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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

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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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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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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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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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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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 rec.games.chess.politics — 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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By association, Charles Barkley’s 1993 Phoenix Suns played little girly basketball, according to Charles Barkley 12/02/2016

sunslog_1TNT troll Charles Barkley got some attention Thursday for saying about the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors: “I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people.”

Folks are in a tizzy because 1) Barkley said “little girly basketball” like it’s a bad thing, and 2) Barkley equated the darling Warriors with the bad thing.

He’s just projecting. Because what did our 1993 Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns do? We outscored people. #1 in OffRtg, #9 in DefRtg, 2nd to the Bulls in the Finals.

I’ve watched many girls play harder, and tougher defensively, than Charles Barkley did as a Sun. For instance, when Griner sets her mind to it, she’s one of the best defenders to play in The Arena That Charles Built. (When the Suns opened America West Arena in 1992, revitalizing downtown Phoenix, and hopefully signaling a new era for Phoenix Suns basketball, the brass looked at our pretty new building and the conversation was something like: “We have to decorate with a championship banner.” “We have to get us a Charles Barkley.” It was supposed to be a year like none other: New building, new coach, new Charles Barkley. Unfortunately, same old Michael Jordan.)

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In the Cal Classic final, Cal looked very together 11/27/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtIn the Cal Classic final against Duquesne, Cal got 51 points and 23 rebounds from three all-tournament forwards, and beat the Dukes 86-66.

Cal senior forward Courtney Range — they might list her as a “guard-forward”, which doesn’t describe Range as well as it describes most 2/3/4s — was the most valuable player in more than than one way. She’s taken on the senior responsibility at press conferences — she’s the union representative for 12 Cal students, which requires poise and fluency. Range also gathered 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in two games.

Cal’s public address man calls the occasional Range trey with: “Long range three”. It’s a clever call, well used sparingly.

Sophomore Kristine Anigwe recorded 29 and 19, and I bet you could find people who’d say she had a bad weekend. Coach Gottlieb said Anigwe was making the extraordinary look ordinary, so substitute “ordinary” for “bad”. Anigwe made 29 and 19 look ordinary and somewhat disappointing.

Junior Penina Davidson is likes James Worthy in this regard: Worthy was the quietly dominant one in the Big Three dynamic of those great Lakers teams.

Ballhandling guard Asha Thomas made one turnover in the Cal Classic. She reminded me of Coach Mary Hegarty, who used to say she was just giving the ball to Denise Curry at UCLA, in an ironic bit of self-deprecation and unselfishness.

Junior guard Mikayla Cowling had 19 points and 14 assists. Those numbers made me think: “Huh? Really?”, because I feel like I wasn’t paying attention.

So this is the best thing I can say about the Golden Bears at their home tournament: Their guards were quietly spectacular. This coincides with what Coach Gottlieb said about her team: “We’ve got so many pieces to put together, and today you saw all of them.”

The worst thing I can say about the Golden Bears is to recite the old principle that the home team naturally invites three teams in the “stretch us hard but likely not beat us, especially when we play together” range. I hope the team takes that in a tongue-in-cheek, challenging way.

About the all-Cal Classic players from visiting teams:

USF senior guard Rachel Howard earned it. USF is a rocky program, rebuilding everywhere. I liked their senior guard Raushan Gultekin — she’s noticeable for diving under bigger players, and getting to the ball first. Then while I think to write that down, she’s chasing another loose ball.

Duquesne sophomore guard Chassidy Omogrosso was deserving. Duquesne is a striking family organization — they actually read each others’ retweets. Good basketball team, too.

Western Carolina junior forward Sherae Bonner had 15 points and 26 rebounds. Bonner had the Catamounts’ only double-double — none of her teammates made two doubles, which suggests their team’s unevenness.

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11/24/2016

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Cal is 4-0 on the eve of their Cal Classic

Pacific,Logo_GoldenBear_wht California, and St. Mary’s are all hosting four-teams-for-two-days tournaments this Thanksgiving weekend. Each of those schools is among my favorite basketball venues, and as it happens, each tournament invited an additional team on my beat: Santa Clara is at Pacific, San Francisco is at Cal, and Utah is at St. Mary’s.

It’s a predicament, but there is one heavily-weighted tiebreaker in favor of Berkeley: Haas Pavilion is a six-block walk from the BART station downtown, while McKeon Pavilion in Moraga and Spanos Center in Stockton make for treacherous driving conditions even under the best weather.

So I shan’t see Coach Lynne Roberts and her Utah Utes, which is disappointing, because I think Roberts has never looked happier than she does now during her second season in Salt Lake City. Her first four seasons at Pacific were very rough, but she built a Big West Conference champion from scraps, for which she’s rewarded by promotion to the powerful Pac-12.

Utah is 8th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, which will suit a Roberts group just fine — her teams aren’t happy unless they’re underdogs. When her 2013 Pacific team was crushing opponents, even I was feeling a bit like “well, yeah, but this would be more fun if it were unexpected”.

Cal is predicted to finish in the middle of the Pac-12, a reasonable jump to expect from last season’s 4-14 shock, but a long, long way from 2013’s 16-1 Final Four.

I’ve seen the undefeated Golden Bears three times. I thought they looked disarrayed on opening night at St. Mary’s — Cal’s defense is at its best when it is swarming and stretching and coercing turnovers, but it seemed to me that when the Gaels lost the handle on the ball, there just happened to be a Bear nearby to pick it up and run. You can stick to “luck is the residue of good design”, but sometimes perhaps it’s just bouncing the right way.

They didn’t look so sharp three nights later at home against Santa Clara, either — until the second half, when they routinely capitalized on greater athleticism, lobbing the ball toward the basket with an expectation that a Golden Bear would come down with it. Cal scored 40 points in the paint, and won the second half by 18 — final 73-58.

On 11/20 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, the Bears took advantage of the Roadrunners’ aim to open the floor end-to-end. Cal assisted on 23 of 34 field goals, while stifling every Roadrunner but one — CSUB forward Aja Williams scored 35 of their 63 points against 86 for the host Bears.

It was the second straight 20-plus-10 game for sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe. “She makes some extraordinary things look ordinary,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve raised our expectations of her, which is pretty remarkable — we expect 20 and 10 from her, but now we’re asking her for more.”

The thing Cal really did right during those three games was improve noticeably. They were sloppy at St. Mary’s, better in the second half vs. Santa Clara, and getting it well together while routing Bakersfield. “We’re trying to get a little better with each game,” said Gottlieb, who cited her team’s defense against CSUB and particularly their shot selection: “We show them that this is what the great teams — Golden State and San Antonio — do: giving up good shots to get great shots.”

Next for Cal is the first round of the Cal Classic on Friday vs. San Francisco. The Dons were the hugely-surprising winners of the West Coast Conference tournament last March, going in as the #6 seed before beating #3, #2, and #1 to earn the berth in the NCAA tournament. Then coach Jennifer Azzi dropped a bomb, resigning seven weeks before the start of the 2017 season, replaced by Molly Goodenbour (who probably hadn’t furnished her new office at Cal State Hayward before leaving for USF) — I’m pleased; as much as I liked Coach Azzi, Coach Goodenbour has been a good story wherever she goes.

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