1112: Think Logically

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Think Logically
I've developed a more logical set of rules but the people on the chess community have a bunch of stupid emotional biases and won't reply to my posts.
Title text: I've developed a more logical set of rules but the people on the chess community have a bunch of stupid emotional biases and won't reply to my posts.


Chess is a very old board game in which two players take turns moving one of their 16 pieces to try and checkmate the other player's king (one of the pieces). When one player is in a position to capture his or her opponent's king on their next move, and the opponent has no legal move available to avoid such capture, the opponent is said to be in "checkmate". This is considered to be the end of the game with a win for the first player; though chess etiquette suggests that a player facing inevitable checkmate ought to forfeit at that point.

The game, with origins around the 6th century, and with the modern rules being essentially set in the late 15th century, has a significant amount of history. The rules and traditions are well established. The knight is a piece that can only move in an L-shaped pattern (two squares in one direction, and one square perpendicular), but compensates by being able to jump over other pieces.

The comic highlights two mistakes players often make in chess: complete fixation on the king at the cost of their other pieces, and failure to take advantage of the knights movement patterns. At the same time this is a jab at the oversimplification people sometimes show when confronted with a topic they are not familiar with. Previously this was depicted in 675: Revolutionary and 793: Physicists. See also the Dunning–Kruger effect. The units in chess are widely agreed to be well-balanced, and Cueball's criticism of the knight shows an obvious lack of knowledge of the knight's potential.

Given the long history of chess, a significant amount of writing and research has been dedicated to the game and its strategies. This is inadvertently mocked by Cueball who naively suggests that it would be trivial to make a list of all situations in which a piece would move backwards (called a "retreat" in chess). Such a list, at least a partial list, certainly exists, as do lists of numerous other Chess moves and situations.

Cueball's friend proceeds to demonstrate Cueball's lack of knowledge by beating him in four moves, which typically would only occur when a very experienced player plays a novice. The checkmate depicted is likely the Scholar's Mate and is the second shortest checkmate in Chess. Scholar's Mate is easily parried by moving the Knight to f6, the piece considered weak by Cueball.

Cueball, instead of admitting he underestimated the game, instead believes the failure to be on the part of the game itself. The title text indicates that Cueball attempted to suggest revisions to the rules of chess. Given that Cueball has no experience as a chess player, it is likely that many of the changes are illogical or ridiculous. In the face of hundreds of years of history, it is not surprising that the chess community is ignoring them. The chess community's ties to the traditions of the game and their refusal to accept Cueball's suggestions are written off by Cueball as "emotional bias" suggesting that his changes are logical, but that the community is letting their emotions cloud their rational decision making abilities.

The comic may also be a jab at competitive online games whose fans call for "buffs" (power additions) and "nerfs" (power reductions) to characters that they believe to be underpowered or overpowered, often with inadequate knowledge of those characters. (On the other hand, online games and multiplayer computer games in general does sometime contain unbalancies, as they don't have the centuries of balancing after themselves as the chess does.)


[Man wearing a hat is sitting down at a computer. Cueball is standing behind him.]
Cueball: Why'd you move your knight away?
[Man wearing hat turns around and rests his arm on his chair.]
Cueball: Just think logically. The goal is checkmate, so you should always move pieces toward the other player's king.
[Closeup of Cueball.]
Cueball: I guess occasionally you need to move backward, but it'd be trivial to make a list of those circumstances and -
[Man wearing hat is leaning back in chair facing Cueball.]
Man: Have you ever played chess?
Cueball: Not much, but -
Man: Wanna?
Cueball: Uh, ok.
[Man and Cueball playing chess.]
Man: *Move*
Cueball: *Move*
Man: *Move*
Cueball: *Move*
Man: *Move*
Cueball: *Move*
Man: *Move* Checkmate.
[Cueball standing and staring at the chess board.]
[Man returns to his computer.]
Cueball: This game isn't very well-designed. For starters, knights are too weak...
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Cueball is clearly a chess novice as demonstrated by the comic (at the very least he knows what the goal of the game is and how the pieces move), however he lacks higher knowledge of the game (which is gained through education) and is very inexperienced (experience is obviously gained by playing the game regularly). Given his non-expert position he attempts to deliver well-meaning advice as best he can (in this case through "thinking logically"), however the player receiving the advise (a clearly more knowledgeable and experienced player) immediately realises how utterly useless that advise is. Cueball approached the situation by "thinking logically", but his logic was flawed, possibly due to his lack of knowledge. Just because the goal of chess is to deliver checkmate does not necessarily mean that every move must be pushing a piece closer to the opponent's king. The best thing to do would be to first research and study the abundance of chess knowledge out there, practice it and then one can come up with tactics and strategies for every possible position (even if those aren't perfect). Chess is so complex that even if we wished to arrive at the absolute logical move for every position, this would be beyond us most of the time, it is just too complex. Not even computers know the perfect move for every position, although they do come up with great moves through the use of complex algorithms. Note: I thought the explanation given in the "Explanation" section above had some merit (it also explains some things I didn't include), and that is why I did not modify it and instead chose to provide mine here. Let me know what you thought, together we can explain everything.--DelendaEst (talk) 13:01, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Feel free to add your explanation to the actual page if you think it's lacking in information. Wikis are meritocracies, and anyone is welcome to voice their opinions. Davidy22 (talk) 13:21, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
A good explanation. My takeaway was more about Dunning Kruger, and chess just happened to be a convenient backdrop. The expert proceeds to pwn the know-it-all... and even having been pwned, the braggart can't find the lesson in the defeat. But as with Randall's work, YMMV. (Or to paraphrase Euell Gibbons: "ever analyze an xkcd? Many interpretations are possible.") -- IronyChef (talk) 14:52, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
I think your explanation is the best one, you managed to find the essence of the situation. I can very easily see what you explained happening in the comic.--DelendaEst (talk) 00:18, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Just a quick point on the explanation. Chess is not a perfectly balanced game due to the first move advantage enjoyed by white. This advantage is very small, however, and the pieces themselves are well balanced. Heyart (talk) 13:53, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Please note that experts are not in universal agreement about the supposed first move advantage held by white, and it's unwise to state it in such absolute terms as "Chess is not a perfectly balanced game" 03:54, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

I found Cueball's demeanor in this comic to be very remeniscent of Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory in that he thinks he knows better than everyone even though chess has been around forever. Also, there was a specific episode of TBBT in which Cooper invents three-player chess including several new pieces. Cooper does not, however, do so considering the traditional rules of chess to be flawed (other than not allowed a third player). The characters do consider chess to be too easy, however, and often play Star Trek's three-dimensional chess. TheHYPO (talk) 16:27, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I see this comic, as so many comics before it, to be a description of nerd-dominance. The author seeks to entice the reader into inquiring about his own ill-thought out rules for chess. Do not inquire.

Is the first character really wearing a "hat"? To me, it looks like a headband, similar to the one worn by Spock in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This would give another meaning to "Think logically"... -- 11:27, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Nope, not a headband -- there's hair below the brim but not above it. What you are seeing is a subtle clue that the chess expert is a Canadian, in that he is wearing what we call a toque, known in America as a stocking cap. https://www.google.ca/search?q=toque&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=JNV&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=MaFhUKmkEObRyAH9xoCACg&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=960&bih=544 Noni Mausa (talk) 12:19, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Your point about the hair is interesting; however, a Vulcan is much better at explaining logic than any earthling... Canadians included!
-- 13:52, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
I don't want to make a huge generalization, but in America they're known as beanies, stocking caps extend out from the head and end with pointed tips (or those silly poof balls). lcarsos (talk) 17:02, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

Another point I want to bring up is that it's generally not really a good idea to share your own strategy with your opponents (or potential opponents). I once participated in a Chess tournament, and before it began I encountered this guy who was bragging about his strategy, how he likes to move only his pawns at the beginning and form a sort of wall into which his opponents will invariably run their pieces and, in his words, "kill themselves." Of course, it just so happened that the first game I played in was against this same guy. And so I knew what he was trying to do, and I ended up destroying him. Granted, Cueball's "strategy" in this comic has very little to do with actual established Chess practices, but it's a similar idea. Erenan (talk) 18:53, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

As an avid chess player, I'd have to agree that we should keep our strategy to ourselves (unless we are planning to use deception). Also, I'd like to point out that your opponent's strategy to only move pawns in the opening is a very poor choice (unless the opening in question is a variation by Alekhine, which is considered to be sound). In the opening we are advised to mainly move pieces and only a few pawns and there are very good reasons for this, which I cannot go into here. Moreover, he plans to build a pawn wall for your pieces to destroy themselves? Typical novice threats, doesn't he realise you have an equally matched army and that you wouldn't purposefully endanger your pieces with his pawn wall? (Your pawns can neutralise his). His reasoning is laughable. If you'd like to learn lots about chess in a fun and painless way, I recommend the Chessmaster game. Anyway, good on you for beating that opponent!--DelendaEst (talk) 12:27, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes, indeed, he was clearly very inexperienced, and while I'm not exactly a seasoned expert, I did spend the weeks leading up to this tournament studying openings and playing Chessmaster (and other Chess games on my mobile phone while not at my computer), and to my surprise I ended up in second place. Of course, this wasn't an official tournament, but rather one organized by the business and economics club at the community college in the area. So really I prefer to attribute my ultimate loss not to my lack of skill but to being more tired than my final opponent (final game was played at Denny's around midnight). More to the point, I was going to say that Kasparov had moved only pawns for something like the first eight moves for one of the games he won against Deep Blue, but after looking again at those games, that doesn't appear to be true. So what am I thinking of? I could have sworn I saw this from Kasparov somewhere... Erenan (talk) 04:13, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

I was reminded of the scene from A Beautiful Mind when John Nash criticized a game (Go, I think) because he played flawlessly and yet still lost because he didn't go first. So he invented his own game, called Hex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hex_(board_game) 17:31, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

Does anybody else think the chess player could be Randall's wife? You see her depicted with a beanie and short black hair in the biopsy versary comic {{ 18:56, 19 December 2012 (UTC)|}}

The transcript calls the chess player "hat guy," so I doubt such.
Also, sudo sign your discussion comments by entering four tildes in the end. Greyson (talk) 11:20, 13 December 2012 (UTC)
I've always thought of this comic as being one of those nerdy 13 year olds that are chess geniuses (I call them geniuses because I can't play chess, it's too complicated for me, my cat beats me), and for some reason, these brilliant kids are almost always portrayed as beanie toting. lcarsos_a (talk) 16:47, 13 December 2012 (UTC)
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