Go as part of curriculum at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Go as part of curriculum at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College: an interview with Dr. James Sterrett

Wednesday October 16, 2019

As the Chief of Simulation Education at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Dr. James Sterrett

uses games and simulations in a variety of ways to teach students. In an interview conducted last month by Chris Ghorbani, Dr. Sterrett described his introduction to the game, as well as how and why he uses go in his classes. From starting in college with a friend “on a home-made board using bottle caps as the stones,” he now uses go to demonstrate the concepts of design elegance. In his class on Training with Simulations, students play go for 30 minutes before discussion on the depth and utility created in the game by just a tiny number of rules. Students use this as inspiration to design and develop their own training games, trying to achieve elegance with their own new game requirements.
Dr. Sterrett describes one of his favorite things about go as being the discussions it provokes in his classes, describing them as “wonderful – not just of strategy, operations, and tactics inside Go, but people wind up drawing parallels between the situation on the board and various situations in current affairs, history, or even their own lives.” He continues in the interview to discuss the game, the rise of AI, and comparisons between go and other games he uses in his curriculum, including kriegspiel and chess. “Go teaches strategy, operations, tactics, and weaving them together to achieve victory,” says Dr. Sterrett. “The lack of a clearly defined center of gravity in Go ensures the players must define it by their decisions, much as in grand strategy. Thus, Go is a superb tool for honing a strategic mindset and seeing the links between the levels of war.”
Dr. Sterrett concludes by thanking the go community for continued efforts to spread go, and hopes that it is still played thousands of years in the future.

Go as part of curriculum at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College: an interview with Dr. James Sterrett

The full interview with Dr. Sterrett can be found here”


The weirdness of math’s golden age

Adventures in Fine Hall

By Elyse Graham ’07

“Then, as now, the anchor of mathematics at Princeton was Fine Hall, which opened in 1931. (Forty years later, the original Fine Hall was renamed after its donor, Thomas Jones 1876, when today’s mathematics building was constructed near Princeton Stadium.) Henry Fine had been a much-beloved dean of the faculty and the University’s first dean of science; after he died, Jones, a member of the Board of Trustees, gave money for a mathematics building in his honor. The building was gorgeous: three stories high, with oak paneling, leaded-glass windows, a central courtyard, and a library. A common room, with leather chairs, tables for chess, and a blackboard tucked away nearby in case of arguments, allowed the department to follow the English practice of gathering every afternoon for tea. Every time a bean counter approached Jones with the growing bill for the building, he said, “Nothing is too good for Harry Fine.”

Mathematician John von Neumann, shown here at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1947, started teaching at Princeton in 1930. Tea was a tradition at both the University and the Institute.
Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

“To blow off steam, many students got into games, as players and creators both. Fine Hall’s common room held late-night poker games, with good cash on the line: “We used to play all night,” said Flood. “The janitor would come and sort of chew us out at 6 in the morning.” During the day, a visitor to the common room might see the nation’s mathematical brain-trust absorbed in games of Go, bridge, double solitaire, or chess, played classic or in whimsical variants. A favorite was a double-blind variant of chess called Kriegspiel. (Paul Erdős reportedly loved that game.)

A truly magnificent book:

Here is the PDF:

Click to access 35559997-Man-Who-Loved-Only-Numbers-Paul-Hoffman.pdf

One student invented what he called “nonholonomic chess”; another invented a card game called Psychology, and another a card game called Goofspiel, which has since been used to teach concepts in game theory. The boast went out that Fine Hall “could produce a champion in any game that was played sitting down.”