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Archive for May, 2013

RIP Jack Vance 1917 – 2013

jackportrait

One of my favourite SF and Fantasy writers died last Sunday at the age of 96. Jack Vance produced remarkable books but it was never enough to push him to the absolute top like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury to name a few. The first two SF books that I have bought on my own were “Job: A comedy of Justice” (by Robert A. Heinlein) – and the “Alastor” omnibus by Jack Vance, which was the start of a wonderful ride. Hunting down the German editions of his books wasn’t easy and only the rise of eBay made it possible to complete my collection. Later I switched to the original editions and was amazed by his careful wordcrafting and worldbuilding.

Alastor is still my favourite pick for rainy Sundays and I have re-read it countless times. It filled my heart with joy and adventure and it brought color into my world.

If you want to read more I highly recommend the NY Times article about him. You can also leave a message at Foreverness – Raise a Toast to Jack Vance!

The Fantasy fans of my Blog I kindly point to the Lyonesse trilogy (part 1, part 2, part 3). If you haven’t read it yet then you are in for a treat!

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Immortality

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“It’s while it’s being lived that life is immortal, while it’s still alive. Immortality is not a matter of more or less time, it’s not really a question of immortality but of something else that remains unknown. It’s as untrue to say it’s without beginning or end as to say it begins and ends with the life of the spirit, since it partakes both of the spirit and of the pursuit of the void.” -Margeruite Duras

Death makes us human.

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe…
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those… moments… will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain. Time… to die…

– Blade Runner, final monologue of Roy Batty

In memory of my grandmother who died 10 days ago at the age of 93

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TL57, round 1

The first round of the Team4545League was a good start. First I played an early morning game against my opponent from New Zealand. The opening wasn’t my best, White had the chance to win a pawn after a couple of exchanges. My try for a hedgehog at all costs had backfired and this is something I have to keep in mind for the future. It’s always better to be flexible.

The big surprise came already came at move 9.Nxf7!?. There wasn’t much choice here but to accept the sacrifice. I couldn’t believe that it works and was curious how the game will continue. The exchanges weren’t in favor of White who needed all pieces to start an attack. The critical moment came at move 15. Black had to think about a way to defend his king and to avoid being pushed back to g8, which would have kept the rook on h8 out of play for a while.

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15…Nf6 with the idea Kf7, Be7, Rf8 or e8 and Kg8 solved all my problems. I wasn’t completely sure if I would have the time for all the moves but on f6 the knight protects the king extremely well. Another idea was 15…Qc7 to stop Qc6 but now White can also play Qg4+ (or Re1+ first) and Black has to be very precise.

From here on it was rather simple and it was interesting that White’s queen didn’t have many useful squares later on:

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22…Ne4! forces a series of exchanges and the endgame is simply lost for White.

My second game was scheduled for Sunday night but unfortunately my opponent didn’t arrive. Too bad, I was counting on a Closed Sicilian and wanted to try out something. Well, it has to wait until next time.

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Let the games begin, part 57

Here we go again, ready for the 57th season of the Team4545League and this time it’s going to be tough. In the U1600 section (Kalahari Division) I will face players who are rated 60-100 TL points higher and also board 2 will have to meet 2 much stronger players. As usual we will give our best and I have trust in my capabilities to give every player <2000 a hard time. Not to forget that for the personal chess development it’s better to face stronger opponents.

After a longer break I will also play in the U1800 section in my old Strukt II team. Here it’s different, only one board 4 player is stronger and the other 4 players in this six-team division are a bit weaker. I won’t be able to play too many rounds, maybe 3-4, but if I manage to keep up the motivation and prevent myself from burning out then this season has the potential to give me the necessary push for the rest of the year.

Stay tuned!

Finally a very funny cartoon from José Diaz which made me smile, especially the comment of Mr Hammer.

 

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Writers earning money

Writing books is a tough business. There are a few who have made it and gazillions who need a real job to survive. I am glad to see that Jeff Vandermeer got an excellent deal for his upcoming trilogy, which should feed his family for at least a year or two. He definitely deserves it! I can’t wait to hold the new books in my hands. I loved every part of his excellent City of Saints and Madmen collection, already the cover is a piece of art with an embedded vignette. The link will lead you to Amazon where the “Look Inside” provides a larger image. If I find the time I will scan my own edition.

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Check it out. 🙂

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Recently there was the following variation in one of my games:

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4r1k1/p3bqp1/1p1r1p1p/2pPpR2/2P1P2Q/P3BR2/1P4PP/6K1 w – –

White has an advantage but how to continue? Does 30. Bxh6 work? Houdini needs ~3 minutes until it agrees that this is the strongest move. Junior 11.2 only 3 seconds! That was quite a surprise and shows that these old engines are still useful. Houdini doesn’t miss the bishop sacrifice but it takes a while. When I analyze a game I need input what else I could or should have played. Modern programs are very strong, no doubt, but also quite similar so the human operator must help them a bit – or rely on old, sharp engines to get new ideas.

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Watching Chess can be fun

Long time controls make watching chess pretty boring unless you  have many games running in parallel but rapid time controls provide some real fun. Last night the US chess championship had to be decided in a playoff and the final armageddon game saw Gata Kamsky with the white pieces having 45min + 5sec increment versus Ramirez who had just 19:45min + 5sec increment. Black only needed to draw to clinch the title but Kamsky was up to the task and won an interesting game. A good report of the last rounds including the playoff can be found on Chessvibes.

The official website had a good video coverage (which is still available for later viewing) and I enjoyed listening to Yasser Seirawan’s comments. The board looked a bit blurry so I switched to the ICC broadcast where to everyone’s surprise Nakamura relayed the moves of the decisive game. Watching the moves, reading the comments and listening to Seirawan was great fun.

This cannot be said about Maurice Ashley who commented the games as well very enthusiastically, crying blunder! after the slightest inaccuracy and criticizing Kamsky harshly for failing to win game 2. The computer can show whatever it wants, if you can’t see a clear winning path the evaluation is worth nothing. This “White has a +0.3 advantage” is just annoying and in sharp contrast to the calm and professional attitude of Yasser Seirawan.

Congratulations to Kamsky who finished the game in style:

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51. Rxe5! wins smoothly, Black has no chance to stop both pawns.

 

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