Monday, November 7, 2016


I'm a sucker for space drama. Recently, I find myself watching and rewatching "Interstellar" and "Gravity". But the original space drama was probably 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey" directed by Stanley Kubrick. I had watched it as a highschooler and found it quite confusing with long artsy sequences bereft of dialog. When it arrived in my streaming pile a year ago, I tried to watch it again, but Strauss' "Blue Danube" coupled with the slow cinematics put me to sleep about halfway in. This picture is a key moment where HAL9000 eavesdrops on the astronauts plotting against him by reading their lips. Checkmate.

A couple days ago, I resumed watching 2001 and ran into the chess sequence around 1:06:06 where astronaut Frank Poole is playing the ship's computer HAL9000. It's laughable how bad Frank's position is. His queenside is untouched and his queen is the only active piece.

FRANK: Queen takes pawn.(Qxa6)
HAL: Bishop takes knight's pawn.(Bxg2)
FRANK: What a lovely move. Uh, rook to king one.(Re1)
HAL: I'm sorry, Frank, I think you missed it. Queen to bishop's three (Qf3). Bishop takes queen (Bxf3). Knight takes bishop, mate (Nxf3#).

Right after the chess scene, there is a scene in which Dave Bowman is drawing on a sketch pad while walking past cryochambers. The music sounded darned familiar. I googled my hunch and found that someone else noticed that perhaps James Horner "borrowed" music for the opening 2 minutes of "Aliens" from Alex North of "2001." Perhaps this was not so much plagiarism but homage since cryochambers are present in both scenes.

A while back I had a dalliance with Scrabble. At one point, I was trying to memorize various 7-letter combinations, the rack-emptying "bingo" plays that garner 50 bonus points. Scrabble players like to memorize based upon alphabetically arranged tiles:

    ADEIRST permutes into:

I had a mnemonic of a story: In the ARIDEST desert, ASTRIDE his horse, the cowboy regarded this two-faced boomtown in the midst of DIASTER: a raucous DISRATE downtown and a sleepy STAIDER uptown; he dared not pause long as his TARDIES tended to provoke TIRADES from his boss.

My last rated game was a staid draw. Here is the final position (black to play):

In an earlier position, I tried to analyze the tactics and felt rust (black to play):

25...Nf4 26.Nxf4 exf4+ 27.Bd4 Bxd4+ 28.Kxd4 Ne6+ 29.Kc3. After the combination was over, I was disturbed to find an inaccuracy in my analysis. I had thought that Ne6 was necessary to prevent Nxf4 on the next move, but the knight at e2 is gone and the one on f2 needs one tempo to attack it. "I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours." I chose this quote for the fault part referring to my visualization skills, not for what happens in real life about 72 hours from now. I'm trying to marshal some resources regarding the stepping stones method recommended by a friend from GM Jonathan Tisdall's "Improve Your Chess Now." I guess it's back to the drawing board to plug a hole in my opening repertoire and perhaps begin doing regular tactics again at Chess Tempo.


frenez said...

But was there any win there to begin with, if not, credit for looking for something? Maybe there is some kind of f5 craziness, or some other break, but 'resigning' to a draw is prolly the right move, unless your opponent is 500 points lower

Soapstone said...

I did look at f5, but rejected it fairly quickly based upon white's control of f5 (3 versus 2). I probably should have looked at the d5-d4 discovery in case of exf5, but the variations end up favoring White anyway, now that I'm looking at them. My opponent was rated 400 points lower. Not quite 500, but still an embarrassing draw.

frenez said...

On the other hand, your opponent is studying hard now, buoyed by this draw, and that's a good thing! And good job trading off all the heavy pieces on 1 open file 😀

Todd Bryant said...

I believe that regularly doing tactics (I am a big ChessTempo fan) is crucial to chess success. And, you have to do a little bit, all the time, *forever*. It's like lifting weights--if you stop, you get weak again, quickly. Tactics and calculation are my main strength in chess, but I get rusty, too when I don't practice regularly.

I think blindfold games may also help for clear, accurate visualization.

Soapstone said...

I did actually resume Chess Tempo after being idle for probably years. I was thinking about posting about tactics soon, kinda like a de Groot exercise.