Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Chess and war

The London Guardian runs an interesting article on the relationshiop between playing chess and making war. Researchers in Australia and Sweden are taking this quite seriously. It all sounds like fun, and some of it might be more useful than I would have thought. "One major difference between chess and war is that chess does not contain what the military terms ’information uncertainty’. Unlike a battle commander, who may have incomplete intelligence about his opponent’s level of weaponry or location of munitions depots, one chess player can always see the other’s pieces, and note their every move. So Kuylenstierna and his colleagues asked players to compete with a board each and an opaque screen between them. A game leader transferred each player’s moves to the other’s board - but not always instantaneously. For instance, one game modification resulted in a player being prevented from seeing their opponent’s latest two moves.

These games, and other variations on regular play, led the team to a clear conclusion: being stronger and having more ’battlespace information’ than your opponent are both less valuable when there is little information available overall to both sides - but the advantage of a fast pace remains. ’The value of information superiority is strongly tempered by uncertainty, whereas the value of superior tempo is much less affected,’ says Kuylenstierna.

Uncertainty is often a problem in war. So in practical terms, launching a rapid attack might provide a better chance of winning than trying to gain more information about the battlefield situation, or ensuring that you have numerical strength over your opponent."

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