Parallels Between Go, Golf, and Taxes

In the summer of 2016, an artificial intelligence computer program named AlphaGo, developed by Alphabet Inc.’s Google DeepMind, became the first computer program to defeat a professional, human player without handicaps on a board game called “Go.”

A two-player game of simple logic with simple rules, Go is a game of profound complexity. Go players use ‘stones’ and ‘abstract strategy’ to surround their opponent’s stones in order to gain more ‘territory’ and ultimately win. There are an astonishing 10 to the power of 170 possible board configurations, more than the number of atoms in the known universe — a game much, much more complex than Chess. Because of its beauty, subtlety, and intellectual depth, the game has captured the human imagination for centuries. Go came from Asia and is believed to be at least 2,500 years old.

As a ritual, professional Go players sit down after each competition, sometimes for more than a couple of hours, to replay hundreds of moves. Good professional players remember their every move as well as every move played by his or her competitor. How is this possible?

In an interview one professional GO player said, “It is possible to remember those moves when you have used your deepest, most concentrated thought processes when making each move. But it is emotionally challenging for both the winner and loser to sit down and replay with a calm mind after the competition.”

There is a similar analogy in the game of golf. PGA golf players often confess they are able to vividly remember every shot, club number, direction of the wind, distance from the flag, and breaks on the green from their recent games. They remember the information because they have learned to replay the whole game in their mind with such concentration and passion.
One might ask, “As a tax attorney, what is the point you are trying to make?”

Many of my clients who are excellent in business development and generating revenue often neglect tax issues. They are too busy making money to take care of boring tax issues. Unfortunately, these boring tax issues often grab them by their ankles at very crucial times. Business lines of credit are cancelled because of the levies placed on bank accounts. Or, hefty payroll tax penalties are applied that thwart normal business operations and often come with the threat of personal assessments.

Confronting mistakes and reconstructing them from the past are sometimes the only way to deal with a problem at hand. Like professional GO players, many individuals and business owners could benefit greatly by the self-assessment ritual of reviewing past moves. This self-assessment renders itself into the ritual of replaying past moves. So, too, a person who is struggling in life can benefit from review and reflection on ‘moves’ he or she has made in life. When GO players practice the ritual of replaying past moves, the losers frequently benefit more than the winners do from this painful time of review and reflection.