Chess vs. Go — What’s the Difference?

There are a lot of board games out there that will give your brain a great workout, and two of the most popular ones are chess and Go. So, Chess versus Go, what is the difference?

While chess is a little more well-known, Go isn’t far behind. Both are games of strategy and skill and require a lot of practice. Even though the two games are similar to one another, there are differences as well.

Chess vs Go board game image

This article is here to help you make a better decision when you’re wondering which game you should choose.

Chess versus Go – The Basics

Both chess and go are considered excellent strategy games, and while they are alike in some ways, they are more different than they are alike overall. First, let’s take a look at the similarities between these two games.

  1. They both use grid-like playing fields. They may not look alike, but the boards of both chess and go are grid-centered boards. The go board looks like a bunch of intersecting lines, and the chess board is a pattern of checkered squares.
  2. They are strategy-based games. If you like games without having to draw cards or roll dice, both chess and go are for you. It is said that Go is about strategy, while chess is about tactics. But the two do overlap from time to time.
  3. They are both geared towards adults and older kids. Both chess and go are difficult games to learn and to get good at, so no younger child is going to be able to play them.
  4. They both use black and white pieces. In both games, one player uses black pieces, and the other uses white pieces.
  5. They are both two-player games. Neither chess nor go is a game you can play by yourself. You cannot play either one of them with more than two people, either.
  6. They provide several different ways to win. This is one of the more unique aspects of both chess and go. In both games, you can win or end the game in several different ways.
Chess versus Go board game

Chess Versus Go – Main Differences

Now that you know a little more about the similarities between chess and go. Let’s take a look at some of the main differences.

  1. Age and origin. Both of the games’ origins are somewhat disputed, but by most accounts, go is roughly 4,000 years old, while chess was invented between 200 and 400 A.D., which makes go roughly twice as old as chess.
  2. The size of the board. The go playing board is a lot bigger than that of chess. Chess has an 8 x 8 grid for a total of 64 squares. Go, on the other hand, consists of 19 x 19 intersections, or 361 intersections or squares.
  3. First moves and board configurations. In chess, there are fewer pieces and therefore fewer configurations, so first moves only have a limited number of possibilities. Chess has 400 possible first moves and 10,120 board configurations. In go, those numbers are 32,000 and 10,174, respectively.
  4. The movement of the pieces. Chess is complicated and has pawns, knights, rooks, bishops, and a queen and a king, all of which can move in different ways. The game starts with all pieces laid on the board in a specific way. In go, the board is blank until the game starts. And once you place your stone on the board, it stays there and cannot be moved.
  5. The way the pieces are chosen. Chess players choose the color of the player by lot. Wereas the weaker player in go always takes the black pieces. Also, the white pieces move first in chess. Whereas go requires the weaker player with the black pieces to move first.
  6. The way the game is played. In chess, the goal is to achieve total victory. Which you do by putting the king of the opposite player in checkmate. In other words, the aim is to capture the king. In Go, you use your pieces to surround the pieces of the enemy. In other words, the aim is to capture pieces and territory to add to your score so you can win the game.

Chess vs. Go: How Do You Win the Game?

In the end, chess requires that you put the king of the opposite player in checkmate, and you capture pieces one at a time, then remove them from the board.

Whoever puts the other player’s king in checkmate is the winner of the game.

On the other hand, go requires that you use your pieces to surround the enemy’s pieces. At the end of the game, which is a game that keeps score, the winner is the player who has the most board territory and most captured pieces.

Go Board Game photo

What is Go?

First of all, Go starts out with a 19 x 19 grid board. There are pieces called stones that are either black or white, and each side uses a color. Black stones always play first, and the board is empty in the beginning. The first player places the stones in the intersections of the lines, where they remain for the rest of the game. When a stone is surrounded by the opponent’s stones in all the adjacent positions, capture has occurred. 

Players will claim the parts of the board they want to occupy, and when the game ends, they count all of the vacant intersections in their territory and add to it the number of stones captured. The player with the highest score wins. The game revolves around using these stones to form territories, which they do when they occupy any vacant areas on the board.

man playing GO

There are certain rules involved, so the basics sound a little simpler than they really are. But by keeping your stones together and looking for ways to protect your stones, you increase the likelihood of winning in the end.

Go is a game that requires planning ahead and playing out different scenarios in your head so that you’re always alert and prepared for the next move. In many ways, it is easier to learn than chess, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Both games require practice, skill, and learning certain tactical moves to win the game. Some people think Go is the same as Mahjong and chess. Go is definitely more like chess but Mahjong is more similar to Rummy.

Chess vs. Go—Which is Harder?

Many people believe that go is easier to learn simply because all of the stones are just alike. The only difference is that some are black, and some are white. Also, you cannot move any of the stones all around the board because once a stone gets moved into a certain position, it has to stay there for the remainder of the game. When you play chess, on the other hand, there are special rules to abide by throughout the entire game. 

On the other hand, there are a lot more possible first moves with the game of go. The fact that you cannot move your pieces around means you have to be certain that the move you’re about to make is the right one.

The bottom line is that most people consider Go to be easier than Chess overall. But keep in mind that both of them require a lot of tactical and strategic experience to improve your skills and achieve the goal of winning the game.

Is Go or Chess More Popular?

For the most part, chess is more popular than go. But that is typically because chess is a lot more familiar to people. This, of course, changes depending on where you live, as go is more popular in certain countries. Overall, chess is more popular because people are more familiar with it and at least know what the board looks like and what the main goal of the game is.

An assortment of chess boards and pieces

If you ask a group of people what chess is and what go is, it’s much more likely that most of them will know what chess is, whereas many people have never even heard of the game of go.

Which is Better—Go or Chess?

There is no doubt that both of these games require a lot of skill and tactical ability. Not to mention a good memory. Because with each move, you have to know exactly what you can and cannot do with your piece. Some people think Go is easier to learn and to be good at, but it also tends to be a little more complex than chess.

GO Board

If you’re a beginner, go might be better only because it has a good handicap system which lets both strong and weak players even out the playing field somewhat.

Go is also a better option for people who have never played either game and therefore don’t have a lot of tactical and strategic experience. Keep in mind that neither of these games is recommended for very young kids because both are very complex and fairly difficult.

Everyone is different, so it’s hard to recommend to anyone which game they should choose, but since go has certain advantages over chess, this might be a good strategic game for you when you’re inexperienced at both. It might even make it easier to learn chess later on down the road.

Jenna Ostria
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