Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Part 2 on AoW: Chapter 2 Waging War



"He who wishes to fight must first count the cost”
Since chess costs money to play competitively in rated events,  I thought I’d attempt this chapter line by line and make sense in the chess sense.

1. In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.
IN Chess,  costs add up. In the US, there are national dues ( USCF  annual membership), Local dues ( State affiliate dues)  entry fee of the event.  Says this is your first event of the year and all membership fees are due and you are going to local weekend warrior and not spending any nights in a hotel, this could run  at least $100, just to get you through the door.  If you are spending the night at the hotel and use the “chess rate” that the organizer lobbied for, you can expect to add at least $90/night. Depending on how well you can do meal planning and such, hoping for a continental breakfast as part of the plan, you can easily rack up at least $30 or more a day in food/beverage costs.  Let’s not forget travel costs of merely driving to  place that might consume ½ a tank of gas.

So in this scenario, a weekend event, in an adjacent state where you stay at the hotel for two nights, for a chance at a moderate prize fund of about $500  you can expect to spend about $375 to get you to that first event.  If you are like me, I have to negotiate with my wife why I want to spend $375 on a self-indulgent weekend of sitting in a closed room with a bunch of other likeminded chess nuts.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.
If all your games go to the time limit, and you only have ½ hour to recoup between rounds, you might be better off requesting a bye for the evening round. Otherwise it may impact your next campaign in round 3 on a Saturday evening.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
I read this and say to myself, Know when to quite. If after 3 rounds you are still losing in a 5 round event. Cut your loses and regroup and recoup.  How many times have I rolled in on Sunday morning round thinking, “This time will be different.” This is tough for me, as I have a hard time letting go and have crashed and burned on several occasions whether it’s the World Open or the Mass Open.  Been there done that, You’d think I’d know better.  Let’s see if I can follow this ancient advice.

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
I read this and think, “How prepared am I for this tournament?”  I can go in unprepared and wonder why I am not playing to my expected skills. On the other hand, if I am coming back from a long hiatus, with some preparation, knowing my main goal is for OTB experience, then this is worth the campaign.  

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.
My experience says this about these quote: If I want to remain married, I must find a balance of attending tournaments and spending time with family and doing what the wife would like. In other words, as much as I would like to go to tournaments every weekend, I like being married too.  It’s all about balance.

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.
I wonder if it would be appropriate to wager loser pays for dinner when you shake hands and start the game?  I tend to extend this to asking my opponent to go over the game so I can learn what he’s learned.  I figure if I am paying for a weekend of chess, I can also benefit as each opponent is a potential teacher offering different perspectives.

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.
When away at a tournament, it’s important to call home and stay connected to remind my loved ones I have not forgotten them. The impoverishment of my spouse is my lack of attention ( and the physical costs to attend).

11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.13, 14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.
11 through 14 underscores the costs of attending tournaments far away.  I like  how costs are itemized in fractions for the people and the “government”.  It’s all relative to household income, where the event is located, how much start up costs to attend and if you can afford it even if you don’t stand a chance at the prize fund. You don’t go to Vegas thinking it’s a bank transaction. It’s “entertainment” and can you afford it?

15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own.16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

The next few versus remind me of the motivations of attending a large tournament. For instance, the draw of the World open are those that offer attractive class prizes  that far outweigh the cost-benefit analysis of entering the event. Yes, the prize entry is more creating a higher risk, but you can stand a chance of breaking even if you finish with even a decent score.  You’d better get your game on and be well prepared.  But don’t lose sight of picking up rating points and merely gaining better OTB experience.  IF you lose, turn it around and make sure it’s a lesson and ask from your opponent the time to review at least parts of the game where they saw something you didn’t. You can still gain something, knowledge for the next battle.

20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

If you are like me and married find a balance in your desire to play in chess tournaments otherwise be prepared to deal with the perils of home life.  If you are not committed in a relationship and live for chess, let me know how that’s working for you. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Part 1: A self study in Sun TZu's Art of War and how it can relate to chess

An Introduction to a series


I have one of those Shambala Pocket Classic books I used to carry around at chess tournaments. I don’t know why I never really invested the time to read it thoroughly until now. I used to use it  to cover up my moves  on my score sheet and create an intimidating persona of “one who is ready for battle”.  A lot of good a fa├žade does when you still loose to an 8 year old with a more intimidating alligator pencil case.

I needed direction as I am in a sort of holding pattern with a busy schedule but looking to get myself back in the game and blogging again. I like putting ideas out in this forum because in the past, it’s always been a good resource for debates and varying POVs. I just hope I can sustain this and not lose momentum especially if others don’t contribute to the discussion.

There are 13 chapters. I will try to use these as guides for upcoming posts.  Today I will begin with the first one.

  1. Laying Plans/The Calculations 
  2. Waging War/The Challenge 
  3. Attack by Stratagem/The Plan of Attack 
  4. Tactical Dispositions/Positioning 
  5. Energy/Directing 
  6. Weak Points & Strong/Illusion and Reality 
  7. Maneuvering/Engaging The Force 
  8. Variation in Tactics/The Nine Variations 
  9. The Army on the March/Moving The Force 
  10. Terrain/Situational Positioning 
  11. The Nine Situations/Nine Terrains 
  12. The Attack by Fire/Fiery Attack 
  13. The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence 

Chapter 1: Laying plans/The Calculations: 

To elaborate more on the first chapter, it explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. Sun Tzu hypothesizes that by thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.
In tournaments, the grave matter for the state is losing games and rating points. To the serious competitive chess player, this is a high priority.

The five fundamental factors:

(1) The Way (also called Moral Law) relates to getting commitment and buy in from the people in the state to wage war. I relate to this concept of the state being people in my life and also my mental ambition to want to do this. If my wife and family are uncomfortable with my attendance at a tournament, I will be at a deficit going into the battle as some of my energy will be out of concern of my state. Likewise, if internally, I am not up for it, all bets are off. I’ve had those weekends and can see in retrospect that this is a critical factor.

 (2 &3) The seasons relates to the weather conditions of the battle field. The terrain is related in this case as well.  (This is also referenced as Heaven and Earth in some text).  Since most tournaments are held indoors, I see this more as a condition of the venue. Are there wedding receptions in an adjacent ballroom? Is there a car show the same weekend? Does the room have a squeaky fan in the ceiling?  All are contributing factors that may distract me and my opponent. Going into this knowing what’s at hand, I can be better prepared. One more comment on terrain, “home turf” versus opponent’s board and pieces can also make a difference, especially if the black knights have glowing red eyes.

(4) “Leadership (or Commander) is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness.” –Sun Tzu ( translated).
Humaneness is a virtue once held high for a ruling monarch. Having compassion and love for the people meant holding steadfast even more under greater opposition. I think it also boils to the quality traits of the player. Being ruthless to the enemy but protective of your own pieces does seem to remind me of “safety checking” before committing to a move.  

(5) Management could also be understood as organization, discipline, chain of command or logistics.  I believe in a well regulated militia.  This could also mean how well you can fortify yourself at the venue ( supplies) and getting proper rest.

The seven elements that determine victory:


(2) Which of the two generals has most ability? ( Rating is one indicator)

(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven  and Earth? ( Seasons, weather, terrain, conditions of the playing field)

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?  (Which player is more apt to follow their own training, preparation and regimen?)

(5) Which army is stronger? ( This could relate to rating but also endurance in a long weekend boiler maker tournament.

(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? ( Having a coach is one thing, but how well are you able to put your studies to practice?)

(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment? ( Playing at a consistent strength has been my downfall).

So there you have it, according to the first chapter, one can ascertain with almost certainty the outcome of a chess match after evaluating each player’s ability parsed through  the 5 fundamental factors and 7 elements.  Ratings alone, don’t always matter. The weaker opponent have be less distracted by the wedding receptions booming bass reverberating from the adjacent room while the stronger player may be going through a divorce.   You never know. 

From the list of the above 7 elements, my weakest are the first and the seventh, but I think they go together. My own experience, if my “governess” is not in favor of me and the rest of the troops going to war, I know I come in at a disadvantage. Consistency in my play ( number 7) is the other one that often brings defeat into my realm.

I’d like to hear from others on how they fair on self evaluation of the 5 fundamental factors and 7 elements.