Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sedona Part 2 and the chess roommate

Welcome Phillips family wherever you are this cold winter night. Thanks again for helping me load the trailer.



Seeing Slide Rock is understanding why native Americans worshipped the land.

"where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through the seas of Thought, alone."
-William Wordsworth

A few minutes down, a stream begins to pick up speed.

The roommate and I have played a few games now. Some in the afternoons and a couple at night over a beer. He is quite the gamesman or hobbyist if you will. Pool, Backgammon, chess and a guitar player. I imagine this variety of activity collects somewhere in the mind and branches out new innovative thought when challenged.

Everywhere in Sedona has a mesmerizing view. I had to pull over and snap this one.

He has lost four in a row now to yours truly. It definitely burns him up a little but our games are always good natured so their are no hard feelings. I am quite pleased with the way the games have gone. No major blunders or ridiculous endgame stupidity on my end and he has racked up only one blunder.


From the same place on the road. The curvy mountain roads are so tight they section off small areas next to red rock banks to pull over in case of an emergency.

The games have had a good pace to them, playing without the clock. Games seem to be a lot friendlier without the clock so I prefer it unless the situation is really competitive. But the speed is controlled and time is given on moves where it is apparent that it is needed. He clearly has as much experience as I do but his is further away, some lost to time.


Aaahhh a thousand or more feet down and we reach Grasshopper Point. So far my favorite place in the world. The water is clearer than it looks in the picture. The mountain streams form tranquil mini waterfalls that hush the sparse wildlife.

The latest duel we had happened on a Sunday afternoon. I turned on the military channel for added strategic emphasis. Their is nothing like hearing mortar rounds and rolling tank treads while duking it out otb. Its like a cross between eating chicken nuggets in the back of a pick up truck filled with crates of chickens and a civil war reenactment. Something about irony and simulacra.

A little ways down those rocks is the perfect place to chill and meditate on life.

He castled Queen side again which really freaked me out. He has done this in three of the last four games. It may have been a sneaky subterfuge at one point in time but now it just accelerates my attack. At some point it costs him tempo. Maybe at the end of the middlegame or the beginning of the endgame when an slew of pawns and major pieces are bearing down on the weakly fortified castle. Anyway, every time I see the Queen side maneuver I start pushing pawns and the game turns out in my favor.

This place has everything. Forestry, gentle streams, high red rock cliffs and strange unfamiliar plant life. Imagine discovering this after weeks through the desert on a horse.

Why does he castle Queen side? Does he fear a quick aggressive attack? or maybe hes giving room to his own pawns in an attempt to launch a siege.


A cactus eye view from Grasshopper Point.

The latest game was quite even in every way until we neared the endgame. I'm not sure where I read it, but somewhere it says that as soon as you enter the endgame begin moving your king up the board into the action. This has been my mantra and I think it has improved my game exponentially. Why its taken this long to learn such a simple trick is bizarre.

I think its a seasonal river bed. The sign says No Glass On The Beach and Animals Have Rabies. Hmm.

His biggest flaw is one that we've all faced at one time or another. Relying on a sense of vision that just isn't their. Maybe it once was, maybe your in the midst of learning it, maybe your mind is a cloudy mess for any reason. Once you start to rely on it, you begin to habituate your actions. If at any time the vision subsides the game collapses like a Chinese house in a snowstorm.

The city area of Sedona. A half mile of tourist shops on either side in a sort of old west nouveau style. I got some candies from "Grandma Horr's Cookies, The Best Little Horr House In Sedona." Who could resist. They couldn't.

I am not saying that one shouldn't or cant rely on it. I'm saying that we must be wary of the times when it will fail us. To have a contingency plan. To be able to fall back on a more alert, artistic way of game play when necessary. Not to submit defeat at the first loss of a major piece. Instead we should begin a new train of thought that explores pathways not yet seen. To explore true thought during the game, not just what you have learned. To open up intellectual perception at a moments notice, recognize that all realms of mind can be used to create new ideas on the board and to understand it, alone.



That little railing is preventing me from falling a very long scary death. The size of the bridge juxtaposed with the canyon can cause some serious vertigo. That trail down is for another time.


Looking away from the bridge the rocks have been waiting to taunt us for millions of years.

Sedona really ignites the spirit of nature and displays the smallness of man.



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sedona and the Macy's chess club part 1

Not even kitties can resist the Route 66 Doghaus. I had to make a dog stop before the journey. Mmm the hickory bacon dog is like a roller coaster in your mouth and digestive system.

I stopped over at Macy's cafe Monday night to check out their chess club. Last Monday they had three boards goings and a limited number of creepy old guys so I inquired as to how often they meet. A white bearded man said every Monday until 10. So I penciled it in.


My mountainous home. Partly cloudy through a dusty windshield. Also analogous to life.

Macy's is a self described "European Cafe." What makes it European other than the prices is still a mystery. It keeps busy most of the time and kind of reminds me of a pseudo hippie Panera but with all vegetarian food. The clientele is pretty mixed. Ive seen babies, dirty hippies, old pretentious hippies and chess players all in the same ten foot radius. You'd think that would open some sort of vortex.

A picture from Oak Creek Canyon Lookout. Pictures just don't give it justice, it is so huge.
So Monday night rolls around and I return with the intention of getting a good game in and finishing my book. I talk with the girl behind the counter for a couple minutes cause I cant figure out if shes a hippie or a lesbian. The tattoos and short hair really go either way and shes obligated to make conversation.


Certain death from the canyon drop.

Their are four games going with a fifth guy hanging out harassing the other players. I took my hot apple cider over and asked if he was up for a game. He kindly gestured to sit down and started making conversation. Flagstaff has a unique small talk that isn't so much "What do you do?" or Hows it goin?" Its more of a "What are you doing here?", "What adventures do you bring?" introduction.

Something green is growing on the outer edge of the canyon. Look at that lush forest in the background.

I tentatively spill a small life story and he does the same. I start to wonder if were ever going to play some chess and hes still talking about old friends and places from long ago. It doesn't take long to realize no one is actually from Flag, everyone has a story to tell and they all want to tell it.


It goes on forever and the cold nights keep a little remaining snow to make small native American snow men with. Then they scalp them with snow tomahawks.

We set the timer for ten minutes a side and I start as white. The cafe is a buzz with activity even for eight in the evening on a Monday night. I know he underestimates my play because he starts with some crazy post modern fianchetto. I beg him with the queens gambit but he denies.

You cant fight the sun up here nor the awesome mountains.


We get into a tough middle game where I dominate the center but he is launching a complex counter attack. I know the he knows that he played to soft in the opening. He gets that concerned look because time is starting to tick down and he needs a good plan quickly.

The road to the city leads right through that.

We come out of the middle game and into the endgame dead even on material. My position is slightly better and we both a several major pieces left. His time is dwindling fast while I have a couple minutes left. At this point I'm thinking about the strongest piece, the clock. He is too. I'm not subtle about looking at it.

A view of Slide Rock about 1500 ft down the canyon. Its being shadowed by the cliffs on the other side.

Then I blunder. Their goes a rook. Hes not relaxing, he has almost no time left. Mine is running short too and its my only hope. I foolishly make an exchange in the hopes of complicating the endgame further. Gambling on his endgame skill is really all I have left. But he pulls through in the end by queening an untouchable pawn and mating me with about four seconds left. That was a burner and I didn't want another game.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chess rock landed on us.

Took a trip to Sedona a couple days ago. What a fantastically awesome place. Pictures just cant do justice to the beauty and enormity of the cliffs and canyons that envelope the whole place.

I'm still on a winning streak with my new roomy. Hes a little rusty so he makes some really great, mind melting moves and then misses a pin of his Queen to his King. Its enjoyable to play against him because hes laid back and doesn't take the game personally. He also brings in some new ideas that I'm unfamiliar with. Like playing the guitar as a ridiculous psychological ploy or launching a full on attack only to pull it back a couple moves later.



Everything in Sedona makes one feel super small. Can you see that road?

Going out to Macy's cafe on Monday night for chess club. I cant believe I found such a place only a few days after arriving in Flagsaff. I noticed a couple heated middlegames last Monday as I was reading Asimov's Fantastic Voyage. Great read btw. Very seventies sci fi but in the human body. Anyway, after approaching one of the more casual games the bearded man said they meet at Macy's every Monday for a few hours. It was a couple old guys and a couple young guys so it will be interesting to explore the new dynamic.

I'm headed back to Sedona in a few days to capture a gazillion photos of Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock, a random beach I found with no water and whatever else strikes my fancy.

It will also be interesting to see how I fare. In the past year I tore up the UWM chess ranks, some friends and family and a few random strangers at coffeehouses. I frequently lose the first game but once I get a handle on their strategerieness they get hosed like were playing kick the kid with one shoe.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"I am very sorry, but Bobby Fischer is dead. Goodbye." -Spassky

He was a brilliant man who is an inspiration to most if not all serious chess players and will continue to be. His contribution of Fischer Chess to the chess world will live on in eternity as a training technique and a new game growing in popularity. In the style of a true genious he didnt fit in well with the rest of the world but could comprehend it in a way no other could. I often wonder what the world would be like had he taken up astrophysics, painting or music instead of chess. He died at 64. Thats an odd coincidence.


"Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation, called Fischer "a phenomenon and an epoch in chess history, and an intellectual giant I would rank next to Newton and Einstein.""



"The 1972 match made chess fashionable, even sexy, some experts say."



"Former Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov said Fischer would be remembered as "the pioneer, some would say the founder, of professional chess" and called his death "very sad news.""

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pawn Shaman has moved!


To Flagstaff AZ. Sorry for the long delay in posts. Traveling across the country and getting settled in takes a bit of time. Thanks to those who didn't give up on me though. And thanks to Chess Loser for the link in his recent LOLcat post. Snuggles Gambit!

So traveling doesn't leave a lot of time for chess but does leave a lot of time for a chess vacation. Everybody knows a good vacation can boost motivation and concentration when it is all over. Ive purposefully taken some cheescations in the past but this one was more of the Taoist variety. It flowed like an uncarved block, which is as far as my analysis goes. It paid off in spades though when an unexpected game from a local gun slinger fell in my lap.



My Apt. No stalking please.

I have two roommates. One is a gay dude around 30 with an iffy sense of design and an open mind. The other a college freshman in his early twenties who is quite independent and a craigslist ladies man for what its worth. So one day CLM (craigslist ladies man) and I head to the local pub for a brew. The Road.

It doesn't take long to get a little fuzzy on booze at seven thousand feet. Some of you may already know this. After a couple, CLM challenges yours truly to a game of chess. What?! Is this some kind of universal law of chessnerds that we naturally gravitate towards each other. The Law of Social Chess Magnetism: Chess players/nerds naturally progress towards each other socially due to common personality traits and thus similar taste in watering holes and bistros. Sometimes their paths collide but often a strange gravitation occurs where many chessies orbit the same locale completely unaware of one another.

One of many mountain peaks in this area.

CLM brings out a small board from the back showing his familiarity with this particular bar. We set it up, I am black, and I get the mysterious fat green pawn which is aptly named the Leprechaun pawn. We are both feeling the altitude and I express in arrogance that I am not going to let him win, ever. He takes it in stride. I then pull the "bishop and knight in the wrong place" trick to see if he is paying attention and judge his reaction. He noticed and didn't say anything so I switched them back. So far no psychological clues at all. The game progresses and I play Ba3 to block his castling ability and leave my bishop totally exposed. It was a calculated risk, against my better judgement. He forks my king and bishop a few moves after and now a wild attack is bearing down on the black king. He plays haphazardly and I regain lost points by assassinating a slew of pawns. Now he must activate his pieces to equalize the tempo so I pin them in a web of annoyance. One lone green pawn shuffles toward the end of the board until it is too late and he offers his hand in resignation.