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Usually, a game of professional Go can be a very long affair, with both sides having 4-8 hours on their clock. In the phases between the actual plays, one could hear a pin drop. Hardly material for television broadcasts.

However, in "Lightning Go" (or haya-go in Japanese), the clicking of the stones on the board can sound like a hailstorm in full cry. Usually, a player has 30 seconds per play, with a given number of additional full minutes for complicated situations, usually ten. Speedy play is of an essence and it is legal - if not nice - to play meaningless moves in an attempt to make your opponent wast one of his valuable extra minutes.

Another method of lightning go is giving the players the additional time en bloc at the beginning, timed like in chess, and then go into byo-yomi, limiting each play to 30 seconds. However, this usually means that there is not much time to think in complicated spots later on, allowing for suboptimal plays, and inferior games. So at least in Japan, the first method is used.

Such games still run about 1,5 to 2 hours, they can be and are televised on TV, in tournaments such as the Japanese NHK Cup and NEC Cup or the Asia Cup. At these televised events, there are usually Go professionals, who comment on the game, show alternative moves and explain difficult decisions to the viewer, making these broadcast interesting to everyone interested in studying Go.

Although this is the format used on television in Japan (as well as here in Korea), there are many different variations of lightning Go. A version popular among the speed demon players on the IGS Internet server is to play with 1 minute to start, then go into 1 minute Canadian overtime byo-yomi, whereby each player, after exhausting his initial minute, has one minute for each additional 25 moves.

I've even heard of people playing with just 10 minutes on a chess clock with no byo-yomi at all. I've never personally seen a game like that, but the games must be ridiculous, with blunders abounding on both sides.

As VAG mentions in his writeup, players will sometimes play the strangest, most ambiguous moves they can find, in order to force the opponent to waste some time answering. This is sometimes called the "time-stealing tesuji," a pun on the "eye-stealing tesuji."

Players sometimes play as if they are playing lightning Go, even when a more relaxing time limit is being used. It's a form two-pronged psychological warfare. Firstly, playing quickly gives the impression of confidence. If you're playing against an opponent who already fears you, playing quickly and slamming your stones down forcefully can trick the other player into playing too submissively, defending against moves he should ignore. Secondly, it brings a false sense of urgency to the game. If you're playing quickly, your opponent will feel a subconcious urge to do the same, and will be more likely to blunder. So, if your opponent starts playing quickly, beware: it may be that he's playing small moves that you shouldn't answer, or it may be that he's made a mistake and is hoping that you won't notice. Remember that it's the clock timing you, not your opponent, so take some time to study the goban before playing. Now, if only I could take my own advice...

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