Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Go, War and Sun Tzu

Just to what extent do we agree that a Go game is actually a war?

Chess is a battle, Go is a war. I am not suprised if every Go player in the world has heard of that saying. I previously dismissed any relationship between Go and War, thinking that Go was just a game and nothing more. Just what benefits thinking of Go as a war will bring? 

But then, I knew too little of Go and nothing of War.

It was only yesterday that I started to appreciate the similarity in the basic stategies employed in both arenas. Here I would like to draw out some strategies in the Sun Tzu’s Art of War book that I bought last Sunday and relate them to Go.


If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.

In context of Go, this means that if the opponent does not have weak groups, we must be prepared for his invasion or attack. Hence, a defensive move from the opponent can actually indicate that attack is imminent.

For the latter, it is fundamental to play away from opponent’s thickness or wall. In fact, Go players must play away from thickness, whether it’s his or the opponent’s. Playing near one’s own thickness is inefficient, whereas playing near opponent’s thickness is just asking for trouble.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battle. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat.

Do you know why you pincer? Do you know why you play on the fourth line instead of third and vice versa? Do you know why the opponent makes a sacrifice or create a ko? Go players are much luckier than warring generals as all the answers are on the board and need only be read. But how many Go players care to spend a few seconds to read before making a move?

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

Territorial balance is extremely important in Go. Equally important is power balance. Go players need to play maintaining these two balance while waiting for a chance to take lead or control of the game.

The amount of mistakes in amateur Go is tremendous. Know to estimate territory, know to judge power and have good eyes at detecting mistakes and you will be a high dan player. 🙂

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack – the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvers.

Sun Tzu placed great emphasis on indirect attack, something that is normally overlooked in a Go player’s plan. The keyword here is “combination”, both attacks must work together. The lack of skill in carrying out indirect attack is why I always attack ineffectively.

My worry with indirect attack is this:

  1. Indirect attack ends in gote, and opponent has the time to fix the weakness in the other group.
  2. Indirect attack strengthens the group unnecessarily.

For me, it needs braveness and a lot of confidence to execute an indirect attack. 

Akira Ishida too regarded indirect attack or leaning attack highly.

Leaning attacks like these are the essence of go. The satisfaction of toying with an enemy group – not attacking it directly but circling around it, away from it, and forcing the enemy to concede stones and territory while protecting it – can be just as great as the satisfaction of killing it through brute force. – Attack and Defense, Elementary Go Series.

I believe it is great injustice to carry writing so succinctly like this. The resemblance in strategies between Go and War is astonishing. For myself, reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War had given me a new understanding of the game of Go. It will prove worthwhile to any Go player to take a look at Go in a new perspective i.e. WAR.


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Nothing is better than a book that teaches, excites and encourages critical thinking all at the same time. And this book that I borrowed from UTM library, Essential Foundations of Economics is exactly that. I shunned the study of economics during my A-Level and University for a total of six years. But now this book presents clearly and concisely the important roles of economic theory. I am now overwhelmed with embarrassment for having belittled it.

The whole concept of economic arises because of human wants and desires, and there is not enough supply to satisfy them. Or what we call scarcity. And this little dot is the origin of other matters such as globalization, disappearing tropical rainforests, water shortages, unemployment, global warming etc, which collectively create the scenario of the world we are living in today.

At microlevel, the study of economics explains the choices that individuals and businesses make and the way these choices interact and influenced by the government. It is amazing that I could easily use economic ideas to explain my own behaviour and decisions. For years I have been perplexed by my own attitude of never finishing my work and always jumping from one hobby to another. I even thought of myself as a quitter. For example, I am now playing less and less Go online at each passing day after putting so much effort in the game since five years ago.

From economic point of view, this is a rational thinking from my part, as the marginal benefit of playing a Go game online is diminishing. When I first started playing, each game taught me tremendously and I gained a massive understanding of the game logic and principles. However now, I don’t learn much from playing online anymore.

On the other hand, the marginal opportunity cost of playing Go is rising steadily. As I progress with my career and studies, I stand to lose much from continuing to play. And I have not even putting “a girlfriend” into the whole equation.

From this cost-benefit judgment, I rationally play less game of Go. 😦

All these are examples of the core ideas relating to the economic approach or economic way of thinking about the choices that must be made to cope with scarcity. The book outlines five of such core ideas :

  1. Rational Choices
  2. Cost
  3. Benefit
  4. Margin
  5. Incentives

My study of the first chapter of the book also covers cause and effect. Basically, to investigate the effect of a factor of interest, all other things are assumed to be constant. This is not so different from engineering technique where certain variables are approximated or constantised to simplify calculation. However unlike engineers, economists think there is a need to grandly name such technique. It is called cet par or ceteris paribus which can be understood as “if all other relevant things remain the same”.

I still stand by my long-held perception that economics is just common sense. However, economics formalizes common sense so that it can be easily applied as an effective analysis tool. And I am lucky to have found a book that teaches this very interestingly.

Ah, there is also mention of Malaysia in the early part of the first chapter titled Gloabilzation and International Outsourcing.

When Nike produces more sport shoes, people in China, Indonesia, or Malaysia get more work.


And doesn’t even the worker in Malaysia who sews your new running shoes for a few cents and hour also lose?

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My sis, eldest one, has started a blog on her passion : scrapbooking !. Calling herself DrScrap, she showcases her  flowery, coloury creative products. She’s a doctor, but I see her natural talent in being a surgeon. She cuts stuff pretty well. 🙂

Anyway I’m impressed she managed to find a nice WordPress layout for her blog.

Check out DrScrap Diary.

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I took a brief look at the 2009 National Budget and Economic Policy Brief by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on his website. What caught my attention in particular was his intention to review the RM15.2 billion High Speed Broadband (HSBB), should Pakatan Rakyat get into power.

Nooooooo !!! I want 50 Mbps Internet connection speed !! 😦

It’s funny that the budget claims that it “includes understanding the successes of Taiwan, Korea..” when laying out fiber optic network was exactly what Korea did. And near bankrupt they were for that. But from there, contribution from information and communication sector helped to propel them from the worst Asian country hit by 1997-1998 financial crisis to among the most advanced countries in the world.

OK, HSBB is a small part of it, the budget plan probably follows Korea in other aspects.

A commenter on DSAI blog said that he knew of a bumiputra who could deploy WiFi in a campus of 500 students for just RM30,000 to compare with HSBB cost. Of course WiFi deployment is cheap. Any wireless deployment is cheap. Even for a metropolitan area network such as Wimax, all that’s needed is to rent spectrum from MCMC, rent communication towers, put up antenna and setup base stations. Well, that’s oversimplified but at least there’s not much digging, burying, civil work and planning.

But is it justified to allocate RM15.2 billion for this? I have no idea. I dont know how rich or poor Malaysia is now. But I’m sure a superb communication framework will attact a lot of investors, encourage tourism, improve academic excellence, reduce urban stress, provide platform for other initiatives such as “Safe City”, promote IT while reducing dependencies on other industries and so on …

There’s really no bad side to fast internet speed at all !

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From American Go Association newsletter,

COMPUTER BEATS PRO AT U.S. GO CONGRESS: In a historic achievement, the MoGo computer program defeated Myungwan Kim 8P (l) Thursday afternoon by 1.5 points in a 9-stone game billed as “Humanity’s Last Stand?” “It played really well,” said Kim, who estimated MoGo’s current strength at “two or maybe three dan,” though he noted that the program – which used 800 processors, at 4.7 Ghz, 15 Teraflops on a borrowed European supercomputer – “made some 5-dan moves,” …

Complete writing is here.

The game of chess has long been conquered and mastered by machines, and now they are eyeing on even greater problem domain, the game of Go ! But dont worry, the computers will not conquer the earth and enslave us in the near future just yet. That’s because of the nature of AI discipline, which focuses more on narrowly defined problem space, with limited rules. At least I never heard of any successful general-purpose AI machine, or even existence of any such project.

By the way, it was a 9-stone handicap game, meaning that the computer was allowed to move 9 times before the human made his first. The positions of these handicap stones are usually predetermined to spread evenly over the board. So yea, humans are still that much better than machines in Go.

Kim estimated that MoGo’s strength is about 2 or 3 dan (amateur) which I further estimate to be about the level of average amateur go players who play and study the game consistently for 1-3 years. And this same performance is achieved by hardware of 15 Teraflops, or 15,000,000,000,000 floating point operation per second. I am very curious as to what techniques of AI are involved in a computer go program. In fact I’ve already downloaded open source gnugo project, although being slightly demotivated by its size. Haizzz.. so huge, where to find time to study 😦 .

By the way, from Artificial Intelligence : A Guide to Intelligent System by Michael Negnevitsky, I read that

  1. Human brain memory capacity is 10^18 bits.
  2. Human brain processing power is 10^15 bits per second.

Well, maybe that explain subconscious memory, dreams, and so on ? After all, we only remember 0.1% of what we know on every second, with others somewhere in the background. (“Remember”, for me, means “being processed”).

Anyway, that above book on Artificial Intelligence is superb, really excellent with good review from many other readers. I have only read the first chapter, and did not fall asleep despite having no reason whatsoever to learn AI. OK, maybe I am not qualified to review that book since I’ve only read one chapter out of nine. But a technical book that keeps you wanting to read even after 24 pages, isn’t it good ?

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What would you break?

Mix FM is holding a competition “What would you break to win a holiday?” New handphone, TV, Playstation?

Hmm, I’m too poor to participate, so for fun and challenge purposes, I’m thinking of non-material things that I can break.

  1. Someone’s heart
  2. Silence
  3. Promise
  4. Record

Hmm I was aiming for 10 but only managed 4. My word play skill is getting too weak now.

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My Future is My Past

I am at the office at the moment. 2 hours to midnight, I dont know why I am here. During the lunch time today, I had to leave due to a pressing matter, so I promised my boss to make a request for an emergency leave, and also return back to the office at night.

So I am here to keep my promise? LOL, never knew I cared about promises that much 🙂 Since when?

Anyway I bumped into Izrin today. Or actually, he came to my side when I was browsing a book entitled “In God We Doubt”. He must be puzzled why did I hold such a blasphemous book. No reason, except for the fact that it’s on the front most shelf. Also the title made me curious 🙂

 Izrin was my MCKK ex-school mate who excelled tremendously in his studies and debates. We all expected him to do well in the future, and it seems he is on track to meet everyone’s expectation. He graduated from U.S. , two years earlier than me, and now working with Exxon Mobil. Much to my envy, his scholarship pay-back service to the company needs only to last for 5 years. Me? 10 years.

I was delighted when he asked me about my next Go tournament, to which I answered, “It’s this weekend with a chance to go to Korea (Jeongju) for free if I win.” 🙂

I am happy with my Go. Not because of free trips, not because of the friends I make, but because I am finally acknowledged as a board game player. It was my childhood dream since I started playing chess at age 10. I failed in chess.

I am ready to quit Go. I consider two free trips to Thailand before and another trip to Japan soon to be enough as return on all my investment in Go, including books, equipments and one-month trip to Beijing, China. The whole journey was fascinating. I learned that “going all the way” pays.

So what’s next for me?

Programming. I want to be acknowledged as a qualified freelance programmer, not just a hobbyist who does kiddy stuff like solving Text Twist anagram or a library magazine-borrowing system. The easiest way for this is to change my current part-time Masters course, Information Security to Real-Time Software Engineering. The latter course includes two-term attachment with companies.

I initially registered for this course, until I was convinced otherwise to register for Information Security instead. Security awareness is growing in Malaysia, and soon security personnels (IT security, not guards) will be in high demand. It’s true. Every organization needs security professionals, not software engineers, much less real-time software engineers.

But, I dont live and work for the future. I live and work to realise my past dreams. Its weird and odd, but have I been anything else? 🙂

Would my parents who sponsor my Masters course understand my stubbornness to get whatever I dared dream? If they insist me on continuing rather than changing my Masters course, I have a backup plan. I will do another Masters, this time in Real-Time Software Engineering. It will cost me RM20,000 +. It will be another two years of lacking social life and interactions.

But I have decided. I must be acknowledged as a professional programmer. However laughable the idea of doing third (yes, THIRD !) Masters is.

Ah, how foolish can a man be …

OK, better go now. I’m alone at 11pm here, and this particular floor is well known for its past spiritual (ghost) occurences. 🙂

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