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(This is an exerpt from the go FAQ file click here to see entire file.)

The ranks are "kyu" and "dan". Kyu means pupil and dan means master, but there is no qualitative difference. The ranks are like positive and negative numbers (with no zero). A beginner starts out with a low kyu rank (20-30 kyu) and advances to the strongest kyu rank of 1 kyu. The next rank above 1 kyu is 1 dan (shodan), and the dan ranks proceed upward to 7 dan. On the 19x19 board, the number of handicap stones is the difference between the ranks. A 3 kyu gives seven stones to a 10 kyu. A 2 dan gives 2 stones to a 1 kyu. The professional go players have a separate dan scale which goes from 1 dan to 9 dan. The professional scale has finer gradations than the amateur scale: the difference between 9 dan and 1 dan is about 2 stones.

You can determine your strength only by playing against others with known strength. There are books like "Test Your Rating", but those tests are very unreliable.

On a 13x13 board, if the rank difference is "Diff", then the following table gives the handicap and komi:

Diff Handicap Komi Diff Handicap Komi Diff Handicap Komi
0 0 8.5 7 3 5.5 14 5 2.5
1 0 5.5 8 3 2.5 15 5 -0.5
2 0 2.5 9 3 -.05 16 6 5.5
3 0 -0.5 10 4 5.5 17 6 2.5
4 2 5.5 11 4 2.5 18 6 -0.5
5 2 2.5 12 4 -0.5 19 6 -3.5
6 2 -0.5 13 5 5.5 20 6 -6.5

Instead of trying to remember the table, you can use this formula to calculate these numbers: Let d be the difference in rank. Pick r so that (d + r) is a multiple of three. The number of handicap stones is (d + r)/3. The number of komi points is 3r - 0.5. On a full sized board, a handicap of 2 stones is about 15 points. The third stone is worth 11 more, and each additional stone is worth one point more than the last. Hence a five stone handicap is worth 15 + 11 + 12 + 13 = 51 points. A 9 stone handicap is thus worth 113 points.

Amateur Rank
(dan)
Professional Rank
1 - 3 dan 4 - 6 dan 7 - 9 dan
1 8 - 9 - -
2 7 - 8 8 - 9 -
3 6 - 7 7 - 8 8 - 9
4 5 - 6 6 - 7 7 - 8
5 4 - 5 5 - 6 6 - 7
6 3 - 4 4 - 5 5 - 6
7 <= 3 <= 4 <= 5

This is a chart showing the number of handicap Amateur stones needed for a rank real (non-teaching) game between amateur dan players and professionals. Max Golem who posted this chart to rec.games.go says, "If you want to find out how strong a pro really is, play him for money!"

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