Saturday, 2 May 2009

What chess isn't like

"Football is like chess" says Sir Alex Ferguson in a recent interview. "Boxing is like chess with violence", "croquet is like chess on grass" etc etc
Modern media is full of references to things that are like chess, even if they aren't really. But I've found a wonderful quote about what chess isn't like, although most chess players would regard the subject matter closer to chess than most other activities.

Mathematics is a field in which one's blunders tend to show very clearly and can be corrected or erased with a stroke of a pencil. It is a field which has often been compared with chess, but differs from the latter in that it is only one's best moments that count and not one's worst. A single inattention may lose a chess game, whereas a single successful approach to a problem, among many which have been relegated to the wastebasket, will make a mathematician's reputation - Norbert Wiener


Malcolm said...

I hadn't seen that one before. Since Wiener focuses on the happy side of maths and the slightly dismal side of chess, here's the counterpoint from another mathematician (although possibly more well known for his chess accomplishments). I'm recollecting this, as I don't have any books nearby to confirm it:

"Mathematics and chess differ. In mathematics you have to right. In chess you only have to be more right than your opponent." -- John Nunn.

Brian Jones said...

Nice quote. We missed you in Parramatta this year Malcolm. I'm sure we would have seen you if you had been in Sydney! Good luck!

Denis jessop said...

The affinity between chess and mathematics and music, too, has in my mind nothing to do with the similarity of the three pursuits - it refers to the fact that persons who are good at one are also good at the other(s). The reason why that is so is not to be found in attempting to prove that they are the same. Thus Norbert is shooting at phantoms.

By the way cycling is chess on wheels: per Michael Rogers; Dean Woods :-)