Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Things that work and things that don’t

Starting to show a little wear and tear and the miles are adding up, but still going strong!

  I passed the 60,000 mile mark on my Kia Rio a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think 60,000 is a significant milestone in and of itself but in this case it marks the end of the company warranty on the car and means I’m on my own if any major problems come up since I didn’t purchase the extended warranty. I have my suspicions that any warranty would have been honored since I stopped bringing my car to the dealer for oil changes when the service department wouldn’t accept the $8 oil change discount the dealer sent me (I wrote about that incident here) and haven’t paid for the suggested 24, 60, 96, or 682 point inspections where somebody you never meet supposedly looks over every nook and cranny of your car for a little (or a lot of) $$$.

  It’s only taken me 27 months to put the 60,000 miles on my car and that’s with 5 months of ride sharing mixed in. I’d love to have a more prestigious car, but after 3 years I’d just have a prestigious car with 90,000 expensive miles on it so I prefer to get the cheapest car I can get and hope its well-made. This Kia Rio seems extremely well made. I keep the oil changed and replace the tires and wiper blades and haven’t had to spend a penny on anything else other than gasoline except for one wheel alignment. I had 4 GM cars before the Kia for my commute to Des Moines. My 2005 Aveo had the clutch go out before the warranty expired (and I bought the extended warranty) and GM told me it was a wearable part. My 1996 and 1999 Geo Metros both had the dashboard lights go AWOL at the 65,000 mark, and my 2002 Cavalier had an engine backfiring problem due to some bad sensors that the dealer wouldn’t cover as part of the extended warranty because the sensors were ‘corroded’. That time I was lucky and happened to be in the process of buying a minivan from the same dealer. I mentioned to the salesman that I was not going to get the minivan after all because I was concerned that the minivan might have corroded sensors that also wouldn’t be covered (LIKE ON MY CAVALIER) and the dealer fixed the Cavalier for free in order to get me to buy the minivan. The Chevy Venture minivan has been a dependable car. It’s had a few problems but it gets a lot more wear and tear from thousands of the short in-town trips that its taken over the years. The cars I use for work travel almost all their miles on the highway which I think helped them last longer.

  Matt still drives the Cavalier and Ben is now driving the Aveo so I can say I’ve got my money’s worth out of them, but this Kia cost less than either of them even though I bought it years later than the Cavalier (9) and the Aveo (5). As much as I dislike the service department at the Kia dealership, I’d have no problem getting a Kia as a replacement for my Rio or the minivan. I like that their cars are inexpensive but since my car hasn’t broken down even once I wouldn’t call them cheap. As the commercial could have said ‘Not getting stranded…PRICELESS’.

  Last December I got a phone call from asking if I'd like a free upgrade to a new server. GoDaddy hosts my book’s website (, my chess website (, and some other prototype web sites that I’ve written for customers. Their service and support had always been top notch so I quickly agreed. As soon as they upgraded me, my chess site stopped working while all the other sites were just fine. I called their support and was told it was my problem if it didn’t work on the new server and they sent me an email on how to debug my website. I eventually figured out that some of my settings got lost in the move and when I reset them all was well…or so I thought.

  After the move, I had intermittent problems connecting to all my web sites. Sometimes I had to retry the website 5 times before I could connect, sometimes I couldn’t connect at all, and sometimes I could connect right away. I’d call GoDaddy and they’d tell me their server was having a problem and it would be fixed within 48 hours. After a couple of weeks of this, I asked them to put me back on the old server and was told they could but it would take a week and I wouldn’t have any operational websites in the meantime. I didn’t find this very helpful and asked to talk to a supervisor. The supervisor gave me a free month’s rent on the GoDaddy servers. He also told me the problem was in one of the 2 servers that pointed users to my sites and that my sites could be reached from either coast but not the Midwest. I suppose he was telling the truth but I didn’t bother calling anyone on either coast to see if they could connect.

  I could access my site within a day, but the problem kept happening at least once a week and I collected a month of free rent from GoDaddy whenever I complained enough. After my chess tournament of February 18th, I came home and updated my database with the tournament results and article, but when I tried to see the changes on the web site, I couldn’t access it. I called GoDaddy and was told that they were ‘aware’ of the problem and they would have it fixed within 48 hours of being notified. I asked them when they were notified and they said 'just now' and I was the first to notify them. I then asked how could they have been aware of the problem if they were just notified by me. At that point I was offered another free month’s rent, but I wasn’t buying this time because I wanted to send the players a link to the article on my website and I didn’t want to send them to an error screen. Instead of telling the rep that I wanted to go back to my old server, I told him I wanted a free upgrade to a new server. He told me he couldn’t do that and if there was nothing else, I could hang up.

  That told me that the GoDaddy rep wasn’t going to hang up on me! (I wrote about that trick last month) I told him that I was going to stay on the line until my web site was back up. The rep told me that it could take 48 hours and I told him not to worry, I had plenty of coffee, No-Doz, and other stimulants. I also told him that he could stay on the line with me until my site was back up. The rep put me on hold for 5 minutes and when he came back he said my upgrade to a new server was approved and I’d be transferred within 24 hours. I said thanks but I would stay on the line until my upgrade was complete or my site was back up and running whichever came first. The rep then told me that there really wasn’t anything else he could do for me and if there wasn’t anything else I wanted I could hang up. I told him that I was going to wait and I did want something. I wanted him to stay on the line with me until my problem got resolved. He put me on hold for 10 more minutes and when he got back he told me that because I was such a loyal customer, GoDaddy had decided to immediately upgrade my account to the new server. Sure enough, I was able to get on my sites with no problem. I even had the following email waiting in my InBox:

"Dear Hank Anzis,
As part of a continuing effort to provide the highest quality service for our valued customers, your hosting account has been migrated to a new server that will provide you with increased performance and reliability…

  The rep then asked me if there was anything else he could help me with. I was sorely tempted to ask for $50 dollars but I was so happy to have my web sites back up, I thanked him, complimented his superior service, wished him a good night, and hung up. I haven’t had any more problems with my web site since. If Kia Motors managed web sites they might have a new customer but for now I’m very thankful that doesn’t make cars!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quarterback Carousel

  Last July, the Indianapolis Colts signed Peyton Manning to a 5 year $90 million dollar contract which included a $20 million dollar signing bonus. This was 2 months after Manning underwent neck surgery to repair a bulging disk and 16 months after he had neck surgery to relieve pressure cause by a pinched nerve. 5 weeks after signing his contract, Manning underwent neck surgery once again and missed the entire season. Without him the Colts, who had made the playoffs the past 9 years, crashed to a league-worst 2-14 record and the first pick in the draft. The reversal of fortunes prompted owner Colts Jim Irsay to fire his coach and general manager and release Manning from his contract rather than give him a 28 million dollar roster bonus.

  Released from the Colts and medically cleared to resume his football career, Manning became the most sought after football free agent since Reggie White in 1993. He visited with the Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers before settling on the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are a seemingly good fit Manning. They play in a weak division, have a stout defense, and a good running game. The Broncos managed to make the playoffs last year with an 8-8 record after a 1-4 start (3 of their losses by 5 points or less) when they benched journeyman Kyle Orton in favor of former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Under Tebow, the Broncos started winning the close games they were losing under Orton. They won 7 of 8 games, 6 of them by 7 points or less; many with last minute comebacks. Tebow and the Broncos lost their last 3 games in poor fashion, but managed to sneak into the playoffs when none of their division rivals could get 9 wins and even beat the 2 time AFC conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs when Tebow completed an 80 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime.

  Tebow is not a typical NFL quarterback. He is a great runner and throws a good deep ball, but he has troubles throwing short and medium range passes. Because of this, the Bronco offense was based almost exclusively on a running game mixed with long passes. Tebow finished the season at the bottom 10 of the quarterback rankings in a number of categories like completion percentage and yards per attempt, but showed a knack for making plays at the end of the game to help his team win.

  Because of his unapologetic Christian faith, Tebow has been a sort of cult figure whose jersey became one of the NFL’s top sellers before he even played an NFL game. The improbable nature of Tebow becoming the starting quarterback and the even more improbable nature of the many last minute comeback victories in spite of Tebow’s perceived inadequacies as a quarterback magnified his fame, giving rise to the phenomenon of ‘TebowMania’, culminating in the ‘3:16’ playoff game against the Stellers.

  The Broncos general manager is John Elway, who won 2 Super Bowls with the Broncos in the 1990’s. He inherited Tebow from the previous management group and while trying very hard not to annoy the ‘Tebowites’, never endorsed him as the quarterback either. Elway was in a tough spot. He wanted a more traditional quarterback, but didn’t want to alienate the Bronco fans who thought Tebow was ‘chosen’ to be the Broncos quarterback and were buying all the Jerseys. Getting Manning has solved all Elway’s immediate problems. He has gotten rid of his popular but flawed quarterback and since Tebow’s replacement is one of the most celebrated quarterbacks of all time, the fans can’t get too upset and there will be plenty of Bronco jerseys to be sold with Manning’s name on it.

  Elway’s decision to replace Tebow with Manning is risky, but for a team that has a win now at all costs mentality it makes a lot of sense and in my opinion it has a lot of merit even a team is in building mode. The Manning contract is guaranteed for this next coming year only so if Manning needs another neck surgery, his contract can disappear at the end of the year. The problem I see with Tebow is that with the amount of running he does, he’s sure to get concussed or injured and when he does his skills are so unique it will be very hard to have an adequate replacement to run the offense without a significant drop off. Of course, given the way the Colts performed without Manning, I expect he will be equally as hard to replace. Ultimately, Elway’s decision will be judged on whether the Broncos get to the Super Bowl with Manning as the quarterback, but I see it as a risk worth taking.

  One day after signing Manning, the Broncos traded Tebow to the New York Jets for some low level draft picks. Tebow has gone from being the most talked about player in the NFL from the relative obscurity of Denver to the cover boy of New York. The Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez helped his team get to within a game of the Super Bowl in his first two years, but struggled along with the rest of the team to an 8-8 mark (the same as the Broncos) last year as they missed the playoffs. The Jets made inquiries into getting Manning, but quickly signed Sanchez to a long term contract once Manning rebuffed them. When the Jets were winning, Sanchez was on the cover of GQ and dubbed by the New York press as the ‘Sanchize’, but after this season, his leadership skills and long term viability as a quarterback were questioned by his former admirers.

  I think Tebow to the Jets is a bad marriage. As soon as the Jets sign their young quarterback for big money, they bring in another young quarterback to compete with him. Tebow’s popularity is so out of proportion to his ability that there will be calls from all sides to have him start if Sanchez struggles even a little. And I’m thinking the Jets only got Tebow for publicity and to sell tickets and merchandise. They announced the trade so quickly they didn’t realize that Tebow’s contract had a clause in it saying the Broncos were owed 5 million dollars by any team that traded for him. Jet’s owner Woody Johnson likes big names and publicity and may have felt he needed to do something to compete with the rival Giants Super Bowl victory. The Jet’s decision, like the Broncos, will be judged on the results, but I think they had more pressing needs than a backup quarterback, no matter how popular.

  Tebow’s career arc to date reminds me of another Heisman Trophy winner from almost 30 years ago, Doug Flutie. Flutie was given the starting job out of college with the 1985 USFL New Jersey Generals until he was injured and the league folded. He was picked up by the defending champion Chicago Bears and was given the starting job by head coach Mike Ditka when starter Jim McMahon was injured. The knock on Flutie at the time was that he was too short to be a starting quarterback, but Ditka thought he was a winner. Flutie played creditably in the last 2 games of the season, but was a disaster in the playoffs against the Redskins and was traded the next year to the New England Patriots as a hometown favorite (Flutie played college ball for Boston College). By 1989, Flutie was out of the NFL and resurfaced in the Canadian Football League. He became a Hall of Fame Canadian player and came back to the NFL in 1998 with the Buffalo Bills. In 1998, Flutie made the All-Pro team, led the Bills to the playoffs, and stayed in the NFL for 5 more years. I see a lot of the same qualities of perseverance in Tebow that Flutie had and I think he can also become a championship caliber NFL quarterback, but only if he can get out of New York and on a team (or league) where he can be a player without being a sideshow or publicity gimmick.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Politicians Agree

  While I was blogging about chess for the last 2 weeks, the Iowa legislature passed in a very bipartisan manner a law prohibiting animal rights activists from gaining entrance to agricultural facilities by posing as employees among other methods in order to expose animal cruelty. This law passed the Democratic controlled Iowa Senate 40 to 10, the Republican controlled House 68 to 29 and was signed by Republican Governor Branstad.

  Don’t get me wrong. I love animals, but I’m no animal rights activist. If I were, I doubt I’d be buying beef stick treats for my beagles or enjoying a bowl of clam chowder or a ham and cheese sandwich or some fried chicken at meal time. But if groups want to infiltrate agriculture facilities and publicize if dead animals are left in cages with live animals or if a nursing pig is confined to a cage so small it can’t even turn around in or if an egg-laying hen is kept in a tiny cage from its first egg to its death, I’m OK with that, too.

  What bothers me is that after not being able to agree on much else (except the gas tax, which has been quieted down since gas went up 70 cents a gallon over the last 2 months), Iowa politicians of both parties can agree on protecting Iowa’s precious agricultural facilities from having any potential abuses exposed. Not exposed by people sneaking into the premises (trespassing already being a crime) or breaking into the premises (burglary already being a crime), but by people who are getting into the facility as hired workers and then documenting the abuses. Sen. Joe Seng, a Davenport Democrat and veterinarian who sponsored the bill, said the measure strikes a balance by discouraging animal activists from sneaking into livestock facilities but not prohibiting someone who legitimately works there from reporting animal abuse. What a bunch of nonsense. I could see someone working in a plant for 20 years, seeing some abuses, having a conscience attack and reporting it, and then being arrested for having gained their employment under false pretenses because they wrote down the wrong month that they stopped working at the local Wendy’s on their application 20 years ago or were judged as planning on exposing the abuses eventually because they burned their Michael Vick jersey after Vick was arrested for his dog-fighting ring or dated a vegetarian in high school. These people are getting hired, not sneaking into these facilities and I assume they would be working or else they would be fired. If the farmers don’t want their workers taking videos, they should be a lot more careful who they hire or make their workers sign a confidentiality agreement and then sue them if they break the rules.

  Annette Sweeney, a Republican representative from Alden, noted that sometimes anti-animal agriculture activists stage events to sabotage modern livestock and poultry production and said “Our agriculture community needs this new law…We want to make sure everybody involved in our livestock facilities is forthright and we want to make sure our livestock are kept safe. As farmers, we want to make sure the food we produce is safe and healthy." But this law doesn’t make it illegal to sabotage production facilities or stage events or keep the livestock from being safe or healthy. This law makes it illegal to lie on an application to get a job in agriculture facility and secretly take video or pictures. Aren’t there already laws against sabotaging the food supply? I also wonder now that there is a law against lying on an application for farm work with the intent of harming the business, will there be a new department of ‘Farm Application Inspection’ to enforce the truthfulness of all applications for farm work?

  Aside from agreeing on the need for a law making it illegal to lie on a farm worker application, Republican Sweeney, Democrat Seng, Republican Branstad and Iowa politicians of both parties can agree on something else: they all like getting money from big farm groups (as exposed in the Des Moines Register). Seng received $8,000, Sweeney $8,300 and Branstad over $800,000 in campaign contributions from agriculture interests. But they all deny that the funds they received had any impact on their decision to support this law. Seng said he sees the contributions as appreciation of what he’s done in the past and not in anticipation of future legislation. In that case, Seng can expect a large raise in his next campaign once his support of this law stops being current and can be appreciated as what he’s done in the past. I can only imagine what Branstad has done for his appreciation.

  Taking videos of the inside of a farm might be a civil offense but not criminal. The fact that this sort of bill is considered (much less passed) makes me wonder what these farmers have to hide. Maybe videos like this? (Warning!! This is unbelievably graphic.) If they were on the up and up, I’d think they’d have their own farm-cams to show the absence of abuse in order to battle any undercover filming instead of trying to lock up people if they try to expose some questionable practices. I’m not especially concerned how comfortable the chicken was before it made it to my dinner plate last Sunday, but it should be the right of people to expose perceived abuses and let the public decide whether they want to support the business in question without the exposers facing criminal penalties. If the farmers want to take these people to civil court, that’s their prerogative. Florida tried to make even taking a picture of a farm a felony offense! The effort failed, but I wonder if it passed, would Google Earth have to ‘blur’ out all the farms on their Florida maps?

  To me this simple little law has potentially huge implications. Will I someday be risking jail time when I indulge in my habit of making videos while waiting in line at the Wal-Mart, Staples, Subway, or the Post Office in the hopes of being spotted and getting quicker service? Will the Republicans support making it illegal to make ‘ACORN sting videos’ in a trade off to the Democrats for laws making it illegal to take secret videos in banks and brokerage houses. Seng also noted that "Whether the livestock producers are corporations or smaller farmers, they have a lot of dollars invested in their facilities… They also need to keep the activists out to prevent subversive acts or damage or misrepresentation that is meant to try to harm and bring down the livestock industry." If this kind of logic is allowed to be the source of law, to me it’s only a matter of time before all videos, pictures, and even blogs are labeled ‘subversive’ and come under increased government scrutiny. After all, everything is objectionable to somebody. I shudder now when I think of the long-term implications of when I blogged how the Hy-Vee had 15 stick packs of Wrigley Doublemint gum on sale for 99 cents each while less than a mile away, the Hy-Vee Drug Store had identical packs on sale for 44 cents even though they both are owned by Hy-Vee. After all, Hy-Vee is a big Iowa employer and ‘they have lots of dollars invested in their facilities’ Pointing out their inconsistent pricing of gum will probably be seen as subversive at some point in the future. I’ll continue this post another day, but right now someone is knocking at my front door…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March Madness

No madness here, just happy faces win, lose, or draw.

  This past Sunday the NCAA announced the 68 teams that would compete in their Men’s basketball tournament. The tournament is called March Madness for good reason. It’s a magnet for gambling dollars with an estimated 7 BILLION dollars wagered in office pools, not counting the legal and illegal dollars bet in sport books. With so many people with a financial stake in the outcome in addition to the fans of the 68 participating teams, it’s no wonder that last year the NCAA has inked a 11 BILLION dollar 14 year TV deal with CBS and TNT to broadcast the games.

  I’ve never won a penny filling out the NCAA brackets, but that didn’t stop me from going temporarily mad and putting down my 10 dollars at the pool where I work. I picked mostly favorites and Missouri to win it all. My reasoning is that since I know next to nothing about college basketball, the only way I can win a pool is to pick a team to win it all that the more knowledgeable contestants wouldn’t and hope to get lucky. The sports radio shows were saying Missouri was too short to play against the taller teams they would see in the tournament but I saw them beat a tall Baylor team to win the Big 12 tournament. The first part of the plan worked since very few other people picked Missouri and that meant I’d have a great chance of cashing if Missouri could win the 6 games required to take the tournament, but Missouri became the first #2 seed to lose in the first round in 10 years on Friday when they got upset by a tall team from Norfolk St. I’m a little embarrassed at being out of the running so quickly, but the ten dollars isn’t an issue since I just got emails notifying me that TWO different rich terminally ill people in foreign countries have chosen me as the beneficiary of their estates and as soon as I send them my bank account information they’ll transfer my millions of dollars to my account.

A lot of players dressed
up for St. Patrick's Day!
  I had my monthly chess tournament yesterday and since I couldn’t find any trophy tops with a St. Patrick’s Day theme like a hat or a cloverleaf or a leprechaun I had to settle for a themed medal and plain old trophies with kings on them. If I had only thought of it a month ago, I could have had a ‘March Madness’ tournament and given out basketball trophies. I liked the idea of having the tournament on St. Patrick’s Day but not having the tournament at the start of spring break in the Des Moines school district. The date was my own fault since I could have had the 31st, but I agreed to be the Boy Scouts Chess Merit Badge Counselor and that is the day the scouts are supposed to demonstrate their knowledge of chess. I spent a lot of time doing the scouts youth protection training and assembling materials, but I haven’t heard from anyone about it for a month. I suspect that none of the scouts have decided to try for the chess merit badge but no one has bothered to tell me. There's no point in worrying about since it will all be revealed in 2 weeks.

Ron Nurmi (right) giving a
lesson to my St. Francis
co-coach Chris Hermes.
  Given the start of spring break and the Des Moines St. Patrick’s Day parade, I wasn’t expecting a great crowd and was pleasantly surprised by 49 kids (13 staying all day) and 13 parents and friends for a total of 62 participants. This is only a small number if I compare it to the last 2 months, but it's right in line with my December and November tournaments. About half of the players from the schools I made contact with last month returned this month, which I found extremely encouraging. Ron Nurmi stopped by to talk chess to some of the parents. Ron is a retired salesman, a civil war buff, and a long time chess player who specializes in correspondence games where the players get 2 or 3 days to decide on their moves. Correspondence chess used to be played via post cards, but now it is mostly done on dedicated chess servers that keep track of the moves and eliminate players with losing positions pretending they never received their move in the mail, hoping their opponent will have a heart attack or die of old age. Ron is part of a group that meets at the West Des Moines Barnes & Noble on Tuesday mornings to play and provide chess instruction to young players. Before the tournament, Ron played a game and gave some pointers to Dalton, who came with Chandler to help me set up in return for a ride to the tournament and free entry. Last month Dalton played in his first tournament with a time limit greater than 10 minutes and got 1 draw in 7 games, but after a half hour with Ron, he won a game and got 2 draws out of 7 games and could have won a couple of more games with a little luck.

  The morning tournament started 10 minutes late because many of the parents arrived at the last minute (most blaming heavy traffic), but proceeded fairly uneventfully after that. The afternoon was another story. A parent whose son was playing in the tournament bought a membership for her daughter so she could play in the rated section also. After we took care of that, the mom told me that the daughter was slightly autistic and wanted me to keep an eye on her because she may lose her focus on the game. I told her I would as soon as I got the late arriving players taken care of. The hardest part of the tournaments I run is trying to make sure I have an even number of players in all 3 sections. In the morning, I had the brother of a player at the ready to fill in and used him to even out the unrated section. I had more work to do in the afternoon since I had an odd number of players in all 3 sections but I got around it by getting one of the stronger unrated players a USCF membership and moving him to the rated tournament (evening out the rated and unrated sections) and recruiting a parent to fill out that section. Everyone had just started playing when there was a commotion over by the rated players. I went over to see what was going on and Chandler had fallen for a 4-move checkmate at the hands of a 6 year old and everyone was crowding around to see what happened. Chandler was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing but it was just a case of making opening moves without thinking about them. Once that was over, I was called over to the board where the girl who had autism was playing.

  She was picking up her pieces without moving them and then not wanting to move them and her opponent was telling her she had to move the piece as soon as she touched it which was getting her rattled. I’ve had autistic players at tournaments before, but never a player at their first tournament. I hung around the table and pointed out to the girl that if she touched a piece she had to move it, but I also pointed out to her opponent that if she did touch a piece, he shouldn’t tell her she had to move it unless she tried to move another piece. Both players were great sports and the game finished with a handshake. The girl needed less and less attention as the tournament went on and won her third round game (many players at my tournaments that start in the rated sections don't win any games). Chandler took a lot of ribbing from some of the other kids for falling victim to a 4 move checkmate and was getting pretty upset, but after talking to the other parents about it he realized that it happens to everyone and he’ll be a lot more careful in the future.

  The tournament finished as normally as any other and I was happy to have avoided a number of messy situations in the afternoon that could have created my own brand of March Madness. With Easter and the Okoboji Open coming up my next youth tournament is 6 weeks away. This will give me some time to figure out the format for my summer tournaments and to finish my web site, which will be complete when I can show my pictures and display games.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CyChess #48 - Part 3 of 3

Hunter Yost, Drake University Law School student

  Heading into the final round of the CyChess tournament March 4th, I was sitting with a half point out of 2 and no chance of earning even a portion of my $5 entry fee back. The snowstorm outside was looking pretty thick and a chess player who was in town from Minnesota visiting his son decided to skip the final round and get an early start on the drive home, leaving an odd number of players. I offered to also skip the last round to make an even number even though I’d still have to stick around since I drove over with Jaleb, but tournament director Roger Gotschall wouldn’t hear of it and decided to sit in for a game in order to make an even number. For the third and final round, I was paired against Hunter Yost, a law student at Drake Law School by way of New Jersey. Hunter had played New Jersey scholastic chess up to 2006 and then took 5 years off from tournament chess before tying for first in the Iowa Open Reserve section last year.

  I played Hunter in Marshalltown last September when Steve Jacobs brought him to a Thursday Night blitz tournament. Hunter and I squared off in a final round matchup for that week’s championship and more importantly to determine that week’s best chess playing New Jersey transplant in Marshalltown, Iowa. Hunter had the White pieces and was intent on attacking. He played a wild gambit from the get-go against my Dutch Defense, sacrificing pawns and pieces to get at my king. I weathered the storm but with victory in sight, made a poor move that left my queen free for the taking because my planned recapture would lead to a checkmate. Hunter missed the sequence and I won the game and the mythical championship of New Jerseyans in Marshalltown, Iowa. I was inspired to write the blog post ‘Lucky Afternoon’ about that day since not only was I lucky on the chessboard, but I found a dollar bill on the elevator on the way home from work and my next door neighbors (and not me) had their house robbed.

  Hunter is from farm-rich South New Jersey (it IS called the Garden State for a reason) and I’m from violence-rich Northern New Jersey, but when he asked me in his untainted New Jersey accent “SO. We gonna do this?”, I was immediately homesick. My accent has degraded over a third of a life time in Iowa to the point that I sound like an outsider no matter where I am, but Hunter’s accent is still the real deal. Hunter had the White pieces and with a grin played d4 just like he did in Marshalltown. I shot him a smile and played f5 to start my Dutch Defense. Hunter gave me a big smile and played his crazy-man g4 gambit and we were off to determine the best transplanted New Jersey chess player in this Ames, Iowa tournament on March 4th, 2012.

Hunter Yost (1486) vs. Hank Anzis (1706)
Cychess #48 - 03/04/2012 - Round 3
pgn4web chessboard courtesy of

  I could have and probably should have tried for a win with Kd8 and I did have a time advantage, but I didn’t like the idea of facing Hunter’s onslaught with all my pieces huddled on the back row so I took the draw. I’ve played Kd8 against the computer a number of times and haven’t won once, but since Hunter isn’t a computer either I would have made a mistake and lost or he would have gotten impatient and sacrificed a knight or 2 and I would have won. At the time I thought it was an incredibly fun game and the 10 days in between hasn’t changed my opinion in the slightest. It’s too bad that Hunter and I couldn’t have been on TV playing this game so maybe when people from the rest of the country think of New Jersey they could think of the two of us battling on the chessboard having a great time instead of having an image of a New Jersey composed of the Soprano’s, Snooki and the rest of the Jersey Shore crowd, and the cartoonishly brash Governor Christie.

  After the game, Hunter and I were joined by Frank Li and Jaleb while we analyzed all the twists and turns of our battle. That scene would have been a great advertisement for parents to get their kids playing chess. Where else can a 6th grader and a high school student be on equal footing with 50+ year old computer programmers and law students? And yet when most people find out I like to play chess, the first name they bring up is the late mentally deranged Bobby Fischer.

  After going over the game, I got to spend a few minutes talking to Roger, who was in a great mood after winning his game with a nice tactic. We talked about some of my more recent blogs, the resurgent Iowa State men’s basketball team, his Ames scholastic chess teams, and former IASCA President Steve Young’s visit to a January Thursday Night blitz tournament 2 weeks before his death from a heart attack. It was a good talk but it was getting late so Jaleb and I said our good byes and left.

  I had a great time at the tournament despite not having the results I hoped for. It’s always fun to spend an afternoon playing chess and meeting up with familiar faces. In 1986, the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship and had a regular season record of 67-15. They lost their first home game and then won the remaining 40 home games on their schedule. The next year they won 39 of their 41 home games with one of the losses coming at a nominal home game in Hartford, Connecticut instead of the Boston Garden. These 2 years led to a number of streaks for Celtics victories at the Boston Garden against conferences, divisions, and teams, some of which lasted for years. I remember when the Celtics would lose a home game, the sports shows would lead by noting that so-and-so beat the Celtics in Boston for the first time in 5 or 6 or 10 years. With my performance of no wins, 1 loss, and 2 ties I broke a number of personal non-blitz tournament streaks. I lost my first game since August 2009 (4 tournaments), had my first losing record in a tournament since August 2008 (10 tournaments), and had my first tournament without a win since that same terrible August 2008 tournament. I’m sad to see all these streaks end, but I wasn’t expecting them to last forever and I’ve found a number of things I can work on to get better. And now that those streaks are over, I will hopefully start some new ones.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

CyChess #48 - Part 2 of 3

Will Polzin, Iowa State University graduate student

  For the second round of the CyChess, I was paired against Will Polzin. Will is an Engineering graduate student at ISU and a frequent tournament player. Will came to Marshalltown to play blitz once and we have talked at past tournaments, but we haven’t played against each other in a tournament before.

  I’ve come in for some good natured ribbing since I blogged about my Cychess round 1 loss to James Ellis where I was outplayed throughout and then failed to take advantage of a miraculous stroke of luck (Ellis hung his queen and I didn’t take it). A co-worker gently suggested that perhaps I didn't take the queen because 'maybe you don't like girls' (I didn't even know he read my blog). Joe Meyer came down from Waterloo to play in Thursday’s Blitz tournament and in our first offhand game he played the same opening Ellis did, obviously thinking I misplayed the opening somehow. I was getting pasted pretty badly by both Joe and Jaleb for the first half hour of club, but when I managed to beat Joe because he hung his queen in a bad position he said he just wanted to see if I’d learned anything from my game against Ellis on Sunday. Then in the next game Jaleb hung his queen and said he didn’t think I’d actually take it since I missed taking Ellis’ Queen. I was off my game on Thursday and lost to Dave the Barefoot Chess Player when I played passively, got in a bad position, and then almost forced him to win a piece. I then lost a Rook for a bishop against Jaleb, but he went for the checkmate instead of consolidating his material advantage, something went wrong with the attack, and I managed to sneak out an undeserved win in the endgame.

  My friend Bill from down the street is in his 90s but still drives. Last year he had a fainting spell while he was driving and had to stop driving for 3 months until the doctors ruled out a recurrence of the fainting spells. Bill hated not driving but understood why he couldn’t. Imagine if you had a nervous condition that caused you to uncontrollably jump 5 feet straight ahead of you without any forewarning or notice. You probably wouldn’t walk near traffic, and I know I’d stay away from roofs and windows.

  After my misadventures of the first game, that’s sort of how I felt going into this game with Will. I didn’t want to get too close to any open windows in case I had a sudden urge to jump. I wanted to try to keep everything quiet and ease comfortably into the game. This was bad thinking on my part. I would have been better served by trying to remind myself not to get in time trouble instead of shying away from tactics because I missed some free pieces by moving too fast. At the September 2010 CyChess I was a rook ahead with 8 seconds on my clock in my first round game when I left the rook unprotected to a bishop check, but my opponent missed the chance to win the rook and have a sure draw and possibly a win. It was really no different than my game against Ellis except I was performing the sin of commission and my opponent performed the sin of omission. I think the real lesson to learn is that time pressure leads to some really bad mistakes and it pays A) not to get in time pressure and B) look out for bad moves when either player is in time pressure.

Hank Anzis (1706) vs. Will Polzin (1678)
Cychess #48 - 03/04/2012 - Round 2
pgn4web chessboard courtesy of

  A very lucky draw, but I’ll give myself a bit of credit by pushing the envelope and finding activity in a bad situation. It’s easy to discount luck in chess since there is nothing hidden like poker and no random elements like a roll of the dice or a spin of the wheel, but luck is always present. Yesterday I took a ride with Kathy on her weekly visits to the thrift shops for additions to her Christmas Candle collection. She made a left turn and barely noticed that there was a car barreling down the lane she was turning onto, but was able to screech to a halt before we had a car accident. It was lucky she saw the other car in time and a little unlucky that it was there in the first place on the lightly travelled street. In the book Quirkology by Richard Wiseman, the author theorizes that some people are luckier than others simply because they are expecting to be lucky and this helps them to recognize opportunities that other people fail to notice. In chess terms, Will was part of an all-night trivia/scavenger hunt challenge and didn’t get much sleep. This was lucky for me since with a full night’s sleep, Will probably untangles his pieces and wins the game, but I was also in a better frame of mind than the Ellis game and on the lookout for some lucky breaks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CyChess #48 - Part 1 of 3

Life Master James Ellis

  On Sunday, I left my blogging chores to Daisy and Baxter and headed off to Ames to play in Roger Gotschall’s CyChess tournament. Roger has 4 of these a year and to me they are the best tournamenst around. There are 3 games, the time limit is 45 minutes per player for all the moves, and it’s on Sunday. Ames is 40 miles away from Marshalltown so I can relax in the morning, leave my house at 11:40, play 4 or 5 hours of chess, and be home eating dinner or playing with Daisy and Baxter by 7. Most people like more games or longer time limits, but for a guy like me CyChess is the perfect tournament. I wouldn’t mind playing in a weekend tournament where I could stay in a hotel and have a chess vacation, but 10 hours of chess in one day plus travel is a bit much for me.

  I had been studying tactics and got some good chess practice in on Thursday Night when 5 time Iowa Girls champion and fellow blogger Bethany Carson stopped by with her father Tim and sister Charity for our weekly blitz tournament. We had an odd number of players so I sat out of the tournament but in offhand 5 minute games, I managed to beat Charity 3 times (breaking my 2 game losing streak against her), split 3 games against Bethany and beat Jaleb 2 out of 2. I felt sharp, was encouraged by my good play, and even had Friday off to relax and have a 2 day weekend in addition to a ‘chess day’ on Sunday.

  I woke up at 4:30 like I do every day, and Kathy and I took Daisy and Baxter to the Jiffy at 5 for a beef stick treat like we do every Sunday. I took a nap, went to Mass with Ben, took another nap and at 11:45 picked up Jaleb and we were off to Ames to play in the CyChess. We found ourselves driving through some light snow which got pretty heavy once we arrived at 12:35. We got checked in and hung around with acquaintances like Marshalltown Blitz visitors Steve Jacobs and Hunter Yost, Eddie from Big Money Blitz, and Frank Li and his parents. Frank is a 6th grader who plays in my youth tournaments when Frank isn't battling with adults over the chessboard.

  The first round of chess tournaments are paired by dividing the players by rating into halves, and having the top player in the top half play the top player in the bottom half and so on. In all the previous CyChess tournaments I’ve been comfortably in the top half of the bracket and playing someone I have a good chance of beating. It is a pleasant way of easing myself into the tournament although I’ve given up an occasional draw and knocked myself out of the running. This tournament was unusually strong and I found myself ranked 9th out of the 16 players and having to face the top rated player in round 1.

  The top rated player at this CyChess was life master James Ellis. James is a math professor at Iowa State University. He had a stroke a few years ago and his playing strength has decreased such that he petitioned the USCF to have his rating floor removed. That being said, he still has an expert rating and also won the last 2 CyChess tournaments so I knew that I’d be facing a tough customer.

James Ellis (2027) vs. Hank Anzis (1706)
Cychess #48 - 03/04/2012 - Round 1
pgn4web chessboard courtesy of

  Up to this point, I could say that this was just a case of how a guy like James beats a guy like me, but the game in the viewer ends at the point where I got too low on time to keep writing down my moves. I got down to 20 seconds on my clock and was bashing out the moves instantaneously while Jim got down to 80 seconds looking for the knockout punch when he came up with this move.

  Jim had just played Be3 to d4 and I immediately bashed out Qf4 to protect the knight, only realizing an instant later that the rook was free. But it got even worse!!

  Here Jim continued a series of checks with Qe2?? I didn’t even notice that my Rook was under attack or that I could use it to take the Queen. I hastily played Kb6, noticed that I was losing my rook and resigned in disgust.

  This game was beyond brutal. Not only did I lose the game over the board (which happens to everyone), but I lost my head while my opponent did everything he could to hand the point to me. Good thing I've been doing all those tactic puzzles! If I had used the 5 second delay before my 20 seconds ran down to take a closer look at my opponents move (or maybe read my blog post about hasty moves!), I might have stolen this game. To help drown out my sorrows, I turned on my trusty iPod and played ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’ (both the Linda Rondstadt and Warren Zevon versions)

I'd lay my head on the railroad tracks
And wait for the Double "E"
But the railroad don't run no more
Poor, poor pitiful me

  Then I had an apple, got a drink and was off to the next round to hopefully wipe away the stink I felt I was covered with...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When Beagles Blog

  I'm taking the day off from blogging so I can play in the CyChess tournament today in Ames, so I've once again called on my substitute bloggers, Daisy and Baxter (Beagle)Anzis. Their last blog was well received (Click here to read it!) and I know they've been working hard on this blog and we all hope you enjoy it.

  Hi! This is Daisy and Baxter again. We wrote a blog for Hank last November and when Hank went to somewhere called Ames to play chess today he asked us to write his blog for him. Hank does a lot of chess things. On Fridays he leaves the house right after our morning walk to play chess before work. I think Hank teaches chess when he leaves early, Baxter. He also misses our Thursday Night walk because he plays chess at the Salvation Army and sometimes Kathy takes us there to visit him. I don’t know anything about chess except the pieces don’t taste very good, but Hank seems to like it a lot.

  For today’s blog we decided to review the beef stick treats Hank and Kathy take us to get on our walks. We go to the Jiffy early in the mornings when Hank doesn't dress up and leave for the day. We go to the Kum & Go when the weather is nice and Hank is home during the day. And once in a while we stop on our regular nighttime walk for some beef stick treats at the Depot.

The Depot only has Slim Jims for beef stick treat lovers.

  We don’t normally stop at the Depot because Daisy barks at anything that moves and there are so many people and cars there and at the Laundromat next door. I DO NOT bark at everything that moves; only people and cars. And noises and bushes and trees and shadows and…anyway, sometimes Hank stops at the Depot and gets a big bottle of Ice Tea for himself and some beef sticks for us. The beef sticks at the Depot are small and greasy. They’re so greasy that Hank has us lick the grease off his fingers after we’re done with the beef sticks. The reason the beef sticks at the Depot are so small is because they’re Slim Jims. Hank says they spend so much money on advertising and packaging that they skimp on the size. I like getting the beef sticks at the Depot because it’s so close to home, but since we walk there every single day, there isn’t very much new garbage to scrounge. I give it 2 paws. For once I agree with Daisy and give the Depot 2 paws also. I don’t like not getting any new smells or finding new garbage.

The Depot – 2 paws

We have to pass the beautiful courthouse on our way to the Jiffy.

  Our next beef stick place to talk about is the Jiffy. We go to the Jiffy at least twice a week. The Jiffy is very far away. We have to walk past 2 bars to get to the Jiffy and sometimes there is vomit on the ground. YUM! Kathy and Hank always pull us away from the vomit, but unless it rains it stays on the sidewalks for weeks. Last month there was nacho cheese vomit on the ground and I got some once. YUM! Hank and Kathy get real mad when we eat the vomit but since we’re dogs we can’t help ourselves. Hank always gets a cup of coffee at the Jiffy and the beef sticks are really good. YUM! The beef sticks are the Jack Links brand and are really good. Sometimes they are dried out, but the Jiffy parking lot has lots of good stuff to scrounge. We take a different way back from the Jiffy and there is even more stuff to scrounge. YUM! I give the Jiffy 4 paws. Me too! Not only are the beef sticks large and there is lots of stuff to scrounge, but sometimes the Jiffy clerk gives us chicken strips, too.

Jiffy – 4 paws

  Our last stop is the Kum & Go. It’s on the north side of town and we go there when it’s warm so Hank and Kathy can get a soda. When we go to the Kum & Go, we go north and walk along a cemetery for 2 blocks. There’s not very much garbage to scrounge, but there are lots of neat smells. I don’t like crossing the busy street to get to the Kum & Go. I don’t like the busy street either but their beef sticks are the best! They are also the Jack Links brand, but they are always tasty and never dried out. Yes, they’re just as big as the Jiffy’s and never dried out. But the best part of going to the Kum & Go is the walk home because we get to pass the…Haley’s! I’ve never been inside the Haley’s but sometimes Hank goes in and when he does he always comes out with some fried chicken! YUM! I love fried chicken even more than beef sticks. I’m giving the Kum & Go 4 paws because on the way there yesterday I found a piece of chocolate and when I was there I got a beef stick and on the way home I got to take a bite out of a dead animal and an egg! I’m giving Kum & Go 3 paws because I didn’t get anything but a beef stick on the entire walk.

We walk along the cemetery to get to the Kum & Go where the beef stick treats are always fresh!

Kum & Go - 3.5 paws

The beef sticks at the Kum & Go are great, but Haley's Broasted Chicken is a special treat!

  So the Jiffy is our beef stick trip of choice, with Kum & Go second and the Depot third. I hope Hank plays chess again real soon because maybe we can compare different kinds of fried chicken. Or Pizza! Or Hamburgers! YUM!