WGW 26: How to Play as White in Even Games


Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #26

A couple months ago, I had a request put in by fellow go player DecimoKing for an article on my advice on playing as White. This is the first part to a series of posts geared to provide some guidance to players who find themselves feeling burdened when playing White. Although this is definitely geared more for beginner/intermediate players, I would appreciate any additional insight from stronger players below to supplement my thoughts here. With that said, let’s get started with the first scenario as White: even games.
Concern #1: “Black is one move ahead! I feel like I’m behind when I’m playing White.”
The first thing to do is to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Now, what you have to remember is that this is exactly why the komi system was created in the first place. It’s always very easy to forget that you have komi. In other words, you already start with points when Black starts with none! So if anyone should feel behind, it’s Black! xD
Concern #2: “Black always gets these awesome moyos (i.e., frameworks) that are gigantic and fearsome!”
What you have to remember here is that you always have a choice of being more aggressive and breaking up Black’s formation early on in the game.* Will the game get more complicated? Yes. Will it involve a lot more fighting. Absolutely. However, what you have to determine for yourself is which situation do you hate more: a large moyo where you find yourself needing to invade and live or lose, or a game full of fighting that’s quite complicated.
*The only framework that White can’t truly stop without ending up in a disadvantageous position is the sanrensei; but if that is what you hate playing against, then the issue is more about learning a counter strategy to sanrensei as opposed to worried about playing White.
In summary, here are a few things to remember when playing White in even games:

  1. Be patient. Remember that the komi system was designed to compensate for the first move advantage. If you let yourself get caught up in the illusion of being behind, you’ll find yourself rushing into dangerous situations that will put you at a disadvantage early in the game.
  2. You can always steer the game in a different direction. If you really hate frameworks like the Chinese Opening and don’t know any counter strategies to them, go ahead and interrupt the formation before it materializes (aka approach the corner instead of taking a corner for yourself).
  3. Feel honored to play as White. Don’t forget that in go, playing as White usually signifies that who is the stronger player. After all, what color do you play if you give your opponent handicap stones? =) So if your intention is to become the strongest player you can possibly be, shouldn’t White stones become your best friend? xD

I hope that this helps and please be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments!

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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="4263 http://bengozen.com//?p=4263">7 comments</span>

    • Nice! I look forward to reading them in the future! Now if only you and I could be so strong we’d never need to take black stones again. xD

  • Good points. You know, this whole post reminds me of that one scene from Hikaru No Go where Hikaru and Sai find out about the komi rule. “I have never lost a game when playing as black.” Truthfully, I cannot remember the last game I took white and won in a real time game but that’s probably due to the fact that I always play too fast in real time games have been on a losing streak for the past month or so. Anyhow, I have a question, and I am not sure if you have looked into this or not but why does the komi rule keep on changing (the go club dudes are getting confused because when we play against each other, for simplicity, we use 5.5 but sometimes, online, they play with 6.5)? I know its changed over the years. It used to be 6.5 and then 5.5 and in some places, its 7.5. Also, why do you think that the sanrensei is undefeatable? I have played numerous games where I have been able to take at least one corner without the 3-3. Thanks for the post! Enjoyed it a lot!

    • In regards to your first point, no worries about it. The losing streak will pass and you will have learned from it. All in due time. =)
      So in terms of a quick and sweet answer to your question about komi, it’s because the value of having the first move has yet to be calculated to mathematical precision. Komi, in general these days, ranges anywhere from 5.5 to 8. Haha. The only two you really need to know about though are AGA (7.5 komi) and Japanese (6.5 komi). Other than that, I wouldn’t worry about the slight differences between komi. They don’t make a difference at our level. xD
      To your third question, I do not think sanrensei is undefeatable. In fact, it has fallen out of popularity with professionals due to the fact it’s very straightforward and it’s been played for so long that counter strategies are well known. It’s just a good fuseki to use to learn about attacking and moyos. =)
      All you have to remember about star points is that they are never meant to take territory. You can lose the corner anytime due to any number of reasons besides the 3-3. =) Though I’m not sure if that’s what you were getting at, so let me know if I missed anything or if you have any other questions!

      • The reason why area counting rules have 1 point more komi is because black is usually able to play 1 more stone in the game(and every stone is worth exactly one point using those rules). This usually ends up to be very close to the same result that would have been gotten in a 6.5 japanese rules game. It is exactly the same result in aga (aga rules were designed to be the same regardless of whether area or territory scoring is used), and often the same result in chinese rules. Using 6.5 komi in these rules would favor black a little bit more.

  • This was AWESOME! I really love your insight on playing white and will be sure to use it in my games. Also, thanks for not rushing it! Can’t wait for the next one!

    • Well it is thanks to you that this article was written! I’m glad you found it helpful! And for so you know what’s coming in a couple of weeks, the next one will deal with playing as white with a 2 stone handicap! Be sure to let me know if there’s anything else you ever come up with. =D

By BenGoZen