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Chess on TV

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I don't watch much network TV -- I have two small kids and too much work and if I had time to do that I'd spend it sleeping. That doesn't mean I'm not up for checking out a series once it's available on streaming or DVD. Two I recently dropped into my Netflix streaming queue are Dollhouse and 24, which I've never seen and honestly don't much expect to like, but the real-time thing is a cool concept and I figured I'd give it a try. I was five minutes into the first episode of the first season of 24 and there was a chessboard between the lead super-agent character, Jack Bauer, and his teenage daughter. (Yeah, right.) And Dollhouse, a silly/sexy techno-thriller series that's already been canceled, also makes a feature of a chessboard in the same way. That way, of course, is the "establish the character as a braniac, especially if he's mostly an action guy who needs some quick and easy Sherlock Holmes cred via a prop in the corner of the room."

The other way is even more cliche, the "he's a geek" way, which is its use in Dollhouse. Slightly ironically, considering Josh Whedon's massive rep in the geek world, mostly thanks to Buffy (which I haven't seen either), the chessboard in the tech guy's room in Dollhouse is perpetually turned 90 degrees. I doubt anyone would bother with a joke that subtle, and since the position changes regularly I guess someone in the crew is quite sure that "black square on the right" is the way to go. It was correct in that 24 scene, but having established Jack's smarty-pants cred I doubt we'll see the board again after he gets busy shooting people in the kneecaps.

I usually take this opportunity to drop Tim Krabbe's theory that the black square on the right must be more aesthetically pleasing somehow, since it seems to be that way more than 50% of the time. I think it's more that we only really notice it, or at least blog about it, when it's wrong.

Hmm, first episode of 24 is half through and I already have no idea what's going on. I think Jack just shot someone he's working with in the kneecap.

He Didn't Want to Miss the Match

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Sure, he skipped the opening ceremony and decided he could miss the first few Anand-Topalov games, despite being scheduled to arrive on the 24th. Maybe he thought Anand's volcano delay request would be granted.

He is in time for the second half and has been officially born into the Obama/Anand era. As he enters the world, Stieg Larsson tops the fiction lists, Rihanna the pop charts, and US unemployment is still over 9%. Hardly auspicious signs, but many of the greats were born into periods of crisis.

Or maybe he was a week late because HE'S FREAKIN' HUGE. Must be that giant brain that tipped him over ten pounds (10lb 2oz, or 4.6kg in the civilized world). Mother and child are healthy and doing fine. Big sister is delighted with her new toy, though we'll see how long that lasts when she realizes he can't be turned off and put in the toy box.

Fischer's Birthday

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If you're in a philosophical mood, here's an amusing YouTube mash-up with astronomy, "there's something out there" text, and Bobby Fischer video clips voiced over one by of the less scurrilous segments of the many interviews Fischer gave to Philippine radio during, I believe, his captivity in Japan. Most of it sounds like the epiphany of a 9th-grade science student, but there is an innocent charm to it for that. ht DC

"Can I go off the air singing a little "All You Need Is Love?"

And he does. Sort of. Fischer would have been 67 today. He died two years ago in Iceland, ending one of the greatest and then saddest stories in the history of chess. It's a pity that "the pride and sorrow" was already taken by his countryman Paul Morphy.

Why Me?

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This is, to borrow a phrase from Andrew Sullivan's blog, the view from my window right now.

My third-floor window. Apparently a street fair or block party of some sort. Right outside. The generator keeping that damn thing inflated is also making a racket. Lovely. Time to go to the park.

Open thread. Jibber-jabber.

Kasparov in Brooklyn

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Well, it took him long enough! Garry will be speaking at the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch, also my own beloved local library, Saturday at 2pm. I haven't hyped it here since the registration filled up in less than a day over a month ago and... his talk and the Q&A will be in Russian. Oh well. But I thought you'd like to know.

New View

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Well, all of my worldly possessions have moved 200 meters to the east and my wife, daughter, two cats, and computer are still in working order. The new place is a disaster area of boxes and close to 2000 books (around half of the chess variety, the ones you're helping me get rid of). I'm battered, bruised, bleeding and bexausted. But it's a great new space, baby has her own room at last, and the air conditioner is in. That last just led to the discovery that the electrical system in this building is a horror show; apparently the landlord isn't much on maintenance. But at least the 3rd-floor walk-up will have me slimmed down in no time, whew.

Meanwhile, during all this I had to push a deadline for a 3500-word World Affairs article I'm working on with Garry, so I'm still not going to be around here too much this week. Then the ICC Chess.FM live coverage of the NH Tournament in Amsterdam (old lions vs young tigers, with Russian champ Svidler and US champ Nakamura starring) starts on Thursday. Maybe by then we'll have found a few other important things around here, such as the remote controls, the bathmat, and my underwear. Sweaty. At least we found the coffee maker 'cos I'm gonna need it.

Speaking of substance abuse, where's FIDE with their piss cups when you need them in London? Either Nigel Short is on something or the Dutch players he was annihilating at the Staunton Memorial found a Dutch coffee house near the tournament hall. The 44-year-old former world championship challenger just finished the team event with a bang, beating van Wely with black to rack up an amazing 8/10 score. I didn't think I was going to be missing much with this event, but now I'm sad my moving madness precluded a closer perusal. Short was the only player on the UK squad with a plus score, but his massive +6 (sorry ladies, he's married) made his team a winner, 26.5-23.5. Smeets led the Dutch on +2 and Sokolov had +1. Werle was the goat, losing five games without a win.

Some veterans who make Short look like a sprog were dishing it out as well over in the accompanying round-robin event. An inspired Jan Timman scored +5 to take clear first despite a loss to someone even older, Philidor's old sparring partner Viktor Korchnoi. The legend, now spinning at 78 rpm, took third place behind Cherniaev, who is only 40.

Down Jermuk way, the FIDE Grand Prix event in the Armenian resort town has exploded into activity from what I can tell. Aronian fell off the lead with two losses while Leko has remained steady and Ivanchuk has surged to take a share of the lead with +3. Kasimjanov is right behind on +2 after 8 of 13 rounds have been played. Ivanchuk's wins are spectacular stuff, vintage Chucky. Leko barely held on against Jakovenko in yesterday's game, managing to hold a pawn-down endgame with a knight against a bishop, not an easy thing to do.

Kamsky looked close to a win against Cheparinov but maybe his passed b-pawn just isn't enough? What about 51..Nf2? Kamsky nabbed his first win of the event against tourney dog Inarkiev. Theory watch: Akopian and Bacrot rehashed 15 moves from their encounter in the last GP in the Accelerated Dragon. Akopian won that one, but here he was the first to vary with 16.Rad1 instead of 16.Nb3. White tried the same quick e5 push but here couldn't avoid rapid exchanges and a quick draw.

365 Days Later...

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Can you believe it's been a year?

Most amazing year ever, no doubt. La Miglette continues to be the happiest baby ever, which we imagine is a ploy to get a little brother or sister out of us. Now if only she'd start sleeping past six in the morning...

DC Wifi Humor

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In DC with Garry yesterday for meetings, I hooked my G1 into a wifi network at an office building near Dupont Circle. Among the various networks to appear was one with an amusing SSID. There are several consular offices in the building but I don't think that third one from the top is there anymore. Or is there something we don't know?! Nice to see an admin with a sense of humor. Either that or if you see a black helicopter circling my house, please give me a ring.

Meetings were very interesting, not always the case. In three weeks Obama is headed to Russia for the first time and both what he says and with whom he meets there will be watched very closely. And of course every faction and clique in the US political scene wants a "Russia message" now, so people who would barely return my calls a month ago are now beating down the doors. Good, but silly, since you know we'll be back on the caller ID screen list by August even if we help out.

While I'm off-topic, hello to the several people who came up and said hello to me at the Lincoln Center screening of "Holy Fire" the other day. (Mostly while waiting to get Garry's picture or autograph, but I'll take it.)

From Russia with Holy Fire

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It's not exactly the Hollywood red carpet, but it's not bad. The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival gets underway tomorrow at famous Lincoln Center in New York. One of the opening night attractions is "In The Holy Fire of the Revolution," a documentary by Masha Novikova that follows the travails of Garry Kasparov and other Russian opposition leaders as they travel through the country while being sabotaged at every step by the powers that be. There will be a Q&A with Garry after the film screens. It begins at 6:30pm.


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Something like that is expected later this evening. Thanks to everyone who sent b-day wishes. At times like this it's good to peruse the list of all the famous and accomplished people who never even lived to see 40. Consider all they achieved so early and then think, "suckers, I'm still alive!" Living is the best revenge. Best put by Woody Allen, like so many things. "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying."

Meanwhile, the even older than me Nigel Short on why he did so well at the Sigeman tournament (4.5/5 and a 2974 TPR). "The problem was that I had a few too many glasses of red wine at the opening ceremony and I promised Johan Sigeman that he could have his money back if I didn't fight."

Competition is indeed the art of self-motivation. There should be a motivational poster with open bottles of alcohol and below it saying, "Booze: Helping you make promises you have to keep when you're sober."

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