Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a collection of humorous things

Did you know NASA allowed the public to vote on the name of the new living quarters in the International Space Station, which prompted Stephen Colbert to beg people to vote for him, and he won easily? NASA says they need to think about this (they have veto power), which causes a US Congressman to declare "the people have spoken."

Also, there's a website with a magic box that can tell the gender of the author of a 500 word inputed text. but it thinks I'm a man. thanks to Ron Young for this.

I'm off to supernationals tomorrow. 318 is playing in the k-8, k-6, k-12 under 1600, k-9 under 1250, k-8 under 1000, and k-8 under 750. my goal is 50%. :)

Saturday is World Pillow Fight Day. (probably better not to tell the kids?!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interview with Executive Board Candidate Brian Lafferty

EV: Do you feel like the governing structure of the USCF works? If so, why (do you think that)? If not, is it changeable and what should it be changed to?

BL: The governing structure works, but not well. Ideally, the USCF would not have the Delegates as the board of directors, especially with the full board, as it were, meeting only once a year. I would favor a board of 10 to 14 members serving much as boards do in other non-profit organization.

I would also have a very clear ethics/conflicts of interest policy that each board member would be required to sign yearly.

Many of these issues and possible solutions can be found at

EV: If you were going to make cuts in the USCF budget, where would they come from?

BL: I would hope that once the draining affects of litigation with Ms. Polgar and Mr. Truong are behind us, no cuts would be needed. One of the biggest problems in the past has been getting an accurate handle on the finances of the organization. Now that the USCF office has switched to a Peachtree accounting program, the numbers in our financial reports should become more meaningful allowing for cogent budget decisions that have simply not been possible in the recent past.

EV: Which other person do you tend to agree with most frequently in USCF politics?

BL: Probably Joe Lux and Wayne Praeder. But, agreement isn’t really the most important issue. Listening, actively listening, to others with differing opinions is more important. Listening, followed by honest, transparent consensus building should be the default decision-making process for all board members.

EV: Do you think it's a conflict of interest for Bill Goichburg to be President of the CCA and of the Executive Board? If so, do you think it’s also a problem? If not, why?

BL: A qualified, yes. However, it is a conflict that is out in the open. As long as it is out in the open generally and specifically as to instances when the conflict impacts matters being voted on by the board, problems can be averted. It can be dealt with by the other board members in their decision making process. Also, Mr. Goichburg should recuse himself from any vote on tournament matters that directly affect his business interests. Indirect interest are less clear and would have to be addressed by open board discussion as they occur.

EV: What specific areas of interest do you have within chess (scholastics, fund-raising, finance, rules, top players, organizing, FIDE, publications, etc.)?

BL: First of all, I do like to play chess and do so over the board every week. I am not driven to play rated chess as much as I am playing with challenging players in G60+ games. I’m also interested in correspondence chess and am captaining a team, the New England Blizzard, in a team server tournament being run by CCLA.
Organizationally, I have started and run an elementary school chess program at my daughter’s school (photos below) and I am active in the Massachusetts Chess Association, particularly distributing free chess sets to school and community organizations.

I would be very much interested in doing fund raising and assisting with grant writing for the organization. I have some expertise in that area having taught grant writing on the graduate level in the Masters of Public Administration program at American International College in Springfield, MA.

I would like to see the educational abilities of the organization enhanced to provide ever increasing resources to all areas of the chess community, especially scholastic, prison and community based chess programs.

EV: What 2 or 3 initiatives would you try to implement if you were elected?

BL: 1. The propagation of a clear ethics policy for board member and the means to enforce same without spending significant resources on litigation in the courts. Mandatory arbitration before the American Arbitration Association of ethical disputes, including board member removal, should be considered.

2. I would seek sponsorship to create a Chess Training Center where our top junior players could spend time (summers and school vacations) studying with paid trainers in an environment that would include chess, cultural enhancement (the arts, performing and study opportunity) and just plain fun.
3. I would also look for ways to increase team competition by supporting interclub matches (possibly server) locally and regionally. These might even be unrated to draw in new players to the organization.

EV: If you could change one USCF rule, policy, or procedure, what would it be?

BL: Make clear that, as much as possible, all business of the organization is to be conducted with absolute transparency so that the members will know exactly how their organization is being run.

EV: What does the USCF do best and what is it worst at?

BL: Best: ratings, tournament support, scholastic support.
Worst: lack of complete transparency in operation and adherence to the highest standards of ethics by all involved.

EV: How much work do EB members do in a typical week and what does it consist of?

BL: That can be subject to wide variation and debate. Ideally, such a position should average about 20 hours a week or a little less. This assumes an effective staff that is left to do the organization’s work without micromanaging by the board. The assignments of board members will vary by their interests and abilities.

EV: What 5 personal characteristics / qualities / skills do you think are most valuable in an EB member?

1. The ability to actively listen;
2. The desire and ability to set reasonable goals in concert with others;
3. The ability to work toward goals through a consensus approach;
4. The ability to admit mistakes and seek solutions.
5. The ability to laugh at oneself.

Just a note about these interviews: I am happy to do one for any* EB candidate. Email me if interested.

*who is unambiguously against both rape and child prostitution

Thursday, March 26, 2009

funny t shirt?

So I ordered a bunch of t shirts for my students from John O'Brien at Endgame Clothing, and he very kindly threw in a woman's shirt for me. Which got me thinking, because while I love the idea of a funny chess t shirt for women, the necessity of preserving my spotless reputation in the chess world prevents me from actually wearing such sexy clothing.

But John promises to make another women's t shirt soon, and I thought you guys might have some good ideas.
the best I could come up with was something about superfluous knights, like "My nights are not superfluous"??

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kosteniuk Simul

Alexandra Kosteniuk gave a 20 board simul today at the British International School to benefit the US Chess Trust. Jim Eade very generously sponsored one of my students, and Beatriz Marinello invited a second (Ezequiel Quinones and Alexis Paredes).

view of the East River and the 59th Street Bridge from the school's library, where the simul was played.

World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk

I know no one will agree with me, but this was my favorite picture, for some reason I really love her expression here. I feel like she has such precisely regular features that her face is a little boring when she's just smiling, but she has a much more interesting expression in this photo.

Kosteniuk thinking in her game against Alexis. I thought he looked very nice in his vest.

Tanisha Millan, Ezequiel Quinones, Anna Matlin, Eve Zhubinskiy (sorry if misspelled!)

Alena Katz on the far left. Do you know there are three different E/Alena Katz's? This one is 15, short, quite strong, wears a lot of gothy eye makeup and has a big smile. Another is at Yale and is Ben Katz's sister. The third is 1900 and goes to some technical college in Brooklyn. I think that's right at least.

Ezequiel Quinones

Alexis Paredes, the only person to draw the World Champion! Hurray!

steam going home

So I was very impressed with Alexandra Kosteniuk. I was prepared not to be, just to the extent that her website image is so massively self-objectifying. But she was doing this for free, she was patient, friendly and pleasant to everyone, and seemed relaxed and impressively professional. She took some questions before the simul and was patient and uncondescending with the stupid questions, and geniunely spent some energy trying to give a thoughtful answer to the less stupid ones. She gave everyone an unlimited number of passes in the simul and was prepared to let Alexis think as long as he wanted when he was the last player and had a better position. (After ten minutes the organizer, Beatriz Marinello, stepped in with a Chronos set for five minutes each. But Alexandra looked absolutely unpeturbed at the prospect of playing indefinitely, and I give her a lot of credit for that.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

shameless bragging

The kids had another good tournament recently, and so I am shamelessly boring you with the new rating list. I know no one cares. but 21 players over 1500! also very few kids who are awful!

1. Alexis Paredes 1931
2. Rochelle Ballantyne 1872
3. Ezequiel Quinones 1805
4. Pobo Efekoro 1785
5. Shawn Swindell 1750
6. Miguel Garcia 1707
7. Daniel Maciag 1703
8. Myles Foster 1674
9. Orlando Gonzalez 1653
10. Rawn Prowell 1641
11. Steven Cardenas 1593
12. Azeez Alade 1583
13. Rashawn Williams 1565
14. Joel Ogunremi 1556
15. Brittanie Uddin 1541
16. Mr. Galvin 1541
17. Randy Rivera 1534
18. Jose Morrero 1517
19. Amani Eley 1517
20. Sebastian Dabrowski 1511
21. Jakob Kobajlo 1511
22. John Paul Garcia 1507
23. Kevin Izquierdo 1435
24. James Ovando 1435
25. D’Andrea Dey 1406
26. Jacob Martinez 1343
27. Carlos Alverez 1336
28. Rhoda Lynch 1313
29. Karol Wadolowski 1313
30. Abadel Perez 1309
31. Davon Taliafero 1299
32. Ameer Williams 1287
33. Ezequiel Acosta 1274
34. Jie Jing Li 1260
35. Talitha Santana 1251
36. Mateusz Bruszewski 1237
37. Adolfo Nabor 1221
38. Danny Feng 1209
39. Lisa Laundry 1208
40. Mr. Murnieks 1202
41. Sekou Prowell 1197
42. Mitasha Palha 1184
43. Giovanni Quinones 1117
44. David Kim 1082
45. Chris Caraballo 1002
46. Aleem Awan 1023
47. Bilal Hussein 1018
48. Sedrick Nurse 998
49. Mateusz Chrobak 994
50. Alex Cueva 986
51. Daniel Montanez 983
52. Christian Marte 951
53. Joel de la Cruz 950
54. Karen Gonzalez 939
55. Juan Candelario 887
56. Richard Wu 871
57. Cesar Ramos 847
58. Emmanuel Ogunremi 843
59. Anthony Ovando 837
60. Lovedeep Singh 837
61. David Herrera 815
62. Myles Baron 784
63. Matthew Jacome 772
64. Lucasz Fron 768
65. Qi Yuan Huang 756
66. Patrick Niedzwicki 748
67. Carlos Torres 742
68. Tony de la Cruz 733
69. Christopher Figuereo 721
70. Aru Banks 694
71. Hector Martinez 687
72. Chris Lopez 646
73. Nicole Najib 609
74. Timothy Lam 607
75. Howard Goldspiel 606
76. Ivan Paina 569
77. Gabriela Hernandez 560
78. Evelyn Cardenas 554
79. Philip Perez 549
80. Michael Osseniov 486
81. Shondel Nurse 439
82. Bo Xiang Xin 419
83. Omar Eman 411
84. Brian Chen 393
85. Marlon Funez 392
86. Joel Hernandez 391
87. Xonatia Lee 261
88. Patrick Johnston 188
89. Rebecca Ogunremi 173

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Greg Shahade, lunch, inert funk

Dear blog readers,

I'm sorry I haven't been writing. I've been in an inert funk. That's the best way I can describe it. I force myself to work obsessively hard, mostly because my job is incredibly boring otherwise. Then I lie around all evening, reading mostly nonfiction. Occasionally, I have a social encounter, but they mostly seem pointless and unrewarding. I check my email compulsively.

Despite my funk, I have a story to tell you. I've been wanting to tell this story for a long time, but every time I start writing it, I start to have doubts, second thoughts, to feel like maybe it's not that funny or it's going to sound mean, or kind of weirdly Greg-obsessed, so I give up.

This is the story:

Greg often eats at Qdoba, which is a taco/burrito chain a lot like Chipolte. But every time before he goes there, he goes online to random.org and generates three numbers between 1 and 29. He then matches those numbers against a page in his notebook that looks like this:

1-8 shredded beef hard taco
9-15 shredded beef soft taco
16-20 shredded pork hard taco
21-24 shredded pork soft taco
25-26 chicken hard taco
27 chicken soft taco
28 shredded chicken hard taco
29 shredded chicken soft taco

Then when he is at Qdoba, he orders the three indicated tacos and eats them in the same sequence in which the numbers were generated. He does this in order to maintain an optimal level of diversity in his diet, while still accomodating his personal tastes.

That's the end of the story I have been wanting to tell you.

After work on Saturday, I took the Chinese bus to Philly to visit Greg and we go to Qdoba for dinner. As we're walking there, Greg suddenly takes out his glasses, puts them on, and starts staring fixedly at something on or just across the street. It takes me a couple minutes to work out what he's doing. He's forgotten to generate his taco-numbers, so he's staring at the license plates of the passing cars to find them. He has to use moving cars, even though it's much harder to read them, because parked cars near Qdoba might be habitually parked there and thus oversampled.

I felt like this new twist kinda forced my hand, storytelling-wise.

In other news, nationals is coming up, April 3-5. I'm very exciting. We're bringing 59 kids total, I think, and playing in the k-8, k-6, k-9 under 1250, k-8 under 1000, and k-8 under 750. I'm cheerfully optimistic about how they will do-- a lot of them are significantly higher rating than the official March supplement ratings.
It looks like the top teams in the open sections are: (top four scores count)

hunter (2086, 1748, 1710, 1734, 1482, 1469, etc.)
texas canyon vista (2026, 1860, 1616, 1608, 1523)
318 (1892, 1876, 1788,1706, 1675, 1660, 1647, 1590, 1457, 1450, 1435, 1424, etc.)

hunter (1663, 1532, 1496, 1490, 1404, 1377, 1342, 1275, 1216)
VA f001 (1939, 1544, 1575, 1195, 1100)
CA msje (1864, 1814, 1737, 1541)
318 (1607, 1561, 1533, 1478, 1440, 1399, 1381, 1375, 1250)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

a brief history of the future

I am reading a fantastic book called a brief history of the future by Jacques Attali. It
a) traces the development of mankind from the earliest primates to 2006,
b) promises (I'm only on page 37) to infer from this the principles that govern humanity's progress
c) will then use these principles to predict the next 100 years.

I'm really enjoying it, and especially looking forward to the predictions. Henry Kissinger called it "brilliant and provocative."

I thought you would enjoy reading a randomly selected early 2 paragraphs about early man:

Around 700,000 years before our era, in China and Africa, Homo sapiens masters the lightning and learns how to make fire. He is now capable of cooking vegetables, thus providing more nourishment for his brain. He also realizes that he can summon certain natural forces to his service. This is a considerable leap. He devises the first footwear, sews man's first garments, and penetrates Europe, that cold, forest-shrouded continent.

The lineage of homo sapiens splits into several branches. One of them evolves into homo neandertalis. Around 300,000 years ago*, he roams across Africa, Europe, and Asia. For the first time, he builds sophisticated huts wherever he goes, and he buries his dead. In Europe, still cut off by Alpine and Baltic glaciers, Neanderthals coexist with the other primates, neither mingling with nor replacing them.

Good stuff, right? I thought you might also find interesting the 21 questions Attali asks in the introduction and hopefully comes back to:

Will peace in the Middle East someday be possible?
Will global birth rates in some countries recover as mysteriously as they declined?
Will oil supplies run out in 20 or 50 years?
Will we find substitue energy sources?
Will poverty and inequalities in wealthy countries become the well-spring for new violence?
Will Arab countries one day experience a democratic movement like that of Eastern Europe?
Will the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, through which the bulk of the world's oil flows, be blocked by ships sunk by pirates?
Will North Korea end up using nuclear weapons?
Will the West use force to prevent Iran from acquiring them?
Will a terrorist attack in the West topple a government?
Will it lead to the installation of authoritarian police regimes?
Will new technologies make new forms of dictatorships possible?
Will religions become tolerant?
Will we discover new ways of doing away with cancer, AIDS, obesity?
Will a dominant new religion or ideology emerge?
Will the exploited workers in Chinese or Bangladeshi mines rise up in revolt?
Will the American credit crisis plummet the world into another great depression?
Will genertically modified food or nanotechnologies prove a threat or an opportunity?
Will the climate one day be so degraded that life on earth becomes impossible?
Will a religious war once again pit Christianity against Islam?
Will new forms of sexual relations undermine morality?

There will be a prize for the comment with the most correct answers.

Here's an idea I had: You know how life has changed incredibly fast in the last 20 years, mostly because of computers and technologies? The speed of change is really just tremendous, and maybe the speed is on a permanently increasing course, so that the economic crisis will progressively degenerate and lead to massive unemployment, rioting, martial law, a breakdown in government, and in 2 or 3 years warlords will rule armed camps of people? But the idea wasn't really about this depressing scenario, it was about the possibility that the rate of change of life was permanently increasing.

Another idea I had: It annoys me when books capitalize the chess pieces. In what sense are they proper nouns? In any other sport, you would be made a laughingstock of if you started capitalizing the equipment: "Deftly twisting my Hockey Stick, I shot the Puck into the Goal"?? It's ludicrous, it's an embarrassment to the chess community.

*notice the brisk pace of the narrative!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Putin's Instructional Judo DVD

Also interesting/ funny/ not-funny: Russian analyst thinks the US will completely collapse next year, martial law and everything. "Panarin argued that Americans are in moral decline, saying their great psychological stress is evident from school shootings, the size of the prison population and the number of gay men."

I am glad someone is finally remembering to blame gay men, who are well-known to squander their income on beautiful clothes, gym memberships and methamphetamine, and children and prisoners, who frequently default on their morgages.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fancy Dinner with Governor

A few weeks ago, the kids were invited to a fundraising dinner to recognize Randi Weingarten, the Teacher's Union Leader and her new foundation. They got to lead the diners in the pledge of allegiance, and then eat steak and enormous plates of scultured chocolate desserts.
Here we are with Governor David Paterson and Randi Weingarten:

Monday, March 2, 2009

my weekend: a date, a saturday tournament, the bus to saratoga springs

would you like to hear about my weekend?

on Friday, I went on a date. (!)

I feel like that's a pretty big accomplishment already, plus, I thought it went well. But I'm telling you this to give you context for the thought I had, not (or not only) because I'm bragging that I had a date.

So, at some point, he put his arm around me, and I thought wow, I have absolutely no physical contact with human beings anymore.

ultimately, though, I am proud of myself because I did not say this to my date, despite the fact that I thought about it for a long time. but i realized in time that it is not the sort of thing you say on a date.

Saturday I took the non-state championship kids to the chess in the schools tournament. They played well, and overall, I am very happy with the kids' progress this year. I feel like I can see progress week to week, and that's very exciting. I have one kid who has gone from 700 to 1300 in one month.

then I got on a bus to saratoga (lv nyc 9 pm, arr saratoga springs 1:45 am) where the top kids were already with Mr Galvin. for some reason, I really enjoyed riding the bus. I had a nap and felt very calm.

I am reading an interesting book called Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Instability. it is really a collection of magazine pieces about five recent economic crises (the crash of 1987, the Russian default, the Asian currency crisis, the internet bubble, and the subprime lending collapse). while I am on the subject of my current tastes in entertainment, I am listening to an album, seven swans, by a really pretty, folky singer, sufjan stevens.

On Sunday I woke up early and looked at a lot of games. I felt like I was doing a good job, giving a good performance, having some important discussions.

Here are two/three quiz positions, with answers at the end of the post:

1. First of all, what's the difference between the two diagrams below? Secondly, what difference does that difference make if it's white's turn?

2. In the position below, Shawn played 34... Qg2. Does this threaten anything? What happens after 35. Qb4? 35. Qb6? 35. Qe1? 35. Rhd1?

After we stopped looking at chess, Galvin and I hung out with some of the kids in one of their rooms and it was very touching for me -- the children were all laughing happily, talking to us very eagerly, one of them was looking at me all doe-eyed, and I felt suddenly like how nice, this must be what it's like to have a family.

I met an interesting parent who does photography. He builds these little houses and then transports them to strange places and takes pictures.

Rashawn and Mr. Galvin

Pobo, Alexis, Justus
Mr. Galvin and Alexis

Justus, Joel

JieJing, Rochelle, Kevin
Danny Feng: 600 points in 1 month

Question One
Dabrowski, Sebastian - Poteat, Lilia
State Championship, 01.03.2009
I'm not sure which position it was: what I wrote down was the first, but this one allows a defence that I really think I would have seen, especially as three or four kids were analyzing with us and we were moving the pieces. Definitely I should have seen it. but it doesn't work in the second diagram, we'll get to that in a moment, and so I'm hoping perhaps that is the correct one and I incorrectly wrote down the position?!

1.Nd5! (this didn't happen, but we found it in analysis) Bxa1
2.Bxf6 gxf6
3.Qh6 Kh8
4.Nxf6 Rg8+! (ooops?)
Now 5. Nxg8 simplifies to an equal ending: 5.Nxg8 Qxg8+ 6.Kh1 Qg7 7.Qxg7+ Kxg7 8.Rxa1=
but there turns out to be a big, magical difference between 5. Kh1 and Kh2:
and 5.Kh1 is much better: 5...Rg7
6.Rg1 Qf8 (If 6...Rxg1+, just 7.Kxg1 and there is no way to defend h7)
7.Rg4 Nd4
8.Rh4 threatening Qxh7!
9.Kxg1 Nxf3+
10.Kh1 Qxh6
11.Rxh6 Kg7 double attack!
12.Ng4 but white has a defence! Rc6
and ... equal.

5.Kh2 is not so good because black will not need a decoy rook sacrifice to get the king to a square where Nxf3 will be check:
6.Rg1 (just 6. Rxa1 is better) Qf8
7.Rg4 Nd4
8.Rh4?? Nxf3+
9.Kh1 Rg1#

Of course, in the second diagram, ...Rg8 isn't check, so 1. Nd5 Bxa1 2. Bxf6 gxf6 3. Qh6 threatens Nxf6 with forced mate soon.

Question Two
Bogarty - Shawn Swindell
State Championship, 02.03.2009


This doesn't actually threaten anything, as 2...Qxh1 is met by 3.Qxc7+ Rxc7 4.Rxh1 Rc2=.
However, white can't move the queen away from attacking c7 so easily, as after 2.Qb4 Qxh1 3. Rxh1 Rc1+.

2.Qb6 is a good move, and 2.Rhd1 is also fine, as taking two pawns compromises black's king safety: 2... Qxh2 3.Rxd6 Qxg3?! 4.Qe5+

2.Qe1 was played, but this loses to

3... Rxa3+ !
4.Qxa3 Ra8
5.Rbg1 Rxa3+
6.Kb1 Qc2#