Match Handicap System

    Keywords: Rules, Culture & History

Historically in Japan, in longer multi-game matches, it used to be common for professional players of the same rank to alternate colors, rather than use komi, in order to offset the starting advantage. This system also allows for asymmetric assignment of colors (and handicaps), which was used to compensate strength differences:

In the 20th century, these handicaps were:

Rank difference Name Meaning
same rank tagai-sen Players alternate playing with black and white.
1 rank (pro) sen-ai-sen Weaker player takes black 2 out of every three games (BWB)
2 ranks josen Weaker player takes black in all games
3 ranks sen-ni-sen Weaker player always takes black, and takes 2 handicap one out of every three games
4 ranks ni-sen-ni? Weaker player always takes black, and takes 2 handicap two out of every three games
5 ranks jo-ni? Weaker player always takes 2 handicap
6 ranks ni-san-ni? Weaker player takes 2 handicap two out of every three games, and 3 handicap in the other game
7 ranks san-ni-san? Weaker player takes 3 handicap two out of every three games, and 2 handicap in the other game
8 ranks jo-san? Weaker player takes 3 handicap in all games

This system has roughly one stone for every three ranks. In older times, a system with one stone for every two ranks was common.

In addition to the rank difference, it was common to change the handicap in a series of games if one player reached a sufficient lead, commonly 4 games, over the other. A player who was forced to take more handicap was said to have been "beaten down", and sometimes longer matches were canceled early to save face for a player who was at risk of being beaten down.

In games from the GoGoD collection, the custom OH[] sgf tag is used to denote such handicaps, with parenthesis to indicate which match from the series is in the file. E.g. OH[B(W)B] means that the handicap is sen-ai-sen (BWB) and that this is the game in which the weaker player is playing with white.

See also


Match Handicap System last edited by HermanHiddema on February 20, 2014 - 12:07
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