Charlie's Blog: Checkers Is Better Than Chess


Checkers Is Better Than Chess

...where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers.

Chess is a complex game. Checkers is a simple game. I love checkers. I hate chess. I think checkers is better than chess.

Chess players like to throw shade on checkers, and this is understandable. I do not like tic-tac-toe because it is an easy game that ends in a draw for everyone over the age of seven. But checkers is not tic-tac-toe. You don't see old men playing tic-tac-toe down at the general store. Checkers is a satisfying strategy game and deserving of respect.

The difference between checkers and chess is the same as the difference between boxing and kung fu. Boxing is simple compared to kung fu. But this doesn't mean that boxing is easy or that kung fu is superior because of its complexity. The reality is that simplicity is superior to complexity. If you've ever watched a boxer clobber a martial artist, you will understand the superiority of simplicity. The martial artist attempts to learn many complex moves while the boxer learns a few simple moves that he hones to physical perfection.

With chess, the same principle applies that is at work in martial arts. The chess player believes in his intellectual superiority because he knows and memorizes more moves than his opponent. The checkers player learns not to make mistakes. That is a key difference between the two games.

When a chess player looks at his board, he has to imagine many moves ahead while also anticipating the moves of his opponent. When a checkers player looks at his board, he analyzes to make sure he makes no mistakes. This relentless dedication to analysis leads him to pound away at his opponent. There is no sudden death in checkers like in chess with its checkmate.

After my traumatic brain injury, I was told that games were a good way to rehabilitate the cognitive deficits sustained from my injuries. I picked up a Rubik's Cube to try and solve until it hit me that I could never solve the thing before my accident. The same thing applied to chess. I was always horrible at chess. So, I turned to checkers. I find checkers to be a difficult game as well, but I am better at checkers than I am at chess. I have also taken to other simpler games. I like Connect 4. I like word searches, but I hate crossword puzzles. I can do sudoku on the easy levels but give up on the hard levels. As for the Rubik's Cube, I decided that I prefer doing the little golf tee game that they have at Cracker Barrel.

I have wondered why I prefer these simpler games to the more complicated games, and it comes down to one simple factor. These simpler games demand attention to not making mistakes or overlooking things. This is precisely the cognitive issue that I struggle with. I once tried to make coffee except I forgot to put water in the empty pot. I was cooking an empty pot on the stove. I had everything else for the coffee except the most fundamental ingredient which is the water.

These things didn't happen to me before my accident. Now, they happen more often than I care to admit. For someone with my condition, complexity can only create disaster. Performing amazing feats means nothing when you make mistakes. The most complex calculus fails when you make a simple mistake in your arithmetic.

With chess, there are no mistakes. The complexity of the game gives you many options to overcome your errors. With checkers, mistakes are catastrophic. Each game of checkers demands that you hone your game to perfection. In this, you find that the greatest skill is not being a genius but not making mistakes. The most important thing in life itself is not winning but not losing. Checkers teaches you this important lesson. This is why checkers is better than chess.

The fundamental flaw in all my simple games is they tend to become boring and repetitive like that game of tic-tac-toe I mentioned. There comes a moment when the repetition makes you stop paying attention. That is when you make your mistake and lose. Since this is my problem, I force myself to play the simple games over and over again. Computers have never played a perfect game of chess, but they have solved the game of checkers. This might make checkers seem like a deficient game when compared to chess, but it only highlights my point. You win at checkers by approaching perfection. You win at chess by being more creative in your play.

Checkers is better than chess. Those who disagree believe that complexity is superior to simplicity. I know better. And this also leads to one of my favorite dictums. It is better to win at checkers than to lose at chess.

UPDATE: People who know me learn that I am a fan of Columbo. I recently watched an episode called The Most Dangerous Match which has the game of chess as its theme. When the scene cuts to Columbo, he is playing a game of checkers with his veterinarian. I always thought that Columbo was a checkers player, and that episode confirmed it. Unfortunately, the episode did not pit a genius chess player against Columbo the checkers player because the murderous grandmaster was mentally unstable. Columbo has had better challenges from others.

Columbo embodies my checkers vs. chess idea. His suspects are always brilliant and arrogant. Columbo is always humble and basic.