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I found it very difficult to handle handicap when my opponent is given 6 or more stones. I don't really like to force something complex when I know it could be severely punished.

The good way to handle such handicaps must be to play opening moves that are very light and flexible. However, I never found any book providing guidelines for playing white in handicap games. Are there any? Or is there any kind of general advise I should know about?

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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are a few good books about handicap go.

Handicap Go is a really good one, but it's out of print.

Get Strong at Handicap Go has a lot of examples of good play by both White and Black.

The main thing you don't want to do in a high-handicap game is help Black's stones get stronger. If Black plays correctly you won't be able to avoid this, but then you need to lower the handicap. You need to keep your groups light, and think about sacrificing often. Many times you can convince Black to capture a few unimportant stones in gote. As long as you keep from making Black too solid, you should be able to exploit shape problems later in the game, and in the endgame you should be able to pick up 20 points or so. Also, never resign. You never know when Black will give you a gift :)

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In a handicap game of six or seven stones, there are two distinct ways for white to play. This is defined by the fact that Black has san-ren-sei stones on the left and right sides of the board, but not at the top or bottom.

The "safe" way for white to play is to make kakaris from the OPEN portions of the board on the lower and upper sides. That is a slow, "patient" way of playing for White to catch up to Black's handicap.

The more aggressive way of playing is to start with kakaris on the against the stones on the upper and lower right sides of the board between the corner and san-ren-sei stones, with the third move being a "capping" move against the san-rei-sei stone. This leads to a quicker win (or loss), depending on how well Black plays tactically.

It could be that Black is tactically only three or four stones, weaker than White (although six stones weaker overall), and can hold his own in the complications, given the extra stones. In which case the safer course is to kakari from the open sides.

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In high handicap games the most important thing for white is patience. Black starts with an overwhelming advantage and it is easy to become discouraged if your opponent does not make huge mistakes right away.

But White must remember that a typical game lasts around 150-200 moves and even if each of her moves is just slightly more efficient (let's say one point on average) then at the end of the game White will have gained back well over a 100 points even if Black does not make a single large blunder.

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You obviously have to read better and avoid any unnecessary losses. Your endgame has to be superior, and you should not make any tsumego mistakes.

Apart from that, playing flexible is probably the most important idea.

At the same time, you should also see further and try to let black have what he wants, while you're working for a bigger goal that he is unable to see. There's a nice saying: "White is always trying to kill a bigger group than black is trying to save."

Another idea that is very fun to use (and that also requires you to have superior reading) is to make black overconcentrated. In many instances, black won't even notice that his 20 stones make for a solid 8 points of territory.

Since your tsumego and shape skills are superior, you will also be able to find invasions that hurt black. Frustrate him by invading right before he could close his area - or happily punish if he forgot to do so.

Apart from that, watch out for moyo potential and make a plan for taking care of it early - limiting with the idea of overconcentration could be a way.

Apart from that, playing flexible is probably the most important idea. Keep your groups light as necessary, avoid giving black an easy target, and solidify them in an active way later.

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