In talking with the web mistress about checkers versus chess, I told her I am not convinced at all that the road to Italy is open for Lubo. She said that it's probable that if he's that good at checkers he must be very good at other things. I said that I know a lot of chess players that are very good at chess, but not very good at much else. Then I said I think that checkers has more applicability to life than chess because it's a binary game with up and down forward or back, but chess is a war game with a special board and moves. I believe that the logic of checkers has more applicability and to be good at checkers has more generality. I am not convinced by my argument but many wonderful things can come from simple on and off, high or low, 1 or 0 as computers and circuits show.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I always tell a story about my adolescence, where I was groomed to become a Soviet Checkers Champion ever since introduction to the game at the age of 5.

Among customized tutorials by special instructors of the KGB fame: lessons on peripheral vision (when moving up from 64-square national game to the 100-square international game) and on how to forget things (when you blank out a totally missed move, to allow complete focus on task currently at hand). And yes, to most professional players that checkerboard was a model of life — very hard to explain to a non-pro.

I think, one of distinctions that the Chair is after has to do with "obligatory jumping" in checkers vs. no such thing in chess. This rule leads to more logic and structure in checkers, while allowing more improvisation and artistry in chess.

Michael Ott writes:

I was recently talking with a friend about the differences in Western vs Asian mindsets. He remarked that it may have something to do with chess vs. Go. In chess, you need to totally dominate the opponent, knocking out many pieces and eventually capturing the king. In Go, you can be behind until the last few pieces are played and still come through to win 34-30. His declaration was that Go players are comfortable with a tight game if they have an exit strategy. They are comfortable with a victory, even though it may be by a small margin. Chess players, on the other hand, tend to go for the kill and the big victory.

There are obvious exceptions, but I thought it was valuable to share.

Don Chu writes:

I wrote this a fair while back, commenting on an old DS post, Chess Gestalt:

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

But GM Davies is of course right about how relative game complexity has everything to do with board size, and less about the relative merits or the fuzzy ‘rhetoric’ (word used in its modern pejorative usage, not the ancient noble art) of hemispheric mindsets.





Speak your mind

12 Comments so far

  1. JJ on July 8, 2011 8:28 pm

    Reminds me of a similar argument I hear in math depts. for the game of Go over Chess. There is only one type of piece and move. However the simplicity leads to a very complex game. Unlike Chess, computers have yet to best even strong amateurs. Computer’s outdo people in raw computational power and thus Chess, but they still lag in pattern recognition giving people the edge in Go.

  2. Arthur Colle on July 9, 2011 11:00 am

    Hello Mr. Victor Niederhoffer,

    My name’s Arthur Colle and I’m a math major at the University of Maryland, College Park. I just finished both of your books and they were very informative reads. However, I have a question specifically about your Practical Speculation book. You’re technical analysis chapter sums it up as nonsense, effectively using statistics to describe the uselessness of technical “trend-following” and indicators. Later, however on page 183 you write “Therefore, when your financial defenses are in place, start out by making small short-term swing trades, buying when the market is oversold and selling when it becomes overbought.” Now this makes sense but aren’t the very indicators used to determine when things are overbought/oversold (price/volume, %R, MACD) technical in nature? I don’t understand this specific dichotomy.

    I would really appreciate even a short reply, as I find the mathematical and quantitative analysis of markets very interesting and would certainly like to continue my research.

    Thanks in advance!


    Arthur M. Colle

  3. Nigel Davies on July 9, 2011 1:45 pm

    It would be interesting to see your evidence for this argument, for example how many top checker players have excelled in another field? Amongst chess GMs and IMs there are many millionaires who achieved their riches via various business and banking interests, not to mention the many promising players who left chess to be highly successful elsewhere (Chagall, Waitzkin et al).

  4. vic on July 9, 2011 2:31 pm

    the swing ideas can be quantified under certain condition they show distributions on certain markets that put them against the public and work statistically, economically , and psychologically. Nigel raises a good point. The mental ability it requires is great. Marshall the founder of modern eco, also a champion chess player. I dont know how to quantify. vic

  5. Nigel Davies on July 9, 2011 2:35 pm

    BTW, in response to Mr Veltman’s ‘obligatory jumping’ argument, we do have a piece called a ‘knight’ which jumps over things en route to the destination square. Of course not all pieces do that so I guess it isn’t ‘obligatory’ as such. And maybe I’m missing the point because I’m not a ‘checkers pro’, assuming such a creature exists.

  6. Nigel Davies on July 9, 2011 6:12 pm

    One final point, complexity has everything to do with board size and nothing to do with the relative merits of Go or ‘Big Checkers’ as the various aficionados like to claim. There are also forms of ‘big chess’ which would contain many more possibilities, the main reason nobody here has heard of it being that the standard 8×8 form has been satisfying enough. Maybe this will be about to change though due to computers.

  7. Curmdugeon 3421 on July 9, 2011 6:36 pm

    I think Mr. Veltman was referring to the ‘obligatory capture’ rule which makes checkers more automatic than chess. The chess player has a choice what to capture or even not to capture at all.

  8. Nigel Davies on July 9, 2011 6:46 pm

    Not all versions of checker rules have obligatory captures and there are ‘forced moves/captures’ in chess through having to escape check. But if we’re talking about logical structure being derived from simplicity then isn’t noughts and crosses better still?

  9. JP Janssen on July 10, 2011 10:48 am

    I love The Settlers of Catan
    - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Settlers_of_Catan

    When I have two or more friends around who also are passionate about this game, we play it almost every night.

    It’s the perfect formula for a fun evening, but it also practices your
    * math skills (simple stats based on two dices, but too many calculations are required - one learns to do these intuitively)
    * memory. Counting others’ resources can be done perfectly, but is extremely hard - surely good memory exercise
    * fast interactions. Commodity trading is an essential part. One must offer and accept, and counter-offer, faster than the others to get an edge
    * ability to deceive and spot those who try to deceive you. Particularly important is it to make others believe you have grim winning chances. Body language is alpha omega. If you fail here, they will surely collude against you and you will seldom win
    * ability to make others fear you so that you are not attacked (robbed)
    * sense of cycles. If something works, it will be copied and you need to invent a new approach
    * patience / planning to wait for the one crucial move. Often one move makes/unmakes a winner

    A good Catan player has most of the traits needed to become an excellent financial speculator - all except the stomach needed when $$$ is on the line

  10. Don Chu on July 11, 2011 7:16 pm

    I said this a fair while back, commenting on an old DS post, Chess Gestalt:

    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.

    But GM Davies is of course right about how relative game complexity has everything to do with board size, and less about the relative merits or the fuzzy ‘rhetoric’ (word used in its modern pejorative usage, not the ancient noble art) of hemispheric mindsets.

  11. Trader Kevin (Penn State Clips) on July 12, 2011 1:32 pm

    I think poker has more application than either checkers or chess because it is a game of incomplete information, just like trading and life.

    I was intrigued by Mr. Veltman’s mention of the 10 by 10 international checkers board. I’d never heard of such a thing and did some research on the game. Fascinating.

  12. Bert on August 6, 2011 6:16 pm

    Chess is more applicable to Life than Checkers and Poker. There is even a book called How Life imitates Chess. If one knows chess very well he/she knows why chess is more applicable to life and is a deeper game than Go, no question chess is a better game than both. I will give few examples below. Another thing many chess novice thinks that all you do and think in chess is to mate the king, which is not correct. In above novice level in chess that is not the thinking process. To achieve a win in chess, you must gain an advantage, in gaining this advantage a good chess player will look at the positional and tactical elements of the position. Sample of positional concepts are central tension, isolated pawn, weak squares, dark or light square weakness, zugwang, possible liquidation into a favorable endgame, open center, close center etc, skewer, xray threats etc.

    Life is bargaining(example, okay you will have this contract but in return I have this, etc)

    In chess equivalent it would be like, Okay you can have my rook for a bishop, but in return I have control of light squares, and have better pawn structures.

    Life is innovation (for example there are certain new things that you will do that would surprise others)

    In chess this is equivalent to theoretical opening novelties.

    In Life You expect something rewarding after your careful strategic planning on how your career will go.

    In chess this is equivalent in your well executed strategic plans, sample of strategic plan, is you exchange your bishop for a knight to control certain key squares.

    Life is a gamble

    In Chess equivalent, this is sacrificing something hoping you will mate the king, in the end if your gamble did not paid off, in chess you will lose.


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