Monday, July 28, 2008

More Testosterone!

Another interesting research paper on the relationship between testosterone and performance, this time in female rugby players:

Testosterone, cortisol, and women’s competition
Helen S. Bateupa, Alan Boothb, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Douglas A. Grangerc
Evolution and Human Behavior 23 (2002) 181–192

Hormone (testosterone, cortisol)–behavior relationships have been extensively studied among male competitors, and far less so among female competitors. To address this gap, we studied members of a nationally recognized college women’s rugby team. Seventeen players (ages 18–22 years) provided saliva samples 24 h before, 20 min prior to, and immediately after five league matches. Subjects selfreported aggressiveness, team bonding, pregame mental state, postgame performance evaluation, and whether the opponent was more or less challenging than expected. Results revealed that both testosterone and cortisol levels increased in anticipation of the matches. Postgame levels of both hormones were higher than pregame levels. The pregame rise in testosterone was associated with team bonding, aggressiveness, and being focused, but was unrelated to perceptions of the opponent’s skill. Testosterone change during the game was unrelated to winning or losing, evaluations of personal performance, or perceptions of the opponent’s threat. Game changes in cortisol were positively related to player evaluations of whether the opponent was more of a challenge than expected, and negatively related to losing. These results are compared with hormone–behavior patterns found among male competitors and are interpreted within a recent theory of sex differences in response to challenges.

Selected bits I found interesting / possibly relevant to chess

1.1.1. Testosterone
In men, the relationship between testosterone and competition is reciprocal. Males characteristically experience a testosterone increase in anticipation of competition (Booth, Shelly, Mazur, Tharp, & Kittok, 1989). The precompetition rise is likely to make the individual more willing to take risks (Daltzman & Zuckerman, 1980), improve psychomotor function and coordination (Herrmann & Beach, 1976), and increase cognitive performance (Herrmann, McDonald, & Bozak, 1976; Klaiber, Broverman, Vogel, Abraham, & Cone, 1971; Vogel, Broverman, Klaiber, Abraham, & Cone, 1971). For a few hours following competition, testosterone is high for winners relative to losers (Booth et al., 1989; Elias, 1981; Mazur & Lamb, 1980). The rise in testosterone following a win is associated with positive mood (Booth et al., 1989), and is thought to be important because winners often face challenges from others soon after gaining new status.

1.1.2. Cortisol
(Cortisol is a steriodal hormone that the body produces in response to stress)
Another aspect of the cortisol– competition link is that top-seeded male tennis players exhibited consistently lower cortisol levels than did less talented players, suggesting that highly successful competitors may have above average ability at managing stress (Booth et al., 1989).

The pregame rise for testosterone and cortisol was similar for men and women, whereas the game rises in the two hormones tended to be higher in women than in men. This difference may be rooted in the fact that the primary source of both hormones is the same in women (the adrenal glands), whereas they differ for men. Among women, the process by which exertion and the challenge to status stimulate cortisol release may also increase testosterone production. The high correlation between cortisol and testosterone production among women during the game supports such an interpretation [r(49) =.46, P=.01].

Studies of male competitors indicate that a pregame rise in testosterone is related to performance. Among women, we found limited evidence of a link between the pregame rise and performance. The pregame testosterone increase was significantly correlated with reports of being focused just prior to the match [r(49) =.30, P=.03]. The link between estosterone and focus is consistent with prior studies as reported by Dabbs and Dabbs (2000, p. 45). Unlike men, the pregame testosterone increase among women was unrelated to perceptions of how easy or difficult the opponent was thought to be prior to the game.

Another way in which the rugby players differed from male competitors was that cortisol levels just prior to the game were unrelated to the rank or experience of the player. The more talented rugby players were just as stressed as less-talented teammates, suggesting that females may be more collective than individualistic in their expression of aggression.
Perhaps this suggests a reason women don't play chess-- the stress levels for skilled players do not decrease with experience in the same way that they do for male players? I remember watching a video interview with Rusa Goletiani in which she said she doesn't play so much because chess is so stressful.

The increase in women’s testosterone in response to a game was unrelated to winning or losing or to the evaluation of personal performance. Two factors were related to the cortisol rise during the game: (1) the extent to which the opposing team was more challenging than expected (something not studied in men) and (2) whether the team won or lost. Players who reported the opponent to be more challenging than expected experienced a mean rise in cortisol of 46 percentage points. When the opponent played at the level of skill expected, cortisol rose by 26 percentage points, whereas it increased by only 8 percentage points when the opponent was not as challenging as expected. In short, the greater the challenge experienced by the players during the game, the greater the increase in cortisol levels
[F(49) = 4.378, P=.04]. When the team lost, cortisol levels rose 0.34 mg/dl, whereas they only increased by 0.14 mg/dl if they won [F(49) = 3.973, P=.03]. The latter finding differs from those in studies of men. Elias (1981) found that, compared to losers, winners’ cortisol increased. Booth et al. (1989) found no relationship between cortisol change during the game and winning and losing.

Another possible disincentive for women-- testosterone levels (which are connected to a feeling of happiness) do not rise when females win? That seems both surprising and very sad to me? I don't understand at all why men would get more stressed when they win than when they lose? The authors make a bizarre suggestion that cortisol levels drop in women after victory so they can befriend their opponents, who they might play on all-star teams with?
(the following paragraph is quoted out of order to illustrate and explain my point)
(Also of interest is the observation that following a win the rugby players did not experience the testosterone-related elevation in positive evaluations of performance often observed in male competitors. Nor did the losers experience the decline in testosterone experienced by men. Rather, women who won experienced a very modest increase in cortisol compared to a relatively large increase among those who lost. These findings are consistent with Taylor et al. (2000) suggestion that females’ responses to challenges are more likely to be directed toward creating and maintaining relationships. Competition, especially that which is physically aggressive, has the potential to threaten old relationships and prevent the creation of new ones. Lower cortisol associated with winning suggests that females are managing the challenge of competition effectively so that high cortisol levels do not interfere with the conciliatory behavior that restores potentially beneficial relationships with individuals who were opponents a few moments earlier and teammates who were challenged in the heat of the competition. These women may very well be on the same team in all-star games; under such circumstances, they could not carry over animosity from earlier games in which they had been opponents.)

Men and women also share a precompetition rise in cortisol, but its bearing on performance is unclear. There are several differences. For one, men’s pregame cortisol is related to skill and experience—more talented competitors have lower cortisol (perhaps related to more effective stress management) than less-skilled men, something not found in women. Furthermore, men and women differ in their hormonal response to winning and losing. Many, but not all, male winners experience an increase in testosterone (correlated with elevation in positive evaluations of performance), while losers show a decline in the hormone. While women experience a rise in testosterone during competition that is greater than men’s, it is unrelated to either self-evaluation of performance, or winning and losing. On the other hand, changes in cortisol are related to the outcome of the contest: female winners have lower cortisol than do losers, something that does not occur among men.

It is possible that team participation rather than sex differences in biobehavioral response to stress are the key to understanding our results. It is important to keep in mind that the majority of hormone–competition studies involve sports that stress individual performance (e.g., tennis, judo, wrestling, racket ball, chess) more than team efforts. In a team, an individual’s status may be more strongly tied to the social interaction within the group than to the outcome of a particular contest. One-on-one competition may have a more direct impact on individual status and, therefore, on the testosterone response to winning and losing. Further studies of team sports will clarify this caveat.

It's a shame that there is no measure of the predictive link between testosterone levels and winning, but I guess in team sports this would not be statistically easy?
In other news, I just bought the board game Cranium and played a quarter of a game with my friend Nina (she had to go).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Florida Holiday

So I'm back from Florida holiday and, for some reason, can't sleep. Maybe I didn't get enough sun today. I haven't done much in the last week besides reading and occasionally turning over, but I did well at both of those, finishing 3.5 books and not burning myself at all.


I read:

1. The 25th Hour (David Benioff), which was only ok. I found many of the characters annoying.

2. Indecision (Benjamin Kunkel) which was fantastic. Let's read a nice passage (don't be confused; it starts with a quote from a philosophy treatise this character is always reading):

" 'Procrastination is our substitute for immortality,' went the first half of the sentence I was rereading; 'we behave as if we have no shortage of time.' I read the book at maybe two pages an hour.

Yet I felt more slow than stupid, and suspected it had always been thus with me. Maybe my slow temporal metabolism wasn't equipped for the efficient digestion of modern--or postmodern life, as it apparently had alredy been for some time. Sometimes I felt like I'd never catch up with even the little that had happened to me. There had always been too many people and places, and the creaking stagecoach journey or straggling canoe ride by which one location might observe, in olden times, how it became the next (and one Dwight, the next, uncannily similiar Dwight) had been supplanted by the sleight of hand of subways and airplanes, always popping you out in unexpected places."

Rereading that, it seems not terribly stunning, but the book is quite good, except maybe at the end.

3. The Return: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery (Hakan Nesser)
I should tell you that I have an interest in the remarkably rich subgenre of Scandinavian crime fiction. There is just so much of it, and it's quite decent. The weird thing about this one, at least weird for me because of my socialist liberal dreamy view of Sweden, is that the inspector figures out who committed the three murders but can't prove it. So he pushes the guy out a window. Then the book ends. No one says "Hey, no vigilante justice; this is Sweden!" which is, I guess, what I expected.

4. Havana Nocturne
Yes, I bought this because Jon Stewart said he liked it. Also because Barnes and Nobles in Florida are awful. They only have one table of new paperback fiction (wtf?), and none of the books on it were recommended by the NY Times. OK, I'm a snob if you want, but there are so many great books out there, why should I read garbage? Anyway, Havana Nocturne is pretty good--I'm not terribly interested in Cuba or the Mob, but the bits about Castro are enlightening.

New Happiness Idea/Strategy

Oh, I have a new idea/ strategy for fighting depression. I know it's going to sound a little crazy to some of you, but hear me out, ok?

Exercise really really helps me, way more than anything else ever has, to be happy. There was a point in my life, in college, where I was running 3-5 miles every day, and I was constantly, deliriously joyful. But these days I have some (= a lot of) trouble motivating. I work all the time in the school year, plus my gym is crappy, and it's very very hot in New York in the summer. Also, I'm extremely lazy.

So this is my idea: I am going to make myself become obsessed with obtaining the perfect body. Convince myself I'm fat and stare at my belly all day. Google-image thin actresses and compare myself. Look up the calorie count of everything. Weigh myself daily. Develop (cultivate!) a neurosis. My plan is that my new compulsiveness will motivate me to exercise vigorously every day, and this exercise will engender an overwhelming and complete happiness so great that it trumps any minor anxiety that the imaginary body image problem causes. Also I will be really fit.

me: the before photo?

"It's my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want."

A local retailer said that Mr Walendowski might now have difficulty getting his lawn mower repaired.
"Anything not factory recommended would void the warranty," said Dick Wagner, of Wagner's Garden Mart in Milwaukee.

read more

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ace Reporter Unmasked as Serbian War Criminal

Yesterday, Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of Bosnian Serbs who is wanted by the Intenational Criminal Court and thought to be responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica, was apprehended in Belgrade (on a bus, of all places). He had escaped notice all these years by becoming a New Age/ Whole Foods hippie.

But does anyone else notice an eerie resemblance to a certain figure in American Chess??

Let me be the first to demand the US government immediately begin extradition of Jerry Hanken to The Hague in the interests of justice and international healing. I also demand that he be forced to blog daily for CLO during the trial.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Imagination in Chess

is a fantastic book. I'm enjoying it a lot this afternoon. Here are some puzzles for your enjoyment.
Answers will be up tomorrow, but perhaps some geniuses will post solutions in comments?

I hope everyone's enjoying the manic posting pace of the last couple days, but I should mention that it will dry up shortly. I'm going away for a week's vacation on Friday. Then I'm back for just a couple days before going off to play in Edmonton and Dallas (US Open). After that its directly to Greg's next US Chess School session. So expect only sporadic posting for the next month or so. I'm just letting you know in case you think I died.

White to move

Black to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

An Ad on the London Underground

"Similar ads were posted for Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., none of which reported any negative backlash. But in South Carolina, reaction to the posters — dubbed “the gayest ever mainstream media advertising campaign in London” by Out Now, the Australian advertising firm that designed the promotion — was swift."
What a surprise. Really, nobody saw this coming?
Travel agency exec Andrew Roberts explains:

“From where we sit, and for all our many customers, being described as ‘so gay’ is not a negative thing at all. We think it is just great to be so gay,” said Roberts, who called the campaign a success, having reached more than 2 million people in London.
I love this kind of thing: when people are coming from such completely different places that they just don't get what the other side could possibly be thinking.
Read more here

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chess Makes Strong Players Sad, Too

Remember that great Chess Life cover with Alex Shabalov and the knocked over crates in the loft with the damaged walls?

There's more here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Hate Myself

(207) Vicary,Elizabeth - Hua,David [B52]
Marshall July Open (4), 13.07.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0–0 Nc6 6.c3 Nf6 7.d4 Nxe4 8.d5 Nd8 9.Re1 Nf6 10.Bg5 e5

Now I know what the choice is. I can take on f6 and have a nice, pleasant positional edge, space, a better structure, development, everything. For the pawn, yes, but it's nice for me.

Or.... I can take on e5 like a HUGE F&^*ING STUPID ASSHOLE. I'm sorry about that.

11.Nxe5 [11.Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nh4] 11...dxe5 12.Rxe5+

Now of course I have missed that after 12... Ne6 13.Na3 0–0–0 my pawn will in fact still be pinned. Why did I miss that? Because I was only interested in the black king, and I didn't even stop to think about where the black rook would be. I am a stupid stupid ridiculous excuse for a human being. I love chess most of the time; why do I have to be so awful?

12... Be7 13.Qe2 Kf8

Of course I forgot he could unravel like this also...

14.Nd2 Bd6 15.Bxf6 Bxe5 16.Bxe5 Qxd5

17.Nc4 Ne6 18.Rd1 Qc6 19.Qg4 Re8

Still, despite huge retardation, I seem to have some tactical possibilities.

20.Bd6+ Kg8 21.Ne5 Qc8 22.Qh5 g6 23.Qh6? [23.Qf3 f5 24.h4] 23...Qd8 24.f4

24...Nd4 25.Bxc5 Ne2+ 26.Kf2 Qxd1 27.Ng4 Qg1+ 28.Kf3 Qf1+ 29.Bf2 Ng1+ 30.Kg3 Qd3+ 31.Kh4 Qd8+ 32.Kg3 Ne2+ 33.Kh3 f5 34.Ne5 Qd2 35.Bc5 Nxf4+ 36.Kh4 Nxg2+ 0–1

I don't mind losing, it's just the feeling of being such a f&*ing stupid dumbass. I feel like punching myself in the face. I'm just so dumb, all the time. And you know what occured to me last night that I was going to tell you about? I realized that I play chess because it's pretty much the only time I ever feel anything. The rest of the time, with just a couple exceptions, I am almost completely numb. Somewhere along the way I turned into zombie.

Chess is the only time I have more than an absolutely nominal interest in anything or anyone. And I study all the time, and dozens of good players help and have helped me, and I am still absolutely awful.

don't leave me some stupid cheer up message.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hurray! I slime a child!

I'm playing in the July Open at the Marshall. I'm 2-0, which is lucky. Let's look at my amazing swindle against a young child, who was totally crushing me:

(206) Vicary,Elizabeth - Sandburg,Evan [B31]
Marshall July Open (2), 12.07.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6

What was disconcerting here is that I'm pretty sure I switched lines, and don't take here anymore, but for the life of me, I could not remember what I switched to. Not even the first move. But I taught a couple kids to play 4. Bxc6 a few months ago, so I remember that well enough.
4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 e5 7.Nc3

The knight usually goes to f6, which I think is part of some unbelievably long-winded plan of Ng8-f6-e8-c7-e6-d4. Seems ridiculous to me, also. Also, I can't play 8. Nxe5 because of 8...Nxe4.
7... Ne7 8.Be3 Qd6 9.Qd2 0–0 10.g4

Yeah, I don't know about this anymore either. I figure he wants to play ... f5, because I can't see how else he's going to activate his knight. I'm not sure that ... f5 is a good move, really, because it seems like if I take it, then I should get either the e4 square if he recaptures with a piece, or an exposed king to attack if he takes with the pawn. But still, I kinda wanted to stop it just to piss him off.

Let me tell you what I do know: in the main position of this opening:

white has four plans:

1. 0-0-0 and a kingside attack with a pawn storm (I guess h4? I think I read somewhere h3 and g4, but I never understand what those pawns are threatening there.)
2. 0-0 and kingside attack based on trading dark bishops and playing f4.
3. 0-0 and a3, b4 to loosen up the queenside
4. playing a4 and getting a knight (my memory says the c3 knight, but that looks crazy slow to me) to c4.

I am incredibly proud of myself for knowing that.

Now back to the game.

10....Be6 11.0–0–0 f6 12.Bh6 b5 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.g5? a5 15.Rdg1 a4 16.gxf6+? Rxf6 17.Nh2 a3! [17...h5!] 18.b3 Qd4 19.Ng4 Bxg4 20.hxg4 Ng8 21.f3 b4 22. Qh2

OK, at this point I have 2 minutes left for 8 moves, I'm down a piece, and I'm quite possibly getting mated. Or his a pawn is queening. It turns out I play much better in time pressure when I'm completely lost, because I don't agonize over decisions too long. Starting from this point, I am quite proud of my play, which is not something I can remember feeling.

22...bxc3? 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qb7 Rd8 25.Re1 Qd7 26.Qa6 Rf7 27.Rh8 Re8 28.Reh1 Rd8

He had 12 minutes last move but spent a long time here, leaving himself with just a minute for the last two moves. I had had 40 seconds for 6 moves at some point, but it didn't bother me because I had already relinquished any expectations.

29.Qc4 Qe7 [29...Qd4 30.Qa6 Qe3+ 31.Kb1 Qxf3] 30.Qxc3 Qg5+ 31.Kb1 Qe7 32.Qc4 Rd4 33.Qa6 Rxf3 34.Qxa3 Rd8

35.R1h7! Rf7 36.Rxf7+ Qxf7 37.Qxc5+ Kg7 38.Qxe5+ Kf8

Where did all his pawns go????


I just felt like this move would be annoying. It stops checks on f6 and takes some squares from the knight.

39... Re8 40.Qd6+ Kg7 41.Qh2 Kf8 42.Rh7 Qf1+ 43.Kb2 Re7

44.Qd6 Qf2 45.a4 Qb6 46.e5 Qe3 47.d4

[47.Rxe7 Nxe7 48.Qf6+ Ke8 (48...Kg8 49.Qxe7) 49.e6] 47...Qd2

48.e6 Qa5 49.Qb8+ Re8 50.Rf7# 1–0


I had two other thoughts while playing this game that I would like to tell you about.

Two Other Thoughts!
1. Chessplayers are very tolerant. I say this because so unbelievably many chessplayers* have unbearably annoying board manners / habits/ smell /loudness of breathing and/ or compulsively vibrate the table with their legs, yet it seems like I'm the only person who ever says anything. Everybody else is a complete saint. I really do not know how they do it.

2. I want to do a project at the next big open that I can't for some reason play in. I want to hang out in the low sections and collect data on which openings are most effective at different rating levels. For example, is it really true that the Grand Prix works every single time under 1500? Maybe the Dutch scores 85-90% under 1200? I could make a CLO article out of it, right? Definitely. It's probably the most interesting thing in the world to enthusiastic D players.

*although surprisingly not my young opponent, who was totally fine.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Sveshnikov from the World Open

Point,Gary - Vicary,Elizabeth [B33]
World Open, U 2200 round 4

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5

Oh my goodness, a Sveshnikov. I have a very strange love/hate relationship with this opening. I know some theory but I'm definitely not prepared to play the typical endgames. I don't understand what's going on in any profound way. It's kind of surreally anti-positional, so when I win, it's usually because my idea was so weird that my opponent couldn't find it. I know long term I should switch and play something strategic and logical like the Accelerated Dragon. But sometimes it's really a lot of fun, and perhaps I have a sentimental attachment to it also...

6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.Qh5 Ok, so I haven't looked at this line in .. umm.. not since 2006 I think, but my memory is that it didn't look so hard to play for black.

12...Rg8 13.g3 Rg6

I think the rook usually goes to g5 or g4, but Rg6 is an interesting square too.. There are some ideas of trapping the queen, for example 14. Qxh7? Rh6 15. Qg8 followed by ...Nd4 and ...f6

14.c3 b4 [14...fxe4 This doesn't work quite yet: 15.Bxe4 Bg4 16.Qh4 Qxh4 17.gxh4 Rh6? 18.Nf6+; 14...f4 15.gxf4 Bg4 16.Qxh7 Rh6 17.Qg8 Rg6 18.Qh8 Rh6=]

15.Nc4 [15.cxb4 Nd4]

15...Rc8 I was pretty happy with my position here. Ncb6 is nothing-- I'll just play Rb8 and he has to go back, so I gain a tempo.


And now I feel triumphant, since my opening strategy has worked and now I can win his queen. Of course Rybka calls this -.68, but for me at that moment, I was wildly happy.

16...fxe4 17.Bxe4 Bg4 18.Bxg6 Bxh5 19.Bxh5 bxc3

Why not, right? He has to take back. But at this point I start to become afraid. Last summer I had three positions where I was up a queen for a rook and piece, and I lost all of them horribly. I remember the last one especially-- it was at the Continental Open on Sunday morning, I was playing some tiny kid who was not really all that good, After the game I completely lost it. I cried all through lunch, sobbing into the calamari and two glasses of wine. Oh my god, how humiliating that was.


So how am I going to organize myself? I'm realizing that this is nto going to be easy at all-- my bishop is bad, my knight isn't on a good square, my king is unsafe, and while white's kingside rook is undeveloped, all the rest of his pieces look great.


So I talk myself into this move, envisioning the lines 21. cxd4 Rxc4 22. dxe5 Re4+ (super) or 21. Ncb6 Rxc3 22. Nxc3 Qxb6 (for an exchange I have a pawn, a beautiful square for my knight, plus I'm blocking the d file, which makes his rook not so good and my d6 pawn not so bad. Then as soon as I put my knight down, I realize that I didn't look at Ndb6 at all. Desparation fillls me. Luckily he doesn't play it. Afterwards, Rybka shows a funny refutation: 21. Ndb6 Nc2+ 22. Kd2 Na3! 21.Nce3 [21.cxd4 Rxc4 22.dxe5 Re4+; 21.Ncb6 Rxc3 22.Nxc3 Qxb6; 21.Ndb6 Nc2+ 22.Kd2 Na3 23.Nxc8 Nxc4+ 24.Ke2 Qxc8]

21...Nb5 22.0–0

So here I have a long think. Of course, my initial intention was to take on c3, but then I decide that I really don't want to exchange a pair of knights or a pair of rooks, (on the general theory that when you have one of something and your opponent has two, you shouldn't exchange.) So then I'm thinking, ok, but what else to do? I'd like to play Bg7, but I might need the bishop where it is to defend d6. And I start looking at Qg5. My thinking goes like this: 22... Qg5 23. Bf3/e2 f5. Then I'm interested in either f4 (to start an attack) or e4 (vacating e5 for my bishop, opening the 5th rank for my rook/queen, blocking the long diagonal for his bishop, maybe someday preparing ...e3)

22...Qg5?? Of course as soon as I make the move I realize I'm not threatening to take on h5 because of Nf6. I spend 10 minutes screaming at myself inside my head. Then I look back at the position and realize he's going to play f4 and it's very very strong.

23.f4! exf4 24.Rxf4 Bg7?? What's so awful, yet hilarious about this move is that he can now trap my queen, in almost exactly the same way I trapped his, [24...Nxc3! 25.Nxc3 Qxh5] 25.Bxf7+ [25.Rf5 Qh6 26.Bxf7+ Kd8 27.Rh5]

He thought for a very long time here. I had seen Rf5 and was sure he was going to play it. I hated him so much, and also myself. I could not sit at the board, it was all so disgusting.

26.c4?? Now I felt angry that I was losing to someone who didn't see things. [26.Rf5 Qh6 27.Rh5]

26...Nc3 27.Nxc3 Bxc3 28.Rxd6+ Kc7 29.Rd5 OK, so I have a choice of three squares: e7, g7 and h6. 29... Qe7 looked like it lost something to 30. Rd3, which threatens both my bishop and Nd5. 29... Qg7 looked bad to me after 30. Be6, which threatens both Rf7 and Rd7. I couldn't see an immediate win after 29...Qh6, and even though it looks pretty lame, I can dream about the variation 29... Qh6 30. Rh5 Qb6 31. Rxh7 Qb1+ 32. K moves Qxh7.

29...Qh6 30.Rh5

It's happening!! I try to play 30...Qb6 as casually as possible.

30...Qb6 31.c5 Qb1+ 32.Rf1 Qd3 33.Nd5+ Kb8 There's a few choices for my king, but I want a dark square and not d8.


[34...Qe4 35.h3 Bd4+ 36.Kh2 Qc2+ 37.Kh1 Rxc5 38.Rxc5 Bxc5 39.Bb3 Qd2]

35.Kg2 Qc2+ 36.Kh3 Rxc5 37.Rxc5 Bxc5 38.Bb3 Qf5+ 39.Kg2 Qe4+ 40.Kh3 Qf5+

And I agreed to a draw here, which is pretty stupid. It seems like I just totally lose my fighting spirit after four hours. I torture myself endlessly with accusatory mind chatter "youregoingtoloseyouregoingtoloseyousucksomuchihateyou." I gotta figure out how to become less neurotic. Ok, I admit that having no clue how or where to start in thinking about this position made things much worse, and also that if I knew more about endgames I would understand that I am the one trying to win here, and that I DON'T NEED TO FREAK OUT. I can push my a pawn, and then try to win his, somehow, cleverly: [40...Bd6 41.Rf2 a5 42.Bc2 Qd4 43.Rf3 a4 44.Bf5 (44.Rf1 Qc4 45.Rf2 Bxf4 46.gxf4 Qxa2) 44...Qb2 45.Be6] ½–½

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Rumor has it that GM John Fedorowicz will be playing for the New York Knights this fall.

This is an Amateur Team I was on called "Being John Fedorowicz." We won best name/gimmick/costume, beating, I believe, the Chess Police. It was the year that the movie Being John Malkovich came out, if that explain things.

Left to right: Samson Benen, Ron Young, me, Lew Eisen.

*Greg said I couldn't call it news.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Twin Peaks, 3 Photos, Some Chess

So yeah, the World Open, soon, but what I really want to talk about is Twin Peaks. I was watching it on VHS cassette last night, and previously I had always thought "how amazing that this show was made in the 80s," but this time I thought "there is no way this show could be made today." And that's not the prelude to a whiny rant about the stupidity of television these days. Actually, I think a lot of great television is being made these days and that television should be much better than movies. It's just a richer format. People form long-term emotional relationships.

But back to my thesis-- "Twin Peaks could not be made right now."
Look at the great tv shows of the last 10 years: Seinfeld, the Simpsons, Law and Order (SVU), The Office (American version), Sex and the City, the Wire, the Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, Lost. (I haven't seen the last three.)

What do they all have in common? They are all primarily character driven. The characters determine the plot is what I mean, not the other way around. There is no interest in either cinematography or style for its own sake. When either is featured, it is always in the service of character development or to set the mood for a good character interaction.
Because of their importance, it's natural that the characters (these days) are exceptionally well-developed. What's also (but maybe not necessarily) true is that modern characters are almost all written to be believable/ familiar.* The Simpsons are funny because you know a kid like Bart.
It might be hard to imagine a TV show that isn't like that, just because it's so ubiquitous these days, but let me suggest some:
Murder She Wrote was mostly about the genre of mystery,
Macgyver was mostly concerned with being brilliantly DIY,
BayWatch was about being sexy**,
The Adams Family was about being Goth.
The Twilight Zone was about ... I don't know, but you get it.
A lot of shows were probably really plot-driven.
And Twin Peaks is a very stylized show.
--very interested in creating memorable still shots.
--fine with tangents that would 100% be cut these days-- there's one in which a lawyer is standing in his older brother's jail cell and he thinks back to when they were kids, lying on bunkbeds, and this little girl danced for them. You see the girl dancing and hear the record she's dancing to for a long time, at least a minute.
-- ok with characters who are completely implausible- not just underdeveloped or badly acted, but intentionally weird and unrecognizable.
I'm kinda half reading a book like this-- A Sport and a Pastime. The language couldn't be written today: "Past and haunting images of France, reflected over and over like facets of an inexhaustible stone. I walk through the silent house, the talls rooms chilled with wintr light, the furnishings crossed by it, the windows. The quality of stillness is everywhere. There is no single detail that provides it. It exists like a veiled face."
I guess the thing they have in common is being self-consciously arty?! And maybe that's not ever done in popular culture now?

*it's possible Seinfeld has the least realistic characters, but that was also one of the earlier shows
** Honestly, I don't know because I never saw it, but it seems like that, second-hand.

Three amusing moments from my World Open games....

White to move

White to move

Should black play 20... Rxc3?

World Open Photos
Alan Stein
Alex Shabalov
mystery man
1. 11. Rxa6! Rb8 (11...Rxa6 12. Qxb5+) 12. dxe5 dxe5 (continued)
2. 13. Qxb5! Rxb5 14. Ra8+ Qd8 15. Rdxd8 Ke7 16. Nc3 Rc5 17. Be3 1-0
3. No, because 20.. Rxc3 21. Bxc3 Qc5+ 22. Bd4! Bxd4 23. Kh1 Qxa3?? 24. Bxf7+!

PS I like my CLO article (, except I say the words "really enjoyed" way too many times in the beginning.