Game Story

Do you know that playing chess, checkers, backgammon, go and other games, we use only our left, logical brain? And in the meantime, the right, visual brain sits idle. Partly because any playing field is limited, one way or another.

But the world is endless, as Dr. Bronn thought 30 years ago, while studying mathematical models of behavior of biological organisms. You just need to find a way to push the boundaries of the playing field and to teach a person to think globally.

Unconventional view of things often gives rise to discoveries. For example, an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head. Alexander Fleming isolated penicillin from mold. And Dr. Bronn was inspired by a bagel. “Because a bagel,” he explains, “has no boundaries, and one can conditionally go in any direction across its surface. If you manage to turn this surface into a plane that is visible and tangible, then a third dimension arises on your table...”

Brilliant in its simplicity, the solution formed the basis of CTOR game (“tor” is short for “torus”). Players – there can be from one to three – move chips and try to fill as large area as possible. The course of the game symbolizes the behavior of animals in nature, the struggle for survival. The pack is controlled by the collective intelligence of the team, and your “animals” will occupy the territory and survive if you are quick to understand each other. Each move consists of simple operations – birth, movement, death (of chips), which, just like in nature, combined together, produce an infinite number of combinations.

“For many years I have been modeling neural networks and biological systems,” Dr. Bronn tells in an exclusive interview for Russian Express. “And explaining to students at the university how to model the entire world in a computer, we kept meeting the same obstacle: “boundary conditions” – there is such a concept in physics. This is the most unpredictable point in solving any problem. Using “the bagel principle”, I managed to solve the case in such a way that a person automatically got on “the other side” without thinking...”

We finally reveal the secret: mysterious “Dr. Bronn” is Vladimir Bronnikov, well-known to all Russian-speaking Toronto as the producer and presenter of RTVI channel, the vice-president of Ethnic Channel Group, and the author of the popular book “Pizza Delivery”. And at that time he was a staff member of St. Petersburg State University, who turned his main hobby, CTOR, into a life work.

Back then, in 1988, Bronnikov created the first and the easiest version of the game, “one on one”, without a clock, but a field was already unlimited. First 100 thousand copies were sold out in Russia in six months. It was such a great success that the popular magazine “Science and Life” removed the column “Playing Go” and put “Playing CTOR” instead.

The last name was shortened as soon as the game became famous abroad.

“Dear Dr. Bronn” – that’s how the editors of prestigious magazines, Scientific American, PC Week Magazine, and Erno Rubik – the creator of the famous cube – addressed him.

“Three basic concepts of physics are involved in the game: space, time, and matter," Vladimir says. “All elements on the field – animals, fish, abstract chips – are material. The task of the system is to reach equilibrium; the whole field is occupied, and those who have placed most of the material objects win. I managed to work out a mathematical value –how many changes occur on the field per unit of time: to put a chip, to move it, to “eat” opponent’s one. First off, it’s one move, then five or six or more. So the scale of the game complexity was born...”

“In other games, for example, in chess the material system changes only by two units for one move,” my interlocutor compares. “We also have an opportunity to change it by 3-5 units, that is, deeper physical processes take place on the field. The number of combinations of the next move increases by one order of magnitude, and no computer can calculate their amount and the logic of changes...

The discovery was called “power of the turn”, and it is related to how our brain works. If there are not many changes, and there is a lot of time for each move, then we can think with the left brain, calculating the logic of the next move without hurry. On the contrary, if there are many changes, and time is short – 5 seconds for one move – we are forced to turn on the right half of the brain, because the left one cannot handle that.”

“It was an important moment,” Vladimir says, “that allowed us to build a system of rules further. Here in Canada, for the first time in the history of the game, we reconstructed it in such way that the left brain could play against the right one. It sounds fanciful, but it has been proved in practice. Moreover, due to the timing of the move, you can adjust which half currently plays and which one is trained – right or left...

- “Kind of like man versus machine, only inside your own head?”

“Exactly. When I tell about it, it shocks people in the beginning. And then we write down everything on paper, sort out the details, show pictures, and it turns out that this is real. We went further. There are two players in the classic version. But today, people socialize in other ways and tend to play in groups, teams, clubs, families. And we developed the rules so that you can play in any ratio of participants. If someone is away, the game does not stop. If you play against yourself, someone can join. They can choose which side to take – right, left, blue or red. That is, four parts of the brain compete, separated by the playing field...

- “For which age this game is intended?”

“I believe, from 6-7 years to 100+. In Young Pioneer Palace in St. Petersburg, kids were 11-12 years old. Here in Canada, I also conducted a large experiment at the Discovery Academy, 12-year-old students played in teams on both the computer and the physical board.”

- “What are the commercial prospects?”

“From this point of view, I estimate the Canadian market at 200-300 thousand copies. But in order to get it, I use all best practices, all the experience gained over the years; I use my own start-up company I am currently funding. The plan is developed for three years. This year our task is to release Limited Edition in English and French, at least 5000 copies, but we have not yet decided definitively. We will make a decision before September 5 to make it to Christmas sales.

The answer to my question about the Russian version is simple: “This is not a language game. Anyone can go to the site, to the language support page and choose their language. Ethnic Channel Group supports 20 languages today, and it helps me a lot. The rules are simple, so the pictures don’t need comments...”

“Even then, in 1988, with very limited possibilities,” Vladimir recalls, “I competed in the Russian market with the world-famous game Monopoly, which had everything: budget and marketing. And now I'm ready to compete with anyone in this regard. As for the demand for this game, about 100 million people in the world actively play chess, go and other games of this kind. And there are half a billion passive players. So it takes time, the system of production, sales, advertising for the game to come to people. But the technology today is different; there are Amazon, Alibaba and other online stores. I can sit down, and open my own online store in 15-20 minutes. You can order now on our website, and in November the game will appear in the city. Next week control samples will come, my designers, translators and editors will analyze every detail.

We make a Brain Game, that is a game that interacts with the human brain, and I want it to be top-level, intuitive and good-looking, like Apple - so it would go like clockwork...”

Dr. Bronn plans to hold CTOR World Championship-2020 in Toronto at the same level. The dates are already known, September 20-25, and the decision is made – for one day the city will be renamed to CTORONTO.

- “And yet you start with the Russian street...”

I do advertising for more than 15 years and I know the Canadian market. But at the same time, the Russian market is a sort of standard for me; our people are passionate about such things, they are good and quick at thinking. I want to show them the game in the first place, in order to get moral support from my colleagues and my clients. There are several companies already that have ordered from 10 to 30 sets of my game as Christmas gifts to their employees. I believe that showcasing your best product on the street where you are already known and respected is the right approach. And I would love to make it starting point, from where we will step far beyond Canada...


Russian Express

Journalist Alexander Gershtein

July 27, 2018 Toronto, Canada

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