April 3rd, 2021

abstract butterfly

Christmas Chess in April

I watched a chess video from a recent Christmas, in which chess grandmaster Pia Cramling showed her daughter Anna a very nice win against a strong grandmaster at a Christmas tournament in Stockholm, years earlier. The win was an impressive one from a Taimonov Sicilian, in which an oncoming f4/g4 pawn storm was blunted by a timely use of h5 and by a decision by Ms. Cramling not to castle kingside. The combination of the daughter's red holiday attire, the mother calmly explaining a complex game to make it simple, and the vague soundtracking of Christmas hymns improbably had a holiday feeling despite the April time period.

I stuck with blitz (5-minute) chess for my own games, eschewing bullet (one minute a side) chess as I noticed that my computer's lag as well as my own contributed to my results. My blitz rating at chess.com rose back above 1400. My over-the-board rating is in the 1600s, after a decline from 1820. I remember when I was just out of university the Summer before law school with rating of 1797, at the top of the B rating class. My play was progressing very well, and I could see that I had a chance not only to reach the A rating class, but perhaps to reach Expert level.  But I realized how much work that would entail, and decided not to put in that work. I did return to chess and reach my A rating, though I did not stay at that level. During my walk, I wondered if the reason I do not tire of a game at which I am inexpert is because I have relatively little invested in it.

I watched a Twitch stream by super-GM Hikaru Nakamura, whose rating used to be in the top 5 and still is in the top 20.  It was impressive that he could cede material odds  (i.e., play a piece down from the outset of a game) against players and still win. 

I've been intrigued in my on-line chess how much success I have playing the Stonewall Attack with the white pieces. This rather simplistic opening, a reversed Dutch Defense, tends to be under-estimated. But I am very comfortable with the Dutch and Slav pawn formations and kingside attacks. Usually, in over-the-board tournaments, I play the Colle System much more often than the Stonewall Attack. But the Stonewall has served me well this year. Against King's Indian formations, I play something close to the Zukertort Colle System. I also play the Dutch Stonewall as black. Against 1 e4, I alternate widely  between the Pirc, the Philidor and the Scandinavian, though I do enjoy playing the Bird Defense to the Ruy Lopez and the Keene Variation of the King's Gambit Declined.

I went for a walk on the Mustang Trail in Allen, I saw fourteen species. I got good pictures of an Eastern Bluebird. I also walked for a bit on the Cottonwood Creek Trail South. My wife and I walked in Glendover Park. The weather was warm but the wind was present. Last year, April was a low count for the number of discrete species seen, as the pandemic caused me to visit very local buy little-used parks. They had good birds to see, but not the wider variety of the rural places or the Heard Science Center. Today marks two weeks since my first vaccination. In three weeks I get my second, and two weeks after that its effects should kick in. So perhaps I can be a bit more active in May.

I caught much of a Weight Watchers virtual meeting, which talked about mixing chores with pleasurable activity, though the nomenclature for each was more jargon-laced.



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