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Subject: Who was the best general - mathematically rss

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Eddy Sterckx
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A half-serious attempt to quantify and analyze the battles of famous commanders in history :

https://towardsdatascience.com/napoleon-was-the-best-general...

Yeah, the url gives it away

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Daniel Blumentritt
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Obviously there are a lot of flaws to something like this, but

1) It's an interesting idea to put some quantifiable measurements on it

2) The author is open about most of the flaws and limitations, and says flat-out this only measures tactical performance from the start of the battle to the end, relative to one particular predictive system that takes into account numbers, quality, and terrain.

It doesn't take into account the strategic situations, logistics, how much freedom or restrictions the general operated under, how good his associates or subordinates were, if he did a good job choosing the battle site in the first place, how well he conducted retreats or training, etc.

It doesn't measure degree of victory, or mitigation of defeat. If anything it favors generals suffering one swift and decisive defeat over ones who lived to fight another day when the odds were against them, because if it takes multiple defeats to knock you down, your negative scores start piling up. And likewise it can somewhat punish a single decisive victory, as opposed to an incomplete win that leaves the opponent fighting, but weakened enough to be beaten repeatedly.
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Bob Zurunkel
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Wasn't there already a thread about this?
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Christina Kahrl
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At least two that I remember.
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JPotter - Bits77
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I bet Washington really sucked a big one in this bit of stat abuse

The premises are flawed, it focuses solely on tactical wins, not at all on strategic concerns, and heavily (HEAVILY) rewards those titularly in charge during eras of frequent set-piece engagements.

Still a fun convo starter tho.
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Jeff M
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Ghengis Khan.
Or, if he moved himself from the realm of "battlefied general" to "political conquerer/leader" too much for some, then his general Subutai.
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Russ Williams
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Westie wrote:
Wasn't there already a thread about this?

December 7:
Napoleon Was the Best General Ever, and Math Proves It.
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Lieven De Puysseleir
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Napoleon? You mean the guy that brought 422.000/680.000 to Russia and came back with about 10.000/27.000? (*) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_invasion_of_Russia) whistlegulp

*I'm taking this out of context just a little bit and the numbers might not be that accurate but hey, still seems like a sad ordeal for a man his size.
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Jim F
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Straight victories/Successful campaigns versus defeats/unsuccessful campaigns. Wellington would be a contender.
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Christina Kahrl
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russ wrote:
Westie wrote:
Wasn't there already a thread about this?

December 7:
Napoleon Was the Best General Ever, and Math Proves It.


And a few hours earlier on December 7: Historical generals ranked by Wins Above Replacement

As I said there/then:

Quote:
Yeah, the example of Borodino doesn't work so well. Napoleon needed a war-winning victory, but instead he got a disastrously costly "win" on points that only sucked him into Moscow and even greater disaster.

If you don't connect outcomes to goals, you're not just forgetting your Clausewitz, you basically commit to underrating the genius of a Marlborough or Moltke the Elder.

It's a fun exercise, but it signifies nothing.
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Russ Williams
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DiamondSylph wrote:
russ wrote:
Westie wrote:
Wasn't there already a thread about this?

December 7:
Napoleon Was the Best General Ever, and Math Proves It.


And a few hours earlier on December 7: Historical generals ranked by Wins Above Replacement

So we can conclude mathematically that Thierry is the best link reposter, and Eddy is the worst.
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Captain Nemo
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Ashiefan wrote:

Straight victories/Successful campaigns versus defeats/unsuccessful campaigns. Wellington would be a contender.


Would not Monty and Patton also!!??

Interesting article even if the flaws are evident and the conclusions questionable.
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Jim F
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hammurabi70 wrote:
Ashiefan wrote:

Straight victories/Successful campaigns versus defeats/unsuccessful campaigns. Wellington would be a contender.


Would not Monty and Patton also!!??

Interesting article even if the flaws are evident and the conclusions questionable.


Monty would be a problematic choice with his less than stellar series of operations during 1944.

I'm not a fan of Patton.

Lastly, my point was that Wellington would be a contender which means there are others as well.

Hope this clarifies.

Btw, Happy Xmas to you and the rest of the Epsom crew. Hope you have a good one.
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Joel Langenfeld
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The one-time mathematician in me wants to ask "Why is it that the only people who claim to have proven something mathematically have absolutely no idea what a mathematical proof even looks like?"
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Cracky McCracken
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Did you ever notice that winning battles doesn't always win wars. Seems like some of the greatest generals in history lost their wars. From Hannibal to Lee, across thousands of years, winning battles alone doesn't win the war.
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Don Lynch
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Bean-counting in extremis.
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JPotter - Bits77
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Cracky wrote:
Did you ever notice that winning battles doesn't always win wars. Seems like some of the greatest generals in history lost their wars. From Hannibal to Lee, across thousands of years, winning battles alone doesn't win the war.


Nor does losing battles lose wars.
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Chris Farrell
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He’s just trying to get at tactical prowess, so a battle like Borodino that was “won” by tactics, even though it in effect lost him the campaign by not being a big enough win, would still be OK. Purely tactical ability is a preposterous thing to try to isolate from everything else, but hey.

I do agree that the whole piece is ludicrous and worse than useless from a methodological standpoint. He doesn’t understand WAR, he doesn’t understand how data science works, and he doesn’t understand how battles are won, so that’s a trifecta if you’re trying to create a WAR for historical generals using data. WAR is tricky, you need really granular data to do it right, and you need a lot of domain knowledge. You can’t just make some shit up or add up wins. It just doesn’t work that way.
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Eddy Sterckx
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cfarrell wrote:
You can’t just make some shit up or add up wins. It just doesn’t work that way.


Dang. You just destroyed my whole wargaming philosophy cool

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Bob Zurunkel
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Ashiefan wrote:
hammurabi70 wrote:
Ashiefan wrote:

Straight victories/Successful campaigns versus defeats/unsuccessful campaigns. Wellington would be a contender.


Would not Monty and Patton also!!??

Interesting article even if the flaws are evident and the conclusions questionable.


Monty would be a problematic choice with his less than stellar series of operations during 1944.

I'm not a fan of Patton.

Lastly, my point was that Wellington would be a contender which means there are others as well.

Hope this clarifies.

Btw, Happy Xmas to you and the rest of the Epsom crew. Hope you have a good one.


Apples and oranges, in a sense. For example, who should get the credit/blame for Market Garden, Montgomery (his staff, actually) or Horrocks (XXX Corps commander)? The Napoleonic Wars were probably the last time when a general could stand on a hill and oversee an entire battle. Which General "won" the Battle of the Bulge?
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Cameron Taylor
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aesthetocyst wrote:
Cracky wrote:
Did you ever notice that winning battles doesn't always win wars. Seems like some of the greatest generals in history lost their wars. From Hannibal to Lee, across thousands of years, winning battles alone doesn't win the war.


Nor does losing battles lose wars.


Absolutely. Frederick the Great knew how to win battles, but also how to lose them to win the war.
 
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Jim F
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Do you mean lose them and still win the war?
 
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E Butler
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Gerneral Winter
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M St
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SeriousCat wrote:

Absolutely. Frederick the Great knew how to win battles, but also how to lose them to win the war.

Survive until the enemy monarch with the largest army dies to be replaced by a relative who's a fan of yours.
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JPotter - Bits77
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M St wrote:
SeriousCat wrote:

Absolutely. Frederick the Great knew how to win battles, but also how to lose them to win the war.

Survive until the enemy monarch with the largest army dies to be replaced by a relative who's a fan of yours.


A classic delaying action
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