Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chess in Education Part I

History
The game of chess has long been associated with intelligence and mental development; some of the greatest minds that the human race has ever known have played chess for the challenge and enjoyment of matching their wits against a similarly gifted opponent. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (Chess, 1993) the game of chess originated in either India or China around the 6th century A.D. and then migrated westward toward Persia and Arabia, finally reaching Europe by way of the Muslims and Byzantines. Chess master Jerry Meyers in the article Why Offer Chess in Schools? (2005) further amplifies this history; he reports:

"Chess is a classic game of strategy, invented more than 1500 years ago in India. Legend has it that the ruler of India asked his wise men to devise a way to teach the children of the royal family to become better thinkers…chess was the result." (History section, para. 1)

Indeed, Benjamin Franklin embraced chess as an educational tool for schools in the United States, and this support continues to the present by many in the teaching profession (Meyers, 2005). This paper intends to examine how the classical game of chess assists in mental development and how that is beneficial to students and educators. Additionally, and of equal importance, this paper will analyze how chess maintains cognitive ability and will argue that the game is effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, this report will deal the following issues:

  1. Chess
  2. Chess and mental development
  3. Chess in education
  4. Chess maintains cognitive ability

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chess in Education: Beyond Mental Development


Abstract

This paper deals with the subject of chess in education, and its value beyond mental development; it gives a general history of the association of chess to intelligence and includes the origins of the game. This report outlines chess as an educational tool for schools in the United States that has the endorsement of many prominent educators, including Benjamin Franklin. A brief description of the game is given. The chess in education research summary by Dr. Robert Ferguson Jr., Chess in Education: "A wise Move" Conference (1995) provided research study information linking chess to cognitive development and an increase in mental abilities. Studies have proved that chess has a positive influence in education from both the student and educators perspective, and that the mental stimulus provided by playing chess reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In conclusion, chess education needs to be part of every school curriculum, especially at the elementary levels, where its benefits will have the greatest impact on thinking abilities of children.

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Playchess Rating...Revisited


I have done this before, I gave everyone a wee peek at my rating on the Playchess server. This time it was G10. As I stated before, I tried to keep my opponents Elo within 100 points of my official USCF rating of 1294. Today, I went all out and challenged a 1784 rated player in a rated game. It seems I always have the black pieces against the higher rated; nevertheless, I won. He seemed quite upset, as he never gave me applause nor did he offer a rematch.

Doing the problems in PCT has given me the confidence to play progressively higher rated opponents. I still make loads of mistakes, but I notice that my opponents due too. This processes has increased my vision at the board and has this has lead to an increase in creativity in my play. Hopefully, I will be able to post the game from today and get feedback.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

GM Christiansen crushes Retired Pawn

I played Grandmaster Larry Christiansen on November 4th. It went as expected...I lost! You can see me (Extreme left...with my hand covering my mouth) right after my move 7. Qf3.

Forbes,Todd (1294) - Christiansen,Larry Mark (2669)
The Chess Club Simultation Kansas City, Missouri, 11.04.2007

B33: Sicillian Defense, Pelikan and Sveshnikov variations

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nb3 Bb4


7.Qf3 (My intention with this move is to cover both c3 and e4 squares and develope a piece. Silly really. 7. Bd3 is better). 7...d5 8.exd5 Qxd5 9.Qxd5 Nxd5 10.Bd2 Bxc3 (Nothing new in the game, all of the previous moves have been tried before. Now all I have to do is take with the b pawn and Mr. Grandmaster has the pawn structure weakness he wanted. Being one not to cooperate, I make my move)
11.0–0–0?? Bxd2+ (White goes down a piece against a Grandmaster...game over!)



12.Rxd2 Nde7 13.Bc4 0–0 14.f3 Bf5 15.a3 Rfd8 16.Rhd1 Rxd2 17.Rxd2 Rd8 18.Rxd8+ Nxd8 19.Nc5 Kf8 20.Ne4 Bxe4 21.fxe4 f6 22.Kd2 Ke8 23.c3 Kd7 24.b4 Kd6 25.a4 b6 26.Ke3 g6 27.h3 Ne6 28.Bxe6 Kxe6 29.g4 g5 30.Kd3 Ng631.b5? Nf4+ 32.Kc4? Nxh3 33.Kb4 Nf2 34.a5 Nxe4 35.c4 Nc5 0–1

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Magdalene Sisters: Trinity of Betrayal


Summary of the movie

Set just outside of Dublin, Ireland, in 1964, this motion picture The Magdalene Sisters (Mullan, 2002) is about three young Irish women, and the circumstances of their confinement to a Magdalene asylum under the management of the Catholic Church of Ireland. During the 1960’s, Ireland had a strict religious culture with the Catholic Church as the supreme moral authority, and the church had great latitude to purge the stain of sin from Irish society. The church considers the protagonists—Margret, Bernadette, and Rose--as “fallen” women who must make penitence, by hard work in the asylum’s laundry and through daily prayer, for the period of time that the Mother Superior, Sister Bridget, deems necessary, to cleanse their souls of mortal sin. What are these great sins? A cousin at a wedding raped Margret; Bernadette is a “temptress” for flirting with some boys through the Saint Attracta Orphanage fence, and Rose had a baby out of wedlock. The Sisters of Mercy have the protagonist, and the others like them, dress in formless brown smocks to hide their figures. They arise early each morning for work; a nun guards them as the women parade about the asylum, and after the last meal of the day the nuns lock all penitents into their dormitories. Their lives are similar to the lives of inmates in a maximum-security prison, except there is no appeal, no visitation, no mail, no rights, and no parole. The protagonists are condemned for life unless a family member claims them or they escape.

Ethical concerns

A review of Mullan’s film The Magdalene Sisters has uncovered some serious ethical concerns involving the Irish family, the Catholic Church of Ireland, and the Irish Government. Each member of this trinity had a role in the immoral treatment of Margret, Bernadette, and Rose—and another estimated 30,000 Irish women—in the Magdalene asylum(s). This paper will focus on the following ethical dilemmas:

  • Involuntary servitude to the Catholic Church of Ireland for the purpose of profit.

  • Abuse of authority, including sexual abuse, by asylum staff and church officials.

Involuntary servitude to the Catholic Church of Ireland

Servitude—or slavery—is a condition in which a person is being deprived of his/her freedom to act as they choose. Furthermore, this condition is the complete and involuntary surrender of a person’s body, time, and property to another. According to Black’s Law Dictionary (Black, 1991 p. 1388), slavery is “the condition of a slave; that civil relation in which one man has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another.” Taking this a step further, Black’s Law Dictionary (Black, 1991, p. 1388) defines a slave as “A person who is wholly subject to the will of another; one who has no freedom of action, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another.” Using these definitions as a starting point will help explain the civil relationship of the protagonist to the Catholic Church of Ireland.

Margret and Rose came under church control after their embarrassed families sought the advice of the local priest on how best to deal with their wayward daughters. The priest suggested that the young women would benefit from a stay at a Magdalene asylum in order to remove the stain of their moral sin. Therefore, without their consent and against their will, the Catholic Church of Ireland took Margret and Rose. Being an orphan, Bernadette was already in the control of the church; however, without her consent, and against her will, she went into the Magdalene asylum.

In the Magdalene asylum arrival scene, the protagonists are marched in military fashion into the Mother Superior’s office and made to stand at attention. As new arrivals, Sister Bridget makes it clear where Margret, Bernadette, and Rose stand in the institution’s social order. The rules are given. The women will not talk among themselves during their stay at the Magdalene asylum, and there will be no communication with anyone from outside the asylum. As penitents, they will rise early and go to bed late and Sister Bridget imparts to them in this scene from the film “Here you may redeem yourselves by working beyond human endurance, to remove the stains of the sins you have committed.” Furthermore, Sister Bridget informs our protagonists that they are going to be at the asylum for a long time, and that the young women had better mind the rules because there are severe consequences for any disobedience.

In this telling scene, the church has established its absolute power over the protagonists, both physically and psychologically. By stripping these women of their property, individual identity, and liberty, the conditions that establish involuntary servitude have been satisfied.

Financial profit by the church

The Magdalene asylum’s original mission was a laudable one. The church sought to remove prostitutes from the streets and get them into the safe environment of a Magdalene asylum. Once there, the Sisters of Mercy provided health care to get the diseased women clean, and the women were trained as laundresses, a trade suitable for 1890’s era women. Initially, these women could come and go as many times as it took to get them out of prostitution. However, the church discovered that running a laundry was profitable, especially with free labor. Naturally, the Catholic Church of Ireland wanted to maintain its workforce, and even increase it, to maximize profitability.

Accomplishing this task was easy with the help of Irish families who were devoutly Catholic; they understood that the wages of sin was a burning death in Hell and they did not want that for their daughters, so they gave the women over to the church to remove the stain of sin. All the church had to do was label more women as “sinners,” and the laundry’s labor pool would increase, as would its profits. The Irish government treated the Magdalene asylums as private institutions, and as such exempted them for any labor laws. The conditions were ripe for the abuse that followed.

The Catholic Church of Ireland, having no labor laws to regulate them and no one to oversee its activities, enslaved an estimated 30,000 women with the full cooperation of Irish society. These women would enter Magdalene laundries to work until a family member claimed them or they died. The church had stopped releasing these women years ago, and with the Sisters of Mercy forbidding contact with the outside world in any form, the women were helpless, and at the mercy of the unmerciful.

Abuse of authority, including sexual abuse

According to the United States Air Force, abuse of authority is “an arbitrary or capricious exercise of power by a military member or a federal official or employee that adversely affects the rights of any person or that results in personal gain or advantage to the abuser.” (United States Air Force, 2001). Plainly said, if a person has an authority position over another individual and the authority figure exercises this power in a fashion that violates the rules, this is an abuse of authority. Oftentimes the authority figure uses the power for personal gain.

In the motion picture, The Magdalene Sisters there are many scenes of such abuse. One of the most glaring examples occurs when the priest uses one of the inmates for his sexual gratification through oral sodomy and intercourse. This inmate is at the mercy of the system that will not allow her to report the abuse. When Sister Bridget discovers this abuse, the Magdalene in question is whisked away in the middle of the night to a mental institution. Unmistakably, this is an abuse of authority by all church officials involved.

In another scene from the movie, two of the asylum’s nuns have the penitents lined up naked in the shower room, and the sisters are stripping the dignity of the Magdalene’s through humiliation, such as, comparing which of the women have the hairiest genitals, biggest breasts, and the fattest posterior. The nuns are enjoying this “game” and they are laughing at the young women. The faces of the penitents show distress. Clearly, this is an abuse of authority by the asylum staff. In fact, the protagonists received a severe beating with a leather strap—repeatedly—in all cases of disobedience, big or small, real or perceived, and much to the enjoyment of Sister Bridget. Again, this is an abuse of authority by a church official.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the motion picture The Magdalene Sisters raises serious ethics issues concerning the conduct of the Catholic Church of Ireland. According to the textbook Moral Issues in Business, the church engaged in “groupthink” believing that “because the group—the Catholic Church—is good—the moral authority—or right—Irish society did not object—whatever it did was permissible” (William H. & Barry, Vincent, 2007, p. 19). The church passed its demeaning labels of young women—some victims of a crime—into the collective conscious of the Irish family and government. Admittedly, it is easier to send a “whore,” “temptress,” or “lustful sinner” to a life of confinement than, say, a rape victim, a flirtatious girl, or a young mother who loved the wrong man. This “groupthink” led to the abuse of thousands of young women over the course of approximately seven decades because of its acceptance by the Irish family and government. It wove itself into the fabric of the Irish people, and for nothing more than to fill the coffers of the Catholic Church of Ireland.

It appears that Irish society as a whole is a shareholder in this immoral behavior. They witnessed the physical and psychological destruction of young women, yet stood idly by. The whole of Ireland is morally bankrupt for this trinity of betrayal.

The author disagrees with the handling of the ethical dilemma concerns, and honestly cannot find a workable solution to them. To say “the solution is this or that” is hyperbole. The only viable suggestion for a resolution of these ethical issues was to have the Irish families stop giving their wayward daughters to the church. What is more, the Catholic Church did nothing to correct any of these issues internally and it never accepted responsibility for its wrongdoing. The Irish government made no law against the church’s treatment of these women, nor did they seek to protect them through regulation, therefore under Irish law, this abuse was legal—but in the authors opinion immoral. The author applauds the initiative of Bernadette and Rose for effecting escape, by force, from these wretched conditions, and was pleased that Margret’s brother came to claim her after she had sent five years in confinement.

References

Black, H. (Ed.). (1991). Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.), West Group.
Mullan, P. (Director). (2002). The Magdalene Sisters. [Motion picture]. United States: Miramax Films.
Shaw, William H. & Barry, Vincent (2007). Moral Issues in Business. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
United States Air Force. (2001). Inspector General Complaints. (AFI 90-301, Paragraph 1.10.1.1). US Government.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Chess Club Championship...A Reflection


Oh, my god! I could hardly believe it, and the thought I was daydreaming crossed my mind. When the tournament results were announced at the end of the 2007 Chess Club Championship my name was included as the under 1300-class champion. Surely, one of the tournament directors had made a mistake. After all, they are human and humans are prone to oversights. However, when it came time to take the club’s champions group photograph, there I was in my yellow t-shirt shyly holding a champion’s plaque, and as the camera’s strobe flashed, my mind was replaying those four rounds...hmm.

As my mind recalled the events, suddenly I was back to the beginning of June when I registered for the championship. My expectations were simply to play chess to gain tournament experience, and to gather four United States Chess Federation rated chess games. The thought of winning something never crossed my mind.

My round one pairing was against a young man named Yury Markushin. This was just my luck! It was only the beginning of the tournament and I was playing a Russian. At 10 A.M., the director explained the rules of the championship, and then the handshakes signaled the starting of the chess clocks. I had the white chess army and I commenced the game by advancing the King’s pawn two squares. Yury played the mirror move and play continued until we eventually entered into a chess formation named the Italian game. At black’s 19th move, the position was complicated and I sat thinking about my reply.

However, the harder I thought the more the confounding the background noise became. My mind focused on the ticking of the chess clocks...tic, tic, tic, and tic! It was maddening to listen to this while trying to concentrate on improving my position. It reminded me of hearing a dripping faucet while you are trying to fall asleep; the more you try not to listen to it, the louder it becomes. I looked around the tournament room as a form of relief from this lunacy, and all I saw were nervous chess players with worried, anxiety filled, faces. I watched as these participants obsessively ran their fingers through their hair. I witnessed the various twitches of their bodies that occur as a direct result of intense concentration and frantic thought.

Suddenly, my head was filled with every non-chess related thought I could have. It was my move, and I had to play something because the time was ebbing away. Furthermore, I wanted to make a move that would impress this young Russian, and in this, I failed. My 20th move was a disappointment because I missed a clear win, and the game would end in a draw 24 moves later.

I do not know about most people, but when I play in tournaments, I get tired. This is in the form of mental fatigue, and it is especially bad after a loss. I think deep down I knew I was losing the endgame against Yury, and was lucky to have the draw. Little did I know that the next round would be a disaster.

Feeling exhausted both mentally and physically, I started the second round game. My new opponent was a young man from New Mexico named Zach Stuart. I could not help thinking that Zach was a little far of field, but chess is chess and people travel to play our game. During this game, I have command of the black pieces. White’s first move was the now familiar King’s pawn advance and my reply was to have the Queen’s Bishop pawn advance two squares. We have entered into a chess formation called the Sicilian Defense and a few moves later, it turned into the Four Knights variation. I was losing the game by move seven and nothing improved for the next 28 moves. Facing a checkmate in two on my 35th move, I resigned and lost the round.

After completing two rounds of play, my score stood at a half point out of the two possible. Oh, how easy it is to fracture one's ego. My feelings toward chess had reached into a new depth of despair with this loss. Perhaps I was suffering a form of chess related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My thoughts were jumbled and my speech incoherent as I wandered out the club’s front door, and I was in this state when a fellow chess sufferer named Doug entered into my life to stop my aimless staggering around the parking area. I confided in him that I really did not think much of my present play, and I thought even less about my chances of winning the under 1300 class. Doug listened patiently as I poured out my heart and as I finished he simply asked if I wanted to go with him to get something at the Sonic across the street. What was he saying to me? I could not even get my mind around the fact that another human being was asking for my company. I needed help! There must be a twelve-step program out there for chess related trauma.

"Hi, my name is Todd and I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," I would say at some meeting.

An old army veteran would respond, "Hey man, you catch that in the 'Nam?"

"Naw, it’s from playing chess. There was a checkmate in two. I had pawns coming over the back rank!" would be my frazzled reply.

Doug saved my life, my chess life, by a simple act of kindness to a pawn shocked chess combat veteran while eating at the Sonic. He told me to have fun, stop worrying about your opponent’s rating, and just play the position on the board. These words helped me overcome my self-doubt and to enter into a new phase where I did not worry about the other players calling me a “Patzer” behind my back as they laughed at my feeble games. There would be no more worrying about the gossip of the others from me. I would just relax from here on out and have fun.

My opponent in round three was my old friend Leroy Asher. We had played each other in the Kansas City Open last February. That game ended in a draw and I looked forward to this game, as I had the white chessmen. I commenced play with my King’s pawn advancing two squares and Leroy responded with his Queen’s pawn advancing two squares. Of course, I took his pawn on the next move and the game entered a chess formation named the Scandinavian Defense. The game remained close for the next 31 moves. Finally, on black’s 33rd move Leroy blundered and I checkmated him three moves later. My score increased to one and a half points out of the three possible and this gave me some hope of finishing even.

The fourth and final round began at 4:30 P.M. with a new opponent named Fred Smith. He was in command of the white chess pieces, and he commenced the game with the now standard King’s pawn advance. I went into the Sicilian Defense and was determined to win this one. We played like professionals for the first twelve moves and then Fred made a mistake, which cost him one of his Knights without compensation. This blunder must have affected him psychologically because his next three moves were inaccurate. On white’s 16th move he lost his Queen and the game quickly ended with checkmate. My final score was two and a half points out of a possible four, and I was quite pleased with this result.

After I collected my champion’s plaque and headed for home, it hit me. I was very proud of myself for winning a class championship. I had overcome my self-doubt and that horrible tournament start in order to win. Since then my tournament results have improved because of this confidence boosting experience and I look forward to my continuing success.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Letter from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Dear Friend,

Even though its not been long enough, I've come to visit you once again. I live to see you suffer mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. My visit will again make you anxious and irritable so everything and everybody will cause you to feel uncomfortable and disoriented. I want you to be confused and depressed so that you can't think clearly and you'll hate everybody, especially yourself. I want you to feel guilty and remorseful for the things in the past. I want to keep you angry and hateful towards the world and the way you are now. I want you to blame everyone but me for the predicament. I want you to stay fearful and paranoid for no reason at all. I want to live inside your dreams so you can wake up sweating and unable to go back to sleep. I thank you for the countless jobs you gave up for me, and for the fine friends that you ignored because we became so close. Most grateful for the family you sacrificed so you and I could be together. I am happy that you were able to pass me on to your wife and children when they tried to stand by you. Thanks for devoting your life to me. But do not despair!, because I will never desert you as the others have. I will become an even greater part of your life. You can depend on me to keep you living in eternal Hell. I will be your only friend.

Forever with affection,

PTSD

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Tactics Training Update


I have not put the effort into this that is required. Maybe it is the college work load, but it's more likely just some Mr. Lazybones. Someone needs to kicked me out of my rack earlier in the morning, and then keep my from wasting valuable time exploring Internet chat rooms, reading worthless news, or reviewing one blog to many.

Furthermore, I have not played a single chess game in over three weeks. How is one to improve if they don't seek competition? There is no excuse...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ambushed

Six men, in battle dress uniform and camouflage painted faces, silently stalked prey on a moonless October night in the inky blackness of a tropical rain forest. A special Law Enforcement patrol, we consisted of four Naval Security personnel, a Navy Seal acting as advisor and guide, plus myself as Petty Officer-in-Charge/Watch Commander. Our ingress started from the Pan-American Highway, just 500 yards from the western boundary of the Arraijan tank farm, and we moved south along a barely visible trail. The jungle, with its stench of rotting vegetation, extreme darkness, and a bounty of strange and dangerous animals, felt less than welcoming.

I had planned this special operation for weeks, and in response to the rash of thefts by the local Panamanian toughs. They seemed invisible to every means of detection, and very good at relieving Uncle Sam of his property. The only remaining option to stop the thievery was to meet them on their own terrain, but at the time and place of our choosing. Naturally, the ambush site was a good position, selected a week prior during a reconnaissance, it offered excellent concealment, and it provided the best ground for arrest/detention. A paid informant provided ample intelligence of who, what, where, how and when. Of course, the team’s morale was high, and we all felt John Wayne-like due to the power of the badge...not to mention the model 1911A1 .45 caliber automatics we carried.

After hour’s worth of patiently waiting, while enduring the feeding frenzy of thousands of biting insects, my Navy Seal advisor/guide told me in a low firm voice of authority.

“Don’t fucking move!” He commanded.

Just as he had done so, I felt the heft of an object on my left leg, and slowly it slithered to my right. My inside voice screamed…Oh, my god, what is it?

“Fer-de-lance…don’t even breathe.” He said.

Powerless, I laid on the jungle floor as a deadly poisonous viper of six feet in length moved slowly across my legs in a surprise.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Black Raspberry Jam

As a child, I lived with my family in a modest wood framed dwelling along Springwater Road in the tiny village of Scottsburg, New York. It was a beautiful home with white clapboard siding, and black trim. Our closest neighbor was the Harris family, and they lived in a light green house just up the hill from our property. To me they seemed strange, and a little frightening with their red hair and alabaster skin.

Early one summer’s day, more out of curiosity than hunger, I pulled a plum from a tree on their property. My Mother always said if I did something wrong I would get my due. Of course, she was correct because Mrs. Harris caught me red-handed. She seemed witch-like with her smoky dark eyes, bright white skin, and flaming red hair, and I just knew she would cast a spell on me, or worse, tell my parents. When she spoke, I heard the alarming words.

Come with me.” She said.

Into the ghoulishly green house we went. She led me into her kitchen while telling me her name was Ann. Once there she handed me a very large steel bowl.

Saying, “Since you like to pick things, I thought you might be so kind as to collect all the black berries along the creek.”

Even by my standard, the punishment fit the crime, and off to the creek I went.

Collecting the black raspberries was easy and fun. Soon I discovered that my hands, clothes, and mouth, especially my mouth, turned a deep purple from the sweet berry juice. In no time the steel bowl, and I, were full, and both happily returned to Mrs. Harris. She thanked me, and as I departed from her, these words registered in my ears.

She said, “Tell your folks that I’ll be over to see them tonight.”

Gulp! A further penitence would be required and I feared it would be in the form of a tanned backside.

After I returned home, in the forlorn hope the Mrs. Harris would forget, I said nothing and went to bed after supper. The next morning my Father awoke me and asked me to come to the kitchen table. As my Mother fixed a pancake for me, the dreaded words came from him.

He said, “Mrs. Harris came over last night and…”

I watched as he reached under the table, going for what would be, no doubt, his belt. Knowing from experience its sting, I closed my eyes.

He continued, “She asked me to give this to you.”

I waited for the sound of the belt cutting through the air.

However, I heard a different sound, such as a glass striking the table. Being curious I looked, and was dumbfounded by a small glass jar containing something dark, but what? My Mother placed a fresh pancake onto the plate in front of me.

Saying, “Mrs. Harris said you are a sweet boy to have picked all those black raspberries for her. She made this jar of jam for you, and I thought it might go well on a pancake.”

It was only black raspberry jam, what a delicious relief.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Playchess Rating

I thought I would give everyone a little peek at my rating on the Playchess server. This is the Blitz tab, but it's really G15. I have tried to keep my opponents Elo within 100 points of my official USCF rating of 1293. The other day I went out of the limb and played a 1590 rated player in a rated game. Fate gave me the black pieces, but I held him to a draw. I imagine he was quite upset, as he never gave me an applause. He didn't stick around for a rematch.

The tactical training is going slow due to my school studies. However, I have seen some improvement in my games. Proper chess vision is important at the board. Rarely do I drop a piece, unless I sacrifice it form some tactical shot (both real and imagined). My problem is I play inaccurately, meaning I don't play the move the position calls for. It is my belief that a person can see only so far ahead and once there he/she has to play intuitively. Most often my chess intuition has let me down.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No Time

Oh, the joys of college homework. I am learning all types of new things, such as how to format a paper in MLA and APA. I have to learn each because I attend two different schools. Upper Iowa University uses APA, while Kansas City Kansas Community College uses MLA. Before the 8th of August I was unaware of such a format(s). Today, I am busier than a one legged man in an a** kicking contest with my Business Ethics course. I have to read 100 pages and turn in a paper by Thursday night. Great! I am sure this will help me stress related issues...not.

I don't see how the average student at an University has time for anything other than study. I must produce a paper for each class every Tuesday and Thursday. I might be a little old and slow, but I am not that old to know that each assignment eats a whole lot of time. In fact, it eats my chess playing time, my chess study time, and my family time. How do you do it, Mister College man?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Midnight Chess Madness


Last night I couldn't get settled for a night in the house. I was pacing the floors, compulsively cleaning, and generally looking for something to do. I believe this was cause by some emotional issues brought on by a letter form my former employer. Distraction was call for! So I call Ken Fee from The Chess Club to inquire into the late night Blitz Tournament. Yes, there was a tournament. There were six players signed up already with more expected, and he would not start it until I arrived. Now it is a forty minute drive from my home in Leavenworth, Kansas, to the club in Kansas City, Missouri, and it was 9:45 PM.

My arrival at The Chess Club at 10:30 was expected, and I was promptly greeted by Ken, who by the way relieved me of $10. Oh, boy. Late night blitz action with...oh, my god...all the higher rated players in the club. Great. How the hell am I supposed to win any money against these guys, and what about my rating? Crap!! I was intimidated to say the least.

The first round was paired, and the clocks started at 11:00 PM. Blitz is so much different than the slow time control games. I think you can get an advantage against stronger players if you have a repertoire for it. I choose to use the one I use for all my tournament games, but with some modifications. Aggression is key. Get the initiative and pound away at some weakness. All out King side assaults often work, but they must succeed to win. I find I have a knack for relieving my opponent of their Queen. I do this on a regular basis, and against experience players. My downfall is that I can't manage to win in only 5 minutes.

My first games I played a very experienced 1750+ player. He has been at it for years...very fast on the clock. I had the White pieces, and chose to play the Scotch. By move 10 I had a clear advantage, and soon I would win his Queen. Near the end he had 11 seconds on the clock, and all I needed to do is play good moves. I didn't. I was checkmated with 6 seconds left on his clock. Sadly I had over a minute and twenty seven seconds. This would be the pattern my eight games. Only twice did I suffer a quick defeat, and these were against much stronger players.

The tournament went on until 1:30 AM. My score was a dismal 3/8. The good news is that I found a small boost to my rating (1294 to 1299). The bad news is that I never had a chance to unleash some of these checkmating tactics I have been studying. I will continue to train and hope the day will come when I will see the possibility in the position to launch an irresistible attack.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I Promised to Write


When I started my blog, I promised to write often. I haven't. I Joined the Knights Errant and promised to do chess tactical training. I haven't been able to do that as I should. I wanted many things in my life to improve, and they have, but not the the degree I desire. If I only could put it down on paper, or this blog, then everything would be set in stone. I would be forced to improve! That being said, I find that I am my own worse enemy. Having bitten off more than I could ever possibly chew, I find myself giving in to frustration, and giving something up. This in turn leads to not doing anything. Yes, a sorry state of affairs. I must commit to doing, and in doing so, just do! I have been making an effort to take the time and practice my tactics. Now I must take the time to write about my life experiences.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My Training Continues


Let me just face facts. I have been to lazy to do my tactics training as I once wanted it to be done. I can make all the excuses I want, such as: Getting enrolled into college and all that is takes to get ready, Home improvements, and Traveling with my brother. All of this is garbage! I just need to make more effective use of my time. Yes, good old fashion time management. With that mantra in mind, I once more returned to my chess tactics exercises. As you can see from my history I did okay. I would have like to finish all the units positions in under an hour and with 100 percent accuracy. That was certainly not the case, but a good showing never-the-less.

Today, Blue Devil Knight mentioned the loss of Patrick Bollig's Blog "Chess for Blood". I have known for more than two weeks it went 404. Patrick was a excellent source of information on free software, how to? articles, etc. I join Blue Devil Knight's voice and ask Patrick to bring back this blog! Please!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What did I do this July?


To all of my loyal readers...I am sorry for the lack of entries and content. I have had a busy July. To start off, my eldest brother Rodney came to collect me on July 3rd. This was so I could see how he made his living driving the big rigs on long haul refrigerated freight. Riding in the truck was an unique experience and I found it interesting. Our trip started from Leavenworth, Kansas, and by July 5th we were in a small town in New Jersey unloading some produce. Before I go any further I want to say that one must live in this truck. You eat there and sleep there and even make your toilet there. The truck must roll-on if a profit is to be made. After New Jersey we hauled orange juice to New Orleans, Louisiana. From there we haul Jalapeno peppers to Appleton, Wisconsin. It was now July 10th and I had went 4,300 miles in seven days.

Part of the reason my brother choose this time to take me in his truck was so I could visit his home in Little Chute, Wisconsin. This charming little city is about 25 miles south of Green Bay. Of course, I visited Green Bay and Lambeau Field...home of the Green Bay Packers. Hell, I even went to a bar called Fuzzy's #63 and had a draft beer. This bar is owned by Packer great Fuzzy Thurston; who played during the Vince Lombardi era.

My next experience in Wisconsin was going to Wisconsin Dells. My sister-in-law, Pam, said this was a must see. So early on a Friday morning we started out. I was very interested in the attractions, especially any roller coasters. As luck would have it I would get my coaster ride at the Timber Falls amusement park. This simple little park was set-up more for miniature golf, but it did have the Avalanche. This coaster was a hybrid consisting of wood with steel supports. In my opinion, it was a nice ride...fast and fun! Click here to take a ride. I did many fun things on this trip and I will share some more in the coming days.

I returned home on July 15th and have been busy getting enrolled into Upper Iowa University. I had intended to annotate one of my games from Birthday Bash at The Chess Club. I will most likely cover my loss in the Caro-Kann against Dan Holmes. It should be interesting!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation


It is my considered opinion that the United States Government does only a few things really well. Among the things I would say it does right is: collecting tax, the U.S. Postal Service, and providing for the veterans of the military who were disabled due to their service. One of the programs the Department of Veterans Affairs runs is Vocational Rehabilitation. This is a great service because it makes available a quality college level education for disabled veterans. Many of these veterans can no longer work in a physically demanding job, but don't have the needed education and training to be hired in an upper management positions. Yes, a desk job (a nice paying one if you can get it). That is why the sheep's skin with the "University of Somewhere" written on it is very important. It is the key that opens the door so the veteran can earn the living he or she deserves. Why not? Ofttimes these men and women gave an arm, leg, sight, hearing, and emotional well being for the country. I believe, and I would hope you would agree, that the nation should repay the debt owed to this person in a way that makes this individual a productive member of the work force.

I am one of these disabled veterans. Trust me...nothing has been given to me; other than a hard time. However, I applied for Vocational Rehabilitation and after a lot of aptitude testing and college placement exams I was accepted. I have been enrolled into Upper Iowa University as a freshman pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. I haven't been to school in 27 years. Hopefully I will do well and get an office with a view.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I was tagged

1) Blogger name and URL? The Retired Pawn/theretiredpawn

2) How did you learn about the Circles? I was searching for chess improvement ideas by visiting Susan Polgar's blog when I saw a post by "Chess for Blood". His ideas seemed sound, so I visited his blog and followed it regularly. He didn't subscribe to the ideas as outlined in the book "Rapid Chess Improvement", but he did practice tactics. When he closed his blog he recommended Blue Devil Knight's blog and I started following that. I started the circles as a way of holding my nose to the grind stone.

3) When? June 2007.

4) How long have you been going through the Circles, or if you have finished, how long did it take? Since mid-June 2007.

5) How is your progress? I have worked through 19 units of Tactics One in the prefab circles of the Personal Chess Trainer. This has help my OTB vision and my USCF Rating has risen from 1206 to 1293 thus far.

6) Would working with the Circles alone work well in terms of chess improvement, or does it help more to join the Knight Errant to monitor and discuss the Circles? I think one could do the circle by his or her self. That being said, I believe working within a group provides the support needed to follow through with the exercise.

7) Are you a scholastic player? No.

8) Would you recommend this method, the Circles, to scholastic players? Yes, I would! I believe the pattern recognition would be invaluable and last a life time. I would also recommend that they spend a considerable amount of time playing through and analyzing classic games, plus work on endgames and strategy in order to be a more complete chess player.

9) Do you use other chess training methods along with the Circles? If any, could you summarize them? Yes. I use books and I review my games. I found that Lev Alburt's Comprehensive Chess Course Volumes 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 to be of great help. I would also recommend Jeremy Silman's Reassess your chess. I know the Knights dislike Silman, but I found it to be good advice generally. I find if I review my games 3 times over I derive a great benefit and find continuations that often would lead to a win. I verify with Fritz 10 all of my improvements.

10) Any general comments about chess training or the Circles you'd like to provide? Do post mortems with the strongest players you can find and listen to their suggestions on play. I would caution that you don't just accept what comes out of their mouth as the final word. Quite often I have found an error in their analysis, but it the ideas they provide that truly help. Simply put...all those years of experience often provide the correct path.

I tag: Hard Days Knight

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Chess Club's Birthday Bash...CASH!

Last Friday night my chess club celebrated it's 5th Birthday. I believe I had mentioned in a previous post that I was preparing and had made plans to play in the Open. I studied my repertoire and practised tactics and endgames until I thought I was as ready as I was going to get. This put me into wee hours of Friday morning. Then the unexpected happened. My spouse had just had some surgery and the site had become infected. She would need to go to the doctor's office first thing in the morning, like 6 Am. That meant I would have to be up at 5 o'clock to get a shower. No time for sufficient sleep. Maybe after the doctor's visit...it never came to pass.

I arrived at the Chess Club in a zombie-like state. How in the name of goodness would I be able to play chess? Hmm...free pizza. That is going to help. Oh, coffee! Maybe that would get me going? Birthday Cake!! That tastes good, but will the sugar sustain me or will I crash further after the sugar high? Questions with no answers.

The Open kicked off at 7 PM with the starting of the clocks. My first opponent was a guy named Kiran and he seemed to know what he was doing at first. However, I noticed he was unprepared for complications in the middle game; so I endeavored to make it as messy I could. I would go on and win this first game, but only after struggling to write the notation on the score sheet. My mind was not working very well and I had two competing disciplines to deal with...aggghhh! The next round started at 8:45 PM. I played my friend Dan. Last time we had met over the board he had the Black pieces, and went for the Sicilian Dragon set up. That time I missed a win at move 15 and that game ended in a draw. As luck would have it, he once again would have the Black pieces. I was waiting to see if he would try the Dragon one more time. The first victory in chess is to actually make someone give up their pet opening against you...by this standard I won. He opted for the Caro-Kann. The only time I played with this system was during my reading of "Tal-Botvinnik 1960" (I highly recommend this book). Great! How to proceed? I played my heart and lost. I believe that some improvements can be made to my play to increase my chances. My first suggestion would be try a different system within the Caro-Kann. The Next would be at sixth move. I played 6. Bd3 (which was logical), but theory says 6. Nxf6 is correct. There are other places where my play was less than I should except. Notably, both the move 9. Bd2N and 13. Bc3 are inaccurate and lead to my demise. Completely spent from that ordeal, I gathered more of the cake and ate myself into shape (perhaps if I kept on eating I would have a new shape). The last round started at 11 PM and my opponent's name was George. He played some wacky English set up with the White pieces that lead to a small, but steadily increasing advantage for me. We would play 50 moves before I delivered mate.

Everything was all said and done at 12:20 AM. My score of 2/3 was good enough to win some ca$h and give me a small boost in my USCF rating. The drive home was another adventure.

Friday, June 29, 2007

IF AT FIRST....

I finally was able to get the screen shot from my Personal Chess Trainer 2007 with a little help from the Hard Days Knight and my son Christopher (who went to college at James Watt University, Greenock, Scotland, for Multi-media). Thanks you both for all the help!

As you can see I have been working hard on middle game Tactics. This area is the most important at my level (USCF 1293 and 1370 Playchess Blitz). I find the positions edifying and relevant to my games. The position include those with up to a three move combinations that lead to check mate. I worked through 15 units in two weeks and I see some results in Tactic identification. The PCT 2007 does offer even more.
While I was looking about I notice the endgame trainer, which I use to good effect. Also, I notice the opening trainer. At first glance I thought it was unless because it didn't train me in my selected repertoire. Since then I have come to realize that it is good in it's own way. You may play through the main lines of the select openings to about move 11 or so. This has help me clear up some issues with my Sicilian Defense. Anyone who reviewed my games will agree that their was some mixing of the system, which was costing me tempo. I believe this has now been solved. I have used it for the main line of the Scotch Opening, both ...Nf6 and ...Bc5 lines. The trainer doesn't allow my to train in my Scotch Gambit or the Stonewall Attack, but what the heck! I highly recommend this trainer.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes you give it your best shot

I have been trying for two days to get a post of my Tactical Training History published to this blog. I am unable to get a screen shot for all to see. This is possibly due to my lack of computer savvy as anything. However, I am aware that it could be my system that is the problem or it is a combination of both. The Hard Days Knight has attempted to help and I thank him!

Tomorrow night is The Chess Club's Birthday Bash Open. I am playing in the Under 1600 section and I am hopeful I will produce a good showing. Tactics, tactics, and tactics. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 25, 2007

College Bound



Today I was accepted into the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Program. I now have to visit campuses and gather information as to which program and major I want to pursue. Hopefully, I can find a chess related subject, but I will have to settle for something where at the end of four years I can be gainfully employed. Your tax dollars at work. Don't forget...hire a Vet!

Saint Mary's University, Leavenworth, Kansas

Friday, June 22, 2007

The 2007 Chess Club Championship Round 3

How easy it is to fracture one's ego. My feelings toward chess had reached into the depths of despair. Perhaps I was suffering a form of chess Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My thoughts were jumbled and my speech incoherent, and I was in this state when a fellow chess sufferer named Doug enter into my life to stop my aimless stagger around the club's parking area. I confided that I really didn't think much of my present play and I thought even less of my chances of winning the Under 1300 class. Doug listened patiently as I poured out my woes and as I finished he simply asked if I wanted to go with him to get something at the Sonic across the street. What? I couldn't get my mind even around the fact that another human being was asking for my company. I needed help! "Hi...my name is Todd and I suffer from PTSD..." "Hey man, you catch that from the 'Nam?" "Naw...chess...checkmate in two...had pawns coming over the wire!!!" Doug saved my life, my chess life, by a simple act of kindness to a pawn shocked chess combat veteran.

My round 3 opponent was my old friend Leroy from the Kansas City Open. I have the White pieces.

Forbes,Todd (1293) - Asher,Leroy (1127)
The Chess Club Championship 2007 Kansas City, MO (3), 16.06.2007

B01: Scandinavian Defense

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 (frankly, I have little knowledge of this system and no plan against it. However, Back's next move surprised me as it seems to increase White's advantage) 3...Bf5 4.c4 c6 5.Bd3 (I was thinking of trading light square Bishops so I would have control over b1-h7 diagonal. Perhaps I should have considered 5.dxc6 Nxc6 6.d5) 5...Bxd3 6.Qxd3 cxd5 7.Nf3 h6 8.Nc3 e6 9.0–0 Be7 10.Bf4 0–0 11.Ne5 a6 12.Rfe1 Nbd7 13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.Nxd5 exd5 15.Re3 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Rc8 17.Ree1 Rc6 18.Red1 Bg5 19.Bxg5 Qxg5


20.Qg3 (Breaking my vow and throwing away my advantage. Best was 20.Qxd5!) 20...Rfc8 21.Qxg5 hxg5 22.h3 Rd8 23.Rd4 Rc4 24.Rad1 Rxd4 25.Rxd4 Kf8 26.g3 Ke7 27.f4 gxf4 28.gxf4 g6 29.Kf2 Ke6 30.a4 a5 31.b4 axb4 32.Rxb4 (Along about here I was thinking draw) 32...Rd7 33.Ke3 Kf5?


34.Rb6! d4+ 35.Kf3 d3 36.Rf6#


1–0

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Feel the Power!

My son Todd II made this for me as the desk top on my notebook. I like it as it show my Mustang GT in a nice way. Thank you son.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The 2007 Chess Club Championship Round 2

My last post was of my round 1 game. I don't know about most people, but when I play at tournaments I get really tired. This is in the form of mental fatigue and it is especially bad after a loss. I think deep down I knew I was getting the worse of it during the ending with my game with Yury and was lucky to have the draw. Exhausted is how I felt during the start of my second round game. My new opponent was a young man from New Mexico. I couldn't help thinking he was a little far of field, but chess is chess and people travel to play our game. I have the Black pieces this game.

Stuart,Zach (1238) - Forbes,Todd (1293)
The Chess Club Championship 2007 Kansas City, MO (2), 16.06.2007

B45: Sicilian Four Knights

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6

(Let just face it. Black is behind in development and the Bishop on c8 isn't moving anytime soon) 7.Bf4N (Novelty. White usually aims for 7.Be3) 7...e5? (Bad...just dreadfully bad. 7...Bb4!? was best)

8.Nxc6! bxc6 9.Bxe5 (Black goes down a pawn with no compensation) 9...Be7 10.Bd6 0-0 11.e5 Re8? (Better 11...Bxd6 but 12.Qxd6 Ne8 still leaves White with a winning advantage) 12.0–0 Bxd6 13.exd6 (This d6 pawn would prove to be a bone in my throat. Even better 13.Qxd6!? locking down the position) 13...Bb7 14.Qd3 Qb6 15.b3 a5 16.Na4 Qa7 17.Rfe1 Rab8 18.Qf5 Qa8?? (Blunder. The position was bad, and any move in a bad position is bad!)

19.Nb6 Rxe1+ 20.Rxe1 Re8 21.Nxa8 Rxe1+ 22.Bf1 Bxa8 23.Qxa5 Re8 24.b4 Nd5 25.b5 c5 26.c4 Nf4 27.Qc7 h6 28.Qxd7 Re1 29.Qc8+ Kh7 30.Qf5+ Ng6 31.d7 Be4 32.Qxf7 Bd3 33.h3 Rxf1+ 34.Kh2 Nh4 35.d8Q (35.d8Q Rh1+ 36.Kxh1 Nxg2 37.Qdg8#) 1–0

What a disaster! I felt down and dejected...hoping that the lunch break would help going into round 3.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Plaque in Hand

I really couldn't believe it...I still don't. When the results were announced at The Chess Club of the 2007 Championship, I was included as the Under 1300 Champion. Someone made a mistake, surely? However, there I am (yellow T-shirt) holding my plaque and thinking back on those 4 rounds...hmm?!

Round 1:
Forbes,Todd (1293) - Markushin,Yury

The Chess Club Championship 2007 Kansas City, MO (1), 16.06.2007

C50:
Hungarian Defence and Giuoco Pianissimo

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 d6 5.Nxd4 Ne5 6.Bb3 Nf6 7.Bg5N (I am having trouble believing that is a theoretical novelty...I only wanted to pin the Knight) 7...Be7 8.Bxf6 (8.Nc3!? is worth a look) 8...Bxf6 9.Nc3 0–0 10.h3 Bh4 11.Qe2 a6 12.0–0–0 12...Bd7 (Yury missed 12...Qg5+ 13.Kb1 Qxg2 winning a pawn. However with 14.Rdf1 White is still in charge) 13.g3 Be7 14.f4 Nc6 15.Nd5 Nxd4 16.Rxd4 Bf6? (16...a5!? is a better try) 17.e5 (This pawn advance gives an edge to White) 17...dxe5? (Better for Back was 17...Be7)18.Nxf6+! gxf6 19.fxe5 Qe7

20.Rh4? (I blew it with this simple looking Rook move. Best was 20.Qh5 and the rest is a matter of technique 20...Bf5 21.Qxf5 Qxe5 22.Qxe5 fxe5 23.Rd7 and White has a winning advantage) 20...Qxe5 21.Qxe5 (I am just throwing away any advantage with this. Better here is 21.Qf2!?) 21...fxe5 (Black has equality with this passed pawn) 22.Bd5 c6 23.Be4 f5 (Black is now in full control of the game) 24.Bd3 Rae8 25.Bc4+ Be6 26.Bxe6+ Rxe6 27.Rc4 h5 28.a4 Rd8 29.a5 Kf7 30.Rd1 Rdd6 31.Rxd6 Rxd6 32.Rb4 Rd7 33.Rb3 Kf6 34.Rd3 Rxd3 35.cxd3 Kg5 36.Kd2 f4 37.Ke2 (37.gxf4+ would allow the White King to penetrate Black's Queen side) 37...fxg3 38.Kf3 g2! 39.Kxg2 Kf4 40.Kf2 c5 41.b3 h4 42.Ke2 Kg3 43.Ke3

Kxh3 44.Kf3 Draw (While Yury and I agreed on a draw, and I honestly believed at the time it was a drawn position, alas it is not. Play should have continued 44...Kh2 the White King is forced to keep the opposition with 45. Kf2 h3! this pawn move hands the opposition to Black and with it...the game. Interesting!)

I was disappointed with my play in round 1. Little did I know that round 2 would be a disaster.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Honest Abe?...whatever!"

Take the challenge...the Rozerem chess challenge. You have to face the mighty chess playing spokes-beaver. He taunts you and insults you, just as he does with "Honest Abe". I find that I can beat him...no problem. He claims: "I didn't see that coming". He plays like a patzer! Go one...take the challenge.

While you busy playing the beaver I will be taking a real challenge and tackle my sixth unit of tactics with the Personal Chess Trainer. So far, I really like it. I am almost addicted...which is great because I am more apt to do my training. Also, I have to log-in to Playchess and get busy with live opponents. Last night late, like 2 in the morning, I played against a 943. Don't know why I did, except that I needed to play. However, I was struggling with him. I was so angry when I missed a mate. The final result was victory for me. I had little trouble getting the advantage with Black in a Sicilian (18 pawns worth), but my trouble was I couldn't close the deal. Maybe I should do these things earlier.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Morning Routine

Yes, a BIG cup of Cafe SittoN to get me cranked up this morning. Yesterday, I finally broke down and purchased some chess software that I longed for a while now. I am the proud owner of the Personal Chess Trainer 2007 version 3.0. This is a tool that will help me focus on my chess studies. This particular one is helpful for Tactical training and you do problems in units. Also, it can be used for Endgame training, Opening training, Strategic training, and to play chess games against the chess engine Crafty 17. I can almost draw that chess engine. I still use Fritz 10 chess engine for all my real chess work. Fritz kills Crafty! I have other tools as well. I have a copy of ChessBase 9. This little gem organizes my played chess games and lets me analyze where I went wrong and how to fix it. I can do this along my repertoire for White and Black and by opening systems. BIG sip...ahhh! Best get cracking...Saturday is the championship.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cafe Anyone?


I just received a gift. Actually, it was four gifts...from the Republic of Panama. Let us take a good look. Well, now there is five things. I gotta like this! Okay, first things first. I have in my hand a bottle of Panamanian rum. A big bottle of Carta Vieja Ron Anejo. I like it! Next we have two T-shirts. Nice, I can us those right away. They are beautiful. Oh my god, what is this? Two fetching bags of Panamanian coffee. I love coffee. This here is some of the best in the world. Nobody seems to know about it, but I do. A bag of Cafe Sitton and a bag of Cafe Ruiz. Where is the coffee maker? Yes, cold crystal clear water and add 3 coffee scoops of Cafe Sitton and turn it on. Waiting. Whilst we wait for it to brew let me add that I drink lots of coffee. I have tried all kinds of brands. I like Millstone, but it doesn't taste any better than Folgers to me. Lately, I have been buying the cheap stuff. The Fort Leavenworth commissary has Eight O'clock Coffee for $2.59 a bag and it taste better than McDonald's coffee. I can't say Starbuck's coffee is that great either. Dunkin Donuts coffee beats Starbuck's both in price and taste. My question is why go to some coffee house, or restaurant, when you can make something better at home? Wow, let me tell you the aroma from that Sitton Cafe is just capital! A little sugar and some creamer...sip...longer sip...ahhhh. Yes, indeed. That is great coffee. I love my gifts!!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leavenworth, Kansas, Night Life

The other night, Saturday to be precise, I decided to check out the local public houses. This was all research for my faithful readers. Yeah, yeah, that's what is was...research! Anyway, I donned my best pair of jeans and a red polo shirt. I added my best walking shoes as I don't want to drink and drive and off I went. I must say that the City of Leavenworth, Kansas, really should think about the direction it is going in. I found hardly anything to do that would be considered "Date Night" material. What I did find was some old, run down, dusty looking places that pass as Bars. I walked much and drank little until I happened onto Marfield's Irish Pub. This place is a gem. While the decor might not be very pleasing to some, it is the ticket for simplicity and tavern functionality. This night there was an Irish folk singer that was quite good and added much to the cheerful atmosphere. The food is great (try the Shepard's Pie) and they have a assortment of Irish beers, plus their own brand. I had a pint of the home brew and a half pint of Harp's lager and off walking I went. The next place that was decent looking was the High Noon Saloon and Brewery. This place has it own brewery and a large range of choices. I can't say a whole lot about the service. It seems as though they are doing you a favor by being open or something. However, this place would be suitable for date night and it is where the semi-successful drink. I had a pint of their Lewis and Clark lager and found the door. Since I live a mile and a half from the town center I thought it best to review one last place. After walk about a third of the distance home, I sighted the loom of a neon sign. Wow! What do we have here? Tom's Country Stampede!!! This is not the place to take a date! It is a dive and dangerous (there was a fight right next to me within the first 5 minutes or so). Hell, it reminded me of my days in the U.S. Navy when the ship would visit Naples, Italy, and I would go on liberty to a place called "The Gut" (think seedy) to drink at a bar named "The Bilge" (the bilge of a ship is the void at the bottom where all the waste water and materials collects). They had some kind of country Karaoke going and the place was packed. The smoking lamp was well lit here and you could have cut it with a knife. The service sucked here too, but only because of all the people. I had their finest Pabst Blue Ribbon beer....yummy. My father used to call it "Sunk Water" because of the smell. I'll say it doesn't tastes as bad as it smells. After I had a 12 oz. draft of the stuff I was fit to leave. All of a sudden, I found it refilled. Hot damn...free beer! When that was finished another one appeared. So after 2 pints plus of the Pabst I was walking away. I must state that Tom's is fun...if you don't mind a complete dive. I'll just say stick to Marfield's...you will thank me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blitz Action!

Last Thursday night I went to The Chess club in Kansas City, Missouri, for the Summer Blitz (5 minute games) Grand Prix (a long term cash prize tournament). I had only gone to view the spectacle and had not plan to play. However, I was roped into participating by the friendly staff and an offer of a free meal. Hey, I like spaghetti and meatballs! The games started at 7 P.M. with the ticking of the chess clocks, followed by the slamming of the chessmen and the bashing of the chess clocks. Excitement builds during these games due to the wild attempts to win. One mistake is often fatal because you don't have time to regroup your thoughts and calculate your way out of the mess you created. My first game I won against a much stronger player. What followed was a slow trip into hell...losing me next 3 games. The above diagram is of one of my games against a very seasoned player named Tony. I have the white pieces. The previous moves have been: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Bc5 What would you do next? I'll tell you this. Whatever I did do wasn't correct because I lost in a most humiliating manner! You just can't overcome this and act as nothing has happened. Finally, I was to finish the night playing a lesser opponent and I was glad. I wanted to have an equal score for the evenings work. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. I won the second to last game convincingly, but in the final tragedy struck as I banged on the chess clock in an aggressive manner and my flag fell...meaning I lost on time. I had a winning position. Crap! So the ultimate score was 2 games out of 6. I did receive a quick chess rating of 1297 Elo USCF. Really, not bad for the first time out in this type of quick game. I know I can do better!

I have had some suggestions for play from the above positon. One suggestion was 5. Bxf7+. I think Black gets a Bishop for a pawn and holds the postion. An example of play would be 5...Kxf7 6. Ng5+ Kf8 7. Qf3+ Nf6 and I believe Black has a slight plus. We could improve the line on the sixth move with 6. c3 d5! 7. 0-0 dxe4 8. Ng5+ but black is still holding an advantage with 8...Kf8. Finally, someone suggested 5. 0-0 and safely tuck White's King away. In my opinion that allows Black to much compensation for an unnecessary move. Black will simply play 5...d6 freeing his light square Bishop and increasing the scope of his Queen. Does anyone have anything better?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Wadsworth Revisited...is it enough?

Yesterday I visited the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Leavenworth, Kansas. I think I like it's former name better: The National Soldiers Home, Western Branch, Wadsworth, Kansas. Yes, that has a grander ring to it...just like my ears do! President Lincoln, with the help of the U.S. Congress, established these homes as a way of repaying these volunteer soldiers loss of a limb or mind directly caused by the U.S. Civil War. These homes were grand in their Victorian design. No expense was to be spared and every effort was made to make sure these homes had the latest in modern plumbing, fixtures, safety equipment, medical services, food, and entertainment. The above image is of the lake...Lake Jeanette. Notice the band shell on the lake. In the 1870's, and until the 1930's, this is where the old soldiers, sailors, and marines would come to ease the heat of the day and listen to music. The band was provided for their enjoyment. They had dances and plays also. A huge library was provided. On pension day the canteen sold beer...70 half barrels worth! I won't tell you that this would meet our modern view of comfort. No, most of you would be appalled by the austerities of the open bay barracks with it lack of air conditioning and privacy. I believe most of you would have turned up your nose at the food the subsistence department provided. I am sure the horror of a visit to the hospital would be leaving you with thoughts of law suits. However, it is our modern eyes that make us blind. This place would have seemed as heaven on earth to these mangled men. Most of them were from farms and hard work and harder living is all that they knew until they were baptised by fire during war. These men had little in way of shelter, food, clothing, and sanitation. Just about all had body lice and sores covered their skin. Think about living as such. Now, think about coming to a place where you didn't have to worry about sores, lice, food, clothing, shelter, medical needs, and entertainment. To boot, they received pensions...money! That was a god send to these men and most enjoyed their stays until their last roll call. I wish it was still like that.

My stay at the soldier's home was short. In 4 hours I was back in my home and thinking about all of the above. I think a lot about the Veterans and how they live. I understand what is like to have wounds that don't show. Some people think that you should "just forget" about your military experience. I wish I could, but it is replayed at odd times during the day and frequently at night. How are you supposed to forget when the nightmares remind you? Yesterday I was told that I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have seen the counselor and the Psychiatrist. I feel guilty that I am not able to get over this by myself and I feel as a failed man...weak. I received my medication with dread and longed for the days when I would have been provided a band, a dance, and maybe a play. I wanted to be with the older men as they shared the days recalling their former glory with Custer. Mostly, I wanted to have pint or two of beer to forget and with luck...sleep in peace.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hurry Home Soon My Son

My little man has left. He is my partner and friend and I will miss him. We do everything together. He is my son...a reason to arise in the mornings and make a grand breakfast. I miss him already. Yesterday I fixed him some biscuits and sausage gravy. This morning he had oatmeal and toast. Maybe I should have cooked up some pancakes. The fluffy ones he loves so much...yeah, I should have. We left at 8:30 am for the Kansas City International airport. I let him drive there because it makes him feel grown and that he is doing something for the family. He was mature acting. He found the perfect parking space and took his bags to the check-in counter of the airline. I heard him ask if the flight was on time and seen him flash his passport. A picture of a grown man. I didn't want to let him go and I don't want him gone for the whole summer. However, his grandparents in the Republic of Panama have been waiting for a visit for years and I must not disappoint them with my selfishness. As they called his flight I hugged him goodbye and silently prayed that he will have a safe flight and for his safety in general. I need my wing man...I need him as I need oxygen...he is my life! Please be safe son and return home soon!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Judit Polgar


I am sorry to report that Judit Polgar didn't win her FIDE Candidates Match against Evgeny Bareev. She gave him a good match and produced one outstanding example why she should be the first woman to be crowned World Chess Champion. I don't want to offer excuses, but she has recently had to curtail her chess playing to become a mother of two. As these children grow older she will naturally have more time to devote to her chess career and I fully expect her participation in a World Championship game in the future. Go Judit!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Lion Queen...Judit Makes Her Kill!!

Hurray, Judit won a game! I like this very much. Judit has had a disappointing candidate match thus far. Her opponent is a very exprienced Russian Grandmaster named Evgeny Bareev. After game four the score was Bareev 3 points and Judit had 1 point. Yes, a very hard place to be and near impossible to recover from. Judit has a heart of a lion and went for the kill! I know most who read this blog wouldn't understand the notation, but believe you me when I say it was a most exciting game. If you wish me to post the entire game just ask. I will put the final position above for all the enjoy. The score after today stands: Bareev 3 points and Judit 2 points. One game remains in the match. If Judit wins then they play sudden death blitz (5 minute games) until one of them wins a game. Judit can not draw...or she loses her match. Go Judit Polgar!!

This position arose out of the Caro-Kann Defense, Two Knights Variation. Judit played book moves until she unleashed a novelty on the ninth move with 9. Bf4N. After that her position looked lost, but she fought on to the above position. Can you find the mate?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

2007 World Chess Championship Candidates

I haven't been blogging much lately. I have been busy watching chess games at Playchess.com. These games are the Candidates matches for the 2007 World Chess Championship. I have my favorite player...Judit Polgar of Budapest, Hungary. She is the only woman playing in this championship cycle. The big deal is that this isn't for the Women's World Chess Championship. No, Judit doesn't want that title. She is a sure winner there, as she is the strongest female chess player on the planet. She has bigger fish to fry! She is after the men's title. Good for her!! Why break it down between man and woman? It is a mental sport...um, art...mm, science...isn't it? She feels it belittles women to compete in a lesser tournament. If women want to be treated as equals then they must take up the challenge and demonstrate that they are equal. This is a fair forum to do this and Judit Polgar has thrown down the gauntlet. I wish her the best of luck. Go Judit!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Swift Boat Commander

I arrived in the Republic of Panama during the Noriega years. The place was in turmoil and it was only a matter of time before the United States took some action. Usually, the Department of State has some plan in place for dealing with rouge leader's of other nations. Naturally, the Department of State has a sword for foreign policy and the U.S. military is its pointy end. Panama was a supposedly friendly nation. We had treaties in place of defense and trade. Everyone liked this peaceful coexistence, with a few exceptions. By the time I reported to my next command in August 1988, the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) had begun an adversarial relationship with the U.S. military in the Canal Zone (CZ). The day I took command of the Patrol Craft Fast number 9 (PCF-9) I was briefed that under no circumstances was I allow my craft to be boarded by the PDF. This lead to some very tense moments later on and with much weapons pointing by each side. The above photograph is the PCF-9. Most people call these "Swift Boats". Yes, the same type of boat that John F. Kerry commanded during Viet Nam. I was the Boat Captain and in charge of its maintenance, crew welfare, training, and fighting capability. She was a little hot rod of the river and coastal areas. She was officially a mark II which was an upgrade from the mark I's. This meant that she was a foot longer and 2 knots faster. The PCF-9 could reach 32 knots. She was well armed with a twin 50 caliber machine gun mount over the pilot house (which could spit a lot of death), a single 50 caliber machine gun over a 81mm mortar on the aft deck, two m-60 machine guns mounted port and starboard at just abaft of the deck house, plus two M-79 grenade launchers and some other small arms. She was dealing death and sowing destruction. It was my responsibility! The weight of command would be a heavy load, especially just before, during, and after "Operation Just Cause".