The Heartbroken Go Player

An Update

This long post, and its many replies discuss (among other things) a moderator’s decision to annul a ranked game. Since this post was originally made, the moderator reached out to me and:

  1. graciously apologised , and
  2. reversed the decision to annul the ranked game.

I am grateful for this resolution. Thank you @Kosh!
My faith that the results on the board will stand has been restored.

The rest of this post will remain as it originally appeared for continuity, but for the sake of keeping the peace, I want to highlight this happy, and speedy resolution to anyone that may be new to the thread.


I’ve had a 20 year love affair with Go. True, this relationship has run a bit hot and cold at times. But since discovering this server about a year ago, the old flame was reignited and burning brightly. I’ve logged some 658 ranked games. I couldn’t be more grateful for this renascence, and each and every surprise as it unfolded on the board (especially during the pandemic, when other options were scarce).

But, four days ago, because of an outcome I could never have predicted, I played a game which completely broke this Go player’s heart. I’ve not found joy in the game ever since. It’s in a humble attempt to process what happened that I recount the events.

Let’s begin with the question at the heart of it all: Could there be any move more hopeless than white’s first move in a handicap game? We all know the feeling. Stones are given, we play white, and move after move, we are unable close the gap. Our opponent plays beautifully and relishes as the handicap transforms first into thickness, and then into an enormous moyo. Nothing short of a catastrophic blunder by our opponent could turn the game around.

But as experienced Go players, we know: mistakes do happen in games, often. Sometimes, the only way forward for white is to keep our fighting spirit alive. Create a tenuous web of complexity on the board, and give our opponent opportunity to make a mistake. As long as there is possibility for an upset, we fight on. Indeed, the alternative would seem to be to resign on the first move of any handicap game.

The game

My heartbreak game is just such game.

We can see that by move 128, black has built a beautiful moyo in the center. My opinion at the time was that straightforward reductions would no longer do. It seems a deep invasion, however grim the odds, was the only path to victory.

A Cut and a Ko: by move 183, groups A and B are locked in heated battle. In theory, heated battles favour the stronger player…

By move 196, I’ve scrapped together a favorable position. Groups A and B face off with four liberties each, white has sente…

Move 204. Ah, the comedy of life, I’ve blundered away a beautiful opportunity. Black’s four liberties loom over white’s three.

But then another upset: Group A hangs in atari with just one liberty. Group B has just two. Black’s move (236) gives atari on the lone stone at C. White responds at 1, black does not notice the atari on group B and instead of capturing group A, plays an endgame reduction at 2! White captures group B, with a play at 3, and black immediately resigns the game.

As this game shows, major upsets happen on the board. And there is no way of predicting the result of a game until the last stone is played. But I was completely unprepared for what happened next. After resigning, my opponent contacted @kosh, a site moderator, and had the results of the ranked game annulled!


Via private message, I reached out to my opponent. I asked him to explain why he chose to do this. I told him it was bothering me a lot. As of this writing, I have received no reply.

Regarding our annulled game, I received the following private message from the moderator:

“Please don’t play pointless “stalling moves” as you did here. While players are allowed to proceed to scoring they are not entitled to gratuitously stall in games.”

I appealed my case to @Kosh, He remained firm. His final word were: “I am sorry that you disagree with my ruling and you may ofc adjust your use of the site as you see fit.”

This is a troubling and chilling precedence. It all feels so arbitrary. As my opponent’s blunder and resignation demonstrate, while the odds of victory past move 204 where grim, they were provably not zero. What @Kosh calls stalling moves, I call successful use of misdirection.

And here in lies the real problem. Unlike my opponent and the moderator, I know my thoughts and intentions during the game. And the fact of the matter is, I was not stalling. I was fighting the grim fight. Soldering on despite the odds. So the message I’m hearing from all this is: my fighting spirit isn’t welcome on Neither my opponent nor the site moderators are interested in me playing my best game here. Perhaps it would have been best for everyone (myself included), if I had just resigned on move one. After all, when your opponent has three corners to your one, isn’t every move stalling the inevitable?

In all my tournament games, all my face to face games, all my online games, I have never encountered this sentiment.

And frankly, it seems the joy of Go had died in me for a time.

I don’t know what comes next. Will I gently set Go down, and pick up another hobby? Will my 20 year love of the game ever burn so bright again? Will I find a new perspective on this bizarre incident that lets me make peace with what happened? Will I ever be free of the troubling implication that no matter which opponent I face, the outcome on the board is never final and may at any time be subject to arbitrary post game rulings of the moderators?


Perhaps it would have been best for everyone (myself included), if I had just resigned on move one. After all, when your opponent has three corners to your one, isn’t every move stalling the inevitable?

You’re being overly dramatic here. There is nothing inevitable about a handicap game, the point of the handicap is to even the odds, not hand-out the victory to black.

If you feel any handicap game is automatically hopeless but for an incredible upset, then you should probably not play handicap to being with.

Now, this being said I understand your point and I’m a bit torn as to the matter of this game. All in all I think you’re right and should keep your win, but I can’t say I’m fond of players who know they are doomed and just fish for mistakes instead of resigning.

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I respectively disagree with Kosh’s ruling in this case, since this is a live game and considering players’ rank. Black has to be able to defend its win.

However, I disagree with your blame your lose of love of Go on Kosh. If you truly love something, Kosh does not have the power to stop you. Nor do I believe he intends to.

I am impressed you two can chat during a live game though. :grinning:


opponent did huge error for no reason here:

you are not real winner only if you wished to give undo, but no one have to do it.

maybe this game is boring, but no one have to resign.

annulment seems like injustice, message would be more than enough.

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I find it completely impossible to believe that one negative mod interaction can wither a 20-year self-described love affair like the kind you described in such endearing words. Sure, all ranked games on are subject to annulment at any time. But interfering willy-nilly isn’t how mods operate (I should know; I’ve been serving as a moderator for about five years.). They basically interfere only if a player broke a site rule or seems to have abused the situation.

Here’s an excerpt from our documentation:

Now, two moves that may fit this description are 224 (B10) and 226 (B9). Objectively speaking, these moves decreased White’s score and had no other consequences. But I realize that, to you, they were part of a strategy to misdirect your opponent and lull them into a sense that you had given up, opening the door to callous errors and the chance for you to walk through that door triumphantly.

I’m not going to weigh on @Kosh’s decision here. I will say that the mods are volunteers doing their best to judge things rightly. And they make mistakes from time to time. That’s just part of being human. Honestly, though, I can’t imagine a better place to play Go. I sincerely hope that a one-off interaction in an edge case like this isn’t enough to end your love affair with this beautiful game. That would be very unfortunate.


I agree with the replies above that it’s perhaps a bit over-dramatic to let this interaction completely ruin your interest in Go, but I do also agree with the sentiment that you were playing fairly with the exception of two moves.

If I were the moderator dealing with this report, I would have suggested to you not to play moves like B10 & B9 as well, since those are indeed pointless moves intended to stall a game (at least, I believe you were aware that those moves were not going to work while playing them; you should be, at 6k).

On the other hand, until all borders are closed, I don’t consider the game to be over, so this game was not concluded yet. Players don’t have to resign if they don’t want to, and games don’t have to be scored until all borders are closed. Only play after borders are closed are really evidence of stalling.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag: there’s two stalling moves that are problematic, but the game wasn’t finished, and Black messed up on the other side of the board while closing the borders. So in a sense, Black’s mistake was not due to stalling, but due to not paying attention during “normal” play.


Thank you for your reply @mark5000, I would like to point out that section of the site documentation/rules that you point out

It is also not OK to stall games in any way such as with pointless moves or endless resumptions of play. [1]

was added to the site documentation by @Kosh after my heartbreak game was finished and Annulled. It should not surprise you that I am not able to take much comfort from your assertions that moderators are not arbitrary, nor in the the assertion that the rules applying equally to everyone when in fact the rules here were modified after my interaction with @Kosh and retroactively cited against me 1.

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That may be, but our moderation over the past several years has always had the rule that playing pointless moves is considered stalling, and that it is against our ToS. We used to fall back on a line in the ToS about this, that says that it is not allowed to negatively affect our users’ ability to use our service, which includes wasting their time by playing pointless moves.

So, the rule is not retroactively cited against you, it was already there in practice, but not written explicitly in the documentation.

Nevertheless, I don’t think two pointless moves are enough “stalling” to have the game annulled and the stalling player warned for it.

I don’t think B9 and b10 are completely pointless. It’s not like playing dame when there’s endgame moves left, or filling in ones territory.

If stones are captured one can of course try to peep and sacrifice them and get something out of it.

Sure it doesn’t work, but who says one has to only play moves that work. If one is in low time, like byo-yomi one could try this things to buy oneself time to think of something else elsewhere.

If I played b9 and b10 to buy myself a minute of time in a game would I come under scrutiny for violating the sites terms of service?


I do not see how it matters how much volunteer time mods put in, how slowly or badly OP played, nor how overdramatic OP:s reaction is.

This was clearly an unfair ruling.

If it is based on actual rules on this site and not just a personal mistake, then it is really bad. If OGS:s system requires judgement calls from mods to decide what is a legitimate game or not, I will not lose my passion for go, but I will certainly switch site. I would prefer to play vs assholes and disconnecters all day, rather than play on a site where sore losers can abuse some vague and arbitrary rule to annul their games.


I agree

playing a forcing move, wasting some aji in order to avoid losing on time

so these moves may have real sense and real cost for player who played them.


I feel that the way in which white won is not something to be proud of, but black’s disparaging comments in the game are also quite disagreeable to me. I feel that black calling a mod after they blundered the game is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Luckily I’m not a mod that has to make a decision in cases like these.


Kosh was wrong. You are right to feel aggrieved. Half of handicap games is waiting, nay elliciting, blunders from the opponent. His mistake was a classic of playing a sente move and not thinking about if the exchange is beneficial. He should learn the lesson from this, not whinge to a mod.


I won’t switch servers because it’s too much trouble, but I’ve decided to not play another ranked game in here long ago.

(only an ongoing tournament for historical reasons, and to be honest if for some reason I’ve improved until next round I bet my result will be annulled).

You know I like you mods, but you are too heavy-handed on game results.

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One lesson is black knew he/she was winning according to the chat message and seemed to get irritated. Black, knowing having a huge lead, should’ve killed the white large group to eliminate any hope of white, especially when white made it very clear to explore all odds.

Pros do that, often times with a very slow/conservative move. It’s called victory declaration move.


I don’t think so, we get a lot of reports from players who want us to change their game result to reflect something more fairly. This whole thread is an example of this. We have to pay attention to what the correct result is, simply because that’s what’s being asked of us to do.

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Letting one bad experience ruin 20 years of enjoyment is a lot.

Taking that attitude everywhere you go is going to cause a lot of pain. It’s just a board game, it’s not worth all this arguing.

Moderators are people and it seems like people nowadays jump on anyone if they make a slight mistake.

Is this entire thread worth it? No.
Do I get the feeling that the OP wants to vent and get people “on his side” to make himself feel better? Yes.
Did the OP message other moderators to ask for a second opinion? Apparently not.

It’s literally a board game. It ain’t worth all this lol.


When someone says like me, I wouldn’t debate that. :grinning:

I won’t switch servers because it’s too much trouble, but I’ve decided to not play another ranked game in here long ago.

This seems really over-dramatic to me as well - most people never see situations like this, and if they do it’s perhaps a percent of their game at most.

I mean, it’s your decision, you’re free to use the site as you please and there’s not much for me to agree or disagree about, but I can’t say I really understand where you come from. :thinking:


I think the point is one can’t tell from looking at the move whether it’s a timesuji or just a bad move to draw out the game. Of course in this instance we have the OP here, but I mean more generally.

Just to add since I didn’t, I’m not sure I agree with the decision to annul, but I won’t pretend I know all the details, and the OP recollection is a bit dramatic if not poetic in a sense :slight_smile:

I think we do have to just learn not to play self Atari’s or ignore Atari’s at various points of the game, and losing won games is what helps you think “I never want that to happen again I should look out for it” :slight_smile:

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