WGW 26: How to Play as White in Even Games

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #26

A couple months ago, I had a request put in by fellow go player DecimoKing for an article on my advice on playing as White. This is the first part to a series of posts geared to provide some guidance to players who find themselves feeling burdened when playing White. Although this is definitely geared more for beginner/intermediate players, I would appreciate any additional insight from stronger players below to supplement my thoughts here. With that said, let’s get started with the first scenario as White: even games.

Concern #1: “Black is one move ahead! I feel like I’m behind when I’m playing White.”

The first thing to do is to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Now, what you have to remember is that this is exactly why the komi system was created in the first place. It’s always very easy to forget that you have komi. In other words, you already start with points when Black starts with none! So if anyone should feel behind, it’s Black! xD

Concern #2: “Black always gets these awesome moyos (i.e., frameworks) that are gigantic and fearsome!”

What you have to remember here is that you always have a choice of being more aggressive and breaking up Black’s formation early on in the game.* Will the game get more complicated? Yes. Will it involve a lot more fighting. Absolutely. However, what you have to determine for yourself is which situation do you hate more: a large moyo where you find yourself needing to invade and live or lose, or a game full of fighting that’s quite complicated.

*The only framework that White can’t truly stop without ending up in a disadvantageous position is the sanrensei; but if that is what you hate playing against, then the issue is more about learning a counter strategy to sanrensei as opposed to worried about playing White.

In summary, here are a few things to remember when playing White in even games:

  1. Be patient. Remember that the komi system was designed to compensate for the first move advantage. If you let yourself get caught up in the illusion of being behind, you’ll find yourself rushing into dangerous situations that will put you at a disadvantage early in the game.
  2. You can always steer the game in a different direction. If you really hate frameworks like the Chinese Opening and don’t know any counter strategies to them, go ahead and interrupt the formation before it materializes (aka approach the corner instead of taking a corner for yourself).
  3. Feel honored to play as White. Don’t forget that in go, playing as White usually signifies that who is the stronger player. After all, what color do you play if you give your opponent handicap stones? =) So if your intention is to become the strongest player you can possibly be, shouldn’t White stones become your best friend? xD
    I hope that this helps and please be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments!