Sean's Dev Blog

The Queen's Gambit and Computer Science

November 27, 2020

The Queen’s Gambit, a new Netflix miniseries, has taken the interwebs by storm. Cerebral and suspenseful, it showcases many theatrical motifs in celebration of mental games, intellectual culture, and the mastery of craft.

In chess, the opening move is one of the most important moves. It sets up the outcome for the entire game. There are over 1,300 named chess openings according to The Oxford Companion to Chess. Some names include the King’s Indian Defense, the Sicilian Defense, and yes, the Queen’s Gambit. Grandmasters often have a repertoire of signature opening moves that distinguishes them from each other.

Just as there is a method to mastery in chess, there are methods to mastery in the fields of computer science and software development. However, it gets a little bit more messy, and a lot more complex.

Like the opening move in chess, the successful setup for a software project has a large bearing on its overall success. Failing to plan properly is one of the greatest causes of project failure. Botch the initial design phase, and it can be nearly impossible to recover from when you are halfway through the development phase. Especially on a startup budget.

Chess has its own vibrant nomenclature, notation and theory. Computer science, too, has its arsenal of intellectually stimulating conceptual weapons to master and deploy. Open any computer science textbook and you will be inundated with mystical-sounding words.

Binary search trees, hash tables, and algorithmic time complexity. Compilers, network protocols, encryption, virtual machines. The P vs. NP problem, the log-rank conjecture, and the halting problem. And this is all before you get into the esoteric specifics of your chosen programming language and technical stack, which lead you into wormhole wonderlands of their own.

It’s all intriguing and well worth mastering. And, like chess, it takes a ton of dedication and long hours to master.

So get going, if you haven’t already.


Musings on coding, UX/UI, and hacker culture

© 2020 Sean Boisselle