[ by Charles Cameron — companion to A soccer tactic and its parliamentary analog ]
Trump and Putin are on their respective ways to a meet in Helsinki. This post offers a chess angle on the importance of symmetry as a technique Putin happily uses on Trump and others. Symmetry is already a keen interest of mine in the arts, where it is a prime key to beauty. In chess, too, and it would seem in diplomacy and strategy, symmetry matters.
Here’s the game in which Bobby Fischer kills Robert Byrne in an astounding 21 moves:
What’s of interest to us here is the symmetry at move 11, shown here in two diagrams:
where the blue lines annotate the symmetries in files a, b, c, d, g, and h —
where the red center-line serves as a mirror for those symmetrical files, their positions highlighted in green.
And here’s the site’s comment on symmetry:
It’s quite often the case that in very symmetrical positions such as this one, things go about very slowly, it’s often a bit of a maneuvering game, not a lot of, let’s say, great tactics, or fireworks, things of course can change, but there’s a great amount of symmetry here..
Well, chess is the game of strategy par eminence, isn’t it? Here’s a quote I just used in my metaphors collection:
Brian Williams: Putin does the most rudimentary things, like mirroring, which communications experts will tell you is a way to kind of endearing yourself to your guest.
Clint Watts: [agreeing] Ingratiate and mirror.
President Trump openly says If you say to me that you like me, then I like you. He’s just opening the door for this. Putin has done this with other world leaders. .. You want to build rapport with President Bush, talk about religion and the Christian Orthodox church. you do these things to build and ingratiate and build a mirror relationship with the target.
I’m not saying there’s a direct parallel between the chess comment and the Brian Williams / Clint Watts conversation, which just scratches the surface of the communications stragegy of mirroring and similar techniques, and their relevance to the immadiate situation with Trump on his way to Helsinki to meet Putin —
— just that the emphasis on symmetry in the celebrated Fischer chess match gives us a clue to the possible importance of symmetry in crucial strategic situations in general — and thus to the coming week’s Trump / Putin situation.