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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nice chess article - The objective and the subjective of it all

Chess news and chess trivia blog (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi Everybody,

How many times have you said your opponent's win was unfair? You had all the loopholes plugged, you had his King in big trouble, his pieces all out of communication with each other yet, he won. Not fair. Is it fair to make that statement? Does chess compare to science? Is chess not a game of human emotion where justice and fairness can take on different meanings?

We found a fascinating article on the answers to these questions and more at titled 'The Eternal Argument' by Arne Moll.

It goes:

"Chess, of course, is an abstract game. Its ultimate, objective truth is probably more mathematical than intuitive. Still, the game has so many subjective sides that it’s almost impossible not to have arguments about the relative aspects of chess, such as the value of moves, variations and even rules. Which is just great.

In a recent blog post on ScienceBlogs, evolutionist David Sloan Wilson compares creationists who “protest that it is unfair for them to be ignored” to a chess player who “insists on continuing after his king has been taken.” After all, according to Sloan Wilson, science, like chess, is a “contest situation”:

The idea that it is unfair to be declared a loser and to be made to retire from the field profoundly misunderstands the nature of fairness in all contest situations. (…) In the ideal scientific contest, alternative hypotheses make different predictions that can be tested with empirical observations. When the predictions of a hypothesis are not confirmed, it is declared a loser and is made to retire from the field. New hypotheses are always welcome to enter the competition, including modified versions of rejected hypotheses, but science without losers would be as pointless as chess without checkmate and basketball without the final buzzer.

First off, I wholeheartedly agree with the above reasoning in principle: a discussion can actually – despite possible good intentions – be lost on pretty objective grounds. It’s possible to rule out a perspective even though that perspective may be, in the eye of the beholder, noble or even religious dogma. Even so, I couldn’t help thinking of the numerous times I’ve heard chess players (including myself) proclaim a win (usually by the opponent) to be totally “unfair”.

I’ve always felt that declaring a win to be unfair is a bit like declaring that losing itself can be unfair. The truth is, of course, that chess players -much like creationists – continuously lose despite good intentions. In fact, they often lose despite superior play! Imagine the last time you threw away a beautifully played game by one silly inaccuracy and you know what I’m talking about."

If you love chess and it warms your soul, you would love to read further. Enjoy.

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