CHESS and TAOISM meet in new strategy game...

The invention of chess has been credited to the Chinese, Babylonians, Egyptians, Jews, Hindus, Irish, Greeks, Persians, Romans and Welsh. It is said to have originated in the 5th century B.C.

The origins of "DAO" are a bit more simply, but may one day be as widespread as chess. It was invented by Ben van Buskirk and Jeff Pickering last year, and they are hoping it'll be adopted into the pantehon of games such as checkers, chess and tic-tac-toe.

The idea behind the game is simple: cross a simple strategy game with some of the basic tenets of Taoism.

Taoism, also spelled Daoism, is a Chinese religion and philosophy based on the doctrines of Laotzu, a sixth century philosopher, and advocating simplicity and selflessness.

"Dao is a game which requires an ever-changing strategy and precise balance of movement." This is the description of the game that has only one rule and four ways to win.

"This is probably the only game that rewards passive behavior," van Buskirk says, referring to a rule in which you win if the other player boxes in one of your pieces.

The pieces are part of the appeal. In the small version, each player has four Buddhas in various poses. In the larger version, each player has four harmony balls (sometimes called meditation balls). The decorated balls chime when they are knocked or rolled.

"A game usually lasts a couple of minutes, but if both players are playing defensively, it could be a marathon 10 minute game," van Buskirk says. "There have been cases of people literally addicted to the game." On the game's web site, one contributor claimed to have played the game for 9 1/2 hours straight, some of the games lasting up to 30 minutes.

"I've always been a public servant," van Buskirk says. "My first job was working for Lacey Parks in WA state as a swim instructor. I've never tried anything entrepreneurial before this." He now lives in Point Roberts, WA, a little chunk of the United States jutting out from Canada.

"I had $800 and wanted to invest in the stock market after seeing all these dotcoms," van Buskirk says. "I went to my roommate from college and asked him, "Jeff (Pickering), how do I get in a dotcom before it goes public?" He asked how much money I had, I told him $800. " 'Good Luck.' "

Van Buskirk says he and Pickering decided to create a board game.

After seeing his two boys, 7 and 9, playing blood soaked video games, he wanted something that could be played by the whole family and still involve strategy. "This is an alternative to violent games. You can give it to kids and they won't be beating each other up after they play it. Kids can play with grandparents."

Pickering came up with the basic idea while he was meditating. "Our first game was played with six chop sticks forming the board, four yellow earplugs and four white earplugs. We played all night." van Buskirk says.

They have given away as many as they have sold, he says, in order to get copies of the game out. And it has been working.

"We started selling the game online in January (2000) and, sure enough, after a few weeks, next-door neighbors were buying the game," he says. "We were originally trying to sell this in stores, but Jeff thought the internet would be the best way."

"I expected to put $800 into someone else's company. This has been a lot more fun than watching a stock ticker, though." van Buskirk says.

Further information about Dao can be found at

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