Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

  On to another year. I made my resolutions for last year by October (350 miles on a stationary bike, 7000 perfect pushups), so this year I will push the envelope some more

1. 525 miles on the stationary bike
2. 8400 perfect pushups
3. 104 blogs

  Happy New year to all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Search for Perfection

  In chess, if you want to win a tournament, you normally have to win all your games. Sometimes you can give up a draw and still come in first. A lot of players will offer their last round opponent a draw before the game even starts in order to secure their prize money. In matches, once a player has a lead, they will stop playing to win and only play not to lose in order to keep their advantage. Part of the reason Bobby Fisher is so revered by chess players is that he played to win every game. In 1971 he won 2 matches by 6-0 scores against top-shelf competition, an unheard of feat. In his 1972 world championship match against Boris Spassky, even Fisher succumbed to draw-itis once he had a big lead, drawing 7 games in a row before winning the 21st and final game.

  The Indianapolis Colts had won their first 14 games of the season, clinched the best record in their conference, and were assured of having all their playoff games in their home stadium going into this past Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. After getting a 15-10 lead into the 3rd quarter, Colt’s coach Jim Caldwell removed all his best players (including All-world quarterback Payton Manning and Iowa native Dallas Clark) and the Colts lost the game 29-15. The star players looked upset at being pulled from the game, but didn’t complain publicly. The coach and general manager Bill Polian both said that a perfect regular season wasn’t part of their master plan of winning the Super Bowl.

  I’m confused by the Colt’s reasoning. If they were afraid of their top players getting hurt, why play them at all instead of over half the game? If the Colts wanted to keep their top players sharp, why not rest them in the first half and then play them in the second half under real game conditions? Another factor was Payton Manning’s consecutive game streak. But what if he got hurt on the first play?

  Why not just play to win? There has only been 1 team that has won all their games, the 1972 Dolphins. The Patriots came close 2 years ago, not losing until the Super Bowl due to an inspired (and lucky) comeback by the Giants. The 72 Dolphins had their best record clinched before their last 2 games, but still played to win. I think it shows softness by not playing for perfection when afforded the rare opportunity to do so. Now the players may have a doubt in their minds as to whether they could have beaten the Jets. I think the aura of invincibility is more valuable than the risk of getting a player hurt.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reasons to home school and knife control **updated

  I'm not a big fan of home schooling, although I can see the merits. The parents certainly have some reasons...

Reason #62  Would this school ban kids if they drew the devil?

Reason #63  Why would the principal and assistant principal need to be suspended? Makes me wonder.

Of course,
kids really don't outgrow this violent behavior.  I wonder if there will be a call for knife control to prevent these decapitations from happening in the future. If so, I can see a big boom in the prepared food market. But you know what they say, when knives are outlawed, only outlaws will have knives.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger Woods

  I’m amazed how quickly all Tiger Wood’s alleged partners came out for their 15 minutes of fame. I read a lot about how all the publicity is racially motivated. Bill Clinton got much more ink for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was the leader of the free world, but he was also less popular, probably less well known, and rumors of Clinton’s indiscretions were rampant even before he was president. And Prince Charles was a world laughingstock when his phone calls to his Lady Camilla became public.

  I have to believe that the other golfers on the tour and the golf media knew about some of Tiger’s ladies, but it is perfectly understandable why they would not make it public. Thanks to Tiger Woods, everyone in the golf industry makes more money. In the 1920’s Babe Ruth’s womanizing was well-known. He missed half the 1925 season with an illness described as the ‘bellyache heard around the world’, when there are numerous accounts of the Babe suffering from syphilis. For the same reasons as 85 years later, the baseball press of the time saw no reason to kill the cash cow.

  What is different is that 85 years ago there was no tabloid industry. From Princess Diana to Brittany Spears to Patrick Swayze to Michael Jackson to Tiger Woods, there is a lot of money to be made by giving the public a window to the private lives of celebrities and no one cares what kind of Mac & Cheese is being served for dinner. And to expose Tiger Woods’ humanity is even a bigger seller since his revealed behavior is such a polar opposite to his carefully manicured image as the tunnel-visioned golfer who has no time for anything outside polishing his craft except for his family and a few selected endorsement deals.

  Once Tiger goes away for awhile and there is no golf news, I wonder if the tabloids will find other golfers’ womanizing. Probably not, since even though there has to be a lot of married golfers with steady hookups on the tour, none will be well-known enough to make people buy the magazines. I’ll know chess is in the mainstream when the tabloids show a chess player’s many girlfriends.

  Tiger’s endorsement deals are disappearing fast. I wonder if his hiatus is to repair his marriage, to repair his image, or if it is really one and the same to him. In case he is a little short of cash, I have a few ideas for some new endorsement deals:

    1. Woods’ Escort Service – Personally approved and rated. Special on the 4-wood section this week only.
    2. Ti-agra – “To help you keep up”
    3. Tiger’s Law Service – Specializing in pre-nuptial and child support agreements. Discretion assured

  Feel free to add your own in comments. I'll add them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Missed Opportunity

I had planned to play at the CyChess Sunday, but the forecast of 1 to 3 inches of snow derailed my plans. There was no snow and my caution was in vain, but I did have a nice consolation prize watching my favorite football team, the New York Giants beat the hated Dallas Cowboys to claw their way back to a game behind the ‘boys and the Eagles in the division. Maybe they can get hot and win it all like they did 2 years ago. They were only a wild card that year also.

For my chess year I went +9 -5 =8 in standard time controls, gaining 13 rating points. I lost 8 quick rating points, owing mostly to my only scoring a draw in my last 3 games against Jaleb Jay, who I outrate by 400+ points. All in all, a successful year. Here is my best game from 2009, my win against Gerald Hawkins in the 2009 Iowa Class B championship on May 23rd. I had just lost a game to Gerald 6 days previously in the most excruciating fashion by winning a piece and then going to pieces and resigning 4 moves later, so this was a large measure of vindication.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twins Sons of Different Mothers

  President Obama gave a speech on Tuesday night outlining his reasons for adding more troops to Afghanistan. It sounded a lot like the speech Bush gave for adding more troops to Iraq (the 2007 Surge). While Obama addressed some of the criticisms that were leveled at Bush’s speech (exit strategy, holding the host country accountable, a gentler tone), if you just looked at the actions of our last 2 presidents, you would never guess that they were polar opposites of the political spectrum. From adding troops to bank bailouts to stimulus packages, they are in lock step. Obama is supposedly the Anti-Bush, black not white, young not old, urbane not country, smart not stupid, thoughtful not impulsive. I believe the differences are in style only, not substance. The Democrats in Congress grumble about the new troops in foreign lands, but they will go along with Obama just like they did with the Bush Iraq Surge. The Republicans in Congress grumbled about the Bush bailouts, but just enough voted for it to have it pass. When no republican votes were needed for the Obama stimulus, none were provided. When 3 republican votes were needed in the Senate to pass the Obama stimulus, 3 were found.

  The only real differences I see in the so-called 2 party system are the 2 religious issues of our time, abortion and gay tolerance. Moderate Republicans complain that the anti-abortion and anti-gay wing majority of the Republican Party is forcing them to switch to the Democratic Party. It makes it seem that the Republic Party is the party of intolerance. Where is the anti-abortion and anti-gay wing of the Democratic Party? They must have been forced out a long time ago. When it comes to any issues other than those, can the 2 parties be distinguished from one another? To quote the last line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: "Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Sick Dog

  Last Wednesday night, my 15 year old dog Queenie went into the backyard and tried to scramble under a fence chasing a possum. On 2AM Thanksgiving morning, she started howling in pain for a few minutes and was limping on her right leg. In the morning, she seemed good and took a long walk, but would yelp occasionally and start limping. I gave her some aspirin through out the day and took her to the vet on Friday. The diagnosis was some strained muscles in her back and neck and we have 3 sets of pills to give her (steroids, pain killers, and a stomach med to keep the steroids down). She is still limping and yelping occasionally, is only walking a few blocks at a time (her normal is at least a mile a day) and doesn't have much of an appetite. When a dog is that old, every little thing is a cause for concern and this is more of a big thing. I'm hoping the steriods are causing the appetite loss and she'll be more like her old self in a week or so.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A new era...

  After being a punching bag for our last few Marshalltown Thursday night blitz chess tournaments, I was happy to win last Thursday's tournament. I had to beat my son Matt in the last round. He has won 4 of the tournaments and had won his first 16 Marshalltown blitz games. He outranks me by 300 points and is 2-0 against me this season, but I got to play White and 'dulled' the game down until he gave up a pawn for the attack. Something went wrong with the attack, I managed to trade queens and won the ending with my extra pawn. A big weapon when playing a stronger player is the threat of a draw game. The better player will usually give up something to imbalance the position and hope to outplay the lower-rated player from there.

  I was sad to see that this year's edition of the Iowa State Chess Association (IASCA) grades chess championships draw 102 players, the 3rd lowest total since at least 1998. I took over the Iowa scholastic chess in 2006 after the lowest attendance of 82 players, down from the decade high of 187 in 2000. There were many reasons for the decline, most notably the disintegration of the Regina(Iowa City) and Center Point chess clubs. The tournament director (Steve Young) didn't help matters by taking it upon himself to berate the parents who did bring their kids when attendance was poor and this tended to derail the fine organizational work of Don Ronnfeldt. Traditionally, the scholastics are handled by someone who has a group of players in their town to provide an attendance base. Since I had no such base, I worked on communications by publishing a monthly web column, and sending e-mails to all the schools to let them know about our tournaments. This would get me in touch with schools and individuals interested in chess programs and I would get 3 or 5 or 7 players from these schools to come to the tournaments. The next 2 years, attendance at the grades tournament reversed the freefall, going from 82 to 111 to 131 players. Of course nothing recedes like success and quickly traditional tournament sites started drying up. The Iowa City scholastic contact (Steve Young) would not get me any tournament dates there for IASCA events (although he could find dates for his tournaments). To be fair to Steve, I wouldn't let him help with events after the money disappeared from the 2 events I did run with him in 2006. I helped with a tournament in Ames and the scholastic chess contact there told me point blank that Ames was his territory and he would fight me tooth and nail to keep me from running IASCA tournaments there. This left me running the main IASCA events in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids with the smaller tournaments in Creston, Marshalltown, Ankeny, or whoever would host them.

  The last straw for me and IASCA scholastics was in January 2008, when Jim Hodina decided to run a tournament in Cedar Rapids the same day as the state High School championship in Ankeny. Normally this tournament loses money and so to compensate, I'd hold a youth trophy tournament that would get me to the break even point. Jim and Eric Stumpf from Cedar Rapids had asked me if I would mind if they held an unrated tournament with minimal prizes on that date for kids in their K-4 school and I said that was OK with me since that type of player doesn't travel. Then Jim started sending me flyers from the tournament and lo and behold, it was the exact same format as my youth trophy tournament and was open for players in grades K-12. I had helped Jim out by directing the Iowa Open for him just 4 months prior and now he was running a competing tournament in terms of format and audience. It was one thing for the Steve Youngs of the world to run competing tournaments, but to compete against people who I do favors for? No thanks. Jim replaced me as Scholastic Director and has accomplished his main goal, which was to bring the Grades tournament to The Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area. The tournament drew 141 players last year due to repeated urging of the area chess players to support the tournament that had been wrenched from the Des Moines area. In the meantime there has been no IASCA scholastic events scheduled for this year in Des Moines and another rich vein of players has been lost. I also don't see the smaller groups I had cultivated continuing to play in the chess tournaments.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Des Moines Winter Classic Chess Tournament

  I helped Bill Broich direct a chess tournament in Des Moines yesterday. The main part of my duties was running the 22 player beginner open while Bill took care of the 18 player open section and the 11 player reserve section (Class C and below). Bill has been organizing tournaments for the past 2 years, and was quite capable of directing the tournament, but he asked for a more experienced director to assist and one of the perks of being a senior tournament director (only 4 in Iowa) is being able to help with a lot of the premier events in the state.

  The beginner tournament went well. Most of the beginners tend to be young kids and they are enthusiastic no matter what so it is always fun. Since I served as Iowa's Chess Scholastic Director from 2006 to 2008, it was a nice chance to meet up with some old friends like Sam Cole's dad
Lee Cole (magician and comedian), and Winterset's Stephens and Konevitch families who I've seen growing up in chess tournament's I've run over the years.

  There was a couple of incidents in the non-beginner section. Long time curmudgeon Wes Ferguson (1996 Iowa chess champion) was playing Brent Walker (Norwalk High School girl's basketball coach). Walker was winning but only had 25 seconds left on his clock. He queened a pawn and while reaching to hit his clock, knocked over a piece. While Brent was putting the piece back, Ferguson banged his clock down and told Walker to 'put the piece back on his own time'. Then Wes accused Brent of making 2 moves. I was called in and since Wes had no claim, there was nothing to do. But Brent was clearly rattled by the ill will and the game eventually became a draw. Quite a shame since Wes is known for his 'odd tactics' and Brent is nothing if not a gentleman.

  The other incident occurred in the under 1600 section. There was a 9 year old girl named Anastasia who had 2 points out of 3 games (a loss, a win, and a point for being the player in an odd numbered field who did not have an opponent). Her father came up to Bill and said that Anastasia was tired, did not want to play any more, and would like a half point for not playing in the last round. Since in the last round most players are playing for prize money, half-point byes are not normally allowed unless requested in advance so the request was disallowed. So the father then said she would play because 'maybe her opponent would agree to a draw'. As it worked out, her opponent was Jaleb Jay, the high schooler that came with me, who also had 2 points. Jaleb was asked by the dad to agree to a draw and he said no. I tried to explain to the dad that if his daughter got the draw, she would win maybe five dollars, so if her tiredness was an issue, he should just withdraw from the tournament and take her home. I guess the five dollars was important (five, five, five dollar foot long), because little Anastasia played. After an hour (which included her being late from dinner, and a makeshift ice-pack to help with her headache), her father came over to her table and told her to resign (a clear rules violation) since she was down a piece and rook. What a clown! The worst part about all this was that since there was an odd number of players, somebody had to not play in the last round who could have played if Anastasia had went home early.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trouble in Smallville?

  The Marshalltown paper is reporting that the chancellor of the community college district is going on a sabbatical and will be paid 155,000+ for the privilege. Every time the paper reports on this story, they mention that there were 4 closed door meetings about firing someone and that the chancellor has brought a lawyer to 3 of them. They never say what exactly what happens at the meetings, leaving it up to our imagination as readers (crimes too unspeakable to mention?). 2 years ago the community college district got a $25 million dollar bond issue passed, some of the money going to a new gym so our student-athletes (very few who actually come from Marshall County, Iowa) will have somewhere nice to perform. $25 million would have paid the tuition to the college for a year for almost every kid in the county. I guess the recession is over.
  I have an offer to make to the community college district. If they will hire me to replace the chancellor, I will take a sabbatical for the low price of $79,999 for the year. It is a win-win situation (except for the current chancellor, that is).

Friday, November 6, 2009

World champions!!

  Finally, the 9 year wait is over and the Yankees are champions again. After the debacle of 2004, I felt that perhaps the Yankees had acquired the curse of A-Rod and I'd seen the last Yankee championship of my life time. I'm glad I was wrong. I can't argue making Matsui the MVP, personally I would have chosen Jeter or Rivera. Damaso Marte was the unsung hero. With Chamberlain and Hughes struggling, he held the bullpen together. I was nervous up to the last out since if Victorino got on, Utley and Howard would be the next 2 hitters and possible tying runs, but Rivera was again unhittable when it mattered most. If the Yankees can develop another starting pitcher, this could be the start of another run of 3 or 4 championships over the next 5 years.

  EPSN is showing the Yankee-Dodger 1977 World Series. It is a lot of fun seeing all the great players of my teen years and Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Dick Howser, and Elston Howard (the manager and coaches). It is amazing to me how skinny all the players from 30 years ago look. Only Reggie Jackson would not look out of place in today's baseball. Part of it is the weight training, but the lack of steroid science in the 70's also has a lot to do with the lack of bulk. Maybe it is the fond rememberance of my youth, but I can't see the 2009 team winning a series from the 77 team.

  Now that baseball is over, I can turn my attention back to chess. I stayed up past midnight Wednesday night to watch the post world series interview and was so tired on Thursday at chess club I gave up a draw a pawn up to the same kid that beat me 2 weeks ago. On the bright side, our Marshalltown Thursday Night Chess tournaments are regularly having 12 players. Last night we had players from Newton and Tama. I have exactly 30 days before my next tournament (Cychess on 12/6/2009) and I am going to spend my time on tatics (50 a day), ending (1 a day from the Karpov book), openings (reviewing my standard lines), and middle games (1 Purdy game a day).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Failing to Finish

  Burnett didn't have the guts to finish the World Series, but I think Pettite will get the job done tonight. The bullpen has been good so I think even if Pettite struggles, the Yankees will be able to stay in the game long enough for the bats to get going. This has been a long postseason. 10 years ago, I was used to watching the Yankees play for an entire month, but the last 5 years, 1 week of attention was all that was needed. I'm hoping they end it now, because if there is a Game 7, the pressure will all be on the Yankees.

Monday, November 2, 2009

On the brink

  After Chamberlain nearly blew the game in the 8th, A-Rod and company managed to abuse the Phillies closer Lidge to pull out game 4 and get a 3-1 lead. You can tell that Sabathia did not have his good stuff and this (plus the Red Sox debacle or 2004) makes me nervous about the Yankees being able to close the series out. There was a manager in the 60's through the 80's named Gene Mauch who always put his pitchers on short rest in the playoffs and the last week of the season and presided over some of the biggest choke jobs ever because at the end of the season or series his pitchers were exhausted. He was always regarded as a genius. Hopefully, Yankee manager Joe Girardi is not so smart.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yankees In Control

  Another great game for the Yankees. The bullpen is taking shape and A-Rod and Swisher's bats are coming around. The series has the potential of becoming a bloodbath with the Phillies 4th best starter going. Just like the Angel series, Yankee manager Girardi is taking a huge gamble by going with his starters on 3 days rest, but unlike the Angel series, this is probably a good gamble. Lee was so unhittable, I'd also rather take my chances with Sabathia against a different pitcher and try to get the hammerlock right away.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Good pitching and bad umpiring in New York

  The first two World Series games show that runs will be very hard to come by. The Yankees advantage in home run power really shows up when there are 3-run homers, not solo shots. Rivera's arm will fall off if he has to keep pitching 2 innings at a time, but the way the Hughes, Robertson, and Bruney pitched Wednesday, it may be our only hope. If A-Rod can come through in the series the way he did against the Twins and the Angels, the Yankees will win easily. He is struggling with the slow pitching of the Phillies. I am buying the notion that this is a different A-Rod from years past and that he is going to come through for the Yankees.
  Major League Baseball is going to have to go to some sort of replay system. This is the worst umpiring ever. In the 7th inning with runners on first and second, Damon smacked a liner to Howard, who caught it on a short bounce. He threw to second for a force play. If he thought he had caught it, he would have jogged to first for the easy double play. The umpire called it a catch and after Rollins fumbled Howard's throw for awhile and tagged Posada, it was a double play and inning over instead of bases loaded and 1 out for Texieria and A-Rod. Luckily, the Yankees got a big break on an umpire's bad double play call in the next inning, ending the inning instead of having Ryan Howard up with the tying runs on. Every game, the umpires are screwing up games with their bad calls. I'd hate to be on a job where my every mistake is displayed in front of millions, but I wouldn't mind the paycheck.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series Time!!

  It has been a long six years since the Yankees have been in the Series. The only good point of my missing last weekend's chess tournament with a cold was being able to see the ousting of the Angels. The Angels have talent but played like a minor league team, not even being able to field a bunt. The Twins also played like a minor league team, but with less talent.
  Even if the Yanlees start slow, I won't be discouraged. The last time the Yankees played the defending champs in the World Series was 1996. At that time the Atlanta Braves won the first 2 games in convincing fashion, but the Yankees scraped by to win the next four games for their first championship in 18 years.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Giving away hope

  The worst part about the Yankees loss yesterday was that now the Angels will always have the hope that they can come back and win. Before this game, the Yankee bullpen was thought to be untouchable, excepting for the manager's errors. Now only Rivera is untouchable. I sufferred the same fate at our chess club yesteraday, losing a tournament game to a kid who I outrated by 400 points. Now he will always know he can beat me. I have given him hope that he can beat me any time. It will take a lot of hard work to extinguish hope now that the flame is lit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A big win

  A great win for the Yankees. The bullpen got a rest and the bats were on fire. It is troublesome to see so many baserunning mistakes. Hope it doesn't cost a game later. The umpiring was the worst. How could Iowa resident McClelland call out the runner for tagging up too early when the replays showed he wasn't even looking at the runner. What a joke. I hope the manager figures out that when he sends Gardner to pinch-run, everybody knows he is going to steal a base. Mix it up a little, Joe.

  I was wrong about Burnett and Pettite needing to pitch on 3 days rest. The off day today means that only Sabathia would have to pitch on 3 days rest again. He was worth every penny in this game.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Loss of Innocence

  A sad loss for the Yankees yesterday. If you keep wheeling out 8 pitchers a game, you will find out who doesn't have what it takes. I saw no reason not to let Robertson pitch more, especially since he's been lights out and Aceves has been stinking the place out. Whoever wins the game tonight will win the series. Sabathia can pitch on 3 days rest, but I have my doubts about Burnett and Pettite being able to do the same.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The 7000 Club

  I made a New's Year resolution to do 7000 pushups and ride 350 miles on the stationary bike. The bike was easy and I was well on my way to the pushups, building up to 40 a day, when I hit the wall last month and started missing days. Now I can say Mission Accomplished and I have 10 weeks to figure out what to do for next year.

  It was a great weekend of baseball for Yankee fans. After a nice win on Friday, the Yankees pulled out a gutsy win in a rainstorm on Saturday. With a 2-0 lead, I hope Girardi scraps the 3 man rotation and let Burnett, Sabathia, and Petite go in games 5,6, and 7 and let Gaudin or Joba pitch game 4. I see that Hughes is still not trusted to finish the tough innings, with Rivera coming in to finish the 8th for him. I felt bad for the Angel fielders. The ball was wet, heavy, and slick and they can't be used to rainstorms or sub 40 degree temps in Southern California. In the regular season, the game would have been suspended after 10 innings, but the precious prime-time game on Monday night could not be jeapordized. Hopefully, the Angel demon can be slain this week and then on to the World Series.

  While I'm writing this, the Saints are putting a beatdown on the football Giants. Probably an OK loss that will show the Giants exactly where they are and what they need to work on.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mr. October!?

  Another clutch performance by A-Rod to lead the Yankees to the sweep. The pitching has been very good (excepting Hughes who has choked and been bailed out twice) and the hitting has been clutch. It should be a great series vs. the Angels.

  It was nice to see Pavano choke it up by giving up 2 homers up once he got the lead. He took the Yankee's money and didn't perform until the contract was almost up and he needed to perform enough to hook up with another team. Some guys can't take the pressure of New York and he is one of them.

  Good bye to the Metrodome. I thought it got a bad rap. It was a cool stadium, unlike every other domed stadium of it's time with the baggie in right field, the white ceiling causing lost fly balls, a home run park, the great crowds, and an unrivaled home field advantage. They never lost a World Series game there, going 8-0 in 1991 and 1987.

  I'm getting ready for the Ames Chess Festival in 2 weeks by doing 100 tactic puzzles a day and playing guess-the-move out of The Art of Chess Annotation Vol.4 BY C.J. Purdy. Maybe there is room for 2 Mr. Octobers.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Money talks!!

  Great game between the Twins and The Yankees tonight. Just when Phil Hughes choked it up by giving up 2 runs after having 2 outs and an 0-2 count in the 8th, A-Rod of all people comes up with a 2 run bomb to tie it up in the bottom of the ninth. Then after messing up a golden chance to win in the 10th, Robertson gets out of a bases loaded no out jam in the top of the 11th and Texeria wins it in the 11th with a leadoff homer. Combined with Burnett's 6 innings of 1 run ball, it just goes to show what $500,000,000 or $600,000,000 gets you these days. I almost feel sorry for the Twins. They do a great job with all the players the big money teams don't want, but I'll feel less sorry for them after this series is over.

  This is best kind of baseball. Your heart is in your throat for 4 hours and the tension is finally resolved with one swing of a bat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On the board!!

  Nice win by the Yankees. It looked like Sabathia was flirting with disaster, but only gave up 2 runs in the 3rd and then Jeter got the 2 back right away before panic could set in. With Hughes, Chamberlain, and Riveria, all the Yanks have to do is get to the 7th and they'll win 8 out of 10. After watching the disaster of 2004, it was hard to take anything for granted until the final out.

  It was a nice win and gives me something to celebrate tomorrow. Not only is it the 53rd anniversary of the only perfect game in World Series history, it is also my birthday. I missed the perfect game by 4 years, but I think I'd rather have the 4 years, thank you.

  I see that the Jets picked up Braylon Edwards from the Browns for some picks. The talent is evident, but hopefully the head will be on straight.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wrapping up...

  The St. Mary Fall Festival is all done for another year. I spent the afternoon taking money for food and game tickets. I had heard so many horror stories about this assignment last year that I had to see what all the fuss was about. Yes, it was busy but no, it was not a horror. After the first 2 hours, I was playing chess with my assistant David Montealagre. He is just a beginner. We attracted so much attention and other kids wanting to play that I'm thinking about having a simul during next year's festival.

  My missing chess clock was found in the playing hall and returned to the tournament director, Ames chess legend Roget Gotschall. I'll pick it up during the Ames Chess Festival in 3 weeks.

  Baseball season is over and I still don't know who the Yankees are playing. I'm rooting for the Twins, since the Yankees have always owned them in the playoffs and there is no need to see Justin Verlander and his 100 mile an hour fastball twice in the next week. Nice to see A-Rod play Mr. October to preserve his streak of 30HR-100RBI seasons. Let's see if he can be as clutch for the team instead of his individual stats.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

St. Mary Fall Festival 2009

  I am getting ready for the St. Mary Fall Festival tomorrow. I have been the chairperson of the planning committee the last 2 years. I got to be the chairperson because when I was late to the first meeting due to my chess club, the rest of the committee decided to appoint me. Planning the festival is a chaotic experience. This year we have had very few volunteers sign up to help and the person who was in charge of preparing the meal (for 120 people) cancelled due to a family illness this week. People tell me that while they won't sign up to help, they will help if asked. I always thought the sign up sheet is asking.

  Our church is segregated between what is called the Anglo and Hispanic populations. I am not sure why I am an Anglo, being Russian by heritage. I would call it the English and Spanish speaking populations, since for all the talk about being one parish, all the masses and committees are separate by language. We all seem to work well together for the fall festival, although we tend to just go our separate ways in terms of planning. The English speaking group will gravitate towards the church hall for the meat and potato meal with a silent and live auction, while the Spanish speaking group will be in the street with the live band and Hispanic food. The games for the kids will also be in the street.

  We all have been working very hard and prayers for good weather seem to have been answered, so maybe we will have a successful festival. Whenever I get stressed about this kind of thing, I just imagine Jesus pulling up to my house with a pickup truck. I dump everything I am worried about into the truck and Jesus just drives away with it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cychess September 27th, 2009

  I went to play in the Cychess tournament yesterday. Cychess is a 3 round game in 45 minute tournament held 3 or 4 times a year by Ames chess legend, Roger Gotschall. The entry fee is $5 (or $3 if you are a member of the Cyclone Chess Club) and is a great one day chess tournament where I can leave my house at 11:45, be home at 7:00 and get 3 games in. I travelled with a member of the Marshalltown Chess Club, Jaleb Jay. Unfortunately, we were paired against each other in the first round!! Since there was an odd number of players, I offered to sit out the game and let Jaleb play the odd man out. I play a training game against Jaleb almost every Thursday and saw no reason to travel 40 miles to play one.
My first game was against Nathan Pang, an Ames grade schooler. Nathan is very low rated. I was well prepared to follow my usual strategy of playing solid, protecting my pieces, and waiting for my opponents mistake.
  My second game was against Yuzhou Zhang, the father of Jiahua Zhang, one of Iowa's top scholastic players. When I served as scholastic director of the Iowa State Chess Assocation, I ran unrated parents tournaments with thew scholastic tournaments so the parents could have something to do while the kids were playing. Yuzhou played in the parent sections and liked them so much, he signed up for a USCF membership and is a tournament player in his own right. He tied for first in the Iowa Open Under 1600 section this past Labor Day weekend. I was ready for a tough battle, and I made it much tougher when after the handshake, I picked up a pawn to make my first move only to discover I was not holding my d pawn,but had my c pawn in hand and I had to move it. So I had to play an opening I never played in a tournament before.

  All in all, a nice tournament me. I played solidly and with no mistakes except for my finger flub. A down side was that my chess clock got lost/misplaced/stolen. I lent it to someone to use and picked up the wrong one after the game. When that was claimed by the owner, my clock was gone. Amazing that this could happen in the midwest. Live and learn, I suppose.

Jason Juett, Kushan Tyagi, and Jiahua Zhang all went 3-0 and shared first place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Just as the Yankees have survived an odd late September road trip by beating the Angels 2 of 3 while the Red Sox have been losing 2 to the Royals, I have survived 3 weeks of Marshalltown Thursday Night Blitz Chess. Out of the regulars, only my son Matt out ranks me, so that means as far as the precious rating points go, I have nothing to gain and everything to lose. So far I have not been upset, but it is great to have a tournament to look forward to every week.
Watching the Sunday and Monday night football games should reinforce the obvious. Peyton Manning is a winner and Tony Romo is a loser. Of course 5 years into his NFL career, Manning was also a loser who couldn't win the big game, just like Elway was 17 years into his career. All Romo needs to be called a champion is a Super Bowl ring. I remember in 1985, Phil Simms made a costly fumble in the fourth quarter on Monday Night against Dallas at home to cost the Giants a game to go to 1-1 in the young season. Of course, the Giants ended up winning 16 of the next 17 games and were Super Bowl champs. Let's see if Romo can duplicate the ending of the story. So far it is a perfect copy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Will the Red Sox ever lose?

  I've spent most of this month waiting for the Yankees magic number to go to zero so the division will be clinched. I read a lot of talk about how the Yankees are the best team in baseball, but all I see is that while the Yankees are losing series to the Orioles and splitting with the Blue Jays, the Red Sox are sweeping these teams and are now only 5 games behind with the Yankees playing at the Angels and then home against Boston for 3 games. If the Yankees blow the division, they will have to go through both the Angels and the Sox to get to the Series, but if they win the division, those 2 will beat each other up while Yanks play the Tigers. Of course, all 3 of these teams have beaten the Yankees in the playoffs in the last 5 years.
  I don't see the Yankees getting to the Series. Sabathia is a good #1 pitcher, but Burnett and Pettite can't be counted on. With Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz, the Red Sox are built for October, whie the Yankees are built for July.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review - The Chess Assassin's Business Manual by Bob Long

  I got a copy of this book from the author himself at the Iowa Open last week. Bob is the owner of Thinkers Press, the chess publisher of many fine books including my favorites, the Cecil Purdy Collection. There is not a lot of chess games and positions in the book, so it was easy to finish the book in a week. The book talks mostly about Bob's careers in the typesetting business, chess publishing business, and the chess sales business. Bob's talks a lot about all the bright ideas he's had and the problems he has had dealing with cheating competitors, etc. I find the main thread of Bob's successes is not his great ideas or his business savvy, but simply that he cares about his work and outworks his competition. He mentions as an afterthought how he changed fonts on the chapter headings that is on the top of every right-facing page, but the font or even chapter headings would be an afterthought to most. These small tidbits explain why the Thinker's Press books are the best chess books on the market, in my opinion.

  There is a fair amount of self-promotion in the book. On page 212, Bob spends an entire page telling you how he can show you how to make 25 to 50K in the first year. I enjoyed Bob's stories about selling books and playing at chess tournaments. More of his personal stories would have been nice, but I guess 'assassins' shouldn't talk about their personal lives very much. I found this book very entertaining because I know about Bob from the books his company publishes. It is not a pure chess book, business book, or memior, but after reading it, you will know a more about chess, business, and Bob after reading it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 Iowa Open

  Iowa Chess champion Pete Karagianis won the 2009 Iowa Open with a score of 4.5/5. He beat master and 6 time Iowa champ Mitch Weiss in round 4 and had a short draw in the last round with his training partner and fellow master Tim Mc Entee, who had previously surrendered a draw to TD and tournament organizer Jim Hodina. Weiss and Mc Entee tied for 2nd-3rd with 4.0. Hodina and Matt Anzis tied for 4th and 5th with 3.5. Pete hasn't lost in an Iowa tournament since Dan Brashaw beat him in the Cedar Rapids LeatherJackets in January of 2009 and has gained 70 rating points since then.

  The reserve (U1500) section had a 3 way tie for first between Dan Medrano, Yuzhou Zhang, and John Flores with 3.5/4, Medrano taking the handsome trophy on tie break.

  The open and reserve had a combined 49 players, which is well within historical norms. I hung out in the cafeteria with the fathers of scholastic stars Kushan Tyagi and Venkat Iyer watching the US Open tennis tournament while our sons battled it out. Bob Long of Thinkers Press was selling books on Saturday. I bought a copy of his autobiography/business treatsie, 'The Chess Assassin's Handbook', which I hope to review within a week.

  Word has it that Hodina was quite upset at the short final round draw. Tim and Pete always play a short draw when they meet in Iowa tournaments, no matter which of them is battling for first place, so it could have hardly been unexpected.
  As a TD and player, I can understand their point. They are training partners and feel their trust will be broken if they compete. I was paired against my training partner Pete Protyvniak in a quad in 1982 and while I won, our relations were strained for quite some time.
  As a tournament organizer that this has happened to, I feel like it is not worth my time to attempt to hold a tournament when the top players draw in a couple of minutes in the final round and leave. I'll direct a tournament where this may happen (like the 2009 Iowa Closed Championship), but I won't organize one.
  As a father, it bothers me that my son Matt has also taken up this habit.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Round 9 US Open

  The last round finally came after 9 days of chess. I would either finish with an even score, my current minus 1 or even a disastrous -2 score. My opponent was 3rd grader Adream Liang, who was so short he had to get his knees on the chair in order to reach the pieces when he made his moves. His dad and younger brother were also playing.

  I was pretty happy with this game. My opponent played poorly, but I punished him severely. And best of all, I had an even score for the tournament. A soft even score to be sure (losing 27 of the precious rating points), but I had accomplished my goal.
  Final score +2 -2 =5 4.5/9
  I was generally pleased with the way I played. I only made 3 game changing blunders, but I was unhappy with my lost opportunities that could have turned draws to wins in 3 of my draws. My next tournament is CyChess on 27-Sep-2009 which is a 3 round game in 45 minutes afternoon tournament.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Round 8 US Open

After my disheartening loss, I was paired against Keith Sommers from Texas. Keith was rated 1004, BUT he had beaten a 1600 and a 1880 rated player. He was an all-american looking junior high school player that hadn't played in a year, so obviously he was underrated. He was playing this round right next to his father who was rated slightly above me.

A lucky escape. I felt real good to have gotten a draw after being in such a bad position. Keith ended up winning $230 for 4th place rated under 1200. So with 1 round to go, I would have one last chance to get to an even score

+1 -2 =5 3.5/8

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Round 7 US Open

  With 3 rounds left in the tournament, there were only a handful of players in my class with an even score. If I could somehow get 2 or 2 and a half points, I'd have a great chance at some money. My opponent was 87 year old Dan Mayers.

Dan Myers - Pictures courtesy of 2009 US Open CD

  Dan had a giant magnifying glass to see the clock and the pieces and was very hard of hearing so you couldn't talk with him in the tournament room. I found out later that Dan had worked on the Manhattan Project in the 1940's and had a rating of 2121 in 1994. Not knowing all this, I was ready for battle...

  When I got to the room and played over the game, I was disgusted that I missed the simple Kh1 and sacrificed the exchange for my second loss of the tournament. There was no reason to lose this game except I lost my head when it mattered most. Now I was likely out of the money and back in negative territory to boot, There was nothing to do but forget this game and move on...

After 7 rounds +1 -2 =4 3.0/7.0

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Round 6 US Open

  Having finally gotten to an even score, I played Bernard Parham, a slightly built balding man in his 30's. Bernard moved very fast and was constantly attacking. It took me a long time to make a safe position. I counterattacked, won the exchange, but...

  Draw on Parham's offer. After losing the exchange, the draw offer came and I had less than 20 minutes left for the remaining 17 moves to get an extra hour at move 40. Most of the my very painful losses have come from this exact position, most recently in the 2008 US G/60 championships when I walked into a mate in one ahead the exchange,so I took the draw. My son Matt was incensed. He thought I should have tried to sit on the position till move 40 when I'd have had an hour to win. I couldn't blame him, but these are personal decisions. After not outplaying anyone over 5 days, this game gave me a lot of confidence going into the home stretch.

After 6 rounds +1 -1 =4 3.0 out of 6

Monday, August 31, 2009

Round 5 US Open

  After discussing my woes with my wife, she told me to make sure I took a nap before the game. So I got a nap from 2 to 4 before the 7pm start. My opponent was 1400 rated Randy Parschall, a 60ish gray haired bearded minister from Alaska. Randy's came to play with his son, the Alsaka High School chess champion. So we had a parents match Iowa vs. Alaska. Well rested, and on to battle....

  As my brother Ed would say, YAY!!! I missed more moves in this game than all the others combined, but a win is a win is a win. And more than halfway through the tournament, I have an even score.

After 5 rounds +1 -1 =3 2.5

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Review - True Combat Chess by IM Tim Taylor

  I got this book at the US Open as a damaged book for $10 and just finished it. It sells for $24.95 here on USCF Sales. You may remember Taylor's controversial articles in Chess Life about his attempts to get a GM norm in Hungary's first saturday tournaments. All I know, is that he made it sound like so much fun that if I had read his articles when I was in high school, I would have worked a lot harder on my chess.The book includes Taylor's 'Winning the Won Game' series on, but the new material is all Taylor's games, mostly about about his struggles to compete for GM norms. There are many whole games in the notes, but I found the games very understandable and enjoyable just to go through on their own and there are more than just moves and variations. The section on trying to hold a position when down to only the delay or increment is a lot of fun to read through. If you have $25 to spend, I recommend it, but if you wait, it will surely be available for $10 at someday.

My favorite quote from the book
  "The time for self-recrimination is later, crying in your beer in your hotel room! At the board, one must fight! Furthermore, every new move in chess is like a new spin of the roulette wheel - anything can happen. One can even win!"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy R.I.P.

  Rest in Peace, Ted. You were an amazing person. Politics aside, getting your marriage of 20+ years with kids annulled because your faith doesn't allow a divorce was a masterstroke. I hope you can strike similar deals at the next stop.

  It is amusing that in 2004, Massachusetts Democrats made the strict rule to prevent the then Republican governor from appointing an interim Republican senator in case John Kerry were to be elected president, but now Ted Kennedy wanted the law changed to allow a Democratic governor to appoint a Democratic interim senator. Of course, Republicans would do the same about face. It's all about the power...

Round 4 US Open

  This was a long day. I was watching Matt's last Denker game and then had to sit through the 75 minute closing ceremony. This left 30 minutes for dinner before round 4. My round 4 opponent was 1437 rated Marke Robinson. Marke is a slight 50ish man with gray hair and glasses. His son Evan, finished first in the U1200 section and won $725.

  Draw on Marke's offer. I now wish I had kept playing since he had just solved my bad bishop problem. I reacted poorly to the change of circumstances.

  As poorly as I've been playing, I took heart in being only -1. Still looking for a win, though...

After 4 rounds +0 -1 =3.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Round 3 US Open

  In round 3, I played Tom Byers, rated 1288. Tom is a 50ish fellow who was short but resembled a large block of granite, complete with a giant face and jaw. I thought I should have a good chance to win this game, and was going to follow my normal plan of keeping complications to a minimum and pouncing on his mistakes. Sadly, I missed my pounce and the game dribbled to a draw.

  On Tom's offer. This was a big blow to my confidence. I left this game wondering if I had lost the will to win or maybe the knack to win, but was encouraged that I was never in any danger of losing and at -1 for the tournament, I still had a chance to better my -2 score of 3 years ago.

  Tom did have a fine tournament. He drew a 1763 and 1842 and beat a 1561 gaining over 100 rating points.

After 3 rounds : +0 -1 =2 1.0

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Round 2 US Open

In this round, I played Sarah Shelby, a teenage girl with frosted hair and a nose ring. Normally during a game, the player gets up after their move, but Sarah kept getting up after my move. Then some other kids would look at the board and they would all get together in the back of the hall. I'm sure they were all talking about frosted hair, nose rings and other teenage stuff, but it sure got in my head. I felt I was playing 3 or 4 people and was liking my position less and less. I missed a tactical shot and locked the pawns in a double rook endgame so I had no break through. After the lastest discussion, Sarah came back to the board, I offered a draw, it was accepted, and I sufferred my first half upset of the tournament.

I was pleased that I was never in danger of losing, but I should have been in more of a grinding mode against the next generation instead of the lackluster draw.
After 2 rounds +0 -1 =1 0.5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Round 1 US Open

I played in the 2009 US Open from August 1 to 9. I was accompanying my son Matt, who represented Iowa in the Denker tournament of high school chess champions held at the same time as the open in Indianapolis. I played in the leisurely 9 day schedule ~ 1 game a day for 9 days. The time control was 40 moves in 2 hours and another hour to finish the game as needed. When I last played in the Open in 2006 (Chicago), I was rated 1564 and went +2 -4 =3 for 3.5/9 points. I was hoping to have a better score this year.

In round 1, I played a master, John Stopa. John looked to be in his mid 50's with big head of hair and a Wilford Brimley mustache.

I thought it was a good start. Except for a few bad moves and a silly exchange sacrifice, I hung in there nicely and did my best.

But, after 1 round +0 -1 =0 0.0

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In the beginning…. (What’s in a name?)

I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite some time now, but I could never find the right name. I wanted a chess related theme, but this is not going to be the typical chess improvement (celebrate success, drown in failures) type of blog. Last Tuesday at a planning meeting for the St. Mary Fall Festival, my fellow committee member Eldon took an 18 inch pawn out of a bag, thundered out “Look what I found for you at a garage sale!”, and banged the big pawn on the table. When I picked it up, it broke into only 3 pieces. I say only because it was just a piece of pottery and could easily have been a pile of powder. Eldon apologized, and I accepted, telling him “It’s the thought that counts, Eldon, and I’m glad you thought enough of me to give me a broken pawn”. A blog is born!!

If I’d waited a day, I might have named this blog ‘Broken Car’. When driving back from our Thursday Night Chess Club, I went over some railroad tracks, the car stalled, and the check engine light went on. I finished my trip fine, but the car was stalling out every block the next day. The shop says it is a bad O2 sensor. I called the White House for help, but they won’t reclassify my car as a clunker. Till my car get’s fixed, I’m walking the 3/4 miles back and forth to work and lunch each day. I suppose I could commandeer the 2002 Cavalier I let my 16 year old son Matt drive, but it’s not worth the hassle until it starts snowing…