Monday, April 28, 2008


After 17 years of tournament play, it’s still surprising how complex pawn endgames are. The movements of pawns and kings seem so elementary, yet they combine in such complex ways as to simulate emergence.

I think I first learned of emergence while watching Nova Science Now hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Basically simple things like birds and fish organize themselves into complex systems like flocks and schools with the emergence of phenomena that are more than the sum of the parts.

I suppose the entirety of chess is an example of emergence, including how chess players teach themselves and blog to try to pass on their wisdom to other chess players. In Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “Quarantine”, chess is described as a problem with only six simple operators, but whose solution is so complex and compelling as to represent an infectious hazard to all rational thought.

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