Poem of the day

Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
by John Keats (1795-1821)

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?
Or are the fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bold Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer’s old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

Views: 40

Poem of the day

The Riot (concerning the Gordon Riots)
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

Old England, alas! what is come to thy sons!
Such rioting over the Capital runs
      That has not been seen for a cent’ry before.
A rabble like that at a country wake,
When a poor harmless bull is fast tied to a stake,
With a Scot for their leader rush rapidly on
To make at St. Stephen’s their grievances known
      Concerning the progress of Babylon’s whore.

From the fields of St. George when speaking at least
To see fifty thousand march just six abreast,
      The City might well in confusion be thrown.
Cockades of true blue never more were display’d,
And to grace the procession the bagpipes were play’d.
A more curious mixture did never appear:
Lord George in the van, and Jack Ketch in the rear,
      Crying, “Down, down with Popery, down!”

As the peers were assembling this riot begins;
Without blushing they broke the Lord President’s shins,
      And the bishops’ silk robes were shamefully tore;
From parliament wigs clouds of powder flew out,
For bagas and full-bottoms were bandied about,
And Germain very fain would have mended his pace
When a full pot of porter came dash in his face
      Who never but once was so frighted before.

But heavens be prais’d! the disturbance is o’er;
Lord George safe and snug is lodg’d in the Tower,
      Tho’ Bedlam some think full as proper a place.
From hence over Britain may harmony reign,
And London the like ne’er experience again.
When warring abroad, divisions at home
By beating religion’s fanatical drum
      On the king’dom have brought the greatest disgrace.

Views: 39

Poem of the day

In a Churchyard
by Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806)

O thou, who sleep’st where hazel bands entwine
The vernal grass, with paler violets drest!
I would, sweet maid, thy humble bed were mine,
And mine thy calm and enviable rest.
For never more, by human ills opprest,
Shall thy soft spirit fruitlessly repine:
Thou canst not now thy fondest hopes resign
Even in the hour that should have made thee blest.
Light lies the turf upon thy virgin breast;
And lingering here, to love and sorrow true,
The youth who once thy simple heart possest
Shall mingle tears with April’s early dew;
While still for him shall faithful memory save
Thy form and virtues from the silent grave.

Views: 47

When do chess players peak?

This study is very interesting and contrasts with an earlier study by Nikolai Krogius (published as an appendix to “Psychology in Chess” (RHM 1976)). Part of his conclusion is close to this study: “a chess player attains his best results at about the age of thirty five; his period of optimal and consistent results lasts somewhat longer than ten years; it ranges between the ages of thirty and forty; some decrease in strength is observed usually around the age of forty three and a particularly noticeable decline starts ar the age of forty seven.” Krogius also notes that those who started playing before the age of ten had much longer periods of optimal play than those who started after the age of ten (Chigorin did not learn the moves until sixteen and Krogius lists Lasker, Maroczy, Pillsbury, Rubinstein, Vidmar, Flohr, Botvinnik, Lilienthal, and Kotov as players who started after ten). That conclusion is unlikely to be very relevant today as most of today’s top players have their grandmaster titles by the age that the players listed by Krogius are just beginning. I wonder when last player to learn the game after age ten became an elite player.

Krogius also notes a phenomenon that appears absent from this study, espcially noticeable in the late-starters (perhaps why it doesn’t show up in the current study):

[M]any players’ results do not decline uniformally after their optimal period (that is, period of consistently good results), but experience a sort of ‘upturn’ or second peak, during which they obtain a level on a par with that of their optimal period, and in certain cases even surpass the best results of earlier times[.] …

The second peak comes at a wide variety of ages. Chigorin and Maroczy had theirs at 53, Rubinstein at 47-48, Alatortsev at 41; on average the ‘upturn’ is usual at the age of 44-45.

Statistics show that the second peak is a relatively short phase: its average duration is a little less than a year. The duration of the optimal period is thus 10(!) times that of the second peak. The interval between the second peak and the optimal period is about six years. As a rule, after the second peak a sharp decline occurs. The relatively slow and gradual recession in results which takes place in the interval between the optimal period and the second peak now gives way to an almost catastrophic fall in the chess player’s strength.

Finally, the current study notes that “the average number of moves per game increased considerably during the most recent decades, potentially reflecting improvements in preparation related to the availability of microcomputers and chess engines.” I suggest another (possibly more important factor) is the decline in the number of short “grandmaster” games. What was once routine is now unacceptable.

Top chess players play at their best between ages 35 and 45, according to a scientific paper published on Monday that discusses performance data based on games of chess world champions and their opponents. Playing strength increases rapidly until elite players are 20 and shows slower growth around their...

Views: 156

Poem of the day

Per Dante Alighieri
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

Quante dirne si de’ non si può dire,
   ché troppo agli orbi il suo splendor s’accese;
   biasmar si può più ’l popol che l’offese,
   c’al suo men pregio ogni maggior salire.
Questo discese a’ merti del fallire
   per l’util nostro, e poi a Dio ascese;
   e le porte, che ’l ciel non gli contese,
   la patria chiuse al suo giusto desire.
Ingrata, dico, e della suo fortuna
   a suo danno nutrice; ond’è ben segno
   c’a’ più perfetti abonda di più guai.
Fra mille altre ragion sol ha quest’una:
   se par non ebbe il suo exilio indegno,
   simil uom né maggior non nacque mai.

Views: 48

Poem of the day

One Perfect Rose
by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
      All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet —
      One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
      “My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
      One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
      One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
      One perfect rose.

Views: 45

Game of the week

Today would have been Grandmaster Honfi’s ninetieth birthday.

Views: 47

Poem of the day

A la duración de un pensamiento
by Luis de Carrillo y Sotomayor (1583?-1610)

No sólo envidia al suelo, no envidiada
sólo tu altiva frente de una estrella
era, ¡oh gallarda torre, cuanto bella
temida, y cuan temida respetada!

Ya, ¿qué no allana el tiempo?, derribada
creces llanto a Sagunto; niega vella
la yedra, huésped que se abraza en ella,
o ella se esconde en ella de afrentada.

No le prestó su fe, su fortaleza;
mas ¿qué homenaje deja el tiempo duro
que en brazos de sus alas no dé al viento?

No hay bronce que a su fuerza esté seguro.
Tú, triste, eternidad, valor, firmeza
busca, no a bronce o torre, a un pensamiento.

Views: 36

Poem of the day

The Light of Home
by Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

My son, thou wilt dream the world is fair,
   And thy spirit will sigh to roam,
And thou must go; but never, when there,
   Forget the light of Home!

Though pleasures may smile with a ray more bright,
   It dazzles to lead astray;
Like the meteor’s flash, ’twill deepen the night
   When treading thy lonely way:—

But the heart of home has a constant flame,
   And purse as vestal fire—
’Twill burn, ’twill burn for ever the same,
   For nature feeds the pyre.

The sea of ambition is tempest-tossed,
   And thy hopes may vanish like foam—
When sails are shivered and compass lost,
   Then look to the light of Home!

And there, like a star through midnight cloud,
   Thou’lt see the beacon bright;
For never, till shining on thy shroud,
   Can be quenched its holy light.

The sun of fame may gild the name,
   But the heart ne’er felt its ray;
And fashion’s smiles, that rich ones claim,
   Are beams of a wintry day:

How cold and dim those beams would be,
   Should Life’s poor wanderer come!—
My son, when the world is dark to thee,
   Then turn to the light of Home.

Views: 56