Monday, August 15, 2011

Dragon Slayer in China!!

Hello everyone,

Its been a wild last few months! I'm still in China, specifically the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. I had actually gotten to play a good amount of chess games with some other westerners that live in my dorm. There were three college students during summer term who had played club chess to some extent. Two of them would be in about the 1400 range and another in about the 1500-1600 range. I went a combined 10-3 against them in long, casual games.

I finally came across a local group of players though. I'm not sure if they are directly affiliated with the Chengdu Chess Club but I know several of the players are regulars there. They were playing outside of a small noodle shop about half a mile from my dorms. I showed interest and one of the younger boys asked me if I knew how to play. I said yes and that I enjoyed playing. I was disregarded by the older players as they were concentrating on their games. The boy told me about a casual tournament at People's Park and I said I'd like to check it out.

It was more like the Reno Chess Club Swiss tourneys but it was outside in the blistering heat! It was all for fun but there weren't any push overs. I think I was the weakest player there in fact. I got crushed in my first two games and was able to take advantage of a blunder in my third game to keep from castling queenside (0-0-0) = )

In the first game I had white and I got abused in a French Tarrasch by a player who was probably expert or higher, I couldn't ask much chess lingo as he spoke no English and my Chinese doesn't have that type of vocabulary yet. The second game I got crushed in a Queen's Indian Defense by a very strong player (no idea what to say for rating strength). The third game my ego was a little bruised and I faced off with a 9 year-old boy. He actually knew enough English to hold a pretty good conversation. Where are you from, what music do you like and so forth. He has a FIDE rating which he claimed 1849, I believe his name was Wang Peng, but not totally sure.

Anyways I was able to play my line in the dragon and he made some moves which are standard in other Dragon lines, that just don't work against the line I play and I got him into trouble quickly, and then he started making bad moves. 1 of 3 ain't good but I played above my head all day!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Game one victory!!

Quick update for those that care. I dueled my way to a victory with the white pieces in round one of the Western Class Championships. My opponent sported a French Defense-Fort Knox variation. I took my time and felt good about the game. When my opponent(1717)resigned he refused to shake hands because he was disgusted with himself.

Kinda weird guy but whatever...I'm a happy camper!!

Here is the game:

Western Class Championships

Just checked into the Renaissance Agoura Hills Hotel for the Western Class Championships. The hotel itself is very nice and the quality of the room is more than I could have expected at the Chess price that they offered!

I should have a game tonight in the B section. Hope this thing starts off ok...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Everything with a beginning has an end...

Well my eight-game unbeaten streak was snapped on Thursday night by Matt Herald. I was on the Black side of a French Advance and had created a great position and began moving too fast, not looking at my opponent's options and got into trouble resembling my trouble at the Far West Open last year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

A little Anthropology for ya...

Neandertals and Endurance Running

Endurance running has been cited since the 1980’s as a possible explanation for the modern human body plan. Past studies have focused on the running abilities of species such as Homo ergaster and Homo sapiens, with little or no mention of other species or genera. Currently in press in the Journal of Human Evolution is a discussion of Neandertal running capabilities.

The authors observed the length of the calcaneal tuber of the foot, which correlates with how far the Achilles tendon will stretch during movement. For this study measurements were taken of both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. Species with short calcaneal tubers stretch their Achilles tendons to a greater degree, which is then returned in the form of elastic energy. Species with long tubers stretch the Achilles tendon less and therefore have a lower return of elastic energy.

White Line: Calcaneus tuber length. Red Line: Achilles tendon moment. Correlation between the two values. Photo from Raichlen et al.

Simply put, a species with shorter calcaneal tubers will use less energy when running. Anatomically modern humans have been found to have short tubers, while longer ones are found on Neandertal remains. According to the authors, this variation has significant behavioral implications.

Unlike modern humans, the storage of less elastic energy in Neandertals would have made running less efficient. However, Neandertals were not necessarily at a disadvantage in the colder climates they are often said to have inhabited. It is more likely that running over long distances would have been energetically costly to them, without having huge benefits.

Long distance running would prove beneficial in warmer climates where animals are prone to hyperventilate when chased. Modern humans would have benefitted from endurance running because it would have aided in capturing prey. The same model does not necessarily apply in colder climates. A runner could chase an animal all day in low temperatures and never have the animal succumb to heat stress or hyperventilation. It is for this reason argued that the ability to run long distances would not have been as evolutionarily valuable to Homo neanderthalensis.

Discussing endurance running provides fascinating insight into human evolution. While the ability to run long distances can be very revealing about evolutionary history, lack of endurance can be as well.

By Matt Magnani

Raichlen, D.A., Armstrong, H., Lieberman, D.E. (2011). “Calcaneus length determines running economy: Implications for endurance running performance in modern humans and Neandertals.” The Journal of Human Evolution. Article in Press.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

4 in a row!

Ok so in my last post I aid two in a row but I forgot that I won my last game at the Nevada State Championships so that makes 4 wins in a row. Anything to keep up the motivation. Here is my first round game of the Club Championship Qualifier against James Mann.

I missed an easy recapture in the opening that would have ensured a big advantage and then we both worked on positioning our pieces and pawns towards central clarity.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Two in a row

This one will be short and sweet. I followed up last week's victory with another win as White against a Caro-Kahn defense/Classical variation. Aside from two bad moves my game was pretty solid and I was aware of what I was doing with my minor pieces, whether my moves were right or wrong I was at least debating mentally, the merits of a move and how it could make my knights and bishops good/bad.

I ended up purposefully creating a bad bishop to weaken the enemy king position in this game and it worked out well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On a night like this...

On Thursday I returned to action at the Reno Chess Club ad was able to swindle a victory from an utterly hopeless position. I had remembered several posts on the blog “Soapstone’s Studio” espousing the joys of a swindle, so while my position was becoming more and more hopeless I tried to think about; what if he messes up and I can take the game? I looked back over some of the blog entries and I kind of got inspired for a detective narrative.
So I hope you enjoy it, there are several homage’s to movies and books throughout. On a totally separate note, I so far really like Silman’s 4th edition of his classic How To Reassess Your Chess books.

The rain was coming down hard as I walked down 4th street that night. I was down to my last dime and hoping that this business venture would be short and sweet. Things had been rough lately, jobs gone sour, informants with bad information; a few bullets may have even flown my way. I kept telling myself it was crazy being a P.I. but what else did I know how to do? Ah the hell with it, here’s the place.
I stepped into the Wrondel offices at a quarter to ten that night. The lighting was low and the lobby was quiet…too quiet. I walked up to the well-dressed receptionist “I’m looking for Mike Houser” I asked her, it came out almost as a whisper.
“I’m sorry sir, you will have to speak up”, she replied.
“I says, I’m looking for big Mike, Mike Houser”.
“Oh, third door on the right…stay to the right”, she said in a dismissive manner.
I heard this guy was a straight-shooter, Jersey boy. Rumors he did time in the Pen upstate, but he paid in cash and it wasn’t my policy to question the hands that fed me. I hesitated, and then pulled open the door.
“Ahh, I’ve been expecting you. I’ve heard allot about you. They say you used to do whatever it takes to solve a problem. In the Bronx they called you the Harrington Hammer,” the man said with a solid grin and an all-too penetrating stare.
“You’ve done your homework Mr. Houser. But that was a different life. Whiskey, women and rough-necking with my share of knuckle-heads has soured my palate to anything like the Bronx days,” I said calmly, wondering exactly what this man had in mind for me tonight.
“I’ll get to the point, as your time is as valuable as mind, no doubt. There’s a kid down on the eastside, goes by the name Matt Herald. He’s been outta the game for a spell, but he’s been cutting into my turf and I need you to do some recon for me. Take some pictures, eavesdrop some conversations. The word on the street is he may be talking a backdoor deal with the deputy mayor in an abandoned warehouse right by the Fisherman’s Whorf, tonight at midnight”.
“I trust you can still use those keen eyes and ears that have made you such a commodity in this…community,” he said.
I hesitated; I had a bad feeling about tonight. No moon in the sky, wet as a rainforest and I’m tracking a man I know nothing about. “This doesn’t smell right. It’s gonna cost you double, and I don’t take checks”, I finally answered.
“Deal!” he quickly quipped.
I shuttered a bit and left the office with a photo of my mark, and my wits.
I could smell the salt in the air as I approached the dark seaport. Wasn’t a soul in sight but I glanced a broken windowpane and a door slightly cracked open. This was the warehouse. I took a deep breath and stepped inside…
1 d4 e6 As I slowly moved through the opening of this creepy building I began to hear a man’s voice.
2 c4 Nf6 As I circled the voice, he came into view. He was yelling at a beautiful woman in a business suit. I took my position behind some steel-drum barrels in a dark corner.
3 Bg5 Bb4+ I took out my camera and began snapping photos. It sounded like the woman was being blackmailed and it now occurred to me, this was the deputy mayor.
4 Nc3 h6 5 Bxf6!? She spoke up and I clearly heard when she said “Mr. Herald if you think I’m going to make a deal with you, I’m afraid you’re wasting your time,” and as she finished speaking he slapped her across the face and laughed. 5…Qxf6 She slapped him back and began running in the direction of the door.
6 e3 Herald opened the door to his right and I spied several henchmen putting on black gloves and one sharpening a butcher knife.
6…c5 7 Nf3 I loaded my pistol without thinking and the men walked into the room.
7…0-0 8 Be2 cxd4 The two gloved men grabbed the woman and I threw a stone through a large window across the warehouse.
9 Qxd4 Herald drew his sidearm and cautiously investigated the noise.
9…Bxc3 I quickly kicked over one of the heavy steel barrels and it began rolling towards a thug holding the mayor, and it struck the man with a thud. I stealthily ran into some shadows in an adjacent corner. The man’s knee appeared to be injured and he was writing with pain on the damp concrete.
10 Bxc3 Qe7 Herald faced the woman, “You didn’t come alone did you?” He pointed the gun at her and she struggled fiercely, breaking the slippery hold of the remaining gloved thug.
11 c5!? Herald pulled the woman to the ground and shoved the steel drum over top of her, effectively ending her squirming for the time being.
11…Nc6 12 Qd6 Qf6?! 13 Nd4 The gloved thug lifted a Tommy Gun from the table and stood in the middle of the room ready for action.
13…Qg5 14 0-0 e5?! 15 Nb5 a6 16 Nc7 Ra7 17 Rab1 As my eyes began to adjust to the darkness I began to realize I was seriously outgunned and outmanned, and that it wasn’t as dark in here as I would have liked it to be. They were too close to the door for me to make an exit and I could see no possible way to fee the mayor.
17…Qe7 18 Rfd1 f5 19 Bc4+ Kh8 20 Qg6 Rf6 As I went to put away my camera, I accidently leaned to hard against the barrel and it went tumbling over! It landed with a thud. The Tommy gun started spraying his heat in my direction as I ducked behind my cover. Then the others were shooting off smaller caliber shots, I was pinned down, returning fire just to keep them at bay.
21 Qg3?! One of the perks slowly backed up and he was now right under a load of boxes hoisted by rope. I kept that in mind and focused my attention on the Tommy Gun.
21… Rf8 22 Rd6 Qd8? I leaned out and finally had a good shot at the Tommy Gun, but he was gone? I couldn’t see him, I was a sitting duck!
23 Rg6?? F4?! I began frantically shooting at the rope above the thug, I could barely see the line and was running low on ammo.
24 Qg4?? A stroke of utter luck from above. Herald slipped in the sludge-puddle and dropped his gun. It slid close to the woman.
24…d5! I rolled out into the open and now had all three villains in range and none could get off a clean shot at me.
25 Re6?? dxc4 All of a sudden the packages fell from their bindings and crushed the man, she had apparently gotten the weapon and shot the rope which I missed so many times.
26 Rd1 Qxc7 I lined up my shot and sent the Tommy gun flying into the air and it landed on the ground with a clank, a moment later its user fell with his last breath.
27 Rdd6 Bxe6 28 Qxe6 Qf7 I took out the final gloves henchman and we turned our gaze to the now solo Matt Herald.
29 Qh3 fxe3 30 Qxe3 Raa8 31 h3 Rad8 32 a4 Herald ran out of bullets and began throwing old railroad spikes and bits of heavy metal at us. He was determined to fight to the very end!
32…Rxd6 33 cxd6 Rd8 34 Qc5 Qd7 35 Qxc4 Qxd6 36 g3 Qd5 37 Qg4 Qd1+ He made one last attempt at the door and then fell in exhaustion, Hands in the air and disappointment on his face.
“You really had me sweating Herald. What were you thinking, messing around in my town?”
“I had you man, I had you,” he said with strength in his voice.
“That you did, and now you know what it’s like to be swindled.”
I tied him up and gave a call to big Mike. He’d want to talk to herald personally. I then turned to the deputy mayor, that was some nice shooting there ma’am. You can back me up anytime”, I said with a coy smile. I turned and walked away.
“Handsome stranger, you ever considered a career in politics?” she yelled after me.
“That business is too rough and dirty for a man like me, take care ma’am.
As the sun rose over the harbor I felt alive and I had won…