Why Go is a Better Game than Chess

Go is a better game than chess because its rules are simpler and more aesthetic, and lead to an emergent complexity and strategy that is at worst equal to the emergent complexity and strategy of chess.

I am no chess hater (I own a $500 chess board), but I’ve long thought that go is the better game.

The rules of go are more simple than the rules of chess. If you don’t believe me, compare the rules of each game.

Rules of Chess

Rules of Go

I understand simplicity is not a well defined concept, but for most naïve heuristics I could think of, go scored better: number of characters of the rules (in English), number of distinct concepts in the rules, amount of time to explain the rules to a new player, amount of time for beginner to only play legal moves, etc.

The emergent complexity and strategy of go is at worst equal to the emergent complexity and strategy of chess. It is no accident that an AI, Deep Blue, beat the Chess World Champion Gary Kasparov in 1996, but an Al, AlphaGo, only beat the Go World Champion Lee Sedol in 2016.

The number of distinct positions and possible moves in go far outnumber those of chess. Back of the envelope calculations put the number of distinct positions in chess at 10^120, and in go at 10^360. While both numbers are incomprehensible to our monkey minds, it is clear that go is in its own complexity category.

But maybe you’re not convinced that go having simpler rules (axioms) and being more complex makes it a better (more fun) game.

Games are supposed to be fun to play. And I’ve found that the most fun games are ones that can be played with other people, and continue to stay fun even as you get better at them.

There are many reason both go and chess are wonderful games,

  1. Practically infinite emergent complexity and strategy.

  2. Beautiful strategy.

  3. Large population of players

Reasons why chess is a more fun game than go,

  1. More people in the Western world already know the rules of chess.

  2. Chess involves pieces that can move, and pieces with distinct movements.

Reasons why go is a more fun game than chess,

  1. Go has simpler and more aesthetic rules than chess. If I have to explain en passant to one more chess beginner, I’m going to cry.

  2. Go is more complex than chess. And go strategy is more beautiful to me than chess strategy.

  3. Go’s varying board sizes and adjustable scoring make it a better game to play with a worse player than chess.

I love both games, but I wanted to explain why I think go is a better game than chess.

Are there games better than go?