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Book by Harvard Senior Explains Chess Game's Influence on Mao


A Harvard senior has written a book relating Asian guerilla warfare to Wei-Ch'i, the Oriental counterpart of the game of chess.

In The Protracted Game: A Wei-Ch'i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy, Scott A. Boorman 70, who ranks first in the senior class, describes the techniques of the game and their analogy to the tactics of Mao Tse-tung during the Chinese Civil War.

The goal of the wei-ch'i player is to encircle his opponent, thereby extending his territorial control. Unlike the chess player, he does not attempt to capture his opponent's major pieces.


"One of the cardinal errors in wei-ch'i is containment." Boorman said, applying his theory to the present Vietnam situation. "Your opponent can work behind his lines and cut your forces to pieces. The idea is to surround your opponent by forming strong bases of support."

Citing instances from Mao's writings in which he refers directly to wei-ch'i strategy, Boorman said, 'It would be very helpful for American policy makers to have a rudimentary knowledge of the game," which is played throughout South Asia.

One of Boorman's main arguments is Manchuria proved disastrous against the Maoist, wei-ch'i influenced, strategy.

Today, Boorman believes, the Americans in Vietnam are repeating many of the errors made in China 25 years ago.

Born in Peking in 1949, Boorman had no formal education before coming to Harvard, though he had completed most of the book. He is concentrating in Applied that Chiang Kai-shek's Western-style tactic of concentrating massive forces in Mathematics and plans to do graduate work in philosophy.

In the United States wei-ch'i, played in a type of checkerboard with flat stone pieces, is usually known by its Japanese name, "go." Boorman said he rarely plays it, and is interested in it chiefly as "a theoretical model of strategy."

The book, published by the Oxford University Press, will be released November 13.

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