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Topic: Stone and/or pair handicaps in Pente and variants
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Posts: 1,182
Registered: Dec 16, 2001
Stone and/or pair handicaps in Pente and variants
Posted: Oct 12, 2017, 10:53 PM

I know I posted about a pair handicap for P1 at Brainking many years ago and thought that I might have posted about it here as well, but can't seem to find it in searching so I'll start a new thread about it with somewhat refined ideas based on more time playing and adjustments to the game here since the BK post. First off, a pair of stones may too great a handicap, skewing the game in favor of the second player. But in some games (Poof, Ninuki renju, Keryo, DK, refined rules Boat pente as proposed by Dmitri King) a single stone added to P2's tally at the start of the game would potentially affect the outcome of at least a few games in favor of P2 instead of being a P1 win.
Secondly, with the implementation of Pente in sets here (both in real time and TB games) whether or not the game becomes slightly skewed in favor of P2 with the addition of a pair becomes much less of an issue than it would be if ratings were still based on single games. Ratings have jumped up to the range of chess ratings since set based ratings were applied - before ratings by sets a top player estimated that no player would be able to surpass a 2100 rating in Pente. So, despite the advantage P1 has in single games, set based ratings allow the best and most frequent players to have a much higher rating than would be possible in a single game rating system.

What advantage(s) would a pair handicap give the game over the existing game? It might make Pente (or perhaps a variant) a fair enough game for ratings to be calculated by single games without significantly sacrificing the upper end of the rating system. It would lead to a reevaluation of opening theory by top players, since the wedge line in particular would be significantly affected. I think those two things alone would be of great benefit given the relatively small amount of change to the games.
Based on analysis by many players including Rollie Tesh, Dmitri King, Jay Hoff, Don Banks and Gary Barnes to name but a few the tournament rule is not a sufficient handicap for the first player to make Pente a reasonably fair game (with the fairness of say checkers or chess). Thus we have fairer variants such as Keryo (Tesh), G Pente (Barnes) and Boat Pente (Hoff) and D Pente (Banks)

At the very least having the option to play games with handicap stones gives stone games with captures an edge towards Go over games like gomoku and renju which don't have captures.

Message was edited by: watsu at Oct 12, 2017 11:10 PM

Retired from TB Pente, but still playing live games & exploring variants like D, poof and boat

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