Monday, February 25, 2008

Performance Anxiety

wow, 165 comments for the last post. as matt phelps/ globular pointed out to me, "just for posting a few photos"... thanks everyone!!
pretty thrilling to be in ny times.

ok, beginner's mind. no worries. i'm all alone here.

let's start by mentioning how incredible amy winehouse is and how I could listen to back to black a million times.

inspiration is important.

amateur team east--- was pretty fun. I roomed with Abby Marshall, who is the coolest 16 year old ever. It's constantly a surprise to me that I don't feel the age difference when i hang out with her, but this is the beautiful thing about chess, right, that it enables people to be friends across normal barriers of age, gender, class, etc.? I was talking to an old student, Anna Ginzburg, and someone peripheral asked if it wasn't strange to make this adjustment from teacher-student to friend, but chess I think enables this. I remember noticing this most acutely with Aleks Wojt., who most people remember as an obnoxious drunk, but I found his stories pretty amusing. Anyway, things I admire about Abby:
1. She's remarkably chill and easy-going, but simultaneously tastefully discerning.
2. She beat Nakamura at bughouse but geniunely seems to think it's neither surprising nor remarkable.

Change of topic: let's look at some funny positions from kids' games.

Nicolas Polanco (IS 318)- Jiri Jranko
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 b5 7. e5 de 8. fe Nd5 9. Qf3 Bb7

What to do? We'll make it a quiz and answers are at the end.

OK, the next position is not a child's, but from a teacher at my school who comes with us sometimes to tournaments. He was the first guy from the school who I worked with, and, while he is an excellent trip planner, he's less ... focused (just one s because the stress is on the first sylllable?) when he plays chess. I have a very strong memory of an early game of his that I went over, from Amateur Team in maybe 2001, in which he had some position like below, except with many more pieces.

So there is a lot more going on, but the point is that this guy is white and has the black king completely shut out of play. He moves Rb3-b8, so I ask him why. It's a pretty standard question for me-- I like to know why and I like the kids to expect the question. His response? "I was afraid that later I would forget the pawn was defending my rook and I would move it and then the king would take my rook." How incredible is this? The man is making a prophylactic move against his own imagined future stupidity. I just didn't know what to say. So this year he is fourth board on a team rated 1400ish, and he's playing a 1600.
Lauris Murnieks (1100) - Alex Bary (1500)

1.Nf3 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 c5 4.0–0 Nc6 5.d3 Qb6 6.Nbd2 Bd7 7.e4 Nce7 8.c3 d4 9.Nc4 Qc7 10.Bf4

Check this out: the 1600 rated opponent plays 10... Qd8. How crazy is that? It's barely a question, but the answer is at the end.

Ok and finally a reasonable problem:

Sasha Jouraview- Markel Brown (IS 318) 13....?
Amusing note about this kid: he won the k-8 Under 1000 section last year despite falling asleep in one of his games. He's one of my favorite students: always cheerful, interested, and genuinely trying to improve.

Look at his eyes: doesn't he look somehow wise beyond his years?

Gratuitous photo to cover answers:

1. 10.e6! fxe6 (10...f6 11.Ndxb5 axb5 12.Bxb5+ Bc6 13.Bxc6+ Nxc6 14.Nxd5) 11.Nxe6 (11.Qh5+) 11...Qb6 (11...Qd6 12.Nf4 Nxf4 13.Qxb7 Qc6 14.Qxc6+ Nxc6 15.Bxf4) 12.Qh5+ g6 13.Qe5 Nf6 (13...Rg8 14.Nxd5) 14.Nc7+

2. Nd6#

3. 13... g5! 14.Nxd7 [14.Bxg5 Nxe5] 14...gxf4 15.Nde5 fxg3 16.hxg3 -+

So what else? I visited Greg in Philly for a couple days. He taught me the English and Accelerated Dragon.. I think I'm gonna switch. As much as I love the Sveshnikov, I always lose all my games....

I bought a cat playground for my cats... don't think I'm a crazy old spinster here, please, I know how it looks..... but I just figured it would provide me with endless amusement...

Here's a headline about my school:

The article originally appeared in the New York Spanish daily El Diario, but they don't have an online index I could understand.

We've been reading Romeo and Juliet, so I showed my class the Di Caprio/ Danes 1996 version today-- that movie truly is an English teacher's godsend. I fastforward through the violent/sexy bits, ok, but really what a great job they did. It epitomizes the whole concept of contemporary. Although I think Danes was a weak link.

I'm going to Sturbridge next weekend to play... small consolation for the fact that Foxwoods doesn't coincide with spring break for me this year and thus is out. But I will be at all 3 (4) scholastic nationals this year: elementary, junior high, high school and girls'.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

US Amateur Team East 2008 Photos

NM Chris Williams is writing a thesis comparing the effects of various chemical stimulants on chess performance.

WFM Abby Marshall beat GM Hikaru Nakamura in the bughouse tournament. I challenge her to a blogoff.

FM Andrei Zaremba: serious

FM Andrei Zaremba: silly

NM Laura Ross: tea drinker

GM Roman Dzinzdichashvili: game face

FM William Kelleher: frightened of me?

He's the little g: five-year-old Stephen Fanning, whose teammates included GM Zviad Izoria, GM Eugene Perelshteyn, and GM Roman Dzindzichashvili.
I want to mention that I think the argument for banning stacked teams like GGGg is completely ridiculous. It's basically saying organizers should ban players for being too good at chess, because their presence is unfair to patzers. I heard this argument a few times during the last round and I had to walk away because it seemed so embarrasing and pathetic. Why don't people think it's awesome that three grandmasters are willing to spend their weekend playing 1800s and experts for no prize money, just for fun?

My student, Alexis Paredes, and cool shadows.

GM Eugene Perelshteyn, NM Chris Williams, GM Zviad Izoria in a warm embrace.

Ian West and Shawn Martinez (of Kings of New York fame) playing bughouse.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Correctness Quotient

For all of my friends I have, secretly, stored in the back of my mind, a number representing what percent of the time, overall, they are correct about any statement of fact or quasi-fact. I call this their CQ. For some people, their CQ is subject specific. For example, my mother's CQ is 90%, but that rises to 99% when she is giving directions. My colleague, ok actually boss, John Galvin has a irritatingly high CQ-- let's say 97, 98% except on matters relating to politics (50%) or children's relative chess strength (75%). Having a high CQ is obviously good in certain ways, but having a low one isn't necessarily so awful. My boyfriend, for example, has an incredibly low CQ, but I (recently) figured out that's because:
a) he's conversationally ambitious, meaning he says a lot of provocative, imaginative things and
b) he enjoys telling outrageous lies for fun.

I mention this because I am very ashamed to have gotten my rule about doubling letters wrong and know that my CQ is plummeting in your minds. Conversely I'm very impressed by anijaoshi's "stress on the last syllable" correction-- less so by the running-pruning one, since prune doesn't end in an consonant?

Naturally, I also have a "Lateness Quotient" stored for each friend.

On a side note, whoever it is who's voting 'no' every single day in my poll ... I hope you are having a lot of fun, weirdo.

Finally, I'm not playing in Amateur Team East, but I will be there with a truckload of children (badly taught, horribly competitive, ill-mannered children :)). Say hi if you feel like it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Two Non Chess Thoughts

1. If you live in NYC and like weird theater, go see Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland. It's a little like Twin Peaks meets Rene Magritte. Great show to take a first date to and then pretend you do that kind of thing all the time. Just in case you're suspicious of my taste, the Times liked it also.

2. You know how some words double the final consonant when you add an ending? (e.g. run--running) But some don't? (walk--walking) I figured out the rule: if it ends consonant-vowel-consonant, you double the final consonant; if not you don't. Of course, I was really proud of myself for figuring this out and announced it triumphantly to my class. I'm sorry to say they weren't impressed.

Tasty and the Concentrate Lady

There are some beautiful photo reports coming out of the Moscow Open, beautiful mostly for their hilarious half-English captions. The above photo was labelled: "Anna Burtasova is very communicative. She gave additional points in the first round because her rival hadn’t come. Anya is upset. She can’t do standards." I love that none of that makes any sense at all to me.

"Tasty Anya Muzychuk doesn’t used to keep in the background."

And let's not forget everyone's favorite concentrate lady:

"Ira Krush is concentrate lady. Is there any use in flying from USA but not fight for a victory? She often wins prizes at high-level men’s tournament here." She does? I can't remember her playing in Russia in a long time?

Check out the link above: these examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Identity Theft, Vampires, Grammar, Warm Milk, Obama

a few amusing things:

A story about a woman who stole someone else's identity to... take the GED and SAT and then apply to and attend Columbia and Harvard? ... wow, a criminal who values higher education, kinda nice. The article makes some implication that the thief also murdered her victim, but it's all very vague. The reason I bring it up is that her ex-boyfriend says the con claimed to be a semi professional chessplayer, but that he stopped believing this after he beat her. I have a related story.

Many years ago (circa... 1993?), I wrote an article for Chess Chow (remember that magazine?) somewhat faecetiously titled "Why It Is Better To Date Strong Chessplayers." I was 18 at the time and a freshman at Duke: young, naive, rosy-cheeked, etc. The article described a date I went on the night before, in which I accidentally admitted that I played chess reasonably well. This assertation immediately transformed my charming, witty, conversationally-skilled date into a drooling competitive animal. I really can't describe him in any other terms. We played a few games, and he got more and more upset until he was basically saying he wouldn't let me leave until he won a game. I'm sure he wasn't serious, but the point is that at some moment I caved. I faked a chess game. I lost on purpose. Honestly, I just didn't see a better way out of the situation.

Keep in mind that I had not yet lived in New York, and consequently was not yet the assertive woman I am today. I did not yet enjoy laughing at people and telling them to fuck off.

Which reminds me of an amusing little side-story about the time I brought a non-chess-playing boyfriend to the New York State Championship maybe three years ago, when it was last held in some nice "spa-like" resort. So I'm playing and about move twenty the boyfriend comes up and whispers conspiratorially, "I like how you have all your pieces in the second quadrant." I just nod and put my finger to my lips, but my opponent has seen us talking and is immediately suspicious. Luckily, it didn't take a lot of explaining.

anyway... that was a long, pretty random tangent. Second amusing tidbit: those eco-friendly Europeans. I admire them, all using their creativity to save the planet.

third thing: I'm an English teacher in my spare time; I have a hilarious class of 34 gifted 13 year olds. One girl is completely obsessed by vampires. She's an exemplary writer (esp of teenage vampire fiction) but refuses to use most forms of punctuation for (what I'm assuming are) rebellious teenage reasons. So I ordered a book, which arrived today, called The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. I really can't stop laughing. Some examples from the section on restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses:

"If an adjective clause can be left out without altering the meaning of the sentence, it is nonrestrictive. If the clause is essential to the meaning, it is restrictive.

The hand that is languishing on the windowsill once was mine. (restrictive)
The marks that are fading on my throat are not fresh. (restrictive)
The specter that is lurching down the street is my pal. (restrictive)

The languishing hand, which was once mine, applauded. (nonrestrictive)
The marks, which are not fresh, were caused by neither man nor beast. (nonrestrictive)
Only a person who loves gargoyles can love human beings. (nonrestrictive)"

and the sentence-combining exercises:

"The megolomaniac was scudding. He crossed the vestibule. His harem was waiting for him. They were in an uproar.

suggested answer: "His harem awaiting him in an uproar, the megalomaniac scuddled across the vestibule."

"She was lying. She was dreaming. Her dreams were of biceps and divorce. She was in her rickety garret. It was crawling with rats."

suggested answer: "Dreaming of biceps and divorce, she lay in her rickety garret, which was crawling with rats."


last thing: new genre: Obama political music video directed by Bob Dylan's son Jesse and featuring Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Scarlett Johnassen

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Non Blog Writing

The Best of Chess Life Online 2007 has prompted me to reread some of my chess related writing from last year, and you know, it's not so bad. In case you missed it, here are a few links:

Interview About Cognition, Gender Differences, Teaching Chess

Top Ten Teaching Books:

Chicago Open:

Junior High Nationals:

Oklahoma FIDE Open

Two Blog Entries from the US Women's Championship for CL Online:

And if you started reading this blog recently and haven't found the interview with Jaan Ehlvest ("Delaying What?") back in August or September, it's worth checking out.