History of Komi

    Keywords: Rules, Culture & History

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From John Fairbairn: A lot of misinformation is being bandied about on the history of komi. I'm not going to write it up here but a few dates culled from the GoGoD database of 17,000 games will, I hope, allow readers to infer some of the errors. The table below shows the various possible Japanese/Korean komis and the first date of their use in the database, plus a few comments.

2:   1935
2.5: 1935
3:   1852; first used in a tournament in 1907;
     first used in the Oteai in 1931
3.5: 1929 (in the Oteai)
4:   1931
4.5: 1934
5:   1890; 1932 in tournament play. There was
     a tournament then called the Hochi Shinbun
     Win & Continue Komi Tournament
5.5: 1955 (the Oza)
6:   1978 (Taiwanese Mingren); also 1998 in the
     Korean Promotion Tournament
6.5: 1984 in Japan (Amateur Strongest Players);
     1997 in Korea (Tong Yang)[1]

I would expect even these dates to be modified with a bit of research, A fuller treatment would cover not just Ing komis, Chinese (now 3.75 throughout), komi and reverse komis, but the use of komi combined with the old B-W-B kind of handicaps. There are also a few examples of 0.5 komi. I have never seen 1 or 1.5

Are you sure that the Tong Yang Securities Cup used 6.5 komi in 1997? The games given [ext] on Jan van der Steen's site are all marked as 5.5 komi - with one exception, which I assumed was a mistake, because it seems unlikely that the komi varied throughout the tournament. (By the way, you're just the person who might be able to identify the mystery Korean player mentioned on the Tong Yang Securities Cup page.)
The Go Player's Almanac states that the 1937 tournament to decide Shusai's last opponent was the first to adopt a komi. It also states that there has only ever been one Oteai game that used komi, and that was in 1958. Is The Go Player's Almanac always this unreliable?
Is the "Amateur Strongest Players" tournament different from the "Strongest Amateur Player" tournament? According to [ext] this page, the 8th Strongest Amateur Player took place in 1999, so presumably they are not the same event.
I've made a couple of changes in accordance with your comments. (You can, of course, edit the text yourself. I deliberately didn't sign it so as not to deter people from making improvements.)

JF: I have now dug out my notes and can modify my statements above slightly. I too have queried there the 6.5 entry for the Tong Yang but have now bestirred myself to check it. It should definitely by 5.5. I also have a query against the 7th TV Asia Cup Final, given as 6.5, but it was in Japan that year, which makes it unlikely. However, the available sources for that event do not mention the komi. For the Amateur Strongest Game, I can neither confirm nor deny. It matters because the result of the game was W+0.5. But the game record gives only 148 moves and I have no other games from that event to compare with.

The earliest games for which 6.5 can reliably be stated are the 4th LG Cup (the international event). Interestingly, in that year the LG company retained 5.5 for its domestic cup, the Techron?.

The reference to the Oteai games refers to the final playoffs where komi was used (the "Oteai Select" games).

Of course the Almanac has mistakes but that's only to be expected where a mass of figures and foreign names exist and it's unfair to call it unreliable. I haven't checked the statement quoted. If it's quoted correctly it's wrong. If it says this was the first use of komi in a true even-game tournament where the old B-W-B style handicaps did not apply, it's correct.

The Amateur event was the Hochi Ama Igo Saikyo, which became the Nihon Ama Igo Saikyo (in 1992 I think) and the term numbering was change to reflect that.

The missing Tong Yang runner-up was Chang Su-yeong.

I noticed a comment in my notes that Shusaku once said he would give 5 points to keep Black, but Shuwa said he'd take White with 5 komi.


jwaytogo: It is my understanding that the 8 in the graph is a result of the incorporation of Ing's Rules. However, since black wins ties under Ing's rules, it is important to note that it is effectively 7.5.

anon: AGA decided to change from 5.5 to 7.5 komi in August 2004, effective 2005. See the rationale at [ext] http://www.usgo.org/org/komi.asp, and the decision in point 9 of [ext] http://www.usgo.org/resources/downloads/2004-minutes.pdf

Very rare values of komi have been ignored. Data mined from GoGod.


anonymous: Takagawa's book "How to play Go" (pub 1956) states that komi is 4.5. This is a short and introductory book, so he didn't say much about the history or mention alternatives. It's a bit strange that he wrote this when komi according to the above history was already 5 or 5.5.

Herman: The above are the first dates a certain komi was recorded being used, which certainly doesn't mean that all games from that point forward used it. Since the first recorded use of 5.5 komi was in 1955, it is not surprising that a book from 1956 gives komi as 4.5 when that has been the standard for a long time.

Malcolm: It would be great to know what komi was the standard one at a given time. For instance, a game between Japanese pros in 1978 would have had what komi?

JohnF: I wrote the initial piece when the GoGoD database had 17,000 games. It now has well over 117,000. I have also done much other research in the meantime. That means the data above should be treated with the utmost caution, as it is very incomplete. I have produced a more up-to-date, but still incomplete, version in the GoGoD Encyclopaedia. This is no longer maintained but is available as a bundle with the GoGoD database. But the main point to note is that we now know that komi goes back to at least 1759 in Japan, when 5 points was used. There is also a game from the Horeki era (1751-64) which may be earlier, and that used 3 points. In addition, there have been various peculiar situations involving komi, such as events using more than one komi in the same term, or players using the wrong komi.

[1] 1976, New Mexico Go Association

History of Komi last edited by on June 1, 2023 - 15:11
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