When should you play on a bigger board?

“When should I switch to a bigger board?”

For those who are wondering when they should switch to playing on a bigger board, this article may be for you.

It’s written by a Japanese 6dan Pro.

Here is the article:





Big board?
Wow, didn’t even know there is a big board.
Only play 9x9 (although sometimes unexpectedly those boards look different, stones are smaller, more lines, more letters and numerals.
Maybe there is a whole new go world for me to discover.


When you get tired of the feeling that you’re having a knife fight in a broom closet over and over again?


I am in the side of “from the beginning”. The feeling to play in mist won’t change and the freedom of a big place is often prefered even if one can lose himself a bit more.


I would say once a complete-novice player is no longer confused about how capturing and liberties work, and has some notion of how to play toward the objective of the game (claiming territory/area), then they ought to try both 13x13 and 19x19 as soon as possible. After they’re familiar with all three, play whichever one they like best! Or continue playing all three, as I do.

In some cases, the main factor will be what kind of opponents you can line up. Some people will be in situations where it’s easy for them to find an opponent for 9x9 but not 19x19, and other people will be in the opposite situation. So that’s a factor too.


I run a children’s club (age 7-11). I start them on a 9x9 board (at 42k rank).

When they progress to 35k (meaning they win roughly 50% against me on 7 stones handicap on 9x9), I start to encourage them to play on 13x13.

When they progress to 30k (meaning they win roughly 50% against me on 6 stones handicap on 9x9), I start to encourage them to play on 19x19.

Still, many of the children prefer to play on smaller boards because the games are faster (like 5-15 minutes for them).


This is the first time I’ve heard of 42k! :sweat_smile:


I use 6 ranks per full handicap stone on 9x9, and IME about 50% winrate at 8 stones handicap against me is quite normal for the first handful of games of a 6-7 yo child novice here (never heard of go, and neither have any of heir relatives).


How long from your teaching experience it takes to go 42k to 35 and 35k to 30? I mean on average ofc.


There is a lot of variation, but in my experience progressing from novice to 30k has two main factors: age and number of games played.
I suppose intelligence is also a factor, but I have no data about the intelligence of the players I have seen in my club over the years, so I cannot say anything about it.

With children of 7-8 years old it may take some 50 games on 9x9 to reach 35k and some 100 games to reach 30k. I’d say that 9-10 year olds usually progress a bit faster than 7-8 year olds. I think that is because they generally have more developed cognitive abilities and a longer attention span.
But there is a lot of variation in how frequently these children play, which is also limited because they can only play on Fridays when I’m there. Most of them are very casual players who may only play some 20 games per year and they may never reach 35k, let alone 30k.
Only the most enthousiastic players (top 5%) will play as many as 200 games per year and they may reach 30k in some 6 months (some 20 hours of playing). If those players keep at it, they may reach about 15k in a couple of years (after playing some 300 games, mostly on smaller boards, some 70 hours of playing).

I don’t teach casual players much, so they mostly learn from experience. It may not be the most efficient way of learning, but I think most children prefer playing over lessons. They seem to have no issues with learning by trial and error, and most of them don’t care much about getting better (which is fine of course).

Parents (30-40 years old) may reach 35k after a couple of (teaching) games on smaller boards and some lessons about life & death and basic tactics. IME (which is limited when it comes to adult novices) they may reach 30k after some 20 games on smaller boards, which may amount to some 5 hours of playing and perhaps a few hours of teaching. It is often said that children learn much more quickly than adults, but my experience in go is that adults learn much more from the same amount of practice time. But for various reasons, adults may spend much less time on practicing than children.
Parents typically only play a couple of games per months (if even that), so it may take a couple of months to reach 30k. And they may quit before reaching 30k.
I’d say that adults worry much more than children about “doing it wrong”. You have to push them a bit to learn by trial and error. They may prefer learning by asking questions and getting explanations.


From the beginning 19x19.
Use 9x9 and 13x13 in between to hone specific things.


I will definitely try this. My 7yo has been playing on 9x9 for a few weeks now.
He’s currently ~25k OGS.

I’ll nudge him towards the 13x13 then ^^


Keep in mind that OGS currently has a floor of 25k (e.g., 35k, 39k, and 26k are all displayed as 25k). Trying out 13x13 should be fun regardless, but it’s useful to be aware of the rating limitation.


Good to know! Still, I feel like he consistently beats 23k players, but has trouble identifying the end of the game (which means he has lost a few won games ^^).


That’s usual at low level. On bigger board it’s usual to miss some atari on stones too. Will pass with more experience anyway.


After observing a few games more closely, I identified yet another pitfall: he did not fully enclose his area (nor did his opponents notice it!) so in the final scoring the whole area was disconsidered ^^ we did a few exercises about this, and not he’s officially 23k ^^ :grin:


my 6yo likes to play too! there should be a kids’ league on OGS if there isn’t already


That would be awesome if any parent(s) would give a bit of his time to organize this.


I disagree with this. It’s all very well for a pro to say they felt comfortable on 19x19 from the start. The average beginner may not have the same experience!

In my mind, the issue is slow feedback loops. You play a stone, stuff happens, there’s a tenuki, you come back later, more stuff happens… You might get to a clear resolution (stones are captured, or a shape is obviously alive), or it might not be until the scoring phase that you sort out which stones are alive or dead. There’s a gap between making a decision and seeing the result of that decision.

Compare chess: you fail to notice something, and a move or two later the other player is capturing one of your pieces. You can tell right away that you made a mistake. In many games you get this sort of quick feedback. But in go, there’s a lag. It takes some experience to start connecting up action and result and start learning effectively.

The bigger the board, the bigger the lag before you get that feedback. I would encourage beginners to stay on 9x9 for somewhere between 10 and 50 games. By all means move up when you start feeling the board is too small, when you start wanting to try out some more long range strategies. The bigger boards are more forgiving (more chance to recover from a mistake), and more interesting on many levels. But no need to rush it. I think most people will learn the basics of capturing, connecting and so on more quickly on the smaller board.