The workers finished our new fence in three days. The fence looks far better than the old fence. The new fence lacks the gaps through which Beatrice could see bunnies in our neighbor's yard. The pleasing result is that Beatrice barks less at night.
It's great to have Beatrice and Teddy back again. Teddy came out of the long kennel stay with a sadness, which is not surprising in a dog of 15 spry years, but still a little distressing. Beatrice seemed a little tired, too, but not as worn. Both dogs are back in fine fettle now.
I plan to play in a Game/10 chess tournament in Plano on Saturday. Game/10 means that each side has ten minutes to make all of her or his moves. This speed is not optimum, as one achieves best play at a speed closer to 40 moves in 2 hours. I like the idea, though, of beginning at 9 a.m. and finishing at noon. This will be my first over the board tournament since the US Open Blitz Chess tournament in 2008.
I have played 80+ games of on-line postal chess in the past two years--48 at the International Correspondence Chess Federation webserver and 33 at the Schemingmind.com webserver. Right now I have two games going on at Scheming Mind--one in which I am within 10 or 12 easy endgame moves of winning and one in which I am pretty much lost, though there is a little life left in the position.
I noticed that the US Chess Federation now offers webserver tourneys, so I signed up for one, but I have not gotten any e mail about the pairings yet. My USCF postal chess rating is only in the 1500s, largely because so many of my postal games there were when I was young. Also, I always found keeping up with all those positions on postcards very challenging. Modern webserver postal chess is very easy to follow. I find it much more satisfying than playing blitz chess on-line. My ICCF rating is 1700 something while my Schemingmind rating is 1800something. All the rating systems really don't line up against one another, though, so that the numbers themselves only have a little relative comparison value.
I must decide what openings to play Saturday. Lately, I play the London System as white a lot.
It is very solid and safe--a lazy guy's opening, in a way. It fits well with my style of trying to keep things solid and calm, begin a basic attack, win a pawn along the way, and then simplify to a won endgame. With the black pieces, I lately play 1....e5, using Bird's defense against the Ruy, the passive but solid Hungarian Defense against 3. Bc4 and the fun ....Qh4+ Keene variation of meeting the King's Gambit. I used to do pretty well, though, with Philidor's Defense, and I can muddle through the Scandinavian, which is easy to play. Against openings other than 1 e4, I tend to set up Slav or Old Indian formations.
The US Chess Federation site now features a statistical break-down of one's rated games since 1991.I found mine fascinating. I beat rabbits but lose too often to peers. I never lose to anyone under 1500. I do not lose to 1500 players much, but I cede a lot of draws. Against players of 1600 or greater, I lose more often than I win, but I pull off an upset once in a while of a much stronger player. Those upsets must help my rating. The result is that my rating is now in the 1600s, about the same as when I was 20, but less than lots of years in between.
I was looking at old score sheets from past tournament games a week or two ago, and realized that most of my upsets came when I played the unorthodox "small center system" (also called the Lengfellner System by the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings). I don't think it's anything magic about the system (in which I have been dismantled many a time). I think it's that I am comfortable in lots of different pawn formations, and this odd system sometimes lets me transpose out of a stronger players comfort zone. The dyed-in-the-wood e4 player sometimes is less certain of how to play against a transposed Slav-type formation. I may try it again Saturday, as it's not bad in a fast time control.
I've been thoroughly enjoying watching live coverage from the St. Louis Chess Club of the US Women's Championship and the US Junior's Championship. Jennifer Shahade and Ben Feingold do great live webcast coverage, making it more fun to watch than sports. I saw an interview with Sam Shankland, a 19 year old International Master who announced his retirement from chess. At his weblog he explained that he was frustrated that he took a year off and did not achieve his grandmaster designation. Part of his frustration had to do with quirks of FIDE [i,e. world federation] chess tournament rules.
I found this weblog post poignant, as when a ballerina must drop out of a ballet company. My mindset is so different,though--if I were an International Master tired of the frustration of seeking the brass ring, I'd become a weekend player, and recede into the west, having the time of my life playing for fun. Still, I wish Mr. Shankland well, as I understand very well what it is like to not achieve your original dreams of a career.
I am also following the play of Darwin Yang, a young teen rated 2300 who hails from nearby Plano. He lost to Shankland today, but I still hope he finishes very high in this tournament. He will be at least an IM, and maybe a GM someday.
This week I maintain my focus on eating in a fully healthy way. My father quite properly pointed out that I regained some of the massive amount of weight I lost some years ago. As losing weight comes easily to me if I eat right and exercise, I decided to return to much more healthy eating. I have done pretty well this week, avoiding all but the chewing gum in the dreaded office candy dish. I made the resolution tonight that if by August I am not firmly fixed in doing the right thing, then I will return to the absurd but absurdly effective Weight Watchers to lose the weight once more.
I got a great t-shirt on Etsy.com featuring a blue octopus design, but my efforts to take a picture of my smiling face and shirt fail tonight, so I close with cephalopod images unshown.