Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Rook anunciates Folly, dissects the feeble defence put up by Shabalov. THE EXCITEMENT!

Shabalov could also have moved out the light-squared bishop. But he is a fool. His feeble mind does not see the truth. Areshchenko is already bending him to his twisted purpose; see how he suppresses his manic laughter. Shabalov is being manipulated like the pieces he is playing with. Watch his mind crumble, like overly dry cheese - Areshchenko will probably start eating the crumbs any minute now, then spit them out as a gesture of contempt.

Notice how the hypnotic eyes of his opponent force Shabalov to look away from the board and play without seeing his opponents moves. A serious disadvantage.

He makes a weak move, more feeble than his shattered mind, entering the infamous Damiano Defence. An action only lunatics and cretins would take. Areshchenko smiling now, like a cat who has bitten off the legs of a mouse, and is waiting to see what it will do next. Which is usually not much, as mice without legs are not terribly mobile.

It's very funny, no wait, it's absolutely the funniest thing ever written. check out the articles on Shabalov vs Areshchenko, drugs, chess, or Sergei Rachmaninoff. or, ok, anything else.

Let's see some more highlights:

from chess:
King's Gambit - Sacrifice your King in order to gain an advantage in development. This bears no resemblance to the more successful King's Pawn Gambit.
King's pawn gambit - Sacrifice your King's pawn in order to gain an advantage somehow. Not to be confused with the even more successful King's bishop pawn gambit.
King's bishop pawn gambit - Nobody cares. (click on this -- it's awesome. ev)
Najdorf - Memorize 35 moves of opening theory, and then lose the game in 23 moves after your opponent plays the Sveshnikov, which you forgot to memorize. And yes, it really is pronounced "Nye-dorf".
French Defense - Where you automatically surrender after your opponent's first move.
Spanish Game - Where White checks to make sure Black is Jewish, then persecutes him mercilessly.
Israel attack - Try to explain that your opponent’s king belongs to you because God gave it to you some centuries ago, and if he doesn’t want to surrender, use your tanks even if he has only stones to throw at you.
Palestinian attack - Sacrifice all your pieces for the sake of winning one of your opponent's pawns, and refuse any draw offers until no pieces remain on the board.


four eyes?

the view from Jean's apartment

the view into Jean's apartment. notice her cool green bike.

San Javier, more Wu-Tang, business cards

San Javier and Jean
inside the church

more from the Wu-Tang Manual:
"Power comes from surprising places. The knight, for example, isn't the most obvious power pieces, but it is the most Mathematical. It moves in a right angle of two steps up and one left. It's also close to God because its course traces a number seven on the board. You have to be super careful around the knight. To me, the knight and the rook are the two most dangerous men on the board. If I have my knights and my rooks, I'm still a very formidable foe. "
"I think marijuana is just nature's way of sayin' 'Hi.'"
-- Method Man
I had a new idea for business cards. My friend Jean has an attractive, artsy card, and I know I should get one, because people are always asking me at scholastic tournaments and I'm always writing my email on old receipts or torn sheets of paper. So here's my idea: cards that fade to blank after three days. That way, if someone deson't call you in a reasonable time frame, they lost their chance. I'm envisioning a plastic overlay that you remove immediately before giving the card out, and maybe (after the idea takes off), we can provide options-- a 2 week card (for business), a 3 day card for bars.
word of the day: monetize

you gotta see this

I met this kid tonight. awesomeness. also this.

take a goat in passing

The Wu-tang Manual is absolutely hilarious.

Before we get to the chess, cinema, or drugs section, lets consider some stratagems for confrontation:
1. create something out of nothing
2. advance to Chencang by a hidden path
3. watch the fire burning across the river
4. conceal a dagger in a smile
5. sacrifice plums for peaches
6. take a goat in passing

Monday, December 29, 2008

mountain lions, a new invention

I'm in Tucson visiting my friend Jean. This morning we went for a peaceful walk in Coronado National Forest. On the way in we were handed a neon green warning sheet titled "Problem Mountain Lions." I will reproduce the highlights. (Notice that all italicization is taken from the original)

If mountain lions have always been here, why be so concerned lately?
Because some "problem" mountain lions in Sabino Canyon have recently displayed aberrant behavior that is known to precede attacks on humans. This behavior includes
*active during daylight hours
*unafraid of humans
*stalking humans
What should I do if I'm attacked by a mountain lion?
*Fight back with whatever you have at hand without turning your back.
*Try to remain standing to protect your head and neck.

Where are mountain lions likely to be?
*Mountain lions may be anywhere, but cliffs and steep slopes are favorite vantage points from which they can easily pounce on prey from above.
*Cats also conceal themselves in brushy areas where they can rush prey then drag their kill back into a protected area.

Why would a mountain lion attack a human?
Cougars are opportunistic predators. It is feared that the problem may NOT discern "animals" from "humans" as prey. Lions are capable of killing large animals, including deer, livestock, bighorn sheep, and elk.

How dangerous are there problem lions?
Extremely. These big cats are solid muscle, can leap up to 20 feet, and outrun deer for short distances. They are excellent climbers and jumpers, and can swim when necessary. They are perfectly camoflaged and often remain unseen until they attack. Nine out of ten humans attacked by mountain lions are children. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN CLOSE AT ALL TIMES!
A Great Idea Hits Me At Lunch
I had a great idea at lunch, let me give you the background story first. Jean and I once (like 5 years ago) took a massage class together at the Open Center every Monday night for eight weeks. It was very jolly-- we would practice giving each other massages for 1.5 hours, then go out for Thai food, and drink a lot of wine. Of course, each week we had mostly forgotten the previous week's lesson (it went by body part-- the back, the neck, the arms, etc) , and by this point (lunch), both us of combined could only remember one stroke. We were also talking about the ways we expect society to change in the next 10 years (we passed a store that seemed to sell only rubber stamps and laughed), and I mentioned that the Open Center was no longer offering any massage (not even shiatsu!), only foot reflexology. (and I like foot massages) Jean pointed out that we probably only needed to look on the internet and get some notes on basic strokes and we'd be fine.
And then my idea came to me. I call it The Instructive Massage Glove. The Instructive Massage Glove is a glove you wear while giving someone a massage, but the glove itself gives you feedback: "not so hard," "a little lower." (because who wants to talk when you're trying to relax, right?) The glove has been programmed to know how much pressure most people like in their back massage, and has some program with some information about anatomy, so it knows where muscles, pressure points etc. are.
like it? I think it would be the perfect present to buy your girlfriend / my boyfriend for Christmas.
I just read Paul Krugman's book, The Return of Depression Economics. It's good, very readable, in the same populist vein as Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell's stuff. Not quite as good, but still interesting: Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I am seeing a lot of movies lately.

Tonight I saw Slumdog Millionaire. This is the absolute worst movie ever.
It's like a fake movie. It's similar in many ways to a real movie, except the characters are totally flat and the action is predictable and boring. I actively hated everyone in it while watching it.
But here's an interesting NY Times magazine article about Fischer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

let the right one in

You have to see this movie, Let The Right One In. Let's just say it's the absolute finest Scandinavian teenage vampire movie ever. In the above picture, the girl's familiar (seen fleeing, left) was bleeding a trussed up man into a bucket before he was disturbed by two girls walking their giant poodle.

Milk, about the life of Harvey Milk, the first homosexual elected to major public office (City Supervisior in San Fransisco), was also great. Sean Penn is fantastic, and Diego Luna is the only actor I actually have a real crush on.

I saw this photo and I thought, damn, he's really kinda hot.

Monday, December 22, 2008

two things I'd like to comment on this morning, plus my christmas present list.

The first is Dick Cheney's "I'm not sorry about telling Leahy to f**k off /go f**k himself* on the Senate floor because he 'merited' it."

Wow, what a total prick this guy is; it really boggles my mind. You know it's a sign that the guy has no capacity for self criticism / self reflection, when he can't even admit that cursing at a Senator on the Senate floor four years ago was not ideal behavior. Also, I'm pretty sure "f**k off" doesn't even have a real meaning, which makes it, you'd think, hard to "deserve."

Ironically, in the same interview, Cheney blows off Biden's criticisms of his record with the words, "If he wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that's obviously his call."

Also incredible -- Franken expects to win by 30-50 votes?

Nice to see that your one little vote really does matter, I guess.
In other news, a running account of Christmas presents received from students:
1. shiny blue broach
2. box of Mrs. Fields cookies
3. box of fancy chocolates
4. hand cream + travel size shampoo and conditioner
5. a very nice black mini messenger bag! (exactly my style! well done, observant mother!)
6. a small figurette of a snowman that takes batteries gives off lights of changing colors
7. a very fancy silver and purple broach
8. hand cream+ talcum powder

These are easily the best Christmas presents I've ever received. Usually I get a bunch of figurines of swans and some bad Polish chocolate. And the day is only half over.

* apparently it is unclear which he said.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

student tactics quiz positions!

Shawn Swindell

1. Shawn Swindell 1496 - Patrick Thomas 1370

White continued with the theoretical 9. Ng5.
a) what's wrong with 9... Qxf6?
b) what's the best move for black instead?

Mitasha Palha

2. Samuel Russell 1322 - Mitasha Palha 973

White played 14.Bd4. What's hilariously wrong with this?

Miguel Garcia

3. Gideon Stebbins 695 -- Miguel Garcia 1569
Miguel didn't play the best move, but he did find the funniest one.

John Paul Garcia with IM Yury Lapshun

4. JP Garcia 1402 - Dylan Austin 832
white to move

Jose Morrero, orange shirt

5. Jose Morrero 1220 - Justin Martinez 1563
Black played 7... Nbd7.
a) what's wrong with that? b) what's the only decent move in this position?

Ameer Williams, left, with Rochelle Ballantyne and Najeebah Williams

6. Ameer Williams 1083 - Tatiana Raevsky 1358
He didn't see it,but what should Ameer (white) have played here?

7. Shin, Philip 1541 -- Ameer Williams 1083
This time Ameer found it! Black to move.

Joel Ogunremi is one of my most talented sixth graders. He learned some valuable endgame lessons in this tournament.

8. Joel Ogunremi 1144 - Brian Jordan 1567

What king and rook set-up should white use to stop the black d pawn? What movie should white make now?

9. Matthew Goldstein UNR - Joel Ogunremi 1133
White just played b4. How should black respond?

Answers will be coming shortly in an article behind this one (I'll back -time it).


1. Swindell,Shawn (1528) - Thomas,Patrick (1496) [C56]
Grade Nationals 6th (6), 19.12.2008
a) 9.Ng5 Qxf6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.Qh5+ Qf7 12.Qxc5
b) black should play 9... Qd5! 10. Nc3! Qf5 (10... dxc3? 11. Qxd5!) 11. g4!? Qg6! (11... Qxf6? 12.Nd5! Qd8 13. Rxe6 fxe6 14. Nxe6 +/-) 12. Nce4.

Notice that 9... 0-0? loses to 10. fxg7 Kxg7 11. Rxe6 fxe6 12. Nxe6! and 9... Qd6 loses to 10. Rxe6 fxe6 11. Qh5+ Kd7 12. Ne4!

2) Russell,Samuel (1322) - Palha,Mitasha (977) [C02]
Grade Nationals 6th, 19.12.2008
14.Bd4?? Nxd4! 15.a3 [15.Nxd4 Bb4#!!] 15...Nxf3+ 16.Bxf3 and black won in 40 moves (She didn't play badly, just the kid played to mate) 0–1

3) Stebbins,Gideon (1569) - Garcia,Miguel (695) [A05]

11.Ne3 Nc3!? Unfortunately, it isn't so bad for white to have doubled b pawns, because the rook on the b file coordinates well with the Bg2 to attack b7. But I thought it was funny.

12.bxc3 Qxg5 13.Nc4 Qe7 14.Qe2 e5 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.Bf4 Be6 17.Nxe5 Bh3 18.Rfe1 Rfe8 19.d4 f6 20.Ng4 Qxe2 21.Nh6+ Bxh6 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.Bxh6 Rae8 24.Be3 R2xe3 25.fxe3 Rxe3 26.dxc5 Rxc3 27.Rb1 Rxc2 28.Rb8+ Kg7 29.Rb7+ Kh6 30.Rxa7 Rxc5 31.a4 Rf5 32.Rxh7+ Kxh7 33.Kh1 Rf1# 0–1

4) Garcia,John Paul (1402) - Austin,Dylan (832) [C50]
Grade Nationals 6th (4), 19.12.2008
39.Nxb7! Rxb7 40.Rc7 Rxc7 41.bxc7 Nfd7 42.c8Q Kg7 43.Rxd7 Nxd7 44.Qxa8 1–0

5) Morrero,Jose (1220) - Martinez,Justin (1563) [D12]
Grade Nationals 6th, 19.12.2008
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Bf5 3.e3 Nf6 4.c4 c6 5.Nc3 e6 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Ne5 Nbd7 8.g4! Bg6 9.h4 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Ne4 11.Qa4+ Ke7 12.Qb4+ Ke8 13.Bb5+ Qd7 14.Bxd7+ Kxd7 15.Qxb7+ 1-0

The only decent move after 7. Ne5 is 7... Nfd7.

6) Ameer should have played 1. b4! If 1...Qxb4 2. Rb1 Q moves 3. Bxc5 Qxc5 4. Rxb7

7) Ameer found 1... Qf6! which threatens Ra1 and Qa1 and guards the h8 square against 2. Rh8+. The game ended 2. c3 Qf2#

8) White should bring his king to the center, fast, leaving his rook on the c file to cut off the black king. The best black can do is:
1. Kf1 Rd8 2.Ke1 d3 3.Rc3 Re8+ 4.Kd2 Re2+ 5.Kxd3 Rxf2 6.Rc2 when white has reaosnable winning chances.

9) Black should play 1... c4. The important ideas here are that:
a) the side trying to win wants to keep as many pawns on the board as possible (since pawns=potential queens=potential winning chances)
b) Both sides want to fix the opponents' pawns on dark squares, in order to make the enemy bishop bad. 1... c4 gets a black pawn off a dark square and makes sure the b4 pawn won't move.

As a bonus for finishing, here are some song lyrics that struck me:

you were no ordinary drain on her defenses
and she was no ordinary girl
Oh, Inverted World
if every moment of our lives were cradled softly in the hands of some strange and gentle child
i'd not roll my eyes so.

the shins, "one by one all day"

Friday, December 19, 2008

I love being in the NY Times

"They came, they played, they swept."

It's the ultimate affirmation of relevance in my cultural framework.
and you know who always sees and congratulates me?
my landlord. go figure.

Also a short piece in the NY Post. A photographer came to school and took some really exquisite photos, which they didn't use, but he promised to send to me to use for blog. So that's coming soon.

Audio Interview With Rochelle

for ICC by Macauley Peterson: here

sounds like a dare to me...

"How could African leaders ever topple Robert Mugabe, organize an army to come?" Mugabe, who has led the country for 28 years, is quoted as asking. "It is not easy. I do not know of any African country that is brave enough to do that."

I think it's a bad sign when you are mocking your neighbors for not invading you.

Remember Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin's boyfriend / fiance? His mom was arrested for drug possession. I like how MSNBC can't help itself but mention, "The baby is due Saturday."

Oh, the national soap opera that never was....

And finally, Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 (e4)

In the beginning, everything was equal and everyone was happy. There were big cities and hick states, Super GMs and Ilya Krasik, statisticians and jumble-makers, little children and Larry Kaufman, both coasts, the North, the South, the Midwest, the Southwest, even, remarkably, the Pacific Northwest. Back then, the only form of war known was the Comment War, and this was more like a ritualized, ceremonial trading of insults, rather than any actual substantive accusations or even, come to think of it, attempts at factual statements.

Back in those days, the teams were all relatively evenly matched. Sure, some people would argue that this team was better than that team, but that opinion was usually identical to the opinion-holder's hometown, and therefore not terribly meaningful. No one ever really knew who would make the Playoffs or who would win the Finals. In fact, most people, even The Great Ruler, seemed to have no idea!

But then the Big Cities got together and hatched a plan. They said, "hey, let's make this one, tiny, tiny change in the rules" (we'll call it Change A). The big cities said they were making the suggestion because it was objectively a good idea, but the its sole effect would be to give an advantage to densely populated areas. Most teams were from large cities so they liked the idea. The medium-sized cities didn't think it was their business to object. People demanded the right to vote.

because voting is sexy, right?

The Great Ruler reluctantly polled the Team Managers and, in the end, Change A was effected.

The next season, Carolina, Tennessee, and Arizona were huddled together at the bottom of the rankings. Within two years, all three teams had voluntarily* withdrawn from the USCL.

Next year, the same three teams, New York, Boston, and San Fransisco, suggested one more rule change (change B). The sole effect of this change would be to benefit teams with more high rated players. Of course, the teams making the suggestion said they were doing it for the sake of the fans, and the fans, overjoyed to have been even mentioned, screamed their approval. Democracy prevailed.

By the next season, any team that couldn't consistantly field a 2 GM lineup suffered a severe handicap. Philadelphia, Chicago, and even Queens dropped like weighted kittens to the bottom of the pool.

The two exceptions to this phenomenon were Dallas and Miami, whose combination of improving young players and team chemistry allowed them to remain a thorn in the side of the Big Three.

The following year, someone stood up patriotically and said, "Hey, this is the UNITED STATES Chess League! What are all these GODDAMN FOREIGNERS doing on our top boards, taking pieces out of American mouths? This tournament should be for Americans! There ought to be a rule**" New York, Boston, and San Fransisco rubbed their hands and laughed as the INS came for Miami and Dallas.

After several more years, the USCL map had been redrawn to include just three MEGA-teams: what used to be known as New York, Boston, and San Fransisco. By 2015, they had renamed themselves Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania. Two of them are perpetually at war with the third.

The Great Ruler walked away from the league in disgust and now lives alone, somewhere in the forest.

*with one exception
** name the song

Joel Johnson Annotates His Student's Game

Richard Justin Cowan

Hi All,

I firmly believe this is the best game played at Valley Chess this year. Congrats to Richard Justin Cowan who played this gem! And, I might also add that it takes two players to play well in order to have a great game like this one.

Thanks, Joel

PS: Richard is a student at Barry Goldwater High School and is getting chess instruction from Dave Small and myself.

Kannan, Nithin (1230) - Cowan, Richard Justin (1432) [B00]
Valley Chess (G/30), Phoenix, AZ (Round 2), 12/07/2008

1.e4 a6 2.Nf3 b5 3.d4 Bb7 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.Nbd2 e6 6.e5 Nd5 7.0–0 d6 8.exd6 cxd6 9.b3 Nc3 10.Qe1 Nd7 11.Bb2 Nd5

12.Be4 N7f6

13.Bxd5 Nxd5
14.c4 bxc4
15.bxc4 Nc7
16.d5 Be7

(This is a really bad idea. Opening the g-file for Black's Rook.)
18.Bb2 exd5
19.Bf6 Ne6
20.Bxe7 Qxe7
21.cxd5 Bxd5
22.Ne4 Kd7
23.Rb1 f5


25.Kxg2 Qg5+!
26.Kh1 Qxd2!! (What a stunning move!!)
27.Rg1 (If 27. Qd2 Bf3 28. Kg1 Rg8 29. Qg5 Rg5#. White best line is 27. Rb3 Qa2 28. Re3 Bf3 29. Rf3 Qd5 30. Qd1 Nd4 31. Rg1 Qf3 which easily wins for Black.)
27...Bxf3+ 28.Rg2


29.Kxg2 Rg8+ (There is no way for White to avoid checkmate.)

30.Kh1 Qd5+ (What a great game and finish!! Congrats to Richard for this gem!!) 0–1