What Exactly is a Komi in the Game of Go?

A komi is simple. It is an extra point or points given to one of the players. That’s it. Just extra points. "Komi" = "extra points." However, it does GO deeper...

The Brief Origins of Komi

Even though the game of GO is somewhere between 3000 and 4000 years old, komi was first introduced to the official rules of GO in Japan in the 1930s. “Komi” is short for the Japanese term “Komidashi”, but there are also terms for it in Chinese (贴目 (tiē mù)) and Korean (덤 (Deom)).

It has evolved over the years from discussions and research around the fairness of the game, since black has an advantage of going first. Not only is this fact intuitive, but it also has been validated by research into GO games which has shown that black tends to win more than white.

Komi is also meant to prevent ties. This is why komis often have the extra 0.5 points. While this appears to make sense, it is also a point of disagreement because many do not see anything wrong with ending in a tie, or finishing with tiebreakers. What do you think? Join the conversation in our chat community.

Typically, a komi is given to the one playing with white stones because the player with white stones always goes second, and going first is an advantage.

How Komi is Used

Since komis are used in various ways across the Go community, we wanted to enable players to play in whichever way they see fit. That’s why the Game of Go app allows you to add komis to either black or white, and for many different komi amounts.

In addition to evening a game between two equal players and serving as a tiebreaker, komis can also be used to balance games between two players with different skill sets.

Reserved Komi is when no stones are placed on the board in order to represent the komi. A normal komi will have stones placed on the board to represent the komi. This will inevitably impact the game and is usually agreed upon the two players, or the rules of a tournament.

Should You Be Using Komi?

Great question!

Here are a few tips for using komi:

First, use a komi of between 5.5 and 7.5 for white if you only want to even out the game between two equal players. These are scores determined by most Go associations around the world.

Second, use a komi of 0.5 only for breaking ties. Maybe you are a Go purist and believe the unequal scoring is just a part of the game. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Third, use a komi of 0 or a whole number like 5 if you are okay with the possibility of a tie.

Last, use a komi of above 8 given to the weaker player, if you want to even up a game between two uneven players then this is a great way to do so.

Get Involved

If you haven’t started yet, you can start playing the Game of Go on iOS or Android with the links below, and get involved with the chat community here.

More resources on komi