AGA Memo Regarding Komi

A Change in Komi

A Memorandum from the AGA Rules Committee

There has been some discussion recently of changing the recommended komi in AGA tournaments sparked by changes in China to 7 1/2 pts. and in Japan to 6 1/2 pts. (The Ing Foundation has long had a komi of 8 which is equivalent to 7 1/2 pts.)

Komi only began to be used around World War II and has increased gradually over the last 70 years from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 and then to 5 1/2 pts. (roughly in the 50's). Go theorists have long thought that the value of one move early in the game is 15 points. Thus the half move of going first would be half that, i.e. 7 1/2 pts. Mr. Ing's first rules had a komi of 6 (equal to 5 1/2) but early on he changed it to 8. For a long time professional statistics have supported the notion that 5 1/2 was not enough compensation for White. (We will see if the new komi is too much.)

A change to 6 1/2 will (with rare exceptions) change no results under AGA rules because white must be the last to play or play a pass stone. To preserve the clarity and consistency of the AGA rules and maintain the equivalence of the area and territory results, if the komi is increased to even out White and Black winning percentages, the komi should be 7 1/2 pts.

The official AGA rules specify a komi of 5 1/2 pts. However, the AGA rules are only required for the US Open (although most Congress events - except the Ing Cup - use them). We have always allowed individual tournaments the freedom to use other rule sets or special conditions so long as they are clear and announced in advance.

We do not have enough data or experience to know what the effect of a higher komi would be. Tournaments could experiment with 7 1/2. This year's Die Hard (for example) could be run with 7 1/2. The AGA Rules Committee proposes to gather data on the possible effects of changing the komi in the U.S. To do so, these steps are encouraged:

Tournament directors should feel free to choose a komi from among 5 1/2, 6 1/2, 7 1/2, and 8 1/2. Note that under AGA Rules an even komi (e.g. 6 1/2 and 8 1/2) will have virtually the same results as 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 respectively. TD's who use a komi above 5 1/2 will be asked to help voluntarily with the study by sending the rules committee a report with the margin of victory for all close games. This will be separate from the electronic game report file which does not support margin of victory reporting. They should also note the komi they are using in their written report. Until further research is done, the U.S. Open will continue to have a komi of 5 1/2 and Ing rules tournaments will continue to use the Ing komi. d) To further explore a change to a higher komi, the AGA suggests a komi of 7 1/2 for informal even games.

In any case, players of informal games must agree on the komi before play begins. Tournaments must announce publicly and in advance if they are using a komi above 5 1/2.

The Asian associations came to their decisions over many years. We should not feel under pressure to make a quick change.

Terry Benson Chairman AGA Rules Committee terrybenson@nyc.rr.com