Carlsen-Pelletier, Biel 2007

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Carlsen-Pelletier. Position after 40… Kxf6. Puzzle. Can White, to move, draw?

No. But he almost did. 

White tried 41. Rf5+, and black cannot ever take the rook because of stalemate on the back rank. So, black declines, playing Kd5. Luckily for him, the knight guards c5, so the rook cannot keep simply checking the king on the fifth rank. If the relative positions had been one rank up the board, with a Kf7 and Rb6, then it would have been drawn, simply. If the King flees to h7 in that scenario, then white goes Rg7+, Kh6 (Kh8 is no better, producing Rg8+ and he gets chased back again) and then Rh7+ wins the rook on h2, or produces stalemate. Instead, the game continued…

42. Re5+ Kd6

43. Rd5+ Kc6

44. Rd6+ (c5 is covered by the knight!) Kc5

45. Rc6+ Kd5 (surely Kb4 or Kd4 is quicker? NO! Kb4/d4 is met by Rxc4+! Now, if Rxc4, Nd2+ picks up the rook via a handy fork)

46. Rd6+ Ke4

47. Re6+ Kd3

48. Re3+ Kd2

49. Resigns. Nothing works now. Re2+ loses to R or Kxe2 and the white king suddenly has a2 to move to. Rd3+ also loses to cxd3, but not Kxd3??.

Carlsen played horribly in this game. He deliberately (I think) sacrificed a piece for two pawns on move 16, but never seemed to have enough for a win. He struggled to find any compensation at all. Was it overconfidence? Did he miscalculate? Was the original sacrifice unsound? Doubtless we will find out shortly.

[White “GM_Carlsen”]
[Black “GM_Pelletier”]
[Result “0-1”]
[WhiteElo “2710”]
[BlackElo “2591”]
[Opening “Nimzo-Indian: classical variation”]
[ECO “E32”]
[NIC “NI.20”]
[Time “07:48:24”]
[TimeControl “7200+0”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 Bb7 8. e3 c5 9. dxc5 bxc5 10. Ne2 a5 11. Bxf6 Qxf6 12. Qxf6 gxf6 13. O-O-O Rd8 14. Nc3 d6 15. Bd3 Kf8 16. Bxh7 f5 17. e4 Kg7 18. exf5 Kxh7 19. fxe6 fxe6 20. Rhe1 Bxg2 21. Ne4 Bxe4 22. Rxe4 Ra7 23. Rxe6 Rad7 24. Rd3 Nc6 25. Rh3+ Kg8 26. Rhh6 Ne5 27. f4 Nxc4 28. b3 Nxa3 29. Rhg6+ Kh8 30. Rh6+ Kg8 31. Rhg6+ Kh8 32. Rh6+ Rh7 33. Rxd6 Rxd6 34. Rxd6 Rxh2 35. Ra6 Nb5 36. Rxa5 Nd4 37. Kb1 Nxb3 38. Rb5 c4 39. f5 Kg7 40. f6+ Kxf6 41. Rf5+ Ke6 42. Re5+ Kd6 43. Rd5+ Kc6 44. Rd6+ Kc5 45. Rc6+ Kd5 46. Rd6+ Ke4 47. Re6+ Kd3 48. Re3+ Kd2 Black wins 0-1

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A strange orb in the sky…

(An Irishman’s Diary entry for 31st July 2007)

Day 1 – morning

I was awoken this morning by loud chatter outside my cottage. I looked out, only to see a strange orb in the sky. I ran to the village square. People stood around and stared in awe. An onlooker told me it had begun around 5am and rose in the East. At first we speculated that it was a fire on a hillside nearby, but as it rose over us, we knew it was in the sky. The onlooker turned out to be Professor Eoin Humblebee, of the Irish Cloud Foundation. He ushered me into his library where he feverishly checked through his Foundation’s records for any similar phenomenon. He checked his records as far back as 1754 and nothing similar has ever been recorded in Ireland. Strange.

Day 1 – afternoon

The orb is now almost directly overhead. It is burning hot too. Reports have been coming in of people staring too long at it and becoming temporarily blinded. A certain amount of panic shopping has begun – for water and food. The square is largely quiet now, people have been slipping off to prepare for the worst. I remain calm, but concerned.

Professor Humblebee has been taking measurements all day long. He now knows the precise size, temperature, and movement of the orb. Letting me into his library, I discovered long-lost parchments from the 11th century, which talk of balls of fire, dragons breath, and allusions to strange blue-tinted sky. Maybe this is it?

We put our faith in science…to at least discover our grim fate before it consumes us totally!

Day 1 – night

At last, the orb has disappeared! Cold has descended again. We have huddled around the radio and tv, everyone is talking about the appearance of the orb. Professor Humblebee is exhausted from his research, but satisfied. According to him, it now seems certain that it started in the east and travelled across the sky, until eventually disappearing in the west. There are fashionable theories that, in fact, it will appear daily from now on, but Humblebee has confidently dismissed this as old wives tales and superstition. 

And there was no rain – another peculiar phenomenon that was most remarked upon. The clouds had gone too, which we assume were somehow ‘burnt-off’ by the orb. But Humblebee has confidently stated his scientific opinion that no force in nature was capable of continually burning at such intensity for too long. “The clouds,” he intoned, “were in Ireland long before us, and they’ll be here long after us too.”

Some people are reporting strange burns and red marks on their skin. We don’t know if this is associated with the orb, but given the heat and light, it probably is the culprit.

Day 2 – morning

Back to normal. It is raining again and the orb has not returned. The streets are full of celebrating people, the government has decided to give everyone the day off…

The Da Vinci Code

“The Da Vinci Code” is an anagram for (in the spirit of the book!): 

  1. Did have conceit
  2. Chance to divide
  3. Hot vaccine died
  4. Hid video accent
  5. Addictive con, eh!
  6. Echo vindicated
  7. Avoided net chic

etc….

Does any of this make sense? No! But I guess it is fun, like the book, which is a fantastic, innocent romp through potty theories and barmy history.

Lottery Fever

Ireland was swept by over-hyped lottery fever over the last few weeks. We haven’t had a winner in ages for the jackpot, so it stood at the nigh-on irresistible E16m. Irresistible to me that is – I normally steer clear of the “tax on ignorance” that the lottery undoubtedly is, but in the spirit of fun and to dream for a bit, I bought four lines for myself.

Lo and behold, I was sitting there at around 8pm on Saturday night, looking at my ticket and the RTE Aertel page that displays the numbers. My heart took a small leap when my brain registered the rough outline of a total match. Seriously, for a brief few seconds I was genuinely stunned when all I could see were my numbers on screen. The aertel page was flitting, annoyingly, between the real Lotto numbers and the Lotto Plus One and Lotto Plus Two extra numbers. At first, I didn’t register which one it was, and also mistakenly thought I might have matched all six numbers! Imagine my surprise and excitement (if only for a brief five seconds or so). Thoughts of Cancun beaches and pina colados flitted through my enervated consciousness.

Until that is, I realised the numbers had changed on-screen. They were now displaying the numbers for the main jackpot lotto, which were different, so I had to calm down. I quickly realised I must have been looking at the Lotto Plus Two numbers, but still wasn’t sure how many I had matched, thinking it still might be six. I thought that might be 100,000 or more. Not 16 million, but nothing to be sniffed at. I waited patiently for the numbers to come back around, and then rechecked the numbers. Aaargh! I had matched only 5 of them. Drat! And the prize…a measly E250! I had managed to match five numbers and the prize was a lousy 250 euros. The month in the Carribean was suddenly replaced by one night in Bray…in a tent. In the rain.

Today, I have checked the odds of getting 5 numbers on the Irish lotto (it is a 6/45 game apparently, meaning 6 numbers drawn from 45 numbers). The odds are 1 in 34,808. The cost of this line was 25 cent, so the lotto is returning approximately 1/34th of my odds back to me. If I had placed a bet with Paddy Power, or another bookmaker, I might have expected odds of 1-10,000 or so, on picking 5 from 6 numbers. That would have returned around 4,000 euros. (They actually only offer odds on correctly picking 5 from 5 numbers, at 100,000-1. But the principle is still valid: the odds are far better!)

Still, as they say, E250 is better than a kick in the head or a poke in the eye…

Hill of Tara

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View of Tara, from the North East

We visited the Hill of Tara on Sunday. It was a fantastic day to visit the site because of the ever-changing weather. It changed constantly from cloudy and stormy, to sunny and bright, in minutes, and then back again. But looking out from the hill to the surrounding countryside, with the ever-changing colours, the bands of rainbows in the sky, the black looming clouds, and the bright patches of blue sky, it all lent a very beautiful and magical air to the scene.

The Hill is approached up a short path with no obvious sign of an official presence, aside from a very small and dated guide to the site right at the entrance gate. A small church at the site entrance has been converted into a visitor centre, but we visited too late to get in. The church grounds are beautiful: full of trees and cawking crows, and a modest local cemetry, still in use. The trees almost seem to look out longingly at the surrounding countryside, peeking out over the old stone walls.

The hill itself is nothing more than a very low hill (or hillock even) at 197m elevation. But because the surrounding countryside is very low, the view is magnificent and uninterrupted. Fortunately, right now, the scenery remains relatively unspoilt by housing estates or bungalows. The view consists mainly of greenery, trees, and very flat terrain.

It is hard to describe the effect of walking around the site without appearing mystical or spiritual, but that is just the effect it had on me. I felt connected to something more permanent and real, something very deep. The undulating landscape has a definite softness and majesty all its own. Around Grainne’s House, about a quarter of a mile from the main hill, the surrounding trees and hillocks are profoundly peaceful. They reminded me of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis stories, of fairies and elfs, wood creatures, and magic at sunset. The peace and simple beauty are astounding.

There is a political context to all of this mystical musing. It is the startling contrast between the significance of the site, both historical and spiritual, to Ireland and its people, and the rampant consumerist greed represented by the building of a new 4-lane motorway right through the heart of this sacred land. Within less than a mile of the hill itself, a major motorway, the M3, is being built. The preliminary work has already started. But the site surveys conducted on the site revealed over 30 identifiable neolithic or later sites.

One of the most important was found at Lismullen, where the remains of a wooden Henge was discovered (a sort of wooden equivalent of Stone Henge in England). The wood has long disappeared, but the stakeholes are still visible. It is due for “preservation by record”, or in other words, destruction. The term “preservation by record” is a vile term, introduced into legislation by the last FF/PD government, precisely to create the ability to destroy ancient sites lying in the path of roads. It refers to the hasty recording of a site’s history and artefacts and then the permanent destruction of it.

The outgoing Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, signed the order for Lismullen’s destruction on the last day of his office. The current minister, John Gormley of the Green Party, took over the next day and has since claimed that he cannot reverse the decision of his predecessor. His side of the story is here. Whatever about the details: the bottom line is that the Green Party sold out on their principles to get into government. They threw in Tara, Shannon, private hospitals on public grounds, and numerous other major issues to get their hands on the levers of power. Many people – including myself – voted for the Greens in the recent election precisely to see something done about these issues. To have them ignored – or at best, negotiated away – feels like a betrayal.

But back to Tara. My advice is to enjoy it while it is still there. It is a magnificent site.

Harry Patch, veteran soldier

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Harry Patch, pictured at a sprightly 107. He is now 109.

Harry Patch is the last known surviving British soldier of World War I, at 109 years of age. The BBC followed his journey to the battle site of Passchendaele, or the Third Battle of Ypres, in which he fought. But his mind is as sharp as ever and his thoughts about war are profound and important. He says “The Germans suffered the same as we did”, a recognition of the common bond between veteran soldiers. No animosity, no hatred, no barbs. Just common humanity and deep understanding.

The figures about the battle of Passchendaele tell only one half of the story: 325,000 Allied casualties, 260,000 Germans. Over the 99 days of battle between July 31st 1917 and November 6th 1917, an average of 3,000 British troops were killed, wounded, or captured daily. Think about that for a moment. In Iraq today, just over 3,650 US troops have lost their lives and approximately 26,000 have been wounded in action. (And that’s too many!). That amounts to about 10 days worth of casualties for one side in the Battle of Passchendaele. And all that for one small front in a very long war.

But the other half of the story is just as grim. It is the story of mud, rain, and appalling squalor. With the combined effects of enormous amounts of rain, shelling, and hundreds of thousands of men, horses, trucks, and guns, the entire battlefield was churned up into one vast plain of mud. Horses and men drowned in the mud, overcome by exhaustion and the sheer difficulty of the terrain. The war machine ground on through a quagmire that no description could do justice to.

And in the end: the battle ended just five miles beyond the starting point. Futility personified.

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The Battle of Passchendaele, 1917.

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Lone soldier walks through the battlefield of Passchendaele

Harry Patch is the last living link to those times and we should heed his words: “Too many died. War isn’t worth one life,” said Mr Patch. He said war was the “calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings”. Harry has had 90 years to think through those simple words and I cannot think of a better way to put it. 

What’s in a name?

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Neal “Bomber” Toye beside his sign for Muff

This is a story that you just couldn’t make up. 

Some little, innocent town gets picked on by some large corporation (Jet2) and they come diving in, ahem, to rescue their reputations. The Irish Independent today has a wonderful story about Muff, Co. Donegal and how their name has been used in an ad campaign for an airline company. Ah, yes, puerile jokes time – have you heard the one about the Muff Diving Centre? I once took my girlfriend up the North West Passage, and I must have passed Muff on the way…

Anyway, what’s even more hilarious to me (because I’ve heard all the Muff jokes before…) is the picture above. Apparently – no joking – this guy is called Neal Toye. He is a mayoral candidate for the town. His nickname is “Bomber”. This is Donegal, on the border with Northern Ireland. Oh dear…And he’s bald. Will he be known as the Bald Muff Mayor? Is he one of the famous Muff Toye’s or does his family come from somewhere else?

And in the other direction to Muff is, eh, Quigley’s Point. Apt.

And in Letterkenny, on a slight detour (both physically and narratively), you will find the unfortunately named Lough Swilly. Which is fine I suppose, although you might grimace if you were actually swimming there. But a local meat supplier decided to call themselves “Swilly Meats Ltd.” Honestly, would you buy a Swilly burger? What were they thinking?

Muff only came 19th out of 22 worst place names in the world, which I have to say is disappointing. I found the link to the site and it is full of endless, puerile fun. Places like Cockburn, Twatt, Titty Hill, Bald Knob, MiddleFart etc. Mainly childish names for funny wobbly bits. I suggest that Muff twin up with Cockup or Cockburn or one of the other places on the list. That’d be even more silly fun!

Mothie slang

My girlfriend’s mother (Mothie) has a great line of expressions. She has such a very colourful and memorable way of phrasing things that I thought it worthwhile to pass some of them on.

It’s in a bull’s wool

This means, for Mothie, it’s in a great mess. Example: “This room is in a bull’s wool”.

Where is it from? I don’t know for sure, but there’s even a reference to bull’s wool in a Dail debate from 1962 in a defence/finance debate. A deputy Tully refers to uniforms as being made from bull’s wool: “The ordinary battle dress, the uniform they wear during the day, is the one I want to refer to particularly. I understand we are now the only civilised nation which has still held on to what is vulgarly known as the bull’s wool uniform. The bull’s wool uniform should be abolished. Perhaps the Minister would endeavour to do something about that also.”

In an altogether different context, on a rhyming slang site, “bull’s wool” is said to refer to stolen clothes. This is backed up on The Probert Encyclopedia, which says it is Black-American slang for stolen clothes. In Australia, apparently, bullswool means: “bullswool – 1. nonsense; exaggerated, unreliable talk. 2. exclamation of disbelief, disgust, scorn, etc.”.

None of these, sadly, matches Mothie’s unique usage.

A rip

A disreputable woman, untrustworthy, scandalous, impossibly demanding, irritating. Examples: “That one’s a rip”; “She’s a rip!”. Usage: whenever you meet an annoying woman, just lambast them with, “You’re a rip”.
I only came across one on-line definition of “a rip” that gets close to this meaning and it said it had two definitons, a dissolute person or an old or worthless horse. Hmmm…not exactly the same, but close. And apparently, it is of Flemish extraction. And one version of it in French is “debauche”. As to whether this is the origin of Mothie’s usage is anybody’s guess.

There’ll be wigs on the green

This is, apparently, a well-known old Irish expression, but I had never heard of it until I met Mothie. It refers to the habits of old gentlemen who wanted a good fight or scrap. They’d proceed down to the green (possibly even St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin), take off their wigs, and proceed to biff and throttle each other. Biff, bang, take that you rotter! A great definition is available on-line: “It’s an intriguing expression that’s still to be heard from time to time, though it’s seriously out of fashion, just like the wigs it mentions. Wigs on the green refers to a fight, brawl or fracas, or to a difference of opinion that could lead to fisticuffs. It often appears as “there’ll be wigs on the green”, as a warning (or a prediction) that an altercation is likely to occur. It’s originally Irish, dating from the eighteenth century, when men usually wore wigs. If a fight started, the first thing that happened was that the wigs of those involved would be knocked off and would roll incongruously about on the grass, to the amusement of bystanders and the embarrassment of participants. I can’t leave an Irish expression without quoting James Joyce. From Chapter 13 of Ulysses: “But Tommy said he wanted the ball and Edy told him no that baby was playing with the ball and if he took it there’d be wigs on the green but Tommy said it was his ball and he wanted his ball and he pranced on the ground, if you please”.”

Nine to ninety

This is my favourite Mothie expression. It is a shortening of the (quite possibly true) theory that all men between the ages of nine to ninety cannot be trusted to keep their eyes (or more) off a pretty young girl. Example: An attractive waitress asks if we are ready to order a meal, and after departing there is the muttered “Nine to ninety” with an air of satisfied superiority and a knowing raising of the eyebrows. Protesting your innocence is both useless and ignored, but mandatory.

Bad cat!

This began as a direct warning to the actual cat to, variously, stay off the couch, stop scratching the carpet with her nails, or stop begging for food. But it has been usefully extended by Mothie to include any warning to any person about just about anything. Usage: “Bad cat, don’t pay for that meal!”, “Bad cat, don’t sit there” etc. Infinite uses really.

And one that S. reminded me about last night…Up the hill of my noddy

This means “I don’t know and I don’t care” when asked where something is. Usage: “Where is the bad cat?”, the answer is invariably, “Up the hill of my noddy”. I don’t know what “the hill of my noddy” refers to, but S. reckons it means “up my arse for all I care”.  Brilliant!

Wisdom

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Here is a picture of the floods afflicting the central English town of Tewkesbury this weekend (and continuing today). I couldn’t help but be struck by one overriding idea(aside that is from the very sad tragedy that has struck the townspeople…). 

Do you see anything unusual about the picture? (Click on it to see it full size). See any clue to what might be going on in this medieval town of Tewkesbury?

Do you notice how most of the central, older part of town, is above water? It is barely above water, but nevertheless, you have to admit that it is sitting proudly amid the incredible flood carnage all around. Look at the church. The water laps up to the side chapel, but mostly it is dry. Look at the left hand side, at what looks like a graveyard. Entirely dry. Look to the right, at what I presume is the older parts of town: dry! (Or, at least, it appears to be dry).

This is not coincidence. It is because the medieval builders of Tewkesbury knew what they were doing. They paid attention to the flood patterns locally. They didn’t expect to build a house on a flood plain and get away with it. Nor were they arrogant enough to think they could fight the floods with barriers and human engineering.

I remember as a child visiting my grandfather’s birthplace in Roscommon, in a place called, appropriately enough, Newtownflood. The thing is, the land around it flooded every year, like clockwork, hence the name. But the house itself never did. Never. It was build on a slight rise, a tiny hillock, probably no more than six feet above the water, but nevertheless, enough.

We have something important to learn from previous generations.

Luck?

Padraig Harrington won yesterday’s British Open.

The dread phrase was there. It was always lurking around, waiting to pounce, but it didn’t take long for it to rear its ugly, stupid head. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the most stupid, corny, over-used, and damn-near-racist phrase uttered every time an Irishman or Irish woman achieves anything of note. That phrase is: “the luck of the Irish”.

Go to Google news and type in “Padraig Harrington” “luck of the Irish” and you get dozens of articles. They are written by otherwise semi-intelligent reporters. So why do they do it? Is it laziness? Ignorance? Racism? (No, surely not!) It is probably just a combination of laziness and lack of creativity. Here are some of the offenders:

National Post, Canada 
The Detroit News
Edmonton Sun
Aurora Beacon News

etc…

The fact is, it has nothing to do with luck. (As pointed out very cleverly in a great article here: http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/072307/sports_20070723045.shtml). It has to do with courage, talent, hard work, nerves, constant travel, experience, practice, and sheer bloody mindedness. It has NOTHING to do with LUCK.

And, secondly, how can an entire race be described as “lucky”? Forgive me please, but how did experiencing a famine in the 19th century constitute “luck”? Or mass emigration and huge unemployment in the 20th century? I could go on, but you get the point.

The phrase is stupid and lazy, and demeaning.  

Meanwhile, I am very, very proud of Padraig Harrington. He has been Ireland’s greatest-ever golfer for the last ten years but now he is up there in the pantheon of superstars of Irish sport, alongside Ronnie Delany, Eamonn Coghlan, Sonia O’Sullivan, Paul McGrath, Roy Keane, and others. Well done Padraig!

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