has its merits as well, but “the only way to know the true power of your stones” is a bit oh a hyperbole, imho.