Obsolete: Organisers' Handbook

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This page is derived from a scan of the BGA "Organisers' Handbook". The handbook is now very hard to obtain, but is a useful document, so it has been made available here. Much of the information in it is dated: this should be obvious.

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The British Go Association


  1. The British Go Association
  2. Starting a Club
  3. Publicity for Clubs
  4. Teaching Beginners
  5. Competitions for Clubs
  6. Teaching Events at Clubs
  7. Planning a Tournament
  8. Running a Tournament
  9. A Model Set of Rules
  10. The McMahon System
  11. Other Tournament Systems
This is the second edition of what we hope is the standard source of information on organising go playing, teaching and publicity. It is aimed mainly at the current state of go in the Brftish Isles, but is intended to be much more widely applicable.

The various chapters contain gleanings from many years' experience of go organisation, but everyone has his own favourite ways of doing things, and anyone who feels that his preferred methods or ideas are missing, or are not covered adequately, should write to the BGA with suggestions, so that future editions can include the benefit of his experience as well.

Throughout, for brevity and convenience, a player is referred to as "he," since the majority of players at present are male, despite the growing number of female players.

This edition was prepared by Tony Atkins and was word-processed by Brian Timmins [and scanned and converted to html by Nick Wedd]. It updates the 1983 edition with changes to rules determining qualifiers, and also covers computers in go.

Material contained herein may be copied as long as it is done to further the interests of go playing and is credited to the BGA.

1: The British Go Association

1.1 Aims and Objectives

The British Go Association (affiliated to the European Go Federation and to the International Go Federation) is a voluntary organisation with elected officials which exists to promote the game of go within the British Isles.

Membership is open to all go players on payment of a small annual subscription. Services offered by the Association (BGA) include the following:

  • The quarterly British Go Journal is distributed free to members and includes instructional articles as well as news items.
  • The BGA newsletter is distributed to members every two months, and includes recent news and details of forthcoming events.
  • Information is supplied on go and go clubs and tournaments.
  • New clubs are assisted by the loan of teaching equipment and visits from experienced players.
  • Books and equipment are sold to members at low prices.
  • The annual British Go Congress is held around Easter time, and the British Championship somewhat later in the year. Other tournaments are not run by the Association, but are assisted, and coordinated and advertised by it.
  • Publicity events are assisted.
  • Go in schools is encouraged.
  • A grading system is maintained, and diplomas awarded to all those who reach dan strength.
  • British go is represented internationally, and a representative selected for the World Amateur Go Championship.

1.2 Officials of the British Go Association

The BGA has a council consisting of President, Treasurer, Secretary and five ordinary members. There are various committees which report to the council, covering topics such as schools, grading and publicity.

1.3 Annual General Meeting

The Association's AGM is held during the British Go Congress, and is where the annual reports are presented, the council is elected, and motions are presented, suen as changes to the Association's constitution.

2: Starting a Club

Once you have a nucleus of players (and this can be as little as two) you ran start to arrange regular meetings. These can be weekly, which is probably best, or less frequently such as fortnightly or monthly. An initial venue can be a member's front room; once established there, you can contemplate expansion. Many go clubs have originated in this manner.

Of the other possibilities for a venue, the commonest is one associated with a member's occupation. This includes a universfty (if he is a student or a lecturer), firm, or social club attached to a firm. The great advantages are that these are generally cheap - financial assistance may even be available - and usually fairly salubrious. Publicfty aimed at fellow employees is often successful, but it may be more difficult to attract non employees. Rules for social clubs are often quite strict, but only so as to cater for licensing laws, and a method to include non employees is usuayly not difficult to find. You should discuss the situation with officials of the social club.

Other possible venues are church halls, coffee bars, pubs, etc. They all have their pros and cons, and local intelligence will often generate some ideas. If you do not know where to start looking, find out where the local chess players meet. The public library should be able to provide that information.

One of the major problems when a club is started is that of equipment. The BGA can help here by loaning sets for a short period while the club gets going. Ultimately, of course, the club should be self-supporting.

To this end, it is recommended that small charges are made. Most clubs have two types of fee: an annual fee and a board fee for each evening. The BGA subscriptions should be added to the annual fee. It is recommended that the board fees should do more than cover the cost of the room (if any); the surplus can be used to purchase equipment or books for a club library. Typical fees might be £10 per annum, including BGA membership, and £1 per evening, with appropriate re ductions for those in full-time education etc. [These figures are for 1983 or earlier, and should be adjusted for inflation.] The details will, however, depend on local circumstances and many clubs operate free apart from the BGA subscription. Many established clubs are funded by the profits of running a tournament.

Usually there is one person, the prime mover, who starts the club going, but he should not see it as a one man show. He should delegate obs wherever possible, as this will help to ensure the continuity of the club if he should leave the district. Typical jobs are Secretary, Treasurer and Equipment Officer/Librarian. None of these duties is particularly onerous, but people tend to be shy of volunteering, yet will do the job enthusiastically if asked. The appointment of a publicity officer could be worthwhile, especially if there is someone with a flair for it.

Some go clubs are officially set up with a bank account and a constitution. Others have neither. If you want to have a bank account, and one is recommended if you intend to run tournaments, you will probably need to have a constitution. This does not need to be particularly elaborate; the only important thing is to clarify the means by which the members can check that their money is being looked after properly. A model constitution sufficient for most purposes is as follows:

Constitution of the ___________ Go Club

  1. The ___________ Go Club is a non profit-making organisation devoted to the playing of, and promotion of interest in the game of go.
  2. The officers of the club shall be Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.
  3. There shall be an Annual General Meeting (AGM) to which the Secretary shall invite all members at least two weeks in advance.
  4. The business of the AGM shall include the election of officers and the presentation by the Treasurer of the previous year's accounts.

It is, of course, possible to be far more precise about these matters and also to define details of the many other aspects of club management, but in practice such items tend to be forgotten or ignored or, worse, they absorb time and effort which would be better spent playing go. [Many Go Clubs have never had a constitution nor an AGM.]

3: Publicity for Clubs

Publicity is very important for go clubs, since a large proportion of the population have not even heard of the game. Some of these people would become keen go players once they knew what the game was about.

3.1 Publicity for new go clubs

A good time for concentrated publicity is when a club is about to start meeting in a reasonable sized venue, possibly as an expansion from a small group meeting in a member's house. After finding a suitable venue (see chapter 2), it is necessary to fix upon a day for the first meeting; this should allow sufficient time for advance preparation (say 4-6 weeks).

A good way to generate free publicity is to write articles for local newspapers. These are frequently short of news and will normally cooperate [however no-one reads them], especially if a photograph of people playing go can be supplied. The article must give a short description of the game, including something about its history, and should mention the handicapping system. Recent achievements of local players should also be noted, even if these have to be stretched somewhat. It must be emphasised that beginners are welcome and will be taught how to play. In addition to giving the venue, date and time of the first meeting, the article should also give a contact address and telephone number, in order to cater for people who are interested in go but cannot attend the first meeting of the club.

There are various other ways of publicising the opening of a go club. Posters, which can be obtained free from the BGA, should be displayed at work or school. Even better is to place notices at the local university or technical college, since students often take to go quickly and spread the game amongst themselves. Advertisements should be placed in the personal columns of local newspapers and in newsagents' windows. Notices should be placed in local libraries, and also in members' windows. Contact the BGA Membership Secretary to establish whether there are any unattached members already in your area who can be approached to join. Finally, a good way to spread go is to talk about the game - many people who would ignore other publicity try out the game because a friend of a friend plays go.

3.2 Regular publicity

A major publicity effort is essential to get a new club started. However, it is also very important to maintain a smaller amount of continuous publicity, since a club needs a steady flow of new members in order to keep going. Furthermore, if there have been no recent recruits to the club, a beginner who does turn up is often put off by the high standard. Most clubs will not be able to spend any money on regular publicity, but there is still a lot that can be done.

The first thing is to maintain some of the initial publicity by keeping up posters and notices for as long as possible. Your local public library will normally be willing to display a small card giving details of your go club, which should include where and when it meets, who to contact for information (with address and telephone number) and a few words about the game itself. Go should also be covered in any lists of local societies; these are often organised by libraries, newspapers and information services.

Although a local newspaper will not want to publish regular articles about the game itself, it will be interested in results of club matches and of local players in tournaments, particularly if they win prizes. Another way to generate publicity is to organise a tournament (see Chapter 8 for details).

3.3 Open evenings

It is easier to keep beginners keen on go if they have other beginners of the same standard to play against. Partly for this reason, and partly to make teaching easier, it is a good idea to try to recruit a large number of beginners at the same time, and the best way to do this is to run widely publicised open evenings every year or so.

In university clubs such events should obviously be run at the beginning of the academic year, in other clubs the best time is less easy to determine, but the Autumn is usually best.

The vital thing about an open evening is that it should be widely advertised. Local libraries and the local press are a good start, but deliberate raids on the chess and bridge clubs in the area have the great advantage of concentrating on people known to have a propensity for playing games in clubs. There may also be groups in your area which meet to play such ephemeral games as dungeons and dragons or othello which can be raided in the same manner. Games shops are a good source of information on the whereabouts of such groups.

When it comes to actually running the open evening the important thing is to spend as little time as is absolutely necessary teaching the rules, and to get people to play as many games as possible reasonably quickly - chess players in particular have a tendency to spend far too long thinking in their first few games - and probably only using small boards. Photocopied small boards will usually suffice but look a bit tacky.

4: Teaching Beginners

A beginner is the most important person in the club. He is the new blood that will keep the community developing, and if there are no beginners then the community stagnates and the interest dies. When this happens, the club may be very close to folding up. Members of the club should be aware of this danger, so that in addition to teaching any potential new players, they show the correct attitude to them. The beginner must not feel that he is outside the existing group of players and has to fight for acceptance; he must be welcomed with open arms and encouraged as much as possible. Above all talk to him, about his life outside go, possibly over a pint, to get to know him personally.

Some go clubs, particularly at universities, have certain meetings where more than one beginner turns up. Others rarely see more than one new player at a time. In either case, the rules of go need to be explained. Since it is important for this to be done clearly, players at the club who expect to teach beginners should think beforehand about what approach they intend to adopt. The various leaflets available may be useful for this purpose (e.g. the BGA How to Play Go). Teaching with a board, and with the subject able to ask questions is, however, a rather different task from teaching simply through a written text. The following scheme is one possibility. You may choose to do things quite differently, but the important thing is to have some sort of plan before you start.

4.1 Teaching the rules

  1. Show the new player(s) the board and stones and mention that go is played by two players, one taking Black and the other White.
  2. Say that the stones are not moved, and are placed alternately on the intersections.
  3. Make a secure corner territory of about 10-15 points and explain that making territory is the main object of the game.
  4. Describe capture of one stone, then capture of groups of stones.
  5. Explain the scoring and how the game ends.
  6. Place an enemy stone inside the territory in (3) and explain what happens to it (this might already have come up as a question). In another corner, make a one-eyed group surrounding two points of territory and surround it, leaving some outside liberties open. Explain that the group appears to have two points of territory, then capture it by filling its liberties and removing it from the board. Then rearrange the group so that it has two eyes and attempt to capture it again. Explain suicide, and why it means that two-eyed groups cannot be captured. Then rearrange the group to be one-eyed again, and give the surrounding group two eyes. Explain that the group is now helpless and need not be removed until the end of the game. Return to the original corner and show that the isolated stone inside it is likewise helpless.
  7. Explain the ko rule. [There is a danger that this will come over as confusing, and put the beginner off. It may be better to wait until a ko arises, and explain the ko rule then when they can appreciate the need for it.]
  8. Try to avoid the word 'move' meaning 'turn', and try to be consistent with terminology: e.g. pieces, bits, stones.

4.2 Starting to play

At this point the beginner should know enough to start playing. (Many people prefer not to mention ko, seki or suicide until after the beginner has played several games; certainly joke positions like bent four in the corner should be left for later. If there are two or more beginners, they should play amongst themselves. Do not say more than a few words about strategy or tactics at this stage. The beginners should play their first game on a 9 x 9 or 10 x 10 board in order to clarify their understanding of the rules. After this, the person who taught the rules should say a few words about the third and fourth lines (using a full board) and describe the importance of the corners. Put a stone at the 4-4 point, play out the standard invasion joseki and explain that the resulting influence is normally worth more than the corner territory. The beginners should then play out one or two games on a 13 x 13 board before trying a full-sized board.

Things are not so easy if there is only one beginner at the club. Clearly he is to play against established players, but it is important for these people to realise that it will be some time before they can have a "real" game against the new player. It is equally important for the beginner not to be aware of this fact. The beginner should start by playing a 4-stone game on a 9 x 9 board; remember that the purpose of the first few games is to establish the rules. The strongest player should aim to win by a small margin (less than 10 points) or even lose. After this, the beginner should be taught something about general strategy, including the elements of using a 9 stone handicap on a full board, the idea being to enable him to take 9 stones from the weakest players in the club as soon as possible.

A method which has proved useful in teaching children is to give Black a solid square of stones, instead of isolated stones on the star points. For a complete beginner playing against a shodan this should occupy the whole of the fifth line from the edge. As soon as Black learns to separate the white groups the wall can be moved up to the sixth line, and then to the seventh. From here it is a small step to 9 stones. An advantage of this approach is that it becomes easy to teach the effective strategic use of solid positions.

Currently there are several go-playing programs on the market which mostly run on IBM PCs and compatibles. They are a good way of encouraging beginners to play and improve. In a few years dan-level programs will be available. If a club can acquire a program it would be a worthwhile investment. The other game recording and studying programs available are also worth investigating.

5: Competitions for Clubs

5.1 Club ladder

A club ladder provides a format for playing relatively serious handicap games with automatically adjusting grades. It also enables a go club to establish the relative grades of its members and to monitor their progress.

The rungs of the ladder form a vertical scale which represents the grading system. Every member of the group has a marker on one of these rungs. Each grade is divided into several subdivisions, each of which is represented by one rung. Every time a player wins a game he goes up one rung and every time he loses a game he goes down one. The handicap for a game is simply the difference between the current grades of the players, giving, say, 5 points komi for each grade over.

Levels should be closer together at the top of the ladder than at the bottom; this automatically allows weaker players to change grade faster than stronger ones. There are various ways of dividing up the grades. One suggestion is as follows:

      1 dan+        0.1 grade per rung
      1-6 kyu       0.2 grade per rung
      7-16 kyu      0.5 grade per rung
      17-24 kyu     1.0 grade per rung
The element of competition may be enhanced by giving a prize to the most rapidly improved player over some set period. This type of prize also has the advantage that it is easier for weaker players to win than for stronger ones.

The main problem with any sort of ladder is that, while it is very good at describing the relative strengths of the players involved, there is a tendency for the whole club to get stronger simultaneously and the ladder cannot reflect this. Some ways of introducing inflation automatically are: - Fix the bottom of the ladder, so that no player goes below (say) 25 kyu. - Fix the top of the ladder. If the strongest player has a well established grade (e.g. a dan player whose grade is controlled by the BGA) his ladder position can be anchored. - A player winning his third successive game can go up two rungs, instead of the usual one. - Promotion after winning several games in a tournament.

However the only reliable way to incorporate inflation into a ladder is to play games against members of other clubs and to keep a cheek on the result, shifting the whole club up a few notches if the members seem to be doing too well outside.

The physical ladder can be constructed in several ways. Usually some sort of wall chart is used. The players' names are put on small markers which can be moved up and down the ladder. The rungs should be made wide enough to take several players' names at once.

A different way of representing the ladder is to use a sheet of paper divided into columns. The left hand column contains the names of the players and the second column gives their nominal grades. The remaining columns contain new ladder grades updated after each game. This sort of ladder has the advantage of portability, although it will need replacing at regular intervals.

5.2 Club championship

The great advantage of running tournaments in clubs is that they don't have to finish in one day. A simple idea is to have an all-play-all tournament spread over two months or more. Handicaps should probably be reduced if they are used at all, and all games should be played with clocks and have time limits of at least an hour per player.

If the club is a large one, such a tournament will last too long, and it may be better to divide the players into several divisions.

A club championship can be split into several stages. One format is for all but the strongest players in the club to participate in a short knockout tournament, the winners of which qualify for places in a league 'where they are joined by the strongest players. This idea can be stretched further by having a 3 or 5 game playoff between the top two finishers in the league, and by allowing players who do well in one year to start in a privileged position in the next tournament, but it should be remembered that a protracted tournament will make it difficult for beginners to be catered for adequately.

5.3 Other club tournaments

If the players at the club are keen on quick games with clocks, it is relatively simple to organise a "lightning ladder". it is recommended that all rungs be 0.5 stone apart, but beware: normal handicaps are not enough for quick games, and players can easily end up more than 9 stones from their starting grades.

In order to finish a tournament in one night, it is necessary to use small boards, or quick games, or both. 10 minutes of clock time for a double elimination knockout tournament (section 11.2) on 13 x 13 boards is about right. Exact details will depend on the number of players and the range of strengths. Small boards allow a much wider range of handicaps; 9 stones on a 13 x 13 board is about right for 25 grades difference. Some of the other systems discussed in section 1 1 may be found to be useful.

Finally, all clubs are encouraged to participate in leagues where these exist. In remote areas where this is not possible, occasional matches with your nearest club can be organised. It may even be possible to play a match by telephone with a really remote club. It is surprisingly easy to get sponsorship for such matches.

6: Teaching Events at Clubs

Apart from teaching games with weaker players, which should be a constant feature of all go clubs, several kinds of events designed for teaching have been tried. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but may give you a few good ideas.

6.1 Demonstration games

Two of the strongest players in the club play a game, while a third gives a running commentary to explain what is going on. It is important that the players are not allowed to speak [it is likely that they will anyway], since the commentary then degenerates into a high-level argument which nobody else can follow. These events have the advantage of being very easy to organise, and they can be extremely enjoyable if the commentator is skilful enough.

6.2 Game analyses

A game is selected, e.g. one played at the club the previous week, and (preferably) two of the strongest players take it home and think about it. them gives a 30-minute lecture on the game. In planning such a lecture the following points should be borne in mind:
  • Don't talk for more than about 30 minutes since people will start to lose interest
  • Concentrate on just one aspect of the game; there won't be time to about everything.
  • Stop every now and again for a quiz session; make some little cardboard circles with a, b etc. on them, and put them on the board at likely looking points at key stages of the game which are to be discussed. Collect votes as to which to play, or get onlookers to choose their move using tiddlywinks or pennies.

These events can be highly enjoyable and informative, but they require a considerable amount of preparation by the person who is to give the talk.

6.3 Visits by stronger players

The BGA has a scheme for organising visits by the country's dan-grade players to clubs. These can be used as foci for press coverage, and may take many forms; perhaps the simplest is for the whole club to play the visitor simultaneously. All clubs are encouraged to avail themselves of this facility. The BGA and the club usually cover half the costs each.

6.4 Study sessions

These are really a matter for small groups of players to organise outside normal club meetings. The recommended approach is to have one member who has studied the matter to be discussed in advance. This can be a game he has played, a professional game he has studied, or a joseki that he has read about in text tbooks. This person then presents the subject and the others join in the discussion as seems appropriate.

The success, or otherwise, of such events depends almost entirely on the personalities involved; some study groups generate highly successful social evenings which also contribute greatly to the playing strength of those involved, while others degenerate consistently into acrimonious debate. In any event, it is important not to allow such groups, whether meeting as part of a club night or not, to form a clique from which beginners will feel excluded.

6.5 Other possibilities

Experiments in teaching go are often more interesting for the participants than any sort of event following a tried and tested formula, and go clubs are encouraged to try out anything which seems like a good idea at the time. If the ideas work particularly well, details should be sent to the BGA Secretary for inclusion in later editions of this booklet.

One important objective in teaching is to help people to look at familiar situations from a new angle. In this respect, for example, an exercise held at Reading some years ago in which the whole club spent an evening playing out the last 50 moves of a game (with different opponents, but always starting from the same position) was extremely interesting.

7: Planning a Tournament

This chapter contains information and advice for those considering organising their own go tournament. Most of the information is directed towards one-day tournaments, but section 7.7 deals with longer events.

7.1 First stages of planning

You should start planning a date and venue at least four months in advance. University or college accommodation is usually very suitable, particularly if you know a student or lecturer who can hire rooms for you. Make sure that the playing area is large enough, with sufficient tables and chairs; a one-day tournament should attract between 40 and 100 people. Consideration should also be given to whether there is enough room for smoking and also room to relax in after the game without disturbing anyone. An open space for frisby throwing could be a useful asset. Accessibility by public transport may be a factor in your choice of site. When a date has been decided upon, it is essential to contact the BGA tournament coordinator, who will check that it does not clash with any other go event. He can also inform you of any gaps in the go calendar and will give any other advice that is required. Most one-day tournaments are held on Sundays rather than Saturdays, but there is no very strong reason for doing so.

It is important to find a non-playing organiser for your go tournament, since the work involved in running a tournament is not confined to the time between rounds. If the organiser has not run a tournament before, he should receive assistance when he makes the draw. This can be given by one of the participants in the tournament; several BGA officers are willing to help if asked.

7.2 Advance publicity

Publicity for 90 tournaments takes two forms, one of which consists of informing as many go players as possible. This is very important if the tournament is to be successful. The BGA Newsletter, which is published every two months, gives details of forthcoming tournaments. [So does the BGA web site.] The tournament coordinator is responsible for keeping the newsletter editor informed. Tournament details also appear in the British Go Journal.

The other form of publicity is directed to the non go-playing public, in order to inform them of the existence of the game and of the BGA. Tournaments provide excellent foci for such publicity, and local newspapers, radio and TV should be informed of the event about two weeks beforehand. An important follow-up to such publicity is for the organiser or his assistants to be prepared to teach beginners who come along just to see what the game is about.

7.3 Entry forms

All BGA clubs should receive entry forms at least six weeks in advance of the tournament, and even further in advance for a tournament lasting several days. The simplest way of doing this is to send a large number of entry forms (about 300) to the editor of the BGA Newsletter. In addition to this, it is worth bringing a supply of entry forms to any other tournament that takes place in the months before your own event. Entry forms should contain the following information:
  • Location of tournament, including a map and details of access by public transport and by car
  • Date, and closing date for entries (and late entry fee, if any)
  • Times for registration and for start and end of play (usually about 10.00 to 18.00, but check arrival times of suitable trains)
  • Details of meal arrangements / accommodation
  • Details of prizes
  • Time limits, number of games, rules
  • Entry fees and who to pay cheques to
  • Name, address and phone number for enquiries
  • Whether smoking is disallowed
  • Method of allocating byes, should these be necessary (see 9.1)

and should request the following information:

  • Name, address, playing strength, club of player, and whether he is a member of the BGA. (There should be a surcharge, currently £1, reflected in the BGA levy, for non-members, though in fact nearly all players attending tournaments are members, and if not can if they wish use the surcharge as part-payment for membership if they join on the day. This does not apply to visiting foreign players, children, or players new to the game.)
  • Which options on meals (and accommodation if offered) are required
  • Whether any equipment can be provided by the player. (This is useful if there is likely to be a shortage of equipment [unlikely to be a problem unless you expect more than 100 entrants].)

7.4 Entry fee

When deciding upon an entry fee, remember that the following expenses will have to be covered:
  • Administrative expenses: printing entry forms, postage, telephone, miscellaneous stationery
  • Hire of rooms
  • prizes
  • Cost of meals (if relevant), tea and coffee
  • Publicity
  • BGA levy.

You should aim to make a small surplus on the tournament, which can go towards purchasing new books or equipment for your club. Note that there are likely to be a number of people trying to enter after the closing date. It is therefore wise to include a late entry fee, payable by those entering after the closing date, if you need to know numbers in advance. Another useful deterrent is to allocate byes (if they are necessary) to the last people to enter, but avoid byes by having a floating organiser if numbers are not a problem.

It is good practice to acknowledge receipt of entries and entry fees. This can be made easier by asking for a stamped addressed envelope from each entrant. Maps can be sent out in reply if not on the entry form.

The BGA levy is currently (1990) 30p per round per person with a maximum of three rounds per day chargeable. Students are 15p per round and non-members double. Longer tournaments may be given concessions. The purpose of the levy is to cover cost of all advertising, support and equipment services.

7.5 Meal arrangements

Some one-day tournaments (e.g. Wessex) include the provision of meals. However, it is easier to let participants make their own arrangements if there are any nearby restaurants or pubs. In this case, a map of the local area, showing such places, should be on display at the tournament.

7.6 Miscellaneous points

Equipment may need to be hired. If tables and chairs are required, they can often be borrowed from local church halls, otherwise there are numerous hire firms that can supply them. The BGA has a stock of some 50 sets and clocks which are lent to tournaments as part of the service charged for by the levy. Organisers should ensure that arrangements are made for transport from the last tournament and on to the next. Further sets and clocks can be borrowed from clubs or individuals n more are needed.

A shop selling go books and equipment can enhance your tournament. The BGA Book Distributor will often want to run such a shop. This will normally be arranged between the organiser and the Book Distributor.

Consideration should be given as to whether a side-line tournament such as a small-board tournament can be run on a self-pairing basis. This sort of entertainment is particularly recommended if children are in attendance. Other entertainment in the way of teaching or problem sheets may be worth considering to keep the young minds occupied.

7.7 Longer tournaments

The next step up is a weekend tournament, lasting from Friday evening until Sunday evening. The British Congress and the Northern Go Congress are of this form. In each case there are six rounds, with one hour each on the clock. Such events can be residential, with accommodation in halls of residence, or you may decide to let people find their own accommodation (possibly arranging for local players to put players up in their homes). Full board should normally be offered. As a rough guide, the 1987 British Congress at Reading attracted 120 entries, of which 60 were residential; 1989 at Oakham, go, of which 70 were residential.

A congress bank account should be opened, with two signatures required for withdrawals, as the amount of money handled can exceed £5000. The work can conveniently be split between one person responsible for accommodation and money, and one responsible for the tournament itself. A lightning tournament may be run on the Friday or Saturday evening.

If a tournament is providing accommodation then the BGA can be approached to underwrite a potential loss in return for a share of the profits. Contact the Treasurer for more details.

7.8 Regular BGA tournaments

Apart from the three-stage British Championship, which is run by the BGA, tournaments are run by clubs. The exception is the British Go Congress which is run by a club on behalf of the BGA. The profits are usually split between the club and a go trust. Losses are covered by the BGA provided the cause for the loss is reasonable and accounts are supplied. The organiser is usually agreed a year in advance and offers from clubs are always welcome.

The British Lightning Championship is now held during the British Congress. The Small Board (13 x 13) Championship has not been held recently due to lack of interest.

Regular events for youngsters are the Schoois'Teams Championships and the British Youth Go Championships. These are run by the Schools Committee.

8: Running a Tournament

This section is aimed principally at tournaments run on the McMahon system, but much of the advice it contains is applicable to all types of tournament. Details specific to the McMahon system are described in Chapter 10.

8.1 Time limits

During a day you will probably be able to fit in three rounds with time limits of 1 hour each player and 15 seconds byo-yomi [no-one uses byo-yomi now, overtime is much easier to implement]. Longer lime limits of 70 minutes can be used with sudden death or by reducing byo-yomi to 5 seconds. Reusable time or 'Canadian' overtime could be considered where time limits are fairly long. With 'Canadian' overtime a monitor counts out [no, the player does it himself] a set number of stones and resets the player's clock by a few minutes. The number of stones or minutes can be changed for subsequent periods of overtime.

Overtime has the advantage of removing the need for tedious byo-yomi counting, whereas 5 second byo-yomi or sudden death reduce the over-all length of rounds. Ensure that enough time is left between rounds to produce the draw, allowing for late-running games. This can sometimes require more than thirty minutes and it is advisable to have more than one organiser assigned to the draw when late running is detected.

In addition, ensure that enough time is allowed for the first round starting late because of late arrivals, though this can usually be made up over lunch time.

8.2 General constraints

In a three round tournament, care should be taken that a unique winner will be found if that is considered important. No player should have more than one bye (and preferably none). No two players should meet more than once, and, if possible, players from the same club should not meet (except where either could win the tournament).

A team tournament can easily be run, using the games from the individual tournament. Teams should be of a minimum size (say 4) and should be formed before the first round. The team with the highest percentage (excluding games between members) gets the prize. Games between two team members should be discounted.

If the number of participants is odd, it will be necessary to have a bye in each round. One method is to allocate these byes to the last players to enter. A better method is for one of the organisers to be prepared to play in the tournament only of players is odd.

8.3 Prizes

The two most popular ways of allocating prizes are by divisions and by number of games won. The second method is fairer, but one does not know in advance how many winners there will be. If prizes are awarded to division winners (i.e. to the best placed player within each of a number of ranges of strength), this need not prevent games from being played between players in different divisions. [The divisions system is a hangover from before the invention of the McMahon system. It survives in the Wessex tournament, for traditional reasons.] Special prizes can also be awarded to people who have done well without winning any of the other prizes, or to juniors.

[If you intend to award a prize for all results equal to or better than some number of wins, you should decide whether to allow jigos (by having integer komi) and if so, whether the qualifying number should be an integer. You may prefer to wait and see how things turn out before you decide what result is good enough for a prize. If you allow jigos you will have more flexibility in this.]

8.4 Organising the draw

Each player is given an identifying number and has a card (e.g. a postcard) made out as depicted below. The draw is performed by shuffling these cards around a suitable table top. It will be found useful to have a large table out of range of the "helpful" comments of the players for this purpose. Do not use paper as it blows away; small pieces, however, can be used stuck to a glass sheet with Blutak.

The card illustrated [above] on page 21 is appropriate for an eight round tournament. Each box gives details of one round of the tournament.

It is important for purposes of presentation of results that the players' identifying numbers should be in order of entry strength. This means that the numbers should not be allocated until the last possible moment (even during the first round).

Computer programs can be used to perform the draw. Long is the list of tournaments where a computer draw has failed [rarely happens now], so it is advised that before use programs are approved by the BGA Council [who know nothing about them]. Currently the only approved program is the Dutch McMahon program which is available for IBM PCs / compatibles. [In fact almost everyone uses Geoff Kaniuk's program.]

Without doing a full draw by computer, programs can often be used to collate and present results in a neat and speedy manner.

8.5 Presentation of results

Results should be recorded on a wall chart as the tournament progresses, and a final set of results in similar format should be compiled for circulation afterwards. An example of the recommended format is shown below, but in any case it should be easy to see at a glance how many games each player has won, and who his opponents have been.

Players should be ordered according to their starting grades, and numbers should correspond with those on the cards used in making the draw.

In addition to this display (and even more important than it) a list of players' opponents and table numbers for each round should be displayed, indicating clearly which player takes Black. This list can conveniently be used for the players to record their results on (by underlining or circling the winner's name). For larger tournaments, or for those wno prefer a more streamlined system, a separate result slip can be provided for each game for each round, to be filled in and returned by the winner. If these slips are put on the boards at the start of the round, the scrummage caused by large numbers of players trying to read the draw can be reduced, although this process could slow down the draw considerably unless a computer print-out is used.

8.6 Qualification for the Candidates' Tournarnent

Your tournament may be eligible for qualifying places for the Candidates' Tournament, which is the first stage of the British Championship. [The rest of this section has been deleted as the rules have changed. The current criteria for qualifying for the Candidates' tournament are given at http://www.britgo.org/index.html.]

8.7 Grands Prix

Each game won above the McMahon bar in a BGA-supported tournament counts one point towards the Grand Prix. The winner becomes the holder of Terry Stacey Memorial Trophy for a year, so it is important that the McMahon bar is set sensibly and included on the final results sheets. In addition the London Open is the British tournament in the Fujitsu European Grand Prix, and special rules apply as imposed by the EGF [not any more, the European Grand Prix has been abolished].

8.8 Miscellaneous points

  • It is difficult to start the first round on time due to late arrivals.
  • Ensure that there are enough tables and chairs. Try to give people as much elbow room as possible.
  • Have signs outside directing people to the playing area.
  • Label each board with a number. If there is more than one playing room, label the doors clearly with the numbers to be found in that room.
  • Ensure a large supply of scrap paper, cards, pens, Blutak and other stationery equipment. Don't forget the Snopake.
  • A noticeboard should be arranged where people reading it will not get in the way, and should include space for advertisements for forthcoming events etc. as well as the results.
  • Check that the lighting is adequate. Many lecture rooms and suchlike venues are only adequately lit at one end, and although it is not very difficult to obtain extra lights by asking for them in advance, it can be almost impossible to do so at 5 p.m. on a Sunday when the problem becomes apparent.

8.9 After the tournament

Ensure that results of the tournament are received by the British Go Newsletter, BGA Tournament Coordinator, Grading Committee and the press. [It is sufficient to give them to the BGA secretary. He will arrange for them to be sent to the BGA grading committee, the EGF grading program, the Newsletter, and the BGA webmaster. His preferred format is an output file from Geoff Kaniuk's program. The press will not be interested.] The BGA levy should be sent to the treasurer using the form provided. Arrangements shopuld be made for the BGA sets to reach the next tournament. Letters of thanks should be sent to any sponsors, including the owners of premises used.

9: A Model Set of Rules

These rules are designed for a one-day tournament run on the McMahon system. For most purposes it should be adequate to photocopy this page, and to make minor changes in red ink before posting ft on the tournament noticeboard. Pedants who prefer a more detailed formulation should use their own based on the set of championship rules.

Any different systems such as "Canadian" overtime or "flexible komi" (bidding for Black and the size of White's komi) should be described clearly in the rules. As regards bidding for komi, organisers may wish to stipulate the inclusion of a half point in order to avoid draws.

  1. The tournament is to be run on the McMahon system as described in the BGA Organisers' Handbook. All games are to be played without handicap and with 6 points komi, except where otherwise specified in the draw.
  2. Time limits are one hour each, followed by 15 seconds byo-yomi. When a player's allotted time has expired, the clock should be stopped while a time keeper is found. The timekeeper should count the seconds downwards, ending with the words "three... two... one... pass". If the word "pass" comes before the player's stone hits the board, then he loses his turn. [But you are likely to use overtime instead.]
  3. The Tournament Organiser will nominate an adjudication committee before the start of the first round. Any disputes will be referred to this committee, whose decision shall be final.
  4. If a player fails to arrive before one half of his allotted time has expired, he shall be deemed to have forfeited the game. If neither player arrives by this time, then a loss shall be recorded for both of them.
  5. The rules of go, as defined by the Nihon Kiln, and interpreted by the adjudication committee, shall apply.
  6. The winner of the tournament is the player with the highest McMahon score; if this produces a tie, then the winner is the player with the most wins, and if that produces a tie, then the winner is the player with the highest sum of opponents' scores. Ties not resolved by any of these methods shall remain unresolved.
  7. It is the duty of the winner of each game to report the result of the game. The Organisers reserve the option of recording a loss for both sides if they are not informed of the result.

10: The McMahon System

The purpose of the McMahon system is to arrange that each participant plays as many games against as many opponents near to his own strength as possible, and has a chance to play against stronger opposition if he does well. The eventual winner will have played most of his nearest rivals by the end of the tournament.

The basic idea is that the established grading system is used only as a starting point, and that each player is "promoted", for the purposes of the tournament only, each time he wins a game.

10.1 McMahon scores

Players are ascribed an initial "McMahon score" equal to their entry grade kyu. (For this purpose a rank of n dan is equivalent to 1-n kyu, so that a shodan starts at zero.) However, players above a certain grade near the top of the tournament are demoted to this grade, in order to produce a pool of players with the highest McMahon score represented. This grade is known as the McMahon bar. (See section 10.4 for details of how to set it.)

10.2 The draw

The draw is made so that players have opponents with the same score as themselves, or as close as possible.

Before each round the cards are arranged in order of current McMahon score (now you see why that number is written so large on the card). Players with highest score represented are then paired off, subject to the constraints described. If too many of them have already played each other, or if there is an odd number of them, some will have to be "drawn down" to join the group of players one point below. This pool is then paired off, and the process continues until the bottom of the draw is reached. In pratice, it may be found easier to work from the top, and then up from the bottom, and to do the middle (where the number of players on each score is greatest) last, since there will be more ways finding acceptable pairings in this area.

If players must be "misdrawn" then the same player should not be in the same direction too many times. No player should meet the same twice.

Towards the end of the tournament, or at the lower end of the draw, it may become necessary for players with McMahon scores differing by more than one to meet. In such cases, a handicap of one less than the difference in scores should be given. This practice is only recommended for the lower end of the draw, since stronger players usually prefer even games, and it should certainly not be applied if either player has a chance to win the tournament.

Colours are allocated so that each player receives the black and white stones the same number of times as far as possible. Apart from that, they are random, even if the scores are one different.

For the first round, don't arrange the players in alphabetical order. This would cause the same players to meet every year.

In later rounds, match players at random within each McMahon score. In particular, avoid biassing the draw by matching up the entry grades.

Also avoid pairing people from the same club except where a prize is at stake. There is nothing worse than travelling 100 miles to play the people you travelled up with and play every week.

10.3 Final ordering

Players should be ordered according to their final Mcahon scores. Within each McMahon score, those with the largest number of wins (i.e. lowest entry grade) should be placed highest.

Traditionally, ties have been resolved using the Sum of Opponents' McMahon Scores (SOS), but there is much to be said for using the cumulative sum of scores, i.e. simply adding up the score at the end of each round. This latter method is much quicker to calculate and not obviously less fair.

10.4 The McMahon bar

At both extremes of the tournament there will be problems in finding opponents with the same McMahon score. At the bottom end, these are usually resolved using handicap games. At the top, handicap games are usually considered unacceptable, and so as to give as many people as possible an equal chance of winning the tournament, the top few players are demoted (for the purposes of the tournament only) so that a suitable sized pool of players start with the highest McMahon score represented. The optimum size for this pool depends on the number of rounds to be played. Rough guidelines are as follows (number of rounds first in bold type, then number of players): 3: 4-8, 4: 5-10, 5: 6-12, 6: 7-15, 7: 8-18, 8: 9-22, 9: 10-26, 10: 11-30. The constraints on which these figures are based are
  • There must be a unique winner. This sets an upper limit for short tournaments.
  • If there are too few on the bar, these receive an unfair (and unnecessary) disadvantage.
  • If there are too many on the bar, the tournament will end without all of the top players having played each other.

Note: In effect the top players play a knock-out to determine the winner, so there should not be more than 8 players above the bar for a 3 round or 16 players for a 4 round tournament.

11: Other Tournament Systems

11.1 Simple knockout.

This is one of the easiest types of tournament to organise. The advantages are that it produces a unique winner in the smallest possible number of games, and that games in each round can be started as soon as the players have finished their previous game. There are various disadvantages:
  • Half of the players only get one game.
  • The probability that the best player wins is surprisingly small.
  • There is no satisfactory way to produce an ordering for players other than the overall winner.

11.2 Double elimination knockout (Judan system)

The principle here is that a simple knockout tournament is accompanied by a losers' tournament, in which all players who have lost exactly one game participate. The winners of the two tournaments then play off to determine the overall winner.

This system only works perfectly for numbers of players of the form 2 to the power of 2 to the n, (e.g. 16), otherwise there will be an odd number of players in the losers' section for at least one round, and byes will be necessary.

It shares the advantage of the simple knockout that the draw for each round is automatically complete when the previous round's results are known. Furthermore it guarantees that all players will get at least two games, and that three quarters of them will get at least three.

For 16 players, it takes two extra rounds to produce a result, but if there is time, the final game between the winners of the two sections can be replaced by a best-of-three match, so that everyone has to lose twice to be eliminated.

This system is recommended for use in one-night lightning tournaments, either as club events or as incidental entertainment during congresses lasting more than one day.

11.3 Generalised knockout

The idea here is that nobody is eliminated; after each round players with exactly the same sequence of results are matched together.

This system ensures that everybody gets plenty of games against roughly equal opposition, and can be used to arrange all the players in order, though ordering is pretty arbitrary, especially around the middle of the list.

The usual ordering system is to give the losing finalist 2nd place, the losing semi-finalists 3rd and 4th, the losing quarter-finalists 5th to 8th etc., but this method puts a high premium on winning early - in a 32 player tournament the player placed 8th has won 2 out of 5 games, while those placed 9th and 17th have 4 out of 5.

11.4 Zone systems

Players are divided arbitrarily into zones, within each of which all play all, and then the zone winners play off to produce a final winner.

This type of system is easy to organise, and players will know in advance who their opponents will be. This may be considered important for the World Football cup, but seems pretty irrelevant in go.

Mathematically, this is an incredibly inefficient way of finding the best player. The larger the zones are, the more inefficient it becomes. The problem is that after two or three games, players with widely differing results are being matched against each other, and such games are unlikely to provide any new information.

This system is only recommended for lightning tournaments with more than 16 players - it is only in lightning tournaments that the small saving in time gained by knowing who your next opponent will be is worthwhile.

11.5 Swiss system

All players start equal, and in each round players with the same number of wins play each other.

This is the ideal system for an even game tournament in which there are too many players for an all-play-all. Details of organisation are exactly as for the McMahon system described in sections 8 and 10. (The McMahon system can be thought of as a generalised Swiss system.)

Ties at the end of the tournament can be resolved either by Sum of Opponents' Scores (SOS) or by cumulative sum of wins. Neither of these methods is completely satisfactory, and playoff games should be used for important places if time permits.

11.6 Zoned Swiss system

In this system, the tournament is divided into a set of completely separate Swiss type tournaments, one for each range of strengths. Since most players prefer to have a chance to play against stronger opposition if they do well, this to be a poor alternative to the McMahon system, and since it offers no compensating advantages it is not recommended.

11.7 Round Robin

All players play all other players (for 6 or 8 players). One player stays still and all others revolve around him, to play the games in the minimum number of rounds.

11.8 Swiss knockout

All players play Swiss except the top 8 or 16 who play a knockout to determine the winner; the losers return to the Swiss section. This is best suited for a handicap event.

11.9 Mixed Systems

There are many of these. They usually start as a Swiss or McMahon, and end up with a top group splitting off into a knockout. There are also schemes that mix three systems such as Swiss, followed by groups and a knockout. Generally these are only appropriate to longer events.

Last updated Sun Apr 21 2013. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.