Archives for posts with tag: chess

War and chess have a lot in common.
Most strikingly, the different manners in which both of them end.

The king is captured.
Or the other side gives up.

A tie is nothing but the prelude for an encore, not a real end.

Even the roads to the end are very similar in both cases.
While at the start of the game/’joust’ everything is ‘possible’ – nobody knows what the other side might be doing next, as the end nears each of the combatants are more and more limited in their currently available choices by the consequences of their previous decisions. By the very path they had followed since the beginning. Which path becomes more and more evident for everybody present. Opponent as well as spectators.

Finally – but not the least important, the similarities go even further. Deeper?
The king is the most ‘important’ piece but not the most powerful. In fact, the king cannot do much by itself. It can help the other pieces achieve their common goal but when left alone it is basically powerless. The only thing it can do is run. But only as far as the board allows it to go…
A pawn, if it manages to reach the eight rank, gets to be promoted. To become the new ‘right hand’ of the king. The new ‘most powerful member of the team’.

‘OK. And the real point of your post is?’

Putin cannot win this war – cause war it is, by himself.
Hence he needs to preserve the loyalty of his henchmen, to instill enough fear into his opponents to make them quit and to convince the ‘spectators’ that their efforts to help Ukraine are too expensive.

Now!
Are we smart enough to understand that we, each of us, are ‘next’? That each time a bully gets his way, all other (would be) bullies present become even more bullish?
Are we smart enough to understand that the most meaningful thing we can do in this situation is to separate Putin from his power base? From the ordinary people who see no other alternative and from those who, for various reasons, continue to support Putin’s misconstrued ‘vision about the world’?
Are we smart enough to understand that no matter how hard it is for us, the Ukrainians have it ten times harder?

Democracy is about every body having the opportunity to speak up their minds.
To speak up their minds, not to kill their neighbors under the pretext that there is a difference of opinion between them!

“We didn’t invade Ukraine,” he claimed.
“We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into Nato was a criminal act.”
“Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed of showing who we are.”

Are you trying to figure out what’s the real meaning of Lavrov’s words?
Let me translate for you this fine example of NewSpeak.

‘We – those who are currently running Russia, will do whatever we need to do in order to preserve our power.
In order to achieve that, we first and foremost need to convince the ordinary Russians to continue to obey our orders.
In order to achieve that, we need to convince the ordinary Russians that you are the enemy and that their only chance lies with us, their current masters.
Hence each time we destroy an Ukrainian apartment block and any of you says ‘Russians are savages’ we’re one step closer to our goal. Each and every time any of you declares ‘Russia has to pay for what it has done in Ukraine’ we tell them, the ordinary Russians, ‘See? This is what they plan to do to you once we’re are gone’.

WWI had lasted until 1945.
We have the opportunity to end the Cold War now.
The war in Ukraine will reach a conclusion. Let’s make it so that after the war will have ended, Russia will fold in the family of ‘civil’ nations.

Those nations that choose to live in peace!
Not because they cannot win wars but because they have learned that winning wars it’s not enough. Those nations which have learned, the hard way, that war has but one winner while for peace to last every body must be a winner.

There’s chess and there’s bridge.

There’s managing your resources – on your own, while trying to outsmart – out, in the open, your opponent.

And there’s team-work. An attempt to make the most of what lady-luck had put on the table by exchanging information. With your partner and in the presence of the competing team. This time only the conversation is out in the open, the resources themselves remain hidden. During the initial phase of the competition and, partially, during the end game.

Until WWI, war was more like chess than anything else. Resources were, more or less, out in the open. The soldiers had no other role but to do and die. The whole responsibility belonged to the guys who called the shots. One for each side…

WWI had ended indecisively. Hence WWII.

Each of the winning parties – there had been two victors, had learned something different from the experience.
The Western allies had learned the value of cooperation while the Eastern ‘block’ had reached the conclusion that brute force trumps everything.

The Americans had started playing bridge with the Brits and taught the game to the rest of the world.
The Russians had honed their skills at playing chess. Something they were already very good at.
For a while, the Americans have tried to compete with the Russians. Remember a guy named Fischer? Bobby Fischer?

Soon, too soon, the Americans had given up.
After building a computer smart enough to outsmart all human chess players…

The even worse part was that the Americans had given up bridge too!
And forgot the most important lesson of WWI and WWII. That the victor needs to take care of the vanquished if they want to enjoy peace. To actually win the peace process after they had already won the war.

Which brings us to the end of the Cold War.

Communism – and practically all communist states, had crumpled under its own weight.
The westerners assumed it was something they had done themselves. Declared victory.
And the end of history

Having already given up bridge, they forgot to take care of the vanquished… and allowed Russia – the party who had taken most of the blame over their shoulders, for reasons to be discussed some other time, to slide down the slope inaugurated by post WWI Germany.
Did I mention that Russia was still fond of chess? Very much in love with brute force? And not very fond of respectful cooperation?

Now, that we all try to peek into the future – attempting to figure out how the current aggression ordered by Putin will end up, we need some people to learn about bridge.

Putin cannot launch by himself the nuclear missiles he had been brandishing lately.

Now, can those around him reset the chess board on which they are but pawns into a bridge table?
And invite the rest of the world into the game?

Will the rest of us understand the invitation?
If, and when, it will come?

How often do you hear this expression?
Are you OK with it?
Because you’ve grown accustomed with it or because you are OK with the idea of politics being a contest? A game to be won?

In a certain context, I’ve been asked which game is a more ‘fitting description’ of politics. Chess or Go?

Both being, as I’m sure you already know, strategic games where all ‘tactical’ information is above the board, where the scope is to ‘control the territory through the smart use of available resources’ and where neither of the competitors have any real idea of what their opponent might have in mind.
Yes, there are rules and limitations. Of course. So each of them are able to divine a ‘probable course of action’ but …

Going back to politics, I’ll just quote myself:

“Politics like Go… very interesting question.
Go is a game. Something to play with. And play is very important, indeed. Through play, we hone skills used in real life. When playing, it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. There’s something to be learned in both situations.
While in real life, loosing is not an option.
In playing, all that matters is to participate. In life, all that matters is to survive.
When playing, we improve our skills by competing against each-other. In life, we survive by helping each-other.
In this sense, politics is an exercise of cooperation more than a competition. A process through which the whole community finds its way forward rather than a beauty pageant where the next beauty queen is nominated to carry the torch through the dark. For a while…
The point being that all community/nations which had allowed personal interest – lust for wealth/power, to trump the collective need to survive have eventually collapsed. From Ancient Rome to Soviet Russia.
This being where Marx was hugely mistaken. While he understood history as a succession of class struggles – to be ended by the mother of all dictatorships, in reality is was a continuous evolution/honing of cooperation. From slavery to feudalism and to democratic capitalism people learned to do more and more things together. The status of the individual – of all the individual members of any given society, gradually improved while the communities have become more resilient and more productive.
And all attempts to revert to more ‘centralized’ alternatives – no matter how the ‘winners’ were supposed to be determined, have failed. All political and economical dictatorships – authoritarian-isms and monopolistic situations, have crumbled.
Not before incurring a lot of pain to those who allowed them to happen, helas. Contestants and spectators alike.”

Now go fight for your favorite political figure.
And allow hate to alter your perceptions.

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