Jeff on managing time pressure

On 2021.04.10, Jeff 6d held a Nordic Go Dojo lecture on mangaging time pressure. This post contains my lesson notes.

In the first twenty minutes, Jeff explained the general procedure on handling byo-yomi.


  • Give your mind positive, encouraging signals.
  • Be calm, not emotional, to make the most of your byo-yomi period.
  • Before entering byo-yomi, determine the whole-board situation and the plan.


Give your mind positive, encouraging signals

This is really the most important thing. Don’t give your mind negative signals, like “my byo-yomi ability is bad; I can’t handle it; I am going to lose.” If you do, you are more likely to lose. If the opponent is also in byo-yomi and does the same, it’s a lottery. Tell yourself “I’m capable of managing it. It’s difficult but I can do it.” The human brain works in a mysterious way. If you give yourself confidence, somehow you exploit some unfound extra ability within yourself.

Be calm, not emotional, to make the most of your byo-yomi period

Players who in real life can think that “this is the right thing to do; I have to do it regardless of how I feel” have an easier time; those who are more emotional have more difficulty. If you can put your mind above your mood, if you can control it, you will have enough time to think.

In a 30 second byo-yomi a good player has 25 seconds; a pro has 28 seconds. But if you are in panic mode and complain, you actually waste your time to deal with emotions.

Then in byo-yomi, only think about Go. You will discover that 25 seconds is a lot of time.

Before entering byo-yomi, determine the whole-board situation and the plan

How do you in general know what you have to do in byo-yomi? You need to know the whole-board situation. Are you leading or behind? By how much? Then you know, in general, how you are going to play the remaining game.

Good players can count in one or two byo-yomi periods. But many players cannot do that. So three minutes before entering byo-yomi, assess the whole-board situation.

Count solid points. Look at potential territories and weak groups. Where can there be a potentially weak group? For example, around thin connections in the center that can potentially be separated. Define those potential blind spots.

You need to do all this work in the three minutes. If you need more time, start earlier. Prepare time-suji in advance. These give you extra periods to count or read.

Then make a general plan for the rest of the game.

If you are behind

If you are behind — if you are not confident to win if you play normally — it’s relatively simple to know what you have to do. So it may be easier to play in byo-yomi if you are behind.

Look for a bank; if you can rob the bank, all your problems will be solved. If you can’t see a bank, look for several stores that you can rob. Even if the money you rob from one store is not enough to solve your problems, you can look for the next store. Sometimes you cannot take enough money from a bank, then you need to look for another bank or store. But anyway you only have one direction: rob something. So this might be easier.

If your opponent has a “moment of happiness” — he just had a big success and just wants to keep the lead — you may be able to rob a bank or a store even with a toy gun — that is, a fake threat.

If you are leading

It’s more difficult when you are leading. If there is a risky path where you might lose the lead, and an alternative, you can choose the latter way. But it is important that you play normal, not “safer”. Then in the three minutes, check whether you have any banks with a problematic security system. Do you have any store that the opponent might aim at? If you define them as “safe”, you do not add extra guards there. So you cannot play “safer”; you still play “normal”.

If the situation is even

If the situation is even, that’s also simple — just play normally. Even if you are slightly ahead, assume that it’s dead even. But if you then face a risk, you should not run away from it because that would mean that you would lose something.

All this assumes that you are calm, not emotional. You know the whole-board situation. You know the locations of the banks and the stores and their financial situations. You know, in general, what to do next. Once you enter byo-yomi, your mind has to be very clear about what you have to do. The only thing that is forbidden is to enter the dark forest without knowing where you are heading.