Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jehron Bryant Makes Master!

an old photo with James Black

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Justus Williams - Craig Jones

Justus William's beautiful USCL game last night against Craig Jones. I was watching when 16. e5 was played and I was just awestruck.
Justus Williams - Craig Jones
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.e4 d6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Be3 O-O 9.O-O Bd7 10.Rc1 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.f3 Nd7 13.b4 Bxd4%2B 14.Qxd4 Qb6 15.Qxb6 Nxb6 16.e5 dxe5 17.b5 Be8 18.c5 Nd7 19.Nd5 e6 20.Ne7%2B Kg7 21.c6 bxc6 22.bxc6 Nb6 23.c7 Bd7 24.Rfd1 Ba4 25.Rd6 Kf6 26.Rxb6 Kxe7 27.Rb7 Rfc8 28.Ba6 Bd7 29.Rb3 Rf8 30.Bb7 Rae8 31.Ra3 f5 32.Rxa7 Kf6 33.a4 Bc8 34.a5 Bxb7 35.Rxb7 Ra8 36.a6 Rfc8 37.a7 Ke7 38.Rb8 Kd7 39.Rxa8 Rxa8 40.c8Q 1-0 

I am outraged by the stupidity of standardized testing

 Here are some sample questions from the practice 8th grade state reading test given in my school this week:

(after reading a short passage on World War I)
1. If the Archduke of Austria had not been assassinated,
       a. there would not have been a war.
       b. he would have stopped the war from occuring.
       c. some other event would have caused World War I.
       d. Germany would have won the war.

That's a good question, but it seems more like a take home essay topic in Modern European History (HS 201).

(after reading an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland)
2. people who enjoy reading this type of literature would probably read
     a. Fear Street thrillers
     b. a biography about Michael Jordan
     c. Gulliver's Travels
     d. A Child's Garden Book of Verses

I think it's either c or d, but what junior high school kid has read Gulliver's Travels? It's hardly a children's book. There was a movie about it last year, but it seems even worse to me if the kids are being tested on their movie knowledge. And who in the last 40 years has read A Child's Garden Book of Verses? and which one is Alice in Wonderland more similar to?

(after reading a job application)
3. Why would an employer be interested in an applicant's "Employment History"?
      a. to find out salaries other companies offer
      b. to find out why applicants have left previous jobs
      c. to help determine an applicant's qualifications
      d. to help determine what salary to pay an employee.

um, all of them?

These are the evaluation tools being used to sort the smart kids from the stupid ones and to denigrate teachers and take away their collective bargaining rights.

I will never complain about my last round pairings again.

I know I made this point before, albeit in a comment, but here's my insight into the standardized testing cheating scandals. If a teacher wants to cheat and not get caught by telltale erasure marks, all (s)he has to do is tell the class "Don't guess if you aren't sure; big deductions are taken for wrong answers. Just leave it blank if you aren't 95% sure"

Then you can cheat faster (you know which questions were hard for the child) and you don't need an eraser at all! It's amazing to me that no one in the Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Connecticut school districts seems to have thought of this.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the best part of the republican debates

is reading the Economist live blog at the same time.
a couple more important things I've learned:
1) If you wear contacts, you can order them online for hlaf the price. "requires" that you have a prescription, but "require" means they fax what you say to the fax number you give them, and then if they don't hear back in 8 hours, they send you your lens! I got the new Oasys for $19.99 plus I think free shipping.
2) Before you buy anything online, just google the store name and "coupon code," and you get 10% off! amazing!

cool weird public art projects

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chess in the Parks!

11th Annual Chess in the Parks Rapid Open!
Central Park at the Bethesda Fountain

(enter at 72nd Street/5th Avenue or Central Park West)

Saturday, September 24, 2011
6/SS, G/10, Unrated Event

Register in Advance! Limited to the first 500 Entrants

Check-in: 9:00am- 10:00am
ROUNDS AT 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM
2:00 PM, 3:00 PM AND 4:00 PM

Bring Chess Sets & Clocks if you own them

To register or for more information, email: or visit our website:
You may also register by fax at (212) 564-5523
Rain Date: September 25, 2011, Rain Info: Dial 311
Please send name, section, phone number, e-mail address and
USCF chess rating (if applicable)

SECTIONS: (subject to change if necessary)
Youth Unrated: open to unrated players under age 10
Teen Unrated: open to unrated players aged 10-15
Adult Unrated: open to unrated players aged 16 and above
Novice: open to players rated under 1000
Intermediate: open to players rated 1000-1399
Open Championship: open to all

Featuring GM Speed Chess Match at 10:00 AM
GM to play with challengers throughout the day. There will also be chess puzzles for kids.
Chess sets, Trophies, Medals, and other prizes to be awarded following the last round!

Monday, September 5, 2011

James Black's Master Celebration Party

Adia Onyango and Sean Miller organized a party to celebrate James A. Black, Jr. making master. Adia speaks to the crowd. Seated in front are GM Maurice Ashley, and the three inaugural members of the Young Black Masters Club: NM Justus Williams, NM James Black, and NM Josh Colas.

James' proud parents: Tanya Coles and James A. Black, Sr.

James listening to one of many congratulatory speakers, who included his teachers (Al Freeman, Tom Haggins, myself), his former teammate Nigel Bryant, Guy Colas, GM Maurice Ashley, Stuart Chagrin, and representatives from the many parks where James plays.

Adia presents a cake with edible photo paper.

Guy Colas, father of Josh Colas, speaks.

Pobo Efekoro plays blitz.

Maurice Ashley with Supermom Rose Williams

I'm also very pleased to announce that both James and Justus will be playing in the World Youth in November!

These were my remarks:

Thank you. I’m very honored to be asked to speak to you today. I’m also very honored, and consider myself very lucky, to be thought of as one of James’ teachers.

We’re here today to celebrate James’s accomplishment of making master, and I take my hat off to him. It’s an amazingly difficult thing to achieve at any age. Someone commented to me one that it’s harder to become a chess master than to get a master’s degree, and I think that’s right.

But to me, James’ real accomplishment is not exactly breaking 2200. The real accomplishment is how long it took him to do that, and the sum total of the effort it took.

James broke 2100 for the first time in May 2010. He slowly gained points, and in December was up to 2174, before falling back down to 2140. All spring, he was tantalizingly close to 2200: he would be with in 5 or 10 or sometimes 1 or 2 points, and then go 3 out of 4 at the Marshall and lose points. Imagine how frustrating that must be, and then add to that frustration the fact that everyone is watching you, asking how you did, expecting you to already be there.

For more that a year, James studied, solved tactics, played, analyzed his games confronted his own mistakes and misunderstandings, and did not give up.

In the last year he has played 65 tournaments and 301 rated games, most of them at slow time controls. He plays in tournaments until 11 o’clock at night, and then gets up early every morning to do 30 minutes of tactics before school. He comes home and studies more, or has a lesson, or plays a rated game. His coach, Alex Stripunsky, tells me James always does more homework than he’s assigned. I see, when James shows me his games, how carefully he has memorized all the opening files and theoretically important games that Stripunsky has given him. Nobody but James and his father know how many hours of work he has put in, but I know it’s a lot.

He has worked so hard, so patiently, for so long, and that is what I respect the most about James.

I also want to take a moment to honor both of James’ parents, but especially his father. James Black, Sr. I have never met a parent more devoted to their child than James is to his son. It’s my impression that James Sr. spends every waking moment he is not at work with his child. When I meet the kids at 7:45 on Saturdays to go to tournaments, Mr. Black is in the schoolyard, playing handball with his son. He’s at the Marshall on weekends, making sure James doesn’t rush through his games. He came up to Saratoga at the last minute for the State Championship and slept on the floor of his kid’s hotel room, just to be there for his kid. I hope one day to be as loving, as stable, and as present of a parent as James Sr. is for James.

I’d like to thank everyone for their kind attention, and to thank Adia and Sean for organizing this wonderful party.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

favorite honeymoon photos

I took this on a one day trek in the hills around Inle Lake. It was the rainy season when we were there, which meant that the colors in the hills were extremely vivid and beautiful, but also that we were wading through mud most of the way.

A cave in the hills near Inle Lake.

a "long-necked woman" from the Karen tribe.  The necklaces are slowly added to a woman's neck from age 9 to 19, and can't be removed later in life (neck muscles atophy). There are several explanations for the purpose of the rings: protection from tiger and snake attacks, beauty (it makes you look more like a dragon), and protection of a family's wealth (you can't steal the rings).

a kid canoeing on Inle Lake. Kids who looked like they were 5 or 6 were canoeing around like it was nothing.

the beautiful Inle lake, Myanmar

naked escape!

in a doorway in Bagan. Bagan is a plain about the size of Manhattan, with 4,600 pagodas dotted all over. We stayed here for five days and bicycled around, exploring. About ten of the pagodas were large and famous, but the fun part was stopping randomly and exploring whatever looked interesting to us. The whol district, which emcompasses 3 small towns, Old Bagan, New Bagan, and Nyaung U, seemed to have a total of about 20 Western tourists.


also Bagan

a dead frog in Bagan

at Shwedagon Paya, the largest and most famous zedi (=stupa, Buddhist place of worship) in Yangon. It's raining quite hard in the picture.

flowers at Shwedagon Paya
a reflection at Shwedagon Paya
in a cave at Ha Long Bay. You can see Jonathan if you look very closely.
me, taken by Jonathan in a cave at Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

a dog, almost smoking, in a cafe in Nyaungshwe, Myanmar. There are thousands of stray dogs in Myanmar.

many, many more:
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan, Myanmar, continued
Yangon/Rangoon, Myanmar
Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

also more gorgeous wedding photos from the ubertalented Nina Yoh!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Justus Williams!

Justus Williams is an enormous champion of chess.  He recently tied for first (5.5/6) at the Barber Tournament of Junior High State Champions (to qualify he actually won the NY State High School Championship, but is officially too young to play in the Denker, so he had to "settle" for the Barber).

He then spent a couple weeks in South Africa to teaching chess with David MacEnulty and Jonathan Corbblah (photo stolen from DMac's facebook).

Finally, he beats NM Adithya Balasubramanian (2292) in the first match of the US Chess League pretty easily, playing 1. e4 for one of his first times. I'm impressed that he's unafraid to play complicated new openings, and I'm so excited he will play 1. e4 some of the time -- I think it will suit his crazygeniuskiller(material??sowhat?) style beautifully.

Williams-NY (2239) - AdithyaB-BAL (2292)

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.g3 e5 5.Nge2 Be7 6.Bg2 c6 7.a4 b6 8.0-0 0-0 9.h3 a6 10.Be3 Bb7 11.g4 b5 12.Ng3 exd4 13.Qxd4 c5 14.Qd2 b4 15.Nce2 Ne5 16.b3 d5 17.f4 Ng6 18.e5 Nh4 19.exf6 Bxf6 20.Bxc5 Nxg2 21.Nd4 Ne3 22.Qxe3 Re8 23.Qd2 Rc8 24.Qxb4 h5 25.Bb6 Bxd4+ 26.Qxd4 Qh4 27.Nf5 Qf6 28.Qxf6 gxf6 29.Nd6 Black resigns 1-0