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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Addictive new game contains lessons for investing in stocks

Is there a peaceful use for sudoku?

Many Blade readers will find out for themselves how diabolical this new game can be, now that the newspaper is running the puzzles Monday through Saturday. (See Page D7 today.)

Oh, sure, they'll start with the easy ones and then graduate to the difficult puzzles, and before long they'll be buying sudoku books and perhaps software, and they'll be looking for sudoku on the Internet. Yes, they'll be hooked.

I am a sudoku aficionado. OK. OK. An addict. And I must confess I have led several others down the slippery slope of sudoku.

But to get back to the subject at hand. Yes, there is a socially acceptable, productive use for sudoku: It's good training for investors. There's no particular mystique to the numbers themselves. You won't be able to look at the ciphers and conjure up magic ticker symbols like GE, GOOG, or ANF.

Rather, it's the discipline of the puzzle, the need for clear, straightforward methodology, and a respect for logical thinking and focus that will serve investors well as they contemplate buying stocks.

Perhaps more than anything, sudoku teaches the virtue of patience. Look before you leap, study the problem, take a second look, don't assume anything. Investors could profit from this sort of strategy.

There are, of course, other lessons. Like leverage, for example. In the game, as in investing, it's satisfying to multiply one asset into a much larger asset (such as leveraging the solution to a single square into the solution to an entire box or row or column).

The more you play the game, the more proficient you become. And the same is true in the investing world.

But every now and then, the game will beat you. You'll find the occasional puzzle that, despite your best efforts, remains unsolved. You made a mistake many squares ago. You have two choices: Redo it or wad it up, throw it away, and move on.

The latter is my choice, and it's the same in the investing world: Admit your mistakes, sell the turkeys, and try another investment.

Don't think you're being "un-American" by playing a game with an Asian name. Even though sudoku might have been influenced by ancient Persian or Chinese number games, the modern version began in 1979 with a "Number Place" puzzle by Dell Magazines, an American publisher.

But, as with many great U.S. inventions, it had to go abroad to be appreciated. A Japanese firm renamed it sudoku in 1984. It was a big hit in Japan, and caught Britain by storm in late 2004. And now it's all the rage in America.

The lessons of sudoku are many and varied. The art of patience, diligence, and study can be very useful to investors. But, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy sudoku as much as I do.



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