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To follow up on Tuesday's subject (chess playing style)—

There isn't much room for style in tic-tac-toe. It's a simple enough game that you can see which move(s) is/are optimal in any position. There's no point in playing a suboptimal move, and in positions where multiple equally-optimal moves are possible there isn't much stylistic variation between them.

Chess isn't like that at all. In most positions, it's too complicated for either a human or a machine to know which move(s) ensure the best possible result. What's more, real-world chess isn't so much about finding the optimal move against a perfect opponent as it is in exploiting the flaws of the particular opponent you're facing. And maybe you want to play for a win rather than for a draw. Mikhail Tal again: "To play for a draw, at any rate with white, is to some degree a crime against chess."

Hex, on the other hand, doesn't offer various freedoms that chess does:
  • there's no choosing whether to play for a win or a draw, as a Hex game can't end in a draw
  • offense and defense are one and the same
  • there is no biding one's time, no lying in wait.
So is Hex just a matter of playing well or poorly and thus a feeble medium for expressing style? I don't think that's totally fair to Hex but there's some truth to it. Hex will never offer all the opportunities for style that, say, chess does.

But Hex does exhibit a characteristic elegance. Top-level Hex play is like the construction of a building which obviously stands up when it's complete but whose plan seems to have been conjured by magic.

Compared to chess or Go, Hex hasn't been played much. We have only gotten a taste of the heights the game can attain. I don't mean to make this posting all about one person, as I feel the elegance inheres in the game and not just in the top player's performance—but so far, only Maciej Celuch plays at the level of Maciej Celuch. I'm glad I've lived long enough to see some of his games. As a fellow player put it, "I don't know how Maciej Celuch manages to come up with his moves, I just sit in awe of them."

I don't expect my occasional blog postings about Hex to get anyone to start playing it. I write them so that this blog will look good a few hundred years down the road, if and when Hex reaches the level of popularity I think it deserves. Competitive chess is more vital than ever. Tournaments pay better prize money than they used to, people are hitting grandmaster level at younger ages, and the game is less dominated by one country than it was in the last century. All this, despite how computers have been beating the best humans for some time now.

Chess programs may win games but so far only humans talk about playing style:
I'm absolutely convinced that in chess—although it remains a game—there is nothing accidental. And this is my credo. I like only those chess games in which I have played in accordance with the position requirements... I believe only in logical and right game.
You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.
It is to Petrosian's advantage that his opponents never know when he is suddenly going to play like Mikhail Tal.
click for larger version
Nice clouds this morning.
Stambovsky v. Ackley, a case often taught in US law schools, dealt with the sale of a house which the seller had previously described as haunted. The buyer wanted his down payment back after finding out about the house's reputation. He won on appeal.

The contract said the house was sold "as is"; the seller said that clause should apply to more than just the house's physical condition. The court's remarks on that point include my favorite line in the ruling:
Finally, if the language of the contract is to be construed as broadly as defendant urges to encompass the presence of poltergeists in the house, it cannot be said that she has delivered the premises "vacant" in accordance with her obligation under the provisions of the contract rider.
Back in 2010, air traffic controller Gregory Gish assigned five‑letter names related to Donald Trump to a bunch of waypoints near the Florida coast. At the time, some pilots were offended enough that they refused to fly departure routes through those waypoints. (Mr. Gish has since retired.) A 2010 newspaper article about the waypoint names said Trump was flattered, having said "It is my honor." In July of this year, when Trump was in the news for crude remarks he'd made about immigrants, the FAA said it would rename the waypoints. Trump made like this was no big loss, saying that the waypoint names were "an honor I never knew I had." I leave to readers the question of whether Trump forgot about the waypoint names or is simply full of shit.

I was wondering what the new names would be. The FAA finally issued them this month and alas they are not memorable:

old name new name latitude longitude
UFIRD CRRMN 26.6790° N 80.0122° W
DONLD RIDRR 26.7492° N 79.9352° W
TRMPP RBACK 26.8122° N 79.8715° W
IVNKA SLIDZ 26.9236° N 79.7085° W
And just to finish with something not Trump‑related, a departure route from another southern Florida airport uses one of my favorite waypoints: ZAPPA, at 26.6300° N 79.0979° W. In 1989, I told my friend Brian that if I should ever say I was thinking about moving to San Francisco, he should remind me that it's cold and damp there. A year later I said I was thinking about moving to San Francisco and Brian reminded me that it was cold and damp. I said I was going anyway.

Living in SF in 1990 was the first time I took an extended break from programming work. I was still coming to terms with being HIV‑positive, I was burnt out on working, and I was looking for a change of scenery. There was no guarantee that living in SF would be to my liking, which made it all the more pleasant when it turned out well. I rode my bike a lot, I lucked out finding a boyfriend, I had time to read lots of stuff I wanted. I felt better all around and was rejuvenated when I went back to work around the end of the year.

I have some affection for every city I've lived in and also for many cities I've only visited—but largely for different reasons in each case. I found SF remarkably livable in the sense of having clean air for a city of its size, a mild climate, and great topography. But that description doesn't do justice to why I liked it. There's more, some of which is hard to put into words. Fred
I'm visiting friends who have a Rhodesian Ridgeback.