30 June 2008

Cognitive Surplus

Wikipedia, it has been estimated, represents 100 million hours of human thought. Now, much of that thought is fairly senseless, as are a great many of the moves made in online blitz chess. But neither the nonsense posted as "knowledge" nor the gross errors played every minute at playchess.com or FICS are as mind numbing as watching Gilligan's Island reruns (and many of us have done that). Watching television is passive consumption, and these days folks are as apt to produce and share as much as they are to consume during their leisure time.

Such is the point Clay Shirky makes in "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus":

Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

Thanks to Historiann for the link to Shirky's article. Now, when folks ask how I've been able to play many thousands of chess games online, I can point to scholarship that explains that I've found the time by not watching television.

29 June 2008


Yesterday in Spokane's City Championship Challenger's tournament, I had black and move in this position.

I wanted to play 24...Bxc5, but was worried about 25.Ng5 and the vulnerability of my king. I played 24...Rxf3, giving back the exchange and the game eventually was drawn. Were my fears justified?

The Good News

As a consequence of this draw, I had some pressure to win the final game to assure victory in the tournament. I succeeded! Now, I am preparing for the Spokane City Championship where I am the challenger against the current champion. His Elo is a mere 519 above mine, so it should be a good match.

25 June 2008

Ninety Minutes

I resolved last week to spend ninety minutes per week playing against Fritz and/or Hiarcs from positions in Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Combinations and Sacrifices. Finding Reinfeld's idea is merely the first step. In most of the positions in his book, the player to move gains a material advantage but there is still play needed to bring home the point.

I play these positions at game/15. Some are over quickly; others require most of the allotted half an hour. I played nine this week, finding Reinfeld's idea in all of them. I carried six to the win, one was lost no matter what I played (see "Frustration"), and I failed in two.

One of the failures came from Problem 322. A simple discovery wins a knight. After some play I found myself in the following position.

White to move

I played 1.Kc6 and was able only to draw. In post-game analysis Hiarcs 10 suggested 1.Nc4 with the idea of playing the knight to a5. I should have seen that, but was in too much of a hurry to promote the d-pawn. In the original effort, Hiarcs was able to trade the a-pawn for my b-pawn then sac the rook for the d-pawn for a draw. After 1.Nc4 the rook sacrifice must occur with a white pawn still on the board.

I played the position from here and began with 1.Nc4. Hiarcs resigned after the ninth move.

I have completed Reinfeld's problems 320, 321, 322, 75, 76, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Number 3 is a loss despite the tactic. I failed on 322 and 4. I'm still running post-game analysis on 4 to see where I missed a win.

24 June 2008


My training regimen includes playing tactical positions from books against the computer. Thanks to the work of others, I have all of the games from Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations in a database. Within ChessBase I can open this database to a random position then go to Fritz and begin play. Alternately, I can play through every position in sequence. Finding Reinfeld's idea is often fairly simple, but nursing the resulting advantage to victory takes more effort, especially when the side to move--the side with the tactic--is losing. Such is the case with the third position in the book.

White to move

Reinfeld's solution:

1.c4 Ne7 (if 1...Nxc4, Rxd5) 2.c5 winning the pinned piece.

After 1.c4, Hiarcs 12 favors 1...Bxg3. My game continued 2.hxg3 Re7 3.Rh1 g6 4.c5 Ke8 5.cxb6 Ne3 and so on.

I could have resigned at any point. White is clearly losing in all variations, although not as badly when Black plays the insipid 1...Ne7 given as the main line in Reinfeld's solution.

Due to Black's vulnerability along the d-file, White is able to win back the lost piece, but not the pawn. White is losing in all variations.