Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My round one game in clickable format

Here is my first round game from the Minnesota Open.

Important article on Peak Oil

One of my online friends, Terra Praeta, pointed me towards Dave Pollard's latest blog article, this one on peak oil.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, peak oil is the point in time in which half of the world's oil has been extracted. By estimates from many geologists, we are at that point.

"So, we still have plenty of oil left" is a fair comment. However, as Pollard points out, it takes more energy to produce a gallon of oil now than it did in the past.


"The amount of energy needed to produce each barrel of oil has increased from the equivalent of 0.04 barrels at the start of the oil boom (when we were busy converting our economy to be oil-powered) to over
half a barrel today. If this trend continues (and there is nothing to lead us to believe it won't), by 2030 we will be using more than a barrel of oil equivalent energy to produce every barrel of oil."

This reasoning is the same reasoning I have used to critique ethanol production as it is currently produced. Cellulosic ethanol is another means that is gaining momentum.

If you are interested, please read The Party's Over, which talks about peak oil in more detail.

After reading Pollard's article, I turned down my thermostat and put on a sweater. (Thanks for the reminder!)

Tags: oil, peak oil

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day

Andrew Sullivan highlighted an article from the New York Times on Stewart Brand. I think Sullivan's comments and the original article are both worth a read. Brand is a lively creative thinker.

Pessimism is a powerful force, but optimism and creativity are important tools for our survival and evolution in our complex world. Even as scary as global warming can appear, most people I have talked with seem to have their heads on straight. They deal with the facts and do not seem to be pulled under by the fear of what could be. Rather, they have the motivation to create workable solutions to aid in our survival.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Checking In: Check It Out

The snow held off long enough this past Saturday to allow coaches, tournament directors, and students to show up at North High School for the bi-annual Check It Out Chess Tournament for Minneapolis Public Schools. It was my first time helping out with this.

It is a K-12 tournament broken up into three sections: K-3, 4-6, 7-12. There were roughly 160 students who played in this one, which is pretty good considering the snow held many people back from driving this weekend.

I was mainly responsible for the computer work for the 7-12 section, but I also helped adjudicate a couple of situations. The students treated each other well, and they played seven rounds of chess.

I thought this was a good tournament. There were some students who were getting their feet wet by playing in this, while others were fairly seasoned and knew their stuff.

I had a good time, despite a somewhat slow drive back home after the match in the falling snow.

Tags: chess, scholastic chess, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part IV: Wrap-up

Saturday was a very exhausting day, and I was disappointed with my results (0-3-1) as well as with Saturday night's game. I knew I'd be sitting at the bottom couple of tables, just as I did for the last two rounds of the HB Tournament last year.

I was on the second to last table, and one of the players on the last table said, "Tough to be here, huh?" I agreed. But, I think it is important to remember that although we are sitting at the highest numbered tables, it does not mean we have lame or uninteresting games. My last round at the HB Tournament last year was a Rook, Knight, and Pawns (mine) against a Queen and Pawns (his) endgame. My opponent did win, but I made that one as difficult as I could. I enjoyed playing it, especially as I was considering withdrawing for the last round and just watching the top boards.

Also, a player should not let a low score interfere with appreciation of well-played games against good opponents. As I checked out the pairing tables, I saw that my first round opponent was sitting on Board One for our section against the eventual winner of our section, Chris Gill, who I played in the Minnesota Class tournament in December. I thought, "Well, if I got a draw against the first board player, I can't be doing all bad."

Back to my own game: I was pleased to be playing Black against Steve Helmueller for the fifth round. We played in the Minnesota Open last year, and he and his wife are very nice people. I spoke with both of them last year.

Steve played 1.d4 this Sunday morning, as he did last year. (No one played 1. e4 against me this time, so I got great experience in Queen Pawn openings this tournament. I needed the practice.) We had a very interesting position after the first five moves:

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d6 3. c4 g6 4. b4! I never saw that before, but I enjoyed the novelty and engaged in a game that certainly did not come from any rote memory. 4...b6. 5. e3 Bb7. This was going to be a memorable game!

(I've already entered it in Chessmaster and will look at the analysis later, but I wanted to enter it and show it to the readers as I thought it was a tricky game.)

We had a middle game that featured my winning an exchange of my Knight for his Rook, but as the endgame developed, I wondered now if having played 21...Nxb2 would have been better by depriving him of one of his Bishops which featured so prominently in the endgame.

We traded down to a Rook and two Bishop vs two Rooks and Bishop endgame, with many Pawns left on the board. Whereas I felt I had the end before the endgame, I saw any real or imagined advantage disappearing. Steve used those two Bishops quite well, and I am sure I could have resigned much earlier. However, I was trying to hang in there and be sure I was evaluating everything the best I could.

When I resigned, I gladly shook my opponent's hand. I spoke to Steve's wife shortly thereafter, and told her about our tough game that he won. She told me that he enjoys playing chess against me. That made me smile, which came through my tired visage.

Rich and I met for lunch, and I told him that I was thinking about withdrawing for the last round. One of the perks was that I would get home early, not making my wife a "chess widow" for any longer this weekend, and have some time with both her and our son.

When I got back to talk to the TD, I found that I got the 1-point bye for the last round. That is a bit humbling, but should not have been unexpected. One other nice thing came out of that, though. Besides making it home early, which was greatly appreciated by all three of us, I got to play an extra rated game against a new member to the USCF. It was her first rated game. I thought she played a very good game.

So, this ends my stories about this weekend's tournament. I will be posting most of the complete games later.

Minnesota, chess

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In case you missed it: Garry Kasparov on Russia

Yesterday I went to my favorite coffee shop, Fireroast Mountain Cafe, to get some beans. Lisa, one of the owners, asked me if I heard the story with Garry Kasparov on NPR earlier in the day. I did not, but I found it on the NPR site here. Garry explains the state of Russian political life.

Tags: Kasparov, Russia, politics

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part III: Chess and music

My parents are occasional readers of my blog. My mom said "If I didn't know you, I'd say you were obsessed with chess and music." Yeah, that's very accurate.

Besides my chess equipment, the other important item I brought with me this weekend was my iPod. ( Melissa bought it for me for a Father's Day present, and I have shown my appreciation by using it often.) In preparation for the tournament, I added some new music to it. My staples for the Thursday Knighter events are live shows from The Dead, Hydra and STS9. I describe these latter two as "electronic hippy music."

But because this was an entire weekend of chess, and I know how grueling a tournament is, I downloaded some more driving music, including KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Tool, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

After my four hour game with my friend Rich and a short lunch break, I came back to play number three seed, Lonny Arvidson. (I did mention that I was playing up almost every round.) Before we got going, I started the Chili Peppers.

I got Black again, as in the last game, and he played 1. d4. Since I felt like I laid everything on the line with the Dutch in my previous game, I did not want to play that again. Rather, I played a King's Indian Defense against Lonny.

I had a good opening and middle game in which his pieces were not in ideal spots, and mine were putting lots of pressure on his. However, in the late middle game, where I think I have the greatest difficulty, the position became simplified, and Lonny ended up with a passed Pawn. His remaining pieces were able to coordinate an attack while continuing to push that Pawn to Queenhood. I resigned on his 40th move.

Neither of us used that much time, as we each had 50 minutes left on our clock. The upside was being done quickly, and having some time to recover for the final round of the day at 7 p.m. However, I was very exhausted from the 6-1/2 hours of chess I already played that day, so I savored every minute away from the tournament hall.

Just after 7 I walked into the hall, ready to face my next opponent, Kevin Lu. He is an elementary grade student and a quiet one on the outside. However, his game was everything but quiet.

I played White this time, and we got into a Sicilian, specifically 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3. His 5th move was e5. I've only played against this variation one other time, and not knowing that the proper response was Ndb5, I played 6. Nf5. His 6th and 7th moves were d5 and d4. Already my position was a goner, and he kept on coordinating his attack against my very poorly placed pieces.

I tried to keep myself going while listening to KMFDM and Tool, but music was far from my problem in this game. It was my only horrible game in the tournament, but one in which I wish I had known the opening theory.

Minnesota, chess, music

Monday, February 19, 2007

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part II

The highlight for the tournament for me was Saturday morning. I had stayed a long enough time on Friday night to find that Rich had drawn his game, even being a piece down. Incredible! Before I left to go back to the tournament, I told Melissa that it would be a hoot if Rich and I were paired, since we each had a 1/2 point. I wasn't sure how many people drew on Friday night, but there was a chance.

I saw Rich just moments before I walked over to the wall chart for round two. Yep, "Rich Durocher v Joe Erjavec." I got a big smile knowing I was going to play my friend. (And we agreed the day before that we would get lunch and coffee together. The good thing about playing each other was that we would both be done at the same time!)

The first move was 1. d4. I hadn't played the following for a while, but it was time for me to break it out again....f5! I played the Dutch.

Unlike my last post, I'm not going to get into the details of the game right now. Rather, I want to talk about the spirit of the game. I feel such a spirit of fellowship, despite the fact that chess is extremely competitive.

Rich and I played an extremely hard fought game. I thought both our openings were strong, we made the position as complicated as possible for each other, and despite the fact that the game was going long (it ended up finishing after 2:15, a four-hour game), I kept focused on playing my best game, as did Rich.

During the game, I kept thinking about this Zen parable that I found in an old book. I posted it on my website with credit to the author. I don't think it's been reprinted since 1970, which is a shame, because it is a delightful paperback rich with nuggets of wisdom.

He had me in a bind, and I opened the position up with some mild complications by sacking my Knight for two pawns to open up some lines against his King and other pieces. He defended well, including having to face some repeated checks. Once the position was simplified, though, he had a Bishop and Pawns against my Pawns, and he won the game.

We did get to go out for lunch, but it was not too casual, as the next round was supposed to start at 2:30. But it was nice to have a few minutes of downtime to recover and talk about the game that we just finished! It is never enough time, and soon we were back into the throes of battle against new opponents shortly thereafter.

Tags: Minnesota, chess

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part I

My perspective in writing this piece and those to follow in the next couple of days is that of the drama of any player playing under the intense conditions of a chess tournament. The first time I played in the Minnesota Open was in 2003, where I played up two sections in the Reserve section, the same section I played this weekend. At that time, when my rating was over 300 points less than it is today, with a corresponding shortage of knowledge of the game compared to today, I ended up with a mere 1.5 points--I had a draw and a one point bye for one of the rounds. So begins this story...

On Friday night, the Minnesota State Chess Association had its annual board meeting. The first part featured a report by Roger Redmond on the financial state of affairs of the MSCA, while the second part featured leaving President Shu Lee's words on the state of the MSCA. We elected a new board, which is composed of myself, Ed Conway, Kevin AhTou, David Kuhns, Roger Redmond, and two new members, Dan Peplinski and John Flores. (Welcome, again, Dan and John! Thank you for running and joining!)

At the conclusion of the meeting we began the 114th Annual Minnesota Open chess tournament. I was playing in the Reserve section (U1700). As my current published rating is 1391, I was playing in the bottom third of my section. (My seed number was about 40). So, I played up nearly every round.

My first round game was White against 16th seed, Hindson Her, rated 1540. It started out as B14, the Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack. As regular readers of my blog who are interested in chess may know, I love playing the Black side of the Caro-Kann. This was possibly the first time I played the White side of the Caro in a rated game.

This game was fairly even for the first 14 moves, with both of us finding natural feeling moves. We each had about 95 minutes on the clock after his move.

At this point, although I was almost certain that he was going to move that Knight to d5, I had a good 15 minute think about my next move. As I tend to be an aggressive player, sometimes committing too early to an attack, I did not want to play too crazy a game. I played the quiet 16. a3, and he did move his Knight to d5.

That a3 was problematic later on, as it provided a target for his pieces after he hunted a pawn with 20...Rxc3. As you can see, three of his pieces are trained on that square, while I had but one defender.

However, this was where I ignored the Pawn and quickly complicated matters with 21. Ng4. I had a little bit of breathing room in terms of the time crunch, but I was still behind. We played a few more moves, and I got some sweet relief with Qd2, threatening the Rook and taking advantage of a mating attack on the weakly-protected King.

Hindson took 20 minutes on this move. I was able to get up, release the tension I was feeling, and looked at some of my friends' games. (My buddy Rich was a piece down in his game a few boards over from mine against a lower-rated player.)

When I saw that he finally hit the plunger, I was just three minutes down, 47 to his 50. He played 23...h5, attacking my Knight. I was impressed, and I figured out what would go first, my Knight or his Rook.

I played 24. Nh6+. The follow through was Kh7, 25. Nf5 Qf8 26. Qxc3 exf5, leaving ugly triple pawns!

We had some interesting endgame play in which he was going for the mating attack with 31...h3, while I was trying to trade down and take advantage of the triple pawns. We each had some errors, and we played to a draw on move 39.

Hindson and I talked after the game. This was his first major event since high school. We complimented each other on our play and wished each other luck for the remaining games.

I was pretty tired after this 3-1/2 hour game, but I was reminding myself and some of my friends that "tomorrow, we have three of these!"

I went home excited and got a good sleep after waking up Melissa with my chatter about the first round and the night in general.

Tags: Minnesota, chess

Friday, February 16, 2007

114th Minnesota Open Chess Tournament begins tonight

In less than 6 hours, at 7 p.m. tonight, approximately 200 chess players will gather for the Warren Stenberg Minnesota Open chess tournament. This is Minnesota's premier chess event.

This will be my fourth time playing. I played in 2003, 2005, and 2006. Tonight I will be playing in the U1700 Reserve section. As my rating is towards the lower end of the section (it is published at 1391 currently but should be about 1430 once my last event is calculated), I have no expectations towards winning my section. However, I will play every game as well as possible. Tonight is the warmup, tomorrow is the grind with three rounds for most of us. Fortunately I played in the Minnesota Class Championship in December, which also featured three rounds on Saturday. (Two previous posts are here and here.)

Details of the event can be found here.

I will report next week.

Tags: Minnesota, chess

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Love and salad

Yesterday I made another trip to the Seward Co-op to purchase ingredients for dinner. We had a quiet night at home planned, which I wanted to start out right.

After looking through Epicurious for some recipes that include steak, I found Grilled Steak with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan. As we are both part Italian, I knew this was the one to make. (It has plenty of garlic! Yum!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Americone Dream Ice Cream

The AP reports that a new Ben & Jerry's flavor of ice cream has been named after pretend-o-pundit Stephen Colbert. It is called "Americone Dream."

Tags: Stephen Colbert, Ben & Jerry's

Discussions of the USCF on Susan Polgar's blog

I read Susan Polgar's blog at least three or four times every week. It is a great blog with analysis of some of the latest GM games, some chess puzzles, and discussions of issues pertaining to chess.

In the last week, she has posted two articles that I think are important and critical. One asks what is important to the future of the USCF, while a second post is a discussion by FM Paul Truong regarding the relationship between the ICC and USCF. There are some good comments from the readers on these issues.

Regardless of the answer, I think it is necessary to approach these problems from both a strategic and customer-service viewpoint. That is, does a particular course of action make sense to what the USCF is trying to achieve, and does that action help improve the customer experience and relationship? To me, the answer to at least one of these questions needs to be "Yes," with the hope that the USCF concentrates on actions that can answer both questions positively.

Tags: chess, USCF

Monday, February 12, 2007

Yet more on The Omnivore's Dilemma

Melissa and I have made more progress through The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm in a part of the book which discusses Polyface, a farm in Virginia, in great detail. I cannot count the ways that I am impressed with what I have read!

Tags: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma, sustainability

My round six game

This was a well played game by my opponent. He played the Four Pawn Attack variation of the King's Indian. I hadn't played against before, and I commented to him afterwards that the attack has major fangs on it. It seemed like an opening which needed precise play by Black to equalize.

After getting smoked so badly, I reviewed a couple of games this weekend from two of my chess books. Both indicated that indeed, careful play was needed by Black. My seventh move should have been e6.

However, it wasn't. Instead, our game looked like this:

Round Six of the TCCL: Tal Tales v Knights of Kroll

On Friday night we played our sixth round at the Twin Cities Chess League. The matchups for each board were as follows:

Kelly v Gary N
Gary K v Me
John v Henry K
Ron J v Blaine

Gary K is the captain of The Knights of Kroll. So, we had captain v captain on board two. It was a brutal and quick game which left me checkmated on the 23rd move.

Blaine was the next victim, who was a piece behind relatively early. He played on valiantly, but Ron was victorious in that game.

Now Kelly and John had two very interesting games. Kelly was playing the White side of a Sicilian, and I cannot remember the opening that John had against Henry. However, I had hope because of how well our two remaining players were executing their plans that we might get two wins to draw out the match.

John's game finished ahead of Kelly's. He had a good attack against Henry's king. Most of his pieces were aiming in that direction, while Henry kept up a good counterattack. Henry played a move that would have forced John to back up the Rook that was now under attack, or...

He could sac that Rook for two pawns(!!!), which he did! I was thinking that move had lots of potential, and John took advantage of all the open lines of force once he did away with those two Pawns. The mobility of John's remaining pieces more than compensated for the loss of material. John got in a number of good forks which left Henry with little choice but to eventually resign the game.

So, it was now up to Kelly. He had a great attack against Gary's Kingside. He exchanged a Rook for a defending Bishop which allowed mobility for his advanced Knight. As they trudged through the middlegame, they ended up playing to a draw in a complicated endgame with less than a minute remaining for each of them.

So, we lost the match 1.5-2.5, leaving us with a score of 2.5 for the season with one match remaining next month. See the Minnesota Chess website for a preview of next month's deciding battles.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Round Six of the TCCL is tomorrow

Tomorrow we will be playing the Knights of Kroll in round six. As we had a strong result last month, I am thinking we can win tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The economics of eating, part II

I have been writing a few posts on eating and its implications. (1) (2) So this morning I went to the Seward Co-op to buy some grass-fed beef. They had a few different varieties available from Thousand Hills Cattle Company, but because of the price, I purchased the ground beef at $5.99/lb. (One of the cuts of steak was $17.99/lb. Perhaps another day on that one.)

It is but a small purchasing choice. But the cashier told me that the meat was very good, so I look forward to making a delicious meal for my family tonight, along with organic tomatoes and avocados to serve on the burgers.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The economics of eating

I was reading Dara Moskowitz's latest article for the City Pages, Then There Were None, which laments the closing of Auriga, the last of a number of fine restaurants that have closed their doors.

Although I never made it to Auriga, I feel bad that this highly praised restaurant closed. It sounds like this is one of many that valued their food, their employees, and the quality of what went into the meals they served their guests.

As a family with a toddler, we do not go out to such places very often. Our son is a good eater and enjoys a wide variety of food, but we reserve going out to places on the high end when it is just the two of us. (For example, Melissa and I had a rare date on Saturday night, which included going to Nami.)

Her article contained some of the thematic elements of The Omnivore's Dilemma, including the price of food. Much of what we eat as American's is heavily processed food which is inexpensive because of the subsidies paid to the companies to keep food cheap. Unfortunately, like the coffee business, it is the small farmer who often gets screwed and does not get a fair wage for his or her product.

Where this impacts us as eaters is that it is far cheaper to eat at places that buy that artificially cheap and commodified food instead of being able for us to dine at establishments that want to improve both biodiversity and the food experience with choosiness about their ingredients.

I thought Dara's article to be a thought provoking one, which I recommend to people who are interested in fine dining or who want to understand some of the economics of operating a restaurant.

Tags: Twin Cities, dining, restaurants

Friday, February 02, 2007

Particle's coming back in April!!!

I've been checking out the Particle site sporadically, and today I find that they will be touring again, including a stop at the Cabooze on April 12.

That is all!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More on the Omnivore's Dilemma

I'm following up on my previous post on Michael Pollan's wonderful book. I've read through a few more chapters of the book, including the chapter on how cattle are fed corn to fatten them up. (As I closed the book for the day yesterday afternoon, I played a recording of The Dead's Unbroken Chain from a show I went to a few years ago. I am also looking at the second page of Alex Grey's 2007 calendar, which features the work Gaia. One theme of this painting is the interconnectedness of all life.)

A large amount of domestic beef is now fed corn, which is difficult for the animals to properly digest, as they have not evolved to eat it. Rather, they naturally have a diet of grasses.

So, as I prepare to make some steak for dinner tonight, I am thinking about my role in this web of life. I talked with Melissa about my thoughts on how I want to go shopping at the local co-op for beef because then we will be paying the true cost for grass-fed, free-range, and hopefully organic beef. I think we will end up eating it less, but at least when we do, we will have considered the economic, and more importantly, the environment costs of this food that we enjoy. (I do not think I would go back to being a vegetarian, which I had been in my early 20's. However, I want to make better choices for our family that reflect our values.)

In a related story, my university's newspaper has an article from a writer who is a vegan.

Tags: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma, corn, diet

Rook sac for pawn leading to double bishop checkmate

Browsing through some classic games previously, I had seen this checkmate. I love this one between Alekhine and Vasic.

I was thrilled that I was able to execute a similar mate against my opponent in a match on Chessworld.