Often thrown in to the same category as they are both classic historied tabletop strategy games, Go and Chess do cross over in several aspects, and yet the play of each game does make for a remarkably different experience. Unlike chess with its origins in India and the modern game pieces we recognise today coming into existence in the 15th century, Go is at least twice as old a tradition and has remained virtually unchanged since its inception. This leaves for a game that has entertained students and perplexed minds for far longer, but are the skills from one game translatable to the other?
This key element of play is a mental ability that affords the user an understanding of the space in which the game is being played, thus acknowledging and keeping an internal image of the play space. It seems simple enough, but those with poor spatial reasoning will immediately struggle with both of these games. Being able to read the board and keep track of not only current moves but proposed future ones is a vital difference between amateurs and pros. Though unlike chess, Go’s pieces do not move around the board, but there are more spaces to place a piece. Thus, the humble horizontal workspace that both games are conducted on, should not be overlooked.
This is very similar to understanding the board layout and does call upon the same part of the brain. This, however, isn’t as static as the board as pieces continue to move in chess – or be placed down in go. This ability again develops in seasoned players who learn to see familiar outcomes arising. Chess players see the lines that intersect between vital pieces, Go players see the shapes placed pieces are beginning to create on the board.
Taking the initiative
Stronger players in both games will be more ruthless with their play style. Setting themselves up for a tactical play that they intend to execute several moves down, allows them to march towards victory at a faster pace. This more aggressive approach to play benefits players greatly as the flip side of this coin is trying to manage the aggressor’s attacks which allows no time to make counter moves. As the old saying goes, “A best defense is a good offence”. Although the idiom is often also reversed which makes it a little redundant. Maybe more appropriate and less confusing is the offensive strategy taken in the last few minutes of Ice Hockey called ‘Pull the goalie’. Renowned smart thinker Malcolm Gladwell believes this tactic is actually way more effective than we believe and should be utilized as often as possible in games and, indeed, life.
Though these ideas and indeed the cognitive function for strategy can move from one game to the next, chess players may still struggle with some of the changes. The main one being the actual end of the game, which in chess is the celebrated checkmate position. In Go victory comes when all players have used their pieces and the gained spaces are tallied up. This means that the outcome may bring surprise to players who thought they had the game under control. This and the other differences shouldn’t discourage any chess player willing to add another game to their roster of abilities.