Monday, June 04, 2007


(no, this isn't a post about the abominable moby.)
I've written about the differences between chess and another boardgame called othello or reversi elsewhere, attempting to appropriate the thought of Deleuze and Guattari in the process. But I thought I'd lay out a little more accurately what they have to say about how chess compares to go, the 4,000 year old Chinese game of supreme complexity and subtlety, as I've recently begun to play and enjoy it. Don't worry, I'm not going to delve into the history, or rules, or quasi-mystical, universalising descriptions of the game (which are
nonetheless intriguing). What follows is a summary of Deleuze and Guattari's discussion of this from A Thousand Plateaux (pp 389-90).
Let's start with chess. Chess is a game that involves a number of pieces that are coded with different abilities and therefore functions. These codes are invariable, that is, they do not change. Obviously, this has many profound consequences for the game and how it operates. The effect this has on the space of the chess board is that it becomes striated, it becomes coded according to the pieces that are spread across it and movement is generally in one direction, ie. towards one's opponent's king.
On the other hand, go pieces are utterly uncoded (aside from being black or white). They only have significance through their relationships with other pieces; a go piece has very little structured being. The space of a go board is smooth because the go pieces are in relationship with each other and so the space itself becomes almost entirely secondary to the action that occurs upon it (this is also because go pieces can be placed at almost any point on the board). (Incidentally, the sentence where D+G say that chess codes and decodes space, whereas go territorialises and deterritorialises is saying something really important about de/territorialisation.)
So chess is a statist game, whereas go is much more one for the anarchist (despite its popularity with ancient Chinese rulers).
Strikes me that this post would be dead boring for someone who has never played go or read Delueze and Guattari. Fuck it.
If you want excellent information about go, check out this link. If you want a brilliantly lucid brief intro to the rules of go, check out this link, which contains a chapter from a text called Way to Go, by Karl Baker from the American Go Association.
An interesting blog post? I'd buy that for a dollar!
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari (2004) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Part Two, Continuum: London.
now playing: monty python - the brian song

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At 2:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds better than sudoku, which is nothing more than an exercise in latin squares. if no-one has played sudoku before, it's the same as a join-the-dots puzzle and as enjoyable as an obessive compulsion to fold socks, or to spout ('70s, '80s, or '90s) pop culture references lol

At 4:41 pm, Blogger Dreck said...

Sudoku is like trying to pass the biggest, hardest, meanest stool in all existence, only much less fun.
Go is subtle, nice and profound; just like my fist in your smiley face.
As Leigh would say, there is no emoticon to express what I'm feeling right now.
Hope you're well, Jock! x

At 4:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one wouldn't be able to govern very well if you couldn't play chess like an anarchist.

phase transitions.

At 7:16 pm, Blogger Dreck said...

I completely disagree, although the moot point is that chess and go, as described by Deleuze and Guattari, are analogies and only have a rough fit with their subject matter. Their descriptions are representative and their discussion here serves to represent the operations of war machines and furnish examples of smooth and striated space. On the topic of space, for example, space is never entirely smooth or entirely striated and there are elements within chess that lead to smooth space and sometimes there are elements within go that create striated space. The point is that the war machine changes space. Imagine a go board and a chess board meeting each other and duking it out! The go board would completely subvert the chess board's striated space, which could have little foothold on a go smooth space. Go is a war machine.
But to return to your point, chess is much more of a statist game than go. Chess has hierarchies, fixed modes of operations for its pieces and therefore a comparatively limited set of structures and strategies for games to follow.
Compare this to go which, apparently, has more combinations of games possible than there are atoms in the universe (not sure I believe that, but the point remains that there is an immense open-endedness to go). Further, go pieces have the same inherent value as each other, each piece's value only has meaning according to its relationship with other pieces. How much more anarchist can you get?
I'm not sure I could take seriously someone who thought that they would be a good 'governor' by extrapolating the lessons they learn from 'playing chess as an anarchist'. I would've thought that kind of thinking would be anathema to most anarchists...
The point I'm trying to make in my post is that the way go operates seems to be more in line with the attitude of anarchistic and rhizomatic type thinking/relating than chess.

At 8:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure you're doing/teaching the right course?

*glosses over Dreck's programmatic/mechanistic language of operations et. al.*

The point is that I'm not sure if you'd completely disagree when you disgree or say that you 'completely disagree'.

For the point of assertion—via fluffy visual thoughts and no grasp of anarchism readings—is that war is basically a extreme, chaotic system of social complexity, of which the underlying dynamics of emergence a la Steven Johnson still informs any body politic of free agents (whether anarchist or otherwise).

It is those underlying dynamics of emergence and synthesis that would lend force to two 'shapes' (or battles on the go board) to 'join up' into one mass. And the expert go player's ability to foresee what parts (read: social/political/env/tech movements) may join up together (or break away from one another), that allows anyone needing to formulate a strategy for amassing energy for change, to come in at just the right time.

It's a bit like how Don Watson compares politics and storytelling in his Recollections of a Bleeding Heart and references Giambattista Vico while doing it, then goes on to compare the art of anything as like how a cellist can be magical as a performer.

Though of course, if I perceive correctly, maybe you're just referring to the anarchistic mindset as opposed to how the anarchist is to achieve anarchy or participate in political action or civil disobedience or, in the case of governance, practice counter-insurgency a la David Kilcullen.

At 8:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. go is anarchic

2. cf. social complexity systems theory and dynamics of crowds vs mobs

3. pt abt emperors needing to play go well = use of go as an interface ala media text, to understand social complexity dynamics

4. even if one clears the slate to form an anarchist community, the phenomena of emergence will still create forms of hierarchical structures, unless the social complexity of the community is to remain a very simple and small one. cf. formation of nation-states, which is a relatively modern phenomenon. (cf. Harold Innis' Empire and Communication)

5. response to authority or hierarchical structures is not to be equated with the tenor of relations with authority.

6. Resolve #5 via 'pantheism filters'.

At 8:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 11:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

billygoat dreck, is there a troll on the bridge? to the other anonymous, Journal of Australian Studies:
After meeting Keating, however, and seeing the `sadness' and `melancholy' in his `famous brown eyes', Watson says he `liked him and knew at once that I wanted the job'. Watson remained Keating's speech writer until the election
firstly, despite watson's political satires (and my ignorance), he needs to be more critical of the modern nation-state.
secondly, was it money that motivated watson to work for keating? as you probably know, keating, during his time in office, was not only homophobic, e.g., "two men and a dog don't make a family," but also racially slurred aborigines and (surprise!) backflipped on their rights. Furthermore, he was friends with president suharto when indonesia occupied (at least 100,000 were killed) east timor.
as for (liuetenant-colonel) david kilcullen, he works for the same government that is currently invading iraq under the pretext of having weapons of mass destruction. possibly the above argument is full of naughty fallacies (e.g. ad hominem). islamic extremism? it sounds more vile than state-sponsored terrorism, i.e., the bush administration. i guess that you do not read widely, so i suggest that you steer clear of (for a while) the corporate media (e.g. the mockery), books written by historical revisionists(e.g. keith windshuttle), and other fiction such as mills & boon.
1) [keating] backflipped on their rights.
2) he [keating] was friends with president suharto.


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