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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

In the wake of two special weekend events 01/23/2018

The South Park: Phone Destroyer thematic weekend events award bonus packs for points earned by playing with designated cards.

Players show varying levels of commitment to the event cards.

Some players construct decks with as many event cards they have, but if their main decks are based on a different theme, they risk losses for relatively low-level cards. (The cynics say this is RedLynx’s way of pushing the duplicate cards and upgrade items necessary for players to field competitive decks in every color.)
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Other players play their main decks without regard to the special event. They might even win at a higher rate because the heavily-themed decks can be relatively weak, but they can feel like wallflowers at the party. (Then there are the delighted players whose main decks contain six or seven of the event specials. )

The middle ground is to play one’s main deck, and sprinkle some substitute event cards.

During the magenta fantasy-themed event, I found that I couldn’t wield most of those cards smartly, and settled on two event cards — that meant playing many, many matches to win the bonuses. (I reached the daily locker limit for the first time in this fashion.)

What I learned from my opponents during the fantasy event is that Rogue Token is a son of a bitch. For my pirate gang to succeed, Buccaneer Bebe needs blockers, and Rogue Token damaged the whole unit in seemingly every match.

I took the middle road for the orange sci-fi event (the cynics would note that leveling orange Gizmo Ike up to the same level as  blue Smuggler Ike gobbled up many Cartman coins).

While the event was in progress, I read a comment on reddit that said the event card Warboy Tweek’s warcry that boosts allies renders Hyperdrive worthless — because Warboy Tweek’s burst might be a second or two shorter than Hyperdrive’s, but when the rush is over, Tweek is still out there fighting.

That inspired me to put Mimsy in for Sheriff Cartman (the event card AWESOM-O is a flimsy cardboard box in my hands) and aim for a Warboy Tweeked Mimsy like the great fun I had with Hyperdriven Mimsy.

I was convinced that Warboy Tweek is more useful than Hyperdrive, and now I’m hoping the developers improve Hyperdrive in some way, if only because the art is so good.

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Basic Knightmare Chess Endings #1: The Princess

Knightmare Chess, a 1998 offering from Steve Jackson Games, didn’t catch on, probably for reasons like:

1) Chessplayers hated insane card-based abilities that made Knightmare Chess too much unlike chess; and

2) Non-chessplayers figured they didn’t stand a chance against chessplayers (before giving the hugely unbalancing card-based abilities a glance).

Perhaps Knightmare Chess’ time has arrived. Chess variants are more popular than ever, especially since online chess servers began enabling enthusiasts of obscure variants to find and play with like-minded folk.

Card games are in again, after the glut of the 1990s — when a new card game appeared in game stores every week, and no one had the money or the time. Magic: The Gathering is still boss, my favorite old game NetRunner is a success in its new (lesser) incarnation, Dominion is a favorite at my brother’s house, and I’ve embraced South Park: Phone Destroyer.

The classic chess textbook Chess Fundamentals by world champion Capablanca said the first thing the new player should do is familiarize himself with the power of the pieces by learning to checkmate with them. Meet the princess (card text*).
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The princess moves like a queen, but is limited to one or two squares. This makes her value on the pawn scale about 6, when you think about it this way: The king and the knight each have eight choices while in the center of an empty chessboard; the princess’ one-square moves makes her like a king, and her two-square moves are the same range as a knight, but to the same-colored square rather than an opposite-colored square.

Since her pawn value is about 6, then the princess (more powerful than a rook) ought to be able to aid her king in checkmating the other.
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1. … Qe4+!
Played with the Princess card, placing her at f4.

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2. Kg1 Qxh1+ 3. Kxh1 Ke3 4. Kg2 Ph4

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5. Kg1 Kf3 6. Kh1

6. Kf1 Pf2#.

6…Ph3+ 7. Kg1 Pg2#

In fact, the procedure is exactly like the clunky “keep the queen a knight’s distance away from the enemy king, cutting off one  rank or file with each move” — the only difference between the queen and princess for the purposes of this checkmating routine is that the queen can make a long cutoff move.

* Play this card when your king and queen are on adjacent squares. A princess appears on an unoccupied square adjacent to the queen. A princess moves like a queen but only one or two squares at a time. A player may have only one princess in play at a time. Play this card immediately after your move.

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Categories: games Knightmare Chess

Those were the days when America was great 01/22/2018

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These contemptible, boorish, uneducated white people who continue to stand with their Trump (and think we libtard cucks aren’t giving him enough credit for kicking ass on behalf of ‘Murica, fuck yeah!) : Are they descendants of the people who wanted to elect Archie Bunker?

During the 1972 election cycle, stupid white people wore “Archie Bunker for President” T-shirts. I was 9 years old, and thought this was a joke, like people writing in Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald. Today I see that those dumbasses were serious, and if they’re still alive, they’re wearing Make America Great Again caps — like their children, I surmise.

Like Donald Trump, Archie Bunker was a fat, bald bigot on television. Bunker was constantly at odds with his black dry cleaner and his liberal “meathead” son-in-law. And like Donald Trump, Archie Bunker had his own “Make America Great Again” message, which went something like “Oh, the way Glenn Miller played / Songs that made the hit parade / Guys like us, we had it made / THOSE WERE THE DAYS / And you knew who you were then / Girls were girls, and men were men / Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again / Didn’t need no welfare stakes / Everybody pulled his weight / Gee, our old LaSalle ran great / THOSE WERE THE DAAAAAYYYYYS”.

Archie Bunker’s days were when uppity niggers like Mr. Jefferson the dry cleaner weren’t upwardly mobile, they  were subservient to white men (like the women: “girls were girls and men were men”). As the explanation goes, Donald Trump’s “great America” is a euphemism for “white America”.

I see that I’m not too far off. I Googled “Archie Bunker” and the second match is “Donald Trump is Archie Bunker with more money, but it’s not funny“.

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Categories: media

Nothing is so healthy as a thrashing at the proper time 01/11/2018

Following the decisions to:

1) Bench Barrel Dougie for being mostly redundant in an all-blue deck that solely deals damage, and;

2) Try Robin Tweek and Shaman Token in the vacant card slot before settling on Purify:
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I ran from PvP rank 33 to 36 without a loss. It was unnerving.  The PvP matchmaking in South Park: Phone Destroyer provides equal competition so players have to inch their way up through the ranks.

I found myself looking at my phone askance during the four-hour breaks between PvP pack refreshes, and thinking “the natural order is askew, and we’re in for a fall.”

Capablanca, the world chess champion whose games taught me nearly everything I know about chess, was unbeatable for long stretches (one spanned eight years — the guy didn’t lose a tournament game for eight years), had a famous quote about his occasional feelings of invincibility: “There have been times in my life when I came very near thinking that I could not lose even a single game. Then I would be beaten, and the lost game would bring me back from dreamland to earth. Nothing is so healthy as a thrashing at the proper time.”

To reproduce that quote, I could either get up from my chair and fetch a copy of My Chess Career, or  Google “capablanca thrashing”. I took the Google route, and after copying the quote, I caught glimpses of the writer saying things like “I’m on a roll” and “I know a speed bump is coming”.

There was something in those turns of phrase that prompted me to look at the byline: It was me. I wrote an entry on my chess dot com blog just like this one — I was on streaks at chess and chess960, and I had the same uneasy feeling about winning too often too easily, and a crash was coming.

It was a relief to lose an SPPD match a few minutes ago. My pirate gang literally could not get around Zen Cartman, and we lost. Whew.

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Beefcake Cartman is what’s needed here 01/10/2018

Purity, as it turns out, was exactly what my pirate gang needed to reach PvP level 34 with a bullet.

Storyteller Jimmy, we’re not listening. Cyborg Kenny, stay dead. Poseidon Stan, weather’s cool and dry.
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The weak link in the stack now seems to be Sheriff Cartman. Im theory, a tank sounds like a good thing: Put a large, high-health, greatly-distracting thing in the field, and let it draw enemy fire while your tiny rangers Captain Wendy and Buccaneer Bebe get rich.

Sheriff Cartman doesn’t do the best job of holding off the bad guys. He doesn’t do enough damage to kill them, and since they’re swarming, I have to send help to the front line, which wasn’t the plan.

Sometimes the deck operates best when Sheriff Cartman gets snuffed, but we emerge from the skirmish with Buccaneer Bebe intact plus Nelly or Captain Wendy running interference.

I don’t like the other available tanks. Officer Barbrady and PC Principal are adults, which doesn’t fit the game narrative of neighborhood kids play-pretending to kick the shit out of each other.

Mimsy is too active to serve as a blocker — while he’s toddling toward the other new kid, the rangers lose cover. Zen Cartman is solely a defensive piece.

Sheriff Cartman feels like a weak link in my stack, but he’s the tank that got me here. Other than replacing Sheriff Cartman, I could invest all the resources in strengthening him.

This is heavy on my mind today because Sheriff Cartman is available in Butters’ shop. I need 37 additional Sheriff Cartmans (plus a zillion arrowheads, sheriff stars, and feathers) to level him up, and 10 would cost 2750 of my 3300 PvP tickets.

That feels like too great a commitment, though next time Sheriff Cartman is overwhelmed, I’ll probably wish I’d taken the upgrade path.

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Purified 01/08/2018

A vacant card slot appeared in my deck of blue-themed pirates, which was convenient, because the pirate ship had sprung a leak.

Blue is the least-interesting of the four South Park: Phone Destroyer themes. Orange freezes and poisons, green heals and energizes, red powers up and powers down.
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Blue doesn’t do anything but hit hard. The blue assassins, fighters, and rangers do so much damage that a successful headhunter — in the pirate gang, it’s Barrel Dougie — is overkill.

I put Barrel Dougie on the bench, and looked to fill the hole with some card to negate mind control. Cyborg Kenny and Mind Control are a troublesome bit of orange-themed jiu jitsu — for instance, my charged Smuggler Ike killed Cyborg Kenny, then turned around and killed one of my health bars, sufficient to win the match.

Mind Control played on Buccaneer Bebe caused her to shoot down one of her own blockers, leaving her wide open after Mind Control wore off — the effect was two of my most effective units knocked out by one 4-cost spell.

For a while, I employed Robin Tweek in that Barrel Dougie slot, but it appears that Robin Tweek’s health boost is random — maybe a 236-point boost every time was considered fuel for overpowered combinations.

Then I tried Shaman Token to deal with the brainwashing cards, but Shaman Token is a pain in the butt to manage. Play him too soon or too late, and he gets killed before doing any good. And if Program Stan freezes Shaman Token, then Token’s ability is nullified by just the kind of power it’s designed to combat.

I didn’t like Medicine Woman Sharon or Angel Wendy for similar reasons — unless they’re tucked into their own pocket of protection and charged at the right moment, they’re little help.

Then I reviewed each green card, and found Purify, which seems to be ideal — its healing power only needs to last as long as the Cyborg Kenny/Mind Control effect, for the cheapest energy expenditure possible (satisfied with this, I didn’t get around to testing Mind Control on a mind-controlled subject).

I’m winning some of those games where brainwashing might’ve swung the result the other way, which is a relief — sorely needed while nagged by the Reddit thread “Would you still be playing SPPD if it weren’t South Park-themed?”.

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I want Shaman Token in a Roving Submarine 01/02/2018

I never played Magic: The Gathering to win, because doing so would’ve meant lots of time studying. I made decks to amuse myself — I once had a green assortment that didn’t do anything but grow a giant Uktabi Wildcat. I once built it up to 20/20, and my friend Joe, who knew what was coming, played a combination that seized control of the giant cat and turned it against me. I was killed by my own giant cat.
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At South Park: Phone Destroyer, Cyborg Kenny and Mine Control have been most troublesome lately for the same reason. One well-timed Cyborg Kenny swings the match, I think — the character under the enemy’s control and your other characters beat the crap out of each other, and after the Cyborg Kenny effect wears off, the enemy has a line of fresh attackers rushing two or more weakened allies.

My problem is that I have no idea when to play Shaman Token to remove the negative effects (not only the mind control cards, but Program Stan annoys me, too). Play him too soon, and he gets killed before he charges usefully. Play him too late, and he’s a 127-health, weakling fighter.

What I really want is to sink Shaman Token in a Roving Submarine
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There were some cards in the 1990s NetRunner game that said: “Opponent, you have to do something about this immediately, or I will maintain certain advantages for the rest of the game”. One of those cards was Roving Submarine. If Purple played a strong card on the Roving Submarine, Green had to blow the submarine away, else it would submerge and its strong accompanying card was invulnerable as long as it stayed underwater.

If I could submerge Shaman Token — really, almost every card with universal effects when charged — in a Roving Submarine, and call on him when needed, that would be helpful.

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Spielmann–Wahle, Vienna 1926

From the large pile of unpublished things.

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Categories: chess

Player to watch: Arroyo Grande freshman guard Kathleen Hutchens 12/31/2017

Menlo plus Atherton HS beat Menlo of Atherton School 64-57 to win the Coaches vs. Cancer championship game Saturday in … East Palo Alto.

Arroyo Grande beat Capuchino of San Bruno 55-44 to win the consolation game at Menlo (Eastside Prep hosted half the games, Menlo School the other — I imagine it was intended that if Menlo reached the final, it would be played at the neutral site.). For me, that was the main event because Arroyo Grande has a freshman guard who will be exceptional.

Kathleen Hutchens has court vision beyond her years. She completes passes short and long to teammates that most players will not recognize as possible, and goes to the basket when it’s the correct option. She’s a calm ballhandler in fast break traffic and when (seemingly) trapped by defenders.

She’s the coach’s daughter, which is not surprising at all. Coaches’ kids typically have a higher ‘basketball IQ’ than others.

The basketball somehow finds players with instincts like that. Against Capuchino, she gathered nine rebounds — maybe as many as 11 if the scorer was inclined. I recorded her line as 3-for-5 FG, 0-for-4  3FG (in two games, I didn’t see her make a shot from further than 15 feet, but there’s a shooter in there — she has two 20-point games so far — and shooting can be practiced, whereas court vision like hers is a natural talent), nine rebounds (2 off / 7 def), one assist on a long lead pass over the pack, one steal, one block, three turnovers (one skip pass landed in the seats, which in the case of excellent playmakers is a feature, not a bug), three personal fouls.

Before Hutchens, the two players who made a brilliant impression on me in just a few trips across the floor were Kendall Kenyon, who rewrote Pacific’s record book, and Marissa Janning, who was Big East player of the year. I figure Hutchens will be at least as good as that, if my judgment is still reliable.

Arroyo Grande HS plays in the league with Righetti HS, which produced two all-Big West players for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo a few miles away. Kathleen Hutchens is probably on Coach Mimnaugh’s radar already. Cal Poly and Fresno State are 200-mile drives, and that’s as far as I’ve been willing to travel for a game without staying in town overnight. It might be too much to consider that trip for a high school game, but I’ve got four years to think about it.

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Categories: basketball

It’s Menlo of Atherton vs. Menlo with Atherton in the Coaches vs. Cancer championship game Saturday 12/29/2017

Menlo School outscored Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.) 15-4 in overtime to win 70-59, and advance to the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Menlo.

Senior Mallory North and freshman Coco Layton each scored five points in overtime for the Knights (8-0), who face crosstown opponents Menlo-Atherton Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto. Menlo-Atherton won their semifinal 43-35 against St. Mary’s Academy of Portland, Ore.

The largest lead for either team during regulation was eight.

***

My basketball friend in Queens is a stickler for certain things on the court. She would’ve gone apoplectic with 2:01 remaining in overtime.

Menlo led 62-59, and Layton was shooting free throws. Her teammates were all on the other side of the building, protecting their lead. Layton made the first to make it 63-59, but missed the second. With four Eastlake defenders under the basket, and none for Menlo but the shooter, Eastlake allowed Layton to slip through for the rebound and putback. That broke Eastlake’s spirit — they didn’t score again.

***

I provided MaxPreps with score-by-score updates for two games Friday. When I called the local newspaper to ask if they wanted my brief about the Menlo game, they said they already had it in the paper from my updates.

It’s not the “Menlo in Atherton” vs. “Menlo plus Atherton” championship game tomorrow that interests me as much as the consolation game: Arroyo Grande vs. Peninsula Athletic League power Capuchino.

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Categories: basketball