A Comparison of Chess and Go

Go is a board game like Chess, but not like Chess. Both Chess and Go are strategy games. Both are worthwhile to learn and play. Go is simpler than Chess and yet more complex. Simpler because all pieces are the same, just black and white, and in Go the pieces do not move around the board.

Chess is a hierarchical game where the object is to catch the head honcho. Go is an imperial game where each player seeks to enclose more territory on the board than his opponent does.

Like Chess, Go offers a player rating system. But unlike Chess, Go offers a well balanced handicap system which allows a stronger player to play evenly against a weaker player and be fully challenged. With the proper handicap each player will have an equal prospect of winning.

At the opening move in Chess there are 20 possible moves. In Go the first player has 361 possible moves. This wide lattitude of choice continues throughout the game. At each move the opposing player is more likely than not to be surprised at his opponent's move, and hence he must rethink his own plan of attack. Self discipline is a major factor in success at this game.

A few years ago, when some people who had never known Go saw Kenneth Cho of California playing it, what they asked was "What are you playing?" and "Is it something like Chess?"

In order to answer the second question better he devised the following mock questions and answers.

You can read more about the strength of Go computers.

When was the game invented?About 455 A.D.About 1000 B.C.
Where was it invented?Probably in India. (Chess historians are uncertain of the place of origin.) In China.
Are the rules simple? Yes. Yes.
What is the object of the game? Checkmate opponent's King. Get more territory than the opponent.
What does the board look like? 8 by 8 square with checker-board pattern. 19 by 19 grid.
What types of game pieces are there? King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn. All pieces are the same.
What do the games pieces look like? Various representations of king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, and pawn in black and white. Lens-shaped disc called "stone" in black and white.
Where is the game piece placed? Inside a square. At an empty intersection.
Can the game pieces move? Yes. No; each move embodies commitment.
Do the game pieces have different characteristics? Yes. Movement (power) of pieces are different. No.
How does the board look like when the game starts? Board is populated with all game pieces. Empty.
Who plays first? White. Black.
When can the player capture the opponent's game piece? If the opponent's game piece is in the path of yours. If the opponent's game piece(s) have no liberty; more than one game piece can be captured.
What happens to the captured game piece? It is taken off the game board. It is taken off the game board.
When is the game over? When checkmated, stalemated, or when a player resigns. When there's no more territory to be gained or when a player resigns.
How can players with different strengths play each other? A stronger player can start without some game piece(s). Black starts with a number of stones on the board at predetermined locations; more black stones mean larger difference in relative strength.
How many are the possibilities in the game? 10 to the 120th power. (OMNI Magazine, June 1991) 10 to the 761st power. (OMNI Magazine, June 1991)
What is the strength of the best computer program? Master Level. 1d on small boards in 2009 (Club Level).
What forces are at play throughout the game? Destruction. Creation and destruction.
Which mental faculties are exercised when a person plays this game? Mostly analytical; uses the left hemisphere of the brain. Intuitive and analytical; uses both hemispheres of the brain.
What would be the military equivalent of a game? Single battle. Full-scale war; simultaneous multiple battles.
What would be the economic equivalent of a game? Hostile takeover. Competition for a larger market share.
If an analogy is made to political systems, what would it be? Monarchy. Democracy; all pieces are equal.
What is the player's agenda? Total Dominance; wipe the other guy out. Compete for larger share of territory; coexist, but be better off than the other guy.

Last updated Thu May 20 2010. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.