Archive for March, 2008

A Girl Like Spitzer

March 20, 2008

A clever if syntactically challenged panhandler held a handwritten sign in Times Square: “I need only $4,300 so I can meet a nice girl like our Governor Spitzer” [hat tip: New York Times].

Speaking of political sex scandals, the release of Hillary Clinton’s schedule as First Lady may offer further insight into Interngate. Does anyone else find it odd that on seven occasions when Monica did it with the president, Hillary was in the White House at the same time? I guess Bill couldn’t just sneak off to the Days Inn a la New York’s classy new governor. But couldn’t he have kept his pants on until his wife was out of town negotiating bilateral arms treaties or freeing political prisoners? Then again maybe Bill and company were taking a page from the Friday-night play book of a mayor who became governor of New Jersey.


Chess for the Masses

March 20, 2008

Chess educators have long hoped that the royal game would be universally taught in schools across the country. Today’s New York Times reports that Idaho will become the first state to offer a chess curriculum. Anecdotal evidence from a pilot program with second and third graders suggests that chess not only improves cognitive skills (concentration, planning ahead) but also emotional development. The children learned to be gracious in victory and mellow in defeat (lessons they may forget if they ever become grandmasters).

Yet Another Bad Chess Analogy

March 17, 2008

In a story on the prosecutor who’ll decide whether to bring charges against Elliot Spitzer, The New York Times clumsily invokes chess: “In a way, the case is like a chess match with two grand masters, in which the high-powered players know and trust each other but will pull no punches.”

Trust each other? Suspicion, not trust, seems to dominate relations between the world’s chess elite. This is a sport in which top players freely level cheating accusations at each other when things aren’t going their way.

Caucus, Schmaucus

March 5, 2008

Here’s an absolutely beautiful sentence, especially when read in isolation:

“But she will continue to find herself in a difficult position mathematically.”

It’s from today’s New York Times.

Castro’s 638 Lives (Or is it 634?)

March 3, 2008

fidelcastro.jpg (Fidel Castro flanked by world chess champion Tigran Petrosian and grandmaster Lev Polugaevsky)

Speaking of heads of state and aspiring h.o.s’s who play chess, Fidel Castro was a stand-out. But judging from the surviving game score of a King’s Gambit he defended and won in 1966 (when the 17th world chess Olympiad was held in Cuba), he was more accomplished as a revolutionary than as a woodpusher. Away from the chessboard, Castro was certainly a master of defense.

Tonight on the Sundance Channel is the U.S. premiere of “638 Ways to Kill Castro,” a British documentary that explores his invincibleness. The film’s title “refers to the number of assassination plans that Fabián Escalante, the former director of Cuban intelligence, claims to have evidence for and, in many cases, to have thwarted,” writes Mike Hale in today’s New York Times. “Mr. Escalante breaks it down by administration:

Eisenhower, 38;

Kennedy, 42;

Johnson, 72;

Nixon, 184;

Carter, 64;

Reagan, 197;

Bush Sr., 16;

Clinton, 21.

(That adds up to 634, but we can forgive him for losing track of a few poisoned diving suits.)”

Ralph Nader Plays the Chess Card

March 3, 2008

Not to be upstaged by Michelle Obama when it comes to woodpushing, Ralph Nader told Politico: “I was a good chess player. I did it more for the enjoyment than to crush my opponent.”

And chess was not the only game he played. “I used to play a lot of ping-pong,” he recalled. “I have a wicked backhand.”

The most interesting thing he told Politico had nothing to do with games. It was about an incident from elementary school and shows that his self-righteousness goes back at least sixty-five years:

“I was in the third grade and my teacher, Miss Franklin, said there was a public library near the school. I raised my hand and told her that it was a private memorial library and not a public library. ‘Don’t you counter me!’ she said. And she made me sit in the dunce chair. A dunce chair in the corner, and she was factually wrong.”