We should all embrace the power of games

If both players in a game of draughts stick to their optimal moves, the game will always end in a draw. You or I might have guessed that anecdotally. But being a mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy knows it for sure. The calculations that proved it took 200 desktop computers 18 years to perform. The Prussian High Command used a game called Kriegsspiel to test the abilities of aspiring officers When such a simple game produces such numerical complexity, imagine the fun a mathematician can have with something like Go, the Chinese institution whose number of possible games contains an estimated 300 digits. (The number of atoms in the observable universe

Should trans women be banned from women’s chess?

The arguments for keeping trans women from participating in women’s sport are well rehearsed. As the former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies wrote in this magazine in June, the simple truth is that men on average run faster, jump higher and are stronger than women. Their biology gives them irreversible advantages.  Even the world of chess has been pulled into the debate. Last week, the International Chess Federation banned trans women from participating in women’s matches. The English Chess Federation, on the other hand, refuses to exclude trans women. On first inspection, the decision to ban makes no sense. After all, the usual arguments of unfair physical advantages in women’s games

How chess got cool

Ten years ago, comedian Matt Kirshen’s one-liner was voted the fifth-best at the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘I was playing chess with my friend and he said “Let’s make this interesting”. So we stopped playing chess.’ Not bad, as jabs go, and I’ve heard a few — as has any lifelong chess player. Well, times have changed. Late last year, Netflix TV series The Queen’s Gambit was watched by 62 million households in its first 28 days. Who’s laughing now? I suppose I can admit that the popularity of the series wasn’t entirely down to the chess. The wondrous eyes of Anya Taylor-Joy as heroine Beth Harmon surely played a part, and