Face To Face Vs Internet Go

    Keywords: Clubs & Places

Hiya. I wanted to see if people were interested in sharing their thoughts on the relative merits of playing go in person and over a computer.

I'll start out by saying that I personally prefer playing in person, and even that my playing is noticeably stronger in person, probably because it is not at easy to play impulsively as it is by pointing and clicking, and I generally feel more comfortable taking more time between moves when I am playing someone in person. Then there is the pleasure of being able to place the stone on the board, and observe the pleasant aesthetic of a partially populated goban. The sheer volume of games you can play on the internet at any time though seem to make it a valuable tool for learning and practice. I simply can't play five games in a row testing out a new strategy in person. With regards to improvement, I think internet go helps improve the mechanics more, and face to face is better at improving your overall feel of the game.


BlueWyvern, why don't you try this trick, which works well for me? Hold some sort of object, say a squeeze ball, in your mouse hand while you think about your move, then make your move when you're ready. This should cut down the number of impulse mistakes caused by having one's hands on the mouse during Internet play. Indeed, this practice is good too for over-the-board play.

--Tamsin Jones

Internet play implies mostly fast games. Fast games are good to test your reflexes, and your tactical evaluations "at a glance". For applying new concepts and deeper reading you can better do in slower paced games.

I also agree with your thoughts above.


Internet play completely changes the availability of Go. Twenty-four hours a day from almost anywhere in the world (except behind the company firewall :-). As I write this on a Monday evening Asian time there are 824 players and 247 games on IGS. There are 173 players within 1 rank difference of me. By contrast, a week ago I was at the Takadanobaba Go Club in Tokyo. It is a pretty big club with about 75 boards which are all in use on weekends. But out of the 150+ players there on a Sunday afternoon probably only 15 or so are within one stone of my rating. Worst of all, half of them smoke! In Japan at least that is the biggest negative side to playing over the board. The Go club population is aging in Japan. Most Go clubs are low-rent locations with poor ventilation and are absolutely full of smoke. When I go to the club here, I need a shower when I get home (literally :-). Nevertheless, I think face to face is a lot more fun than on the internet.

I do think that the internet (and the computer) is a better place/way to study games. I spend a lot of time watching high-d* games on IGS and have collected hundreds of games by various strong players for later study. Playing through the games using an sgf editor gives me a much better picture of the dynamics of the play than I can get from books. This is a pity in a way because I very much like the feel of the stones!


Note by Stefan: Dave, there is a way to play go on the usual servers from behind the company firewall, using your favourite version of the usual clients. I'll document it in Connecting Through Firewalls. Arno/Morten - can we have a floor in the library where under 18s are not allowed, for seasoned librarians to start documenting adults-only go-related knowledge? ;-)

1. Availability

Agree completely. Our club has only about 20 members, and only three of them are within one stone (but I take white all the time). If I stay away to play on the internet, that would hardly be an improvement to the situation.

2. Smoke

Fortunately, only 2 of those 20 are smokers (although in the late hours I don't refuse a cigarette myself). It is true however that one of the clubs in Brussels has its playing venue in a crowded pub. Last time I went, I had a dinner party at a friend's place afterwards. Before going to the club, I checked with him if I could take a shower at his place. No problem it was, but still a weird thing to ask.


Here's something I tried this weekend that I actually found nice/helpful. Make sure you have a client that can be set to beep with each move, and shows the last move. Next, set up a board next to your computer, and then challange someone to a game with long time limits. At least 30/10. Granted it's still not as good as being face to face with an opponent, but I find it much easier to think through variations and play on a real board. The down side is, some people will accept your matches then play speedy fast anyway, so you aren't sure if your opponent is putting as much thought into it as you are. Also, make sure you stay aware of the time!


Moved some discussion to RatingMappingsAndPlayingStyles --BlueWyvern

--JanDeWit: I'm afraid of playing Go on internet servers... Why? My opponents are faceless, winning is all that counts, if I lose I learn nothing except that I made a bad move 'somewhere' and there is always the chance of my internet connection dropping - which I think is rude. No handicap play by default is also a big loss.

I'd much rather play against some of the regulars here, I have the feeling that I know who you are... But you'd probably find it boring since my far-fetched ideas about influence and such tend to get bogged down in tactical mistakes.

Scartol: Yeah, I'd have to second this. I was hoping to find a thread about Yahoo! Go, but it looks like this is as close as I'm likely to come. I can't stand playing Go on Yahoo!, just as I can't stand playing Othello there. With the latter, I always win, but that doesn't keep me from having to deal with obnoxious youngsters who care very little for rhythm, flow, or subtlety.

Without these elements, Go is meaningless for me.

Hyppy: What I miss most while playing over internet go is the personal aspect. Simple discussiosn about the weather, the club, the latest movie, etc keep a casual game interesting and fun. A faceless, silent opponent losing horribly or beating the crap out of you with no words other than "Hi," "GL," "GG," and "thx," really makes the game frustrating.

Naustin: I think some of this has to do with what server just as in real life place makes a difference. I remember about 5 years ago trying out playing on the internet. I liked some of the services like automatic game records but felt intimidated by those faceless opponents. I have also played on yahoo! but the fun games were few and far between what with the sheer volume of random people. More recently I have been playing on IGS and KGS. IGS reminds me of that first experience with internet go. It's somewhat intimidating though I feel more comfortable with my game now. KGS is a very nice place to play where the stronger players have often taken the time to review games with me and I have had chances to chat briefly about where we live or the game in general. ON IGS I also find that because it is complicated to handicap it seems people don't really mingle between ranks as much. (I've read here there are other reasons for that as well) I have been getting a lot of both FTF and internet recently and find they provide me with different things but that I enjoy both. Face to face is more about friendship in a way. I prefer to play with people I like regardless of strength differences and if I don't like someone then the game isn't much fun even if it is close. Hope this post isn't too long:-)

BobMcGuigan: I, too, like the aesthetic of go with real board and stones. And I like the social interaction that happens in the club setting. But I find some advantages to internet go, too. For example, I can concentrate on the position without the various distractions so common in the club. On the internet I automatically get an SGF record of every game so it is easy to review them afterward, at my leisure. I'm grateful for both settings.

Het: My situation is radically different. I started play Go aganst GnuGo, then on internet, I never was in a real Go club. I played very little games on a real goban (less that 10). Such way to learn the game made me look at it as some thing very intime, much like a spiritual quest (that's why I don't feel the need to talk during the game either).
When I try play on a real Goban, I get confised, I do obvious tactical mistakes because of perspective and the stones not being placed exactely on intersections.
I'd like to start playing face to face, but it is hard to find motivation to go outside and play worse than usual while I can connect to KGS or hang on DGS. Anyone has ideas how get over it?

Malweth: Get a goban for home use and practice with pro games or replaying your own online games on it. I've never really played IRL (just with my ~30-kyu bro ;), but it seems to help with me. A good, cheap set is the $30 "Club" set available from www.samarkand.net (USA). I'm looking forward to playing F2F in the Massachusetts Go Association Spring or Summer tournaments. It'll be my first time, so scoring will be interesting!

Kiryoku: I prefer playing face to face by far. Somehow, it's easier for me to see the importance of a stone on a real goban than on a computer screen (possibly because on a goban it actually 'is' a stone). However, I hardly ever get a chance to play people IRL, since there is no go club around where I live and none of my friends have interest in Go, so I'll just have to settle for playing on the net for now.

C.S. Graves: I'm in a similar bind as Kiryoku. I love playing in real life, but my hometown is practically a wasteland as far as go is concerned. I mostly play teaching games locally. I've recently gotten the urge to return to KGS in hopes of improving a bit perhaps.

Pashley I too prefer face-to-face, but not necessarily in a go club.

A friend and I used to regularly play in various local pubs. This can be a nice way to meet people; they come over to ask what on earth you are doing. It also tends to give a relaxed, enjoyable game, perhaps more than in a club.

We also left a board at a pub once and, next time we came in, found a note (in the white bowl, of course) from another player who wanted to meet us. Since he was stronger than either of us, and had friends stronger yet, this was great.

I much prefer online playing. There are two reasons, both connected with the fact that I'm fairly shy and constantly afraid of ticking people off.

If I'm playing at a club I find myself unable to play at a leisurely, calm pace: I'm worried that I annoy my opponent or just waste his time if I take my time thinking of my moves. On online servers there's nothing to feel guilty about in playing as slow as I please, because we commit to a time setting.

Second, I'm a slow learner; my current level is 15-20 kyu. The weakest opponent I've ever run into in local clubs has been 10 stones stronger than me. I learn nothing from H9 games and I'm doubly embarrassed by having to make strong players play dull high handicap games. I'm steering clear from further real life play until I'm a KGS single digit kyu and can offer people an interesting game.

George Caplan Responding to the poster, unnamed, directly above. I appreciate your concerns about annoying opponents, but I encourage you to come to clubs. Stronger players have a duty to give back, and if you are a reasonable considerate person, which from your comments you certainly appear to be, you would be a pleasure to play with.

I also encourage you to rethink your view of the value of 9 stone games. Playing someone stronger is important, and the handicap allows you to compete. You can learn so much from seeing how White manages to make his way through your defenses, and even more when you figure out how to stop him. The temptation of playing even and getting a quick opening lesson, and one tactical error should be resisted - fighting is the key, and handicaps give you more bang for your buck.

Vincent Another idea would be to play on a smaller board like a 9x9 or 13x13. This will not only ensure that the games are quick, and therefore not dull for your opponents, you will readily see the consequences of certain lines of play. (It can sometimes take a while before the consequences of a move are seen on a full sized board.)

TheMaister (15 kyu EGF)? Well.. I prefer F2F by far.. When I play agianst someone I know, I can usually relax and play a better game. But I live in a small place in Norway, so there isn't a club nearby. So to get a worthy challenge I must play on KGS. However, I use KGS to watch high-dan games and learn from that. ^^

Menus? I play a few games F2F every week and several online and I've found that I am MUCH stronger when playing on a real board. Practically every aspect of my play (reading, lightness, taking influence etc.) worsens a few stones when online and I tend to think less about every move, even when there's no reason to rush. And I hate that, because this way there's nothing to learn from an online game for me, only things I already knew but overlooked...

Face To Face Vs Internet Go last edited by on January 27, 2015 - 05:29
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