Sun Bin - The crippled strategist
This is the first post in my blogging trail, or trial, in which I would like to introduce Sun Bin (孙膑). Sun Bin was one of the greatest strategist in history. He was crippled as he lost his knee-caps, but he was anything but lame. He also wrote his own Art of War.
He was said to be a descendant of the renowned Sun Tze. His brilliance outshined his classmate Pang Juan (庞涓). Pang became jealous and tricked him, which resulted in his loss of knee caps in the State of Wei (魏).
Sun managed to escape to the State of Qi (齐), and re-started his career there, advising Tian Ji (田忌). He demonstrated his brilliance by helping Tian to win a horse racing against The King of Qi.
The problem was fairly simple. But it was remarkable he solved it 2500 years before operation research was invented.
Tian had 3 horses, let's call them A, B, C.
Horse A was from the top breed and the fastest, B the middle breed, and C the slowest.
Tian and the King gambled by holding 3 races. It usually started like this: Tian's A breed vs King's A breed, and so on. Every single time Tian lost by split seconds in all 3 races.
When Sun heard about this. He told Tian Ji if he listened to him, he would definitely win the next race.
So what was Sun's trick? You are welcome to post your solution as a comment or email me to ask for the answer.
(Today this problem is still widely applicable in a number of a places, e.g., the Thomas/Uber Cup in Badminton World Team Champions. It is also a classical problem in game theory)
Among his well known ploys are:
Tian Ji Sai Ma (Horse Racing for Tianji 田忌赛马)
Wei Wei Jiu Zhao (Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao 围魏救赵)
Jian Zao Huo Di (Reducing Stove To Fool Enemy 减灶惑敌)
Jin Chan Tuo Ke (Shedding Shell Like a Cicada 金蝉脱壳)