Like any game of pure strategy
, the game of Go
) has a problem, namely that even a small difference in skill between two players will result in one player winning virutally all the time. Unlike other games (e.g. chess
), though, Go
has a very simple way of compensating for this difference.
Every player has a rating. Novices and beginners have a kyu level, while experts and professionals have a dan level. Dan level players generally play without handicap (at least against one another), but if two players of different kyu levels are playing a game, the weaker player will generally be given a number of handicap stones equal to the difference between their levels.
A standard 19x19 goban (board) has nine star points (hoshi). There is one in each corner on the 4-4 point (fourth row, fourth column), one on the fourth row in the middle of each side (10-4 point), and one in the middle, at the 10-10 point (also known as tengen). Those nine points are marked on the board with black dots. If there are four handicap stones or fewer, they will be placed on the corners (in the order top-right, bottom-left, bottom-right, top-left). The next four will go on the sides (in the order right, left, top, bottom). If there's a ninth handicap stone, it goes in the middle. It's rare to play games with higher handicap than 9, but if so, the weaker player could put the extra stones wherever he or she wants.
See also komi for another way to compensate for (smaller) differences in player strength.