Playing chess is a waste of time

Touched, guided

In many countries, chess is the number one strategy game. Often it is the only one that is regularly reported in the media that has received subsidies as a recognized sport and that has gained a foothold in schools. No other strategy game is so popular internationally.

Chess players often don't care what happens in other mind sports. While practically every Go player in Europe or North America can also master chess, conversely only a few chess players can play the game that is dominant in East Asia. As it became clear at a conference on strategy games at school at Cambridge University, which I helped to organize, chess could learn all kinds of things from Go.

For example, I see a deterioration in manners in chess: there are inappropriate draw offers that only disturb concentration. Job-ready positions are unnecessarily elongated. The joint debriefing of the game is getting shorter and shorter or is no longer necessary. This is a pity. In Go, on the other hand, courtesy and respect are (remained) part of the game. Not only in Japan do you bow to your opponent. Even for professional players, a game is only over when they have put all the go-stones of their color back into the bowl themselves.

Equally strong against each other

Tournament chess often consists of one-sided encounters. Although games between players of different levels are often perceived as unsatisfactory and downright a waste of time, they are widespread in open tournaments. According to the "Swiss system", the players meet with the same number of points. In chess, however, the strong are expressly set against the weak among the equals.

Go players, on the other hand, prefer the Mac-Mahon variant of the Swiss system, which is characterized by the fact that players of the same strength as possible are paired from the start. In the club, Go is also often played with handicaps. Depending on the difference between the kyu or dan grades of the players, the weaker player may place a few stones before the stronger player has a move. This turns even unequal encounters into a fair fight.

While chess associations want chess to be recognized as a sport and give priority to tournament chess, Go associations see their game primarily as a cultural heritage and a social activity. Go games are often played in a team and drawn alternately by two or three people. In the popular Paargo tournaments, a man and a woman usually play together.

Children should start with fewer characters

The European Go-Congress, which has meanwhile been copied in Asia and America, is what the German chess congresses of the 19th and early 20th centuries were: a social event with many tournaments, forms of play, lectures and parties. Even chess had a prominent place at the last Go Congress in Saint Petersburg, the chess grandmasters Alexander Morosewitsch and Tiger Hillarp-Persson played simultaneously and contested an exhibition match in both games.

The principle of tournament chess stands in the way of teaching chess to children in particular. Conducting 16 pieces over 64 fields is overwhelming for beginners. If they are taught the trains in a fast process, they stumble as if through a fog. Small games with a few characters that not only practice their gait, but in which the children consciously learn from game to game, have still not caught on.

In Go, on the other hand, there is almost unanimous agreement that the big game on 19 x 19 fields overwhelms beginners and they are introduced to several small variants. This includes boards from 7 by 7 fields or atarigo, in which the winner is whoever catches the first stone or, alternatively, another number of opposing stones.

Look beyond the edge of the board

Go is rooted in learning. The most common origin myth is that it was invented by a ruler in ancient times to raise his son. In Go there is a distinct culture of teaching games, in which the stronger player leads the weaker player both in a playful and explanatory manner. At many Go tournaments, professional players are available to all participants to explain ongoing games or to discuss finished games.

In western countries, Go is often offered in schools or libraries together with chess and sometimes also with checkers, shogi, backgammon or bridge. In this way, there are more interested parties, and they then also have a choice and variety. It is worth looking beyond the edge of the board.

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What chess can learn from Go

From Stefan Löffler

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