I’ve been playing a lot more chess lately and thinking about similarities and differences. As I just said, this isn’t the right place for me to go into some (quite interesting, to me at least) ideas I’ve had about the nature of the two games, but I thought I’d add some subtlety to GAJ’s post.
Firstly, there can be more complexity to the rules of Go than you think, and the place where that complexity shows itself it at the end of the game, when the scoring and life / death analysis takes place.
For instance, this position shows a situation called a torazu sanmoku:
You’ll notice that if Black captures the White stones at 1-1, White will be able to play 2-1 and capture the capturing stones, which would let him regain some points and leave Black with a profit margin of only two points. This was felt by 19th-century Japanese rulemakers (possibly Honinbo Shuwa) to be unreasonable as “Black clearly has something here” – so a bespoke rule was put in place ensuring that Black would receive three points without being obliged to take the stones off the board. I’ll admit that the ruling changed in 1989, and it’s now considered seki if Black doesn’t capture, but you see my point. There are also a whole set of post-game procedures in the Japanese rules, the implementation of which is being vigorously argued as we speak in another thread. So, Go often has rules that appear simple to the beginner but reveal themselves later to be more baroque.
Secondly, I don’t think it’s fair to say that chess has complex rules, though I appreciate that complexity is relative. There are only five piece types (king, queen, rook, bishop, knight,) plus the pawns, making a total of sixteen men for each player. Compare that to some large variants of shogi – in the biggest, the mammoth taikyoku shogi, EACH player has at their disposal 402 pieces (yes, that’s four-hundred-and-two) of 208 different types. All of a sudden chess is looking very minimal.
– In chess, all pieces have to capture by landing on the victim’s square. Not the case in many shogi variants; in those, there are pieces that can zap their enemies without moving.
– In chess, each piece has the same movement capabilities all its life (well, apart from the two-space starting pawn leap.) That’s not the case in xiangqi or “Chinese chess”: in that game, once pawns cross to the opponent’s side of the board they receive the capabilities to move left and right as well as forwards.
Shogi takes this idea even further, with many pieces getting bespoke promotions once they reach the opponent’s side of the board. In chess on the other hand, all possible piece types are present at the start of the game.
– Another shogi custom is that you can return captured pieces to the board as your own troops. This complicating feature is not a part of chess.
– Finally, all chessmen can visit any part of the board. Not the case in xiangqi, in which the king and his courtiers are imprisoned in the palace and the elephants can’t cross the river that runs down the centre of the board (despite the fact that elephants can swim.)
So you can see why I consider chess to be closer to classical architecture than baroque.
Now to respond to the idea that the ending of a game of chess is very transparent. Yes, you’re that there is no room for discussion when a checkmate’s on the board. But a strong player won’t play to checkmate anyway if he has too bad a position or he’s down too much material. What you’re actually going to see in most decisive games is an endgame in which one player is trying to win with a slight advantage. Sometimes they have an extra pawn, other times it could just be that they have a bishop and the opponent a knight. These endgames can be as difficult as the middlegame itself, and it goes without saying that they’re much harder than an endgame in Go which is just counting and calculating sente / gote.
That’s my take on things, not that GreenAsJade was actually wrong on any point but that she’s looking at only one perspective (that of a Go player) whereas I think there are other ways to look at the comparison.