Sunday, May 29, 2011


Some of you know I'm a chess player. I learned how the pieces moved when I was about 11 or 12, but I didn't learn the game until I was at college. My mentor was a Jesuit priest by the name of Hacker Fagot, now dead. As it turned out, he was not that strong a player, but he had a passionate interest in the game and he knew the basics about strategy. It came as a revelation to me at the time that chess games can be won or lost on the position of the pawns, the element of time (too many moves with one piece, for example, loses time), and a whole bunch of the strategic principles. The key lesson is that every move is crucial, from move one on.

Anyway, below is a chess playing machine you might like to see. I ran across it here. It's more an engineering feat than anything else. It's got some kind of chess engine in the guts of the thing. But this is certainly not the best way to play a computer. For starters, this machine is really clunky. And sslllllooooooowwwww. The perfect metaphor for those billions of people who think that what they see as a glacial pace in the game means nothing is happening. Between good players, something is always happening during a game. You cannot be expected to watch the whole thing . . . but I will observe that White doesn't play a very effective opening. No, the way to play chess is either to get a computer program like Fritz or Rybka and play on screen. Or you can play for free with real humans at, FICS, or any number of other places.

Today is my daughter's birthday. She's 43. Happy birthday, Tanya, my all-grown-up girl! Right now, she's in Europe (Turkey, Greece) with the other dear lady in my life, her mom Susan.

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