Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess IV

[World Championship tie-in: your opponent chucks his/her queen in.  You win the game.  Is that lucky?]

It was not terribly cool, but another thing that I did when I was injured was to take up backgammon. There are lots of things I like about backgammon: the aesthetic appeal of the board, the sound of the dice and the retro feel of the game.

But there were, I think, deeper reasons for being drawn to the game. With many backgammon moves, the dice do the thinking for me. Sometimes, of course the various options present a challenging decision. But often choice is limited because there is obviously a right decision that has been determined by the way the dice landed. There is certainly an element of skill, but you devolve the greater part of the game to luck. In that sense, backgammon is the opposite of chess, where the range of options is vastly more sophisticated and the role of chance negligible.

Fifteen years ago I would have laughed at the idea that I would ever derive much pleasure from a game where the result was heavily influenced by the random throw of the dice. But now, handing over such a degree of control to pure chance suits me perfectly. Why? Because I usually play backgammon after dinner, winding down after work. I have made enough difficult decisions for one day and I'm mostly happy for chance to make the remaining ones on my behalf. Backgammon fits the bill: you can enjoy a measure of competition and fun without having to think too much.

... to do with chess Index


Jonathan B said...

I'm not at all convinced about Ed Smith's view of luck in chess. Something I'll come back to next week.

ejh said...

Ed Smith was bloody lucky he ever got a game for England.

Jack Rudd said...

I play a lot of board games, and one of the things I've noticed is that the ones I play (other than chess) have a clear but not overwhelming luck element: a good strategy will usually beat a bad strategy in Agricola, Through The Ages: A Story Of Civilization, Dominion or Twilight Struggle (I pick these games because they're my favourites), but two closely-matched strategies will often have a result that ultimately comes down to a lucky die roll or card draw.