Powerball and Chess

I recently finished reading, Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game,

by Rob Neyer,

and decided to write about the book because of a couple of references to Chess.

“Baseball IS statistics!” – Former Georgia Chess Champion and head writer for the College Bowl Michael Decker, aka, “Lousiville Lefty” (Not from the book)

“I never keep a scorecard or the batting averages. I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” – Former Major League baseball player and announcer Dizzy Dean (1910-1974) (From the book)

Many years ago a fellow Chess player and I were at the Atlanta Public Library, located in downtown Atlanta, on one of the upper floors containing books about Baseball. We were discussing some of them when he asked, “How many Baseball books have you read?” I began pulling out the ones previously read while he watched. When finished I stood back to survey the racks and noticed a stunned look on his mug. “Bacon, if you had read that many Chess books you would have become a Master!” he said. “Probably not,” I replied. “To become a Master one must want to become a Master player, and I could have cared less. What I wanted was to become a Major League Baseball player.” He smiled knowingly.

Although continuing to read Baseball books they were becoming infrequent as my interest in Baseball waned this century. While in a bookstore I noticed the title, and the name of the author, a writer with whom I was familiar. Taking the book from the shelf I began reading the preface. For some time I had wanted to read a book concerning the recent changes made to MLB that has caused the game to become a boring version of home run derby.

“Inspired by Hano’s A Day in the Bleachers

and Okrent’s Nine Innings,

we’re going to explore today’s Baseball through the lens of a single game: Athletics vs. Astros in Oakland, September 8, 2017.” The next paragraph begins, “In many ways, this was a meaningless game.”

I knew at that moment the book would be read. This was because of having previously, somewhere, sometime, read about a dying man who had been asked what he would miss after departing. One of the things he mentioned was “Being able to watch a meaningless regular season Baseball game.”

“Once you train yourself to see it,” Ben Lindbergh

wrote a few years ago in Grantland, “it’s almost impossible to stop seeing it. Baseball is often described as a chess match between batter and pitcher. But it’s more like a chess match between batter and pitcher in which, once in a while, the catcher grabs the board and moves someone’s piece.” – pg 210

“With Marisnick aboard in a tie game, we’re treated to a small chess game that you can follow even from the cheap seats. ‘I’ve come up against him a lot,’ Hendriks will later say of Marisnick. ‘I know that he runs well, and he runs a lot off me.”
“Before throwing a pitch to Maybin, Hendricks pivots for a pickoff throw to first base. Once, twice, three times. Marisnick dives back safely once, twice, three times. But is that enough?” -pg 223

All the world is a stage…upon which a Chess game is played.

This book concerns Baseball but is about so much more than Baseball. It is about change, and not just about how Baseball has changed. For example, Mr. Neyer writes: “In Oliver Sack’s last book,

he wrote, “Nothing is more crucial to the survival and independence of organisms – be they elephants or protozoa – than the maintenance of a constant internal environment.” This constancy is called homeostasis.

“Further, Sacks writes, “It is especially when things are going wrong internally – when homeostasis is not being maintained, when the autonomic balance starts listing heavily to one side or the other – that this core consciousness, the feeling of how one is, takes on an intrusive, unpleasant quality, and now one will say, ‘I feel ill – something is amiss.’ At such time, one no longer looks well either.”

“Justin Verlander

might not feel ill, but something is amiss; Baseball no longer looks well. When a team can go through an entire season and hit only five triples – as the Blue Jays did in 2017, setting a record low – it doesn’t look well. John Thorn,

MLB’s official historian, who loves baseball as much as anyone I’ve ever known, says of Two True Outcomes baseball, “We love surprises, since we were children. But this is a game I don’t like.” Because surprises – they’re disappearing.”

A month or so after the World Series, Steven Goldleaf wrote a long essay for Bill Jame’s website, titled “How Sabermetrics Has Ruined Baseball.”
That headline’s just a grabber, but Goldleaf’s central point is a good one: “Sabermetrics could ruin baseball, in that its goal is to create a type of game that optimizes winning, while fans want to see a type of game that is entertaining to watch.” (https://www.billjamesonline.com/how_sabermetrics_has_ruined_baseball/)

Having devoted so much time to playing, and writing about, Chess, it was simply impossible for me to not think about the current state of the Royal game while reading this wonderful book. For example, substitute the word “chess, and Chess” for “baseball, and Baseball” in the following sentence: “There would still be baseball without these millions of fans, but there would not be Baseball. And it’s worth mentioning that in the first half of the 2018 season, attendance is down significantly: something like 6 or 7 percent.” This was written in the very last part of the book, Extras: Future Ball, and was written in July of 2018. I will add that the ratings for the 2018 World Series tanked. See: Why World Series Ratings Took a Nose Dive in 2018 (https://www.si.com/mlb/video/2018/10/31/world-series-ratings-took-nose-dive-2018)

It was not just the World Series: Baseball Playoff Ratings Are Down (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/baseball-playoff-ratings-are-down-blame-yankees-cubs-1153938)

Rob writes, “Media types tend to forget something, though: the baseball business is not a two-sided coin, with the players on one side and the owners on the other. They forget about the millions of baseball fans who pay for all these nice things. The business does not exist without the fans, just as Kellogg’s doesn’t exist without hungry kids and Southwest Airlines doesn’t exist without thrifty travelers. There would still be baseball without these millions of fans, but there would not be Baseball.”

The World Human Chess Championship is the Showcase Event of the Chess World. The recently finished 2018 WHCC, culminating with all the real games drawn, turned off many fans and left a sickening taste in the minds of many others, especially the “Media types.” This is not good because potential fans read what the “Media types” write. I have no idea how long, or even if, Chess will have any interest whatsoever in the minds of people. It is possible in the future chess will be played, but not Chess, as has been the fate of checkers.

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Chess Without Borders?

GM Yuri Sulman has a Chess website, Chess Without Borders (http://shulmanchess.com/biography-of-chess-without-borders/).

This is not about his program.

The article, GO Without Borders seeks beta testers, appeared at the American Go E-Journal, Wednesday December 5, 2018. (http://www.usgo.org/news/2018/12/go-without-borders-seeks-beta-testers/)

Bill Frezza and his colleague John Gaby have developed an online go variant called GO Without Borders (http://www.gowithoutborders.com/HowToPlay.aspx) that they say is perhaps the first practical online implementation of Toroidal GO, the concept of removing the edges of a go board by allowing the board to “wrap around” both horizontally and vertically.

“What is most fascinating about playing GO Without Borders is the fresh approach required regarding tactics and strategy because every joseki you ever learned is useless,” Frezza, a 12 kyu player, tells the E-Journal. “There is also a premium on good fighting skills. And yet it is still go with all the same rules.”

Frezza and Gaby are actively recruiting a small circle of beta testers to help debug and fully feature the program before public launch. Email go-without-borders+subscribe@googlegroups.com if interested.
http://www.usgo.org/news/2018/12/go-without-borders-seeks-beta-testers/

A “joseki” is the opening in Go. Imagine what would happen to the Royal game of Chess if every opening you ever learned became useless.

What Happens at Chess Club

I attended the Chess club Thursday night at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Because of my age and having only recently sufficiently recovered from illness I informed the TD I would be willing to act as a “filler” in the event there were an odd number of players and would only play in the first two rounds.

Having attended the previous week, the first time I had made it in some time, a few new players were noticed, which the gentleman who runs the club attributed to the recently finished match for the Human World Chess Championship. Most, if not all, of the players who attend are so hungry for a game they play “skittles” games before the G/15 event begins. There was a “newby” who caught my eye because he was wearing sandals during winter. He looked as though he would have fit in at Woodstock in 1969, so I spoke to the young man, saying, “You gotta like a guy who refuses to give in to winter.” His name was Dawson and he was ready to play, someone…anyone, so we sat down for a game after introductions. I had the white pieces and opened with 1 e4. He responded with the French move of 1…e6. After playing the standard 2 d4 he answered with 2…d5, whereupon I advanced my pawn to e5 on my third move. My opponent stopped to cogitate a few moments before playing 3…Nc6 with obvious trepidation, which showed when he kept his finger on the Knight after placing it gingerly on the square. As he did so I took a good look at him while thinking he appeared about the same age as I was when first visiting an official Chess club. He finally removed his finger from the Knight. I continued looking at the young man, wondering if I should say anything…Before speaking a particular scene from one of my favorite movies flashed in my mind:

When he looked up from the board I said, “At the Chess Club we do not, ever, hold our finger on a piece. When you decide upon your move, make it like you mean it and place it firmly on the square with deliberation, and immediately remove your fingers from the piece.”

The young fellow was somewhat taken aback, but gathered himself quickly and nodded in assent. I continued, “Are you playing in the tournament?” He said he was not. “Then I suggest you spend some time watching these gentlemen play, paying particular attention to how they move their pieces.” Again, he nodded. I did not have to mention it again.

Granted, I am no longer the player I was earlier in my life, and having played over many of the games from the recent World Senior Chess Championship,
(http://www.wscc2018.european-chessacademy.com/index.php/en/) I realize how much of a decline there is for an old(er) player, especially in the 65+ section, which is now my category. That said, the young fellow played a decent game, developing his pieces in the opening without any extraneous pawn moves or outright blunders. We arrived at about an even position in the early middle game, before he made a mistake, moving his a-pawn aggressively, but weakening his b-pawn in the process. I secured my b-pawn by playing a3, then picked off his undefended b-pawn. A few moves later there was a tactical skirmish in which I came out a piece ahead, and he sort of went downhill from there. The game ended in mate by my newly minted Queen protected by a lone Knight.

“You played very well, young man,” I said. There were a couple of players watching the game and they seconded my remark. He said graciously, “I appreciate your saying that, sir.” We talked and I learned he was twenty years old, the same age as was I when I first went to the Atlanta Chess club. He mentioned coming because he was beating the players with whom he had been playing and wanted better competition. Wondering how he could play such a decent game I asked if he read any Chess books. “Not really,” he said. “But I’ve been on Chess.com and watched many YouTube videos.”

The tournament began and I was not needed, fortunately. This gave me an opportunity to watch some of the action, talk with some of those who come and play without playing in the tourney, and those who come to simply “hang-out.” It was immensely enjoyable. I watched Dawson play one of the young players who is not a member of the USCF (“It costs $30!”) but comes to play skittles. Dawson was a piece down but came back to win the game.

After becoming a Senior I began staying home at night for a reason. Although exhausted after being at the Chess Club I was unable to sleep soundly and the next day, Friday, was not one of my better days, so I took it easy and relaxed, spending much time reading, and listening to programs via the internet.

Fortunately, Saturday was a totally different story. I read while having my first cuppa joe. After breakfast the web was surfed. Chess is usually saved for last and one of the sites I visit every day is GM Kevin Spraggett’s

website (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/). He has a “Chess News” scroll, “What is Happening Today?” I clicked on the ones new to me and began reading. I read every article and there were many on AlphaZero. I even read an editorial by Garry Kasparov

in Science magazine. (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6419/1087) Then I clicked on to read Mastering board games, by Murray Campbell.

I had intended on watching several videos by GM Matthew Sadler concerning the recent World Human Chess Championship games, but discovered videos at Chess24 in the article, AlphaZero really is that good (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/alphazero-really-is-that-good). I watched every video contained in the article superbly elucidated by GM Sadler. I was had by hook, line and sinker, after watching the first one, All-in Defence, “A true Najdorf brawl.”

The Najdorf was my first love. Like many others I played it because Bobby Fischer played the opening. With Bobby the Najdorf was an offensive defense.

While watching the Najdorf “brawl” I noticed another Sadler video over on the right and it looked like the position could have emanated from the Leningrad Dutch, my “second love.” I clicked on and, sure enough, it was a Leningrad! I was compelled to watch.

As if that were not enough I noticed a video by GM Ben Finegold, who married a woman in my home city of Atlanta and they opened the new Atlanta Chess Club & Scholastic Center. (https://atlchessclub.com/) The video is Capablanca Endgames with GM Ben Finegold.

I enjoyed Ben’s commentary while thinking, “I wish the internet existed in 1970.” How can young players, and even older players, not be far superior to those of my generation with tools like this, and the best players giving great advice away for practically nothing? Why would anyone pay someone to teach Chess?

In an email to Karen I wrote, “I did surf over to Twitch the other day to listen to the lonely Ben comment on the game. I was thinking it must be very difficult to do it alone for a long period of time…Ben the Maytag repairman…”

Karen replied, ” I don’t think he gets lonely streaming …. he seems to enjoy it and likes to talk a lot so it works out.” Ben talks a lot because he has something useful to say. He is like the old EF Hutton TV commercial. “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

Other articles read:

AlphaZero: Shedding new light on the grand games of chess, shogi and Go
https://deepmind.com/blog/alphazero-shedding-new-light-grand-games-chess-shogi-and-go/

Updated AlphaZero Crushes Stockfish In New 1,000-Game Match
https://www.chess.com/news/view/updated-alphazero-crushes-stockfish-in-new-1-000-game-match

Inside the (deep) mind of AlphaZero
by Albert Silver
https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-full-alphazero-paper-is-published-at-long-last

Three new articles were found before writing this post at Spaggett On Chess and I intend on reading them later today, even the one by discredited economist and former GM Ken Rogoff:

Commentary: Where is the fun of playing chess against a robot? by Kenneth Rogoff
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/why-human-classic-chess-survives-even-with-technology-chess-ai-10980248

Saudi Arabia calls Israel’s bluff
If Saudis do not feel like welcoming Israelis on their lands, they are perfectly right


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Image Credit: AFP

Published: December 08, 2018 16:39 Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News
https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/saudi-arabia-calls-israels-bluff-1.60805086

Chess Is An Important Part Of Russian Soft Power
by Joseph Hammond December 3, 2018

https://tsarizm.com/analysis/2018/12/03/chess-part-russia-soft-power/

The Hippies Were Right: It’s All about Vibrations, Man!

The Hippies Were Right: It’s All about Vibrations, Man!

A new theory of consciousness

By Tam Hunt on December 5, 2018

Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A bat? A cockroach? A bacterium? An electron?

These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which has resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.

The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades and is generally known now as the “hard problem” of consciousness (usually capitalized nowadays), after the New York University philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic 1995 paper and his 1996 book The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.

Fast forward to the present era and we can ask ourselves now: Did the hippies actually solve this problem? My colleague Jonathan Schooler (University of California, Santa Barbara) and I think they effectively did, with the radical intuition that it’s all about vibrations … man. Over the past decade, we have developed a “resonance theory of consciousness” that suggests that resonance—another word for synchronized vibrations—is at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more generally.

So how were the hippies right?


Woodstock

Well, we agree that vibrations, resonance, are the key mechanism behind human consciousness, as well as animal consciousness more generally. And, as I’ll discuss below, that they are the basic mechanism for all physical interactions to occur.

Much more here:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-hippies-were-right-its-all-about-vibrations-man/

Who Killed JFK?

Author and afterlife researcher Rich Martini


Coast to Coast AM host George Noory and author and afterlife researcher Rich Martini
http://www.richmartini.com/

argues that upon death no one really dies. In the latter half, he presented his research and information that he says he obtained by interviewing folks (including many celebrities) after they have passed away such as Bill Paxton,

Anthony Bourdain,

and Tom Petty.

He contacts the deceased by working with the medium Jennifer Shaffer, and this includes the late hypnotherapist Michael Newton, whom he studied with and documented his work on the life between lives. From the after-death state, Newton shared advice with Martini for those who wish to converse with the departed. He suggested simply saying the name of a loved one, and addressing them in the present tense as though they are there with you. “When you hear the answer before you can form the question, then you’ll know you have a connection,” Newton offered.

Through Shaffer, Bourdain revealed that rather than food, he misses the interpersonal connections he had with people, and he recommended the practice of meditation (something he did not engage in when he was alive). Martini often starts his communications with the departed by asking who was there to greet them when they crossed over to the Other Side. The recently deceased Microsoft founder Paul Allen

told him he was met by a football player who had taken his own life. Among the many celebrities Martini says he’s communicated with, JFK

revealed to him that the Mafia was the most to blame for his assassination, and rather than planning it, the CIA simply looked the other way.

https://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2018/12/02

Rudy Giuliani’s Donald Traitorump Tweet Goes Viral

If you are late to the party please click on the link below and be taken to a page created by an intrepid Arizona web designer:

http://g-20.in/

Rudy Giuliani Twitter typo sparks anti-Trump protest website

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/05/rudy-giuliani-helps-create-anti-trump-protest-website-with-twitter-typo



Traitor

Ian Hunter

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

Traitor, you don’t know your mind
It says hi, you walk straight by
Missing person, you can’t take
A look in your book ’cause it makes you shake

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

Traitor, you don’t ever change
Same mistakes, again and again
You’re so shallow, you try to get
Your feet in your mouth but they never get wet

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

I gave you love, I gave you love, I gave you love
What’s the matter, ain’t that enough?
I gave you love, I gave you love
See you later, traitor

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

You’re so clever, you can see
I’ve known all along you were hassling me
Tell those faces on your head
As far as I’m concerned, you’re dead

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

I gave you love, I gave you love, I gave you love
What’s the matter, honey, ain’t that enough?
I gave you love, I gave you love
See you later, traitor

Traitor, traitor

She just hears what she wants to fill
She can’t help it, the girl can’t help it
Destroys her brain, she’s out of touch
Just what do you do that’s worth so much

She had to run, know what I mean?
You and your convenient dream
Did she hurt, you bet she hurt
She left me naked, she just lost her shirt

Ain’t no letter of revenge
Every line has got to end
You’re just one woman I can’t depend
See you later, traitor

Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor
Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor
Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor

Is Chess a Sport?

File this under “What the Main Stream Media thinks of Chess.”

Is Chess a Sport? A New Book Says Yes

By Jonathan Eig

Nov. 30, 2018

THE GRANDMASTER
Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

By Brin-Jonathan Butler
211 pp. Simon & Schuster. $26.

Is chess a sport?

After days watching a championship match and “seeing what strain these guys put their bodies and nerves under,” cramped in awful Staples chairs while trying to concentrate, Brin-Jonathan Butler concludes that chess “absolutely” falls into the category of sport.

But by that logic, the written portion of the driver’s license exam could be a sport, too, and, given my perfect record, I would be a better athlete than Muhammad Ali.

Chess is not a sport, O.K.? If it were, there’d be a lot more head injuries and trash talk.

Butler’s definition of an athlete matters for the purposes of his assignment. In 2016, an editor asked him to cover the World Chess Championship between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, expected to be an epic battle, and suggested that the author approach the assignment in the spirit that Norman Mailer approached Ali vs. Foreman in “The Fight” and John McPhee covered Arthur Ashe vs. Clark Graebner in “Levels of the Game.”

Chess can make for compelling literature, especially in fiction (“The Luzhin Defense,” by Nabokov, for example), because the game offers a battle between two minds, two personalities, two worldviews. But a game itself is only compelling to readers if we are made to understand and care about the players, seeing their moves as reflections of their characters. McPhee knew it: “A person’s tennis game begins with his nature and background and comes out through his motor mechanisms into shot patterns and characteristics of play. If he is deliberate, he is a deliberate tennis player; and if he is flamboyant, his game probably is, too. A tight, close match unmarred by error and representative of each player’s game at its highest level will be primarily a psychological struggle.”

Herein lies the trouble for “The Grandmaster.” Since chess is not a sport by the standard definition, Carlsen and Karjakin do not turn their natures into motor mechanisms, thus depriving the reader of visible action. That, in turn, forces Butler to press too hard in describing the moves on the chessboard. “In the end,” he writes of one crucial moment, “Carlsen was unable to stop one of Karjakin’s innocuous pawns from strolling innocently enough into his malevolent promised land to emerge as an all-powerful, Lady Macbeth, vindictive-as-hell queen at the end of the board.”

Butler might never have been forced to resort to such drastic maneuvers in prose if he had been given a better draw. Mailer had Ali, who never shut up and literally allowed reporters to slip under the covers with him in bed to conduct interviews. McPhee had Ashe, one of the most thoughtful and eloquent athletes of all time. Butler had no one. Neither Carlsen nor Karjakin would talk to him. They appeared briefly at news conferences but expressed little emotion. They never even complained about the terrible Staples chairs.

To compensate, it seems, Butler takes the reader on journeys away from the tournament — to Cuba, to a chess shop where New Yorkers took refuge after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and elsewhere. But even the best of these vignettes serve to remind that Carlsen and Karjakin failed to carry their load. We understand why. Chess is intensely cerebral. It drives men mad, as Butler documents in vivid detail. But by remaining so deep in thought, Carlsen and Karjakin shut out their fans, shut out the author and shut out the reader. At the tournament’s end, one man emerges triumphant, or at least relieved, the other dejected. The rest of us watch through one-way glass, unmoved.

Jonathan Eig’s most recent book is “Ali: A Life.”