The Nine Handicap Challenge

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The Nine Handicap Challenge

This game was introduced in the go club of Roeselare.[1]


  • The game starts in a nine handicap position.
  • The stronger player takes black.
  • White wins if he can make a living group.
The initial position  

Educational goal

There are several sequences for white to win this game. However, since a lot of beginners underestimate this position it often leads to a very educational fighting game filled with tsumego problems. Of course the stronger player has to be very creative to keep attacking white.

This game is educational till about 8 kyu. From that point players start to win even from dan players. The key lesson to be learned from this position is, that a 3-3 invasion does not always guarantee life. (Even though in this position it actually does work, if played out correctly). Also the concept of the L-shape is closely related to the 3-3 invasion and can easily be demonstrated and explained thanks to this style of game.

Typical opening

Black has to be aggressive  

Typical the game starts in one of the corners. Black has to be creative to kill white. Of course white has at least 4 chances to try to live in the corner. And even if these do not succeed, white can still try to connect groups in the center. For most single digit kyu players it is however not so hard to think of sequences that always lead to victory.

Tapir: Isn't the situation utterly hopeless for Black? Just go to the outside with W5. And why don't you tell this to your beginners?

D3ma: I played this challenge quite frequently against dan players when I started playing Go. It took me quite a while to figure our how to get guaranteed life in the corner as white. and although I realize now it is not so difficult, the results of discovering this by myself have helped me gain a good understanding of 3-3 invasion and how surrounding stones influence it. I definitely recommend it for players who search to understand the concepts rather than expecting quick answers.

Black is hopeless, no?  

[1] But it is much older, dating back at least to the 1970s.

The Nine Handicap Challenge last edited by on January 25, 2015 - 23:14
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