Saturday, July 31, 2010

Interview with IM Daniel Rensch

Interview with IM Daniel Rensch, President of American Chess Events, co-Director of Content for and, and Assistant Manager of the Arizona Scorpions

EV: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us (me). I want to start with talking about your websites, because I’m a big fan. Tell us about your involvement with and how long have you been working there and what’s it like?

DR: I have been working for -- and by extension -- since March of 2010. has been around for a few years now, and has grown to become the World's #1 Chess Web Site. The extension of was part of the reason I was hired. IM Pruess was the sole "Director of Content and Professional Relations" -- But now we are "Co" Directors. was started to create an educational, kid friendly, and most importantly -- SAFE place for kids to learn, play and have fun online with chess.

EV: Was there a particular reason you were hired to do the scholastic bit? Have you had lots of scholastic experience? Or were you brought on to share both tasks?

DR: I have contributed to the site in efficiency -- as now there are two Danny and Davids :) -- But although I don't think I was hired ONLY because of, it has kind of worked out naturally, because I am more affiliated with the scholastic chess community (via by business American Chess Events LLC) than David is. Nowadays I am spending a significant amount of time trying to make people aware of how wonderful is, as well as the features and safety functions that separate our site...

EV: Tell us about the safety features. If I’m a sexual predator, how do you stop me? Or is it a no chatting site?

DR: Well, that is EXACTLY the point! Our site is loaded with tons of tools -- videos, articles, tactic trainers, computer play, live play between the kids, etc -- BUT the main thing is that there is no "chat access" with children on our site. No Guardian/Adult account can ever become friends or relate with children that are not his/her own in some way (either because they are the parent or the coach of that child)... Our videos do NOT have comment threads, our articles do not have the ability to post rude notes or even polite compliments, there is no "kibitzing" during live chess play... And those points are huge in regards to a child's safety and learning experience online!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tarragona, Pan Ams, Chicken/Egg

I am in beautiful Tarragona, spending my days at the beach, walking around the old town, and reading a book I can´t put down, A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz.

Good luck to Justus Williams, who is about to play in the Pan Ams in Brazil. He´s the top seed in Boys under 12. You can follow his progress here.

Congratulations to Katie and Nelson, for winning a Chicken and Egg grant for their in-the-editing-progress Chess Movie:

NEW YORK (July 29, 2010) - Chicken & Egg Pictures, the hybrid film fund
and non-profit production company dedicated to supporting women
filmmakers, is proud to announce the grant recipients from the 2010
Spring Open Call.

Now in its fifth year of operation, with over $1.5 million in grants and over
3,000 mentorship hours provided to women filmmakers, Chicken & Egg
Pictures is indeed ''incubating and hatching all at once.''

I Believe in You grants are made at varying stages of the production and
post-production process. They offer a filmmaker the freedom to explore her
vision, kick-off and develop a project, find grace and clarity in creative chaos,
spend time in the edit room or serve as a bridge to her next goal. Films that
received this grant and have recently went on to great success include Monica
and David
by Alexandra Codina (Winner of Best Documentary Feature at
Tribeca 2010, forthcoming HBO broadcast) and Wo Ai Ni Mommy by
Stephanie Wang-Breal (Winner of Best Documentary Feature at Silverdocs
2010, forthcoming PBS/POV broadcast).

I Believe in You grantees from the Chicken & Egg Pictures 2010 Spring
Open Call announced today are:
CHESS MOVIE (working title), directed by Katie Dellamaggiore (NYC)
A squat concrete building on an inner-city block, Intermediate School 318 in
Brooklyn, New York may not impress from the outside, but inside Ms. Vicary's
classroom, something special is happening. Here, hundreds of students have
learned to play chess, one of the world's oldest and most complex games.
I.S. 318 boasts the best junior high chess program in the nation, despite a high
percentage of student poverty.This year, chess team members learn that being
the best isn't easy, especially when state and city-wide budget cuts threaten
their beloved afterschool program. (Editing)

help Joshua Colas go to the World Youth!

Joshua Colas is raising money to help fund his trip to the World Youth in Spain. He´s a super- nice, super-talented, very deserving kid. See a video here of him on Fox News.

If you're interested in helping Joshua get to Greece, or to help procure a coach, please send an email to:

You can also make a tax-deductible contribution to a nonprofit. Write checks out to "Foundation for Public Education in White Plains Inc." with this note in the memo line: "Joshua Colas - Chess."

Send checks to:

Foundation for Public Education
c/o 3 Milford Close
White Plains, NY 10606

9Queens Annual Appeal!

9Queens is having its annual appeal! They do great work in Tucson AZ, teaching and promoting chess to women and economically underprivileged kids. My favorite of their programs are the Women´s Chess Academies, which have gievn rise to a weekly women´s chess club in Tucson that draws 20-30 adult female players (!!). Read more about it in this NY Times article.

see more photos here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

photos from London!

the London Eye as halo

at Tate Britain
changing trains at Finchley Central (my dad lives at Mill Hill East)

playing Operation with my brother Charlie (left)
more photos here

Sunday, July 18, 2010

foodscapes, free money!!

the road is salami, the trees are bacon and ham bread mountains
more cool foodscapes

NY State government has an office of unclaimed funds. See if anyone owes you money! (I think it's real: I claimed some).

Which famous author are you most like? I am Stephen King and Dan Brown! (thanks to Jason Luchan for the link)

coming soon: interviews with IM Daniel Rensch (player and assistant manager of the Arizona Scorpians, organizer of the Copper State International, and manager of and and WIM Beatriz Marinello (Ilyumzhinov's VP candidate-- I have so much to ask her). If you have any brilliant questions for either interviewee, send them to me/leave them in the comments!

Friday, July 16, 2010

come play chess!

Come play in a 6 round, two Tuesday, non-profit action chess tournament at IS 318! 90% of the entry fees are given back (the rest are used for rating fees and need based scholarships) We're halfway through with the first tournament, but you can join for the second half this Tuesday with 1.5/3 points (2/3 if you're a master). GM Michael Rohde is playing, and he's joined by IM Yuri Lapshun, NM Evan Rosenberg, and experts Mikhail Sher and 318's own James Black.

Chess Action Series # 1 (USCF Dual Rated)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 + Tuesday, July 20, 2010
6 Rounds of G/30 (3 rounds each night)
Tuesday July 27, 2010 + Tuesday Aug. 3, 2010

I finish my CLEP tests!

I have taken English Literature (72), College Mathematics (79), College Algebra (77), Social Sciences and History (75), American Government (63), History of the US II 1865-present (63), Introductory Psychology (70), Principles of Macroeconomics (69), and Western Civilization II 1648-present (63) for a total of 36 college credits! All tests are scored from 20 to 80 with a passing score of 50.

I was quite proud of myself on today's test. While in Dallas for the US Chess School I broke out in a itchy red full body rash: really horrible and I couldn't stop scratching myself. I went to a doctor yesterday and he told me it was an allergic reaction and gave me a steroid injection + pills and took my blood to test it. (I suspect it will turn out to be walnuts, because I've been eating a crazy amount of them lately.) In any case, before it got so bad that I went to the doctor, I had been self-medicating with antihistamines, to try to reduce my body's freak-outy-ness.

Then on the psychology test today, I was asked what a histronic personality disorder is, and I realized "hist" might mean "things that come out of you" and correctly chose the answer of someone who is inappropriately flamboyant, attention seeking, or hypersexual.

I would like to thank Josh from, who gave me a free trial of their CLEP prep program. I thought it was quite good. (I wouldn't have spent the 3-4 hours I did with it if it wasn't decent.) For $9.95 for the first month, it's a much better deal than the official CLEP guide (=completely worthless).

The format is a series of fill in the blank questions, which I liked because I think the presentation makes you think more than multiple choice and there were a lot of questions for each test. I did a couple hours and didn't get past 1.5% finished in any of the four subjects I was studying. (Hilariously, I studied for the sociology test and then took the psychology one without realizing it until now. I guess that explains why I thought that study guide was the least effective:))

I only had two complaints: a lot of the fill in the blank questions referring to people give you half a person's name, and that makes it too easy. For example, if a question starts "Emile _____, blah blah," you already know it's either Zola or Durkheim, because who else is there? Or try this one:

George Frideric ____ (1685-1759) was a well known German-born British Baroque composer of opera seria and concerto grossi, such as Dixit Dominus, Messiah, and Rodrigo.

I didn't even read past the first two words. Not all their name-that-person questions do this, however.

My other complaint is that if you know nothing about a subject (it turns out I know nothing about continental European history), it would be nice to have an executive summary somewhere (thank you, wikipedia). Piecing together historical movements and their backlashes from a series of shuffled questions is not easy. (although you can check or uncheck the 'shuffle questions' function) Maybe they could add a "major treaties," "major figures," and "vocabulary" sections. Or have a brief explanation of important ideas: what happens when the Fed buys bonds or lowers interest rates.

But for $9.95, it's great.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

going places no regulatory agency has ever gone

From a NY Times article about an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics into eight congressmen who held fundraisers and collected over $140,000 from banks in the 10 days before voting on the new Finanacial Services bill. (no points for guessing how they voted.)

“This is really a redefinition of the law,” said Kenneth Gross, a Washington ethics lawyer who is fielding some of the document requests from ethics investigators. “To pick eight members and say they voted on legislation and political contributions came in around this time is really going places that no regulatory authority has ever gone.”

"Going places no regulatory agency has ever gone?" By this I guess he's refering a regulatory agency that actually investigates things?! Rather than, say, letting the people you are supposed to regulate regulate themselves and then doing lots of crystal meth and having sex with them? I don't even see what there really is to investigate; obviously these Congresspeople are conscienceless scumbags. I miss the days when people at least had the shame to slip money in brown envelopes under airport bathroom doors.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm going to see Pilobus tonight.

the Peace Corp needs a chess coordinator in St. Lucia

A Peace Corps Response Volunteer is needed to serve as a Chess Coordinator for the National Community Foundation. Saint Lucia faces many challenges including unemployment, crime, and an under-educated population. It is unrealistic to expect any one program to fix all of these issues. However, it is obvious that the country would benefit from a giant infusion of self-discipline, strategic thinking, and increased self esteem. Surprisingly, the beginning of change for this small country of 150,000 people and 238,000 square miles may be connected to a classic game. The needed change may start with the children who take to the game with unbelievable enthusiasm and then spill over to the tight knit communities where they live. The game is chess.

The Foundation is in need of a PCRV to implement chess communities in the St. Lucian culture in order for each community and family to access the academic and social benefits inherent in the game of chess. The Chess Coordinator will strengthen the existing Chess in Schools program and prepare students for the Chess in Schools National Tournament in July 2011. To achieve this goal, the PCRV will: develop interest in the game of chess in schools and community groups; work closely with the existing Chess in Schools program; prepare for and implement the National Chess in Schools Tournament; train teachers and community facilitators to teach the game; develop an evaluation method and assess the impact of the program; and maintain appropriate records and results.


Ability to play chess at an intermediate level and communicate effectively with adults and children
Familiarity with program evaluation methodologies
Intermediate computer skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook
Ability to negotiate the bus system of a developing country
Experience implementing community events and contests
Excellent communication skills

Public relations and marketing skills
Experience in teaching or training
Understanding of basic tactics and strategies of chess
Familiarity with Microsoft Access or other database systems
Understanding of how community-based organizations work
Familiarity with chess tournaments

Apply Now
I could see spending a year in St Lucia.

CDC report on American health

I've been reading the very interesting CDC report on American health in 2009. Here's the executive summary.

Some things I learned:

In 2007 there were 302 million U.S. residents, up from 281 million in 2000 and 227 million in 1980.

Between 1991 and 2007, the percentage of high school students who reported attempting suicide ranged between 7% and 9%, and the percentage who reported a suicide attempt that required medical attention ranged between 2% and 3%.

In 2005–2006, 30% of adults often or almost always had trouble sleeping in the past month.

In 2003–2006, almost one-half (47%) of Americans interviewed had at least one drug prescribed in the previous month, compared with 39% in 1988–1994.

In 2007, 8% of people 12 years of age and over reported use of any illicit drugs in the past month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

be a marrow donor!!

I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. I was motivated by the TV show House. You have a 1 in 12 chance of being picked; they give you anesthesia during the donation, and NY State employees get up to 7 days of paid leave. I'm a city employee, sadly, but maybe I will get something, and even if I don't, I'm in it for the good karma.

In other news, The Bahamas sent me a birthday email and urged me to return and visit. I think this is genius-- they got my birthday off their immigration forms.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

US Chess School: final pics

US Chess School participants:
front row: Dachey, Tanuj, Jeffrey, Ruifeng, Jonathan
back row: Justus, James. Mika, Jeevan, Sarah


Sarah and Tanuj
more here

Alvin Greene action figures! Magnus Carlsen: fashion model!

Alvin Greene, South Carolina's Democratic nominee for US Senate, has a new website.
A NY Times article details his position on the issues:

ON THE ECONOMY, he wants to produce Alvin M. Greene action figures.

“Another thing we can do for jobs is make toys of me, especially for the holidays,” he told a British newspaper, The Guardian. “Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an Army uniform, Air Force uniform, and me in my suit.”

I stole this from Natalia Pogonina's website; I just couldn't help myself.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

US Chess School Dallas, day 4

James and Dachey



Aviv Fridman



Sarah (Greg in the background)

Jeevan (Mika and Tanuj in the background)
more photos here

Results of the blitz tournament:
1. Justus Williams 8.5/10
2. James Black 7.5/10
3-4 Jeffrey Xiong / Jonathan Chiang 6.5/10
5. Elizabeth Vicary 6/10

In other news, an article in the NY Times on the continuing criminal investigation into the Susan Polgar/ Paul Truong/ Gregory Alexander email hacking.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

happy birthday me!!!

It's my birthday, and the US Chess School parents got me a cake! 10,000 thanks to everyone who messaged me on facebook. more photos here.
Also, I'm watching "The Decision," and it's absolutely hilarious.

more uscs photos

Dachey, Ruifeng, Tanuj, Justus, Sarah, Jeffrey


Justus, Dachey, Tanuj
more photos here

At War with Luck

Jenn is in The Economist:

Is poker a game of skill or chance?

Similarly, Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster, argues that poker offers lessons on chance and risk management that even his beloved game cannot. He also notes that many chess professionals are moving into poker, not least because the money is better. Jennifer Shahade, who twice won the American Women’s Chess Championship and is now a semi-professional poker player, thinks that chess and poker rely on similar skills—a sort of calculating game-savviness—and that chess players are likely to succeed at poker because “they focus on finding the right moves, rather than having fun or how their ego feels.”

full article

two warm up problems from the US Chess School

I know the photos yesterday made it look like there was no chess going on, so here are two warm up problems we did this morning.

white to move

black to move

Be careful: the second one is harder than it looks.