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 Post subject: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #1 Posted: Sun Oct 08, 2023 5:00 am 
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I haven't seen much game content on L19 recently so I thought I'd post a handicap game I played as B. This is one of a series against a strong player.

My interest with this game is less with the technique and the mistakes involved, but rather with how W takes control of the game. I thought this was a good example of good handicap psychology for W - taking control of the game and expertly harassing B - and also to record what it feels like to play moves as B in the face of this.

Black plays as 2D, and occasional 3D who is forced back down, on KGS



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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #2 Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2023 12:53 pm 
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Thanks for sharing. I share your interest in the psychology of handicap games. I notice that when playing a handicap game as White, I am overly-aggressive, trusting that at some point my opponent will make a mistake (or fail to exploit my overplays). As Black, I am very safe, playing lots of defensive moves to maintain my lead and not give my opponent an opportunity to cause trouble.

These strategies work, except when they don't :D

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #3 Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2023 8:05 am 
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Maybe there was something pathological with the psychology in the lower right corner. When I look at the game and read the comments I sense an aversion to simply defending in this corner.

For example, why not try to play this way instead of an enclosure in the lower left corner? Usually one is doing well if one can defend a bad weakness in a way that is efficient enough when taking into account how much black should be leading.


Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B white just played at the marked spot
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X X X . X X X X O . O . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X O O O O . . O X . . . X . X O . .|
$$ | . O . . . . . . . O O . O . X O O . .|
$$ | . O X . . . . . . O X . X . X X O O .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . O X X X O O X O .|
$$ | . . O . . . . . . . . . . O O . X X .|
$$ | . . . . . . X X X X X X . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . O O O O O O . O X . X .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . O X X X X X X X X X . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . O O O O X O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . O 4 O . O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 . . . .|
$$ | . . . X . . . . . , . . . 3 . X . 5 .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . @ . X . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]



Still one could argue that the worst weakness at this point in the game is the center group. At least it is something white could pressure right now. By this point I already checked the computer being affright to show too bad moves. So if one thinks the center group could be stronger then maybe defend that before doing other things.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 2 .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X O 4 .|
$$ | . X X X . X X X X O . O . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X O O O O . . O X . . . X . X O . .|
$$ | . O . . . . . . . O O . O . X O O . .|
$$ | . O X . . . . . . O X . X . X X O O .|
$$ | . . 8 . . . . . . . O X X X O O X O .|
$$ | . . O 7 . . . . . . . . . O O . X X .|
$$ | . . 9 5 . . X X X X X X . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . O O O O O O . O X . X .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . O X X X X X X X X X . .|
$$ | . . . . . . 6 . O O O O X O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . O . O . O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . X . . . . . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . O . X . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #4 Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2023 6:39 am 
Judan

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Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B Why not here?
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X X X . X X X X O . O . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X O O O O . . O X . . . X . X O . .|
$$ | . O . . . . . . . O O . O . X O O . .|
$$ | . O X . . . . . . O X . X . X X O O .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . O X X X O O X O .|
$$ | . . O . . . . . . . . . . O O . X X .|
$$ | . . . . . . X X X X X X . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . O O O O O O . O X . X .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . O X X X X X X X X X . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . O O O O X O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . O . O . O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . .|
$$ | . . . X . . . . . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . O . X . . 2 . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #5 Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2023 9:40 am 
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Maybe that is a good idea for white, to try to do something before black is too solid. I think black can simply block and it's white that will have too much to do. It seems difficult to avoid leaving 1-2 of the marked points for black to play. If so, then maybe black can be said to have successfully defended.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X X X . X X X X O . O . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X O O O O . . O X . . . X . X O . .|
$$ | . O . . . . . . . O O . O . X O O . .|
$$ | . O X . . . . . . O X . X . X X O O .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . O X X X O O X O .|
$$ | . . O . . . . . . . . . . O O . X X .|
$$ | . . . . . . X X X X X X . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . O O O O O O . O X . X .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . O X X X X X X X X X . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . O O O O X O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . O T O T O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . X . . . . .|
$$ | . . . X . . . . . , . T . . . X 1 . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . O . X . . O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]


Defending ahead of time should give black easier time. Later white could have played this 3-3 move in the game (or tried something else) but the main point was that black didn't appear to want to defend the corner. We have to ask the black player for his reasons but I think over protecting the corner would have been good play.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$W
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X X X . X X X X O . O . . . X O . .|
$$ | . X O O O O . . O X . . . X . X O . .|
$$ | . O . . . . . . . O O . O . X O O . .|
$$ | . O X . . . . . . O X . X . X X O O .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . O X X X O O X O .|
$$ | . . O . . . . . . . . . . O O . X X .|
$$ | . . . . . . X X X X X X . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . O O O O O O . O X . X .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . O X X X X X X X X X . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . O O O O X O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . O . O . O . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . X . X O O . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . . . . X X X O . . O . X . . 1 . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #6 Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2023 10:23 am 
Oza
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I haven't checked with AI but I'm sure by 82 I would be sick of being pushed around and double hane the 3 stones below.

Also, I would long have been tempted to draw out that top stone out of its atari. At least it would work as a countermeasure to White's surrounding that group,no?

But overall I sense your level is mine (2d) and I would have lost in a different way to that player.

What I have learned from playing stronger players is that you need consistency in your mindset. If you decide to face them head on with fighting skills and use your handicap (if any) for attack, then keep doing that at the risk of overplaying. If you decide to take gote and let the handicap prevail in their capacity of building territories and providing support for weak groups, then keep playing defensively, at the risk of underplaying.

When it gets really bad is if you are cautious to start with but when you notice they are catching up, switch to all out mode.

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #7 Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2023 2:25 pm 
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Thanks both for the suggestions for better play - and your suggestions are good.

But my real interest is in the psychology of Handicap Games for White :)

Here's an extract of another recent game against the same player. What I know about them is:

- they love to build a strong central position/group of stones - with which they go onto to harass Black groups, or ultimately take a large centre area

With that in mind, here's a lightly commented example of where they achieve that despite my best intentions :)


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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #8 Posted: Fri Dec 22, 2023 4:31 pm 
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dust wrote:
But my real interest is in the psychology of Handicap Games for White


It looks like white was able to play on black's psychology. What happened on the left side looks suspicious. Somehow black connect under on the second line and then captures a stone for the most solid shape. Possibly the left side could be said to be inefficient. Black brought it on himself. Is white's psychological approach to give more rope?

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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #9 Posted: Sat Dec 30, 2023 2:46 am 
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kvasir wrote:
It looks like white was able to play on black's psychology. What happened on the left side looks suspicious. Somehow black connect under on the second line and then captures a stone for the most solid shape. Possibly the left side could be said to be inefficient. Black brought it on himself. Is white's psychological approach to give more rope?


Well, you're completely right - Black did bring it on himself :)

It's shame diagrams are so laborious - but I have added some explanations and suggestions from my opponent of better ways to play in the SGF.



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 Post subject: Re: The Psychology of Handicap Games
Post #10 Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2024 3:07 pm 
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I like that the variations and comments are authentic. I think they are correct but it is also interesting how KataGo evaluates some of them negatively.

I refer especially to this diagram. Btw you can make diagram easily with the copy wizard in GoWrite2.

Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B "a super solid position which would be good for a handicap game"
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . O . O . . . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . . . , . . . . . , . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . X . . . . . . . . . . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . 3 . 8 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . 2 X 6 5 . . . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . O . 4 X . . . . . . . O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . O 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]


The KataGo suggested continuation follows.
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$Bm9 KataGo continuation
$$ +--------------------------------------+
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . O . O . . . , . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . , . . . . . , . . . . . , . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . X 3 1 . . . . . . . . . . . X . .|
$$ | . . X 2 O X . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . O X O X . . . 4 . . . . . X . . .|
$$ | . . O . O X . . . . . . . O . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . O X . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|
$$ +--------------------------------------+[/go]


The comment was "a super solid position which would be good for a handicap game". Possibly black is closer to the finish line in the diagram than in the game. That is despite giving ground black could have easier time winning in the end and this is why I'm inclined to agree with the comment.

Some of the moves get a bad evaluation from KataGo. :b1: is evaluated as -2.3 and :b7: as -4.7. The whole sequence is -7.8. That means these are not the 100% moves and maybe not the 80% moves either. In Japan, I believe, they say you should play the 80% moves, which might come from problem books that rate answers. The idea is that it is too difficult to find the best move every time and often the best move leads to more difficult positions later. The imaginary 80% is supposed to be just right (if I recall) but it might depend on your rank. Maybe these are the 60% moves and even those moves might be good enough when they bring us closer to the finish line.

Here then might be a suggestion for a psychology of white's. That is white is much less worried about playing handicap game with someone that tries to play 100% moves all the time than someone that only just does enough to secure the win. The player that aims for 100% might keep a 30 point lead (judged by KataGo) for anything between 50 and 150 moves but he is likely to eventually have a complete collapse on the board. On the other hand, the other player can pick up the ball in the endgame and has more control of how close he allows the game to become. White might feel he has less chance against the second player.

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