A. Default Rules

Various rules of Go are used around the world. The particular set of rules used generally does not affect how the game is played. We have a summary of the most important rules differences, with links to deeper studies of them.

In Britain, the Japanese rules have traditionally been used. Use of the 1989 version of the rules could give rise to problems, so in 2006 it was decided to adopt AGA-style rules as our default rule set for tournaments.

If you are running a Lightning Tournament we have Rules for Lightning Go Tournaments.

If the organisers of a Go tournament in Britain, recognised by us, do not specify otherwise, then the AGA-style rules as specified in RULES OF PLAY apply.


Black gives White 7½ points Komi (under traditional Japanese rules, the Komi was 6 or 6½ points).

Triple Ko

Triple kos and other such repeated positions are prevented by a "Superko" rule: It is illegal for a player to play so as to recreate a board position of the game, previously created by a play of the same player. (Under our previous rules, repeating the board position led to a jigo.)

Fischer Time

When digital clocks are used, Canadian Overtime can be awkward and cumbersome (requiring tricky clock-resetting) and so "Fischer Time" is used instead. Fischer Time is not suitable for use with analogue clocks.

The concept of Fischer Time is that one starts with a basic time allowance, which is then incremented every time one plays a move. This is best shown by an example.

Suppose Fisher Time is set as 40 minutes + 10 seconds per move. Initially one has 40 minutes on the clock. Failure to play within this 40 minutes results in one's flag falling and the loss of the game.

However, suppose that the first move takes 30 seconds. The clock is then adjusted to 39 minutes 40 seconds (being the initial 40 minutes, less the 30 seconds used for the move, plus the incremental 10 seconds). This adjustment is done automatically by the software within the clock.

If the second move takes 5 seconds, the clock is then adjusted to 39 minutes 45 seconds, and so on.

As most games take around 120 moves each (total 240) this means that the total time allowed is 60 minutes (equal to 40 minutes plus 120*10 seconds). There is a minimum time of 10 seconds per move when the basic time is all used up.

It is important that the clock is pressed after every move, otherwise the time will not be incremented.


Japanese professional games traditionally use the byoyomi system. When a player has only a few minutes left the seconds are counted down, and any move made in less than a minute does not use up any of that player’s time.

In Britain we use the Canadian Overtime system instead. When a player has used all of their main time allocation (typically one hour), they go into overtime. Overtime is made up of an unlimited number of overtime periods.

In each overtime period the player must play a specified number of moves within a specified time period. This number is established by counting out 'overtime stones' from the player's bowl and making these clearly visible to the opponent. The overtime periods might be five minutes in which to play thirty stones.

A move consists of placing a stone on an intersection and removing any consequent captures, or passing, and then pressing the clock. Note that the clock is not stopped for capturing a large number of stones. When passing, an overtime stone should be given to the opponent. A player who fails to play all the overtime stones within the overtime period loses the game on time. The loss is immediate - the opponent does not need to 'claim' a win.

Once all the overtime stones have been played, the clock is stopped. A fresh set of overtime stones is counted out and the clock is reset to the overtime period. Then the clock is restarted.

The above tasks are shared: while one player counts the stones, the other is resetting the clock. Stones should be counted promptly, and whilst the clock is stopped neither player should be analysing the game.

In most tournaments, each overtime period will be identical, with the same number of stones to be played in the same interval. For example, twenty stones in five minutes abbreviated by 20/5 is often used in longer games. In many tournaments the overtime is 30/5 and players can quite happily continue for many overtime periods!

If your tournament is time-critical, i.e. you need to pack up by a given time, you may consider using an accelerated system instead. For example 10/5, then 20/5, then 30/5, then 40/5, and so on, increasing by 10 stones each period.

The overtime period critically affects the tournament class as summarised in our ratings policy. If you had a main time of 65 minutes and accelerated overtime of 20/5, 40/5, 60/5 increasing by 20 stones each period, the tournament would qualify for class A rating.

Late Players

A player who arrives late by more than half the main time allowance loses the game by forfeit. The player's opponent gets a free win, and this counts for prizes and pairing, but does not count for rating points.

There are two interpretations to late:

Late by start of round
Both players must arrive within the late time as measured from the time that the round started. The referee will start Black's clock on a board with no players. If Black arrives first, he moves, then starts White's clock. When White arrives, the sum of Black's used time and White's used time must be less than the late time.
Late by start of clock
Each player must arrive within the late time as measured from the time that their clock was started. The referee will start Black's clock on a board with no players. If Black arrives first, he moves, then starts White's clock. White must now arrive before the White clock registers the late time.

You would use late by start of round if you had a tight time schedule. If you do use late by start of clock then be aware that in the extreme case Black could arrive 29 minutes late for a 60 minute game and then White could arrive a further 29 minutes late. The game would effectively start when other games had been going for an hour!

Missing Rounds

A player who would qualify to win a tournament through the normal rules must have played every round in the tournament. Players who miss rounds, but qualify for prizes, can still gain those at the discretion of the tournament organiser.


Any dispute by a player in either their own game or in another game must be communicated to the referee as soon as possible and in any case before the results of the game are published.

On-lookers are strongly discouraged from making any comments of any kind about a game in progress. If there is a suspected rule violation, then this should be brought to the attention of the referee, and should never be discussed with the players.

Last updated Fri Mar 08 2019.
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