Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stopping at the Top

  Sunday’s Super Bowl was another in a string of very close Super Bowls that weren’t decided until late in the final quarter. It may have been all the scoring, but during the game I felt it was one of the best ones I’d seen. I just watched the game and skipped the pre game, post game, half time, pre-post game, post pre-game, and blackout shows; switching to the Law & Order marathon on TNT whenever there was a break in the action. Luckily, the marathon was playing episodes I’ve seen a couple of dozen times before and it didn’t matter if I missed a scene or two.

  I had no rooting interest in who won the Super Bowl. As a Giants fan, I dislike the 49ers and I’m still smarting from the 40-7 beatdown the Ravens put on my team in the 2001 Super Bowl. In 2 weeks of media hype leading up to the game the news items that most caught my eye was revelation that CBS analyst, former Miami Dolphin quarterback, and corporate spokesperson Dan Marino not only had an affair with a CBS production assistant, the affair produced a ‘love child’ that Marino has reportedly paid millions and millions of dollars to support and/or keep the fruits of his labors under the radar. The other story I noticed was the media questioning of Ray Lewis over his murder arrest and obstruction plea in the killing of 2 men in Atlanta over a decade ago. The questions were almost all laid out in juxtaposition to Lewis’s more recent religious quotes and allegations that he used banned deer-antler spray to help his recovery from his torn triceps muscle.

  When the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the AFC championship game two weeks ago, Anna Welker, the wife of Patriots receiver Wes Welker posted this comment on Facebook about Ray Lewis : "Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!" Welker apologized for her comments but they seemed to renew interest in Lewis’ checkered past. I think once Lewis was named Super Bowl 35 MVP and made the cover of the Madden NFL video game he was acquitted of all his wrongdoings in the court of public opinion. So why does is his past dredged up while Marino got away a press release? I’m not saying race is an issue, but I wonder if Marino’s fellow commentator Shannon Sharpe would have gotten off so easily if a similar indiscretion was uncovered in his past.

  The Ravens ended up winning the game 34-31 and more importantly the total score went over the line of 47 points, which made me a $95 winner in my mythical NFL playoff bets. Ray Lewis declared he would be retiring after the playoffs and will head to his new job as a talking head for one or another sports network with his second Super Bowl ring and joins John Elway and Jim Brown on a short list of Hall of Fame caliber players who retired after being a major part of a championship football team.

My one-minute rating chart in the Internet Chess Club. That flat line in the middle would be longer if I could keep my finger away from that little circle with the '1' in it at the top of the screen!

  I can relate the desire to finish on top. In July of 2011 I obtained my peak one minute chess rating on the Internet Chess Club of 1575 and I stopped playing one minute rated chess (Under the arcane rating systems of the ICC, I could still play one minute chess under my bullet rating and leave my one minute rating unchanged). My goal was to reach personal best ratings in all the ICC categories. I managed to quickly hit a new high in bullet chess (up to 2 minutes) and switched to 3 minute chess.

  These pursuits lasted more than a year until I accidentally clicked the one minute game button on ICC, was assigned a game before I could cancel my request, lost the game, and fell from my personal all time rating high. Here is the (infamous) game:
pgn4web chessboards courtesy of pgn4web.casaschi.net
  I fell off the wagon in a vain attempt to get back a peak one minute rating but within a month my rating plummeted to the depths of the ICC charts. One minute chess is not like slower versions of the game. The quicker the time limit means more random results. I can compete with International Masters at one minute chess where I would never be able to beat them in an hour game. Also, it is not enough to be winning over the board in one minute chess – one must also not lose on the clock. After a few games where I was winning on the board but lost the game because I ran out of time, I uncorked this sterling effort while trying to ensure that I wouldn’t run out of time by saving a few nanoseconds not looking at my opponents moves:
  After months of up and down one minute play with my rating oscillating between 1400 and 1200, I hit a hot streak at the beginning of January. I don’t think I was playing particularly better, but I was making a lot fewer mistakes and staying ahead on the clock, which led to my winning a number of objectively lost games when my opponents ran out of time. Finally I got my rating up to 1568, 7 points away from my all-time high and I was paired against a player rated much higher than me, meaning even a draw would be enough to accomplish my goal:
  A new personal best, I thought with a smile. BUT WAIT!!! It seems that Habooji had only played one other game of one minute chess on the Internet Chess Club, so instead of the 20 or so rating points I expected to gain, I only received 5 and was still two points away from a personal best. So I clicked the little one-minute button again:
  With a new personal best one minute rating of 1588, I played a medley of the Barry Manilow tune "Looks Like We Made It" and the Queen classic "We Are The Champions" on my iPod and switched back to bullet chess for the next few days until I accidentally clicked the one-minute button and found myself playing none other than the Leif2011 that started my downfall from my one minute height last July (a fact I didn’t notice until I wrote this post).Talk about Instant Karma!
  After this game, my new rating was 1606. I lasted another couple of days before accidentally clicking the one minute button again. The results were not as spectacular and my rating is back oscillating between the 1200 to 1400 range. It would have been nice to stop playing one minute chess at the top but I have a feeling my next ascent towards my personal best will be the most fun yet since the journey is most often more satisfying than the destination.