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Chess – Hannifin vs Casazza 2004

I mostly wanted to try out this nifty WordPress Chess plugin. I haven’t played any serious tournament chess since my senior year of high school in 2004. So here’s a game from the 2004 Virginia State Championship (where I placed 38 or something terrible like that). I never became that great of a player, but for scholastic high school tournaments, the standard game time is 30 minutes. I’m a slow analytic thinker, so I performed much better when I had at least an hour, as I did in the state tournament.

(I’m analyzing this game eight years later after having played hardly any chess, and I wasn’t that great to begin with, so take the following analysis with a grain of salt.)

In this game, I play white, and defend against the Sicilian opening with the Smith-Morra Gambit. I was rated 1030 and my opponent 1559. He really shouldn’t have succumbed to the gambit, but he was, fortunately for me, having an off-day and must not have been very familiar with the gambit. Typically higher players will not go for it. But it’s what I had studied against the Sicilian, so I probably would’ve played it against anyone.

The opening is a gambit for white because I sacrifice my d4 pawn immediately. Black takes. I’m down a pawn. I offer up my c3 pawn as well. Black takes the bait. After 4. Nxc3, just look at how open white’s position is compared to black, who has only moved one pawn so far. Is it worth sacrificing a pawn for such position? Of course. That’s the point.

Black makes small moves, trying to build up a defense, while I prepare for an attack on e5. When black tries 9. … Qc7 to try defending against the attack, 10. Nb5 quickly puts him back in his place. And with 11. e5 the attack begins, and it’s pretty much all downhill for black. After 19. Ndxf7, black resigns. Both his queen and rook are under attack, and he’s bound to lose the exchange no matter what. My pieces are breathing down his neck and his demise is only a matter of time.

Again, I was very fortunate with this game; I don’t think a 1500’s player would typically take the gambit. But not only did my opponent take the gambit, he allowed me to setup my attack exactly as planned. It’s definitely one of my greatest victories with the Smith-Morra gambit, but the victory was more a matter of luck.

Anyway, I think this chess plugin is quite nice. Perhaps I’ll post some other old games; it’s fun to look back on them, even though some of them are a bit over my head now that I’m so out of practice.

Animation and NurtureShock and other stuff

Animation Mentor

It’s week 5 (of 72) of Animation Mentor! Things are going OK so far. I’ll upload a video of last week’s assignment later. Our assignment last week was to animate balls of different weight and bounciness. This week our assignment is to animate a ball with squash and stretch bouncing around an opsticle course, so it will be quite tricky. I spent the morning fooling around a bit with animating squash and stretch, and it does take some getting used to, especially timing-wise. But it’s also easy to tell just how much more “alive” it can make something look.


In other news, I recently finished reading NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. Overall, it was very good, and could change the way parents (and people in general) think about child development and (what I’m interested in) education.

However, I still have some disagreements with how they interpret certain scientific results. Though they mention somewhere in the book that they believe “intelligence” is malleable, they sometimes seem to imply that they believe it’s only malleable in children, or at least not as malleable in adults as I believe it to be.

They also don’t seem to realize how influential environment can be on intelligence, personality, decision-making processes, mood, etc. In fact, a lot of people in general don’t seem to realize this, so people are always searching for other reasons people act the way they do, such as “oh, the teens’ brain is just not done developing and that makes them take more risks, and their hormones make them all moody” or “prodigies are born, and we pulled him out of school so he can study chess and violin for 15 hours a day to nurture that genius.” I’m not arguing that environment complete dictates everything … obviously it doesn’t … but neither does DNA and hormones and the size of the prefrontal lobe. The environment still has a huge effect that should not be ignored.

I haven’t read it, but there’s a book called The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo about Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment. In the experiment, students basically took part in a mock prison, some playing prisoners, others playing guards. As you might know, they had to stop the experiment early because people went mad; they got way to into it, the guards started torturing the prisoners, and the prisoners became insanely miserable (and forgetting it was just an experiment). The point was: change the environment enough, and you can become a completely different person. You still have to pay the price for your evil deeds, but the environment can still have a huge effect on your decision-making. And isn’t imagining the wonder of Heaven and the bleakness of Hell all about imagining certain environments? (As we can’t very well imagine a change in being or a change in the nature of our consciousness … that is beyond the limit of our consciousness, leading some to believe it’s altogether impossible.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, the authors of the book simply don’t give enough credit to the influence of environment. They do give it some credit, since some of the experiments they mention are all about changing the environment in specific ways. But other times they seem to ignore it.

But, as I said, overall it’s very good, and I recommend reading it; I simply advise not blindly believing their sometimes simplistic explanations of the experimental results. (That really goes for any science book meant for the average reader; be weary of oversimplification, especially in complex topics like business and marketing and economics and psychology and quantum physics. It’s amazing how many people sum up Einstein’s relativity as “time goes slower for things moving faster.” It’s usually high schoolers who go on to apply to MIT as a matter of looking smart rather than actually being qualified. There are lots!)

Some other random stuff

Oh, I’m resurrecting my Stuff I Found blog, now at a new location.

Also, I found some local people playing chess on Saturday nights, so I can get back into chess for a little while, playing some real life people on real life boards (which reminds me, I might have some games going on in Google Wave that I need to check). I don’t think I’ll have time to go to any tournaments anytime soon, since I work weekends, but at least it will be some non-Internet socialization.

Lastly, I’m hoping sometime this week to finally go back to George Mason University and use their huge library. I’ve long missed their library, the only thing I really loved about going to university, they’ve got just about every nonfiction book I’ve ever wanted to read. They’re especially great for computer books, which can be costly and which our local library won’t buy. It can be kind of a long drive (45 minutes to, at worst, an hour) but if I can get some books on Maya, and animation, and drawing, etc, I think it will be worth it. (And, looking through their online catalogue, they’ve got a ton. And almost everything is also checked in, I guess since it’s summer. Though even when I was going to Mason, I hardly ever had to wait for a book to come back. A lot of students just don’t use the library unless a professor makes them. (And many people don’t read nonfiction for fun, for that matter.) Which I think is fine… more for me! Plenty of professors and graduate students use it, though.)

OK, that’s all for now…