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 Post subject: Sharing ideas about online Go tournaments
Post #1 Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:02 am 
Dies in gote

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Universal go server handle: Jæja
There have been many online initiatives to provide alternatives for cancelled Go events. I thought I'd share a few ideas that might be relevant to those of you who are thinking about organizing something online. If you have any feedback or suggestions about our approach or if you'd like to share your own experiences with similar online tournaments, please share them so other may learn from them.

On April 13th we started the Dutch Online Go Competition (Nederlandse Internet Go Competitie or NiGC for short), in which 87 participants from the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium) compete for seven weeks. The highlights of the competition are:

  • The competition is completely free and open to all levels. Prices are provided by numerous sponsors (more about this later).
  • Participants communicate through Discord, allowing to socialize in text and audio channels and facilitating audio reviews.
  • Participants get in touch with each other through Discord and schedule the matches on a date and time of their choosing within a one-week time window (from Monday until Sunday 9:30PM).
  • The chosen date/time and match results are submitted to a web application. We started out with a public Google Sheet, which would have worked just fine. However, the web application allows for integration with Discord, OGS, e-mail, etc (more about this later).
  • Time setting is 40 minutes main time + 15 moves per 5 minutes (Canadian byo-yomi). We wanted to provide an alternative to serious tournaments with longer time-settings than what is usual online.
  • The games are played on Online Go Server

Attracting new players

The idea started out with many cancellations of Go events in the Netherlands due to COVID-19, which we wanted to provide an alternative for. Also, since many people are staying at home and might be looking for something new and exciting to learn, we wanted to see if we could interest people in learning Go. We decided to do a little bit of marketing through Facebook Ads to try to reach potential players. This is also the reason why we chose to make the competition completely free to join, why there are no restrictions to playing level and why participants don't have to be a member of the Dutch Go Association. The downside is that results can't be submitted to the European Go Federation, but we haven't heard many complaints about this. Our websites has a page with an introduction video and course that allows beginners to learn the game.


The website of the NiGC showed a registration form that made it as easy as possible to join the competition: just leave some basic information (name, e-mail, strength) and more instruction were automatically sent by email. The website also includes a manual in three parts: steps to take before the competition (signing up for OGS and Discord), during the competition (e.g. how to get in touch with your opponent, playing on OGS and submitting results) and a FAQ. The competition is organized by two people and having all this information easily accessible saved us a lot of time and allows us to scale pretty well.

Web application

I've created a simple web application that allows participants to:

  • login and check who they're playing against.

    (Names are blurred in the screenshots, because they're irrelevant for demo purposes)
    File comment: My Match
    mijn_partij.png [ 35.01 KiB | Viewed 7580 times ]

  • view an overview of the current round: who's playing against who and on which time and date. The overview can be sorted on time and date, so it's easy to find out e.g. who's playing this afternoon.

    File comment: Overview
    overzicht.png [ 109.56 KiB | Viewed 7580 times ]

  • view the current ranking is automatically calculated from the submitted results, so its always up-to-date.

    File comment: Ranking
    tussenstand.png [ 101.07 KiB | Viewed 7580 times ]

We started out with a public Google Sheet (one that can be edited by anyone who has the URL), which would have worked fine. However, there are two potential issues:

  • The public URL might leak out, allowing anyone to change match results, without any chance to find out who did it. We could have required a Google Account, but people might not have liked this due to technical or principle reasons. We use email+password based login now.
  • It's harder to enforce formatting, which is required if the data is used for connecting to other platforms (e.g. Discord), computing the current ranking, etc.

These are not major issues, but since we wanted to build integrations that had to be hosted somewhere, it made sense to also build a custom interface, giving us more flexibility.

The integrations we built are:

  • Announcing a match on a special #announcements channel on our Discord server 10 minute before the start of the match. This announcements reads: "The match between <Player1> (<OGS_Alias1>) and <Player2> (<OGS_Alias2>) will start in 10 minutes. <Player1> is taking black and gets 4 handicap. Komi 0.5."
  • Announcing match results in the same channel: "Jane Doe won against Andrew Smith."
  • Confirming scheduled time and date by email, which includes a link to the manual that describes how to set up the game on OGS.
  • Sending out message on Discord to remind players to schedule their match.
  • After a few days, players who haven't scheduled their match receive a reminder by email automatically.

If you're interested in automating certain things in your competition and you're looking for something simpler, check out Zapier. You can use it to automate sending weekly messages to Discord based on data in a Google Sheet, for example.


We wanted the competition to be completely free to join, but provide some nice prices at the same time. We wanted these to be virtual, so they could be used in the current quarantine situation. I then approached some wonderful people from the Go community, who provide software and services, to ask them to collaborate. All of them reacted positively and are now providing extras for our participants. Some of them are prices that can be won by having good results in the competition or given to reviewers who are voted for in a poll. Others are given to all participants of the competition, such as a subscription to an analytics tool and video reviews by Mateusz Surma 2p (see this topic).

I'll not be naming the sponsors, since I'm not sure if this is allowed. You can check our website in case you're wondering.

If you're looking for collaborations with sponsors, it's important to think about how you can really provide something in return. We took the following steps:

  • Clear mentioning of sponsors on our website with a banner image and introductory text. I often see the first, but not the latter.
  • Sponsors are named on the website and Facebook page of the Dutch Go Association and our own Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Sponsors were named in the context of the prices and extras during the marketing campaign of the competition.
  • Automatic messages are sent out by SponsorBot on Discord every week to promote our sponsors.

Current status

The competition has been a huge success so far. We attracted more participants than expected and everyone is having a lot of fun. One of the most rewarding things has been the number of observers on OGS and spontaneous reviews. Higher-level players are very willing to teach weaker players and there's a real sense of community within the competition. We're also attracting people who are not participating, but are enjoying the games and reviews. The competition can never beat a real-life competition, but given the circumstances, I think we are doing pretty well!

Please let me know what you think and whether you have any suggestions or questions. I wish everyone of you all the best in these difficult times.

This post by Jæja was liked by 2 people: dfan, SoDesuNe
 Post subject: Re: Sharing ideas about online Go tournaments
Post #2 Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:34 am 
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I've also co-organized online tournaments for young players in a more rudimentary way.

1) Week-end tournament.

  • Create a registration website, asking participants to indicate their name, email, phone, KGS nickname, birth date (to fit players in the correct age category).
  • If necessary, create a room on KGS where the games take place.
  • Create a Discord channel to comment games. Discord is just used for the sound, while players view a demo on KGS.
  • The website indicates a precise schedule, the games list, the game results and the participants' names and nicknames.
  • Time settings: 45 minutes + Canadian byo-yomi 15 stones every 5 minutes.
  • At any time, 2-3 organizers must be present in the KGS room to answer questions like "how do I create a game?" or "am I black or white?", even if all the information is already on the website. One of the organizers is the referee, who has to solve conflicts like "hey, my opponent marked my stones dead, but they are not, how do we count the score?".
  • Games must start at the scheduled time and not before. If a player is absent after 15 minutes, his opponent informs the organizers who try to contact the missing player by phone and by email. The most common problems are: forgetting the time, or being disconnected (people wait in front of a "frozen" KGS window without being aware they are disconnected and don't realize they need to restart KGS).
  • A player who is still absent after 30 minutes loses by forfeit.
  • After the game, the winner fills out a Google Form indicating: name of White, name of Black, name of winner, round number. Alternatively, the winner informs one of the organizers by chat, so that the organizer can indicate the results in OpenGotha. If necessary, the organizer looks at the KGS game archives to find missing results.

2) Tournament over several weeks.
The method is similar, except that the emails and phone numbers are sent to all participants so that they can schedule their game during the following week. Organizers don't need to be present on KGS.

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