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Saturday, 2-February-2019

An echo of an earlier post (2009-04-17): this diagram appeared in today's Guardian:

Fritz Giegold 4-mover (Guardian)

The text reads: White (to play) is five pieces ahead and the black king has no legal move, so how can white mate in four after a single virtually forced sequence?

Have a look before reading on.

The statement of the problem contradicts the published diagram – but this is the Guardian after all. How do you repair the problem and solve it?

I decided that aesthetically the position deserved a knight on g4 and in any case, a bishop on g3 would allow black too much freedom and didn't work. I also noted Leonard Barden's phrase 'single virtually forced sequence', the columnist's oft-used description for the work of Fritz Giegold (1903-1978). The problemist delighted in anti-positional key-moves and forced lines thereafter.

Those clues led to the Turton themed key 1. Qd8! and … c6/g5 2. Rd7 g5/c6 3. Rd2 exd2 4. Qxb6#

I sent this to a few friends – without the Ng4, with the location as a clue. I copied the diagram from the Guardian website (hence the funny pieces) but they'd corrected it. So I had to white out the g4 square for the hardcopy experience. Curiously, indexes/searches of Leonard Barden's columns still show a clip of the broken diagram.

The position was set up on the coffee table and spotted by early arrivals for a meeting. One, having ascertained it was a problem, was explaining the artificial nature and, without taking stock, said that the key would be something no-one would ever consider in adversarial chess. "Like this", he said, flicking out 1. Qd8!

Thursday, 10-September-2015

Binks face in 2002

Our cat Mr Binks died.

He developed a tumour and rapidly declined, he was only 14. There is more on this entry of his blog, New Cat Diary.

Picture from August 2002.

Friday, 6-June-2014

Dad in Normandy 2006

My dad died last year aged 87.

I had known since childhood that he had been in the Royal Artillery on 25-pounders but it wasn't until relatively recently that he mentioned he had been involved in D-Day. I think that was after 2004 when they 'started making a fuss' about the 6th of June.

We took him back to Normandy in 2006. It was quite a shock – but not the beaches or the memories of the war. The coast of France was so unlike what he remembered or expected, it didn't seem to have any resonance. It was so much like the seaside – and it was so foreign. The French were charming to an obvious veteran but their encouragements to sample their hospitality only brought forward uncertainty approaching scepticism.

To be honest we were not there very long and he was glad to be going home – only shortly after to wish he had made more of the trip and could return. We visited a few of the sites and museums including one at Arromanches where the photo was taken. Outside there happened to be a pair of 25-pounders. There was a brass plaque on the front:


Over two hundred of these famous guns were in use with the Royal Artillery in Normandy by the evening of 'D' Day. It is very accurate and has a range of over 14,000 yards.

Tuesday, 13-May-2014

My relationship with Mark Rothko's works is something I have never properly understood.

I am not sure why; early exposure via the 'Rothko Room' in the old Tate (pre split), subsequently learning his life story or the major retrospective twenty years ago, since when I've taken every opportunity to see his work.

The vandalism of one of the Seagram murals left me rather numb and in a odd state of denial.

As one might expect, I was pleased to hear that 'Black on Maroon' had been restored but I was suprised by a sense of elation on seeing a Google photo of the rehanging.

These days it is routine to expect that scientists will always sort things out. But the conservators in this video emerge as heroic master-craftswomen. And Rothko's work continues to shine and surprise and touch even through the microscope. Beautifully moving.

Tuesday, 24-September-2013

The Right Stuff (Chuck Yaeger cover)

The Book Club got to 100.

Perhaps appropriately for a men only book club we read Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. You can judge whether there is an excess (or lack) of boys' own titles in the complete list.

I acquired an older paperback as left, the cover featuring the legendary test-pilot Chuck Yaeger (taken from this photo after rather oddly, recolouring the Bell X-1) who wasn't actually an astronaut, let alone one of the Mercury Seven. However Yaeger emerges from the book as one of the few unimpeachable heroes.

I say 'acquired' because I bought a hardback online but it turned out to be a paperback when it arrived; the nice people at Awesome Books promptly refunded my money and let me keep the book, all fuss-free.

Thursday, 3-January-2013

Mum on Westminster Bridge?

A year ago today my mum died aged 86.

She would have loved the summer of sport; cheered by the Olympics, been pleased for me that a Briton had finally won The Tour, been exasperated as England dropped like a stone from their top spot in the Test rankings and desperately sad that CMJ from her beloved Test Match Special died before his time.

When we gathered together things for her funeral we came across this photograph – I'd never seen it before and I can't tell when it was taken. But she looks as I remember her when I came home from school in the 60s.

Thursday, 29-September-2011

The Sun, Solar Dynamics Observatory

Late afternoon, curtains closed to protect modesty from office-workers opposite when I emerge from the shower, the almost horizontal autumn sun casts a pin-hole image on the bedroom wall.

There was a sunspot clearly discernible, just off centre, on the almost circular disc. I looked up the image a few hours later on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (or its Wikipedia entry). The SDO is in space but there are many solar observatories with an online presence.

Wednesday, 24-June-2009

This is all proving a lot more difficult than I thought – and I don't just mean the bridge. I rather forgot the intensity of playing in events like this. It's almost non-stop; once the game is over – and there's only an hour break between sessions – it's off to supper with other players and companions and there's no real time to do any updates.

I think I rather remembered occasions where I'd only kibitzed and the ten year gap since I last played (Lille 1998: those wounds took time to heal) led me to overestimate how much time I'd have. Still, with tactically not qualifying for the 'A' semi-final, we've reduced our chances further of playing in a meaningful pairs final. That should free up some time.

Friday, 19-June-2009

No boards played, no mistakes yet. Game time is 20:00 CET, two ten-board matches

Hob-nobbing with people I've actually heard of, here is a hand posed as a test to the innocent copy writer by a bulletin co-editor walking by…

  • 94
  • AK62
  • K752
  • A106
  • AQ
  • Q43
  • A9863
  • KQ4

In 6 after a neutral club lead you cash two top diamonds to discover RHO has three; LHO pitches a club. How do you continue?

After mature thought, I think this is a catch for the sophisticated player: you have to choose between playing your chances in order – 3-3 hearts then spade finesse – or conceding a trump, refusing the spade finesse and then playing for a squeeze on LHO.

If you play hearts and LHO does have four, the two card difference established when trumps were 1=3 is removed and the spade finesse is evens. If hearts are 5=1, the finesse is now odds on.

So, without any other information, the squeeze is not any better than the finesse. But of course you can test clubs – after heart to dummy and heart back – to gain more information. That however, isn't likely to help you. The count there will either be 3-3 (after LHO's club discard – though you may question the motives for revealing the count) or longer on the left, in which case if hearts do not oblige, again the spade finesse is better odds than the squeeze. So you may as well just try hearts and then spades.

Tuesday, 16-June-2009

I'm going to try to actively blog from the European Open in Sanremo.

As a test of my ability to format via the Blogger interface, here's my least favourite deal from last weekend's Pachabo (point-a-board scoring):

NS Vul.
Dealer West
  • KJ10
  • A9542
  • 962
  • 32
  • 762
  • J83
  • 7543
  • Q104
  • 9853
  • 1076
  • 10
  • AJ976
  • AQ4
  • KQ
  • AKQJ8
  • K85

After three passes South opened with a strong 2 and North made waiting 2, 2NT next showed 23-24, North transferred to hearts and over the simple acceptance, bid a quantitative 4NT. South misinterpreted this and replied 5 (3 Key Cards for hearts) and North didn't know whether his partner had heart support or not.

He solved this by bidding 5 and South, possibly thinking this was a transfer to no-trumps, bid 5NT. This was the 'preference' North was after and he bid 6NT. Partner led a diamond and that was 13 tricks.

That didn't feel great. Our team-mates managed a bidding misunderstanding too: they arrived in 7NT(!), well the same lead would give us a great board but there was a fly in the ointment. In order to show a heart positive, North had bid 2NT over 2 – a fact carefully checked by East before he doubled and led the A…

More on the Pachabo in my EADT article.

Friday, 17-April-2009

I've retained an interest in chess despite not actually having played the game for years. I still subscribe to a magazine and play through games in the Guardian. Of late I've taken a bit more interest in problems and this one from Leonard Barden's column of 28-Mar didn't seem too difficult, white to move and mate in three by Vladimir Nabokov:

Nabokov 3-mover (Guardian)

Have a try before reading on.

I set up the position and quickly (well, quickly for me) came across 1. Nd1! Which began a forcing sequence, K:d3 2. Qg2 then ..Kd4 3. Qd5# or ..K:c4 3. Qe4#

Now I knew that had to be 'wrong' as the Rook on a8 has no part in the game … let alone what the pawns on a5 and a6 were doing. The printed solution (1. Rh8!) bore that out. Something was wrong but at least I had the board correct.

I tried to deconstruct the problem: initial attempts, e.g. a white bishop on d1, allowed other duals (Rf8) but catering for a more simple transcription error, I settled on the pawn on a6 being misplaced – it should be on c6.

I wondered for a little longer on whether there should be a pawn on the a-file at all. The one on a5 seems to prevent Kb3 (..a4+) but I couldn't make that work. However, eventually I saw that (with the only black pawns on c6 and c5) 1. Re8! K:c3 2. Re3 Kd4 3. Qe5# and 1.. K:d3 2. Kb3! Kd4 3. Qd2/d6# – creating another dual.

I wrote to the legendary columnist and he acknowledged my analysis. I subsequently found the problem, number seven in a list of Nabokov compositions [www.chessville.com now gone, link via archive.is].

Tuesday, 22-July-2008

I did the Dunwich Dynamo over the weekend and I saw the moon!

This year it didn't rain; after the bad weather of 2006 and the plain awful continuous downpour of 2007, it was something of a shock. I started at 20:45 and saw the moonrise a little after 22:00 when the disc cleared a cloud bank on the horizon. As this year was fine it was no surprise to see the jam-jars out and lit. Candle in jar In fact the elusive lighter, a woman on a recumbent, succumbed to one of my few snaps (with a mobile). However, despite her standing under a streetlamp, she's dark, wearing dark and in the dark, she remains elusive. At an early stop, someone thought my front light sufficiently artistic – you can judge for yourself – there are quite a lot of photos on the Flickr tag

I did the ride in a few minutes over nine hours of cycling at an average of 13.1 mph, arriving at Dunwich at 06:28 Sunday. I'm getting a little faster each time but nothing like as fast as my companions who, though they stopped less than I did (about 45 mins all told), were well over an hour quicker. The ride was lengthened this year for a different midway stop and they reckon it was 119 miles. I recorded almost exactly that but that counted mine to Ipswich station (1.5) and Liverpool Street to the start (about 2.75) so I think my counter lost some on the way.

This year was more like the early hours of 2006 when we were greeted by curious people, including examples of "Dulwich? You're going the wrong way". Somewhere in dark Suffolk a woman urged us all up a hill, a car-full thinking it was a race yelled that I was in front by miles (the guy I'd been following punctured) and a puzzled drunk bewilderedly repeated "are you going to Dunwich too??" as each of us passed.

My only slight mishap was that my saddlebag opened. Alerted to this by my pump falling out, I discovered my long-sleeved jersey missing. I cycled back about 400 yards only finding a dead rat in the road. I asked a group who had stopped for respite and they'd seen nothing so I decided to give up on it. I'd made about two pedal turns when one of they called out that he'd just seen it in some car headlights about 10 yards further on. I decided wearing it would be safer and warmer. That about sums up the night – everyone looks out for everyone else.

Thursday, 3-January-2008

New year, new look.

I've had this in mind for a while – I noticed that my 'style test' had a date in 2006 – but I thought it would chime nicely with the new year. When I started with a home page in 2002 the prevailing style was rather more elaborate than it is today and the old format had started to look decidedly dated.

I hope you like the new minimalist approach. I suspect I haven't finished dithering the look yet so any comment would be valuable.

Sunday, 20-May-2007

Well, I had hoped to be a little more active here following my quitting the day job but in fact I'd probably have been shaken from inactivity in any case…

In the last week this domain name has been spoofed by a spammer.

As far as researches show, there's not much I can do about it. I have some of the mails – included in undeliverable and out-of-office replies – and can get an IP address but I guess that's not much use. The volume isn't awful, about 150 to date (who knows what hit rate these people get?), and, as of today, appears to be subsiding. Had my mail forwarding not been 'anything@' I suppose I wouldn't have seen any of this. I'm hoping the activity level doesn't cause dubiouslogic.com to get blacklisted.

So, apologies to anyone being bothered by this.

Sunday, 2-January-2005

Just putting down a new year marker as a statement of intent to keep this a little more up to date - or at least have the frontpage show that - the EADT pages continue to be updated weekly. (Incidentally I was quite chuffed that I'd managed to cater for the new year quite well last time – of course I'd forgot and had to go back to the code again, maybe I should write a few notes for myself.)

I'm glad to see Alamut is back after a lengthy absence. In fact, I was slightly motivated by tidiness to delete it – I'm glad I didn't. I have had to remove Craig and Ilse's 'Tripping on Travel' though. That vanished some time early in 2004. I guess they're back in the land of the ordinary now - I must track them down.

Saturday, 14-February-2004

It's hard to keep track of the name changes of Mozilla's browser but now it's Firefox (from Firebird) but as far as I can tell, it's still the best browser by a distance.

Tuesday, 18-November-2003

Not that you'd catch me browsing the web at work you understand, but one of my colleagues pointed out this neat tool, ShockStart that allows you to keep your bookmarks off-line, and so synchronised between two sites. There have been a few of these but ShockStart is a neat example and easy to use.

Tuesday, 27-May-2003

On a dark and windy morning (4:56am to be precise) I was stirred from my slumbers by the sound of nightingales outside. So I recorded some audio clips 1, 2, 3 and 4 (all four zipped), together with photographs of the ground.

My digital camera has the ability to attach a 40 second sound recording to an image. I had got within three yards of the bird which was well hidden and confident of its camouflage, so I pointed the camera downwards. I was slightly alarmed when the flash went off but I didn't want to fiddle with the exposure, lengthen the time inordinately and mess with the sound recording. He didn't seem to notice at all and continued to duel with the another some way off (which you can hear best in one although four is my favourite). The wind was making my eyes water and I muffed the exposure on 3 so it's only a few seconds long.

Wednesday, 21-May-2003

Two people I know have thrown in the towel of corporate concerns and gone off travelling have put together a rather impressive site. Craig and Ilse are currently in North America heading north.

[2-Jan-2005] Their site 'www.trippingontravel.com' has sadly disappeared.

Friday, 21-February-2003

Quiet days on the web.

However, one recent amusing diversion. It transpired that a recruitment agency got the impression 'Dubious Logic' was the vehicle for a high powered company specialising in software for the banking business. Seemed almost a shame to have to disembarrass the head-hunter of this…

Tuesday, 10-December-2002

I've got the definitive handle on the reason why the suit symbols look so bad on IE (only < 6.0 – that's OK). Ed Colley, more usually featuring as bridge partner writes;

Here's an explanation of why Mozilla handles the Symbol font the way that it does. First a bit of background: The ASCII (or ISO Latin 1) 8-bit character set uses 97 for "a". The Symbol font has a lower-case alpha character at glyph index 97.

Historically, character numbers and glyph indices were identical (possibly with a choice of "code pages"). So an old application, when attempting to display "a" in the Symbol font will display an alpha.

This was useful behaviour before the wide acceptance of unicode, although limited to people with the same Symbol font, with the same characters at the same indices. In a unicode world, the direct link between character numbers and font glyph indices no longer holds, mainly because very few fonts support all unicode characters.

A unicode-aware application can easily display an alpha by requesting the glyph for entity &alpha; (unicode &#03B1;). The entity &alpha; can be correctly processed by any unicode application.

So if a unicode-aware application is processing a document with the entity &#97; (which corresponds to lower case "a") and the current font is Symbol, what should it do? The backward compatible behaviour is to display glyph 97 from the Symbol font, which is a lower case alpha. The forward-looking behaviour is to attempt to display a latin lower case "a". Since Symbol does not have such a character, a replacement will have to be found from a visually-similar font. This is what Mozilla does when rendering HTML.

Although it can (and is) argued that the Mozilla approach is unhelpful, it is certainly the case that using &alpha; (finally – α) and the like is the way to go.

So there you go…

Subsequent [11-Oct-2011] to the above the inquisitive may like to consult The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!) by Joel Spolsky.

Sunday, 8-December-2002

Some time since the last post, but then again, some time since the last change of substance.

The EADT pages continue to grow week by week but I've now re-written the HTML generation so that there are a few extra features together with some formatting changes. Now I think the suit symbols should appear on all browsers. That said, they may not actually look as good on IE as they used to – an effect of moving from the Symbol font and the hard-coded character codes to the entity codes '&spades;' etc. together with a regular font (I chose Courier).

That's it – happy to take any feedback.

Sunday, 7-July-2002

On a different note I recently uncovered something for which I'd been searching the net for years. Many, many years ago I visited an exhibition in Linz of the works of Alfred Kubin and since then have always visualized the the poster from the gallery. It was a detail from a fantastic creature and made for an intriguing advert for the works. From time to time I tried various search engines and came up with very little - though often quoted as an influence, Kubin's drawings seem rarely represented.

On Friday I during one such peiodic search I found Beauty and Ruin a site devoted to Symbolist art inter alia and there Fairytale Creature, the work that gave rise to the image. All of the artist's works look much darker than I remember them. My reminisences are for a more folk-lore inspired genre; Grimms tales and Gorey without any saving humour; Kubin now looks gloomy and fantastic in equal measure. I wonder how good it has been to actually fill in the detail of the memory.

Good news bad news; new computer but having a bit of trouble getting old data and procedures transfered across, hence no EADT column from Saturday - sorry. Will be up and running soon I hope.

Tuesday, 2-July-2002

Who'd have thought a football link would make it here? The author, a colleague, was working in Japan througout the event – 'Sid RB' is a pseudonym – please don't make me explain…

Thursday, 20-June-2002

I've updated the links (right) to point to a couple of friends' sites (Chris R & Steve H) and Comatose Kid [sadly gone] – repaying the compliment [of a link to Binks's blog]

Wednesday, 5-June-2002

A bit more messing about. I changed the style sheet so the right pane comes down far as the centre one is allowed to (though without the scroll bars). I think it looks better but I was told to do it anyway. Also added a few more links to that right column including newest blog, 'Under the table' [sadly lost when Blogger removed FTP support] a set of ad hoc tasting notes on random imbibings. I'll get the wine pages running eventually but this is probably the most useful anyway.

Wednesday, 1-May-2002

Having installed Opera 6.01, I've discovered some faults with my CSS – there are still some glitches, but the layout in that browser doesn't look quite so bad now.

Thursday, 25-April-2002

I've finally got round to giving Ecats a plug - they host this site and gave me lots of technical help to begin with.

Also, I've got the EADT pages up to date for this year and procedures in place to do the rest but heaven knows when I'll have time. And I've changed the Blogger template to use my formatting.

Tuesday, 16-April-2002

A bit more tidying and I've taken some feed back on the EADT pages. They're still not up to date yet though the latest ones are going in I need to transfer the rest of the year (that I've already converted). It looks as if Netscape 4.x just won't support the box model so I'm giving up on it.

Tuesday, 9-April-2002

I've put several EADT columns on now - the links through to this year should work.

Sunday, 7-April-2002

Unsurprisingly it features the things that interest me but currently I am experimenting how this all looks in different browsers. I think I've tested it in IE5.0/5.5/6.0 and (despite the inconsitencies with CSS1/CSS2 implementation) it looks OK. I will support Opera but it still looks a bit scrappy there at the moment.

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