Saturday, May 31, 2008

This Day in History

Forty years ago today (I think) I saw a concert at New York's Fillmore East with these guys: Moby Grape.

The opening act was the Gary Burton Quartet, whose guitarist that night may or may not have been the great Larry Coryell; I'm not sure.

It was a superb concert, but the reason I remember it so vividly four decades later is the middle act: the Fugs. They were iconoclasts of the first rank -- ardent, uncompromising, and funny. They were the toast of the counterculture, and we all loved them. That night they made jolly good sport taking shots at daft pop stars like Nancy Sinatra. But they also took some strong jabs at Bobby Kennedy.

And a few days later he was murdered.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Vicary for Veep

We Need a Chess Coach in the White House

While the mainstream media are preoccupied with side stories like the presidential election and Scott McClellan’s new book, the majority of Americans have turned their attention to a more pressing issue that has erupted in the blogosphere, namely: How awesome is Elizabeth Vicary? Is she totally awesome or just awesome?

People disagree, and they are arguing the question passionately all over the Internet.

Okay, to be entirely truthful, the debate so far has been confined to Elizabeth’s own blog, but savvy trendspotters that we are here at Castle Kimbark we know how to recognize a meme that’s about to go nuclear viral. (You’ll recall that right after we mentioned the chess hookah thing awhile back it took off and became one of the top stories of the year. You do remember that, right?)

Elizabeth has a lot of supporters, and they have praised her lavishly. But we think she deserves more. So today, we are officially endorsing Elizabeth Vicary for Vice President of the United States and urging our Hyde Park neighbor Senator Barack Obama to name her as his running mate.

We realize that Elizabeth’s nomination may be a long shot. The pressure on Obama to name a conventional politician must be strong. Elizabeth’s name has not appeared on any of the VP short lists that have been floated in the media, and what’s more, we suspect she may be constitutionally ineligible to serve. She’s probably too young to be vice president (you have to be 35), and I seem to recall reading she was born in the U.K., another disqualifier.

So what? Amend the Constitution already—what’s the problem? It’s been done plenty of times before, and besides, there’s something deeply flawed about a system that allows Dick Cheney to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office but not one of the top chess coaches, writers, and players in the country. We’re Americans, doggonit, and when we see something wrong in our political system we fix it, don’t we?

Our voice here at Castle Kimbark should not be the only one, of course. The people should decide, and for that purpose we’ve started a poll at the right. Please vote your conscience, but above all, vote.

Disclaimer Boilerplate (legalese):
For the record, this endorsement reflects the considered and unanimous judgment of the entire Castle Kimbark Editorial Board. It is made freely and without quid pro quo. It has nothing to do with the fact that Elizabeth links here from her blog. Nor is there any truth to the suspicion that in taking this step we hope to curry favor with U.S. Chess League Commissioner Greg Shahade, a major Vicary booster, just as the new USCL season approaches. And certainly there is not an ounce of truth in the ludicrous idea we are hope to surpass Chessdad64 in the Chicago-area competition to
kiss up to a major chess celebrity. Finally, and above all, we are categorically not doing this in a craven attempt to attract attention, traffic, and links to this blog. Perish the thought, and shame on all of you for thinking such things.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saved By A Blunder

Played a bad bullet game (G/2), was down a piece, but 19. ... cxd6 saved the day. Don't forget to unite those rooks, kids.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Your Moment of Zen VIII

Opponents getting under your skin?

From Body Worlds. Hat tip: Poots21. Other captions welcome.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why We Blog

“Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.”

Jessica Wapner

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Pasalic Earns Third IM Norm

Congratulations to Chicago FM Mehmed Pasalic, who has just earned his third norm for the International Master title during the 11th North American FIDE Invitational, at the Touch Move Chess Center in Chicago.

“Last night after a draw with Robert Loncarevic, Mehmed played Aleksander Stamnov and won, securing his final IM norm,” said tournament organizer Sevan Muradian of the North American Chess Association.

Mehmed is a member of the Chicago Blaze and will become the team's third IM, joining Angelo Young and Jan van Der Mortel.

The tournament action concludes tonight. Go up to Touch Move to see it in person, or follow it on MonRoi.

In other news, congratulations to the Niles North High School chess team, which got a nice write-up in a North Suburban newspaper this week. The team's star, Ilan Meerovich is, you guessed it, a member of the Chicago Blaze.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shulman is U.S. Champion!

The new United States Chess Champion is Chicago-area Grandmaster Yury Shulman, a member of the new Chicago Blaze chess team. Details at USCF. Anna Zatonskih won the women's title (her second time, I think) beating incumbent Irina Krush and others in a tough tournament.

In other news, Chicago chess will be "blazing" this summer, according to USCF. Next on tap: the Chicago Open, where Ray School Chess Club members Sonam Ford and Phillip Parker-Turner will be playing this weekend. (Note to Hyde Parkers: members of the University of Chicago Chess Team will be there, too.)

More as I have the time.

Congratulations to Yury and everyone else.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kasparov Interruptus

In a slight departure from our usual PG-rated policy, we bring you this excerpt from a speech given by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov over the weekend, at which his critics, presumably loyalists to former Russian President Vladimir Putin, opted to express their displeasure with Garry in a decidedly puerile fashion.

Propriety prevents us from glossing further on the event, but you can go to the Belfast Telegraph for details.

If you think the U.S. is the only place where politics have descended into juvenile depths, perhaps you'll want to reconsider.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Illinois’s Shulman Leads in U.S. Championship

Chicago-area grandmaster Yury Shulman, a member of the Chicago Blaze, has taken the lead in the U.S. Chess Championship currently underway in Oklahoma. More coverage as I can get to it, but in the meantime follow the action at the official site and at the U.S. Chess Federation. Let’s all root for Yury.

Update (5/20): Yury is ahead by a point going into the 8th (and final?) round, and reigning women's champ Irina Krush is also in the lead in her quest to defend her title.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Separated at Birth

James Buchanan (left), 15th president of the United States, and Alastair Sim, late British actor and star of Scrooge

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wacky Wednesday Express

I'm in a hurry this week, kids, and maybe you are, too, so I'll give you a game that's mercifully short and keep the commentary brief as well.

The lesson of this game: Don't do what Black did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your Moment of Zen VII

East Village, New York City
December 28, 2007

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend Roundup

Some highlights from Saturday's tournament at Fulton Elementary, courtesy of chess mom Teresa Parker:

I missed the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago tournament at Fulton, but got I a report on it from chess dad Peter Margulis and pix from Teresa. Phillip Parker-Turner was the tournament's overall winner, Andy Margulis won a trophy in the intermediate division, and George Vassilatos had a good day, coming close to a trophy himself. I believe our neighbors at Ancona walked away with the team trophy.

It was the last YCFC tournament of the school year. Hats off to those guys for another great year of free chess tournaments in the Chicago public schools.

In other action, Ray's Sonam Ford battled with the titans of scholastic chess at the national K-6 championships in Pittsburgh, finishing an excellent 64th in a K-3 field of 209 very serious chess players from all over the country.

In the big virtual matchup in the K-3 team division that the whole chess world is watching (whether they admit it or not) the banned Lincolnshire school district beat all the big New York schools, finishing second nationally, a half point behind Stevenson High Elementary School in Washington State. Correction hat tip to Chessdad64, who has the story here; backstory here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Virtual Chess Team

At this moment the national K-6 chess championships are under way in Pittsburgh (Ray School being ably represented by Sonam Ford, incidentally). At that tournament, an egregious injustice is being perpetrated against the great state of Illinois and several of our top young chess players, and while we here at Castle Kimbark have been remiss in reporting about it, Chessdad64 is on the case.

It comes down to this:

“The Illinois State K-3 Championship team from School District 103 in Lincolnshire, Illinois, perhaps the strongest K-3 squad in the nation, is being denied the opportunity to compete as a team by the USCF’s Scholastic Council.”

Fortunately, Chessdad has a brilliant and mischievous solution, one that exploits the ability of the Internet and citizen media to undermine abuses of power by arrogant elites. His plan: recompute the standings throughout the tournament, treating Lincolnshire as the recognized team it should be, see how they do against the other top recognized teams, and report the results.

Right now Lincolnshire is ahead. Follow the action as it unfolds at the 64 Square Jungle.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Playing Dumb

Chess News of the Weird from the Centennial State

If you ever intend to claim to be of below-average intelligence, a word to the wise: stop playing chess. Now.

Getting caught pushing the pieces is one of the quickest ways to give away your superior smarts. That’s the lesson learned by an accused murderer in Colorado who hopes to escape the death penalty by showing that his IQ is below the legal minimum for execution.

His problem: prosecutors have a videotape of the man playing chess in jail, and they have submitted it into evidence to show that the alleged perp is not retarded, as he claims. More here.

In other news, Chessdad64, now also known as the Chess Czar of Skokie, has the goods on some early victories by the Chicago area's McClanahan Brothers at the National Elementary School Championships now under way in Pittsburgh. Ray School's Sonam Ford is there. . . . And longtime local chess personage Lamarr Wilson has returned to the blogosphere, and has a feature on our own Phillip Parker-Turner.

How to Handle a Chess Loss

Win with dignity . . . lose with grace?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More Fried Liver

Here's your Wacky Wednesday game for this week, kids. Some time ago we showed you a game in which Black made the worst possible move in response to the Fried Liver Attack. This one is a close second. 7. ... Ke8 may not spell certain doom, but in combination with 8. ... Nb4 it does. Better, it seems, would be 8. ... Qf6.

Of course, 7. ... Ke6 would have been the right move in the first place. For that matter, I'm told Black should really play 5. ... Na5 and avoid the Fried Liver Attack all together. That's not as much fun, though.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Knight Moves

Because the chess knight moves in such a peculiar pattern, the piece has attracted the creative energies of game programmers, who have invented several online games for knights that you play for free. They’re fun, and they probably improve your board vision. Enjoy.

Crazy Chess. My favorite. Highly addictive, excellent graphics, and different levels to challenge everyone.

Troyis. Hit all the white squares within 45 seconds and you advance to the next level. I can handle up to level 6 and come close to finishing level 7. How about you?

Knights Crossing. Reverse the locations of the Black and White knights. It's not as easy as it looks, but it can be done. Just pay attention.

Knight Game. Hit every square on the board using legal knight moves. Everybody wins, but how long will it take you?

In other news, Sonam Ford of the Ray School Chess Club finished first in yesterday’s tournament at the Hyde Park Neighborhood club by Chess Education Partners.