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Chess vs Battlefield tactics

This is a discussion on Chess vs Battlefield tactics within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Interesting question, what is the correlation between a good chess player and a good battlefield commander? The thing is in ...


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Old April 9th, 2011   #1
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Chess vs Battlefield tactics

Interesting question, what is the correlation between a good chess player and a good battlefield commander? The thing is in chess thinking ahead and protecting pieces is the key to winning but however on the battlefield I believe it is much different. There are many factors which contributes to a victory in war eg) troop morale, technology, weather and terrain etc... So it is still possible that an excellent chess player would not be able to command troops on the battlefield and it is possible that a brilliant tactician on the battlefield would lose to an experienced chess player.
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Old April 10th, 2011   #2
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Interesting question, what is the correlation between a good chess player and a good battlefield commander? The thing is in chess thinking ahead and protecting pieces is the key to winning but however on the battlefield I believe it is much different. There are many factors which contributes to a victory in war eg) troop morale, technology, weather and terrain etc... So it is still possible that an excellent chess player would not be able to command troops on the battlefield and it is possible that a brilliant tactician on the battlefield would lose to an experienced chess player.
both occupations require a lot of planning and lateral thinking and that's good for a battle field commander.

however, i think the comparison ends there. in games, no matter what, everything has a set number of factors (the same maps, the same terrain, even the same units) which people eventually can use and react to.

in a battlefield, the phrase "no plan survives contact with the enemy" is very true. carefully laden plans have been torn asunder when murphy's law decides to stick his head in, or when the enemy does something that you didn't anticipate.
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Old April 10th, 2011   #3
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chess is a rather simple game, thats why computers are so good at it
go should present a better comparison
although i agree with Shock, that games are always limited, they have their value
whether you call it game, training, simulation, experience, and so on
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Old April 15th, 2011   #4
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Annalyzation of the Relationship Between a Chess Player and a Military Commander

I will start out by saying that there is no game that can perfectly simulate a true battlefield but they do offer some depth and insight into the world of a military commander. I'd think most of you would agree with me on that statement due to the fact that each has factors that are diffeent but relative to one another.

A good chess player knows his pieces like the back of his hand. At any time, he'll know what a particular piece is capable of accomplishing as well as its drawbacks. Likewise a good military commander knows his troops. He knows how they work, how they react, how they think, how they percieve things, and most of all how they feel. Technology can come into play here as well. A good commander will know everything about his tanks/vehicles and their effectivity just as a good chess player will know that the knight moves in an L pattern that could be very useful in certain situations. Each commander must know different things about his units but it is all relative because the information is compiled and put to use in the same, or "relatively similar", manner.

When it comes to annalyzation of the enemy, again both are similar. The game of chess is limited to what pieces the player has at his disposal, similar to they way a military commander is limited to his technology he has on hand. A good chess player and a good commander both will annalyze his enemy based on what he sees and what he knows. In both cases the competitiors must stay within a set boundry of rules. The set of rules is obvious for the chess player. He knows exactly what the other player can and cannot do and then use that information to further his cause. Likewise military commanders in a battle is also limited by a rule set. However some will disagree that real life is bound by any rules, I must remind you that all armies everywhere are knowingly or unknowingly bound by the laws of physics, and in some cases by the laws of the country or organization that they represent. A good commander will have a grasp on these rules and will be able to put that information and whatever else he has found out about his enemy (tech... trends... military lines... family background...ect...) to use to advance his cause. In each "game" the rules and limitations, technology and unit use, as well as background information and other intel are different but relative and can be used to plan strategies and tactics to result in ultimate victory.

All in all they, both the game of chess and real combat, are very similar in their own respective and relative way. However to the question about changing the places of the commander and the chess player, I say that provided that they learn their new units thuroughly and adjust to the new rule set and learn to look for the things specific to that "game" the transition could be seemless. The ground work for strategic thinking would have already been laid and developed in both cases; the only difference is the "game" itself.
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Old April 16th, 2011   #5
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I think you make it sound to easy to know everything about you and your enemy.

One rarely knows enough about an enemy and more than not one also doesn't know all the things you said about one's own units.

Real world combat is much too complicated for this. Combat is fluid whereas chess is rather static compared to this.

There are so many thinks besides force composition and movement which influence the outcome of a battle that one cannot compare chess with the battlefield in a serious way.

IMO the only thing they have in common is that both the chess player and the commander try to think ahead. And that's were it ends.
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Old April 16th, 2011   #6
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I am NOT saying that they are the same. I'm saying that they are relatively similar in nature.

Whether they know enough about their enemy or not, that doesn't change their similarity. The ability to think and process each situation is essential in both scenarios.

You're right in saying that there are a lot of factors that apply in live combat, but you must realize that they are not unlimited. There is only so much one can do in our world, just like there are certain rules you must follow on the chess board. You're also right in saying that there are many other things besides force composition and movement that affect the outcome of the battle, however in either case it is similar. In chess, the pieces do not think for themselves, if they did it would then need to be treated and controlled as such by the player. The pieces do not think for themselves and so that is not an issue for the player. In war, the soldiers think for themselves; if they didn't the commander would just move them around like in a game of chess with no further thought into the matter. But sinse they do think, the commander must take that into consideration when commanding his forces in the battle field situation. Both are very similar in this regard, however one is more complex and deep.

My point remains the same. The game of Chess and live warfare are not the same, but relatively similar in their own regards. I also think it is immature to dumb down the possible similarities between the two down to just one aspect ("think ahead"), there are "many other factors" you must take into consideration, sir.
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Old April 17th, 2011   #7
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I also think it is immature to dumb down the possible similarities between the two down to just one aspect ("think ahead"), there are "many other factors" you must take into consideration, sir.
Waylander's one of the most mature posters we've got on the forums. He's also has real life military service. So the next time someone disagrees with you, how about you don't resort to "dumbing down" the argument with judgements on other posters and focus on the discussion.
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Old April 17th, 2011   #8
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Waylander's one of the most mature posters we've got on the forums. He's also has real life military service. So the next time someone disagrees with you, how about you don't resort to "dumbing down" the argument with judgements on other posters and focus on the discussion.
I'm sorry for the crack at Waylander. He does raise some very valid points.

And Waylander, thank you for your service. It is greatly appreciated.
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Old April 17th, 2011   #9
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No harm done.

The thing is that Chess is highly predictable, that's why we can build really good chess computers since decades.

Sure in combat you also have standard solutions for standard problems. But the thing is that there are myriads of variations and unpredicted situations which occure.

If I would compare it to something in the civilian world it's program management. You have a certain critical path/objective(s), a certain ammount of resources (workforce, money, time, equipment) it has a huge social component and it is dependent on other factions.
During the way on the critical path a lot of predicted and unpredicted things happen with which the program management has to deal using a certain set of program management tools but also by being inventive and relying on ones gut.

A good and experienced big program manager is not necessarily going to be a good chess player but if he has this certain warrior thing in him he most certainly would also make for a good higher echelon commander.
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Old April 21st, 2011   #10
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No matter how you play it out chess really has little to nothing to do with good military strategy. A good strategist is not necessarily a good military strategist. In chess there is nothing but pride on the line, the opponents movements are plainly shown before you, and unless in a timed game you have as much time to think about it as you want. Now granted there is strategy, the opponent moves and you must make a counter move with the aim of defeating them. So they aren't totally unrelated, but I believe them to be of little correlation
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Old September 2nd, 2011   #11
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No matter how you play it out chess really has little to nothing to do with good military strategy. A good strategist is not necessarily a good military strategist. In chess there is nothing but pride on the line, the opponents movements are plainly shown before you, and unless in a timed game you have as much time to think about it as you want. Now granted there is strategy, the opponent moves and you must make a counter move with the aim of defeating them. So they aren't totally unrelated, but I believe them to be of little correlation
I play chess and have served in the USMC; I agree that as far as thinkng ahead, chess is good training, but that is where it ends.

I have played Avalon Hill type wargames where you must think ahead but also added to that are more specific to combat type planning and execeution.

And I agree that no plan survives the first shot. Games are good for getting your mindset, nothing further.
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Old November 25th, 2011   #12
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just found this great forum so first post

chess can teach you a lot
time space power ect but you have to adapt them into real life scenarios
and you have to remember it was more relevant in times gone by than now

a few examples
the 4 middle squares of the board = the high ground if you imagine the chess board as a hill
controlling them with key troops means the troops can get anywhere on the board faster or attack in all directions

you seek to control more of the space of a chess board = controlling more land so more options

it teaches you about placement of your troops and weapons for best effect example would be a knight in a corner square it would only have access to 2 squares
along the sides it would have access to 4 squares
in the middle 8

once you grasp a lot of the tactics and strategy then you can start to apply them to real life scenarios you just have to remember that every rule has a exception

as for the good chess player and a good battlefield commander?

well a good battlefield commander who learns the principles of chess it cant do him any harm

but i would never put a grand master in charge of troops they are a bit crazy in the head as a rule lol
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Old April 17th, 2012   #13
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Planning. Otherwise, no correlation.
Read Clausewitz.
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Old April 18th, 2012   #14
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just found this great forum so first post

chess can teach you a lot
time space power ect but you have to adapt them into real life scenarios
and you have to remember it was more relevant in times gone by than now

a few examples
the 4 middle squares of the board = the high ground if you imagine the chess board as a hill
controlling them with key troops means the troops can get anywhere on the board faster or attack in all directions

you seek to control more of the space of a chess board = controlling more land so more options

it teaches you about placement of your troops and weapons for best effect example would be a knight in a corner square it would only have access to 2 squares
along the sides it would have access to 4 squares
in the middle 8

once you grasp a lot of the tactics and strategy then you can start to apply them to real life scenarios you just have to remember that every rule has a exception

as for the good chess player and a good battlefield commander?

well a good battlefield commander who learns the principles of chess it cant do him any harm

but i would never put a grand master in charge of troops they are a bit crazy in the head as a rule lol
These are the 10 principles of war commonly used by the armed forces of UK and Commonwealth countries such as Australia these are principles not rules.

Selection and Maintenance of the Aim

A single, unambiguous aim is the keystone of successful military operations. Selection and maintenance of the aim is regarded as the master principle of war.

Maintenance of Morale

Morale is a positive state of mind derived from inspired political and military leadership, a shared sense of purpose and values, well-being, perceptions of worth and group cohesion.

Offensive Action

Offensive action is the practical way in which a commander seeks to gain advantage, sustain momentum and seize the initiative.

Security

Security is the provision and maintenance of an operating environment that affords the necessary freedom of action, when and where required, to achieve objectives.

Surprise

Surprise is the consequence of shock and confusion induced by the deliberate or incidental introduction of the unexpected.

Concentration of Force

Concentration of force involves the decisive, synchronized application of superior fighting power (conceptual, physical, and moral) to realize intended effects, when and where required.

Economy of Effort

Economy of effort is the judicious exploitation of manpower, materiel and time in relation to the achievement of objectives.

Flexibility

Flexibility – the ability to change readily to meet new circumstances – comprises agility, responsiveness, resilience, acuity and adaptability.

Cooperation

Cooperation entails the incorporation of teamwork and a sharing of dangers, burdens, risks and opportunities in every aspect of warfare.

Sustainability

To sustain a force is to generate the means by which its fighting power and freedom of action are maintained.

These principles hand in hand with sound doctrine can not be applied by one person thats why great commanders have around them even greater HQ staff, on the surface there seems to be alot in common between the two but that is where the two part company.
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Old May 3rd, 2012   #15
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both occupations require a lot of planning and lateral thinking and that's good for a battle field commander.

however, i think the comparison ends there. in games, no matter what, everything has a set number of factors (the same maps, the same terrain, even the same units) which people eventually can use and react to.

in a battlefield, the phrase "no plan survives contact with the enemy" is very true. carefully laden plans have been torn asunder when murphy's law decides to stick his head in, or when the enemy does something that you didn't anticipate.
Shock is correct in this matter, While chess can provide good intellectual preparation for military tactics, it is only a game that has all factors predetermined. In actual combat anything can happen, and you must adapt instantaneously or be destroyed in just the same amount of time. Napoleon Bonaparte provides a good example. It is recorded that he was an excellent chess player and his military brilliance does not need to be explained to anyone who knows history. However, in chess he could not be fooled, in actual battle, he was fooled ( Aspern-Essling, Jena-Austerdat, Waterloo)
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