Compare Go To Chess / Discussion

Sub-page of CompareGoToChess

Table of contents

Hans Berliner

PurpleHaze: Berliner developed Hitech and did not work on Deep Blue. However, the hardware developed at CMU by F-H Hsu before he joined IBM was part of Hitech and part of Deep Blue.

ilanpi I think the Berliner comment is a clear case of sour grapes. It should be obvious that the level of chess competition is continually increasing. Paradoxically, this makes his evaluation of chess correct: it is much more difficult now for dilettante intellectuals to get very good results, whereas these comprised much of the chess elite in the past.

Lasker on the logic of go rules

Bill: Lasker never met Robert Jasiek. ;-)

Legitimacy of Comparison

ilan: I tried out the site the other day. It is based on the system, but is much worse. One position claiming to be a win is the most basic possible draw in king and pawn vs king and there were other simple errors too. My conjecture is that the solutions are not in a database, but run from a chess playing program which is not too strong. No possibility of trying to do that in Go!

Dieter: It is a bad habit to compare Go to Chess. When trying to explain what Go is, comparing it to Chess, you don't do honour to the game of Go. When comparing Go to Chess, to show how infinitely much richer the game of Go is, you don't do honour to Chess.

I think people make this comparison because both games are full of strategy and deep thinking. And Chess is just much more popular in most areas. What would you compare it to? Jezzball meets Othello ...

Sbaguz: I totally disagree: I don't understand why it's a bad habit to compare Go to Chess. On the contrary I think it's a very interesting comparison between games with a strong cultural and historical importance for east and west. It's a way to compare east and west way of thinking too, with an excellent philosophical approach. For west players it's also the best way to diffuse Go: a Chess player can often appreciate Go more than other people. (I know about a lot of "conversions".) Yes, it may be a bad habit if you aren't impartial and you try to elect the best game between them. (I refer to the sentence "to show how infinitely much richer the game of Go is": this is very rude, because I can agree, but a Chess player ?...)

Duncan: I'd like to give my oppinion from the point of view of a newbie and a chess player. I've been playing chess on and off since I was little, and only just started playing go - and I've found I really like it. The two games are very much related, but very different, and that's part of the appeal. The only real bad habit is to compare chess to go in a way that suggests that either game is superior. +++ O.K., a go board has more possibilites numerically, has simpler rules, is more strategic, can't be played well by computers and so on, but chess is good fun the way it is. Insulting a really good game that a lot of people enjoy, many of whom are the most likely go converts you'll ever find, is both foolish and very, very petty. They're just games, after all!

ThaddeusOlczyk: When describing GO I do not say that it is similar to chess. I say that it is in the genre of games that include checkers,chess and backgammon.

Absorbed?: Something similar has probably already been said, but when I look at the page for chess players new to go, specifically the comparison quotes, I feel any chess player is going to feel like they are being told that Go is better, which regardless of whether it is or not is not something to tell someone who is serious about chess. If the goal is to get more people playing Go, then Go players must stop trying to impress on chess players why it is better - turning it into a battle - but instead simply tell them what Go is. A comparison should only be made to state why as chess players they will probably like Go. It is the only constructive comparison I can see anyway.

Bubbles?: The idea of Chess is the only open road for Go into the West. You'll never avoid comparisons. And if those comparisons don't distinguish and favour Go, then why should some native/chess-player bother with it?

"It can't be better than Chess because it's different." Really? Tic Tac Toe is different, too. Go is no better than that? Even Chess is no better than that? No more rich, exciting, engaging, challenging? no more susceptible of entwining human minds?

mudri: As a game to play on school bus windows in winter, tic tac toe is far superior to go and chess. Without the relevant context, the judgement doesn't make sense.

Chess and WeiQi both originated from the East (from China, to be more precise). So it really isn't so much a cultural comparison between East and West.

Benjamin Geiger: Yes, but Chess took off in the West, while Go didn't. I'm guessing that it's because people in the West saw their own style of battle reflected in Chess.

(Of course, in a wonderful case of what's-old-is-new-again, the guerilla warfare rediscovered between the 18th and 20th centuries is more accurately modeled by Go, at least in my humble opinion...)

Charles Matthews: Does anyone really believe Chess originated in China?[1] It is generally thought to have arisen in the area Iran? to the Punjab?. The area of diffusion of Go in the middle ages is close enough to the area of monastic Buddhist orders coming from China.

TimBrent: Exactly, Charles. Also, Benjamin, Chess spread from India? to Persia? and the Arab World, where we in the West came into contact with it through the Crusades.

Charles: I have seen web sites asserting a Chinese origin for Chess; I don't know any credible evidence.

EIKENHEIN: When I was first learning chess, I read an introductory book on its rules and history. It suggested Chess WAS originally from China. How they figured it out, I haven't the faintest idea.

GoStone: The best discussion about Chess/China I have seen is [ext] here. Unfortunately the 'colourful' character of its author will lead many people to dismiss the article out of hand. I would be very interested to hear what other people think about his theories as they stand.

Dej2: The Chinese version of Chess XiangQi has been contesting the idea that Chess has originated in China and spread to India. Of course the other argument is that the Idian game of "Chaturanga" pre-dates XiangQi. I think this Question is till up to debate. Bacgammon is also a game that has a questionable past, some saying that it also originated in China.

Cornelius?: I both agree and disagree: As Sbaguz notes above, it's certainly bad form to dwell on the (perceived) superiority of one game over another, insulting to the traditions of both, and I suspect that this is what Dieter is referring to.

But there are, I feel, some useful, valid, value-free comparisons which can be made. While trying to explain the nuances of the game to an experienced Chess player, I've found it helpful to point out that the fact that Go is placement-based and Chess is movement-based reverses the value of locations on the board: in Chess, taking and holding the center is key, while in Go, it's corners first, then sides, then the center. Topologically, it's (to me) as though in Chess, the board had a single central hill, over which the conflict is fought, while in Go, it's as though the corners were hills, the sides lower ridges, and the center a low plain.

Also, while trying to explain the difficulties of programming Go to a fellow geek, it is impossible to avoid mentioning the difference in raw move combinatorics.

Stefan: I follow Cornelius? on this one - some good comparisons can be made. This is pretty obvious - it should be relatively easy to compare any mind game with Go. In the end most debaters on this page seem in violent agreement: Go and Chess can be compared, but it should be done in a respectful way for both.

While we're on the topic: there is some meta-level but nevertheless good advice on Go study contained in a Chess related article.

TimBrent: My one complaint on it is the Chess books and Go books which say for one reason or another, their game is superior to the other. +

Malweth: I haven't studied Chess books extensively, but I find it hard to believe that many even make mention of Go, let alone belittle it. Do you have any references?

(discussion about chess history copied and pasted unedited to SL's chess page)

Jasonred: I would say that a big difference between Chess and Go is the "people are equal" factor. India? had their caste system, so they viewed some as inherently superior, and some as inferior. And all their decendants would, consequently, be just as superior or inferior, forever. In China, the Imperial Exams let anyone rise to a high position, if he could prove his worth.

Anyone else find the similiarities in Chess and Go? Chess, yeah, sometimes a pawn may turn the tide, but a Queen or some other piece there might work even better. And it's such a struggle to cross the board for the pawn. In Go, all pieces start equal, and a lot of them are super crucial.

There's also the, "kill the king to win". Versus the "there is no king, you want to win, you have to beat us all!". Or perhaps it's "there is no such thing as true victory, just being relatively better off".

The endgame is interesting to note that, it is considered polite for both players to pass in Go, instead of launching futile attacks, despite they wouldn't lose points and there's the hope the opponent screws up. In Chess, if there's the slightest doubt at all, Go for the jugular, always! Annihilate your enemy or die in the attempt! Diplomacy? Never!

Andre Engels: I don't think you have Chess right here. Annihilate your enemy or die in the attempt? Many games are ended at a draw proposal, sometimes quite early in the game. I have not been playing Chess seriously any recent, but I think that in Chess too it's considered impolite to play on when you do not have a serious chance of winning.

Andrew Walkingshaw: Indeed, extremely so; if one is in a clearly lost position, one is expected to resign. Also, the previous author seems to be unaware of the concept of the "grandmaster draw" (see Kramnik - Kasparov from Round 1 of the current (24/2/03) all-play-all in Linares; drawn in 18 moves (each: a move in Chess is composed of one play from each player, unlike in Go) in an interesting position...)

Mathaddict: I wholehartedly disagree with the statement that if one is in a clearly lost position that one shold resign in chess. Some of the most famous games of all time involve a game when a player in a lost position, forces a draw against a superior opponent (either by repitition of position, or the unavailability of any leagal move). I may add that such nuances are not found in Go.

Alex Baxter--In response to Jasonred above, the examination system in Song and Tang China (I believe those are the right dynasties) were still extremely rigged towards the wealthier classes. While you are technically correct in saying that anyone could rise up, the people who didn't have to farm for their living every day and could afford expensive tutors were the only people who could reasonably expect to pass the tests. I'm not sure how this meshes with Go philosophy, though (your theory sounds nice, still).

(Please correct me) In response to the above, I doubt the examination system in Song were extremely rigged towards the wealthier classes. The famous prime ministers Lu Mon Jen and O Yang Shiu were very poor, among the poorest of the country, before they passed the examination. Others like Fan Jun Yian and Shi Ma Guang were definitely not in the wealth class. Moreover, the examination system were established during Shiu and Tang dynasty, but weiqi was invented at least one thousand years prior to Shiu dynasty.

eretan?: I actually just found this debate very recently, but I've read a lot on the arguments about it. I myself am more of a chess player (just got into go recently because of an online friend), and when I read the arguments it seems like most people either don't know chess well, or don't know Go well. I myself am among the latter, so I won't comment so much on Go, but rather try to clear up some of the misconceptions on chess.

It is not true that in chess it is possible to win almost exclusively using tactics (not in modern chess at least); at the very least basic strategic knowledge is required. You cannot win using any tactic (unless your opponent is really weak) if you move only pawns in the opening. (btw: tactic being short range calculations) On the other hand, there is also the other type of playing style in chess: positional (strategic), which I myself happen to like. Masters of this style are Karpov (the last World Champion) and before him, Botvinnik, and currently, Kriminik and Anand, who are 2nd and 3rd in the world rankings respectively.

In comparing Go to Chess, there is a huge focus on the use of computers, and how computers play chess better. While computers have been able to win against strong grandmasters, I think it is mainly because humans have not adapted to computer's playing style. The evidence can be seen in that, 8 years ago (1997), IBM's Deeper Blue managed to beat the world champion Kasparov in a standard match with standard time controls (7 hours max), but not much progress has been made in the 8 years after that. Two years ago Fritz 7 (computer world champion) could only draw a match against Kasparov.

And also, most people don't know that Kasparov does NOT have a positional (strategic) playing style. He is one of the most fierce (if not the fiercest) tacticians in chess history. Even though he did beat Karpov in the World Championship match, it should not be taken as a sign that Kasparov is better then Karpov in every aspect of the game. In fact, if Karpov is pitted against computers, he will most likely win, because his style is so positional. That's one of the reasons (in my opinion) that Karpov never got to play a match against a leading computer program; because one knows with 90% certainty beforehand who is going to win.

(It is also interesting to note that players like Kasparov actually have their "brand" of strategy, which involves the creation of a situation in which a tactical fight is even possible.)

If one looks enough into chess literature, one will find many very nice examples where chess is not just a tactical fight, but rather a very strategic game. The first world champion, Steinitz (1834-1900) pioneered the "slowly gaining advantage" (positional) style, and has many nice games where he was able to crush the opponent slowly and steadly, without using much tactics. Hence, to oversimplify and say that Chess is 99% tactics is erroneous (apparently Teichmann (1868-1925) said that). In fact, the main people who say that are from the early 20th century, when the playing style is very tactical. Right now, that style is not in favor, and indeed, Lasker would be beaten badly by most of today's grandmasters because of the huge advances in strategic thought in the last century, and the precision of calculation that is expected from today's grandmasters (very few games actually have tactical "errors"; most are strategic errors that lead to tactical failure; most tactical grandmasters use tactics in a way so that their opponent has to make strategic concessions in order to parry the threat, rather then using tactics to win).

As a closing note, I would like to put forth a few questions: What defines a good game? The fact that computers can't play it well? Is Chess *really* easier then Go to humans? I personally think that any comparison between the two games is not useful. It's not without reason that Chess flourished in the west and Go in the east; they both are interesting in their own way, and resonate with the culture in which they flourish.

Velobici: Would be interested in hearing more about chess an go vis-a-vis the culture in which they flourish.

KnowledgeSeeker?: Based on the previous posting, one can conclude that chess, in a sense, offers a bit more flexibility and freedom in choosing the route to success! In Go, a win is ultimately dependent on one crucial factor - strategy. In chess, one can apply tactics Or strategy (of course a tiny fraction of each is still needed when using the other, just like the small amount of the yin in the yan and vice virsa...Hmmmm another theme shared by both games!)

Another thing, even if chess was indeed 99% what?! Why would it be a bad thing? If that was so then indeed chess would specialize in something that was opposite of Go's speciality, tactics. Tactics aren't easy...executing a beautiful 5 to 10 move combination while maintaining harmony between all involved pieces and/or pawns is not a component of the game that need be crtisized!


Albeit the issue of greater complexity (of Go, over chess) seems to resonate well with those who prefer to degrade chess, I find it interesting that those most critical of chess grasp little, if any, of the complexity that either mind sports have to offer! The level at which most of these ignorants play (in Go) does not even compare to the complexity, in total, that chess has to offer. Yet they are content with the mere POTENTIAL of the complexity that their Go games may one day approach, and so, that is the basis for their insults against chess I wonder though, with such ignorant minds, are they capable of approaching such complexity - ultimately by mastering the game of Go - in the first place? Only then would they be in the position to convey how much MORE complex Go is than chess.

Or they can simply challenge, and defeat, say...Kasparov ;-p

My point...lets appreciate ALL of the beauty that human minds had produced...for there is trully little of it to begin with .

Phelan: Just to clarify one thing: I can't talk about chess because I wasn't a very dedicated player, and because I haven't played it in a long time, but Go is as much strategy as it is tactics... If one is a good strategist, but a poor tactician, one will lose against a slightly poorer strategist, but better tactician. This is only my opinion, of course. Adding to Phelan's point, is life and death not tactics? Why is it virtually every pro player recommends studying life and death problems to get stronger at Go? KnowledgeSeeker? is mistaken in thinking Go is all about strategy and I'd be curious as to what his/her Go strength is - he/she sounds a lot like the Chess players Warp describes below (Attitude of Players).

Life and Death is vitally important. Strategy must direct tactics and be backed up by adequate tactics. See Reading is Everything at Velobici.

Charles But it is not everything, any more than playing scales is everything in music. Where other things are equal the stronger-reading player should win. But the emphasis on reading has always seemed to me to mis-state the needs of the majority of players. (And possibly to be by false analogy with chess. Chess and shogi are much more dominated by analytical power.)

Velobici: From Reading is Everything: It is the basis for all play. The best strategic play, not backed up by good reading will be ripped apart once the other person figures out that one can't read well. However, Direction of Play is everything, also. One outclassed in reading, has to give way, play conservatively, and hope that one's better direction of play will provide a margin of victory. One outclassing in direction of play will win every skirmish but find no room to maneuver, having been outpositioned throughout the board. One has to be strong in both. The Japanese used to characterize Chinese play as very deep but narrow...deep reading but not as good a sense of direction of play. Thoughts?

Charles I do at least understand the Japanese attitude. It says 'balance is strength'. A strong amateur told me that if you play in a balanced way, you are ready for promotion. For amateur 5 dan in Europe (i.e. top 100 Europeans, basically) you do need good reading - but, it seems, something more in the way of positional judgement/direction of play. Therefore the good coaches often point out things other than reading mistakes, as keys to improvement. No paradox, in fact.

dnerra: I think it is worth pointing out, however, that Korean go teaching focusses a LOT on life-and-death reading. On the surface, this is clear support for the Reading is Everything school. But on the other hand, life-and-death reading is the one most relevant for strategic decisions, it is essential to judge the weakness of groups. Whereas, say, studying complicated geta problems seems a purely tactical training to me.

Bill: Sakata pointed out the reading involves not only the calculation of variations, but judgement of the resulting positions. In general he considered judgement to be the more important aspect. The relative difference in strength of computer programs at go and chess perhaps indicates that the calculation of variations is more important in chess than in go, in part because of the larger variation tree for go, in part because the positional judgements encoded in evaluation functions are better for chess.

Velobici: From the computer go articles that I have read, the real problem is the lack of an evaluation function. Computer chess has several evaluation functions, some of them are quite good. It appears that the calculation of variations is rather more tractable than finding a good evaulation function for go.

KnowledgeSeeker?: I confess, as a new beginner to Go, my abilities are dismal... and my apparently inaccurate estimate of the tactics/strategy ratio is based on my limited first impressions. The reason that I felt confident in conveying this previous assertion is because most of the online sources, including this one (I have no Go books yet), seem to indicate that indeed, Go is based mostly on strategic play. So,, what then would you estimate that ratio to be? I mean, I thought Go was no more then 5 to 10% tactics.

Oh...and, with all due respect, I am fully aware that chess has its own shortcomings and I hold no grounds on which I could argue for its superiority, so please do not misjudge what I "sound like."

Sorry if sounded a bit harsh but as a former Chess player, I too (as well as many others I've known) have made grand, presumptuous statements about Go after barely learning the rules. As for what I think the strategy/tactics ratio is, that is hard for me to answer. I agree with Velobici's posting above, that "reading is everything". Fighting seems to be emphasized in Korea and in order to fight strongly, you must be able to read quite well. But I am a lowly 2 Dan amateur and the stronger I have gotten at Go over the years, the more I realize how little I know about the game :)

PlatinumDragon: To call Chess is ~99% tactics is not correct, but to explain tactics is needed. Any move that is position :

  • to be able to attack,
  • attacking
    • capture another piece,
    • pinning a piece,
    • or checking,
  • protecting another piece,
  • or being protected by another piece

is a tactical move. Only such moves that does not do so are strategic moves. How much tactics and strategy are in chess are clear by defining the difference clearly. -PlatinumDragon

Unorthodox, underestimated fuseki

Tamsin: When I am not playing Go, I enjoy whiling away the odd half-hour with fast games on Chess servers. Because I do not study Chess, I'd rather use my study time for Go. I use a very offbeat opening, namely 1.h3 2.a3 3.g3 4.b3 5.e3 6.d3 7.Bg2 8.Bb2 9.Ne2 10. Nd2 and its variants, both as Black and as White. Weirdly enough, I do very well with this, because I know this system pretty well, and because my opponents regularly underestimate it. They attack in a stereotypical fashion, overlooking the fact that each of my moves, while unorthodox, has some value and point. Now, I know that at master level, Michael Basman does very well with this same system, even against grandmasters. Here is my question, then: is there any equivalent to this in Go? An opening that looks rubbishy, but actually has some real virtues. The one possible comparison that springs to mind is the Great Wall fuseki, but that seems quite normal compared with my Chess opening. Perhaps Go is not as tolerant of really unorthodox play? Opinions please!

Bill: The New Fuseki, which laid emphasis on the center, was considered very unorthodox at the time, and generated strong emotional reaction, at least among some amateurs. I think it parallels Hypermodernism in Chess. The Chinese Fuseki led to more rethinking of the opening. As a result, perhaps, of this recent history, my impression is that Go is so tolerant of unorthodox play that it hardly recognizes it as such. As for joseki, new ideas are tried all the time.

Andrew Walkingshaw: New ideas are tried in Chess: however, Tamsin's line is plainly not critical. It doesn't lose the game outright, but it definitely has more psychological than actual merit.

The thing about Shin Fuseki, or Hypermodernism, is that they had real, concrete merit - they had content, rather than just being a bluff. It was just that no-one had thought of playing like that - in that style, if you will. However, nowadays amateurs regularly play 4-4 points, and Chess amateurs regularly play the Nimzo-Indian, without thinking in some way they 're being at all unorthodox.

There are examples of critical new ideas in modern Chess thinking (the post-hypermodern rehabilitation of the Alekhine and Pirc defences, the whole early-e5 complex in the Sicilian due to the re-evaluation of the weakness of the d6 square - which gave rise to the popularity of the Najdorf and Sveshnikov/Kalashnikov complexes, probably the two most critical theoretical battlegrounds in the whole Sicilian, the early-g4 sacrificial lines in the Semi-Slav, the rehabilitation/fall-from-grace/re-rehabiliation of the King's Indian Defence): but they tend to be less "obviously" visible to amateurs, probably because Chess theory is much faster-moving than Go theory: a line goes from being the height of fashion to entirely discredited in the space of six hours, once the information gets onto the Chess servers and the game records are emailed around. Games have been decided at the very highest level, up to world championship level, because of one player obtaining an innovation played the previous day in a GM tournament on the other side of the planet: see the first Short-Speelman candidates match for an example of this phenomenon, and that was fifteen years ago.

Therefore, "unorthodox" play becomes "orthodox" overnight; the fact is that a slightly suboptimal opening in Go may lose you one or two points to best play, whereas in Chess it'll get you mated, so the orthodoxy in Chess is much more dynamic.

William Newman: I agree that it's not a good idea to get into slanging matches about which game is better. In matters of taste and black and white pieces, there's no arguing, not even about whether it's better for white or black to move first.:-) However, I think it can be interesting to think about differences between the games, without trying to interpret them as arguments for the relative superiority of one or the other. What are the effects of Go having no draws? Or of Go having a standard system for handicap play? Why is Go so much harder for computers than Chess is? Why is it that there's more intensive study and compilation of standard openings in Chess? Are skilled kids more competitive against adults in one game than the other? Etc.

Charles Yes, but on draws you'll always get Chess players arguing that a draw is 'fair', Go players saying of course jigo is something rather different ... not a recipe for a meeting of minds at all.

BobMcGuigan: It looks like draws are an essential part of Chess. Not necessarily the agreed draws, of course. But the possibility of stalemate seems to preclude any draw-elimination such as komi in Go. Historically there was no problem with jigo. The desirability of having no draws probably dates from the advent of tournaments. In present-day Japan the mushoubu is a draw in all but name.

Grauniad: Contributors might like to sit down, take a deep breath, and read the comparison between Chess and Go offered by a serious Chess player and author at [ext] Tim Krabbé's Chess Curiosities, entry [ext] 214.

Charles: Nice try - but the reference to 1961 takes us back to a time when the number of players in Europe as a whole stronger than current EGF 2 kyu was a handful.

amc: A question that seems better posed here in this page. Would it make sense to create a companion of sorts to the Beginner Study Section specifically to introduce the game to Chess players? No judgement of value or anything (which seems to be present, albeit in a minor way, even in this page), just something to point chess players too when they ask "why the hell should I learn that game?"

Shonle: I see the Go/Chess debate similar to the Scheme/C++ debate. The two programming languages are equally powerful, yet while Scheme is elegant and simple (it's based on lists and functions), C++ is kludy and complex (it's based on many styles and features). Both will be around for a long time and, in the right spirit, both are fun. A programmer might appreciate that comparison when hearing about Go.

NotDefault?: I noticed a similar comparison, but more general: Go in some ways resembles a functional programming language (Scheme is one), while Chess in some ways resembles an imperative programming language (C++ is one, but so are a lot of prettier languages, like C# or Python). Neither way is better exactly; they're just different ways of dealing with the problem of designing a game or programming a computer.

uxs: Now for a somewhat inflammatory opinion: I like Go better than Chess, because you have to think more in Chess. In Go, you can play some moves on feeling, or because the pattern your move creates is prettier, or whatever. I find Chess to be almost exclusively calculation and trying to "outthink" your opponent, in the sense of "I can see further than you", while I try to play Go like "Even if you see what I'm trying to do, you can't stop me because my position is superior."

Also, Chess boards are so horribly small and feel terribly cramped, compared to Go boards. Following from this, it's much harder to come back from behind in Chess, because the board is so small. In Go, you can just Tenuki, build up some influence on the other side of the board, and use it to attack again on the side where you were behind.

Duncan: And you have a perfect right to think so! My point (see above) is that different people like different things, and that chess and go are different games. Neither is better than the other, and it's a Bad Habit to say so. I would, however, like to point out that chess is not all about calculating, and that you can become a very competent player by understanding a few key principles (none of which are of any relevance on a go web site!)

Grauniad: And you can't become strong at Go without becoming strong at calculation (called "reading" in Go).


Charles I now have learned that Joseph Needham has argued this case, from about 1962.

dej2: I don't know if this has any relevance but, my son Gerald who is 7 years old, who I just taught the game of Go to, (note that I’ve taught him to play XiangQi (Chinese Chess) when he was six. I just bought him the "Microsoft Classic Board Games". He was able to beat the Western Chess game without me even showing him how to play it. (of course the game was set on easy, but none the less, Go on easy is much still harder for him to beat and he knows the game while without even learning the game was able to beat it in Chess.

Could be bad programming on Microsofts part for Chess?

Could be Im a lousy Go teacher, and my son has tougher time winning the Go game.

Mircrosoft over powered the Go part of this package.

But it cant be that Chess is less challenging a game than Go… Oh no that cant be the reason. I know that would be impossible.

Zarlan: I don't think it is bad programming on the chess. On the contrary, I believe that it could be possible that it is so good that the easy setting could be made realy easy, while it might not have been so easy to make the Go very easy because of bad programming.

I think though, that the reason is a bit simpler: He knew chess, but he didn't know Go. You say that you tought him chess (chinese chess, but that isn't all that much different is it?) a year before teaching him Go. That would give him an advantage in chess which he doesn't have in Go.


I don't agree that this is a big difference between chess and go. In speed chess, there is a handicap system which works extremely well, except that it is time handicap. It allows a similar skill hierarchy. ilanpi

BenjaminGeiger: I disagree. Looking beyond the obvious advantage of go's handicap system (namely, that it works no matter what time system (if any) is in use), and that the time handicap system also works in go, there's another distinction to be made.

Time-based handicaps are not part of the game itself. Instead, they are part of the MetaGame?. Chess itself has only coarse adjustments, by removing pieces before playing.

Not only does time handicap in speed chess give an efficient system, but material handicap also requires similar skills to handicap go. In particular, I recently gave queen odds to a beginner and was amazed to discover that I had known many of the principles of high handicap go (delaying fights, leaving positions unsettled, sealing in your opponent) for years. ilanpi

Time-based handicap is an effective means of handicapping chess. However this is probably the case for any other turn-based game (scrabble, risk, checkers, go, etc..)

Tamsin: I'm not sure time-handicapping is so effective, really. What happens is that when the weaker player does make use of their extra time to think about a move, the stronger player uses that time also. The only way such a handicap could be sure to work would be to give the stronger player such a small allowance that there would be a real danger of losing on time, thereby putting pressure on them. For example, thirty minutes versus ten minutes would not help the weaker player at all, but thirty minutes against three would be another matter.

ilanpi: Tamsin, time handicap are the basis for money games in speed chess and this works extremely well. A typical handicap is 5 minutes versus X minutes, where X = 4, 3, 2, 1. The phenomenon you describe is part of the challenge of playing when given a handicap, that is, should you play faster to give your opponent even less time to think. Roughly speaking, I would say that 5 to 4 is like 2 stones, 5 to 3 like 3 stones or 4, 5 to 2 is like 5 or 6 stones, and 5 to 1 is like 9 stones. For example, when I was 1750 in chess, I played a grandmaster for money with 5 to 1 time odds and ended up behind 6 games after a couple of hours. On the other hand, a time handicap of 30 minutes versus 10 minutes is meaningless, since there is probably not too much deterioration in play between 30 and 10 minutes.

Piece handicaps are effective in chess, however it may be more difficult to gauge the value of the handicap in chess than in go. Go historically has a relationship between the amount of handicap stones and the relative strength difference of the players. Go would also appear to have a more linear scale to piece handicapping - but piece handicapping in chess is still 'handicapping' - and still 'chess'.

I'd draw another similarity in piece handicapping in that it greatly affects the opening of _both_ games. Four stone handicap means white is approaching in all 4 corners rather than placing the first stone into a given corner. As positions become more complex, the value of the handicap may be decreased _or_ increased by optimal play. Joshual000

ferdi: In chess, I have seen (piece) handicap games dating from 800-1940. All the years, there was an handicap system just as good as the one Go uses! From a muslim text, found in Murray, A History Of Chess:

"A true Chess-player ought to play with all sorts of people, and in order to do so, he must make himself acquainted with his adversary's strength, in order to determine what odds he may give or accept. A man who is unacquainted with the rules for giving or receiving odds is not worthy of the name of Chess-player. It is only by equalizing the strength of the combatants that both of them may reap amusement and edification: for what interest could a first-rate player [...] find in playing even with a man to whom he could give the Knight or the Rook? The smallest degree of odds, then, is to allow the adversary the first move"

All in all, the author gives 13 kinds of handicaps. I like the end of the text, so I'll give it, too:

"To give any odds beyond the Rook" (the strongest piece in muslim chess - f.) "can apply only to women, children, and tyros. For instance, a man to whom a first-class player can afford to give the odds of a Rook and a Knight has no right to be ranked among Chess players. In fact, the two Rooks in Chess are like the two hands in the human body, and the two Knights are, as it were, the feet. Now, that man has very little to boast of on the score of manhood and valour who tells you that he has given a sound trashing to another man who had only one hand and one foot."

Or, to quote a more modern author:

"There is nothing that will improve you so much as playing with good players; never refuse, therefore, when anyone offers you odds, to accept them: you cannot expect a proficient to feel much interest in playing with you upon even terms, and as you are sure to derive bose amusement and instruction from him, it is but fair that he should name the conditions. It will soon happen that you yourself will be able to give odds to many amateurs whom you meet; when this is the case, avoid, if possible, playing them even, or you are likely to acquire an indolent, neglectful habit of play, which it will be very difficult to throw off. When you cannot induce such players to accept odds, propose to play for a small stake; and they will soon be glad to take all the advantages you can offer." (Howard Staunton, Chess Player's Handbook 1890)

So, chess was played _with_ handicap for more than 1000 years, _without_ for about 50.... I don't think that there is any big difference between the two games concerning handicaps ;)

ilan: As for post 1940, don't forget Bobby Fischer who claimed he could give any woman knight odds and win, and that was before he went truly nuts.

Dieter: It is rather funny that I created this page, linking it from bad habits and that later all the kinds of comparisons that I disapprove of have come onto the main page, moving my original statement to the discussion page. It is obviously more WIKI-like to do it that way and the community decided that the comparison is a good thing to do. I still avoid all comparison in my explanations. For one thing, it is lazy to explain (or - the horror - 'sell'') Go by comparing it to Chess.

GoStone: Come off it Dieter. There's no shame in giving people incentive to start learning go, encouraging schools to set up clubs, newspapers to run articles etc.

As I presume you know from my earlier post, I don't just consider it not lazy, I consider it essential to compare Go to Chess when explaining it to someone who doesn't know the game. Chess is the only cultural reference point to connect it too. Chess and Go are related. If you don't make the comparison the person you are talking to eventually will, and will want you to elaborate on the differences. It isn't lazy to preempt this. This is not to say one shouldn't also explain its original context.

Dieter: I read your post, which is well written and makes a strong point. Yet, Chess is not the only activity comparable to Go. How related are Go and Chess? I do not know how popular Four in a row is where you live, but let me ask this:

  • Is Go more related to Chess than to FiaR because pieces are also Black and White (and not yellow and red)?
  • Is Go more related to Chess than to FiaR because the board is also made of wood (and not plastic)?
  • Is Go more related to Chess than to FiaR because the board stands upright?


  • Is Go more related to Fiar than to Chess because pieces do not move once they are placed?
  • Is Go more related to Fiar than to Chess because the relationship between pieces is important, not their respective value or position?

The main reason why people compare Go to Chess, IMO, is that Chess is popular and Go Fans envy its popularity as a board game in the West. Personally, I'd prefer my kids to play some sports game in open air, instead of sit and think after school time, but when promoting football or tennis, I will not start off with "Unlike Chess, ..."

ilan: Regarding your last point, Dieter, I found that in sports, I am more relaxed afterwards, whereas in Go and Chess, I am more tense after, which is saying quite a lot, given how wound up I am usually. At least now, you can play these board games without coming home smelling like an ash tray. On the other hand, you don't suffer in games like you do in sports. One of my cherished memories is riding bikes up a hill with Canada's strongest chess player and I really made him suffer (I was into bicycle racing at the time) more than he did me in all our tournament games (10 losses, 1 draw).

GoStone: Hmm, perhaps we should have a page on comparing Go to Othello. This is a bad habit of non-go players! It is also highlights why we should compare Go to Chess. My point is that the similarities are cultural, not technical, and Chess provides a cultural context in which to locate Go, i.e. ancient intellectual abstract games seen as the pinnacle of subtlety where two players make contest across a simple board, alternately taking turns to play. Nor is it to do with popularity; surely Backgammon, Bridge, Poker, Ludo or one of the proprietary modern games are just as popular as chess.

uxs: If we start a page on Othello, we might as well start another one on comparing Go with breath mints or M&M's.

IanDavis don't you find Go just melts your in your mouth?

dej2: How about Go is related to Monopoly because it's about acquiring territory, auhh,, I mean real estate.

Dieter: I appreciate the shift from technical to cultural reference, but again I have to disagree: I think the differences far outweigh the similarities.

  • Go in Japan is a part of traditional culture. Chess in Europe isn't. It is a highly regarded passtime but not more.
  • Go in Japan was considered passtime for the elderly. Chess reaches a balanced (but reduced) audience.
  • The chess columns in Western newspapers pale in comparison to the sections devoted to Go in Japanese newspapers.
  • Go is embedded in Chinese ancient philosophy. Nothing of the kind is true for Chess.
  • Baduk is immensely popular in Korea and it IS the intellectual battlefield par excellence. Nothing Western comes close to it except maybe soccer for popularity in Europe. Certainly not Chess.
  • Baduk has a university status in Korea.
  • I have played both Chess and Tennis. I have found more similarity in spirit between Tennis and Go than Chess and Go.
  • The only point in which I can find similarity is that the Western world has measured the level of programming by having a computer play Kasparov and that Go is now considered the greater challenge for A.I. The fact alone that the difference is again so striking, makes me feel it is yet another fallible analogy.

If you try to give an idea of what Go is like by using Chess as a cultural or technical reference, you blindfold that person from the truth. Even if you say "It is like Chess, but ...", people will remember "It is like Chess".

Let me end my argument by using an analogy to show that this is a bad analogy #:-7

Rice is to the Senegalese what the potato is to the French. It accompanies meat and vegetables. But rice has many grains, while potatoes you have about five to ten per meal. Rice is white, whereas potatoes are yellow. And in fact rice makes a much more common meal for the Senegalese since food is not as diverse or abundant in Senegal, as in France. You could argue that the potato itself is a vegetable and rice is not. Also, on a nutritional level ...

GoStone: IHBT. " The only point in which I can find similarity...". The similarities are literally and metaphorically under your nose, if you could only see.

Your post only proves nicely that every analogy can be strained if taken too far. Nevertheless they are a mainstay of language and thought; a mainstay being a rope that holds up the mainmast, and a piece of rope being in many ways not like an analogy at all if you really must.

Chess is hardly the only Go analogy either. We use the ideas of battle, war and land ownership, of movement although there is none, of tennis even, perhaps, maybe. They are all flawed, that is the nature of analogy, but why one should be picked out for censure isn't clear at all.

chrise Two completely different games. That's it.

Attitude of players

Warp: I have been wanting to write about this for some time and couldn't find a better page for it than this one. Anyways, it would be interesting to read some opinions on the prejudiced attitude some players have towards the other game.

I have noticed that many chess players who have never heard of Go (or might only have heard the name without getting to know what kind of game it really is) sometimes have very pronounced prejudices when they actually get to see the game for the first time.

Often the attitude of these people is that chess is the king of all board games, the culmination of logic games and there's basically no other game which comes even close. When they see a game of go with its simple pieces (just black and white pieces, nothing else) and simple rules (not very different from simple games like othello or checkers) their attitude is often very despising. There's no way such a simple game can come even close to the intellectual level of chess. It's just another othello/checkers clone which some people take way too seriously (and they should really just start playing chess if they want a truely intellectually challenging game).

Once some guy came to our go club and his first question was "is this a primitive form of chess?". From his tone of voice it was more or less clear that he didn't think go could be anything as challenging as chess. While he was not directly despising, somehow his tone of voice gave him away. (After he was answered that go had basically nothing to do with chess and after watching for some minutes he just left. I assume he was thinking that this is just some checkers clone or whatever, nothing interesting.)

Some chess players might see some people playing go using a chess clock and have a condescending attitude, thinking something along the lines of "what a pitiful attempt to try making that game look serious by playing with a clock...". I have encountered this type of attitude, and I have actually experienced something similar myself (I played chess in my youth).

While many chess players have, naturally, a very positive attitude towards go, I know there are many chess players with such condescending attitude.

I wonder if this same attitude can be found in reverse in the far East, where go is the most popular game...

Anonymous: Two points in response -

1) Go is not the most popular game in the Far East - that distinction belongs to Chess (at least the Chinese version of it).

Bill: And shogi is much more popular than go in Japan.

2) Although I agree that many Chess players have a rather arrogant attitude when it comes to other games, many Go players, at least here in the West, are equally condescending when discussing Chess. The sad fact of the matter is, people are frequently self-centered jerks who must inflate the importance of their own activities, and denigrate those of others, to feel good about themselves. I wish playing Go (or Chess for that matter) improved one's character, but it just isn't so.

C.S. Graves: Unfortunately as you folk have pointed out, no camp has a monopoly on elitism and other types of snobbery. Admittedly orthodox chess has fallen out of favour with me as a game... however, xiangqi, the chinese chess Bill mentioned, is becoming an alternative to go when I just want something different. Xiangqi is said to be THE most popular board game in the world in sheer number of players, overtaking both go and orthodox chess.

As I said on another page, apples and oranges.

eretan?: I completely agree. I hope that such debates about whether chess or go is superior will stop. Each is interesting in its own way, and I don't think it is possible to really prove the superiority of either, or that it is even necessary. As long as the human mind has not exhausted a game that game seems like a good game to me.

Critique of "controversial" differences

  • Go has fewer rules. (Yet this allowed for all sorts of moves to be played, so Go can be a more intellectually challenging game than the other two types of chess - there are between factorial(361) and 361^(3^361) possible games of Go without repeating positions.)

axd: Hmmm... the various rulesets and special cases highlight a darker side of Go: rules are more complex than Chess, cases exist that lead to discussions, etc... (e.g. Bent Four In The Corner Is Dead)

RobertJasiek: The number of rules is not conclusive for how easy or difficult each rule might be. More interesting would be a statement like "The rules of Go are easier | more difficult than the rules of Chess.". Such simplistic comparisons are not possible though because there are different Go rulesets. Some of them are simpler than "the" rules of Chess - some of them are more difficult than "the" rules of Chess.

axd: This very reply illustrates the underlying complexity of Go. I don't care if it is about comparing individual rules or rulesets; it seems to me that the difference with Chess is obvious. I think that everybody agrees that by reading all these comments on various rulesets, one must conclude that it is better not to read them at all or risk headaches. Fact: throw [ext] at a beginner and (s)he will not even wonder what kind of game Go might be, aside from a few exceptions.

  • Strategy is much more important than in chess because the board is much bigger.

anon I don't think this really follows. Chess is very strategical, even when there are many tactics. They arise based on strategical considerations. You can also choose the game you want to play: more positional or more tactical.

  • Focusing too much on tactics will win you one fight, but lose you the game.

anon True in chess too. If one focuses on poor tactics sacrificing position, the defender will come out on top.

  • Go has a handicap system that allows players of different strength to enjoy a real game rather than a crippled version of it. It's possible to compensate not only for differing skill levels but also for the advantage of the first move[2], in a very fine-grained way.

anon This is possible in chess too either with time or material.

  • In Go, games will generally have the appropriate handicap, so there are no "easy games," even against weaker players.
  • Once a move is made it is always there to stay, so every move is as critical as a pawn move in chess.

anon Interesting, but this also means that there is less scope to some extent. For example, in chess one may provoke weaknesses only to redirect the pieces on the other side.

  • You can get much further in go without memorising many openings (though this is no longer true if you want to go beyond shodan level roughly equivalent to 2000 rating).

anon This is true in chess too, more material does not guarantee a win. Piece activity, time, initiative and positional factors play a big role. I've often won against players converting my material into time by using pawn sacrifices.

  • In general, a game of go takes longer than a game of chess and casual club games are usually played without a clock (though "blitz go" is quite popular on internet servers).

anon Is this really a good thing or something inherent to Go? This is just a difference and you can play chess at any time control. A standard tournament game of chess can take more than 4 hours.

  • In Chess, always getting tactics right gives you the best chance of winning a game.

anon This is simply not true. Tactics arise due to positional factors. They are not out of thin air. If one tries to play tactically when the position does not call for it, he will lose. Chess players who do this in Go can end up focusing on tactics involving a clever sequence of moves capturing material, but which win very few points, while their opponents take the truly big points without making any fuss. In Go, such tactics are most important during a fight or in the endgame, but can lead you astray elsewhere. Go tactics = tesuji can sometimes incur a material loss for other considerations, such as influence.

  • Go is always dynamic, so you cannot "sit" on a position and press a positional advantage in safety, as you can in chess.

Malcolm I think I disagree with this one. My opponent in a game yesterday made a mistake and I ended up with a position around move 80 where all groups were quite stable and yet I had a fairly sizeable territorial lead. My strategy was to simplify the game and aim for the win based on my territorial lead, following the proverb (rich men should not pick fights). It was a fairly safe strategy. (Admittedly, there was a significant ranking difference between us too.) But maybe it depends what we mean by positional advantage.

This sort of thing happens to me fairly often too as the weaker player - if my opponent, who's for example 2 ranks above me, gets an early lead, then they can usually easily win by playing simply and "sitting" on their lead.

Miscellaneous comments

Staysee?: Go can most definitely change you if you allow it to... much like Taoism... Both have changed me for the better

ilan: Yes, Tao has the power to change you: [ext]

axd: comparing Go to chess is similar to comparing programming languages: it makes very few sense, each game has its charms. However, recently I thought about this: how about players that discover and then convert from one to the other game? I might very well be wrong, but I would bet that more (percent-wise, absolute? don't know) players will migrate (i.e. prefer as a game) from chess to Go than vice versa. Just to fuel the discussion...

Tas: We badly need to cleanup this page. Because every one has different opinions many of the points have become a patchwork of opinions:


  • Strategy is much more important than in chess...
  • ...because the board is much bigger. I don't think this really follows. Chess is very strategical, even when there are many tactics. They arise based on strategical considerations. You can also choose the game you want to play: more positional or more tactical.
  • Focusing too much on tactics will win you one fight, but lose you the game. True in chess too. If one focuses on poor tactics sacrificing position, the defender will come out on top."

This is simply bad, discuss on the discussions page please. It must be posible to write the page so that it respects different wiews in a fair way without being a discussion.

spindizzy1976: (comments moved from main page)

I'm not a very good chess player, but I do believe that chess is every bit as worthwhile as igo (or both are a complete waste of time). A few comments:

  • I don't understand how the lack of good computer players for igo can be considered a positive thing. Personally, I would love a strong computer player to analyse my game whenever I wanted, and to play against when human opponents aren't available. I'm sure that strong computer players will be developed eventually, although perhaps it may take 20 years or even more. When that happens, will igo cease to be an interesting game?
  • I think it's important to bear in mind that chess is not one game but a family of games. Conclusions about one variant are probably not applicable to all others. If you think the board is too cramped in FIDE, try Grand Chess. If you want a more strategic game, try Shogi. The world of chess is very rich.
  • Many people seem to think that igo is more popular than chess in Asia. As far as I know, that's only true in Korea... and part of the reason for that may be a lack of international interest in Changgi (Korean chess). In China, xiangqi is massively more popular than weiqi. In Vietnam, most people have never even heard of igo. In Japan, there is more balance but still shogi seems to be most popular, at least among the young. Of course, none of this necessarily reflects the virtue of the games in question.
  • There are tons of great board games, and no law that you choose only one. Why not enjoy as many as you can?

effortless?: As a chess player I find there's a lot of stuff in the article I would like to argue with. I don't feel comfortable comparing the two games as I'm pretty new to go but there are a few points about chess I would like to see mentioned, either as differences or similarities.

  • Chess most of the time is about solving and setting problems. This is true on almost any level of play - e.g. there's no shame in setting one trap after another in a lost game, even for a grandmaster. It's actually expected and is part of a strong player's defensive repertoire.
  • Somewhat related, in chess there's an imbalance between effort and knowledge/understanding. What this means that you can put up a good fight against a much stronger player just by concentrating and not making any mistakes for your own level of play (something which is almost impossible to do by the way) This relates to what uxs said about having to think hard in chess: there's often a very large benefit for thinking just a bit harder.

On a cultural level I think for most players chess games have a strong practical character. You are not there to prove a philosophical point or demonstrate ideas, you are there to defeat your opponent by (almost) any means.

Compare Go To Chess / Discussion last edited by Malcolm on August 28, 2023 - 14:08
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