ARTICLE #24 [First published in April 1989 Chicago Point]

The Wall

I am an architect, the designer of castles and moats. This work provides me the freedom to travel and explore. My most recent excursion took me into the land of “Best” to a town called “Play.” It appeared to be a quiet, secluded haven in the middle of a green valley -- an ideal place to stay the night and rest my weary legs.

I slept peacefully until awakened by a loud commotion outside my window. People were shouting and screaming. I heard the thundering hooves of horses and the clang of metal striking metal. It was a raid! I ran out into the streets and saw men swinging their swords. Houses were set ablaze and blood splattered everywhere. It was a miracle, but I lived through the night.

In the dawn’s light, I saw the smoldering remnants of the town and the people sifting through what remained. I asked them what had happened. They told me that this was a common occurrence. The marauders would come whenever they were hungry. They would burn and pillage, killing anyone who resisted. They were like parasites, keeping their hosts alive.
But now the townspeople were angry. With raised fists, they went to their leaders for action. Aware of my presence in their village, the leaders came to me for advice.

I surveyed the damage. It would take a lot of work. But to my surprise, they didn’t want me to rebuild their homes. Instead, they wanted to build a fortification to keep out the raiders. They wanted a wall twenty feet high to surround their town. “After all,” they said, “No one could possible scale those heights.”

But there was a problem: they didn’t have enough bricks. They had only half of what was needed to complete the job. They were certain they could get more, but it would take time.

Many of the townspeople offered their advice. Some told me that the raiders usually came from the Northwest and if the mighty wall was built on the north and west side, this would turn them back. Others said they came from the South, and a few suggested the East.

Posed with this problem, how would you go about building the wall?

Editor’s Note: In response to many letters, Tak Morioka explained how best to build the wall:

"The best strategy is to reduce the wall height to 10 feet and build the wall all the way around the city. This offers a gapless defense that will stop the town from being overrun from any angle.

"In backgammon, the same is true. The best way to improve one’s game is to spend equal time studying all facets of the game. For example, consider the individual who spends hour after hour mastering bearoff techniques without studying middle game strategy. In actual play, he’ll often be cubed out before the bearoff even begins!" -- TM

Fortune Cookie
The Competitive Maxim: Show me what you do know, not what you don’t.

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