Friday, February 16, 2018

The Trouble With Harry

These pictures from November, December, and February show Harry's gradual loss of feather cover on his neck...

  I’ve written previously how one of our two cockatiels was killed by Daisy in 2014 when he flew too close to him, leaving us with one cockatiel named Harry. Eventually, Kathy and I decided not to try to get Harry a new cockatiel to be friends with because the process of introducing cockatiels to each other is long and has no guarantee of success. We also found out that while cockatiels are happier when they bond they don’t have to bond with another cockatiel – they can bond with humans as well.

  Since then Harry and I have bonded – every morning during his outdoor time he sits on my finger and I rub his head and feathers for about 20 minutes until he gets bored and ambles over to his play area. It seemed he was happy with the arrangement until last November when I noticed he was getting a bald spot on his neck. I kept an eye on the situation and saw that new feathers would start to grow back and would disappear before transforming from porcupine like quills to actual feathers.

  It seemed that Harry was pulling out his feathers. I looked up cockatiel feather pulling on the Internet and the possible causes ranged from boredom to parasites to sexual frustration to stress to a change in environment to diet. Nothing has changed in Harry’s environment and he seems to relieve his frustration easily enough by rubbing on a cloth toy in his cage like he has dome for years. I saw no evidence of parasites so I went to the Petco in Ames and got some advice, vitamins for his water, some new toys to give him something new to play with and be less bored by, and a spray for his feathers in case he was pulling feathers because of itchy skin.

  I put the new toys in Harry’s cage and play area and gave him vitamins right away but didn’t feel comfortable using the spray because winter has come with a vengeance and the spray warns against letting a sprayed bird get chilly. Harry liked the new toys and didn’t balk at the vitamin infused water but he was still pulling his new feathers out and occasionally some of the existing feathers around his neck.

  Our local vet doesn’t handle birds very much but recommended the small animal hospital at Iowa State University that has veterinarians that specialize in birds. I made an appointment for Harry on January 18th. I filled out an eight page questionnaire about Harry’s habitat, habits, and health and talked with a veterinary student about Harry and the best way to prepare Harry for travel. It wasn’t very warm on the day of Harry’s appointment so I warmed up the car for 20 minutes and put Harry in a cat carrier covered with towels. I put Harry in the passenger seat, removed the towel covering the door of the carrier so he could see me, buckled him in, and off we went.

  Harry handled the trip very well with only a minimum of squawking and we arrived in Ames 45 minutes later at 9am. Harry and I checked in and went to the Avian waiting area until Lynette the vet student brought us into an examination room. Harry stayed in his cage and I waited in the exam room with him until the vet came in and said they would bring Harry to a back room to get blood and stool samples. Harry went to the back and Lynette told me that I could go get lunch because while Harry would quickly generate stool samples in no time it would take over an hour to get enough blood for a sample.

  I went to Wal-Mart and ate lunch at Jimmy Johns and got back to the veterinary office an hour after I left. After a few minutes I was ushered back to the exam room and met with Lynette the vet student and two of the doctors. The doctors said Harry had no parasites and was in generally good health except that he weighed 90 grams which was a few grams overweight (90 grams is 3¼ ounces) and that his feathers were darker and had less spring than they would like. They attributed this to his diet of cockatiel food from the Wal-Mart which they said contained almost all fatty seeds and recommended a pellet based diet and even gave me some samples and some instructions on how to wean him off his seeds and onto the pellets because just like people, cockatiels prefer fatty foods over healthy pellet based foods.

  The doctors told me that Harry’s throat swab and stool sample both had high concentrations of yeast which led them to the conclusion that Harry had a yeast infection in his throat which was causing itching and his feather pulling. I was told the samples had been sent to the lab for confirmation but to help the infection I should switch his normal tap water out for a mixture of distilled water, apple cider vinegar, and honey. I was pleased to find out Harry was in good health and happily paid my $400 bill, put Harry back in the carrier, buckled him in the car, and we were home around 1pm.

  I changed Harry’s water with the distilled water/apple cider vinegar/honey concoction and started mixing in his pellets into his food. While Harry was super about taking his trip to Ames, he was less than happy about his new food and water. Harry would still sit on my shoulder but he resisted all my efforts to rub his head feathers like he used to. You could say he was an angry bird.

  This went on for around a week and then I got a call from the Lynette the veterinarian student to tell me that Harry didn’t have a yeast infection after all. It seems that his samples in the lab were tainted by yeast which lead to the false conclusion. I was glad to hear that Harry didn’t have a yeast infection but this left us right back where we started with the exception of knowing that Harry was in generally good condition except for being a couple of grams overweight. Of course if the doctors could be wrong about the yeast infection they could be wrong about Harry’s good health but I believe the doctors are genuine in their interest about Harry’s well-being.

  I decided to get Harry back on his fatty seed and tap water diet and after a couple of days he was back sitting on my finger enjoying having his head rubbed and whistling back and forth with me. Harry is at least 12 years old and cockatiels live in the wild for 10 to 14 years so it is possible that he is just reaching the end of his lifespan and his feather-pulling is some age related thing. On the other hand cockatiels can live 20 or more years as pets so I may have Harry for a number of years. My plan for now is to enjoy Harry pulled feathers and all and start to spray his feathers with the solution from Petco when the weather gets warmer.

Neck feathers or not, Harry is my buddy and I'm going to do my best to get him back to his old self!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cases for the G.O.A.T

  I hadn’t been watching much pro football this season. My favorite New York Giants crashed from an 11 win playoff season last year to the second-worst team in the league this year with a paltry three wins which got both the coach and general manager fired. When the Giants are playing poorly there isn’t much about football that interests me until the playoffs start.

  This year’s playoffs was unlike most years. Perennial playoff teams like the Seahawks, Cowboys, and Packers dropped off the radar and new teams like the Titans, Bills, Jaguars, and Rams made it back to the playoffs after years in the doldrums. A constant over the last decade has been the appearances of the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. The teams have only missed the playoffs eight times this century. The Pats and Steelers had the best records in the AFC. Everyone was expecting a titanic AFC championship game between the twountil the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off a playoff upset in Pittsburgh and even gave the Patriots all they could handle in the AFC championship game before losing 24-20.

  The Patriots took on the Eagles in this year’s Big Game (I would call it the Super Round Dish or the Great Bowl but those terms are copyrighted by the NFL) where they lost to the Eagles 41-33. The game was decided by the Patriots being unable to stop the Eagles offense after getting their first lead in the game late in the fourth quarter and the Eagles managing to force a Tom Brady fumble after getting the lead back with two minutes left. This was a deserved Eagles victory as they played better than the Patriots on offense, defense, and special teams despite playing backup quarterback Nick Foles after losing starter Carson Wentz late in the regular season. I have to confess to rooting for the Patriots to win because as much as I dislike Patriots owner Robert Kraft I root for the success of their coach Bill Belichick due to his roots as the Giants defensive coordinator in their first two Super Bowl seasons. Belichick’s defense was miserable on Sunday and was almost bailed out by 40-year old quarterback Tom Brady who was nearly as unstoppable as the Eagles and nearly pulled the victory out with his 505 passing yards and four touchdowns.

  This was the Patriots third ‘Big Game’ in four years. I believe the country was suffering from ‘Patriot Fatigue’ because there was as little buzz leading up to this game as I can remember in the past 20 years. One storyline in particular that caught my attention was the debate over whether Brady would supersede Michael Jordan as the team sport G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) with a sixth NFL championship title or whether he had already superseded Jordan. You can find a couple of topical articles here and here.

  The reason the sixth championship held so much importance for Brady’s side of this debate was because Jordan was on six championship teams which is held to be the gold standard although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also was on six championship teams and super role player Robert Horry won seven rings with three different teams. At his current pace and longevity LeBron James will retire with the all-time NBA scoring record and is on a streak of leading his teams to seven NBA finals in a row but continually finds his acceptance as the greatest basketball player of all time challenged by his only having half of Jordan’s championships because his teams have lost five of the eight finals he has been in.

  Since Brady did not get his sixth championship on Sunday the GOAT debate has been muted until the fall in favor of the supreme performance of the Eagles. I would be comfortable saying Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and leave it at that. He has been in a record 8 NFL championship games and was a key part of his team for all of them. Both Brady and Jordan were fortunate to be on teams that were well run with championship caliber rosters for them chase their championships with. I don’t subscribe to Jordan being the greatest NBA player of all time (my vote goes to Julius Erving with Kareem and Wilt Chamberlain also ahead of Jordan) but when it comes a choice of having one player to be on your team in a must win game I couldn’t argue with Jordan. The Jordan GOAT argument is not just based on his six championships – it is based on his six championship in his only six finals appearances with six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards in an eight year span where Jordan missed a season and a half in his first retirement. Brady’s five championships over 15 years are amazing but only in last year’s victory over the Falcons did he conduct a game winning drive and that one ended in a running touchdown by James White – not a touchdown pass. Brady’s other four championships were decided by late field goals and defensive stands. I’m not trying to lessen Brady’s impact but he simply does not have the signature touchdown drive like Joe Montana did in 1989 against the Bengals, much less Jordan’s signature championship winning shot against the Jazz in 1998. The thing that is missing from Jordan’s pedigree is any film clips of him as the defeated party in a championship series which compares well against the clip of Brady having the ball stripped from him on Sunday while trying to lead the Patriots to a go-ahead score or being pummeled by the Giants in the other two championship games he was defeated in. The closest we can come to similar Jordan video was his 1995 playoff series against the Magic when he still had his thicker baseball body and dribbled the ball off his feet for turnovers late in the deciding game.

  The argument for Brady and James as the greatest team players of all time is based on longevity and I fell has a large part I the desire of fandom to want to believe they are witnessing the greatest of all time. Jordan’s case is rooted in the perfection of his championship pedigree – six Finals, six Championships, and six Finals MVP awards. The person who gets the short shrift in this argument is Bill Russell of the Celtics who played 13 season, made the finals 12 times, and won 11 championships. The NBA Finals MVP award is named after Russell but his 11 championships in 13 years is so beyond anything ever accomplished in team sports that it just cannot be put into any context and is largely set aside as an anomaly so we can believe that six championships is the gold standard. For this day and age Jordan is still the greatest but the true GOAT has to be Russell who only misses my list of all-time greats because I never saw him play.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Panic In Detroit

  The NBA world was rocked by the Los Angeles Clippers trade of Blake Griffin and some spare parts to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and a protected #1 draft pick. Griffin was arguably the greatest Clipper ever. He was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, and a five time all-star. In the offseason Griffin signed a five year $171 million dollar contract that will take up between a third and fourth of the salary cap of any team he plays for.

  The Clippers were one of the NBA’s most successful regular season franchises since the arrival of all-star point guard Chris Paul in 2011, making the playoffs six straight seasons and winning a playoff series three times. The franchise was scarred when losing to the Houston Rockets in the conference semi-finals after having a 3-1 series lead along with a 25 point lead in the second half of the fifth game. Paul forced a trade to the Rockets this season and the Clippers remade their team around Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan surrounded by the role players received in the Rockets trade and some free-agent pickups. After a 4-0 start, the team started suffering injuries and Griffin missed over a dozen games. The Clippers lost 11 out of 12 but started winning again when Griffin returned and are currently in a battle for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. This trade signals the start of newly hired consultant and NBA legend Jerry West’s housecleaning as he attempts to rebuild the Clippers into a contender for championships instead of hoping to make the conference finals one of these years.

  Normally getting a five time all-star is considered a steal but there are serious questions about Blake Griffin. He made the all-star team his first five years in the league but was not chosen the last three years mostly due to injuries that have cost him at least 20 games a year. In a salary cap sport like the NBA teams whose top paid players can’t play tend to struggle, much like the Detroit Pistons who started the season with a 14- 6 record including wins over the Warriors and Celtics and then lost 20 of their next 28 games in no small part because point guard Reggie Jackson (the second highest paid player on the team) suffered an ankle injury.

  The Griffin deal is the either the last gasp or the crowning moment of Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy’s tenure as the Coach/GM of the Pistons. This is Van Gundy’s 4th year with the Pistons. The first three years have netted one winning season (44-38) which gave the Pistons the 8th seed and a sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Cavaliers in the opening round of the playoffs.

  Now one playoff sweep in three years may not be seen as an abject failure except that in the NBA most coaches with that sort of record don’t make a fourth year. There are four current NBA coaches that have had one playoff appearance (or less) in the past three years: Steve Clifford of the Hornets who made the playoffs twice in the past four years (losing both times in the first round) but once in the past three years; Quinn Snyder of the Jazz who made the playoffs in his third season and won a playoff series; and Brett Brown of the 76ers who was hired to oversee a team that was purposefully trying to lose as many games as possible. Van Gundy is the fourth. There was not one coach fired from an NBA team last season. This season Phoenix, Memphis, and Milwaukee made coaching changes. The shelf life of an NBA coach that doesn’t make the playoffs on a regular basis is short. Very few coaches get a fourth year with the record Van Gundy has had with the Pistons but he does have the advantage of not only being the coach but also the General Manager.

  Van Gundy record as a General Manager has been mixed. His 2015 pickups of Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic and Reggie Jackson from the Thunder worked out well enough. The pickup of Jackson could have been franchise-altering except that Jackson has proven to be injury-prone the past two season which leaves a $14 million player (1/7 of the cap) on the sidelines. He has not proven to be able to develop role players into above average starters and his drafts have been abysmal. His highest pick was the 8th pick in the 2015 draft Stanley Johnson. Johnson has a world of athleticism but has barely been able to crack the starting lineup after three seasons. The 18th pick in the 2016 draft was Henry Ellenson who has barely been able to stay out of the G-League. His 2017 top pick Luke Kennard (12th in the draft) has been a rotation player which may or may not be due to Jackson’s injury and the need for Coach Van Gundy to show that GM Van Gundy has hit on a draft pick.

  Van Gundy received an endorsement from the Pistons owner Tom Gores earlier this year but the team has just moved into a new arena in downtown Detroit and won’t sell tickets without the excitement a winning team will bring without even mentioning the millions in revenue the team gets for having home playoff games. Van Gundy’s 5 year $35 million dollar contract runs out next season and it would not be unreasonable to expect a consistent playoff team by the fourth season. The Pistons had lost eight straight games before the trade (they beat the Cavaliers at home the day the trade was announced). The Griffin trade is and incredibly risky move. Griffin has not proven he can stay healthy for a full season and has missed the last two playoffs with injuries as well. Committing so much of the salary cap for a player that can’t stay healthy could hamstring the franchise for the next decade but Van Gundy does not have to worry about the next decade of Pistons basketball if he cannot turn around this season and he has only 30 games left to do it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Review - Garry Kasparov's MasterClass

Garry Kasprov's MasterClass was made available on YouTube recently. This is merely the preview.

  Once I had finished my review of the “Revolutionize Your Chess” Master Method course by Ginger GM Simon Williams I went to You Tube and found myself watching videos of the best fight scenes of Steven Segal and Jason Staham. You Tube (a Google company) keeps track of what I watch and on the sidebar it offers up selections of movie fight scenes, a sampling the seemingly unending number of You Tubers that make a living reviewing the Walking Dead television shows and comics (including full releases of the comics), and chess videos. Once I had finished watching some of Statham’s incredible fights from his “Transporter” series I looked on the sidebar and saw that the seven hour Garry Kasparov chess course from the MasterClass series was available and recommended for me.

  MasterClass is a series of online learning courses that is distinguished by the quality of the presenters. You can learn comedy from Steve Martin, tennis from Serena Williams, writing from James Patterson, singing from Christina Aguilera, etc… There was an acting class by Kevin Spacey that I can no longer find but that is beside the point. A MasterClass course costs $90 for a lifetime viewing pass but for the price of two courses ($180) you can watch all the courses for an entire year.

  If MasterClass was going to have a chess course there would only be two possibilities for the presenter : Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen who in their time were both considered the greatest player of all time much like Bobby Fischer was in the 1970’s when he was world champion. Since Kasparov has been retired from competitive chess since 2005 and Carlsen is an active reigning world champion, Kasparov was the likely choice. Kasparov was not only the world champion for 15 years, he is a prolific chess writer, and occasionally tries to insert himself into the world of chess politics and the politics of the world. As an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin he has found himself in exile in the West where he has a foundation that supports chess around the world.

  I knew the Kasparov Masterclass course on YouTube was pirated and it didn’t include the workbook but since YouTube recommended it to me I decided to take a look. I’d hate for anyone to think too harshly of me for viewing copyrighted material so will note that You Tube is protected from copyright claims based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as long as the copyright infringement is not intentional. This means that You Tube must take down copyright violating videos when alerted but is not breaking any laws by allowing the videos on their site and more importantly I am not breaking any laws by viewing the videos. As best I can tell the video has been taken down in the last week.

  I ended up watching the entire seven hour course in over a week. The course has incredible production values. While the GingerGM Master Method course shows 15 hours of the presenter in his best t-shirt with a white backdrop, Kasparov looks like a million bucks in a suit and is seated in front of a chessboard in a couple of spacious rooms in a mansion. Kasparov starts the course by pointing out that his goal is to inspire the students to be as passionate about chess as he is which will inspire the student to further their chess studies.

  Kasparov then goes over many different tactical elements one at a time – pins, double attacks, skewers, etc. When Kasparov sets up the pieces on the board in front of him, the screen splits and a full length board appears on the right of the screen showing a 2-D version of the board and moves. I noticed no missteps between the 2-D and 3-D boards unlike the ichess.net offerings where the visual chess board are irritatingly overlaid by ChessBase popup windows with no editing to remove them. I expect that the MasterClass was done in multiple takes much like a movie or television show and likely scripted to some extent. Each section is prefaced by a simple graphic with some music which gave the production a classy look and feel..

  Each section follows a familiar theme. Kasparov explains a simple position to illustrate the tactic and then proceeds to more complex positions which includes examples from games in his career or other famous games. Each section concludes with a composed study that is meant as a “challenge” for the student to pause and examine before Kasparov explains the solution. The tactics section takes up the first three hours of the course and then Kasparov moves on to the endgame.

  Kasparov only spends about 45 minutes on the ending and tries to demonstrate how endings require precision by showing seemingly simple endgames that contain many twists and turns. He pays special attention to the concepts of king position and the king shouldering his opposite number aside to queen a pawn. Then Kasparov moves on to the opening. This section is mostly philosophical in nature with his examples showing more of the psychological thinking behind openings and his opening choice in his must win game against Karpov in his 1987 championship match and even mentions in passing that his failure to break Krammnik’s Berlin Defence cost him his championship but that he beat the famous Berlin Wall easily after the match.

  The openings section took 45 minutes and at this point it appears the Masterclass ran out of content. The next hour has Kasparov giving a simul against three players of varying strengths – an expert, a class player, and a player that is a level above beginner. We have 45 minutes of Kasparov walking between the three boards leaning, grimacing, and thinking while his opponents try to match wits with the ex-champ. Not only does the pace of the video slow to a crawl, the boards are hard to see from the overhead and side angles (no 2D board on the side). After the simul, Kasparov goes over the games with each of the players and then gives them some lessons in the opening and ending. Having the presenter engage with the participants is a feature of the MasterClass lessons but in the case of chess it seemed artificial and a time waster. The simul and group lesson took about an hour and 45 minutes and the MasterClass concludes with Kasparov talking about his chess carreer, post retirement activities, computers, and other subjects for about an hour.

  I think that any aspiring chess player will get more instruction value from the Simon Williams’ Master Method that I looked at last week than Kasparov's MasterClass. The video did give me a better appreciation of the geometry of the chessboard that is not explained elsewhere and the value of composed studies that seemed to be a staple of the Soviet Chess School. This piece attempts both instruction and a glimpse into the mindset of a champion chess player. Unless the workbook that comes with the course is the best workbook ever the lessons come off more as an introduction to chess which to be fair was part of Kasparov’s stated goal to whet the students appetite for chess instead of hardcore instruction. Since the piece attempts both instruction and a glimpse into the mindset of a champion chess player I would have liked to see more Kasparov interviews from the past mixed in to his reminiscences. All told the excellent production values make this more of an incomplete historical view of a great chess player than an instructional video.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Master Method Review - Revolutionize Your Chess by Simon Williams

The first chapter of Simon Williams Master Method 2 is available for free on the ichess.net You Tube channel...

  With some spare time on my hands as I decompress from a year of working 50+ hour weeks and begin the search for my next job I started watching Simon Williams’s the Ginger GM) Master Method 2 : Revolutionize your Chess offering from ichess.net. If you clicked the link you may have noticed that the price of this 15 hour chess course is listed at $149 and you may think that is a little pricey. I would agree with you but will also point out that if you are on the ichess.net mailing list you will not only receive free samples of the ichess.net offerings (in addition to the course samples on their YouTube page), you will also receive massive discounts on all their offerings if you exhibit a moderate amount of patience. I purchased the Ginger GM Method at a 70% discount in November which meant that the ‘$149’ course only cost me $43.50 which works out to be less than $3 an hour which is just a little more than renting a DVD from the nearby Family Video in Marshalltown, Iowa.

  Simon Williams is an English grandmaster with a popular You Tube channel and is known for his hyper aggressive style. I had watched his first Master Method course (purchased for 50% off in July) which was billed as containing ‘Chess Improvement Secrets for the Busy Player). The course was 16 hours and gave an hour on each subject that Williams deemed important to get a player up to speed quickly – openings that can be played for both white and black, the main endings a player should know by heart, defensive play, attacking play, etc.. The production values were similar to most of ichess.net lessons – the left side of the screen is taken up by the board and the right hand side of the screen is mostly a backdrop with a small inset of the instructor on video giving the lesson. The ‘Master Method’ lessons are generally prefaced by a few minutes of the instructor in some exotic locale like the view from a high rise office building, a garden, and in Williams’ case in front of some amazing architecture in Barcelona. Williams’ master method course was entertaining enough but with few exceptions boiled down to the boilerplate ichess.net lessons which are loosely themed topics explained by the presenter going over Grandmaster games. The main takeaway I got from Williams Master Method was that even the Secrets for a busy player take a lot of effort in order to get real improvement.

  In Williams second course the introduction takes place in the setting of an exotic rock garden but the location is not used to preface the rest of the lessons which has Williams in his ‘GingerGM’ t-shirt going over his material (although the last three lessons are prefaced with Williams in a dress shirt sitting at a desk. This course is subtitled ‘Revolutionize Your Chess’ and Williams is serious about this subject. He gives a tight opening repertoire that aims for isolated pawn positions with White and the French and English (e6 and d6) as Black. Williams then gives hours of examples of typical attacking plans with the isolated queen pawn and black positions but instead of going through entire games he breezes through the openings and doesn’t show the end of the game if the attack leads to a material or overwhelming positional advantage. This allows him to go through more examples than the 3 to 4 games typical to ichess.net lessons.

  The rest of the Ginger GM Master method 2 goes into getting into an attacking mindset. There are chapters on being aware to attacking possibilities, not attacking prematurely, and the nuts and bolts of attacking and calculating variations. The chapters on attacking are very practical and as tight as the opening repertoire and middle game plan section. The examples were clearly thought out to build on each other. One attacking example leads to another similar but slightly different pattern that allows Williams to challenge the view to determine whether the same attacking idea will work or not. All chess courses end up having some contradictory advices and this course is no exception. After spending four hours recommending an opening repertoire based on getting an isolated queens pawn and how to use the isolated pawn to generate an attack there a more than a few examples in the attacking and calculating section where Williams breezily claims one side is better because the opponent has an isolated queens pawn or some of the same positional defects that the isolated pawn brings like more pawn islands. It just goes to show that it in chess it all depends and I suppose by learning to play with the isolated queen pawn one will certainly learn the shortcomings of the setup whjich will come in handy when facing the isolated pawn.

  I think this course explains a philosophy of attack better than any of ichess.net’s other offerings. The material is well thought out and not sugar-coated in any way. Williams continually says the course is meant to be viewed more than once and insists that the viewer will reap better results from practicing his principles of attack in long time limit games. He asks the view to pause the lessons to determine a plan or calculate a line on multiple occasions and repeatedly points out that his course is only the signposts and the road to chess improvement is paved with hard work.

  The only quibble I have is that while the content was obviously carefully thought out the presentation seems to have been rushed to get to market. The videos are full of annoying interruptions of Chessbase popups or blank screens that could have been edited out or done in another take. The inset of Williams talking seems pixelated and blurry and there is even a part in the final chapter where Williams’ pet cat makes an appearance. Williams takes great pains to be seriously professional in the course and forgoes most of the ‘entertainment’ (singing, cursing, shouting, etc…) that is a staple of his YouTube channel but the presentation has a certain sloppiness that doesn’t match the sterling content. Again this is only a quibble and I think that Williams’ ‘Revolutionize Your Chess’ Master Method delivers a product that made it a bargain at $43 and probably worth the full price of $150 for the devoted student.