Between chess gewalt (violent force) and a sharing of black & white

A delightful post above on chess gestalt (wholeness), speaking of the idiosyncratic leanings of each individual chess piece.
And Mr Glazier is probably right about the difference between chess and its cousin-games, Go or Weiqi and Checkers, in this respect.

One core difference between chess and Go/weiqi (and also that other similar-looking black & white game, Othello/Reversi), is that chess has as its singular objective the capture of one single chess-piece, the king. For Go/weiqi and Othello, winning and losing is determined by a counting of points or stones (captured stones and territory) after both players mutually agree to stop.

The design and singular objective in chess has its interesting parallel in Clausewitzian asymmetrical dialectics, his attritive ‘friction’ and his emphasis on gewalt (violent force).

Conversely, the very design and nature of Go/weiqi and Othello, necessarily brings to the centre the concept of tactical ‘sharing’, for the player engaging in strategic game-play. The strategic ‘sharing’ of space, territory, stones are integral to these games of homogeneous black & white; indeed it is almost impossible to achieve a shutout win (that is, capturing or turning ALL of your opponent’s pieces) if proper handicapping have been carried out beforehand.

[Many times have an Othello player seemed likely to be cruising to an overwhelming 4:1 (ratio of # of pieces) win with bruising attacking play in the early-game, only to run out of tactical space (or strategic depth), and be forced to watch his opponent overturn the table in the last moves to snatch a win by a few agonizing points.

And indeed, in Go/weiqi, the most masterful and gracious win is not by crushing with an unassailable lead; but in ‘sharing’, deflecting, leading, controlling your opponent just enough to end the game with a half or one point win.

{This is somewhat akin to the philosophy and moves behind some of the soft internal martial arts.
In taichi, the opponent’s force or strike is never met head-on, but deflected, guided and controlled for dissipation or a takedown at the opportune moment.

In aikido, for example, one may intercept a shomenuchi-overhead strike to the head and subsequently step into/behind the opponent to control with iriminage turns and turns and turns… until the opportune takedown. Alternatively, control may be effected with an immobilization lock like ikkyo (wrist+elbow+shoulder) before takedown.}

Mr Glazier’s chess-piece gestalt “psychological types” are most delightful and recalls to mind some of the colourful names a younger self invented for the tactics and positions played in Othello, as a youngster with an over-active imagination:

1.[Openings]:The Dragon’s Spine (or The Great Wall of China)


2.[Openings]:The foundation of the builder’s T-square


3.Defend the Fort (resist all temptations to lower drawbridge or enter the moat); or
Hold the 3rd parallel (enter not the DMZ/no-man’s-land)


4.Force the enemy to attack with a siege-ladder; then storm across the moat over the ladder and establish a beach-head



5.Lay a mine in a hole in the wall (tick-tock gambit)


6.Single paladin attack backed up by heavy trebuchets (foregone for the enemy — many variations)


7.Forced march of lemmings (with an eventual complete turn)


8.False dawn at the edge of the world


9.Avoid the hell-holes/Force enemy to play the hell-holes
10.Endgame bait and switch

and many more.


6 thoughts on “Between chess gewalt (violent force) and a sharing of black & white

  1. Don – What a great post! It is very difficult for me to not attack a problem directly or to win “by one piece.” This type of dialog, negotiation takes place between equals or almost equals but is very difficult when the two sides are completely unequal. In the latter case, the stronger one must be willing to engage and not crush. In America, the competitive nature of the culture almost always results in a crushing blow to which unfortunately my response typically happens to be an “equal but opposite reaction.”

  2. Hi legacy,

    Glad you like it. :)
    You are right, the world makes it very difficult to ‘share’ and much easier to lash out.
    That is why restraint may be the mark of a stronger/true man.

    I cannot add to ancient words and will just let them speak for themselves:

    Of Restraint, ‘Sharing’ and Taking a step back

    In the journey of life, it is prudent to give way a step to your neighbour, for going backward is, after all, going forward. In the treatment of men, it is wiser to be indulgent rather than to be severe.
    In profiting another, you lay the root of your own advantage.

    In upbraiding another, be not too severe; consider how he can bear the blame. In advising another to be better, the precept should not be too high for him; let it be suited to the capacity of his understanding.

    A simple and unassuming man is ever a riddle to those who are vain and ostentatious. A sober and scrupulous man is generally hated by licentious men.
    A gentleman should never change his principle; but at the same time, he should not express himself too pronouncedly nor reveal his full luminescence lest he clash against others.

    -菜根譚 (CaiGenTan), Vegetable Roots Discourse


  3. To win by one piece. This reminds me of stories I heard about my martial art teacher, who I have not seen for a few years already, when he was younger he used to engage in sparring with other masters. I was told that many other martial artists when losing to the teacher would not admit to being of lesser skill. Not because of ego, but mainly because they did not feel they were beaten soundly. They always lost by just a little. He had mastered the “forget oneself and follow other”. A side effect is when he sparred with medium skill artists he appeared to have medium skill. When he sparred with high-level artists he appeared to have high level skill.

  4. Don – True man – what a difficult topic. Describing it and understanding it are one thing, living and having lived as one an entirely different challenge but going back to winning by one piece, perhaps it is an even greater challenge to allow the opponent to win by one piece.

  5. roamingwind,

    Wise sifu/sensei you have. When you have the good fortune to meet and learn from enlightened teachers, the precious lessons learnt, whether directly or more unconsciously, are never forgotten.
    A lifelong exemplar you have to follow.


    Very true.
    Which is why I think a ‘true’ man may be too lofty a mark to aspire to, and would be satisfied with being a thin and superficial ‘paper man’, floating through life blissfully unawares…

    Yes; the ugly demon in me is loathe to give up even half a stone, let alone a full stone to others.
    Battling our inner demon who seeks to impose our will upon others shall be a neverending task;
    and whether we be guided by John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, or by Confucian restraint, it is truly a challenge/cross we daily bear…


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