Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I'm trying to test whether girls are less self-confident in their chess abilities than boys, if that affects their ability to find the right move in different situations, if it impacts their time usage, and whether one gender is more accurate in their self-assessment (i.e. maybe girls and boys both answer a question incorrectly, but only girls are aware of it). I'm in the middle of producing the survey and test positions, so I'm eager for your feedback or ideas. I'm excited about doing this well, because I feel like I'm in a uniquely good situation to gather data: many coaches have already offered to help.
Students are given 12 positions and asked what move they would play if they had this position in a game. While the problems are not labeled as such, there are four types of answers: tactics, attacking combinations/moves, positional moves, and positions where you must respond to your opponent's threat. After deciding on a move, students are asked
a) how sure they are that their move is a good move
b) how sure they are that their move is the best move.
They can choose from very sure, sure, medium sure, not sure, and it's a guess.
There are two worksheets, one for tournament players 800-1100, another for those rated 1100-1500. Students may take as long as they wish to answer the questions, but they are asked to report the total time.
After* completing the problems, students are asked a few questions: age, gender, ethnicity, rating, time spent on chess, time spent on this survey, and how good they see themselves as being, relative to others in their chess club. (What else should I ask?)
Any statisticians want to offer any advice on what I need for this to be remotely valid? Or where to go to learn how to analyse the data? (I know what a standard deviation is and I can use excel, but that's about it.)
ALSO: If you are a chess teacher and would be willing to give this to your students, please let me know. It should take about 30 minutes to complete, and I would be happy to send you the answers, so you could use it as a lesson.
*There's been research that shows that when African Americans (and maybe other minorities who are negatively stereotyped) are asked about their ethnicity before taking a standardized test, they perform measurably worse than when they are asked after completing the test.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Girls 16 and Under Champions [Talitha, Jie Jing, (both tied for 7th in the under 16/under 14 section), Rochelle (winner of the Under 16 section)], with IM Anna Zatonskih
Mitasha (tied for 6th, Girls 12 and Under)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Mitasha, Brittanie, Talitha, Xonatia
Thursday, April 23, 2009
My dad (visiting from England), playing Aleem at a neighborhood fair. Myles is watching.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The expert here is Eleanor Maguire of University College, London, who famously showed a few years ago that the shape of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in long-term learning, changes in London cabbies."
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
*** at the time Greg was dating Jennie Frenklakh, and they wrote each other long letters.
Last night I was reading this unbelievable article about an Iranian expat cult. I had assumed messanic cults were somehow an American phenomonen.
“IT WAS one of the strangest places I’d ever seen,” says one of the few Farsi-speaking Westerners to have spent weeks in Camp Ashraf, 65km (40 miles) north-east of Baghdad, where some 3,400 Iranian dissidents are hunkered down and are now threatened with expulsion from Iraq, perhaps even back to Iran. It was “like a spiffy midsized town in Iran”, with parks, offices and buildings—but no children. It was “sterile, soulless and sad”. Nearly two decades ago, families living in the camp were “dissolved”, couples were forcibly divorced, and their children sent away, many of them to live with supporters living in the West, to be brought up in the faith of a movement widely described by independent observers as a cult.
For the past six years, the Americans have protected the camp, whose raison d’être is generally opposed by the surrounding Iraqi communities and by most Iranians, whether or not they are for or against the clerical regime in Tehran. But as American troops prepare to go home, the Iraqi government, which wants cosy ties with Iran, now says the camp must be closed and its inhabitants dispersed, probably back to Iran, where they would face an uncertain future, to put it mildly.
No less controversially, the PMOI is widely reviled by human-rights groups for nurturing a messianic cult of personality around Mr Rajavi and his wife, Maryam, and for enforcing a totalitarian discipline on its adherents. Several defectors testify, in the words of one of them, to a “constant bombardment of indoctrination” and a requirement to submit utterly and unquestioningly to the cause. No sources of news are allowed without the PMOI’s say-so. According to one defector, around 50 members who rebelled were sent to Saddam’s prison in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.
Members are completely cut off from contact with their families. When the above-mentioned Farsi-speaking Westerner, who visited Ashraf in 2004, enabled wavering group members to talk to their families in Iran by satellite telephone, some of their parents refused to believe it was their children, for they had been told by the PMOI that they were dead.
In other hilarious news, the smiling, happy 16 year old above is a Somali pirate, arriving in New York for trial. Arrrrr! Learn the language! (don't miss clips of pirate speak in Mandarin elsewhere on the site)
update: The NY Times has a funny headline today: When the City Held Pirates in High Regard
It has been many decades since a good pirate case has landed here, and for now, the laws and penalties are stacked to the skies against the defendant, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse; gangster capitalism has its limits.
History shows that the city has long held pirates in high regard. Successful ones, that is. Under Col. Benjamin Fletcher, who became the British governor of New York in 1692, piracy was a leading economic development tool in the city’s competition with the ports of Boston and Philadelphia.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
(of course, note the awesome first comment from Rick.)
Friday, April 17, 2009
"THAT the children of the poor underachieve in later life, and thus remain poor themselves, is one of the enduring problems of society. Sociologists have studied and described it. Socialists have tried to abolish it by dictatorship and central planning. Liberals have preferred democracy and opportunity. But nobody has truly understood what causes it. Until, perhaps, now.
To measure the amount of stress an individual had suffered over the course of his life, the two researchers used an index known as allostatic load. This is a combination of the values of six variables: diastolic and systolic blood pressure; the concentrations of three stress-related hormones; and the body-mass index, a measure of obesity. For all six, a higher value indicates a more stressful life; and for all six, the values were higher, on average, in poor children than in those who were middle class. Moreover, because Dr Evans’s wider study had followed the participants from birth, the two researchers were able to estimate what proportion of each child’s life had been spent in poverty. That more precise figure, too, was correlated with the allostatic load.
The capacity of a 17-year-old’s working memory was also correlated with allostatic load. Those who had spent their whole lives in poverty could hold an average of 8.5 items in their memory at any time. Those brought up in a middle-class family could manage 9.4, and those whose economic and social experiences had been mixed were in the middle.
These two correlations do not by themselves prove that chronic stress damages the memory, but Dr Evans and Dr Schamberg then applied a statistical technique called hierarchical regression to the results. They were able to use this to remove the effect of allostatic load on the relationship between poverty and memory discovered originally by Dr Farah. When they did so, that relationship disappeared. In other words, the diminution of memory in the poorer members of their study was entirely explained by stress, rather than by any more general aspect of poverty.
To confirm this result, the researchers also looked at characteristics such as each participant’s birthweight, his mother’s age when she gave birth, the mother’s level of education and her marital status, all of which differ, on average, between the poor and the middle classes. None of these characteristics had any effect. Nor did a mother’s own stress levels.
That stress, and stress alone, is responsible for damaging the working memories of poor children thus looks like a strong hypothesis."
awful thought, right? maybe I'm not understanding how the statistical techniques work, but I might also want to look at whether the quality of the schools the kids went to had any impact.
Just for context: "Children are considered to be living in poverty if their family income, before taxes, falls below the poverty thresholds set by the federal government for families of different sizes....In 2005, the poverty threshold for a single parent and two children was $15,735; for a married couple with two children the poverty threshold was $19,806 ... In 2005 (the latest year available), the highest rates of child poverty occurred in three of the five boroughs of NYC: Bronx (39.4%), Kings (which includes Brooklyn) (30.9%) and New York (29.9%)."
If you don't live in NYC, please understand that the conditions kids live in here are even more dire than in other parts of the country, simply because $15,735 doesn't go nearly as far here.
(info from the NY State Kids Well-Being Clearinghouse)
The entire basement (empty, dark, 40 foot ceiling, concrete floors, walls) is Bruce Nauman's work. He does the big fluorescent light pieces. (example below, but this one is not at dia)
It's great to stand in an enormous unlit basement completely by yourself with your eyes half-shut as that thing (or something like it) flickers at you on its own schedule.
Richard Serra. These are great because they are very big and somehow gracious.
I was disappointed in the positions I collected from Nationals, but I thought you might enjoy two good questions kids asked me recently that I couldn't answer and had to go home and look up. Answers are at the very bottom.
Jermaine's question: This position from a Guioco Piano occurred after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 6. O-O Bc5 7. Re1 O-O 8. Nxe5 Qh4. What is white supposed to do here, or has he already messed up?
Danny's question: This position occurred after
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 Nxd4 6. Nxe5 d6 7. Nxf7 Qe7 8. Nxh8 Bg4. White is up a rook and pawn, but black's pieces look very dangerous. What's going on?
Americans in Prison/ the Economist
Incidentally, do you know the difference between prison and jail? I had been using the terms synonymously, until a prison guard friend of my sister corrected me. Jail is where they take you overnight; prison is what you are sentenced to.
I've been getting my Economist late, lately, so this excerpt is two weeks old, but there is an eye-brow-raising article/ blog entry by Lexington (it's the magazine's editorial (?) blog on American politics) about incarceration rates in the US:
America has less than 5% of the world’s people but almost 25% of its prisoners. It imprisons 756 people per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the world average. About one in every 31 adults is either in prison or on parole. Black men have a one-in-three chance of being imprisoned at some point in their lives. “A Leviathan unmatched in human history”, is how Glenn Loury, professor of social studies at Brown University, characterises America’s prison system.
read more here
If I had a 1 in 3 chance of being imprisoned in my lifetime, I would be really angry.
A Public Service Announcement / Spam on Blog
Blood Clots/Stroke - They Now Have a Fourth Indicator, the Tongue
STROKE: Remember the 1st Three Letters....S.T.R. (see below)
During a BBQ, a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) .she said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes.
They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening
Ingrid's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00 pm Ingrid passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Ingrid would be with us today. Some don't die. they end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.
It only takes a minute to read this...
A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.
RECOGNIZING A STROKE - '3' steps, STR
Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.
Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S *Ask the individual to SMILE.
T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
(i.e. It is sunny out today.)
R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
NEW SIGN OF A STROKE - STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE
Ask the person to 'stick' out his tongue.. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.Thanks to Charlie Hertan (whose recent book, Forcing Chess Moves, won ChessCafe's Book of the Year) for this life-saving information.
your, ah, moment of Zen: Dan Flavin's "The Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy"
Jermaine's question: After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 6. O-O Bc5 7.
Re1 O-O 8. Nxe5 Qh4, white should take the knight with 9. Bxd5 because after 9...Bxf2+ 10. Kh1 Bxe1, he has 11. Nf3, forking the queen and bishop. After 11...Qh5 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13.
Qxe1, white has two pieces for a rook.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 Nxd4 6. Nxe5 d6 7. Nxf7 Qe7 8. Nxh8 Bg4
White is doing well and should continue 9. Qd2 Nxe4 10. Qf4 Be2 (10... Nxc2 11. Qxg4) (10... h5 11. Ng6) (10... Bh5 11. Re1) 11. Re1 Bxc4 (11... Nxc2 12. Rxe2) 12. Qxe4 Qxe4 13. Rxe4+ Kd7 14. Be3 Nxc2 15. Rxc4
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I think this is a very interesting reformulation of the idea of talent in chess, that idea that the genetic component we recognize as "talent" is something like persistance, or optimism, or an overriding intellectual curiosity, or the ability to think clearly in stressful situations, or just the willingness to sit through long periods of hard work and anxiety. I feel like for starters, this changes the terms of the conversation about gender in chess. It certainly makes the suggestion that women aren't as good at chess because they don't like playing it more powerful.
I was talking to a friend of mine about talent and he said something like the boys he works with are more talented than the girls. I asked what exact behaviors caused him to say this, and he replied something like "none of the girls would ever be able to solve these endgames immediately, or recognize that this idea is from a classic game." But I think those two things are actually about the work you have done in chess, more than about natural talent. But it's interesting that something that is probably a trained skill, like being able to make comparisons to earlier games ("pattern recognition"?) is sometimes seen, even by strong players/trainers, as talent.
But maybe the conclusion should be that a substantial part of what we mean by talent is the temperment to work? I read an interview with Carlsen where he said something like "probably if I described it, it would seem like I spend a huge amount of time studying chess, but really it never seemed like work to me." I remember in a 'coaches interview' I did for Chess Life a few years ago, Robby Adamson made a comment like "Girls don't work as hard at chess as boys, and that's why they aren't as good. You almost never see girls studying by themselves." I blew that off at the time, but I've come to think maybe he's right. Also, Dmitry Gurevich said to me a few years ago "when girls get good at chess, they peak for a short time but can't maintain it." I also found that annoying and stupid at the time*, but I've come back to think about it a lot.
update: title of uschess.org article: "Garry Kasparov in Nashville: Hard Work is a Talent"
*mostly because my own rating was beginning a free fall. :)
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Jacob's game finished: 2. Bxc6 Qd3+ 3. Ke1 (3. Kg1 Qd1#) Rae8 4. Bxe8 Rxe8 5. Qe7 Rxe7#.
It's hard for me to really know how I felt about Nationals -- we took 58 kids, and so the games I saw are really just a small and probably unrepresentative fraction of the whole. (Greg Shahade and Alex Lenderman helped me, so they saw the better kids' games. Let me say they are wonderful, patient, hard-working, generous people and I am deeply grateful to both of them.) But in my analysis, I saw a lot of blundering, which depressed me.
*that's my way of trying to impress you
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
more thoughts coming soon, while you're waiting here's a position from Jacob Martinez' (black) game against Anthony Swindell. (rd 4 k-9 under 1250). black to move.