Tag Archives: strategy

Hone your strategic thinking at the Library

The Library's Go set features a heavy bamboo board and natural stone playing pieces.

The Library’s Go set features a heavy bamboo board and natural stone playing pieces.

When two tigers fight, what is left is
one dead tiger and one wounded one.
-Chinese Proverb

Go is a board game that originated in China more than 5,000 years ago. Like chess, Go has always been regarded as a tool for developing strategic thinking, but the mentalities required for success in the two games could hardly be more different.

Chess is a metaphor of decisive battle. Each player strives to capture the opponent’s king by annihilating his capacity to resist. This means that the strategic sense developed by chess is one where the object is total victory.

In contrast to chess’ emphasis on calculation, Go emphasizes judgement. Therefore, Go seems to resemble business or international relations more than warfare. The object is not to destroy, but to build territory. In Go, patience is essential, and greed is punished.

Go writer Peter Shotwell writes that “Japanese executives learned to look at the national and international corporate worlds as Go boards and designed many of their strategies accordingly…One should try to win, but that had to involve allowing the opponent to win something too, because all-out fights might destroy both competitors.”*

The Library has a new professional quality Go set, in front of the reference desk. We hope this set will inspire some of our students to learn about this rich and beautiful game. Intrigued? Check out this short tutorial on the rules:


If you are interested in learning to play Go, contact Harold Henkel at harohen@regent.edu for suggestions on getting started.

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*Peter Shotwell, Go! More Than a Game, (Ruland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2003), xi. http://library.regent.edu/record=b1545173~S0

 

Go comes to the Library Reference Desk

When two tigers fight, what is left is
one dead tiger and one wounded one.
-Chinese Proverb

Expand your horizons by learning Go.

Expand your horizons by learning Go.

Go (Chinese: wéiqí, Japanese: igo, Korean: baduk, common meaning: “surrounding game”) is a board game that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. Go is widely understood to occupy the position in China, Japan, and Korea that chess does in the West.

Go and chess are both preeminently games of strategy, but the nature of play and the temperament required for success could hardly be more different: While the object of chess is to checkmate the opponent’s king, the object of Go is to control more territory on the board. Chess favors daring and calculation, Go patience and judgment.

It has become widely appreciated in the West that that some understanding and experience with Go can provide insights into the psychology and strategic thinking of countries where Go is part of the cultural heritage. Peter Shotwell, for example, writes that “Japanese executives learned to look at the national and international corporate worlds as Go boards and designed many of their strategies accordingly…One should try to win, but that had to involve allowing the opponent to win something too, because all-out fights might destroy both competitors.”*

The Library has placed a Go set on the Reference Desk that we hope will act as a catalyst for some of our patrons to learn about this rich and even beautiful game. Go will not only teach you another way of looking at strategy and success, but also provide an experience of one of the great arts of China, Japan, and Korea.

Intrigued? Check out this trailer for a forthcoming documentary about Go:

If you are interested in learning to play Go, contact Harold Henkel at 757-352-4198 or harohen@regent.edu for suggestions on getting started.

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*Peter Shotwell, Go! More Than a Game, (Ruland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2003), xi. http://library.regent.edu/record=b1545173~S0

Collection Spotlight—Chess, Negotiation, and Strategy

Chess and the Art of Negotiation: Ancient Rules for Modern Combat, by Anatoly Karpov and Jean-François Phelizon, with Bachar Kouatly.
Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2006.

How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom, by Garry Kasparov, with Mig Greengard.
New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

Anatoly Karpov (b. 1951) and Gary Kasparov (b. 1963) were adversaries in one of the great chess rivalries of modern times. In five world championship matches between 1984 and 1990, the two grandmasters played 144 games, with Kasparov winning 21 and Karpov winning 19; 104 games were draws. Kasparov has said that the pressure of having to prepare for competition with the older champion helped him realize his full potential as a player.

Although the two players were closely matched in strength, their playing styles were mirror images of each other. Karpov was known for cautious positional play, waiting to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes; while Kasparov’s style was characterized by aggression and creativity. The difference in their chess playing seems to have analogs in their subsequent careers: while Karpov is currently serving in the Russian government, Kasparov has emerged as one of the leading oppositional figures to the Putin/Medvedev administration.

Chess and the Art of Negotiation takes the form of a dialogue between Karpov and Jean-François Phelizon, CEO of Saint-Gobain Corporation. Many readers will find it disappointing that Phelizion does most of the talking, applying lessons from writers on strategy (principally Sun Tzu) to his own experience in business negotiations. Nevertheless, Karpov’s recollections and insights into what is required to succeed in chess at the highest levels are quite illuminating.

Karpov emphasizes the need for total preparation—physical, intellectual, and moral. Moral preparation—knowing oneself—is the most difficult part of planning (on this point he is at one with Kasparov), but becomes critical in tournament play, where a player must fall back on reserves of character. As important as planning is, Karpov also stresses the need to think creatively and posits this as one of the reasons for Russian preeminence in chess: “In Germany and Japan, high-level players can master technique, but they sometimes seem to have trouble when they find themselves in a new situation. That is not the case for the Russians. For centuries, we have always considered that laws were made to be broken. Perhaps that is why we tend to be so creative.”

How Life Imitates Chess has a looser structure than Karpov’s book, and from its style appears to be the product of conversations Kasparov has had with his co-author. Kasparov’s subject is strategy and decision making. For Kasparov, success at high levels is predicated on knowing oneself, a condition that is only possible from rigorous and often painful self-examination. Perhaps the most important wisdom (valid for most aspects of our lives) Kasparov imparts in the book is his contention that “better decision-making cannot be taught, but it can be self-taught.” Ultimately, Kasparov writes, mastery in chess is the product of synthesis, “the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science into a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Kasparov is at his best when he discusses chess strategy and forces the reader to connect the lesson to other competitive arenas. For example, in the final game of the 1985 world championship, Kasparov writes how Karpov opened untypically with a direct assault on Kasparov’s king. However, at the critical moment, when faced with the decision of whether to commit irrevocably to the assault he had spent twenty moves setting up, he reverted back to his more familiar, cautious style of play. As Kasparov writes, “when it came time to play for the kill, Karpov played a move that fit his prudent style but not the win-at-all costs situation that he himself had created. His personal style was in conflict with the game strategy that was required in order to win, and he veered off course.”

Of the two books, most readers are likely to find Kasparov’s the more enjoyable and useful. How Life Imitates Chess is not without flaws. Kasparov’s analogies between chess and historical events are not always convincing, and the author would have been better served if he had stayed focused on chess strategy and left it to his readers to ponder the game’s wider lessons for life. Nevertheless, Kasparov’s analyses and reflections on his career and some of his most important games more than make up for the book’s shortcomings. How Life Imitates Chess contains accessible lessons on strategic thinking by one of the world’s great devisors of strategy. It should be read by anyone aspiring to master this most elusive art.

R U Global—Resources for World Leaders: Go! More than a Game

Go! More than a Game, by Peter Shotwell
Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

When two tigers fight, what is left is
one dead tiger and one wounded one.

-Chinese Proverb

Go is widely understood to occupy the position in China, Japan, and Korea that chess does in the West. Like chess, Go is a strategic board game whose origins and language lay in warfare. In every other aspect, however, the two games could hardly be more different, and while it is widely appreciated that some understanding and experience with Go can provide insights into East Asian philosophy and psychology, the game’s reputation for complexity stands as an obstacle for many potential players in the West.

To give a thumbnail comparison of the two games, while the object of chess is to checkmate the opponent’s king, the object of Go is to control more territory on the board. Chess is a game of aggression and domination; winning usually requires the destruction of the opposing army. Go is a game of patience and balance. Chess is about calculation; Go is about judgment. Winning consists not in destroying one’s opponent, but in achieving a comparative advantage. Above all, chess is principally a game of tactics, Go of strategy.

Go is known for the beautiful patterns created in the course of a game.
Go is known for the beautiful patterns created in the course of a game.
Go, it must be admitted, is not an easy game to begin playing, but with a little effort, it is not at all impossible for adults to learn and enjoy. (As with so much else, children pick up the game much faster.) There are a number of helpful books for beginners, but I would recommend starting off with an excellent two-part introduction to the game on YouTube. After viewing these tutorials, take a look at the Wikipedia article before moving on to a Go: More than a Game. You should read no more than the first two chapters, before starting to play (I forgot to mention you need to find a partner for this project!) as you read more of the book. It is only by playing the game that you will start to “see” the strategic concepts of Go.

Go: More than a Game is a clear textbook of Go that will take new players from beginning to intermediate proficiency. The author, Peter Shotwell, is an expert on the relationship of Go to Eastern and Western philosophy, literature, and history; and nearly a quarter of the book is taken up with those subjects, as well as how the game has affected the mentality and outlook of its players. For example, in explaining the influence of the game on Japanese business culture, Shotwell writes, “Japanese executives learned to look at the national and international corporate worlds as Go boards and designed many of their strategies accordingly…One should try to win, but that had to involve allowing the opponent to win something too, because all-out fights might destroy both competitors.” Readers with some background in mathematics, as well as film goers who saw A Beautiful Mind, where a lost Go match at Princeton ultimately leads to John Nash’s discovery of the Nash Equilibrium, will also be interested in the discussion of Go and game theory.