When first learning about the game of go you will undoubtedly come across the ranking system and wonder what it all means. People in clubs may ask you what “strength” you are and online you will find numbers and suffixes that you need to set to be able to find an opponent to play.
The amateur go ranks start in the “kyu” range. Kyu is a Japanese term used in go as well as other activities such as martial arts and tea ceremonies, that acts as a form of grade designation. Upon first learning the game you are considered to have the rank of 30 kyu, which is the lowest rank. As you become more proficient you progress upwards towards the highest kyu rank of 1 kyu.
After the kyu ranks we move to the “dan” ranks, which are essentially the ‘black belt’ amateur ranks. The dan ranks begin at 1 dan and move up to the highest rank of 9 dan.
Finally, there is the professional system. The professional ranks begin at “1 dan pro” and continue to the highest rank of 9 dan pro. These ranks can only be achieved through national systems that award professional ranks to their strongest players by way of official qualifying tournaments, such as those in Japan, Korea, China and the European Go Federation.
In modern times new systems of ratings have been introduced that calculate a player’s strength based on points rather than ranks. The European Go Database manages the ratings for all rated tournaments that take place in Europe.
The EGD uses the Go Ratings (GoR) system. Every 100 points is equivalent to one traditional rank, so for example an average 6 kyu is 1500 points while an average 5 kyu is 1600 points. You gain and lose points based on if you win or lose and the strength of your opponent.
You can find a full description of how the rating system works on the EGF Ratings System page.
Each rank measures the general proficiency of the player it is assigned to and provides the ability to serve the handicapping system. One rank difference generally equals how many free moves you can provide your opponent with at the start of the game in order to make the game more even in terms of players’ skill.
If for example an 8 kyu plays a 10 kyu, the 10 kyu, taking the black stones, can place two black stones on the board before the 8 kyu plays the first white stone. The maximum handicap is nine stones for black. If there is only one rank between the players, instead of providing stones on the board for black, white simply gets 0.5 points of komi rather than the full 6.5 points.
The handicap stones are generally laid out in preset positions on the star points rather than being freely positioned by the player. However, outside of tournaments, either way can be used as long there is agreement between the players. Within tournaments there will be a set system to follow.