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A few weeks ago I was listening to a RadioLab podcast about Games. In this episode, hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abamrod spoke to Brian Christian, an author who recounted the story of the checkers craze of the 60s that culminated in the World Checkers Championship in 1963. Apparently. this championship was a series of 40 games between the world's two top players.
All 40 games ended in a draw. 21 of those 40 games were the exact same.
"Checkers had gotten to the point where there was a perfect game of checkers," Brian said as he discussed how the top players memorized previous games and knew the ideal countermove for the other player's moves. "This was rock bottom for the checkers community."
The name for this knowing of all the games, all the moves, is The Book.
Brian continues on the podcast to say that the same thing happens in chess, and that there is an equivalent book (actually a computer program called "Fritz" these ays) of every chess game played by grandmasters for the past few hundred years. Although there are way, way more variations, there are occasions where two grandmasters will play the exact same game that has been played years before. Nowadays, the first 20 moves or so in major chess games are totally by The Book: the two players playing moves that they've memorized, just like their checkers predecessors.
To chess enthusiasts, the most exciting part (and true brilliance) is when players go off The Book: that moment when they make a move that hasn't been done before in the history of recorded chess.
When I first started my career 5 years ago, there were no best practices for social media. There were no case studies. Everything was new. Everything we did was off the book.
Now it seems that everyone is staying on the book. Facebook brand pages are almost cookie-cutter copies of each other. Pitch emails to bloggers feel about as personal and special as a Hallmark card.
I still think there is a ton of opportunity to go off the book. I just worry that we're too concerned with playing that perfect game.