I feel that now would be a good time to discuss the nature of the overused saying “Good luck.” In my eyes, to wish someone good luck is to assume that that person is unprepared. A friend of mine wished me good luck before the midterm in Music 15 today, and I asked him why. Why should luck be a factor? I knew the material. I wasn’t going to bubble in random choices and hope that I’d get more right than I would by pure chance. Perhaps if I were to walk into a random class to take a midterm and not be permitted to look at the questions, I would be relying on luck. If I were to roll dice or flip coins to determine the answers, I would be relying on luck. If I were to take the test properly and answer the questions after giving them a fair amount of thought, I would not be relying on luck. I would be relying on knowledge and skill. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense to wish “good skill” on someone. After all, what does that mean?
Suppose that his wish of good luck were to mean that he was hoping that the questions just happened to be the ones to which I knew the answers. Is that the way someone should take an exam? Should I take an exam with the expectation that I’ll have studied exactly what happens to be on the test? If so, what’s the point? What does one gain from only knowing the answers to the questions that are on the exam?
What about good luck for a math contest? Am I going to be “lucky” and just guess the answer correctly? Perhaps that happened to a certain on AIME 2001, but whenever I guess the answer correctly on a math contest it’s a result of doing something that’s not quite mathematically correct but having the intuition that it will work out well enough. Is that luck? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s intuition. What it isn’t is luck.
The good luck wish I resent the most comes before a game of chess. Since chess is a game of complete information, there is no luck involved. It is possible to calculate chess out from the beginning to the end since it is a finite game with complete information. Isn’t that why people play chess? Whatever the result, I am the one responsible. Whether I win, draw, or lose, I can find no one to blame but myself. There isn’t a supernatural force propelling my hand toward a random piece. I get to choose. That’s skill. It’s my skill versus my opponent’s skill. That isn’t luck.