Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Very cool chess problem

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Chess

And for a less rosy view of military culture: The Pentagon Wasn’t Ready for Gamers to Push Back

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Matthew Gault reports in Vice:

Last week, House Democrats almost stopped the Pentagon from using Twitch as a recruitment tool. The House voted down the measure, but that Congress discussed cutting Military funding at all signals a change in the relationship between civilians and the military. The Pentagon, facing a shortage of skilled recruits, turned to video games and online streaming to find new troops. As is so often the case with the U.S. Military, it was unprepared for the theater it was operating in.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. military became sacrosanct in American life. Celebrities who were critical of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan paid a heavy career price. Movies critical of the war were box office failures, even if they even made it to theaters at all. Video games like America’s Army —another attempt by the military to recruit via video games—passed through the culture with little criticism. People could criticize then-President George Bush, but the sense was that we should leave the military out of it and let them do their jobs.

After almost two decades of blank checks for the military and little critique even in the face of abject failure, the real costs of the United States’ open-ended wars are still coming into view. The war in Afghanistan has cost trillions of dollars and killed more than 100,000 Afghans. Civilian and Military leadership have known for years that the Afghanistan War is a lost cause that’s cost untold lives, but the war grinds on. Add to this the U.S. military’s use of torture, the expansion of the domestic surveilance state using technology pioneered in conflict zones, and the ongoing use of drones to assassinate enemies and it’s easy to see why many people have lost trust in the American military.

In the chaos that is a Twitch chat room, the U.S. Army and Navy esports teams encountered something they weren’t used to: some skepticism. There’s a diversity of views and opinions on Twitch that more closely map the real world than the sheltered world of the media the Pentagon is used to dealing with. On Twitch there is no deferential news mediaflag-waving entertainment media, or sports leagues taking money to “salute service”.

As the U.S. Military struggles to train and retain skilled soldiers, especially as COVID-19 has killed traditional avenues of recruitment, it has increasingly looked to digital spaces—and especially those inhabited by gamers—to fill the ranks. According to the military, it needs gamers. Drones aren’t easy to operate and, increasingly, all branches of the armed forces need skilled soldiers to do complex tasks. According to the Navy’s Twitch recruiting guide, the skills of the gamer are “the same skillsets used in fields in nuclear engineering, aviation, special warfare, cryptology and counterintelligence.”

The Air Force, Navy, Army, and National Guard are all fielding esports teams and running Twitch channels. The U.S. Marines Corps, alone among the branches, has said it wouldn’t field a team. But the Marines Corps is still involved. It sponsors tournaments and has a partnership deal with Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas. The Pentagon wants gamers but it doesn’t understand how to talk to them.

The various branches of the military have been working esports programs for years, but trouble started in July when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Games, Memes, Military

Trump heads to his own golf club as Covid-19 surges and jobless benefits expire

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Not a leader and only a simulacrum of a president. President Trump makes his 283rd golfing trip of his term as coronavirus death toll passes 153,000. The Guardian writes:

Donald Trump prompted a familiar barrage of criticism on Saturday by visiting one of his own golf clubs as the country remains caught in numerous intensifying crises, from the raging coronavirus epidemic to anti-racism protests to the failure to extend benefits to tens of millions of jobless Americans.

Trump arrived at his Virginia golf club in the morning, according to a report from the White House pool, after leaving Washington via motorcade and dressed in his usual golfing attire of a baseball cap and a polo shirt.

In the 2016 campaign, and before, Trump often lambasted then president Barack Obama for his visits to the golf course and claimed that he would be too busy to play the sport if he was president. Since taking office, Trump’s visits to golf courses have far outpaced those of Obama.

Trump’s latest visit comes as the death toll in the US from the coronavirus tops 153,000 with more than 4.5 million positive cases – by far the largest totals in the world. It also happens as Washington fails to agree on an extension to a vital $600 weekly payment to jobless Americans – who will now lose that benefit.

The visit triggered much online criticism, including from some anti-Trump Republicans. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 8:55 am

Ludic fallacy

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“The map is not the territory” (Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity), and a game is not real life.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2020 at 10:42 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Games, Science

Cool game: King’s Gambit Accepted

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2020 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Chess, Video

Chess videos: two interesting forced mating sequences

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The first is from 1963, against a computer:

The second is from 1858 and is quite an attacking game — and demonstrates Paul Morphy’s genius.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2020 at 10:14 am

Posted in Chess

Coarse-brush week, and today is Leviathan and the Baili 171

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Yesterday I used my Omega 20102 and today you see the Omega Mighty Midget, a mix of boar and badger. I do wet the knot and let the brush sit while I shower to soften the boar bristles. A reader commented on his fondness for horsehair, and those brushes too have a pleasantly coarse feel on the face — not rough, but with a perceptible grain. So I thought II’d go through some of the coarser brushes in my collection for a pleasant change of pace.

The Mighty Midget, though, really doesn’t feel all that coarse. The badger smooths it out quite a bit. It did make a mighty fine lather from one of my favorite soaps, this one from Barrister & Mann.

The Baili 171 is a remarkable razor: $6 at the link (and I have no affiliation with the company — I’m just a customer), and it shaves like a dream. It’s so comfortable it doesn’t feel as though it’s doing much, but the result today is as smooth as one could want. I also like the looks and feel in the hand. It’s somewhat unusual in that it secures blade alignment through corner brackets instead of the usual studs from the cap (or baseplate). Works like a charm.

A good splash of Leviathan aftershave — I love the fragrance — and I’m set for the day, which will include some afternoon chess. I downloaded a free (and quite nice) chess-clock app for my iPhone, one provided by Chess.com. I recommend it if you play any two-person strategy games (chess, Go, checkers, or the like) since it ensures that the games move along, plus it’s easy to give (or receive) a time handicap — e.g., the stronger player gets 10 minutes and the weaker player gets 20. It’s not so cut and dried as that seems, since obviously the strong player will be thinking while the weaker player’s clock runs, but it can help — particularly if the division is 5 minutes vs. 25 minutes.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2020 at 10:33 am

Posted in Chess, Games, Shaving, Software

Algorithm-governed interactions are often convenient, sometimes enraging, and occasionally dangerous

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Here’s an example of the enraging sort. The comments on YouTube for this video are interesting:

Written by LeisureGuy

29 June 2020 at 9:33 am

Entire pro softball team quits in disgust over general manager’s tone-deaf tweet

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The general manager should be fired and banned. Here’s the report.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2020 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

An inspired mash-up of Olympic performances

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Excellent full-length documentary on AlphaGo and the match against the world champion

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I highly recommend this documentary even to those who do not play Go. I have no knowledge of (or interest in) football, but I loved the series “Friday Night Lights,” as so many do, not because of the football but because of the human drama. Football is really just the MacGuffin. The story is about the people, and it is absorbing because of that. So it is with this documentary.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2020 at 9:24 pm

NFL players speakout

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2020 at 1:37 pm

From homeless refugee to chess prodigy, 9-year-old dreams of becoming youngest grandmaster

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Aishwarya Kuma reports at ESPN:

IT’S 9 P.M., and 8-year-old Tani Adewumi is wired, like he’d just swallowed a bag of sugar. He had played chess all day, but he wanted to play more, at least until midnight. The first day of the 2019 New York State Scholastic Chess Championship had just ended, and he finished with three wins in as many matches, surprising a former champion and two other seeded players. He was heading into Day 2 — the final day of the tournament — in the lead, and he wanted to keep up the momentum when he returned to the huge Airbnb he was sharing with his family, his coach and a few other coaches in Saratoga Springs.

“If you want to win tomorrow, you better get your butt to sleep like the rest of the champions are right now,” his coach, Shawn Martinez, told him. And so, reluctantly, Tani went to bed, and as soon as he closed his eyes, he fell asleep. Already in his young life, Tani had spent nights in fear — fear for his own life, fear for the lives of his parents. Nerves over a chess match weren’t about to cause a single lost z.

The next day, Tani won his fourth match, no sweat. In the semifinal, Tani did something unorthodox: He purposely sacrificed his bishop for a pawn.

Why did you do that? Martinez wondered. I wouldn’t have made such a risky move.

It appeared to be a blunder, but Tani knew exactly what he was doing. He remembered studying a 19th-century chess game played by the legendary Paul Morphy, and he knew if he could bait his opponent into taking his bishop, he could win the game.

His opponent gave him a wry smile as he realized — too late — why Tani had made that move, the one that would send him to the championship match with a perfect record.

Incredulous, Martinez plugged all of the moves up until the sacrifice of the bishop into an automated chess program on his laptop. After the match, he showed the results to Tani: The strongest move Tani could have made at that point was to sacrifice his bishop. It was aggressive, bold and brave. It was a move most chess players wouldn’t even consider.

But Tani is no ordinary chess player. And his journey isn’t ordinary, either. Fifteen months earlier, his family had settled into a New York City homeless shelter after fleeing Nigeria. Thirteen months earlier, he couldn’t tell a rook from a pawn. That March day, after drawing in the final, he was crowned a state champion. They didn’t know it then, but Tani’s 8-year-old brain and its ability to think 20 moves ahead on an 8-by-8 chessboard were about to change the Adewumis’ lives forever.

“That moment was everything,” Martinez says. “I knew then he was meant for greatness.”

ON A DREARY December 2016 afternoon, Tani’s father, Kayode Adewumi, sat in his dining room chair in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, with his palms on his head, staring at his computer. A poster with the words “No to Western education” and “Kill all Christians” screamed at him from the screen. But what was more terrifying was the logo that accompanied the words — a logo he could recognize in his sleep. It was Boko Haram.

Four men had come into his printing shop earlier that afternoon and, after handing him a thumb drive, asked him to print 25,000 copies of the poster saved on the drive. Kayode didn’t think much about it until this moment, back in his house, with his wife, Oluwatoyin, looking at him, her eyes narrowed and worry smeared across her forehead.

Accepting the business meant he had to work for Boko Haram, a terrorist organization, and that, as a Christian, and a human being, he couldn’t bring himself to do. But refusing essentially meant a death sentence for him and his family, especially now that he’s seen what the poster says and can identify the four men.

He could hear Tani, 6, and his older brother, Austin, playing with friends out in the front yard, arguing about who gets to kick the soccer ball, and a fresh wave of fear went through his body.

What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?

Even before that threat, the Adewumis noticed their country changing under the attack of Boko Haram. Ever since the 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a northern Nigerian high school, Boko Haram’s attacks on civilians had only increased. In 2015, a bomb blast occurred so close to Oluwatoyin’s office that she could feel the heat as security escorted her out of her office. The day before the Boko Haram men came into Kayode’s print shop, Tani and Austin had come home from school early — they were evacuated after Boko Haram sent a message threatening another attack on a school in Abuja. Tani had peppered his parents with questions. “Why were we let off early?” “Who is Boko Haram?” “What is religious extremism?” All the while, his parents were able to shield him. They didn’t know how much longer they could keep doing that.

Kayode came up with a plan. When the men come for their posters the next day, he’ll tell them he couldn’t do the job because his printing press had broken the previous evening. He’ll then hand them the flash drive and tell them he hadn’t looked at it because he hadn’t needed to. Clean lie. He prayed they’d bite and leave his family alone.

They didn’t believe him. A week later, when only Oluwatoyin was home and the children were asleep, they showed up at the Adewumis’ house looking for Kayode’s laptop. They assumed Kayode had seen the poster and saved it to use against them. Let’s use Oluwatoyin to send Kayode a message, Oluwatoyin heard them whisper to each other in Arabic.

What they didn’t know was this: Oluwatoyin was raised Muslim and spoke Arabic growing up. When she heard this, she knew they were going to kill her or rape her. So she did the one thing she could still do: She knelt and began to pray. Atuasal iilayk — I’m begging you. She said the Arabic phrase over and over. “Are you a Muslim?” they asked her. “Yes,” she whispered, as tears fell down her cheeks. Silence followed her response. They looked at each other, and without saying another word, they exited the house.

A few weeks later, Kayode asked Oluwatoyin to pack a small bag of necessities. Without informing anybody, the family moved to Akure in rural Nigeria, to a house with a tall fence. They hid there, using their savings to get by, hoping Boko Haram would lose track of them so they could eventually go back to living a normal life in that small town.

A few months into their life in Akure, when they were getting ready to go to bed, they heard a noise — like somebody was shaking their fence. Boko Haram, they realized, had found them. “You’ve been escaping us for far too long, but we know you are inside, and we know that today you will go to heaven,” they heard the group of men yelling from outside. Kayode asked Oluwatoyin to go to their kids’ bedroom and pray hard, because nothing short of a miracle could save them now.

Kayode knew it would take a while for them to knock down the fence, but a back door attached to the fence led directly to the kitchen. If they found the back door, they’d get inside within minutes. He came up with a plan: He would push open the kitchen door and announce himself. They’d follow him and leave his family alone. It worked — even if by accident. When they heard him, Kayode believes they mistook him for the police and yelled, “It’s the police, let’s go,” and jumped into a car and fled. Kayode stayed outside the kitchen door all night, waiting to see whether they’d come back.

As daylight broke, Kayode wearily walked back into the house to find Oluwatoyin calling him frantically. The kids, who were asleep before, were now awake, fear etched on their faces.

Their faces confirmed the one thing he’d been thinking over and over in his head. They had to leave the country for good — and they had to do it now. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2020 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Chess, Daily life, Games

The Royal Game of Ur

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The game, at around 5000 years old, is in the same age group as Go, but it is a very different game. It has some interesting aspects and nuance, and is not so simple a game as you might think — as the video points out, it’s on the order of backgammon, with a healthy amount of skill mixed in with chance.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2020 at 9:27 am

Posted in Games, Video

Conway’s game of Life emulated in Life

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The notes to the video explain.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2020 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Games, Math, Software

A hard-fought point in platform tennis

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Platform tennis uses a paddle rather than a racquet.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2020 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Games

Table-top generals

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Time Cross writes in the Economist 1843:

Draughts is a funky little café tucked into a railway arch in Islington, in north London. It has exposed brick walls, a bar stocked with trendy craft beers and a selection of comfy chairs. The toast is artisanal and the avocados are smashed. But the most striking thing is the shelves arrayed at the back of the café. They groan with board games – more than 700 of them, according to Russell Chapman, who works there. When it was founded in 2014, Draughts became London’s first dedicated board-game café.

All the old classics are there: Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, along with their memories of family arguments at Christmas. But the main draw for the patrons is a new generation of deeper, more involving – simply better – games that have been devised over the past couple of decades. At one table a group of people are playing Pandemic, a tricky, strategy game in which players are cast as doctors and scientists trying to save the world from four plagues. Their neighbours are engrossed in a game of Castle Panic, in which the defenders co-operate to defend a fortress from a horde of encroaching monsters.

A board-game café sounds like the sort of niche business that appeals only to hip millennials with a fondness for ironic nostalgia. But, on a Friday afternoon, the crowd is more diverse than that, with families and 50-somethings alongside the youngsters. Draughts is doing so well that its owners are now pondering opening another branch. It is just one beneficiary of a new golden age in board games.

The most popular games sell in their millions. Top of the list is Settlers of Catan, in which players compete to settle a fictional wilderness. It has shifted more than 20m copies since the first edition of 5,000 was released in Germany in 1995. Dominion, a medieval-flavoured card game, released in 2008, has sold 2.5m copies.

There are now competitions and a festival circuit for the most committed fans. In 2016 174,000 people streamed through the doors at International Spieltage, the industry’s flagship trade-show-cum-festival, held every year in the German city of Essen. GenCon, held in America, counted 208,000 people through the turnstiles in 2017. The UK Games Expo, held in Birmingham, has grown from 1,200 visitors in 2007 to 31,000 in 2017. The trend is global, but there are pockets of intense enthusiasm. One is Silicon Valley, where Settlers of Catan is an obsession among many. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s founder and a board-game aficionado, says that Settlers of Catan is “the board game of entrepreneurship”. Earlier this year, Maybe Capital, a satirical game about the Valley, complete with discriminatory rewards for male and female players, was launched on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site.

One reason for the tabletop-gaming boom is simply that the products have improved. The best modern games are sociable, engaging and easy to learn, but also cerebral, intriguing and difficult to master. The slow triumph of what used to be called “nerd culture” – think smartphone gaming and “Game of Thrones” on television – has given adults permission to engage openly in pastimes that were previously looked down on as juvenile. And the increasing ubiquity of screens has, paradoxically, fuelled a demand for in-person socialising. Board gaming is another example of an old-style, analogue pastime that, far from being killed by technology, has been reinvigorated by it.

The revival began in the 1990s, says Matt Leacock, an American game designer responsible for Pandemic, as the internet began spreading into people’s homes. Leacock was a programmer at Yahoo! at the time. Germany, he says, is the spiritual home of board-gaming. “For whatever reason there has always been a culture there of playing these things, of families sitting around the table at a weekend,” he says. The internet helped that culture spread: “I remember we used to rely on these little hobbyist websites that would do amateur translations into English of all the new German games that were coming out,” says Leacock. As with everything from Japanese cartoons to Jane Austen fandom, the internet helped bring together like-minded people all over the world.

Those early websites have blossomed into a thriving scene of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2020 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

AlphaGo: The movie

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The full documentary:

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2020 at 10:02 am

Posted in Games, Go, Movies & TV

ReGAME look quite intriguing

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More information here. I’m trying some of the games. Intriguing.

See also:

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2020 at 11:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Games, Science, Video

The magic of chess

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 February 2020 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

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