In normal games, Black always plays first.
Therefore, Black has a slight advantage over White.
To compensate, White sometimes gets some bonus points called Komi, when counting the territory at the end of the game.
This bonus is normally 6.5 points. This means that the value of the first move is considered to be approximately 6 and a half points.
The additional half point is placed to avoid a tie.
For example, if Black has 7 more territories than White, Black wins by 0.5 point.
If Black has 6 points more, White wins by 0.5 point.
In the past, there was no Komi system. As people became aware of Black’s slight advantage, Komi was introduced.
Komi’s score has changed over time. When he was inducted into the Japanese Professional games, he was 4.5 points.
However, Black still had a better chance of winning, so Komi was raised to 5.5 points, and more recently to 6.5.
With Komi’s system, Go has almost no more ties and has become a more exciting and fair game.
If you want more information about Komi, enter Sensei’s Library here, a reference for Go.
When the skill of the two players is different, the weaker one places some number of pieces on the board before starting the game. This is called a “handicap”.
In handicap games, the weakest plays Black.
Black plays the handicap stones at the points scored and then White makes the first move.
The number of stones in the handicap reflects the difference between the two players.
If the weakest is 5 Kyu and the strongest is 2 Kyu, 3 handicaps would be used
With handicap stones, Black has an advantage over all aspects of the game - offense, defense, siege of territories, etc.
It is said that one handicap stone is equivalent to 10 points of territories.
So if you were to play a game with me and lose by 50 points, a 5 stone handicap would be appropriate so that we have the same odds of winning.
The position of handicap stones is conventionally specified below.
In all cases, handicap stones are placed on points 4-4 (star points) which are marked with small black circles. However, you can have more than 9 handicap stones by placing them anywhere else.
In a handicap game, everyone can have fun playing Go with the same chance of winning no matter the skill difference between the players, without changing the rules.