Sandbox Games

Children from a very early age onwards play strategic games. Even in the sandbox we can learn from surprising talents of how to get the shovel from the other player(s). Having grown up a bit the repertoire of strategies becomes a bit more sophisticated, but most children tend to apply the same ones now and then. For example, to obtain one of the always scarce places on the swing or the balance, you may reach your goal in attracting the occupant(s) to a supposed even more exciting object on the playground or outside of it. Once the occupants leave the swing to join you somewhere else, you rush back to the swing and hope that the other child(ren)/parents are not more powerful to take back the swing. Strategies on the playground are abundant. Most children run, or get run, through the full set of tricky strategies during their youth. If you still want to learn more, study economics (typical economist’s joke). Alternatively, if you like strategies claiming that other children are not following the rules or want to know how best to fix the rules so you’re going to win anyway, study law (lawyer’s jokes). If you believe fairness is your real best argument study sociology, philosophy or theology. Make sure most other people in the playground have a similar set of strategies otherwise fists and tears will be gaining the upper hand.


Die Schachnovelle von Stefan Zweig gehört seit langem zu den Klassikern der deutschsprachigen Literatur. Zuletzt hat Jean-Philippe Toussaint in seinem autobiografischen Roman « L’échiquier » dieses Werk nochmals gewürdigt. Die psychische Belastung der fortgeschritten Schachspielenden macht spannende Lektüre. Bei Stefan Zweig ermöglicht das kognitive Training mittels Schachspielen die Bewahrung vor dem drohenden Wahnsinn durch Isolationsfolter. Gedankliche Fokussierung auf das Schachspiel und Spielen gegen sich selbst im Gedankenexperiment werden Rettung und Flucht in virtuelle Welten. Dennoch hinterlässt die Intensität der Erfahrung Spuren. Absorption ins Game, heute als Gaming meist verharmlost, lässt sich in vielen anderen Lebenssituationen wiederfinden. Es kann zur Sucht werden und Personen komplett absorbieren. Alleine Rauskommen oder vom Trip runter kommen ist schwer. Glück haben diejenigen, die professionelle Hilfe suchen und bekommen können.


The game of chess has been subject of an ever increasing amount of literature. Not only historically the game, where two kings fight against each other, but the queens are the most powerful figures on the chessboard attracted a great deal of attention. We studied chess in books and watched live tournaments between the best players of the world. Most of this has successfully moved online and we have gotten used to losing against computers for almost all human beings some time ago. The internal federation of chess FIDE lists the top players male and female. The calendar of face to face events is still impressive. The federation operates somehow like a platform of players, as well as for players, to organize their lives as chess players. Anther kind of chess literature is the one that is constructed around the lives of chess players. Some characters get really absorbed into the mental or virtual world of the dialogue between 2 or more characters or players. The real world experience and the game on the board become intertwined or entangled. Losing or winning, to win or not to win, may unbalance whole personalities. Beyond the “Schachnovelle” von Stefan Zweig we have a new addition of fictional writing with autobiographical traits by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (2023) on our desks. « L’échiquier » is a story unfolding in 64 chapters just like the 8 x 8 spots on the chessboard. Of course, the story does not unfold in a linear fashion. It seems as if the players or opponents even change as the game unfolds. Maybe there are more than one game in action. Simultaneously as in some chess tournaments. Some games are blitz games taking just a few minutes, others go on beyond a lifetime. The experience of playing chess even against yourself has a psychological and sociological dimension. You can go round in circles for some or you are like “bowling alone” in the individualized society. About time to shed an additional light on the mystery of the chessboard. Self isolation with a chessboard was also a way of coping with the Covid pandemic. Some still suffer from long Covid and cures are not always easy to find.

L’échiquier, chessboard, Schachbrett


We all value special skills and specialists. In Berlin is a whole week devoted to the special event of the #SOWG. These are the special Olympics world games. Berlin is booming with special people all around. Already the arrivals of the athletes to Berlin tests the public transport system as much as private infrastructure to welcome persons with special needs. Rather than the waste that is produced for normal Olympic games the same incredible amounts of money should be devoted to make cities more welcoming to special people every day. We have become as societies so used to speed up things as much as we can that we have forgotten the value of allowing people to live their lives with their own speed and rhythm. Looking at the huge numbers of private sponsors for the SOWG it becomes obvious that many people care to support these special people on their journey. I am more willing to pay taxes for such efforts than the public money wasted for football, like TV-rights or stadium buildings. The joint experience of love and joy with these extraordinary persons makes us all happy and rich. Happiness is the new “wealth of nations”. Inclusion brings happiness to more than just the normal. We wish you all a happy #SOWG. The stars are you.