PageType: Path   Difficulty: Beginner   Keywords: Rules, Go term

Chinese: 让子 (rang4 zi3), 授子 (shou3 zi3)
Japanese: 手合い (te ai)
Korean: 접바둑 (jeop-baduk)

Handicap, in go, is the process of giving a player handicap stones or reverse komi as compensation for differences in player strength or positional strength with the aim of creating more equal chances of winning for all players.

Traditionally, in amateur 19x19 games, the number of handicap stones is equal to one stone per difference in rank, and the number of reverse komi is equal to 10 points per handicap stone. For example, the handicap between a 5 kyu and 4 dan player would be 8 stones or 80 reverse komi. Additionally, the stronger player takes White and has komi reduced to 0.5 for the purposes of minimizing most (non-reverse) komi advantage, helping to prevent draws, and rewarding White for close games.

The optimal amount and type of handicap able to create a fair game in go is an ongoing area of research and study.

Table of contents Table of diagrams
Handicaps on the nine Star Points (typical)

Handicaps on the nine Star Points (typical)  

Traditionally, handicap stones are placed on the star points, but one can also play with free placement of the handicap stones. In contrast to an even game it is White's turn to play the first "real" stone (after the black handicap stones have been placed on the board), except in an one-handicap-stone game where black makes the first move.

Before the adoption of komi, a different handicap system was in use among top ("pro") players. See: tagai-sen, sen-ai-sen and josen.

Many Go clubs and salons in Japan use a handicap system integrated into a rating system.

Starting a handicap game

How to determine the handicap

Alternatives to extra stones

How to place handicap stones


Playing handicap games

How to play handicap games skilfully

Advice to Black

Advice to White

General discussion

Other relevant topics

  • Bermuda triangle — A weak double keima often seen in handicap games
  • Overplay — Includes some comments on overplays in handicap games, mainly from White’s viewpoint

How to make handicap games useful

Games and Analysis


Handicap last edited by on January 13, 2020 - 12:39
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