Go and war

In a previous column, I implied that chess was a more warlike game than go. However, there have been many comparisons between go strategy and strategy used in war, or even in guerrilla warfare.

In the 1960s, the head of a go club in Yugoslavia was trying to obtain the same government support for his club as chess clubs enjoyed. He was rebuffed until he pointed out that go was a more democratic game than chess, with its feudal structure. He told government officials that in go, all the pieces were of equal value and could be thought of as "partisans" in a revolutionary struggle. Using this argument, his club quickly received the funding requested.

More than 25 years ago, The Protracted Game, written by Scott Boorman and published by Oxford University Press, created a bit of a sensation. Boorman's thesis was that Mao Zedong's takeover of China was based on the tactics and strategy of go.

The great military classic in China is Sanshiliu Ji (The Thirty-Six Stratagems). The author and the date of this work is unknown, but historical records indicate that it must have been written before A.D. 500. Some examples of the stratagems in this tract are:

* Watch the fire from the opposite shore!

* Lure the tiger out of the mountain!

* Close the door to capture the thief!

* Remove the ladder after the enemy goes upstairs!

* Sometimes retreat is the best option!

* Feint to the east to attack the west!

In 1990, one of China's top players, Ma Xiaochun, wrote a book titled Sanshiliu Ji Yu Weiqi. An English translation was published in the United States in 1996 by Yutopian Enterprises as The Thirty-Six Stratagems Applied to Go. In this book, Ma gives examples from professional games for each of these stratagems. His examples may be difficult for a novice to understand, but I will give a simple position of how the stratagem "Feint to the east to attack the west!" can be used.

Diagram 1 Diagram 2

By Richard Bozulich

By Rob van Zeijst