Last night’s game of chess against Dr M was one of our more satisfying encounters as neither of us made any outrageous blunders until Dr M moved his Knight to d4 at the end of the middle game. Careful opening moves led into a sharp middle game and, from my point of view, a satisfying finish.
The diagram on the left shows my opening formation as black. The Queenside fianchetto and the absence of advanced pawns suggests a variation of the Queen’s Indian Defence, but with the black Bishops traded early in the game and a Knight on e7, it seems far from “orthodox”.
A series of middle game exchanges left me with a Rook-t0-Knight advantage in material and with a better position which I tightened up preparatory to the end game, which I suppose was really the late middle game, when the end came.
The next diagram shows the point when I felt confident that I would win.
The key to White’s defence is the Knight, which is protecting f2 but is itself only defended once while under attack from the Rook and Queen. Even if White tries to save the Knight with R-e3, it will still fall as White wants to remove the guard from f2.
The only other option for White seems to be to give up the Knight and advance the pawn to f3 while going one whole piece down.
In the end, Dr M advanced his Knight to e5, and I replied with Q x f2+ and set myself up for a “sham sacrifice” of the Queen. I flipped the board to show my point of view in the game:
The final moves:
1. … K-a8
2. Q-c8+, R x c8
3. R x c8++
After the game Dr M said he felt “one move behind” throughout. It did not quite feel like that to me when my Queen was being threatened by his white-squared Bishop, but I survived, got the better of the exchanges, had an army that was easy enough to reorganize, and a fairly clear idea of what to do, helped by my recent reading of Jeremy Silman‘s The Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery . “Mastery” is still a long way off for me, but Silman is helping me to play with a clearer sense of what I am trying to achieve. It is very satisfying actually to be able to achieve it from time to time, even if against an opponent with much less experience (but with a background in shogi ).
In 2007 the Japanese pen company, Pilot, launched its FriXion range of erasable ink pens. It had taken over thirty years to develop an ink that was completely erasable and that also flowed smoothly enough to be used in a ballpoint pen.
FriXion pens use thermochromic ink, which is a temperature sensitive compound that changes colour when exposed to heat. Thus, the Frixion erasor, when rubbed over the ink, raises the temperature by friction to 60 degrees, at which point the ink “disappears”.
One difficulty Pilot faced was that the higher temperature form of the ink is less stable than the lower temperature form, so the ink tended to reappear again as it cooled down. Their solution was to use a third element, which locks the high-temperature forms of the ink, through a process of electron donation, making it more thermodynamically stable.
Another difficulty was getting the consistency of the ink right so that it would flow smoothly. The solution (no pun intended!) was to use a thermochromic material which could be rendered into fine microcapsules of no more than 50 microns. Each microcapsule contained the three elements, A, B and C. While A and B are attached the ink is visible. But, under friction, the temperature rises and C splits apart A and B and attaches itself to B, and the ink turns transparent and “disappears”.
Disappearing & Reappearing Ink
Exposing Frixion ink to other forms of heat apart from friction, such as a naked flame or hot air from a hairdryer will cause the ink to disappear. Exposure to direct sunlight for a prolonged period will also cause the ink to fade away.
If you wish, you can restore the ink to visibility by placing the paper on which it was written in the freezer for 10 minutes.
The first Frixion pens to be sold on the market had detachable caps. The eraser was placed at the top of the pen, which was not an entirely satisfactory arrangement as it meant that you could not put the cap on the top of the pen while using it, or rather, if you did, you had to remove it every time you wanted to use the eraser.
However, the more recent pens released for the Japanese market have a greatly improved design.
Pilot has dispensed with the annoying cap and designed a retractable pen. The retracting button is on the side of the pen in the form of a convenient pocket clip, so the eraser sits nicely on the top of the pen.
The lower third of the pen barrel is wrapped in a thin plastic cushion for more comfortable writing, and can be unscrewed to replace the refill.
The ballpoint cartridges are available in two different thicknesses – 0.5mm and 0.7mm. A nice design touch is the use of clear erasers to mark the 0.5mm pens and coloured erasors to mark the 0.7mm pens. There is also a little green sign at the top of the barrel telling you the thickness of the ink. Of course, when you need to replace the cartridge there is nothing to stop you using a different thickness or colour!
Pilot Frixion pens that are released for the Japanese market can be purchased online from selected suppliers.
If you would like to purchase Pilot Frixion Ball Knock erasable ink pens check out the range at http://www.japanese-games-shop.com/other-goods/pens/pilot-pens/frixion-ball-knock/ – worldwide shipping from Japan is available.
Towards the end of The Princes in the Tower Alison Weir, writing in the early 1990s, describes Richard’s burial and the subsequent fate – as was supposed – of his bones. It is interesting to note that The Great Chronicle seems to describe the circumstances of the burial quite accurately. However, it comes as a bit of a jolt to read how readily Alison Weir has accepted as fact what we now know not to be the case:
“Two days later, says the Great Chronicle, Richard III was ‘indifferently buried’ in an unmarked grave in the choir of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, by the charity of the friars and without, says Vergil, ‘any pomp or solemn funeral’. In 1496 Henry VII paid £10.1s, a paltry sum, for a coloured marble tomb and alabaster effigy to be placed above his rival’s grave. This bore a Latin inscription proclaiming that Richard had come to the throne by betraying the trust placed in him as Protector during his nephew’s reign.
“During the Reformation of the 1530s the monastery of the Franciscan friars was dissolved and the church despoiled. Richard’s tomb was destroyed and his bones disinterred and thrown into the River Soar. They were either lost or recovered and reburied at Bow Bridge: the evidence is conflicting. Richard’s coffin is said to have been used as a horse trough in Leicester but had been broken up by 1758 and its pieces used to build the cellar steps in the White Horse Inn. Some ruined walls and foundations are all that is left of the monastery; a car park now occupies most of its site.”
I have just finished reading the Folio edition of England Under the Tudors, by G. R. Elton. Here is his conclusion:
“A country once ravaged by internal war and depression was now, despite external war and more depression, on the way to becoming a major power. Peace at home had brought order and law, a rising prosperity, a spreading over the globe, great things in the arts, a remarkable people. No one would pretend the sixteenth century was an ideal age. Poverty and disease and cruelty abounded; life was hard and often short for high and low alike. Its politics were too often violent and repulsive, though also full of intelligent vigour. Its religion, though in the end more sincere than that of the late middle ages, also indulged in more intolerance and persecution. Its people were too often hard of face and harder of heart. Yet the state was built anew, government restored and reformed, enterprise encouraged, faith rekindled. The good past survived, the bad past died. In those hundred and twenty years of unremitting labour by monarchs and ministers, merchants and mariners, gentlemen and yeomen, writers and poets and thinkers, a new and greater England emerged from the day-to-day turmoil of life.” p. 470
See, the Princes in the Tower, they weren’t murdered even though they were discovered to have been bastards, (which is why Richard, the best of men, reluctantly accepted the crown)… What happened was, they was smuggled out, see, by this bloke, who, somehow – I can explain it – turned some of the screws in the Tower and then a screw loosed them and let them out without nobody seeing, or if they saw, they never said like.
And then this bloke foisted one of them on Sir Richard Guildford, who pretended he was his teenaged son, and nobody else noticed he suddenly had an extra son, or if they did, they never mentioned it for many a gent has spawned a bastard if truth be told.
And the other, he was boated up the Thames to Sir Thomas More’s house and they pretended he was a medical student. And then, just so as nobody would suspect anything, old More wrote this alternative history of Richard III, which was a kind of conspiracy theory, saying that it was innocent uncle Dick what done it and he said stuff like he was “ill formed” to show he was wicked which was really discriminatory when you consider that we now know he was suffering from scoliosis of the spine and did pretty well under the circumstances.
And then uncle Dick was killed in battle and after that the two boys grew up and nobody said anything at all about it, and the boys never let on neither.
And the princeling who was living with Thomas More became President of the Royal College of Physicians and learnt Greek, which just goes to show he was really a prince, and although Thomas More wrote a letter to Erasmus referring to the boy as a “child” the prince was actually four years older than More, and by that time in his forties, which just goes to show how much More wanted to hide his true identity and pull the wool over the Flemish fool’s eyes.
The princeling then married at the tender age of 53 and died at the age of 98. There is even a painting of him with the More family where it says that this John, i.e. our princeling, is the true heir, which means the heir to the throne, of course, and not Thomas More’s heir.
And all this so so patently obvious that it leaves me incredulous that there yet be dullards so foolish as to vainly imagine that it could have been our most noble and best of kings, who was ever known by his friends to be a good chap, and a loyal brother to the former king, and who hammered the Scots, and helped the poor, who could have arranged to have the boys murdered in the tower, while under his protection, simply to remove potential rivals to his crown. After all, their mother never said she believed they had been murdered and there’s an end on’t.
I lived in Sandhurst, Kent, for nearly twelve years as a boy. Sandhurst is just a few miles from Sissinghurst, but in all those years my family and I never once visited Sissinghurst Castle [photo, left] and Gardens, which were created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson.
I suppose the Hiroshima “Peace Pagoda” is about as far from us in Rakurakuen as Sissinghurst is from Sandhurst. It gleams down at you from the summit of Futabayama, on the south side of Hiroshima station. The last time I visited it must have been back in 1991 with Roland Petrov, although in the mid-nineties I used to walk up to Toshogu Shrine and then up the hill beyond it, through the vermilion torii shrine gates behind Kinkou Inari Shrine, and sit on a rock close to the summit. Yes, years ago. Ancient history.
Well, the other day the Mrs confessed that she had never ever visited either the shrines or the pagoda, and she has lived Rakurakuen ever since she was born, which is a lot more than twelve years ago; so we decided to catch a train to Hiroshima Station and visit a shrine or two on New Year’s Day, and perhaps even go as far up the hill as the pagoda.
Here are some photos of our progress:
I was contacted towards the end of November by an amateur chess player called Oliver Dyar, who was responding to my Kindle Books and Chess blog post. He’d just published a short book on Kindle called 21 Checkmate Puzzles which was available for free download for one day only, on 26th November.
Describing his project, Mr Dyer wrote:
The focus has been on creating a great chess ebook experience – good design, fun, challenging, informative.
This is the first book in a project about writing books for hobby chess players. My hope is that as more amateurs write books with effort put into design, then hopefully some of the major publishers will start improving their designs!
I took advantage of the free download offer and checked out his book.
Actually, I went through all 21 chess problems and thoroughly enjoyed doing them. They are very different in character from the problems presented in T. E. Klemm’s 100 Chess Problems and Another 100 Chess Problems, and the care and attention to the layout and design is immediately evident. The commentary is clearly and precisely written and is free of “typing errors” (unlike T. E. Klemm’s books).
After the cover and the title page, Dyar jumps right into the action with Puzzle 1. The reader is presented with a large, clear, easy-to-read chess board with all the pieces still in play at a point where the opening is giving way to the middle game.
Black to move…
From the start I felt I was in different territory than I had been when going through Klemm’s first book, as if a different personality was expressing itself through the problems. For one thing, I was not so sure of my ground, of how many moves were needed; should the Bishop check the King, or should the King’s Knight fork the Queen and Rook, or should the Queen’s Knight move up to d4? Usually, chess puzzles involve some kind of forced move, so B x f2 ch, K e2 and then move up the Knight…? That would not work… and so on. The solutions were all very elegant and often, as in Puzzle 1, involved trapping the enemy king first and then delivering the final blow, often after an extra twist or turn to the plot to ensure an elegant and pleasing finish.
After taking us through a couple of puzzles, Dyar then pops up to say “Hello!” and offer a brief introduction before leaving us to the rest of the puzzles. This is actually a sensible – and refreshing – way to do things, especially on Kindle, where readers can download the first few pages to sample the book before buying. It also works well on Amazon.com, where you can “look inside” the book and do the first two problems.
The only puzzle that seemed a bit too contrived was the last one, Puzzle 21. Enjoyable, but how on earth did White get into the position where three pieces are under separate attacks, with two of those pieces, and two pawns, unguarded? And what was Black up to not to be able to take at least one of those pieces? Still, no matter, it was challenging and fun to do.
So, does the book live up to Mr Dyar’s intentions? Yes! It is well designed, especially the board graphics and the beginning of the book, both of which take into account the Kindle-reader’s experience. The repetition of the board on the solution page is also very useful (Klemm has taken this even further by offering a new illustration for every move); you really do not need a chess board and you don’t have to struggle to find the solutions “at the back of the book”.
I’d give this chess problem book 5 stars on Amazon.
21 Checkmate Puzzles is now available for just $1.21 on Amazon.com or on your Kindle, and is great value for money.
In this video, which I shot in August of this year, Doctor M kindly agreed to explain the basics of how to play Shogi, or “Japanese Chess”.
I was using a old Sanyo Xacti 5x Zoom on a tripod, but had zoomed in a little too much. Then, trying to zoom in to the board while adjusting the angle of the camera on the tripod also proved to be a challenge and resulted in more camera shake than if I’d simply held the camera in my hand.
Doctor M gamely endeavoured to explain the basics of Shogi in English, without any preparation. We talk about the board, the pieces, the cushions and the “koma dai” – or raised trays where you place your pieces after capturing them.
One of the unique features of Shogi is that you can “turn” any captured piece and replace it on the board as your own piece, which is apparently why Dr M’s Jesuit teacher disapproved of the game, not that it stopped Dr M from playing the game as a schoolboy.
In the last part of the video we sit down to play a game of Shogi, and the video closes at a point where this blogger has got into a bit of a pickle and is declaring that there is “no need to panic”… Needless to say, disaster swiftly followed…
Title: Viewing The Autumn Leaves On Miyajima
Description: A day trip to Miyajima to look at the autumn leaves.
Start Time: 10:00
End Time: 17:00
We hopped onto the tram at Rakurakuen and pootled up to Miyajimaguchi. Yesterday it had poured with rain for most of the day, but today was a lovely bright day; even so, although the tram was crowded it was not as packed as I’d expected. Today is probably the best opportunity many people will have to go “red leaf viewing” and the two most popular spots in Hiroshima (as far as I know) are Mitaki and Miyajima.
The ferry ports at Miyajimaguchi and Miyajima were indeed packed with people. We hired bicycles and headed West, that is, away from Itsukushima Shrine, and before we had rounded the first corner we were alone. We cycled out to the camp site where Eileen and I went camping in October. Nobody was camping today.
After about an hour of cycling around we returned the bicycles and had a snack at a nearby cafe before wandering up to Momijidai Koen via the back streets to see the red leaves. The amusing thing about wandering around Miyajima is the way the tourists are channeled into just one or two streets on the route to Itsukushima Shrine, but the next street up, which runs parallel to the other two, is always almost completely empty of tourists, as are all the other streets, even on a busy day such as today. We only encountered masses of people at the port and along the main route until we turned up a side street, and then again up at the park.
We wandered back down the hill and around the back of the main shrine and stopped for a late lunch of “eel-on-rice” at a restaurant near the aquarium. “Eel-on-rice” is a speciality of Miyajima, and I am keen on eel, but even so, ¥1800 for eel-on-rice, soup and a few pickles was a bit much – especially when you consider that one of the stalls sells delicious baked potatoes for just ¥500 (at least, there was such a stall during the fireworks festival in the summer).
On our way back to the port we visited Senjokaku, the Pavillion of 1,000 Mats, a chantry for fallen soldiers commissioned in 1587 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the “three unifiers of Japan,” before heading for the back streets back to the port.
In this scenario, the Green Dragons successfully assaulted the Red Lion castle. The assault was presided over by one of the daughters of Bellona who can be seen lowering over the battlefield in one photo… just to prove I do not play these games entirely alone!!
Although the siege wagons were rather more primitive than the siege engine we built for some of last season’s later scenarios, they proved effective in delivering the besiegers to the battlements in spite of the difficulties of bringing them up to the walls in the face of the Red lion crossbowmen.
The Red Lion defenders had the better of the early exchanges of ordnance, but they were gradually cleared from the battlements and then the Green Dragon’s superiority of numbers began to tell. The final shot of the scenario was by a Ninja archer fighting with the Green Dragons, who joined the assault of the battlements and shot the Red Lion King to bring the siege to a successful conclusion.
The heroic defence of the South West drum tower by a single peasant with a pitchfork is also worthy of mention…
While researching this article I came across a website that has taken Lego castle games much further than our small tabletop scenarios. See: http://www.classic-castle.com/