On my chess.com account, I currently have 8 losses out of just over 100 games. I should have many more, but I have a few miracle draws and swindles to my name. The one I show today, though, might take the cake.
I should have known this game would be a tragicomedy when, somehow, I ended up playing the French defence. I play well and win a pawn … and then I start hallucinating and think White has major threats. I overreact to these threats, and the next thing you know I’m in a losing endgame where White is up several pawns, one of which is two moves from Queening and mating.
And I escape. Beware, I evidently possess dark mystical powers, because that’s the best explanation for what you are about to witness. Continue reading →
More ink has been spilled on chess openings than any other part of the game, and it’s easy to think it’s some mystical thing, too deep to understand. It really isn’t. For 98% of opening positions, Basic Opening Principles explain exactly what to do. They aren’t a secret. Here they are.
Develop pieces, preferably Knights before Bishops.
Make as few pawn moves as necessary.
Do NOT move the same piece twice.
Do NOT bring the Queen out early.
That’s the opening in a nutshell. The vast majority of my games stick to this. Openings really can be this simple. Violating opening principles is a surefire way to lose quickly. That’s what happened here, in my fifth game since returning to chess. Continue reading →
The Nizmo-Indian is probably the best opening Black can play. It’s completely sound. It can be super-tactical or pure positional. It introduces imbalances at an early stage, allowing the stronger player to outplay a weaker one. The positions are diverse, and ten games can have ten completely different positions by move 10.
Honestly, the only downside is that White can completely avoid it by not playing an early c4 or Nc3, which is admittedly frustrating.
The following game shows about the worst that can happen to White: an imprecise move leads to a small blunder, and suddenly White is naked facing a flood. Let’s take a look. Continue reading →
Sparring. Everyone has an opinion on sparring, especially those who have never done it. I can’t count how many times I’ve talked to a parent or a prospective student and sparring has come up. People either think it’s the most intense UFC-style thing ever or just a random game that isn’t really relevant to the real world. The truth, of course, is that’s it’s both and yet neither.
When people think of sparring, they immediately think of UFC. Why? Why not Olympic boxing or Taekwondo?
I’m a blackbelt, and I’ve been teaching martial arts most of my life. A big part of that is sparring. Sparring is one of the most enjoyable parts of learning the martial arts. Here it is, your skills on display, in a direct match against another person. There are no ties, and you instantly know, instantly, who is the better fighter. There are no doubts. It’s a fantastic learning tool.
That said, the more I teach and the more I practice, the more I realize that one of the most common sparring styles, point sparring, is almost completely useless. Continue reading →
One of my guilty pleasures is watching fail videos. These are compilations of, basically, unfortunate or unexpected events. Most are fairly simple, clips of people falling over while biking or skateboarding, often while attempting a hotdog trick. Some are just random objects hitting people, usually the face or the groin because those are the funniest areas. Most fails are fairly random, coming out of nowhere, and that’s what makes them fun to watch.
I’m a Fail Army guy. They are the only YouTube fail vids I’ll watch.
There’s another category of fail, though, that can best be described as karma: people doing stupid things and getting exactly what you would expect. About half of these firework fails are exactly that, people doing stuff that boggles the mind. Why would you ever do that? Alcohol is the obvious answer, and it’s probably true for most, but I think something else is at work as well.
I think it’s boredom, because most of the spontaneous stuff that we end up regretting comes from being bored. Continue reading →
Honest question: who doesn’t like balloons? Everyone does. Give a child a balloon and she will be happy all day. If she then gives that balloon to her grandpa, watch a smile stretch across his face. Balloons are magic. They can seemingly manufacture happiness out of thin air.
Get it? Because balloons are filled with air, and they make people happy? Come on, I know it’s not my best pun, but it’s funny.
I can’t tell you how many happy hours I’ve spent playing with a balloon, and not just as a young kid. This has persisted into adolescence and even at times as an adult. I’m a martial arts instructor, and balloons are an excellent tool for improving coordination for young children. They have to kick, hit and keep track of the balloon through the air, and I help them out with a well-timed strike of my own.
I often hear parents’ giggle as they watch their children during such drills, and while it’s true they have looks of pure joy the entire time, I often think I’m the one having the most fun. Continue reading →
Steam recently had their big summer sale, where you can get quality, quality games for a fraction of their retail prices. Shadow of Mordor, the game of the year of 2014, for $15, plus all DLC included? Yes please. Even recent games have excellent deals, and you can easily buy enough games to last you the rest of the year, all for pennies on the dollar.
That said, lost in all the big studio savings are the so-called indie titles, games developed from much smaller studios, sometimes just a couple guys in a basement. Yes, these games sometimes feel as if, well, they were developed by a random guy in a basement, but others are real things of beauty. At their best, they have that pure, innocent fun that the golden years of gaming had, proving you don’t need hyper-realistic graphics and voice-acting to make a good game.
Let me start by saying I’m not very computer savvy. This will be obvious by the end, but I need to state it now. This way, if you read this post and start wondering ‘wtf, does this go know absolutely nothing about computers?’, you’ll already have your answer.
Here’s my story in a nutshell. A bit over a year ago, I built my only PC. Sounds great, right? I did my research, I ordered parts, I put everything together, all me. This was my first time ever attempting anything like it, and it worked great. My computer turned on first try, and I had a surge of happiness. Unbelievable. I, a person with no computer background, had created a working PC. Time to play some Dragon Age: Inquisition.
There turned out to be one small problem: I didn’t connect any of the fans. Continue reading →
I’ve recently bought the PC port of Final Fantasy X, my all-time favourite game, and I’m thrilled. I haven’t played it in a long time, and I immediately remember why I loved it so much. So many memories, so much emotion, all right here. Beautiful.
This gave me a thought: I’m almost certainly going to play this game every day until I beat it, because that’s how I roll, so why don’t I blog about it? Every day I’ll update my progress, giving my impressions, my thoughts and all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over my upteenth runs through the main story.
I’m writing this at 10:30pm, which is very strange. Throughout February, I’ve written every blog post in the morning. I made it my goal, my mission: I would write as much as I could as early as I could, just to check that off my to-do list. It has worked wonderfully, and it gives me a huge sense of both satisfaction and relief. Satisfaction, because it’s adding to my writing streak, and relief, because this task won’t hang over my head like the sword of Damocles the longer the day goes on.
This is the literal Sword of Damocles.
Depending on the day I start writing around 8:00am, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. I’m almost always done by 10:00am, 11:00am at the absolute latest, and it gives me the rest of my day to do whatever I want. I also do all my workouts in the morning, so by noon I have accomplished two major things already. I work evenings, so this is important. It’s been a great system … until today. Continue reading →