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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

Pacific shares first place, but doesn’t yet instill great confidence 01/15/2017

Tommy Full Color on whiteMy fear about the three teams I’m watching this season — Cal, Pacific, Utah — is that they’re good enough to be disappointing.

As the Golden Bears visit the Utes in Salt Lake City Sunday, the Bears are 2-3 in Pac-12 play, one game ahead of the Utes and the bottom of the Pac.

Unfortunately, either Gottlieb’s or Roberts’ bunch has to lose tomorrow, but as displeasing that is, I plan to bicycle downtown in the morning, and ask the place with many TVs to put on Pac-12 women’s basketball.

Cal and Utah have one thing in common: a lone senior — Cal’s Range and Utah’s Crozon — who can sometimes shoot the hell out of it. Both teams both suffer for a lack of seniors.

Pacific was wretched last week in a 55-68 home loss to BYU, though the week before that, the Tigers beat Gonzaga in Spokane. It’s hard to tell with this team — when they’re bad, they’re over-reliant on one player; when everyone’s involved, they’re good. (It’s junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers on whom Pacific depends — against USF, she broke the school record for free throws in a game — but it was Desire Finnie’s steal of an inbounds pass plus layup that stretched the Pacific run to 11-0 and the lead.) When they’re bad, it’s sometimes because they’re too short for some critical rebounds; but especially when the Tiger forwards scrap for offensive rebounds, they’re good. When one Tiger is seen trying to do too much, the whole team can follow suit and fall apart.

Pacific came back late against San Francisco Saturday, winning 63-60 despite trailing 59-50 with 3:30 remaining. It rivaled a 2011 win at Nevada, when the Tigers made up 12 points in the last three minutes, and won in overtime. The thing about the 2011 game was that the Tigers were clearly driven as a team to win the overtime, to make up missing the last shot in regulation. The win today against San Francisco carried no such suggestion — though the Tigers ran off 13 straight points to lead 63-59 with 1:12 to go, their last possession at Pepperdine Thursday mean four points was quite unsafe.

A steal by sophomore guard Ameela Li gave Pacific a chance Thursday in Malibu, down 58-59 with 0:37 left, but their last possession never took form. That loss, coupled with the BYU disaster, made me think Pacific would get to March in 6th place.

Then again, if you consider the win at Gonzaga plus today’s reassuring comeback against San Francisco — and the fact that no one’s running off with the West Coast Conference this season; Pacific, and three others are tied at 4-2 — maybe they’ll be OK come tournament time. Especially if Pepperdine is actually a good team — I mean, if the Waves’ final defensive stop at 0:37 was by design, it makes the whole win appear stronger (and Pacific less clunky at the same time).

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Categories: basketball

A sacrificial motif shared across the Wilkes-Barre Two Knights and the Nimzovich Sicilian 01/13/2017

The appeal of the Wilkes-Barre or Traxler variation in the Two Knights — 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 Bc5 — is that Black just ignores the threat on f7. No matter which way White captures, Black suffers a little discomfort, but emerges with gain of time after pushing White’s pieces back.

There’s a similar idea in the Nimzovich Sicilian:

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Categories: chess

New felt for the bottoms of my Lardy analysis set 01/05/2017

Let me tell you again about my favorite chess set.

Back in the ‘70s, cool kids had sets from the French company Lardy. They used to talk about these chess sets the same way guitarists talk about guitars, whether they got the natural or painted Lardy, and what kind of oil they rub in to preserve the wood, and the Lardy knights do not look like dogs, no way.

My best friend had a Lardy, and I’d swear he did some things with that chess set that people don’t usually do with chess sets.

In ’95, the card game NetRunner was still alive, and I was at a gaming con. They conducted a flea market, which I visited early in order to beat the other NetRunner players. A gamer displayed a plastic bag: “CHESS SET MISSING TWO PIECES $2”.

I peeked around the tape that held the bag together, and holy shit, it was the smaller, analysis-sized version of the antique Lardy. The guy repeated the price on the bag: “Two bucks!”.

I said: “Are you kidding, it’s missing two pieces! I’ll give you *one* buck”.

(This was out of character. When I bought a car from a dealer, it didn’t occur to me that he might sell it for less than the sticker price, and I said: “Just give me something to sign”.)

He accepted my offer of $1, so I had a Lardy. It was still a gamble of a dollar, because I didn’t know which pieces were missing; for all I knew, I’d just bought a bag of replacement pieces for someone else. Turned out that the set was missing one pawn of each color, and RRS had spare pieces with pawns that were slightly smaller than the Lardy, though you can’t tell unless you look closely.

If I’m on the road with a chess set, it’s probably that $1 antique Lardy with two misfit pawns. When my ’69 Beetle burst into flames, my thinking was: “My car might explode, do I have two seconds to spare to reach to the passenger seat for my chess set and Capablanca’s Best Games by Golombek, revisions and new material by Nunn?”. I risked it — the Capablanca book is still stained by soot, or whatever was coming off my flaming engine.

I was reviewing games at a kid tournament two months ago, and a kid said: “How much are the books?”.

Twelve dollars, I said, two for 20.

“How much for the chess set?”

“Set’s not for sale.”

“Everything’s for sale. How much?”, he said, as I wondered about his parents.

I almost reiterated its unavailability, but remembered that I work as a teacher and a writer, and it’s just a chess set. “Two hundred dollars,” I said.

“I’ll get my…” he said, and he began turning his head as if to search for the parents who seemingly had never said no to this little asshole. Then he walked off, and I didn’t see him again.

That set’s been through a lot. It’s 40 years old, been saved from an automobile fire, and seen more basketball gyms than probably any other chess set in the world. Over time, the felt on the bottom of the chessmen falls off — the green felt was hanging from one of my black knights, and I thought pulling off the felt would hurt me more than the wooden piece.

Tonight I stopped in an art store for a sheet of self-adhesive felt. Then I spent some minutes cutting imperfect circles of black felt for the pieces that needed it.

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Categories: chess

I’m guessing it was James Taylor’s “Somebody’s Baby” that inspired Pat Metheny’s “James”

pat-metheny-offrampIn 1982, the Pat Metheny Group made “Offramp”, which included “James”, a song inspired by Metheny hearing James Taylor on the radio. “It’s got that James Taylor-like groove,” he’s said.

I was listening to “James” in my head, when I heard around its edges Taylor’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” hit “Somebody’s Baby”. I kind of got “James”’s groove in that keyboard bit after Taylor sings “she’s got to be somebody’s baby”, and in his voice when he sings “gonna be somebody’s only light / gonna shine tonight”.

It would also make sense for “Somebody’s Baby” to be on Pat’s radio around the time of “Offramp”, because “Fast Times” was also a 1982 production.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Fast time controls at chess960 miss the point, and risk alienating players 01/04/2017

Fast time controls for chess960 exasperate me. I’d like to see chess960 catch on, but players who try 960 at blitz or bullet time controls can be dissuaded by having to guess so early. In position #518 — the “standard” setup — players can rattle off 10 or 20 or 40 moves without thinking; their experience tells them which kinds of positions are forming, while instinct and pattern recognition remind them which sorts of moves are appropriate. A quick-fingered chessplayer can succeed at a one-minute game with 10 moves of book plus a series of educated guesses, but at 960, there’s no book to precede the guesses, which themselves are more likely to be blind.

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Categories: chess

Four miniatures for the price of three 01/03/2017

Chess students know this game, and some are aware that Judge Meek is otherwise recognized for losing many games to Morphy.

His Honor’s 6th move was an unsophisticated trap, which made for a cute game, but lacked a logical thread. Steinfeld-Fruteau is an improvement with that theme:

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Categories: chess

Peter Thiel and the secret club handshake 12/15/2016

At Trump’s summit with tech leaders, he said:

We’re going to make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders because of a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems that I think you’ll see.

Trump summons the only people in tech who might relate to him: billionaires, and — given a logical pruning — here’s what he said to them:

The logic operator in trump_sentence is “because”. A, because B.

There are two chunks in Part A:

A1) “We’re going to make it a lot easier for you”. Boil as “My administration shall ease”.

A2) “trade across borders”. There’s the bait — tech billionaires appreciate their international trade.

In Part B, Trump says lots of restrictions and problems. Bad things, let’s say.

In other words, Trump said: “My administration shall ease your global technology commerce because of bad things”.

Trump is predicting bad things. A lot of restrictions, he said. But we’ll go easier on you if you join me.

He’s selling this to people with tech money and influence: Bad things are coming — like, am I here or what!? — but my government fucks you less if you join me. Even if you don’t join us, you’re sucking my dick on the webcam.

If I were a nervous shareholder, I might urge my CEO to keep sucking Trump’s dick — the networked Russians helped put Trump where he is; if they’re not already winning in network intelligence, how much easier does it get after Trump takes office?

Steve Jobs might have said the emperor’s wearing no clothes, and he wants us to suck his dick on his Android.

Eh, who needs Steve Jobs when there’s Peter Thiel and the secret club handshake.

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Categories: internet

Kristine Anigwe’s 50-point game against Sacramento State was pretty routine, actually 12/11/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtA few years ago, while Cal was headed to the Final Four, coach Lindsey Gottlieb said that Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer — whose Cardinal have owned the region for 1,000 years — was glad that another Pac-12 team was climbing toward elite status.

The rising tide floated all boats, because look at the Pac-12 today: Teams in the Pac-12 Conference are a combined 86-13. Colorado was #11 in the preseason poll, but the Buffaloes are 9-0 and #18 in the country. Following Cal’s 97-73 win over Sacramento State Friday, the Golden Bears are 8-0, their best start in program history. (Like Cal, Utah was predicted to place in the middle of the dozen, and the Utes are 9-0 after downing interstate rival Brigham Young 77-60 Saturday. Utah shouldn’t be in the Pac-12, but OK since it means coach Lynne Roberts and her Pacific captain Kendall Rodriguez have to visit the Bay Area at least once.)

No matter what Cal does against Lehigh Sunday, sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe is probably the conference player of the week, given her team record 50 points plus 14 rebounds against Sacramento State.

It was an impressively efficient performance — 50 points on 19-of-23 shooting in 24 minutes played — but it really was not a spectacular game. Remember last month when Anigwe had 29 and 19 in two games at the Cal Classic, and I said it was a pretty bad weekend? That was because she’s capable of 50 points in 24 minutes.

The conditions were right for Anigwe’s 50 — Cal was moving the ball (29 assists on 40 field goals vs. the Hornets), and Sacramento State is vulnerable against agile forwards. The Hornets spread the floor on offense because they’re aiming for a record number of threes every night, and they spread themselves defensively to give themselves a jump on a fast break — though that leaves them helpless against a forward who can split the seams and get behind the defense. Pacific’s Kendall Kenyon — the swiftest and most mobile forward I’ve ever seen — had 28 points and 21 rebounds against Sacramento State, but the Hornets’ strategy was fruitful, and the Hornets knocked the Tigers out of the NIT.

Anigwe had 60 points in sight. Her four missed field goals could’ve bounced differently, and she said it herself: “I missed too many free throws”. A couple of additional field goals plus an improvement on 12-of-19 from the free throw line would have totaled 60 — *that* I might’ve termed spectacular. Coach Gottlieb said again that Anigwe “makes the crazy look ordinary” and that each of her field goals came within the flow of the offense.

I tweeted during the second half — while Anigwe was a few points shy of Alexis Gray-Lawson’s Cal record 47 — that she might break the record, but the play I’d remember would be her 50-foot outlet pass to start a Anigwe-to-Mo Mosley-to-MiCole Cayton fast break. Cayton had to finish that play crossing under the basket, which made it highlight reel material. That play won’t even show in Anigwe’s boxscore totals, but a reporter at the press conference said it was the first time Anigwe looked happy all night. “[Mosley] can run,” Anigwe said. “I knew if I pass it ahead of her, she’s gonna get the ball.” The sophomore Mosley did, then found freshman Cayton flying from the other wing.

50 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist that would appear in a hockey boxscore: “There’s not a more complete post player in the country,” said Gottlieb.

East Bay basketball fans are suddenly spoiled — they’ve grown accustomed to the spectacular. When Curry or Thompson have remarkable games, they’re raining threes from everywhere; their defenders have to move out to meet them, and the Splash Brothers step further out. That’s spectacular — what Anigwe did was dependable and efficient (and expected — considering what our Kendall did on a good night for the Hornets, I thought an easy 30 was in store for Anigwe on a good night for the Golden Bears).

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Categories: basketball

For a similar dependence on one player, the 2016-17 Pacific Tigers at 3-5 evoke the 2013-14 team at 5-7 12/08/2016

Tommy Full Color on whitePacific got off to a slow start in 2013-14. In December, I sent an email to coach Lynne Roberts:

“When Madison Parrish scores X points, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish shoots X percent, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish pulls X rebounds, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X assists, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X steals, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.”

When the Fresno State transfer did stuff, Pacific won; otherwise, they did not. Coach said yep, we are not good when we are that reliant on one player.

Pacific’s trouble in 2016-17 is that the Tigers are similarly dependent on junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers.

The Tigers won two games in week one when they scored 210 points against UC Merced and San Jose State — Luaulu-Summers recorded double points-plus-assists in both games, and was named West Coast Conference player of the week.

However, Luaulu-Summers left the San Jose State game early with a knock to the head, after which the Tigers blew a late lead, but won in overtime. Wholly without Luaulu-Summers for three games against a good UC Davis team, then Montana St. and Marquette on the Thanksgiving weekend, Pacific lost them all — the Tiger Turkey Tipoff games were particularly telling because traditionally, when you host a holiday tournament, you invite opponents you fully expect to beat.

Considering how seriously athletic organizations take head injuries these days, I thought Pacific’s #15 might have been done for the season, and the team might’ve been toast, accordingly.

However, Luaulu-Summers (my mnemonic for spelling her last name: “Lua” is an undersung programming language, “ulu” is useful at Scrabble because U is a crappy tile unless it accompanies Q, and if you are stuck with two U’s, then ULU is a convenient dump of two of them) returned for Pacific’s 91-61 thrashing of Cal State Bakersfield, in which she recorded 20 pts, 4 rb, 7 ast, 3 stl.

I presented my “uh oh, we count on GeAnna like we did Madi in 2013, and we weren’t good then” hypothesis to Pacific coach Bradley Davis, who said: “We’re bringing along the newcomers (sophomore Ameela Li and freshman Callie Owens) to address that, so we won’t have to be so reliant on GeAnna.”

Last Wednesday, the prevailing theory held when Pacific visited Long Beach State — preseason favorites in the Big West Conference — and the 49ers won 66-58, while Luaulu-Summers made six turnovers and four fouls.

Perhaps a second straight rebuilding year is in store at Pacific. The seniors are roleplayers — a three-headed forward contributes 14 points and 13 rebounds (always loved Emily Simons because she relishes defending much bigger opponents, and never taking a questionable shot — she’ll break Pacific’s field goal percentage record if she tries the required attempts). Guard Unique Coleman lost more than a year to a knee injury, and looks like a player who’s still recovering from a serious knee injury.

I thought wing Desire Finnie would be the headliner among Pacific’s class of 2018, though her junior numbers are not yet improved over her all-conference sophomore statistics. Guard Najah Queenland is inconsistent, going from brilliant to what-the-hell on consecutive possessions.

It’s sophomore guard Chelsea Lidy who’s opening eyes around Spanos Center. In 20 minutes per game, she’s the team’s second-leading scorer while shooting 60 percent behind the three-point line. Sophomore Tylah King makes 58 percent of her treys, also.

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Categories: basketball

Eternal September crests on violent, racist, sexist freshmen who are old enough to vote and buy guns 12/03/2016

Usenet was one of the first social networks: text-only,  and very cool in some of its places. Usenet went into a death spiral in 1993, when it spawned the phrase “September that never ended”.

Every September, incoming college freshmen would be exposed to Usenet on school networks. Network traffic and content would suffer until the novelty wore off.

Then in 1993, America Online began offering Usenet access to its millions of users, which meant the discussion network welcomed a new crop of college freshmen with each mailing of free AOL trial disks.

Still one of my favorite online writing gigs was Newsgroup Scoop for AOL. The idea was to educate AOL’s Usenet novices about how some of these newsgroups were like ancient burial grounds, not to be fucked with. We did not make a dent in Eternal September, but I enjoyed writing about Usenet culture for a year after Scoop ended.

Usenet’s trolls were among the social net’s original trolls. I used to read — I was well acquainted with two of its trolls: My best friend employed one useless asshole of a sockpuppet, while Gordon Roy Parker was a loon with scary fetishes, and a comical serial litigant. Gordon Roy sued Google for a kajillion dollars. My best friend was a better chessplayer than Gordon Roy Parker, who went over 2000 USCF for a month.

Parker played some very witty online miniatures. When I commended him for this, he sort of disowned them. That annoyed me, because those chess games were something cool and verifiable, but seemed to mean less to him than maintaining grandiose fabrications about other accomplishments.

He wrote some hardcore Olympic gymnast torture porn, and disowned that, too. Serial litigant and sexual criminal at heart, streaming bullshit and self-importance.

Donald Trump is like Gordon Roy Parker had Gordon Roy won a settlement from Google, then ran for president. Eternal September crests on violent, racist, sexist freshmen who are old enough to vote and buy guns.

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Categories: internet