Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good grief: Redux

My only sibling, Michael, took his life 10 years ago this January.  As I've described in various posts on this blog over the years, his sudden death sucked the wind out of me--for a time.  I healed, which doesn't preclude some moments or days of grief, especially around the anniversary of his death or his birthday.  This year, I had just a couple of sad days in the middle of January.  Otherwise, I have had a pretty good year.

But last night I saw the news.  There were a few seconds between hearing the news that Robin Williams was dead to the mention of his suicide. My reaction went quickly from an "Aw shit!" to a pretty solid cry.  Realizing that one of my favorite actors who was in my favorite movie (Good Will Hunting) succumbed to the pain that was dragging him down hurt me more than I realized it would. 

Losing an artist you respect and admire is not quite the same as losing a loved one, but there is still a lot of grief, shock, and numbness.  My heart goes out to all of us affected by Robin's death, but especially those who were closest to him. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I blew a winning position

This was a fun and wild game. However, I am not enjoying looking over the post-error analysis.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Postal game, January 2011 to January 2013

Monday, February 20, 2012

Minnesota Open, 2012, part I

I have seldom taken or have had the time to write a significant blog post in a very long time. With the busy and full pace of life, I spend my down time relaxing with family, friends, television, or live music. However, I have a full day off from work today, which I intentionally chose to do after an intense weekend of playing chess in the 119th Warren Stenberg Memorial Minnesota Open.

As usual, I played in the Sophomore section for players rated U1400. (I was briefly above 1400 in 2005, but not since.) Although I often play and occasionally beat players 1600 and above at the Chess Castle, this section is competitive for me, as I don’t recall ending up higher than an even score at any tournament.

For those who don’t play chess, or for those who play casually, you need to understand the mental intensity required to play a single long game of chess, let alone five or six games over a weekend. I play often, have a moderately good understanding of the game, and have experience playing a variety of different opponents. Most of the nervousness I feel when I play is the anxiety of waiting to get started.

I planned on working a half-day Friday, but a last minute appointment on Friday left me with the entire day away from the office. I was thankful to have a generally relaxing day. Before the appointment, I studied a game from Yasser Seirawan’s “Winning Chess Brilliancies.” After the appointment, I practiced some tactics for an hour. Both the game and tactical study were very helpful in putting my mind in the proper headspace for the weekend, and I wisely did not overdo it. I relaxed the rest of the day with music until it was time for a dinner with the family before heading over to Saint Paul.

After get through a slow downtown and having a little maddening difficulty finding parking--there was a country music show on Friday night--I got to the Crowne Plaza a little before seven. After bitching about the potentially high parking price and finding that there were vouchers to reduce the cost, I tried to relax as much as I could in the beehive of activity. With over 200 chess players, families, and friends, that is not realistically possible. It only got worse as the pairings started to be posted to the wall. When the Sophomore section was finally posted, I found that I was playing the top seed in our section, a scholastic player who looked to be about late middle school age.

As was the case for games one, three, and five, I played Black, and my opponents all started 1. e4. Anyone who knows me knows that I have been reliably playing the Caro-Kann, which I did all weekend. I got a good workout with it!

In this game, we played an exchange variation. However, “Theory? Who needs theory?” We ended up with an unusual early middlegame position. Here was the position after his 14th move.

After my 14th move (f6), I had used 40 minutes of my 120. He was using about 10 minutes less time than me at this point, and he continued to gain on me. We played for over three hours and about 46 moves (my notation became very inaccurate as my time ran low). He won.

I was very tired the next morning even after a half decent night of sleep. I dreaded the three game Saturday, with games at 10, 2:30, and 7. Historically the 7 o’clock game has been exhausting for me. The coffee which I drank with more frequency this weekend than usual at times did not seem to be doing the trick. My brain felt weary, although the part that kept my analytical skills sharp and careful was working well.

(Writing this just reinforced my resistance to blogging. I enjoy telling stories, but it is just as easy to lose my sense of time while writing as it is for me while playing a chess game.)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Rex Foundation benefit album in memory of Jerry Garcia

It has been fifteen years since the death of Jerry Garcia. A benefit album for the Rex Foundation has been put together as a compilation of Grateful Dead songs covered by such bands as Phish, String Cheese Incident, and Widespread Panic. Both as a lover of the music of the Dead and as someone who understands the value of non-profits, I plan on purchasing this album.

I found about this originally on Jambase.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something beautiful on the great continent of Africa...

I've been enjoying watching the World Cup over the last month. After the end of the series "Lost," the viewing of which took my wife and me one year of our lives, it has been great to have a different kind of drama to observe.

I love competition, although I generally don't care for sports. After growing up in the Cleveland area and being a fan of the Browns as a young boy, it has been difficult to enjoy sports, especially to see any hopes crushed year after year.

Yet, the world comes together every four years to watch the world's most popular sport, and I have like many Americans really got into this time. I have watched a few other years (a bit in 1994 and the group of 16 in the 2006 WC), but this time I have recorded and watched nearly every game.

It helped to have a solid U.S. team this year. I didn't particularly care for the first game, in which I felt we got lucky with Green's error as goal keeper. The second game, which I watched with nearly 1,000 others in our neighborhood's theatre, was at first disappointing to watch--at least through the first half. I hoped that the coach gave the team a plan to pull out of the difficult half, and he did! They came onto the field with such energy and focus, and when Donovan shot the jubulani into the top of the net, we celebrated!

In the last game of the group final, after England scored their goal early on against Slovenia, I felt over 70 minutes of excruciating emotion. We got close so many times, and Algerian's keeper deserved kudos for knocking shot after shot away from the inside of the goal. But when the ball came off and Donovan tapped in that shot, I felt such tremendous joy and pride for our team! I have never experienced that before!

Although we did not have a good showing in our game against Ghana, I have kept interested in the remainder of the match. I'm typing this quickly before the final game begins, as I felt the experience worthy of at least a quick story.

The best experience of this whole month is the celebratory atmosphere that South Africa has set for the world. The vuvuzelas were really noisy and annoying at first, and it was a hard to concentrate on the games. However, as I became accustomed to the buzz, it was just one part of the texture of the whole experience.

Sport like this, even though there are some big egos involved, is an antidote to some of the more depressing part of modern times (many deaths in Afghanistan and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). It's not that I've ignored those stories, but not concentrating my emotional energy on these aspects of life has been a relief. It has an infectious joy to watch a player's face when they head in a well shot ball!

Although in three hours or so Oranje or La Furia Roja will be celebrating, while the other will feel the sting of second place, having an experience that unites people all over the world is a part of the human experience I find valuable. It helps give me a glimpse into the rest of the world.

Thank you, Africa!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I gained two points in Saturday's Indy Tornado chess event

Saturday was a good day. My buddy Luke got my butt down to the Chess Castle, as this would be his last tournament in Minnesota in awhile (he's crossing the country now). I hadn't played a rated tournament since February, but I woke up in a super relaxed and happy mood, so this helped me play more inspired chess than usual.

I think everyone of the five games I played featured my exchange sacking a piece. I'm analyzing game four against uberkid Andrew Tang, who is about 1750. Attached is the game before my error.

I got to play a quick game against Luke, too. This was our first one against each other in a tournament.

I ended up with a score of 1.5 out of five, but my three losses were against three people who ended the tournament with ratings of 2009, 1778, and 1759. I played some respectable chess, which is not my end goal, but is certainly sufficient for my satisfaction.