Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Playing in a Chess Tournament

I learned to play chess when I was young, like many children, but didn't take it seriously. I remember winning a tournament at school when I was seven years old, winning a chess book as my prize, but I didn't play in any organized way, or do any study, to follow up on that victory.

Fast forward to my late forties and with the easy availability of online chess I decided to give in another try...but I was incredibly hesitant to play against other people. Call it a psychological block or something; I decided just to do chess puzzles (simple puzzles here) instead and play some games against the computer.


A chess puzzle shows you a board with pieces in some arrangement; its your turn and there is a KILLER move that you must find. Usually the intended result is that you win the game immediately, or capture a piece - the result is not subtle. When you get it wrong, then are shown the solution, it can seem obvious and you wonder why you didn't spot it!

I made an account on chess.com and started doing the five free puzzles a day. The site tracks your progress and gives you progressively more difficult puzzles. I would make some progress and just get stuck at a plateau, failing to spot the answer in puzzle after puzzle. The worst feeling was when the intended solution was "I move here and my opponent responds with...WHAT? WHY?! I DON'T GET IT!"

There were a lot of those!

But eventually I understood the situations better, and started spotting things. My rating went from 800 to 1000, then 1200...1500....eventually I peaked at over 1800. Below you see my last year of ratings.

I'm still not quick at solving my five daily puzzles and my first guess is usually wrong! I can't just "trust my instincts" because they are terrible :)  I need to look at each possible line carefully and look for good, or bad outcomes.  One thing is clear - chess.com's puzzles are almost all very well chosen; the answer, when you see it, is obvious and undeniably the right move. Its very satisfying when you spot it, and it feels like your choice clicks into place.

Daily Games

I had tried playing a few games against real people, with the usual 10 or 15 minute time limit, but the pressure of running out of time felt awful and I didn't enjoy it. I looked at my options and found you could play games with a 24 hour per move limit; they call it a Daily game.

I played several of these and really enjoyed the process of taking my time with each move. I even got out a real chess board to help me consider my options in some games. My rating went from 800 (where you start) to 1026....it was time for a tournament!


I joined a tournament that allowed players with ratings up to 1500. I expected to lose most of my games and get knocked out of the first round, but hoped to learn something along the way. I knew from watching some chess videos that lower rated players like myself often lose games just by blundering pieces - giving them away stupidly, saying "Oh, I didn't see that" when it was captured. I also hoped that my puzzles practice would help me spot opportunities when they arose.

Four players in our group of 10 dropped out quickly, failing to move in 24 hours, so me and five opponents played two games against each other. To my surprise, my opponents made mistakes more often than I did (my favorite was this one, in which I captured his queen very early...turns out its called the Khormov Gambit!) and I came second in the group! The top three from each group advance to the next round, so I thanked my good luck and went forward, expecting to be crushed this time.

In round two...I got the same result and came second in the group! My favorite result here is that I beat the group leader in both games, both of which I feel I played very well; that player is currently (as I write this) in second place for the entire tournament, so that's a great result!

OK, round three and I've got to be reaching my limit, right? Yes...but it was close! I came fourth in round three, narrowly missing the cutoff. I was very happy with finishing there and moved on to other hobbies and pastimes; mentally retiring from chess with a 1454 rating, and sitting in 11th place out of the 250 original players. But the tournament wasn't done with me.

A couple of weeks passed as other players completed their games very slowly and I didn't bother to check on the tournament to see if it was finished. A work colleague asked how I did in the end and I went to check...eighth place...hmmm....surely the final nine players should be ranked higher than me?

I checked the group standings again and something was off - the very strong Russian player who finished second had an "x" next to his name; "account closed due to inactivity". What?! My fourth place finish had just become third place and I was going to the fourth round! 

A few hours later the single remaining game of round three was concluded and round 4 began; my phone lit up with 18 notifications that a game had begun and my attention was need at the board.

Update: I did better than I expected in the last round and I finished in sixth place!


I don't know much chess theory; I can kind of understand the London System for white, and for black I just copy white's opening pawn move, develop my knights/bishops and hope for the best. I'm REALLY surprised that my meager knowledge has got my this far; most of the credit goes to the puzzles I did and John Bartholomew's "Don't Make Mistakes" advice. It's been a real blast to test my skills and abilities, but having this many games going at the same time is quite time consuming if you want to give the games the attention they deserve.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Problem with my TV dropping off the wifi

Hey, I'm back!

It's been a while, but I'm still here in South Florida and occasionally I hit an annoying problem in life and actually come up with a solution. Here's one that you might find useful if you have a Smart TV that keeps dropping its wifi connection. The problem manifested in not being able to access any content. If I went into the Network menu it also couldn't use the "Test Connection" command. I had to "soft power cycle" the TV (basically turn it off and on again) to get it working.

My TV is a Vizio P65-F1.

The root cause of my issue was that I have a second wifi network in the same house...it's actually a range extender with almost the same name as my regular network, and it has the same password. I suspect the TV was getting confused at least once a day and trying to join the extended network, which, for some reason didn't work.

I changed the extended network to NOT broadcast its name (SSID), also to have a completely different name. I configured the couple of devices that needed to use the extended network to use the new name, and for three days now my TV (Vizio P65-F1) has not had a problem.

July 2nd 2020
Funny story: turns out that WASN'T the solution. The final answer, which has worked solidly for several weeks now is that TV's wifi settings include a "gateway" which was set to I changed it to have the same value as the DNS/router, in my case its

I also changed the TVs settings to use a manual IP address, and I changed my router's configuration to only hand out IP address from 20 up to 253 - basically I was reserving the first twenty places for devices that I may assign a fixed (or "static") IP address. I told the TV, for example, that it is

That combination has worked fine for several weeks now. I'll update if anything changes.

If you don't have a second network in range that your TV might be using, there is good advice at https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-fix-vizio-tv-wont-connect-to-wifi-4685906

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wired Magazine has a nice article about FoldIt, and my teammate "Cheese", a young lad and his family, who are all on my FoldIt team. It's a dramatic re-telling of our successful efforts in the CASP competition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FoldIt News

I'm enjoy playing this game called FoldIt, which I've written about on the blog before. It's a puzzle game which contributes real results to research into the folding of proteins in nature; a very tough problem in biology.

The first results of our collective efforts have come through, and not only did the concept of "human-directed folding" succeed, but my team (Another Hour Another Point) was a big part of it!


We won one of the puzzles and scored in the top 3 of several others, and the developers have concluded that a pack of untrained game-players match the perform of folding experts, so they can be freed of this work and do something else instead while the Geek Hordes do most of the folding work! This is very exciting :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The last scheduled Space Shuttle night launch was yesterday, so being a fan of space exploration in general, I thought I'd better put my foot down and finally make it to a shuttle launch. What kind of space fan lives in Florida and doesn't see a launch at least once?

I'd had a particularly bad day at work - my Great Dane Patch had his first "accident" at work due to a very bad tummy upset, so I spent my last hour apologizing and scrubbing the carpet. I'm going to pay closer attention to this in future, and leave him home if he's had any problems in that department, since I know how lucky I am to be able to bring him to work every day.

Anyway, after that awful mess I decided to treat myself and try to make it to Titusville for the 7.55 pm launch. The weather was good and they said there was a 70% chance of a successful launch, so I zipped home, grabbed the camera and hit the highway.

Traffic was heavy at first, due to a closed lane, but it soon opened up and I reached the Titusville exit at about 7.30 pm. Driving into town I knew there was little chance of reaching Spaceview Park, and it was curious how natural it seemed to just turn off the road into a strip mall parking lot when the car in front of me did so, and the car behind me did the same thing. Obviously we were all there for the same thing.

I turned the radio to a local station that was covering the launch and lowered the windows so I, and the neighbouring cars, could hear some commentary. I put the camera into spot metering mode, attached the 80-200mm zoom and pushed the ISO rating to 800, forcing the camera to use the fastest shutter speed it could. I'm glad I did that, otherwise it'd be streaky-time, and you don't get second shots at this kind of event.

The buzz in the crowd went up at the 30 second mark and when the final 10 second countdown began everyone stood up. When the moment of liftoff came, the whole sky in front of us lit up like dawn, then an amazingly bright spot appeared and climbed to the skies. It was a clear night, so we were able to watch it all the way up, until it was just a bright spot. We could even see the SRBs seperate and begin their tumble back into the ocean. The sound of the launch didn't hit us till about 45 seconds after it had begun, and it was a big bass rumble that seemed to come from the whole sky at once.

There are a lot of things not to like about the Shuttle program, but it's an impressive sight when it launches!
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Few Days More

In a few days, Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States. This is good. I don't think the Republican party will have the capacity to handle this loss in a rational way, though. I think they'll declare that they lost because McCain wasn't hardcore enough, wasn't conservative enough. They'll retreat into a neo-con fantasy world and complain about Every Single Thing that Obama and the Democractic Congress do, and conspiracy theories about ACORN and dead people voting will flourish.

Still, I've seen a couple of blog postings worth passing enough, that stood out from the pack. Here's one by a certain "Lady De Rothschild", one of the few prominent Hillary Clinton supports who switched over to McCain's side. Her ideas are very sad, but check out the comments section!! That's where the action is :)

And here's a scorcher from Helen Philpott of "Margaret and Helen". Andrew Sullivan linked to them a few days ago. I agree with Helen when she says in a more recent posting that she's surprised the election is close at all. I'll leave to the more learned to write about why McCain has *any* support outside of those who still support George Bush (low 20% range, last I looked). I'm pretty open minded but I just can't see how anyone could pick McCain over Obama. I'm sure they'd say the same in the other direction, I suppose :)

My regular reading, in case you'd like to see where I get these ideas from, covers: Andrew Sullivan, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Think Progress, Glenn Greenwald and Huffington Post. On TV there's the Daily Show and Colbert, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I just took a look at Weather Underground and see that Ike's 5-day path puts it barrelling down my driveway. *Gulp*. Hopefully the path will change in the next few days, but if it doesn't then please rest assured this is a new house built with the most recent hurricane resistance standards and it should pull through just fine. I bought flood insurance too, so I'm covered if anything at all should happen :)

Sept 6th Update: It looks like this one is going to miss us. Ike is going to pass over Cuba instead and my part of South Florida is almost out of the cone of uncertainty.