The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
11 Points

Go is an overall superior game than Chess.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2012 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 18,065 times Debate No: 21492
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (22)
Votes (3)




The Proposition

The full proposition is as reads: "Go is an overall superior game than Chess."

While I am using this debate as a sort of distraction from my more serious debates about God and such, I still wholeheartedly agree with the proposition and will be defending it to my dying breath.

I, as pro, shall be arguing that Go is an overall superior game than Chess. As Con, my opponent shall be arguing that Chess is an overall superior game than Go. Therefore, the burden of proof rests on both of our shoulders.


Chess: I'm sure nearly everyone, if not everyone, knows what chess is. It's important to clarify this is the European version of chess, not shogi or anything of the sort.
Go: If you don't know what Go is, then use this debate as an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Go, as it's known in the West (Igo in Japan, Baduk in Korea, and Weiqi in its homeland of China), is a strategy board game played on a 19x19 grid-like board.
Overall Superior: better in more ways than not.

Subjectivity of the Debate

While it will be mine and my opponent's personal bias toward one game over another which will motivate our arguments, our subjective opinions should be supported by objective facts. For example, even though it's an opinion that Dell laptops are better than Macintoshes, it can be supported by the objective fact that they are cheaper and can run .exe files without the use of Bootcamp or some other such nonsense.

Debate Structure

Round One: Introduction and Acceptance only
Round Two: Opening arguments only
Round Three: Rebuttals
Round Four: Rebuttals and closing statements

To Conclude

I thank my future opponent and the viewers for making this debate possible, the topic of which is of much importance to me.


I accept the proposed definitions and terms, and would like to thank my opponent for instigating this important debate. Before we begin, I'd like to offer a brief statement concerning the subjectivity of the debate.

As Pro has pointed out, subjectivity is an important factor for voters to be aware of. Although the debate is fundamentally subjective in character, hopefully we can defend the objectivity of our opinions by defending the objectivity of the process that gives rise to our opinions. That said, I can already see a problem arising if our subjective interpretation of "objective facts" differs. Extending Pro's example, where Pro defends Dells against Macs because they are cheaper, I might turn the argument and defend Macs because Macs are more expensive. Point is, objective facts must still be interpreted to have any weight, and that interpretation itself will be contestable.

I don't have any sure answers to the problem. For my part, I will try to defend my interpretations with as little personal bias as possible, and ask Pro also remain aware of (and try to avoid) the possible bias at play in interpreting those facts. Other than that, I look forward to a fun and thought-provoking debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, FourTrouble, for accepting this debate.

What is Go?

Go is a strategy board game where players alternate placing stones on a 19x19 grid in order to surround territory. The goal is not to have your kingdom overthrow your opponent's like in Chess, but to build your kingdom from scratch better than your opponent does his/hers (whoever has more points, which includes both territory and captured stones, at the end of the game wins). Also unlike Chess, there is no hierarchy of pieces; the stones in Go do not differ at all in function or capabilities and they all potentially have the same value.

Since its invention in ancient China, skill in Go has been seen as one of the marks of a scholarly gentlemen. Below, I will outline five main reasons why Go is a superior game than Chess:

1. Go is a far deeper and much more logical game than Chess.

"Impossible," I hear a unanimity from the audience, "There is no greater intellectual arena than the chessboard! To capture the opponent’s king is to prove your worth as a thinking man/woman!"

Of course, such proclamations are only made by those unfamiliar with the depth the goban offers. It is true that Chess can provide a great deal of challenge to its studiers, but even this is paler than a blue moon when compared to the shining brilliance of Go.

Edward Lansker, a highly influential Chess and Go player in the West, once said "While the baroque rules of Chess could only have been created by humans, the rules of Go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play go."

Let’s compare the two games' complexities objectively: on the very first move in Chess, white has 20 possible moves to choose from (two for each of his/her eight pawns, and two for each of his/her two knights). In stark contrast, on the very first move in Go, black (black goes first in a standard Go game) has 361 moves to choose from (one for each of the intersections on the 19x19 grid). It's clear to see that from the very beginning of the game and throughout its completion, the number of possible variations in Go outweigh Chess like a sumo-wrestler at an anorexia convention.

2. The strongest minds in Go are actual minds.

Just who is the strongest Chess player in history? Is it Bobby Fischer? Emanuel Lasker? No. It’s Houdini, a computer program with an ELO rating of 3300, 600 higher than a super-grandmaster.

While computers generally do struggle with positional understanding, the relatively low number of legal variations in Chess still allow for the programs' algorithms to decisively pick the correct branch of moves far more expertly than any human.

Meanwhile, Zen19, wildly recognized as the strongest program in Go, is only about an American 5d and any strong amateur can crush it with minimal effort. This means the highest-level games are played by flesh-and-blood people, not cold and calculating machines. I won't blame my opponent very much if he says this point is too subjective, but I feel as though learning from actual people instead of robots gives the game a much more fun and competitive environment.

3. Neither player has an inherit advantage in Go.

It’s only natural that the player who moves first in a game such as Chess will have the inherit advantage of initiative.

In 1994, Chess grandmaster Evgeny Sveshnikov wrote this: "Black players cannot afford to make even the slightest mistake [...] from a theoretical point of view, the tasks of White and Black in chess are different: White has to strive for a win, Black—for a draw!"
Indeed, this inherit advantage is present in tic-tac-toe, checkers, Chess, and would otherwise be found even in Go. However, in the early 20th century, Go adopted a rule known as Komidashi. Because of this, white gets an automatic set number of points (called komi) in order to balance out his/her disadvantage of playing second.

The impact this kind of rule has is colossal to players seeking an intellectual arena to engage in fair and equitable battles of the mind. Never can the second player say “Well, sure you won–you had the advantage,” because neither player has an advantage. Whoever wins will do so because of their own skill and nothing else.

4. Go games cannot end in a draw.

Many chess grandmasters (including the first three World Champions of Chess) theorize(d) that, given perfect play, Chess should always result in a tie. Indeed, it is quite common for players of near equal strength to play to a stalemate, and some strategies have even been developed for the sole purpose of this endeavor when a win has become too far-fetched to obtain.

A standard match of Go, on the other hand, cannot end in a tie. Remember the rule of Komidashi? The komi assigned to white is typically 6.5 points, and although this number is constantly under scrutiny and fine-tuning when necessary, the “.5” is always present. Therefore, it is impossible for a standard Go match to result in a tie, as one player must at least have half a point more than the other.

5. Go is even fun for mismatched games.

Ever played someone significantly stronger or weaker than you in Chess? It is normally an impossibly difficult challenge (literally) for the weaker player and a boring experience at best for the stronger.

In Go, however, even mismatched games can be fun with the handicap system. Depending on how vast the difference in skill is, the weaker player sets a certain number of stones on the board before play begins, thus creating a disadvantage the stronger player will have to overcome throughout the course of the game.

While it is true that Chess players have tried to incorporate a handicap system as well (such as the stronger player playing without a queen or without both of his/her rooks), it’s difficult to place an objectively precise value on the pieces, since each piece is uniquely helpful in different situations, and different strategies utilize different pieces.

In Go, it is far easier to calculate the value of placing a stone on the board. Therefore, the handicap system in Go is much more accurate and by extension more practical.

To Conclude

If you are in search of the greatest intellectual forum in gaming history, look no further than the classical logic incarnate that is Go.



Thank you, DakotaKrafick, for this important debate. I truly appreciate your passion for Go, and I hope that after this debate your appreciation of Chess can grow to match it.

Per my opponent's terms, I will not offer rebuttals or responses to his case until the next Round. In this Round, I will only present my case for the superiority of Chess as opposed to Go.

Chess is far more dynamic

In Go, once a stone is placed it cannot move, it is static. In Chess, the pieces are in constant flux, maneuvering to and fro as they attempt to complete objectives. Conceptually, Chess combines the spatial and temporal, whereas Go is only spatial. The constantly shifting style of Chess is more rewarding, and carries greater aesthetic possibilities. What's more, each piece carries a different function, giving the game an inherent sense of complexity: the potential choreography of differently functioning pieces generates, in and of itself, artistic possibilities lacking in Go. This brings me to my next point:

Chess is deeper and more complex in a purely strategic sense

To think the sole purpose of chess is to checkmate the opposing King is much too reductive and simplistic. Unlike Go, where play is focused entirely around the grabbing of more spaces, in Chess the player's real goal is to create strategic inequalities, or what Jeremy Silman calls "imbalances."

Some examples include: interplay of minor pieces (bishop vs knight), pressure on the queen-side as opposed to the king-side, superior mobility and space (Chess includes the same concept of territory that the entire game of Go is based on as just one strategic inequality among others), control of a key file or square, a lead in development, the initiative (similar to the concept of sente in Go), differences in pawn structure such as doubled pawns, isolated pawns, pawn chains, etc. The list goes on, but the point is always the same: chess play is about creating, locating, and taking advantage of, imbalances in a position.

Contrast the dynamism and strategic complexity of Chess play with Go, where play focuses solely around annexing territories from your opponent.

Chess is more tactical, exciting, and fun

In Chess, a typical top level game might go like this: you sacrifice a pawn to gain space and activity, use that to attempt taking the center but fail because your opponent uses his extra pawn to retain control, you then reform, sacrifice a bishop, and attack on the queen-side, finally breaking through with your rooks, and immediately transferring the attack to the king's castle. You lose anyway, because inherent in every position is instability -- everything is in flux -- so your opponent mobilizes at the last moment a counter-attack against your king, who is left unprotected because your own attack extended too far.

That kind of exciting dynamism, the back-and-forth of tactical blow after tactical blow, is practically non-existent in the game of Go, where games are less explosive and focus on the consolidation of territories instead of brutal all-in attacks.

And yet, Chess also offers the slow, purely positional style of Go: extended strategic battles over a single square, building up microscopic advantages until one player's pressure overwhelms the other.

Because Chess includes both tactical and positional styles of play, I say Chess is deeper. In Go, players cannot move their stones, which makes games focus solely on static structures. But in Chess, players negotiate between motion and stasis, the relative and the absolute. Conceptually and philosophically, Chess covers a vaster array of possibilities.

The importance of each move

Because the board is smaller, and the number of potential pieces is limited, each move and sacrifice in Chess is far more important than each move in Go. Typical Go games at the highest level last between 150 and 400 moves, whereas Chess games last between 20 and 60 moves. It is estimated that each Chess move is worth about 7 Go moves. This demonstrates the precision required to play Chess effectively, and the importance, care, and investment that goes into each move.

As a result, Go allows players a lot more room for error and passivity, whereas in Chess, each moment of decision-making has a huge strategic and tactical significane in both the short-term and long-term.

Psychological warfare

A huge aspect of chess is creating threats that aren't true threats, but which nonetheless require the enemy's attention, lest they become true threats. For example, a player may line up a rook on the same file as the enemy's queen, or pin the enemy's knight against his/her king. There may be no immediate threat, but it looks dangerous and has the enemy worrying. Thing is, by reacting to the potential threat, players create new, perhaps real, threats.

So in Chess, the strategy is often not to simply outright attack the enemy, but to overwhelm and confuse the enemy through false threats, scattering their forces until they fall apart. Chess is filled with these kinds of psychological tactics. In Go, on the other hand, false threats and decoys of this kind are non-existent. Go players surely get anxious, but the use of psychological tactics itself is not part of the game's repertoire of possibilities.

No luck in Chess

Chess is completely skill-based. But in Go, there is something known as a "lucky win," even at the top level of play. Players often lose in Go despite having played better than their opponents. Some players have even tried to figure out why luck is so present in Go, doing statistical and game-theoretic analyses on the game. [1] To me, it seems that a purely skill-based game is superior to a game that also includes luck, so I conclude Chess better on this point.

Chess is more difficult

Go has a 19x19 board and has a larger number of positions. I grant Pro that much. But more squares and possibilities, in and of itself, does not make Go more complex and more difficult. There are so many other factors at play in Chess, the huge number of strategic imbalances, the constant shifting of the pieces and need for re-evaluating positions, the psychological elements, the huge care that must be taken on every move, the tension between all these strategies and the brute facts of tactical attack.

Think about it this way: if Go is played on a 9x9 board, which it sometimes is, then Chess is clearly the more complex and difficult game. There is no contest when the number of squares is even: Chess is more difficult and complex. Extend that logic: why not double or triple the number of squares, and you'll have a game twice as complex? Because increasing the number of squares/positions does not make the game any more complex or better than before. Point is, a game's strategic complexity is not determined by quantity of possibilities, but by the qualitative elements inherent to the game. In Go, it is the simplicity of static stones controlling space. In Chess, it is the terrifying complexity of differently functioning pieces in constant flux. It may be an opinion, but Chess clearly beats out Go in terms of complexity and difficulty.


Chess presuppses democratic equality of the players, and therefore, a draw is possible. This is essential to a game like Chess and Go, because it is very plausible that the two players play a perfect game, in which case a draw is the correct outcome.

But in Go, you cannot draw. Unfortunately, often the win is not convincing. The game is decided by the .5 point advantage granted by Komidashi. It may even be the losing player who made the more impressive plays. Go thus presupposes inequality, and ends up being unfair.

Unlike Go, a win in Chess is decisive. You checkmate the King, get checkmated, or draw. Any difference in skill must be proven in Chess, but in Go difference of skill is presupposed. I conclude Chess is fair, Go unfair.


Chess is deeper, psychological, democratic, fair, and offers greater aesthetic and conceptual possibilities.

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you, Four Trouble, for your response. I should explain that I used to play Chess quite fervently (along with Risk, Stratego, and any other strategy board game I could get my hands on), but my passions for all those took a backseat when I learned of Go.

Chess is far more dynamic

I grant that Chess is more dynamic in the sense that the individual pieces have the ability to move about the board. It's true, after all, what my opponent says: once you place a stone in Go, it cannot move from its position (unless it's captured). That is the weight of every decision.

Of course, Chess would be unplayable if the pieces could not move. And likewise, Go would be unplayable if the pieces could move. Having a ruleset that requires the pieces to move about the board should not necessarily be considered a good attribute (let alone a superior attribute) unless Con can explain why. He offers two primary reasons, which I will address individually:

1. Inherent sense of complexity

Con says because different pieces carry different capabilities, Chess has an inherent sense of complexity. I agree with this to a certain degree. There are more rules in Chess than in Go and, therefore, the game is more difficult to learn how to play.

However, the complexity of a game's ruleset and the complexity of said game's actual play do not always necessarily share a direct relationship. The game of Risk, for example, has an overall more complicated ruleset than Chess, but doesn't have as deep or complicated play.

Therefore, I would say that Go is actually better than Chess in this respect: it is quicker and easier for beginners to learn the rules and start playing, but once they do start playing, they will be met with the biggest challenge of their lives.

2. Greater aesthetic possibilities

I must wholeheartedly disagree with this point. Firstly, as I've already stated, the number of different setups the goban can legally represent far outweigh that of the chessboard.

Secondly, I would assert that nothing in the world is as aesthetically pleasing (aside from a certain someone whom I'm dating and shall be reading this), and rewardingly so, as the blossoming of a Go game from start to finish. In Chess, all of the pieces you will ever be able to use during the course of the game are available to you from the beginning and gradually dwindle as your opponent captures them. But in Go, the board is initially empty and births a completely unique liaison of shapes each and every time, like snowflakes if snowflakes could command armies and clash wits. Only someone who has never witnessed the blooming of shapes on the goban would say it lacks artistic value.

But thirdly, and most importantly, this debate is not about who can portray their respective game more poetically (though if it was, I would win hands down, am I right?). Aesthetics are undoubtedly subjective and, therefore, this point is unsubstantiated.

Chess is strategically deeper and more complex/Chess is more tactical, exciting, and fun/Chess is more difficult

Con says that to summarize the play of Chess as merely the goal of capturing the opponent's king is too simplistic, and I would agree. Respectively, though, to summarize the play of Go as merely the goal of surrounding territory is too simplistic as well.

You must keep your own groups connected and safe while attacking your opponent's when possible. You must constantly build and maintain your own framework of territory while reducing your opponent's, and even invading your opponent's when necessary (not too deep or it will be cut off and killed, but not too shallow or it will be ineffective). You must cooperate with you opponent by allowing him/her to get some territory in order to gain some for yourself, while still trying to end up with the better deal and without being too greedy. And you must do all of this while keeping sente (initiative), because once you lose that you may never get it back.

Sometimes the conflict on the goban results in a full-board, all-or-nothing war where one side will be entirely slaughtered. Other games can be more passive where the player who more cleverly utilizes thickness will win.

Con doesn't seem to understand how Go stones can fight each other without the ability to move, but rest assured: the goban is an unrelenting battlefield. If a group of your stones becomes entirely surrounded by your opponents' stones, it is captured. So while surrounding territory is the ultimate goal, the threat of bloodshed (or bloodshed itself) is the driving force that allows you to reach this goal (if you are ever too greedy or too charitable, too headstrong or too hesitant at any time, you will be severely punished).

The importance of each move

Con is correct by saying that a game of Go lasts many more moves than Chess, but this does not equate to any sort of homeopathic effect where each move is somehow diluted to mean less. In very low-level matches (matches involving two beginners) then yes, they can afford to make many mistakes and still somehow win.

But when you gain enough strength and understanding, a single wrong move out of 200 or 300 moves can (and most likely will) cost you the entire match. Therefore, Go requires even more concentration than Chess as you must play at least about 150 moves without making a mistake (as opposed to about 60 in Chess).

Psychological warfare

Go players experience something very similar to Chess' dramaturgy of "Because I played A, you must respond with B. Now I will play C, forcing you to play D. And now I will play E" where A, C, and E all coordinate together to kill the opponent, despite the purely defensive B and D moves. Sente moves (moves that necessitate a response from the opponent) serve a big role in Go.

Furthermore, Go has a myriad of trick plays: moves that serve to confuse the opponent with unique positions that seem to have weaknesses, but when responded to incorrectly become strengths. Of course, most trick plays are bluffs in the sense that they are not the best moves possible, so they are double-edged swords; when responded to incorrectly, they can be deadly, but when responded to correctly, they can be self-defeating.

Therefore, I assert that psychological warfare is not only present in Go, but is actually more potent than in Chess.

No luck in Chess

This is an argument that could only have been forth seriously by one who does not know enough about Go.

Mark my words, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, if luck played any part in Go, I would not be defending it so adamantly (or at all). Sensei's Library (my opponent's source on this point) is a reliable place to learn about Go terms, strategies, history, etc. But it serves as more than just an encyclopedia of Go; it also serves as a forum for players to discuss things which do not necessarily have any grounding in objectivity. This is one such thing. If you take a look at the source, you will notice it is one guy asserting different reasons why luck could possibly play a role in Go, and being subsequently refuted.

The closest thing to luck in Go is dumb mistakes (which is still ultimately the fault of the player).


My opponent confuses the purpose of Komidashi. He seems to think it presupposes inequality in the players when it doesn't; it presupposes inequality in the two colors, black and white (playing first and playing second). Komidashi serves to give white an advantage (of automatically added points) equal to the advantage black gets by playing first.

Let me explain more clearly. Black has the advantage of going first. If white gets nothing to compensate this, it would be unfair (as it is in Chess). White's compensation is automatically winning ties (getting an automatic .5 points added to his/her score). But .5 isn't enough to compensate black's advantage, so white get's more: traditionally 6.5.

Therefore, Go is actually more democratic; it evens the terms to a perfectly level playing field so neither player has an advantage and must win on skill alone.



Pro’s entire argument rests on a single difference between Go and Chess: a larger number of possible variations. This fact is not in contention. The raw number of candidate moves in Go is clearly higher than in Chess. But as I have said, this fact is not particularly noteworthy as far as the game’s value as a game goes.

First off, keep in mind that the vast majority of moves in Go are moves that no serious player would ever consider. Pro gives the example of the opening, where Go has 361 potential starting moves and Chess only has 20. While this is true, in practical terms, there are only about 15 starting moves in Go that any player would seriously consider. What is evident is that the RELEVANT moves in Go are approximately equal to the RELEVANT moves in Chess. The key factor is the relevance of moves to a game’s strategic and tactical structure, to the game as a game. The issue of which game has more possible variations abstractly is just that, an abstraction that has very little to do with the game as it is played in practice.

To make this clearer, I again pose the question from Round 2: why not double or triple the number of squares on the board, and you’ll have a game with more than twice the number of possible variations? Because a greater number of moves does not make the game any better or more interesting. This becomes clearer when we realize that both Chess and Go have more possible positions than atoms in the universe. Suffice it to say, Chess has more than enough possible moves and variations to make it competitive with Go.

The question, then, is not which game has more possible positions. Both games have more than enough possible positions. The question is which game has greater depth strategically and tactically. And the answer to that question is clearly Chess. Pro barely contests it, and this is why.

Tactical Themes

The number of tactical themes in Chess far outweighs that of Go. According to Pro, the single tactical maneuver in Go is that of invading and capturing the opponent’s stones by surrounding them. Of course, the theme itself will have many variations, but the tactical objective is itself always the same.

Chess is tactically more protean, as is evidence by the many tactical themes that emerge: multiple attack (the knight fork is the simplest), discovered attack, pinning, skewering, deflection, decoying, interference, clearance, blocking, brinkmate, x-ray (where pieces influence action “through” other pieces), overloading, zwischenzug (a counter-intuitive in-between move that forces unfavorable exchanges), pawn promotion, pursuit (perpetual attack), midgame stalemate, demolition (line-opening), trapping (the queen, for example). The list covers some of the more common ones, and in games, these tactical motifs can be blended and put together into beautiful combinations that result in truly artistic ends.

Strategic Themes

According to Pro, the strategic objectives in Go are about “keeping sente (initiative),” “building” and “maintaining” territory, and “reducing your opponent’s.” Sometimes, “you must cooperate with your opponent by allowing him/her to get some territory in order to gain some for yourself.” Notice that each of these is interrelated, and closely related to the primary objective of having more territory than your opponent.

Compare Pro’s list of strategic objectives of Go to my list in Round 2 of strategic objectives in Chess. Every relevant strategic objective in Go is also a plausible objective in Chess. Furthermore, the positional themes in Chess are far more diverse and unique. For example, a battle over making your bishop stronger than the opponent’s knight is the kind of strategic imbalance and objective that has no comparison in Go. Chess is filled with these kinds of strategic imbalances, which give the game superior possibilities strategically and conceptually.

The importance of each move

Each move in Chess has more value relative to the entire game: 1/40 to 1/200 is barely a contest, Chess wins hands-down as the game with more valuable moves and positions considered invididually within the context of a whole game. Pro argues that because Go has more moves, it requires more concentration. That is false because, at the highest level of play, Chess and Go games last an equal quantity of time, which means sustained concentration is equal for both games.

The relevant factor is that Chess has fewer moves. This makes each Chess position have more impact and meaning within the context of a game. Fewer moves also means that Chess is playable with lower time-controls. Hence, blitz/speed games are faster-paced in Chess, giving the game an exciting speed dynamic that is non-existent in Go.

Psychological Warfare

Pro admits that in Go, trick plays are bluffs and not the best possible moves. This is what distinguishes Go from Chess, because in Chess, the best move is often a purely psychological move. Fischer and Kasparov, two of the greatest Chess players to ever live, were famous for their psychological play style.

Pro states that psychological warfare is more potent in Go. How can that be if the psychological moves themselves are weaker than the best moves? In chess, the best moves are psychological moves… Fischer and Kasparov are evidence of this play style. By admitting that psychological warfare is not ideal in Go, Pro also implies that Chess has more “potent” psychological tactics.

Luck in Go

Pro claims that anyone who knows anything about Go would know that luck plays no part. Pro also says that if luck did play a part in Go, Pro would cease to defend Go.

I say luck has a part in Go because players cannot draw in Go. I explain this in the next section. For now, note that after defending the Mingren Title, Gu Li 9p (who won the international baduk championships three times), stated: “I am comparatively lucky in the Mingren title matches. I won a losing game over Pao Wen Yao… In this game, there was also a hopeless moment but I was lucky to win.” [1]

Equality, Fairness, and Democracy

Pro claims that Go is more equal and democratic. I argue to the opposite, that Chess is more equal and democratic.

It is impossible to draw a game in Go. Even if both players play perfectly, or equally, one player will always win. Therefore, Go presupposes inequality between the players. Otherwise, the two players, as equals, would be able to attain draws.

In Chess, a large number of games at the highest level are drawn. Chess, as a game, presupposes equality between the players. A difference in skill must be proven through a decisive and abosolute victory -- checkmate. Hence, Chess is clearly the more fair and democratic game.

To me, this is a crucial factor in the debate between these two games. Go is a fun game, with great complexity, but Chess is a superior game. The key reason is because Chess is fair, Go is not.

To make this clearer, consider Pro's reasoning. Pro states that Go is inherently unequal because black has an advantage. In Chess, however, the two sides are not inherently unequal. It is well known that the two sides are simply another strategic imbalance to take advantage of: white gets first move, black gets more information (by one move). Hence, by design, Go is inherently inferior to Chess.

To correct for Go's inherent inequality, the game uses komidashi. The fatal problem with this rule is that it removes the possibility of a draw. So while the game in theory becomes fairer, in practice it remains less fair than Chess because in Go two equally skilled players will never be able to prove their equality. Notice, also, how this is another example of the way luck comes into play: in a match between two equally skilled players, the winner will only win because of luck, not skill.


Chess is strategically, tactically, and psychologically deeper than Go. Chess is more skill-based (in Go there are "lucky wins"), and Chess is more equal, fair, and democratic. In sum, Chess is superior to Go.

Debate Round No. 3


Thank you for your response, Four Trouble. Win or lose, the important thing is that I was able to promote the wonderful game of Go while going head-to-head with such a noble and intellectual debater.

1. Complexity

There was much on this point I was previously unable to say due to the character limit (despite it being 8,000).

It's fair to say that in trying to convince members of the audience Go is more complex than Chess, I am fighting an uphill battle. Not because Chess is, indeed, more complex than Go, but because the audience already knows of Chess' complexity, at least somewhat, and you can never really understand how complex Go is without having played it beyond the level of a beginner. That being said, I will still try to explain in such a way that even someone who has never played Go can understand (as I've been doing).

There are 361 moves for the first player to choose from, but what my opponent says is true (well, half true): there are far less plausible moves. But only 15? No way. The number is, at the very least, 60.

But apparently, we must forget about how many variations a game can legally represent. My opponent says: "The question, then, is not which game has more possible positions. Both games have more than enough possible positions." I disagree. The number of variations do play a role in the complexity of the game.

A 9x9 game of Go is much more comparable to a game of Chess. In a 9x9 game, there will be one major clash, one decisive battle, that will determine the winner. But in 19x19 Go (the standard), there will be four or five or six battles like the ones 9x9 Go and Chess are entirely comprised of, and they will be spread across all over the board, each effecting each other in ways you must be able to utilize. Some of these battles may run into each other and cause the kind of all-or-nothing blood-fest I was describing in my previous round.

You have multiple battles happening on the board simultaneously, all interacting with each other either directly or indirectly. Yes, in Chess you have battles over multiple pieces or spaces on the board, but that is only comparable to one battle in a 19x19 Go, where you fight over certain key points and stones. But in Go, when the battle's over, you have another one just waiting to take its place, until they all finally connect with each other in the end game.

So, why not increase the number to 31x31 or something higher? Because then the battles that ensue will be too spread apart and will barely interact with each other, if at all, even indirectly. Again, this is in contrast to 9x9 that's so cramped you'll only have room for one battle (like in Chess). 17x17 and 21x21 are not drastically different to a player of lower skill, but it's clear to see that the types of battles that naturally happen in Go are best suited for 19x19 (17x17 is a little too cramped and 21x21 is a little too spread apart). You can also play with even numbers, like 20x20, but then there's no tengen (middle point). It's fun for nonchalant matches, but there is no greater challenge than 19x19.

My opponent makes a list of many kinds of tactics Chess is composed of. I could make a similar list for Go, but you'd hardly understand a word of it. In fact, just a kifu mapping joseki for taisha is enough to balance out anything Chess could have to offer. Tsumego for under-the-stone tesuji illustrates the foresight and creativity players must have in tight life-and-death situations. What that's? Not following what I'm saying? Like I said: an uphill battle.

Let me compare the two games another way: in Chess, the setup is already laid out when you begin. Your second row is pawns, the two ends of your first is rooks (and so on and so forth). I can think of no other way to play Chess that would be fair. After all, it would be ridiculous if you could choose to switch your second and first rows (save the king, of course).

But in Go, you get unimaginable complexity from simplicity, not only from the leniently simple rules of Go, but also the setup. The Go board is without any shape or form in the beginning, and you and your opponent are the catalysts for the Big Bang every match. You decide, in the opening few moves, what kind of match you are going to play: passive, bloody, influential, territorial, etc. There are countless openings to choose from in Go, but when you talk about "openings" in Chess, you are talking about something else entirely. The opening is always the same; there is no choosing. In Go, you decide the setup and the follow-through of the entire match.

Importance of each move

"Each move in Chess has more value relative to the entire game: 1/40 to 1/200 is barely a contest"

This is simply looking at the issue the wrong way. As I've said, having more moves does not dilute the importance of each one. If you make a mistake in Chess, you lose (against someone of equal skill). If you make a mistake in Go, you lose (against someone of equal skill). Therefore, it can be said that the importance of making each move the best possible move is equal in Chess and Go. But in Go, you must make 200 moves the best possible move, compared to only 40-60 in Chess.

Psychological Warfare

I never said the best possible moves in Go were not psychological. Sometimes, the best moves are psychological, as I stated in the example of someone keeping initiative by forcing his opponent to defend something that was destined to die in the end anyway.

What I said was that in addition to this, Go also has trick plays.

Luck in Go

My opponent thus far has proven himself to be a debater of much integrity, so I will not accuse of him intentionally quote-mining. However, upon further review of his source, you will notice his quote is, indeed, incomplete. It should continue to read: "I think I am comparatively lucky in the Mingren title matches. I won a losing game over Pao Wen Yao at the last time. In this game, there was also a hopeless moment but I was lucky to win as Gu Lingyi fortunately made a small endgame mistake."

His opponent made a small mistake in the final few moves of the game. This not only refutes the notion that Go has luck, but also strengthens the idea that every move carries high importance.


Before I say anything else on this subject, please note that there are many ways in which to incorporate the rule of komidashi into your games. If you feel it is too high or too low, or that it shouldn't have a ".5" at the end, then you and your opponent can agree to do use komidashi a different way. For instance, you and your opponent can simply agree on a different value, or one player can choose what the komi will be and the other player will choose which color to play.

That being said, while Chess players can theorize what the result of a "perfect game" would be in Chess, Go players don't have that luxury. Go is simply a far deeper game; a "perfect game" just does not exist, and two people of perfectly equal skill do not exist. In fact, two people of perfectly equal skill in Chess probably don't exist either, but the games still result in a tie due its magnanimous rules. The rules of Go offer far more precision in determining the outcome of a game and, therefore, Go's spectrum of players' skill levels has a much wider diversity and visibility when applied in a match.

Both games try to be as fair as their rulesets allow, but Go's rules simply allow for more equality than Chess.


I must use my final round to direct you to a very user-friendly and popular English server to play Go if this debate has at all piqued your interest:

I thank my opponent very much for debating this topic with me and the viewers for reading. Please carefully consider both of our arguments and vote accordingly.



Before I begin, I'd like to thank my opponent for this excellent debate. It has covered the games well, and I hope that we have given a greater appreciation of both Chess and Go to our readers.


Pro states: “I am fighting an uphill battle. Not because Chess is, indeed, more complex than Go, but because the audience already knows of Chess' complexity, at least somewhat, and you can never really understand how complex Go is without having played it beyond the level of a beginner.” The fact that Pro is fighting an uphill battle is an argument for the superiority of Chess to Go. It acknowledges the great difficulty inherent to defending Go as opposed to Chess.

Pro concedes that “there are far less plausible moves” in Go, as I had argued last Round. Pro’s comparison of 9x9 Go is Chess is irrelevant. 9x9 Go has far less possible positions, strategic or tactical depth, than Chess.

Pro argues that, unlike Chess, “in Go, when the battle's over, you have another one just waiting to take its place, until they all finally connect with each other in the end game.” This is an example of a misunderstanding of Chess. In Chess, battles occur over a square, or over a bishop-knight imbalance, or a king-side attack, or acquiring the initiative. When the battle ends, another one emerges because of the new imbalances that emerge.

This is why I argued earlier that Chess is temporal whereas Go is spatial. In Chess, because the pieces are constantly
in flux, new battles emerge throughout the game as the pieces shift and create new strategic imbalances in the position. The creation of new positions, imbalances, objectives, and battles is endless, as pieces move about the board. In Go, many battles will occur but the quantity is not endless. The board gradually fills up, and once every space has been filled, the game ends. This makes the game spatial, whereas Chess is temporal. This actually makes Chess more complex and deep than Go, since Chess can keep going whereas Go will end once the board is filled up.

According to Pro, “there is no greater challenge than 19x19.” Not according to Pro’s logic, however. Pro states that a larger number of possible positions makes a game more complex and difficult. Therefore, Pro contradicts himself by simultaneously stating Go is more complex with a 19x19 board, yet also making the claim that the number of possible positions matters.

My argument holds: the number of possible positions beyond a certain threshold quantity does not matter. Chess has more possible positions than atoms in the universe. There is a reason Chess is so well known for its vast number of possibilities. We can say that Chess has more than enough possible positions. The extra possible positions that Go has are irrelevant, when evaluating the game as a game. What is relevant are other factors of complexity, such as conceptual, strategic and tactical depth.

Pro states that in Chess, the “opening is always the same; there is no choosing.” That is absolutely false. In chess, opening theory is vast, certainly surpassing that of Go. Different openings have different purposes, and attempt to establish different kinds of strategic and tactical imbalances. Stating the opening is the always the same is a misunderstanding of what the Chess opening is supposed to do, and of the huge variety of possible positions that result from different openings.

As an example, take the King’s Indian, which gives black winning chances with a late-game bishop on g7, but white gains the temporary advantage of knights with strong outposts. Other openings create an entirely different set of imbalances. For example, the Sicilian in which all-out tactical attacks on opposite sides of the board takes center stage.

Importance of each move

Pro states, “having more moves does not dilute the importance of each one.” Taken abstractly, Pro is correct. But within the context of a game, each move in Chess will have more significance and impact on that specific game. That is a matter of simple math: 1/40 to 1/200. Chess moves within a game have more impact and meaning.

Psychological Warfare

In Round 3, Pro argued that psychological moves in Go are weaker than the best moves. Now Pro argues that psychological moves are the strongest. Suppose, for the sake of argument, I grant Pro this much, this still would only demonstrate the equality of Chess and Go, not the superiority of Go.

But as I have argued, Chess is more psychological. The game explicitly thematizes the psychological, and the effects of psychology can be witnessed directly. In Chess, the pieces can move, and each one has a different function. This creates the constant threat of bluffs. Nothing can be taken for granted, because every piece can move. In Go, the opponent might make a wrong move, but because the stones cannot move, psychology cannot effect what has already been done. In Chess, it can. An opponent’s entire plan can be ruined as the opponent scurries to meet false threats.

Luck in Go

Read the quote as given by my opponent again. Notice that there are two games, one against Pao Wen Yao and one against Gu Lingy. In the game against Gu Lingyi, there is a mistake admitted. But in the game against Pao Wen Yao, no mistake is admitted. It is a simple matter of luck. So, the luck argument stands.

Furthermore, making mistakes is more prevalent in Go because there are a greater number of moves. Luck is related to making mistakes; because there are more moves per game in Go, there is more chance of making a mistake. This increases the luck factor of Go, as compared with Chess.


Pro argues that two players can agree to not use komidashi in the standard way, but that is irrelevant to this debate. Players in any game can agree to change the rules of that game. Does that mean the rules of the game permit this? No. It means the players are playing a variation of the game, but not the game itself. There are a huge number of variations in Chess that I could have used in this debate to make arguments. I did not because they are not the game of Chess anymore. Likewise, agreeing to not use komidashi is the equivalent of no longer playing Go – you would be playing a differnet game.

I urge readers to use the definition of komidashi that Pro has provided throughout the debate, the definition that Pro used in the first Round to make the flawed argument that Go is better than Chess because Go does not allow draws.

I turned the argument around on Pro, and Pro admits defeat on this crucial point by attempting to change the definition of komidashi at the last minute.

Towards the end of the final Round, Pro states the following: “two people of perfectly equal skill do not exist.” This is Pro’s final attempt to attempt denying the superiority of Chess. But instead, Pro ends up admitting what I’ve been saying all along. In Go, it is assumed and presupposed that two people of equal skill cannot exist. This makes the game inherently undemocratic. It presupposes inequality. Chess admits the possibility that two players would be equal in skill. The possibility is evident by the fact that a player can play himself.

The possibility of equal players will necessarily lead to lucky wins, since equal players will be unable to draw. Thus, we conclude that Go not only presupposes inequality, but also ends up introducing luck as a significant factor. We conclude Go is less fair than Chess.


Chess has enough possible variations to make it competitive with Go. Chess has more strategic/tactical depth than Go. Because Chess is temporal, Chess has more psychological depth.

Go is unfair, because Go players cannot draw. The explanation provided is: because “two people of perfectly equal skill do not exist.” Go thus presupposes inequality. This will produce wins deterined by luck, and this makes Go unfair. For all these reasons, we conclude that Chess is a better game than Go.
Debate Round No. 4
22 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TasmaniaKrama 2 years ago
First of all, the con is stating there is luck involved in the game of go simply because the game lasts longer so there is higher chance of making a mistake?

So by the same logic if you play chess on double or triple time limits the luck factor increases?

Luck is defined by events that influence something and are seemingly beyond one's control.
Because the game lasts longer and the players get more nervous and are more tired does not mean the move making decision is beyond one's control.

Also con had some severe mistakes in their arguments and I am surprised that pro didn't correct it.

The use of komi in go is not a rule it self. There are only few rules in go. How stones are placed, how stones are captured, forbidden moves, and the rule of ko. The rule of komi (giving opposing player points) is not a rule of go and thus we are not playing the different versions of the game as for example a 960chess is.

Players are free to play without komi, with 0.5 or without it and so on. This is not bending the rules or changing the versions of the game. I don't know why the con thinks that the 6.5 komi is a rule or a well taken standard because it isn't. However since it was shown that the 6.5 komi is probably the most fair komi one can give/get most of the players agree to it by default.
Posted by sabaki 2 years ago
I had played Chess in my twenties but since I learned Go I have been playing Go for the past 30 years and I never want to look back to Chess. Go is far more complex and interesting than Chess.
I just want to make a point on "Luck in Go". The Con side assertion that luck plays a role in Go is completely false. He does not understand that in Asia culture, when a player won, he must show his humbling attitude towards his opponent by saying I won by luck (not by skill). In fact, what he really meant is that I won because I have a better skill. You can never say that because people will think you are cocky.
Posted by DakotaKrafick 4 years ago
Very glad you enjoyed the debate, Logic_on_rails! Those words made the whole thing more than worth it.

As far as Shogi goes, I must say I've only played that one a few times so I can't offer much insight into it, unfortunately. I would agree that a larger game tree does not automatically make a game more complex or competitive (as I stated in my final round, increasing the size of the goban will not make the game better because the shapes and battles that naturally occur in Go are less suited for a bigger–or smaller–board); it was simply the best way I could think to objectively explain the complexity of Go to someone who has no idea what Go is. In all honesty, the only way you are going to understand how deep the game is is to play it a lot.
Posted by Logic_on_rails 4 years ago
I commend both debaters on a brilliant debate at the highest level. I also must thank DakotaKrafick for reengaging me in my attempts to learn Go.

Having said that, I'd give a slight edge to FourTrouble on arguments. I liked the points about dynamics and didn't think the argument based on game tree based on game tree complexity was terribly convincing. For example, connect 6 has a higher game tree complexity than chess and stratego has a higher game tree complexity than Go, yet Pro specifically stated that Stratego took a backseat to Go at the start of 1 round.

Of course, the above comment is biased by 2 points - 1. I'm an avid chess player. 2. Game tree complexity of games like Stratego and Connect6 weren't mentioned in the debate and I shouldn't be using my outside knowledge when judging a debate.

Out of interest, what of you think about Shogi and how does it rank with Go or Chess?

Finally, I can't actually vote, so you'll just have to do with a short comment on the debate. Again, I congratulate both debaters on a fine debate.
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
LMAO, I might do that too
Posted by DakotaKrafick 4 years ago
Henceforth, my debates will have a rule in the instigation: "16kadams is not allowed to vote on this debate". lol
Posted by MikeyMike 4 years ago
awwwww yea, time to vote
Posted by DakotaKrafick 4 years ago
Very glad you rewrote your response, Four Trouble. This has been one my favorite debates :)
Posted by DakotaKrafick 4 years ago
Good, because I refuse to win this due to a forfeit.
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
I'm going to rewrite it, I was just really pissed earlier when it happened. I'll have my argument up sometime tonight.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Counter TheBorator untill he gives a better RFD.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pros case revolved around the variations of the games. Con showed chess is competitive in this area. I also thought he showed chess was more fair as well tactical and engaging. Pro never refuted these claims to the extent to debunk them. I also liked his points relating to dynamics. Sources as con had them, and the one pro provided seemed to support nothing and when I clicked it seemed not useful...
Vote Placed by TheBrorator 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Loved your arguments almost as much as I love chess.