Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time 14 and final) by Brandon Sanderson

Book cover Finally, it is all over! The Dark One is defeated and all the character stories have come to an end. Funny enough, having Brandon Sanderson write the last two books made me want to read more. You may have noticed that in the title I give no credit to Robert Jordan; I know it's his story and that he left a lot of notes on how the book would continue before he died, but Sanderson has made it a lot better and it feels a waste to end it just when it got good.

The last book of the Wheel of Time saga, A Memory of Light, continues where Towers of Midnight left off, pits everyone against everyone and ends all threads. The battle of the end is epic and, except some slight miscalculations, is pretty much consistent with the other books. No Nynaeve braid pulling or needless spanking or otherwise humiliating women in this one, instead a lot of characters blooming from the dried up husks that they were becoming in the last Jordan books. As before, I loved Mat's character, but also Perrin is now a lot more involved, intrigues abound, people die (even important ones) and the ending is... let us say intriguing. One may still hope some offshoots of the story. There were some unexplained or otherwise inconclusive bits. For example there is a scene where Mat sends a lot of villagers to die protecting a river, then, when it matters most, the same villagers return through a gateway. I have no idea what that was about. Also there was a little bit of a story with some soldiers that had all their metal turned to something squishy. It just went and gone without much continuation. Then some ideas of the battle seem brilliant at the end of it, but not used during it, making the entire "Mat's strategical genius" idea a bit flimsy. Also, Demandred almost kicked his ass (and a lot of others as well) before he got killed. If there is something that felt a bit off, it was the women. Robert Jordan was obsessed with the women and he often wrote the story from their point of view. Sanderson is clearly a man's man :) Women had pretty small roles and little introspection.

Bottom line: a fourteen book saga is a lot to read. As much it pains me that it is over, it makes me even more glad that it is over. Sometime you just have to learn to let it go. The quality of the writing is very good and I dare say that this is probably the best book of them all, which makes it a fitting finale. It is also very long, the third in length from the entire series, at approximately 360000 words. If you have read The Wheel of Time so far, there is absolutely no reason to not read the last book. If you haven't started to read the series, you might want to think it over if you want to spend so much time doing it, but I don't think you will regret it. And lastly, if you have started to read it and then abandoned it for whatever reason, the last two books are a level higher than the rest of them and should provide motivation to carry on.

Oh, and you if you wonder if I am going to read the prequel and the companion books: no, I won't! If you do, though, please make the effort to comment on one of the Wheel of Time posts. Thank you!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Macross Frontier, a decent anime, but fraught with cliché Japanese themes

Series poster Macross Frontier is a 2008 anime series of 25 episodes set in the Macross universe, itself 25 years old at the time. Humanity is expanding in the galaxy using huge self contained colony fleets that are defended by the ubiquitous Mecha humanoid robots. Their enemies, a strange race of space bugs that seem to have no mind of their own, but whose method of communication or reason for doing anything is a mystery. Enter Alto, a beautiful guy - and when I say beautiful I mean it, as he is cute as a girl and many times in the series people address him as one, to his chagrin - that wants to be a pilot. He accidentally joins up with an elite piloting force and there the story seems to become interesting: space battles, interesting aliens, amazing tech, even political machinations. But wait! In Japan there has to be more. And there is! Alto is 17 years old, that means he is also in high school. Two of his pilot buddies are his colleagues. Then there is this galactic idol pop star singer that is very beautiful and somehow falls for Alto and subsequently becomes a student in the same class! And there is another girl who also wants to be a singer and she becomes one rivalling the first, only to fall for Alto and... join the same high school class! And all the time they need to act on their feelings, without actually expressing them in an articulate way, and trying to protect one thing or the other. And if you thought the two singers are just a filler device, not at all connected to the main story, you are wrong. The singing of one of them seems to affect the alien bugs!

To quote a friend, WTF is wrong with the Japanese? Why would you mix space battles with j-pop and high school? Why hasn't there appeared a service that strips the annoying 2 minute singing at the beginning and then at the end of every episode and lets you watch everything start to end? It would be perfect if it would also remove in separate streams the fighting plus the sci-fi from the ridiculous fascination with high school puppy love!

To conclude, it wasn't great by any means, and the insistence of showing every space battle in the context of a pop song was really annoying. The story was OK, although I could spoil it for you in about 5 minutes. The animation was standard, I didn't think there were any issues with it. If you love the kind of "oh, oh, poor me, I am in a love triangle and can't get out" story, this is the one for you. The sci-fi was, really, taking the backseat in this one. I have to admit, though, that the highschool theme was not exaggerated much, nor was it absurd to the point of annoyance like in Elfen Lied, for example.

Friday, February 15, 2013

No more mobile template

Due to the fact that Blogger thinks an iPad Safari browser is a mobile device and needs optimization of the blog template in order to fit the screen and the meagre computation resources and that there is no way to customize the way "mobileization" is done, I've decided to remove the mobile template from the blog. Please do let me know if this is an issue, so I could try to find a solution for it, but in the meanwhile I will just disable it.

Beautiful chess puzzle

Yes, yet another chess blog post. Don't worry, soon there will be a ton of rants about the programming world, just wait a bit.

This puzzle is from Chess Tactics for Champions, by four times women chess champion Susan Polgar. Here is a review of the book, much better than I could do it. So, on to the puzzle:

White to move.


[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1k1r4/pP2q3/8/Q5pP/5bP1/5P1K/P1R5/8 w - - 0 1"]
1. Rc8+ Rxc8 2. Qxa7+ Kxa7 3. bxc8=N+ *

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mating Patterns with Daniel King

I have started a more formal chess training program, something that would possibly improve my skills as a chess player and finally getting me into that place where I can fully appreciate the beauty of the game. As part of this program I've watched the Daniel King Power Play DVD Part 1: Mating Patterns, in ChessBase format. It was a well presented material that made for very interesting time. The information contained is aimed at beginners such as myself and presents several chess mating themes, with some puzzles at the end, to test the knowledge gain. I can say that I liked it and I recommend it to other learning chess players as well. However, this post is aimed at summarizing the information, for future reference.

    Themes:
  1. Greek Gift
  2. Lasker Double Bishop sacrifice
  3. Lawnmower (Double Shotgun) mate
  4. Bishop See-saw
  5. H-file Rook distraction
  6. Knight mate
  7. Queen in on the pin
  8. Back rank mate

And then are the Puzzles.

For each theme I will post pictures with a position, let you think, then give you the opportunity to see the entire PGN. Same with the puzzles. Try to think things through before looking for the solution.

1. Greek Gift

The opposing king is castled short and you sack a bishop by taking the pawn in front of the enemy king. The king is forced to take, and then a knight check comes, followed by the arrival of the queen.

Netzer, Jean - Guezennec, Franck, 2000 (FRA-chT U20)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Hartl, Rainer - Hecht, Christoph, 2000 (Landesliga Sued 0001)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Langrock, Hannes - Gaede, Derek, 2000 (JBLN West 0001)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Polugaevsky, Lev - Tal, Mihail,1969 (URS-ch37)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Colle, Edgar - O'Hanlon, John,1930 (Nice)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Thesing, Matthias - Borngaesser, Rene,1984 (NRW-ch)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Toulzac, Pierre Yves - Sokolov, Andrei,2000 (Mulhouse IM)

White to move. Click here to see the game.


2. Lasker Double Bishop Sacrifice

The light bishop is sacrificed just like in the Greek Gift, the queen comes around to check, then the dark bishop is sacrificed as well for the pawn in front of the enemy king. The mate is achieved by a rook lift.

Lasker, Emanuel - Bauer, Johann Hermann, 1889 (Amsterdam)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Koenig - Cornforth, 1952 (London)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Dizdarevic, Emir - Miles, Anthony , 1985 (Biel MTO op)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Jonkman, Harmen - Espig, Lutz, 1998 (Chemnitz op)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

3. Lawnmower (Double Shotgun) mate

Two rooks or a rook and a queen push the enemy king to the margin of the board, taking rank after rank or file after file until the king is mated

King, Daniel J - Krasenkow, Michal, 1989 (GMA Baleares op)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Tkachiev, Vladislav - Watson, William N, 1993 (London Lloyds)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Watson, William N - Merriman, John, 1993 (London Lloyds)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Bologan, V. - Van Haastert, E., 2005 (21st ECC)

Black moves h5, White to move. Click here to see the game.

4. Bishop See-saw

The queen has caught the enemy king at the corner of the board, his only escape blocked and continuously harassed by a bishop that gobbles all the pieces on its color and then gives mate.

From Nimzowitsch's book My System

White to move. Click here to see the game.

King, Daniel J - Kuijf, Marinus, 1982 (Amsterdam)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

5. H-file Rook Distraction

The enemy king seems safe, as your pieces appear uncoordinated, but here comes a suicidal rook bringing the king into the open and ready to be slaughtered.

Polgar, J. - Berkes, F., 2003 (Hunguest Hotels)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Kuemin, Simon - Cebalo, Miso, 2003 (Biel MTO)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Kudrin, Sergey - King, Daniel J, 1988 (London NWYM)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Sorensen, Arne - Marciano, David, 1988 (Tecklenburg op)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Kuzmin, Gennadi P - Zhuravliov, Valerij, 1992 (St Petersburg)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

6. Knight Mate

Mates with the knights, whether in conjunction with other pieces or with other knights.

Kotronias, Vasilios - King, Daniel J, 1990 (New York WFW)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Wheeler, G. - Povah, N., 1977 (London)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

De Musset, A. - study

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Clemenz - Eisenschmidt, 1862 (Dorpat)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Dumpor, Atif - Kosic, Dragan, 2001 (Ajvatovica IM)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Kortschnoj, Viktor - Karpov, Anatoly, 1978 (World Championship 29th)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

7. Queen in on the pin

The queen comes right next to the enemy king, where the poor protecting pieces are pinned by some other piece. The opposing king is stuck between his pieces and the troublesome queen.

Tatai, Stefano - Kortschnoj, Viktor, 1978 (Beersheba)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

King, Daniel J - Costa, Jean Luc, 1987 (Bern)

From here, Black will move Ne4, then White to move. Click here to see the game.

Fazekas - Spielmann, 1938 (Prague)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Peredy - Malanca, 2003 (Budapest)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

8. Back rank mate

The poor enemy king is attacked and there is nowhere to go because of his own protectors.

Wolff, Patrick G - King, Daniel J, 1989 (London WFW)

White moves Rab1, Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Rovner - Kamyshev, 1947 (Moscow)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Capablanca - Fonaroff, 1918 (New York - casual)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Alden - Nilsson, 1972 (Sweden)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Adams, Michael - Giorgadze, Giorgi, 1997 (FIDE-Wch k.o.)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Alekhine, Alexander - Colle, Edgar, 1925 (Paris)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Bazan, Osvaldo - Fischer, Robert James, 1960 (Mar del Plata)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Puzzles

Think it through, prepare your moves in your head and only then look at the games.

Cinak, Nilufer - Novak, Ksenija, 2002 (Bled ol (Women))

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Bareev, Evgeny - Akopian, Vladimir, 2000 (Dortmund SuperGM)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Sveshnikov, Evgeny - Sherbakov, Ruslan, 991 (URS-ch58)

Black will move g6, White to move. Click here to see the game.

Hillarp-Persson, Tiger - Hansen, Sune Berg, 2005 (Sigeman Chess Tournament 2005)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Marin, Mihail - Kiselev, Sergey, 1997 (Ciocaltea mem)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

Yates, Frederick - Reti, Richard, 1924 (New York)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Jussupow, Artur - Ivanchuk, Vassily, 1991 (Candidates qf3)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Bruzon, Lazaro - Jobava, Baadur, 2005 (Capablanca Memorial Elite)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Vidmar - Euwe, 1929 (Karlsbad)

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Rozentalis, Eduardas - Kozul, Zdenko

White to move. Click here to see the game.

Azmaiparashvili, Zurab - Shirov, Alexei, 2002 (FIDE GP)

Black to move. Click here to see the game.

I know it has been a long read, but imagine how long it took me to write it! This is not something you read once, but a post that you return to again and again to rehearse the games and maintain the feel for these interesting mates.

Also, there are some inconsistencies between the start of the game and the pictures, also the puzzles are not very clear. It should have a text that explains what you are to try to do. And there are comments in German in the PGNs, as well. I am going to address this.