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 scale which represents the grading system. Every member of the group has a marker between a pair of adjacent rungs. 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 determined by the difference between the current grades of the players, giving, say, 5 points komi for each grade over.
Levels are closer together at the top of the ladder than at the bottom: at the top end of the ladder, there are several rungs per grade, and at the bottom end, there is one rung per grade. This allows weaker players to change grade faster than stronger ones. There are various ways of dividing up the grades. One suggestion is as follows:
The element of competition may be enhanced by giving various prizes for results over some set period. For example, in a university club, the obvious thing to do is to award termly prizes. Otherwise, a good period is around three months. Some examples of prizes you could award are:
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:
However the only reliable way to incorporate inflation into a ladder is to play games against members of other clubs and to keep a check on the result, shifting the whole club up a few notches if the members seem to be doing too well outside.
Probably the easiest way to represent the ladder is on a club website. This has the advantage that people can monitor their progress and that of other members outside meetings. You should consider, however, that some people may not want to have their names on the web, so it is a good idea to check first. One such example is the Durham Go Club Ladder.
A physical ladder can also be constructed – for example, some sort of wall chart may be 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.
In practice a snake is better than a ladder: ladders are generally straight, whereas a snake can be curved about so as to fit better on a piece of paper.
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, but it will need frequent replacement.
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. You may choose to play with or without handicaps, or with reduced handicaps, 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 having a protracted tournament will make it difficult for beginners to be catered for adequately.
A club can organise a small tournament for club members.
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 on 13×13 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 13×13 board is about right for 25 grades difference. Some of the other systems discussed in the Tournament Organisers Handbook  may also be found useful.
If the tournament can be spread over several meetings, using full-sized boards and slower time limits, the results can be accepted for EGF rating purposes, by sending full details to the Tournament Co-ordinator . If you plan to send in the results for rating, check the criteria  for acceptability first, before deciding the time limits. You should also make it clear to your club members whether you plan to send the results in for rating.
There are several other possibilities:
Other things are possible. If you have any further ideas or hold any other kind of competition, please let us know so that it can be included in this document.