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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

11/24/2016

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Powerful cards that are distasteful in the narrative sense 12/15/2017

layer-27Several cards in the ’90s NetRunner game put a bad taste in my mouth, like the Tycho Extension I mentioned a few days ago.

NetRunner was a race to 7 points, and while most players were aiming for three field goals or two safeties plus a field goal, Tycho was less interesting: a 4-point touchdown followed by a 4-point kick-after.

Tycho was boring, and some cards were even less charming, like Corporate War, which too easily afforded one player 3 points plus a pile of cash. Corporate War was tacky. In NetRunner’s narrative sense, Corporate War made it easy to tell who the evil corporations were.

In South Park: Phone Destroyer, it’s Marcus. I don’t remember Marcus’ introduction to the TV series — he’s a drug dealer in the  neighborhood with “friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation”.

Marcus’ weapon of choice is a bag of drugs. He throws bags of drugs, and they very much hurt (if Marcus gets loose, and lets fly with no defenders to meet him, it’s near-fatal).  Marcus is a powerful card, but a South Park drug dealer is distasteful. Say the card wielded the same power, but the character were Towelie, and he was throwing a joint. I’d play with that, for sure.

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It’s like NetRunner’s purple and green, but without the purple 12/14/2017

layer-69As I acquire cards and gain experience by the coffee spoon,  I’m seeing more green.

In almost every deck there’s an Angel Wendy. Gotta appreciate that Testaburger, who was the original significant visible girl at the beginning — is a rarefied and good card in blue and green.

Then there are Regeneration and Hallelujah. Throw in Zen Cartman, and that’ll win many games by attrition without serious handling charges.

I read that at PvP level 45 and higher, green makes up almost every deck, along with the typical arguments about overpower and sheer boredom because the green decks play themselves.

Decks playing themselves is a serious charge. If your card game truly has a build scheme that mostly wins without thinking, you’ve got to start talking about which cards to ban.

NetRunner — when I talk about NetRunner, I refer to the Wizards of the Coast game from the ’90s, which was brilliant and beautiful, not this decade’s NR game from Fantasy Flight, which sells — had such a deck. It was called Psycho Tycho.

The algorithm was simple:

1. Install Tycho Extension behind a Filter in a subsidiary fort. Don’t sweat the central forts. Advance it one time as your last action of your first turn.

2. Advance Tycho three times to score it.

3. Wait to draw another Tycho, ACME Savings and Loan, Project Consultants, Filtering the central forts when it’s convenient.

4. When those three cards are in hand, take these three actions: a) Install ACME, and accept the loan; b) install Tycho, c) Project Consult for the win.

I had a friend — he and his girlfriend were UC Berkeley grad students — who wrote some code to determine the best distribution of cards within that framework, and then he had his girlfriend play it in a tournament because he couldn’t make it that day. With experience limited to pitching batting practice to his decks, by following the script, she won all her Corporate games.

NetRunner gave its best players some meta difficulty that came down to an advanced case of rock-scissors-paper-lizard-Spock. If I know my opponents will play Psycho Tycho, I will build an opposing deck designed to beat it. But if he knows I know, and I know he knows I know, and so on.1405397321966

South Park: Phone Destroyer is still an infant, so while it’s been found what wins, it’s yet to be discovered what beats it. Of course, there are those who say they beat green decks all the time with their good idea that you can’t fathom, stupid newcomer.

The older I get, the more pejorative labels for inexperienced players I see. New players in a gaming community are like logical citizens in the state of Trump.

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Tall adults and other tanks in the South Park: Phone Destroyer neighborhood

layer-35I’ve been chasing the oremiering Buccaneer Bebe card in hopes of installing it by the end of the pirate event, but the only new gets were the Hercules Clyde (introduced the same day as Buccaneer Bebe) and Officer Barbrady.

Officer Barbrady is the same kind of pain in the neck as PC Principal (it’s fitting that PC and Barbrady deal very little damage, like you’d expect from authoritative adults in a kids’ game), a giant, sturdy slug diverting your new kid’s attention from smaller, deadlier enemies (diversion is Zen Cartman’s special ability).

It’s a common and effective tactic to combine three cards: one tank, one healer, and one ranger behind the blocker.  It also works in real life as shown in movies — in “Saving Private Ryan”, when the German troops arrive in Ramelle, infantry are seen crouched behind their tanks.

Some SPPD take it too far, maybe — if AWESOMO-4000, PC Principal, and Officer Barbrady are on the same team, that’s a huge lot of energy needed. I get the feeling that it’s Sheriff Cartman who instills a feeling of confidence in players — a rare card that seems to be in every starter pack, Sheriff Cartman is immediately found useful for his low center of gravity and hail of gunfire.

If the big unit itself is exceptionally dangerous, it often feels like a loss as soon  at it’s summoned — like Big Gay Al. At 335 health to start, he seems like a mountain to tackle, while he hurls headhunter glitter bombs in a fashion that reminds me of Curly Neal’s limited-animation “juggling basketballs through the hoop” in the early ’70s.

My answer to the tanks and Big Gay Al is Lightning Bolt plus a swarm of small, fast fighters. But this works for me because my deck is almost solid blue — is orange capable of swarming?

Even better than Lightning Bolt against the big guys, I think, is Pigeon Gang. Which makes sense in a real world way because it’ll take small flying critters to annoy someone who’s out of the reach of a pack of armed 4th-graders.

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It’s pirate week at South Park: Phone Destroyer 12/13/2017

layer-9Until Thursday, it’s Pirate Week in the “South Park: Phone Destroyer” neighborhood. My avatar looks menacing in a pirate bandana. I’m not as keen on the anchor tattoos, though in the game, they’re surely temporary because I’m a 4th grader.

I completed the pirate set with Pirate Ship Jimmy, who launches cannonballs from his wheelchair. I think that’s a great narrative touch — imagining a wheelchair as a bigger ship was a recurring gag in the “Bloom County” strip decades ago.

Pirate Ship Timmy was instrumental in winning a melee in the last SPPD duel I fought. He’s a fragile kid, so you can’t send him to the front — but if he sits behind you on the battlefield, it’s encouraging to watch cannonballs flying overhead and into the mob.

The pirate card I’m most appreciating  is Captain Wendy. When “South Park” was brand new, Wendy had the biggest female part, as Stan’s girlfriend who had littlelayer-4 patience with Cartman.

Captain Wendy is a cheap cast for 2 units, with a special ability of shooting three enemies at once. I feel like I’m off to a good start when Captain Wendy is in the initial draw — if the opponent sends a swarm, her “Triple shot!” comes into play, while her low cost hastens energy regeneration in case the opponent sends something big.

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Frisky AI on “South Park: Phone Destroyer” 12/09/2017

imagesIt is most advisable for one dipping into the new mobile game “South Park: Phone Destroyer” to watch “Freemium isn’t Free” (s18e06), an outstanding “South Park” episode in which Stan confronts his genetic disposition to addictive behavior (while dad Randy denies his with high-mindedness), Terence and Philip display integrity and conscience, Satan is shown to be  more helpful and rational than Jesus, and the insidiousness of the “freemium” game model is fully exposed.

Ubisoft/Red Lynx, the games company that partnered with South Park Digital Studios to build “South Park: Mobile Destroyer” was tasked with creating a freemium game that transcends “South Park’s” own satire, and I think they succeeded. “South Park: Phone Destroyer” is brilliant. I enjoy it immensely, and have not spent a dime. (I spent thousands of dollars on the card game NetRunner in the mid-’90s. If I still had that kind of spending money, I’d buy every SPPD upgrade that comes available. Instead, I recognize that building in-game currency without using real-world currency will be an arduous grind, and I choose to stay in.)

The “South Park” franchise has had countless opportunities to screw it all up in the 20-some years the TV show has been on the air, but in my view, they’ve done everything right:

The TV show took a drastic turn about 10 years ago, moving from situation comedy to social commentary, and stayed funny. By itself, that’s amazing.

The movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” could have gone as wrong as “The Simpsons Movie” or several of the “Star Trek” movies, which came across as padded TV episodes (and not especially good ones). Instead, the SP movie reached for more than the TV show, and delivered a terrific musical that stayed true to the core.

I haven’t been disappointed by any merchandise. I received a gift 6-inch Cartman figurine that perfectly captured Cartman’s essence, and I displayed it too proudly, because it was stolen. I wore out a talking SP greeting card, pushing the button until it died. I wore every shirt until washed beyond recognition.

“South Park” has never let me down, in any form, and the mobile game exceeded my expectations — though I didn’t know what to expect, really. Before “South Park: Phone Destroyer”, the only mobile game to keep my attention for more than a few hours was “Monument Valley”. (It’s most difficult to make a game that I want to play often, because every game that isn’t chess has to compete with chess for my attention.)

“South Park Phone Destroyer” combines three hugely popular things:

The mechanics, fantasy, and strategy-plus-tactics of the collectible card game “Magic: The Gathering”, along with its addiction fuel for acquiring cards and cultivating decks;

The characters, art, narrative framework,  and humor of the long-running animated comedy “South Park”, and;

The around-the-clock availability of oppoments, mobile gaming’s instantly-gratifying trickle of in-game rewards — accompanied by the constant temptation to spend tiny amounts of real money to make it rain. Every promising game inevitably breeds a community of dissatisfied users, dumb multi-player factions, and real and imagined cheaters.

In sum, “South Park Phone Destroyer” compounds one addictive element by another addictive element by one cartoon that’s been codifying tropes and generating memes for almost 20 years (for many, a TV show’s culture is a habit in itself).

For fans of “South Park”, “South Park Phone Destroyer” is a better whole than the product of its factors, because it puts them in the game. “South Park: Phone Destroyer” applies the feel of “Magic: The Gathering” to a mobile game, but instead of dueling wizards, the contestants are characters in the South Park universe.

Players — “New Kid”, we’re called — are introduced to the neighborhood  with a cartoon. The SP kids are in disagreement over which of their many fantasy live-action roleplay scenarios, and they invite the new kid to join them as the team captain, controlling creatures (for instance, Cartman’s identities include “Sheriff Cartman” in the cowboy theme, his own “A.W.E.S.O.M-O” robot in the science fiction mood, Zen Cartman in the mystical setup) and spells.

For each type of imaginary combat the South Park kids play, the “Phone Destroyer”  game provides character cards with familiar abilities: attacking strength, hit point values, plus the special abilities that set one card apart from the others. Because SPPD is meant to stand in for a cosplay in the South Park neighborhood, the mobile player can build theme decks.

I read that SPPD is like “Clash Royale”, but I don’t vouch for that. I think the player vs. player gaming within SPPD is like the still-thriving collectible card game “Magic: The Gathering”. The mechanic is borrowed from “Magic: The Gathering”, where dueling wizards tangle with creatures and invocations, applying their deck of cards’ strategy to tactics dependent on energy available. In the SPPD game, the player’s avatar controls his side with a phone, which makes it a more accurate representation of the real world (in game. since everyone’s on the phone, they trash talk in typical South Park style).

The feel of a collectible card game is imparted by spectacularly-illustrated character cards, with typical icons for casting cost, health and attacking power, plus special ability text. To improve one’s rank, players can upgrade their cards by accumulating theme-based artifact cards and duplicate character cards.

The cards are won from winning duels, or purchased from Butters or Cartman with in-game currency. The in-game currency is gained by cards or by real life, cold, hard cash. The cards even come in foil packs that must be zipped open (“hope I get a rare card, hope I get a rare card, hope I get a rare card”).

An insidious feature is that one free pack is available every four hours, butif you miss two free packs in a row, you don’t get the next. (Crack dealers would love to make themselves invisible to buyers who weren’t buying regularly.) Once you’re logged in, it’s hard not to play. Gain experience points and upgrade artificats. Which improves cards. Which wins more cards.

The duel itself is on a three-minute clock, while each player’s life is segmented into three portions (There’s an unsatisfactory “sudden death” clause: If both players have lost an equal number of portions at the end of regulation, winning the next bar wins — punishing the stronger players over the long run, who stand to lose a greater number of leads in regulation, while risking a loss by a bad draw in a 1-minute OT)  .

The game field generates South Park characters fighting with characteristic war cries, fists, bombs, mind control, dog poop, bags of drugs. The first healer one meets is Stan’s mom Sharon.

Timing is critical. The swift, small assassins (kindergarteners Ike and Sally, swarms of rats) can’t take much punishment, so are best reserved for weary opponents. Tackling Sheriff Cartman requires hitting him before he’s angry, or after he’s been angry.

Advancing through the ranks by defeating real-time opponents or programmatic scenarios figures to be a very long grind for players who don’t want to spend actual money. (I have my heart set on a keen astronaut helmet that cyclically comes available at Butters’ shop for hundreds of  tickets earned by winning duels, so I could be there for a while.)

The in-world beauty of this is that “South Park” the show dealt with this in the episode “Freemium isn’t Free”, where Stan downloads the free Terence and Philip mobile game, finds the first challenge to be stupidly simple (with satiric screens of congratulations), and nothing of note happens until he invests 39 cents for enough game energy to help “rebuild Canada!”. He gets hooked, growing a pay-to-play addiction that’s probably widespread (and profitable for some people who have lots of time on their hands).

I read on the Internet that players are unhappy about cheaters, and the “pay to win” aspect of “Phone Destroyer”. I get the feeling these unhappy customers have wide experience with other mobile games, and were hoping for “Phone Destroyer” to meet those expectations. It seems that Ubisoft’s customers are used to being pissed off — at the least, I would’ve expected better involvement in the community forums (software companies with less money than Ubisoft, I reckon, hire people to do no more than that), while the experienced customers are enraged over the widespread cheating.

“South Park Phone Destroyer” players are cheating by hacker means and in less-sophisticated ways (I’ve encountered three opponents who didnt put up a fight — losing on purpose to sandbag down to lesser opponents; I submitted a feature request for a resign button so those assholes don’t have to waste so much time dying).

I’ve been cheated by a hacker one time that I could identify. It was impressive. While my avatar teetered on the brink of death, the opponent cast a crowd of creatures — enough to finish me off about 50 times — followed by five fireballs for 200 more. People at the higher levels who are taking the game seriously don’t deserve to face cheaters. I’ve played chess online for 20 years; if I’m not cheated once a week, I miss it.

 

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We never thought we’d see Monument Valley 2, but here it is 11/11/2017

screenshot_2017-11-11-04-36-46Despite 5 million paid (and 21 million free) downloads of Monument Valley, its developer — Ustwo — said there would be no more work on its award-winning mobile game.

To me, this meant Monument Valley was another “Firefly” TV show or NetRunner card game or Lone Justice rock band — something that was much better than anything else in its class, but died prematurely and somewhat inexplicably.

While Ustwo worked on its virtual reality game Land’s End, a couple of things occurred. One, the game designers spun off their own company from the graphic design firm; and two, women at Ustwo Games had babies, which inspired talk about a Monument Valley sequel with a mother and daughter exploring the impossible architectures.

So Monument Valley 2 happened, and arrived on Android last week.

It’s prettier than Monument Valley, which is remarkable: Ustwo sells 11×14 prints of Monument Valley images because the game is that lovely. The mother and daughter characters give Monument Valley 2 more feeling than Monument Valley had.

Monument Valley 2 even provides a greater number of puzzles, but the single disappointment about Monument Valley 2 is that the puzzles are easier to solve.

Monument Valley had one puzzle that required correctly timing the movement of a crow before Ida could successfully move herself. The expansion Ida’s Dream had one great puzzle with many red herrings, many false turns.

There are almost no false moves in Monument Valley 2. It seems that the developers intended to put the story and the graphics before the problem-solving.

Chessplayers know that when there are two candidate moves, and one of them leads to disaster, then they don’t have to think about the other. At Monument Valley 2, there weren’t always a fork in the road. The annoying crows are gone, while the friendly totem pole is also limited by the scope — “there’s one move to try with totem, OK, I’ll do that”.

When do we get Monument Valley 3?

If Ustwo Games gave us one new puzzle per week for 99 cents, I’d be among the first to buy a subscription.

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Categories: games media

If a chess student must annotate his own game, start at the point where both kings are active 10/28/2017

If a chess student were tasked with publishing or sharing analysis of one of his games, and asked me which to choose, I’d say: “Find a game where both sides have active kings in a roughly equal position. Otherwise, forget it.”

Each of us — little kid students and creaky old teachers — should learn chess from the end of the game. If the idea of analyzing one’s own game is learning from the mistakes, then analyze the phase of the game where the mistakes actually matter. At the start of the game, one mistake won’t kill you. At the end, one mistake will turn a win into a draw, a draw into a loss.

Asking a kid to annotate a chess game from move one is nonsense, because no kid is capable of doing that. The opening is the *hard* part. If we teach them with the endings, let’s find out if they’ve learned anything.

Mistakes in the opening —unless they’re blundering pieces — are too subtle for kids to appreciate. In the endgames, the mistakes are easier to identify: A passed or potentially-passed pawn wasn’t pushed. A rook didn’t seek activity. These are mistakes that can be corrected.

Chess educators should agree on this much: Chess should be learned from the endgame. Middlegames should be approached with the notion of simplifying into won endings, or avoiding lost ones. The only real objective in the opening is to reach a playable middlegame.

The goal in the ending is succinct: Create a passed pawn, and promote it before the opponent does.

The goal in the middlegame has to be based on some feature in the position, of which there can be dozens.

The goal in the opening is to get to the middlegame alive.

It grows increasingly vague the earlier it is in the chess game. Why ask people to write about unclear topics?

The later it is in the game, the more specifically a writer can be about the prose, and the more likely a student can dissect his or his opponent’s thinking.

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Categories: chess

2003 Frisky Awards for Best Animated Feature Among Those Nominated by the MPAA

The 2003 Friskies

The nominees are “Brother Bear” (Disney), “Finding Nemo” (Pixar), and “The Triplets of Belleville” (Les Armateurs).

Brother Bear

In today’s parlance, I could say about “Brother Bear”: “It’s so Disney. I can’t even.”, and you’d know what I meant.

It’s about a boy whose tribal customs deem him of age, but he doesn’t truly grow into it until he’s been magically transformed into a bear, and goes on a vision quest with a younger bear. While his human brother tracks him for the kill, in the mistaken identity trope that belongs in every body-switching movie.

Throw in some music that kinda reminds one of “The Lion King” — unintentionally, you bet — gorgeous ink-and-paint animation, and a rousing party where everyone’s a talking bear, and it’s so Disney.

It’s pretty good, just a distant third behind 2003’s other nominees.

Finding Nemo

Pixar had hit the jackpot by addressing childhood fears: monsters under the bed, and toys that come to terrifying life.

Then they said: OK, let’s scare the adults by making a movie about a lost child, but it has to be adorable. What, we can’t satisfactorily animate hair until next year’s “The Incredibles”? But we’ve got water down? All right, let’s make them adorable fish. The state-of-the-art underwater graphics, lay it on thick.

And let’s get Ellen DeGeneres to voice the partner in the dad’s rescue party, because she’s awesome.

Pixar used to make fantastically great caper movies. Woody had to rescue Buzz. Albert Brooks the fish has to avoid sharks, while his missing kid and his new friends concoct a scheme to escape an aquarium — a scheme that works with insanely great cartoon logic.

I’m glad I don’t have children. I’d be more overprotective than Albert Brooks.

The Triplets of Belleville

“The Triplets of Belleville” is everything last year’s MPAA award winner, “Spirited Away”, wanted to be: graphically bizarre and grotesquely drawn, but understandably stated.

“Spirited Away” expressed all that an animated film might desire, except for a thread of logic. “Triplets of Belleville” gave us a kindly gnome of an aunt who pursues an ocean liner across the Atlantic in a paddleboat, because the French mafia has kidnapped her bicyclist savant of a nephew for a gambling operation.

Penniless in North America, she finds allies in the Triplets of Belleville, music hall singers in the ’30s, turned improvisational jazz group, playing kitchen items for instruments. They’re so broke that their diet is only frogs that they’ve dynamited out of the lake.

With the aid of the triplets and the faithful family dog Bruno, Aunt Souza uncovers and breaks tne gambling ring. The chase scene at the end can only work if it gives the sense of making fun of every movie chase scene, ever.

With almost zero dialogue

It wouldn’t do the movie justice to say “the story is off-the-charts weird and the animation is outlandish, but I mean that in a good way”. I mean it in a *great* way.

I preferred “The Triplets of Belleville” to “Finding Nemo”, but it surely would not be everyone’s cup of tea. If I had to recommend either to a group — especially one including children — everyone will love “Finding Nemo”. It’s the only tiebreaker I can imagine.

The winner of the 2003 Frisky Award is “Finding Nemo”.

Frisky Awards for Best Animated Feature Among Those Nominated in That MPAA Category

2003 — Finding Nemo
2002 — Lilo and Stitch*
2001 — Shrek

*The Frisky doesn’t correspond with the Academy Award.

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Categories: media

AlphaGo makes me think I went in the wrong direction 10/21/2017

I like to think I was born at the perfect time. I was 9 in 1972, when Fischer won the world chess championship, giving American chess a jolt. I was 21 when Apple’s ‘1984’ commercial aired, and 34 when Deep Blue beat Kasparov in an exhibition match. That is, I’m old enough to remember Fischer as a great chessplayer — whereas younger folk might tend to remember Fischer as a crackpot — and young enough to relate to computers better than my parents did.

But when I read about AlphaGo Zero — Google’s latest iteration of a Go-playing program that taught itself to crush the world champion — I think: damn, I picked the wrong game.

Most people who excel at a game of skill have tried the others, and spent enough time to get good enough to understand that they’re in the right place. Some get really good at more than one — in my circle of friends, there’s Elliott Winslow, an international chess master and a world champion backgammon player. Jennifer Shahade won the US women’s chess championship twice, but now she’s living by poker.

I’ve never met Irina Levitina, who’s won national titles at bridge and chess. That’s where I wanted to be when I was in my 20s, but didn’t get so good at either — my friends might say it’s because I spent a year mastering the arcade game Centipede, and a couple of years in the late ’90s at the card game NetRunner, which was a beautiful game that didn’t appeal to enough people to last.

I gave Go a try around the turn of the century. It was fascinating in that wow-I-will-never-get-the-hang-of-this way. It’s so difficult — I can’t imagine how more than a few masters actually enjoy Go. This is one of the things about chess — if you don’t have a master-level understanding, you can’t appreciate games played at a high level. At Go, that seems far out of reach, even for the best players at the local Go club.

AlphaGo makes moves that world-class players describe as “alien”, beyond our human understanding. To me, this sounds like a level beyond the best computer chess programs, which play moves that world-class players describe as “human”. The best chess computers perform at 3300 strength, when the world champion is just above 2800, and at that level, 200 points is greatly significant.

If we applied an Elo-like rating formula to AlphaGo, where is it? The best Go player in the world spends all his time these days analyzing AlphaGo games. This is another indication that Go is so much different from chess — looking at games played between the best chess computers is dreadfully dull, because there’s no scope for creative play in computer chess; the kind of risky, sacrificial plays that make human chess interesting doesn’t happen in top-flight computer chess. For the best Go player to find AlphaGo games interesting enough for immersion, that’s truly something extraordinary.

Now there’s AlphaGo Zero, which has removed the human element. It learned Go from scratch, and continued learning from games played against itself.

There are probably people who are genuinely afraid of this development, as if it’s the first real step on the way to SkyNet from the Terminator movies, the artificially-intelligent agents that determined it didn’t need humans at all, for any reason.

That AlphaGo has come so far makes me think I should’ve determined to reach some level of competence at Go so that I could teach it through storytelling. Go teachers and chess teachers operate in the same way: they describe patterns in memorable ways — lions and dragons take shape on both boards — and describe the game’s underlying logic.

But the impression I get from reading about the Go community is that when Go teachers “tell stories”, the students, as a whole, listen. Chessplayers suffer from weird self-delusion: They believe they’re so much better than they are that they seek teaching that exceeds their grasp. Study of the opening at chess is for masters, because the early game matters in master play, where neither side is doing stupid things immediately. Average chessplayers want to believe they’ve reached this level, and want to study openings.

The great teacher Mark Dvoretsky was famous for teaching not-yet-grandmasters to get to the next level. It’s shocking to me how many chessplayers recommend Dvoretsky to other players, as though they believe they learned enough from Dvoretsky to be qualified to share his teachings with others. Average chessplayers should be studying Cecil Purdy, who said average players should be trying to reduce the number of stupid things they do.

The impression I get from Go players is that they better appreciate how incredibly difficult their game is, and pay an appropriate amount of respect to it by striving to learn at the right level. I’ve almost always had just the opposite feeling about chessplayers.

The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans

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Categories: chess

Farmer and Pigs for the Player, Parent, and Teacher 10/15/2017

My chess teacher, who was a student of the nonpareil chess teacher Cecil Purdy, used to say that chess variants  — games played with chess pieces that might include some chess elements — “make chess easier by making it harder”. He meant that chess-like games that imposed a greater number of rules and restrictions on the player resulted in a game in which winning moves are easier to find.

Farmer and Pigs is  a chess variant that uses just two units: queen and pawns. So it that respect it is simpler than chess. The winning conditions don’t require two or more pieces working together, so it’s easier than chess in that way, too.

I use Farmer and Pigs as a teaching tool. It’s a chess variant that doesn’t make chess easier by making it harder, it makes chess easier by making it easier.

Farmer and Pigs for the Player, Parent, and Teacher

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Categories: chess