Friday, July 22, 2011

Two Games--Chess and Go

by Richard Crews
The two most intellectually challenging games ever invented are CHESS and GO.

In the West (for example, in the U.S.), the most clever and sophisticated gamesmanship is thought of in terms of chess.

Chess has complicated rules. The six different pieces (pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king) each have different allowed moves, and, in fact, the moves or powers of a piece may change depending on the progress of a particular game (for example, a pawn can move one or two steps forward but can only capture another piece diagonally, and it can be transformed into a queen or knight if it reaches the far edge of the board).

Chess is essentially a military game. The highest strategies in chess involve using one's own pieces in complex combinations to attack and capture the opponent's queen and, ultimately, king.

In the U.S. we refer to complicated business maneuvers as "playing chess." Similarly, national diplomacy is viewed that way. Diplomats solicit allies and conduct artful negotiations involving trade agreements, sanctions, monetary aid, etc.

On the other hand, in the East (for example, in China), the most clever and sophisticated gamesmanship is thought of, not as chess, but in terms of the game of go.

Go has very simple rules. There is only one kind of piece, and the two players move alternately, each laying out one piece on the board at each move. The goal is to encircle a larger area of the board than the opponent.

Chinese international diplomacy involves go-like thinking. The Chinese's clever strategy in cornering the world production of rare earth metals can be understood in this light. Similarly, their quiet purchase of vast farmland, mine, and other resources in Africa and South America represents a go-like strategy to encircle and control territory.

What happens when one team in a game is playing with one set of rules, and the other side is playing with another? Envision a "football" game in which one side is trying to play American "football" and the other, European "football" (which in the U.S. is called "rugby"). Each side tries to follow its rules and advance the ball to the other side's goal line. It is hard to imagine any result other than chaotic misunderstanding.

The underlying gamesmanship paradigms are profoundly different between the East and West. Understanding this clarifies much of the confusion and misunderstanding in these important diplomatic realms.