Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Meteorite Stuff

When I started this blog last year I had only planned to make entries about chess, mainly my own games but also other chess topics that might be of interest to local chess players. Over the course of time I only made a couple of exceptions. The first time was last November when I saw the sky light up when the meteor streaked across the sky above Lloydminster, and the second time was last Friday when I went on a meteorite search for pieces of that same meteor, and I guess this will be the third time.

Today I joined my second search party with the University of Calgary group. It was much busier today, mainly because it was a weekend. Last time I searched was on a Friday and there were only 5 of us trampling through the fields. Today Buzzard Coulee was teeming with activity. The U of C group itself had 15 searchers and other organized search groups, who had apparently made an agreement with a different land owner, were searching nearby. I also saw a couple of other searchers who looked like they were walking along the roadways or tracks. I’m not positive of the legalities, but it’s my understanding that: if it’s a public road, you can keep anything you find; if it’s a private road or property, it belongs to the land owner; if it’s train tracks I believe it belongs to the railroad company. I don’t think I would have searched with any other group than the U of C because a university institution has a level of status and a reputation for doing scientific research. They are not in it to make money.

Today I was only available to search in the morning because I had to be back in Lloyd in the afternoon for my son’s birthday party. The field chosen for us this morning was farther along the trajectory and as such was expected to produce fewer, but larger pieces. We split into two groups and proceeded to inspect every inch of the stubble field. Our determined efforts went completely unrewarded as both groups were unable to locate even one meteorite. I was a little disappointed as I headed back to town but I have another couple of days this month that I might be able to search so maybe next time will be better.

Later in the day my wife was telling me she was talking to a friend who asked her about our meteorite hunt. Initially she was confused about how this person knew we had gone searching, until they told her we were in today’s paper. Sure enough when we looked on the front page of the local paper there was a story about the meteorite search and my name and parts of my comments from last weeks blog were included. Here is a link to the web version of the paper.

While there was a comment after my previous blog from the reporter saying he was looking for my thoughts, comments and pictures, I hadn’t seen them right away because I was in Calgary this week for meetings. After seeing his comment, I hadn’t replied yet, mainly because the Wednesday deadline he had mentioned had already passed and partly because I was reluctant to be in the paper. I mistakenly assumed that before my name and thoughts were used somebody would contact me. It’s a lesson for me that what I put on the web is no longer in my control.

I am now feeling a higher level of responsibility when I write something and am even more reluctant to express opinions that might be misconstrued. But hey, I am not a journalist and shouldn’t be held to that level of accountability. I just write what I see from my own perspective and I don’t necessarily verify every fact. In the past I have deleted posts after having second thoughts and my wife and kids have requested that I not write anything about them without their consent.

So take what I write for what it is, a blog, and I hope I haven’t offended anybody I have mentioned in any of my previous posts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chess in Calgary - Not

I am in Calgary this week for meetings and planned on stopping by the chess club Tuesday night. Thay are in the middle of a team tournament but I was hoping I would be able to find somebody to play a few games. Plans sometimes get changed though and at 4:00 my co-workers and I decided that tonight would be a good time for "teambuiding". Teambuilding is just another word for going out for a few drinks. Needless to say by the time the teambuilding was complete it is too late and I am no longer in the mood or condition to play chess. I need some sleep.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meteorites Under Lloydminster

On Friday I had a chance to go search for meteorites just south of Lloydminster. Last November a large Meteor exploded over Lloydminster and lighted up the evening sky over all of western Canada. The University of Calgary, Department of Geology and Geophysics has been studying the event and has been organizing the search for pieces of the meteor. After a long break over the winter, they have just re-started their search efforts and were looking for volunteers. I eagerly signed up and surprisingly my wife also wanted to give it a try so on my Friday off, my wife and I travelled down to the Marsden area and spent the morning trudging though a farmer’s field looking at the ground for a rock that appears slightly out of place.

The method used is similar to CSI in that a line of searchers, separated by about four feet, walks back and forth looking straight down. When a suspected rock is spotted it is not touched, but tested with a magnet and tagged and bagged by the search leader. The two previous days had produced 15 and 31 meteorites but the field that was picked for search that day was a bit west of the main area and only one meteorite was found. Luckily I was the one who spotted the metallic rock.

The Geologist verified that it was indeed authentic and was also a nice sized meteorite. She estimated it to be over a hundred grams and worth over $3000! Unfortunately, we did not get to keep the rock as all rocks found belong to the land owner and University as per some agreement between them.

I enjoyed the experience as I have always been fascinated by astronomy and space. Now I can say that I found part of the large meteor I and many other saw on Nov 20, 2008. My wife did not have the same enthusiasm so we called it a day at lunch time - just as the team was about to move to a more promising search location.

All of the volunteers so far appear to have travelled large distances just to be part of the search. Two from Calgary, two from south of Saskatoon and two drove all the way from Ontario! For more info, or to volunteer you can go to the website set up by Dr Alan Hidebrand

More Friendly Games

Last Friday night Jamin and I got together again for a few more friendly games. I was eager to try out a couple of new openings I had looked up earlier in the week. Unfortunately I guess I hadn't looked at them enough and I lost all five games we played. Probably these losses can be attributed more to the 300 point rating difference than the openings but I find it discouraging when my opponent hasn't yet begun to think and I am struggling to remember the proper move order, or even worse have no idea what the correct move is and have to spend time trying to figure out a plan.

The only way to combat this deficiency in my game is to study openings and it would probably help if I narrowed my opening repertoire down to a couple of standard lines and concentrate on them. When I returned to chess 2 years ago I was basically a blank slate. I had forgotten almost all the opening theory I had learned in the 80's (most of which was probably outdated anyway). I have been reluctant to trim my opening tree up to now and in fact have been going out of my way to expand it. Partly because I felt that some of the openings I had been playing were not best suited for my style and I hoped trying out different openings would help me find some which were a more comfortable fit. The other reason is that I fear I will get bored with chess if I play the same openings over and over.

As the Canadian Open approaches I think I will soon need to choose my top openings and begin to study them more thoroughly if I want to achieve the level of play I think I am capable of.

Then again, there is the whole 1.d4! line that I have been itching to try, and wouldn't it be nice to play every game in the Canadian Open without repeating the same opening twice.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chess vs Golf

As I sit here watching the Masters on TV and the Alberta Closed broadcast on the internet, I am struck by the similarities between these two activities. Both are individual pursuits that require hours of intense concentration; both have star players that electrify events they enter; both have ordinary patzers/duffers that play just for enjoyment; and both have been somewhat of an addiction for me at different times in my life. In each activity every player has an indication of his strength. In chess it is a rating and in golf it is a handicap. This allows the player to track his improvement and judge his performance against his expected result in an event.

There are differences of course. One difference is the number of participants, especially in North America. In my small city on any summer day you can find hundreds of golfers whacking the ball around the course but you would be hard pressed to find anyone playing chess. Also chess is inherently a battle between two players, whereas golf, while it can be in a match format, is usually a one player vs. the field competition.

When I ask myself why I enjoy both of these activities, I think it is because they are both difficult and they allow me to challenge myself. They give me a concrete result of my efforts. In chess it's a win/loss/draw or a performance rating in a tournament. In golf it’s a round score or a tournament score. Plus I enjoy the fact that to improve at either activity you need to put in some effort and practice or study, and when I have the time I can enjoy the practice all most as much as I enjoy the competition.

ps. I see my pick to win the Alberta closed (FM Hansen) has just defeated the top seed IM Proper in round four so is back in contention and my pick to win the Masters (Phil Mickelson) has just birdied 6 holes in the front nine in the final round and put himself into contention.

pps. Golf update: Mickelson double boggied number 12 to drop back and couldn't pull close enough again to win. Angel Cabrera won a three way playoff.
Chess update: FM Hansen and IM Proper tird for first and will have a play-off sometime in the future.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Friendly Games

Last night I Jamin and I got together for some quick games at BP's. I really enjoy these types of games, where you get to try out different things with no risk. It makes me long for a local chess club where that could be a weekly occurrence. There used to be a club here in Lloyd but it died off before I returned to playing chess. I did stop by the club twice when it was in operation and once played in simul against Dr Gibney and Kay Deshanse who played alternating moves. The simul was to raise interest in the club and I remember I played a KID and managed to get the lone win when Dr Gibney made an error in a drawn position. Maybe if I would have joined the club at that time I could have helped keep it alive but I had other activities on Thursday nights and didn't have the same addiction to chess that I have now.

I guess if I really need that kind of weekly over the board stimulation I should just pull up my britches and restart the club myself. I have thought about doing just that over the last year but I always come up with excuses not to do it. I think I am just scared of the commitment required because know from previous experience how much work that is. I keep hoping someone else will get the ball rolling and then I will jump in and help out.

As for the games we played last night, they were 15 min games with 3 sec increments. I played badly in the first game and lost quickly, then we had two draws - one of which was a blown win by Jamin, then I lost the last two games - one of which was a blown win by me. I got to play some new openings and enjoyed the evening.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Chessmen

I have finally decided that I will registrar for the Canadian Open in Edmonton this July. I have been fortunate enough to play in one other Canadian Open back in the late 80's in Sudbury, Ontario. I was able to go at that time because the PEI chess Association had managed to get a donation of airfare from CanadianAir for the winner of the PEI open. One other PEI player (David Sherren) came with me. Neither of us played as well as we hoped, but we both learned something from the trip and had a good time.

This time I want to play up to my expectations and have set a goal for myself in terms of performance. In preparation, I planned on playing in a few more chess tournaments in the coming months. My first target was to enter the sectional round robin Aaron Sequillion was organizing for A class players in Edmonton this May. It would have worked out perfectly for me but unfortunately when I tried to register he had just filled out the last open spots earlier that day. I told him to keep me in mind if anyone drops out, but I'm not counting on that.

Next, I looked at the Road warrior schedule for Alberta chess tournaments and saw that I might be able to play in the April Red Deer Open. I re-arranged some work and personal appointments to make that possible but, alas, once again my plans were foiled. Last night I was browsing the Alberta Chess Association Webpage and noticed a post that the Red Deer Open has been cancelled.

I feel like there is a curse on my chess plans. It looks like the only pre-Canadian Open preparation I may get is the Battle At The Border tournament in Lloydminster in June.