Strategy execution

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Understanding Strategy execution

Chess as a metaphor

Steven Cramton and Zackary Stephen were chess buddies who met at a local club in New Hampshire in the US. They had spent a few years honing their skills at the game and Stephen, in particular, was keen on chess programming. They entered a “freestyle” tournament that year which attracted several teams of grandmasters aided by computers. The tournament was played remotely, online, via the servers of Both Cramton and Stephen were amateurs, they had day jobs and were effectively unknown in the world of competitive chess. But they had some clever tricks up their sleeve. For one, they had developed a database of personal strategies that showed which of the two players typically had greater success when faced with similar situations. ‘We had really good methodology for when to use the computer and when to use our human judgement’–Zackary Stephen “We did have a really extensive database that I worked on for four or five years before that,” remembers Stephen. “Steve had contributed to it.” They also had three PCs chugging through the numbers and these had been specially prepared by Stephen. But crucially, they knew how to actually play a cyborg game. “We had really good methodology for when to use the computer and when to use our human judgement, that elevated our advantage,” Stephen says. Cheaters’ charter And in the end, it all paid off – they won the tournament, leaving grandmasters and some well-known programs in their wake. It was quite a shock but it proved the theory worked: certain human skills were still unmatched by machines when it came to chess and using those skills cleverly and co-operatively could make a team unbeatable. Humans playing alongside machines are thought of as the strongest chess-playing entities possible. (1)
(1) The cyborg chess players that can’t be beaten - BBC Future