Chris Land

Creator of Clash Theory. Author of Why Funny Is Funny and How to Make a Funnier You.


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You're correct, time handicaps (e.g. 2m vs. 5m) are more common than pawn/piece handicaps. Mostly for in-person play.

Master vs. Amateur handicaps can look crazy: 2m vs. 15m and -QRR is a slight advantage for the master simply because most amateurs are not used to playing with the clock. Another M v. A handicap is 'capped pawn': amateur picks a pawn, checkmate must be delivered with that pawn (pre-promotion). It's a bit like having two Kings, as if that pawn is captured the game is lost.

It's a playground for testing ideas associated with Deception. Naturally there are other ways and other arenas. The rules for this arena are fun and flexible (perhaps no deceivers some of the time!), but still limited to discussing only the quality of particular chess moves in a specific positions. Quality as compared to a hidden but soon-revealed 'perfect' answer.

As far as lessons, I expect Player will have the most valuable post-game perspective. How easy is it to judge quality of Advice? In what ways does advice look different if it's Deceptive? Does it even look different? Given a reasonably strong Opponent, most any human advice appears 'Deceptive' with no such intent.

Another post-Internet chess form also features text-based influence: Vote Chess. Players on each team discuss via private msg board (no engines). Everyone has 24 hours (say) to choose a preferred legal move. There's no built-in deception, however on large teams there is an equivalent to saboteurs as many voters choose impulsively. A sample game with 400+ per team:

Answer by Chris Land20

Very interested in C, also B. I'm an over-the-board FM. Available many evenings (US) but not all. I enjoy recreational deception (e.g. Mafia / Werewolf) but I'm much better at chess than detecting or deploying verbal trickery.

Additional thoughts:

  1. Written chess commentary by 'weak' players tends to be true but not the most relevant. After 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5, a player might say "Black can play 2...Nc6 developing the N and attacking the pawn on e5". True, but this neglects 3.exf6. This scales upwards. My commentary tends to be very relevant but I miss things that even stronger players do not.

  2. Players choose a weaker move over a stronger move not so much because they reject the stronger move, but because they don't see the stronger move as an option. When going over games with students, I'll stop at a position, offer three moves and ask which is best. They'll consider and choose and explain reasoning. But there's a fourth option, a mate-in-one, and it was not selected. "You must see the move before you can play the move."

  3. Based on 2, a deception strategy is to recommend a weak move over others even weaker. Stronger options? Ignored.

Re: section 4.3.4 theories of humor

In my 2021 book Why Funny Is Funny, I introduce Clash Theory as a new 'grand theory of humor'. I believe it's much more precise than other theories, but I'm the creator of it so of course I'd say something like that that. The first five chapters are readable online. Click Read Sample (Kindle edition):

A somewhat related point: it's only very recently (2023) that chess engines have begun competently mimicking the error patterns of human play. The nerfings of previous decades were all artificial.

I'm an FM and play casual games vs. the various nerfed engines at The games are very fast (they move instantly) but there's no possibility of time loss. Not the best way to practice openings but good enough.

The implication for AI / AGI is that humans will never create human-similar AI. Everything we make will be way ahead in many areas and way behind in others, and figuring out how to balance everything to construct human-similar is far in the future. Unless we get AIs to help...

'Humor' is universal. It's the same kind of cognitive experience everywhere and every time it happens. This despite the fact that individual manifestations diverge wildly and even contradict. It's true even though every example of humor (meaning, a thing some observers find funny) is also a thing that other observers find not funny.

Hm, that doesn't seem true to me. With friendship people derive value from simply sharing space and engaging in conversation, neither of which involve consumable physical objects.

Space for conversation is a form of shelter. But I will concede to condense a highly-condensed line of argument further to remove the trickiest examples: art/music/software/friendship/justice. Software is abstract; it's also not physical in an obvious sense. It does rest on a foundation of physical objects (chips, wiring) capable of using electricity in a controlled and orderly way.

Ocean swimming and birdsong hearing are values but not wealth. 'Values' and 'wealth' both depend on 'life', and they overlap, but they are not synonyms. Wealth is fundamentally physical. It is fine to extend the concept into areas like software and intellectual property because the underlying physicality is always present. Also, people can and do use 'wealth' as metaphor. I avoid this particular metaphor for conceptual and communication clarity.

Like metaphors, people use all different kinds of word definitions. Some definitions are only synonym, some only description, some even contradict. Some people prefer fuzzy thinking and decline to define. My definition preference is the genus/differentia pattern (Aristotelian?): group to which [word] belongs and what distinguishes [word] from others in the same group. The genus of 'wealth' is 'thing', the genus of 'money' is 'wealth'.

I believe the above definitions 'wealth' and 'money' are the most clear, and therefore the most cognitively useful. I prefer the most useful definition also be the standard one, but that's a falling-star wish. [I'm fine with metaphor, just not the 'wealth' one. =D]

Life requires physical consumption: oxygen, water, food. Consumption also includes deterioration through use, for further life-required values like clothing, shelter, transportation, security. Even highly abstract values like art/music/software/friendship/justice all rest on a foundation of consumable physical objects. Production is transformation of physical matter into consumable form.

Wealth is everything produced but not yet consumed. Money is easily exchangeable wealth.

The idea of wealth can be extended into intellectual or spiritual or poetic realms. But the root of the idea of wealth is the physical requirements for life.

Interesting that AlphaGo plays strongly atypical or totally won positions 'poorly' and therefore isn't a reliable advice-giver for human players. Chess engines have similar limitations with different qualities. First, they have no sense of move-selection difficulty. Strong human players learn to avoid positions where finding a good move is harder than normal. The second point is related: in winning positions (say, over +3.50 or under -3.50), the human move-selection goal shifts towards maximizing winning chances by eliminating counterplay. E.g., in a queen ending two pawns ahead, it's better to exchange queens than win a third pawn with queens remaining. Not according to engines, though. If a move drops the eval from +7.50 to +5.00, they'll call it a blunder.

I imagine these kinds of human-divergent evaluation oddities materialize for any complex task, and more complex = more divergent.

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