Archive for November, 2007

Author’s Nightmare

November 14, 2007

A friend told me that he had a dream (“Sorry, Paul,” he prefaced it) in which my book King’s Gambit had sold only 431 copies. I gulped when he told me this. It’s not enough, I thought, that I have to have anxiety dreams about my failing; my friends get to do it for me, too!

There is a rich tradition of authors worrying about whether their books are going to slip into oblivion. Even winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature have had this anxiety.

“I can remember Bertrand Russell telling me of a horrible dream,” the great number theorist G.H. Hardy wrote in his wonderful book A Mathematician’s Apology (1940). “He was in the top floor of the University Library, about A.D. 2100. A library assistant was going round the shelves carrying an enormous bucket, taking down books, glancing at them, restoring them to the shelves or dumping them into the bucket. At last he came to three large volumes which Russell could recognize as the last surviving copy of [Russell’s 1913 magnum opus] Principia Mathematica. He took down one of the volumes, turned over a few pages, seemed puzzled for a moment by the curious symbolism, closed the volume, balanced it in his hand and hesitated….”

Correction: 7:00 PM

November 10, 2007

My book talk and signing at the Marshall Chess Club (23 West 10th Street) on Tuesday, Nov. 13, is at 7 PM not 7:30 PM. Sorry for any confusion!! Refreshments will be served.

Pumpkin Gobble Gobble

November 9, 2007

The Brooklyn Kitchen’s blog has now released a picture of Sarah Gentile’s Pumpkin Gobble Gobble, the yummy winning entry in Wednesday’s Bodega Challenge. It also provides the complete recipe, which requires only $14.57 worth of bodega ingredients: 1 & 1/2 cans pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), 1 can coconut milk, 1 bag marshmallows, 1 can cranberry sauce, 1 can candied yams in heavy syrup, 1 small package pistachios, 1 small package walnuts, 1 apple, and 1 lemon or lemon juice.

Marshmallows Win; Knights Rule

November 8, 2007

My loyalties were torn again last night. I wanted to go to the Marshall Chess Club* and watch the New York Knights in person in the first round of the playoffs in the U.S. Chess League. But I also wanted to attend the one-year birthday party of The Brooklyn Kitchen, a groovy store in über-groovy Williamsburg, the section of Brooklyn in which I encamp whenever I’m in the city.

My stomach won out, but that’s because I could be really nerdy at the party and occasionally fire up my laptop to look online and check on the progress of the Knights.

The highpoint of the party was the Bodega Challenge, a cooking competition in which people brought Thanksgiving side dishes that they had prepared from ingredients purchased at a bodega. There was a $20 cap on the ingredients, and the contestants had to produce receipts. The bodegas had to be pre-qualified by Brooklyn Kitchen: they weren’t supposed to sell sushi, kombucha, imported beer besides Heinekin, organic milk, or Pirate’s Booty, and they couldn’t take credit cards. A true bodega would sell lottery tickets, Velveeta, and individually wrapped slices of Kraft cheese. It would have a resident cat and a Plexiglas divider between the customers and the cashier.

Some entrants tried to go upscale with carrot ginger pumpkin soup, but the judges singled out a gloppy marshmallow concoction festooned with a faux turkey made from apple slices and post-expiration-date pistachios.

When I peaked at the Knights, top board Hikaru Nakamura had reached a queen and pawn ending. Sending his king to the center of the board, he planned to jettison all of his kingside pawns in an attempt to queen a pawn on the queenside. The game turned out to be a draw because his opponent could spoil the fun by perpetually checking Nakamura’s king. His teammates, Irina Krush, Jay Bonin, and Irina Zenyuk, all came through with wins to wallop Philadelphia and advance to the semifinals next Wednesday against Boston.

[*speaking of the Marshall, next Tuesday, November 13, at 7:30 PM I’ll be doing a book talk and signing there on King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.]

Girls in Chess

November 6, 2007

I devoted a chapter of King’s Gambit called “Female Counterplay” to women in chess, and I quoted the statistic that 10 percent of U.S. tournament chess players are female.

Now Susan Polgar, former women’s world champion and current chairman of the United States Chess Federation, reports female participation by age in her blog. The statistics confirm the oft-made observation that girls starts off strong in scholastic chess but quit the game as they get older:

Ages 12 and below: 5,491 of 29,791, or 18.4%
Ages 13-15, 1121 of 9,031, or 12.4%
Ages 16-19, 629 of 6,771, or 9.3%
Ages 20-24, 129 of 2,208, or 5.8%
Ages 25-64, 1,085 of 28,932, or 3.8%
Ages 65 and up, 23 of 2,172, or 1.1%

Overall: 8,592 of 84,572, or 10.2%

Knights Now Try to Do What the Yankees Didn’t

November 1, 2007


It was a wonderful night. No one egged my house or tp-ed my yard, and the New York Knights finally pulled it all together and made it to the playoffs in the U.S. Chess League by defeating the New Jersey Knockouts 2.5 to 1.5. The match was extremely tense. Early on, New York soared to a commanding 2-0 lead, with victories by “Sleeping Knight” Jay Bonin and Irina Krush. The Knights then gave back a point when Pascal Charbonneau misplayed a drawn rook ending against Joel Benjamin.

Everything came down to whether Irina Zenyuk (shown above) could hold a draw on board 4. After 117 moves, and more than four hours of play, she did.

Credit also goes to Queens. The outer borough played a supporting role in enabling the Knights to reach the playoffs: they crushed Baltimore.

The Knights also cast off the spell of the Nakamura paradox, proving that they can win even when their top player is sitting out.

Next Wednesday the Knights will square off in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Inventors.