What’s Harder To Learn And Play: Mahjong Or Chess?

Those who have observed people play Mahjong must have noticed what a complicated and strategic game it is. And in case they have played a game or more, they are likely to be aware of the complexities it entails.

What’s Harder To Learn And Play Mahjong Or Chess

Its complexity and the strategic thinking required could make people think about chess and even urge them to make a comparison of the two to see if either one of them is more difficult.

It is true that both of these games necessitate plenty of tactics, thinking, and experience to master, but how do they compare? Which of these two is harder to learn, play, and excel at?

If you are interested in finding out the answer to that, don’t stop scrolling as we have all the answers you need in this article!

Is Mahjong Or Chess Harder?

Chess is almost certainly more difficult than Mahjong given that luck is never a possibility.

Several Mahjong versions are harder to play than others, but still the element of luck remains. The rules of Mahjong, on the other hand, are more intricate, making it harder to comprehend than Chess.

Let’s focus on the ways chess and mahjong diverge and discuss how these two games compare.

How Are Mahjong And Chess Played?


Because there isn’t any standard version of Mahjong, the game is extremely complicated.

The way the game is played differs depending on where the players are, not only in terms of the country but in terms of region or city too.

To give you a better idea of how varied the game is, in China there are more than 30 different varieties. And that is only one of the hundreds of countries in the world!

Therefore, while you can move from one place to the next and learn how to play many different versions of the game, it is almost impossible for you to remember every single one of them forever.

3-Player Mahjong

You might have seen four players playing Mahjong in many areas. However, when visiting Southeast Asia or countries like South Korea, the chances are you’ll encounter 3 players enjoying Mahjong.

What you will also notice is that they will be using rules that have little resemblance to those played in other countries and regions.

To complicate things even further, every group can establish its own rules if all members are happy with that.

This suggests that, in order to understand the fundamentals of Mahjong, you must first figure out the area you’ll be playing it.

So, if you are up for a challenge or eager to develop your own rules, you can easily do so in one of the aforementioned countries or even agree with your own group of friends to develop your own rules.


There are chess varieties too but, in contrast to Mahjong, where each group develops its own distinct variation of the game, chess does not work that way.

In chess, there are standard rules, which makes it easier to learn and more universal as a game, making it possible to play with people from across the world without having to learn their region’s rules.

Even though chess has different variations, and participants can sometimes experiment with them at varying stages during their chess venture, the large bulk of chess players worldwide enjoy playing the same game.

What is that? It is chess as described in the International Chess Federation’s regulations. The existence of this universal rule system suggests that there is no need for canvassing one’s area so as to enjoy a chess game.

People who want to play chess can simply read and practice their game using the standard rules provided by the federation. As a result, chess is far simpler to learn than Mahjong.

What Are The Guidelines For Playing Chess And Mahjong?


Chess is played with 32 individual pieces on an 8×8 board. However, there’s no more than 6 different ‘figurines,’ and they all have their unique movement patterns.

What’s Harder To Learn And Play Mahjong Or Chess (1)

There may be some rather complex moves that accompany the basic ones, but they are limited and thus easier to grasp after a bit of practice.

Even though there are a few more rules to understand, they are again not that many to get confused about. This implies that even new players with a pretty mediocre aptitude for learning new stuff can quickly grasp the fundamentals and tricks of chess.


Although there is no predefined tile set in Mahjong, the vast bulk of tile clusters are derived from what is referred to as the Old Hong Kong Mahjong.

This means that a tile set has 144 pieces that are all unique!

They’re Not That Difficult to Learn

This does not, nevertheless, imply that players must learn 144 unique pieces. There are 36 circle tiles, 36 character tiles, 36 bamboo tiles, 16 wind tiles, 12 dragon tiles, 4 flower tiles, and 4 season tiles.

Knowing The Chinese Language Is Beneficial

People who do not know how to read in Chinese will certainly need more time to memorize the tile pieces, but still, their groupings make them easier to learn.

So, it could take you a couple of hours more to learn the Mahjong tiles in comparison to what you’ll spend becoming familiar with the chess pieces, but it won’t be that difficult.

The Rules of Mahjong Are Complicated

Admittedly, the rules for playing Old Hong Kong Mahjong are far more complex than those of chess.

Every aspect of Mahjong, from the playing order in every round to the stacking tiles system and the drawing stage is a bit more complex and takes some time to learn.

There are considerably more rules in a game of Mahjong than in chess one. It might take even a week to fully understand the rules of the trickier Mahjong variants. This takes far more time compared to chess.

As a result, having to learn Mahjong is trickier and harder than having to learn chess, especially when considering its fundamental rules.

The Difficulties Of Mahjong And Chess


When comparing these two games, there seem to be two additional challenges to take into account. The first one is that of chance versus competence. There isn’t any aspect of luck in chess.

Even though you might feel fortunate when your opposing player does something wrong that allows you to step up your game, such an error does not happen by chance, but rather as a result of negligence or a lower skill set.

Likewise, when you are doing great halfway through the game and enter the final phase with lots of confidence that you are going to win, it is none other than your mastery to thank.


Tiles are randomly selected in Mahjong just like poker players shuffle a deck of cards and then are handed some.

This indicates that not every player’s hands are the same, and hence luck is an important factor in Mahjong, even if Mahjong is also primarily a skill-based game.

Excelling At Your Chess Game Could Be More Difficult Than Excelling At Your Mahjong Game

Another difference between chess and Mahjong seems to be that chess is much more difficult to excel at than Mahjong.

You can figure out how to play chess in a couple of hours, but with so many alternatives and moves in the game, there is nobody, not even an algorithm, that could master the perfect moves.

This is not the case with Mahjong, in which a strategic approach, as well as bluffing abilities, are valuable, and some luck here and there is all you need to win against your opponents.

As a result, although Mahjong has a greater level of difficulty when it comes to understanding and playing it, chess is undoubtedly the most difficult of the two in the long run.

However, this is only a human assumption, as technology-driven tests and calculations always come to surprise us with their facts, figures, and results.

So, if there ever happens to be an actual comparison of the two using technology, algorithms, and AI, we could very well have a more concise answer.

The Bottom Line

Is Mahjong harder to play than chess? It’s possible that it is. Just about all Mahjong games have more rules and restrictions than chess, making them more difficult to master.

Mahjong is also frequently played at a much quicker speed than “thunder” chess, which implies it could be more difficult to assess your tactical options when it comes to estimating your exact chances of a victorious move.

Nevertheless, there is an objection that although chess is indeed very simple to understand, it is far more challenging to perfect not just in comparison to Mahjong, but in comparison to all the games that exist.

Jenna Ostria
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