Friday, August 22, 2003

Many things these days remind me of a roomful of people watching -- and a few of them playing -- a game laid out on a table. Most of the people -- not too surprisingly -- are watching the top of the table, where the board and pieces are. They all have various views of the game; they may differ on which player is more skilled, or which one has the advantage at any given time, etc., but they all have more or less the same field of vision, albeit differing sight lines within it.

Then there are the relatively few people who -- for whatever reason -- decide to bend down and look at the underside of the table. "Why would anybody do that??" you may chuckle. "The game is happening on the top of the table, not the bottom!" Ah, but is that where the game is being decided?

Those who look at the bottom of the table see something the rest don't: the hands on the magnets on the underside of the tabletop, invisibly -- to anyone looking only at the top of the table -- influencing the position of the pieces above. Whoever knows about the magnets understands that the game has an additional layer of activity which is indispensable to understanding what is happening within the game. Whoever doesn't know about the magnets may think he is watching the whole game, but he isn't.

Any time you watch a game, watch the underside of the table too. You might be surprised how much more sense the moves on the top suddenly make.

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