Friday, February 25, 2005

String theorist and chess opponent

I recently discovered that my opponent, Joe Polchinski, appears to now be about the world's leading authority on string theory. I'm pretty sure he's the same guy; he went through high school in 3 years on his way to a scholarship at Cal Tech. I wish him the blessings of Mr. Nobel.

Imago Dei and Thinking Nurse

Persons following the discussion of theism and rights might be interested in following a parallel discussion of similar issues between the Imago Dei team and Thinking Nurse. Imago Dei quotes an interesting passage from Michael Shermer in The Science of Good and Evil when he says

These rights and values [human rights] are grounded not in religion, or any other transcendental state or supernatural force, but in themselves. They stand alone. Humans deserve life, liberty, and happiness, not because God said so but because we are human. Period. These rights and values exist because we say they exist, and that is good enough. They are inalienable because we say they are, and that suffices. (p. 156)

But if we have these rights because we say they exist, what happens when someone with bigger guns comes along and says they don't exist?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Series on my old Dragon games

As you may know if you are a reader of Dennis M's blog, I am an aficianado of the Sicilian Dragon. I have always found this opening very exciting and fun, and the obsessive-compulsiveness of my high school and early college years has funded me with a pretty good understanding of this opening. Actually through much of high school I played the Accelerated Dragon, attempting to avoid the Yugoslav attack and spring traps on people who tried to play the Yugoslav against the Acclerated move order. Then I lost confidence in my pet line against the Maroczy, so I decided to switch to the normal Dragon. I've won some nice games with the Dragon, but also have ended up with my head on a plate. Some of these games will be wins, but some will be losses. This one is a loss.

This is the game that started it all. Joe Polchinski was the number two player on what would prove to be the first of a series of superstar teams to come out of Tucson. Before there was Will Wharton, Spencer Lower, Robby Adamson, Ken Larsen, or Tal Shaked, there was the Canyon Del Oro high school team. Its top player, Keith Nelson, had rocketed his way from class D to expert in about a year, and eventually became a master. None of these players are active now to my knowledge; Joe gave up the game after going to Cal Tech. These guys were so good they sponsored the Tucson Invitational and then retired the trophy if the same team won three years in a row. They retired the trophy.

Polchinski (A) - Reppert (B) Arizona Championship Semifinals 1970
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3
O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. h4 Qa5

This was the way the Dragon was played in those days. It fell into disrepute, but has been revived of late largely thanks to GM Chris Ward. I'm just guessing the move order here; but if you want to play the Moles line discussed on Dennis's site, you have to delay 10. h4 and play 10 O-O-O or 10 Bb3. For example, 10. Bb3 Qa5 11. O-O-O Rfc8 12. Kb1 Ne5 13. Bg5.

11. O-O-O Rfc8 12. Bb3 Ne5 13. h5

The line with 13. Kb1 actually put the Qa5 system our of commission for a long time, but Ward has had some success rehabilitating both ...Nc4 and ...b5. I once played ...Rc5 in this position and won. I hope to annotate a fascinating game I played against Ilan Brand with 13...b5.


Ward now recommends 13...Rxc3, which transposes to some of the established lines in the variation, but does not permit 14 Nd5 Qxd2 15 Rxd2 Kf8 16 g4. Ward forgot this idea in a game against nemesis John Nunn, who beat him badly in this queen-trade variation. However, I looked at 16...Ng3 and decided it wasn't bad for Black.

14. Bh6

14 g4 Nf6 15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Rxh6 Rxc3 is considered at least OK for Black.

14. Nd3+!?

Two years earlier Karpov had defeated Gik after Bxh6 15.Qxh6 Rxc3 16.bxc3 Qxc3 17.Ne2 Qc5 18.g4 Nf6 19.g5 Nh5 20.Rxh5 gxh5 21.Rh1 Qe3+ 22.Kb1 Qxf3 23.Rxh5 e6 24.g6 Nxg6 25.Qxh7+ Kf8 26.Rf5 Qxb3+ 27.axb3 exf5 28.Nf4 Rd8 29.Qh6+ Ke8 30.Nxg6 fxg6 31.Qxg6+ Ke7 32.Qg5+ Ke8 33.exf5 Rc8 34.Qg8+ Ke7 35.Qg7+ 1-0. However, as Gufeld and Stetsko point out, Black has 18...Bxg4, which looks OK for Black. But while I was trying to set this up on my computer, I ended up finding 18 Rxh5!. Now if 19 Rh1 Ng4 looks forced, but after 20 fg Bxg4 21 Nf4! and now if 21...Qe3+ 22 Kb1 Qxe4 23 Qg5+ Kf8 24 Nxh5 Qg6 25 Qxg6 hg 26 Nf6! Bc8 27 Nd5 b5 28 Nc7 Rb8 29 Rh8+ Kg7 30 Rd8 and White is winning. I think Dennis found a move to put up somewhat better resistance, but it's not good enough.

But of course 16... Qxc3 is wrong, but 16...Nf6 is perfectly good for Black, leading to wins for Black unless White plays perfectly, in which case it's a draw. This has pretty much put the 14. Bh6 line out of commission at the master level, and so it is no longer regarded as a critical line for the future of the ...Qa5 Dragon.

15. Kb1

An invention of German player Juergen Dueball. The alternative is 15. Qxd3.


When Dueball first played this against Mista in 1968, Mista played 15...Bxd4 and was rung up with 16. Nd5!

16. Kxb2 Bxh6 17. Qxh6 Rxc3

16...Qxc3 has been analyzed out to a loss for Black. But looking at it with the help of the silicon monsters, I am not so sure. It would be a good exercise to figure out whether White is really winning, or not.

18. g4 Nf6 19. g5

An important alternative is 18. e5, which Bob Rowley played against me the following year. That game requires separate treatment.

19...Nh5 20. Rxh5

The sub-text of this game is that Joe had been working out of his copy of the Dragon book of the time, which was a small Chessman Quarterly pamphlet written by Ray Keene, which was called Yugoslav Attack 1969. Mine was to arrive the next day. I was following analysis by, I think Honfi in Informant 7. According to the Informant,


is satisfactory for Black after 21 g6 Rxb3, so I played it. Keene had quoted analysis by Dueball, according to which 20...Rxb3+ 21. axb3 gxh5 22. f4 Rc8 23. f5 Qe5 24. f6 exf6 25 gxf6 Qg3 leads to a win for White. Looking at it with a couple of computer programs, I haven't been able to find the win (and Bob Rowley can't find it either), so I suspect they just had that wrong too. But the first thing to notice is that if the queen is headed for g3 in can save a tempo with 22...Qc3+. But after 23. Kb1 Qe3 is crushing, as I pointed out in Larry Evans' column a few months later. Unbeknownst to me, there was a game Segi-Velimirovic in 1970 which went 20. f4 Rc8 21. f5 Rxb3+ 22. axb3 Qc3+ 23. Kb1 Qe3 24. Rxh5 gh which reaches the same position. A game on the database from 1994 ended in a draw after 23. c4 in the Keene-Dueball line, but it looks as if Rxc4! secures an advantage for Black.

21. Bxf7+!

So much for Chess Informant. Does it perhaps occur to you that analysis coming from the books at this time maybe wasn't trustworthy? That we should have been looking for improvements? Of course, you can trust what's written in books today. And, by the way, did you see that ad I put in the paper? Some oceanfront property is available, right here in Arizona. (Dennis has some for sale in Indiana also).

Actually, analysis that reflects actual top-level practice probably won't have holes this big in it. That's doesn't mean it won't have holes, that just means the holes won't be quite so large.

21...Kxf7 22. Qxh7+ Kf8 23. g6?

Missing 23. Qh8+ Kf7 24. Qxh5+ and now either Kf8 25. Qh8+ Kf7 26. g6+ leads to mate, or 24...Kg8 25. Qg6+ Kf8 26. Qh6+ Kg8 27. g6 and the party's over, as Joe pointed out when he annotated the game for the Arizona Woodpusher. What he didn't know at the time was that Boleslavsky, in a book yet to be written would overlook this (just as he did during the game) and declare the game satisfactory for Black! So, let's take a toll here. Polchinski busts the Informant analysis over-the-board during the game, I bust the Dueball-Keene analysis, and Polchinski busts Boleslavsky analysis that hadn't been published yet!

23...Rxc2+ 24. Nxc2

Polchinski's notes to the game, as I recall, said that he could have won here with 24. Kxc2, but my programs and I don't see it after 24...Qxa2 25. Kc1 Qg8.

24....Qe5+ 25. Nd4 Qg7 26. Qxh5

Strangely enough, this analysis was given in a book by Boleslavsky that came out in 71 or 72 that gave all these moves as correct. What did I say about trusting published analysis? Black is OK here.

26...Rc8 27. Kb1 Rc5??

Missing a simple combination. Rc4 was OK for Black, in fact he looks a bit better here.

28. Qxc5! dxc5 29. Ne6+

And White won.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A note from Angus Menuge

I got the following note from Angus Menuge, whose Agents Under Fire is must reading for anyone intersted in the arguments in C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. He wrote:

This is a great blog and the atheists on it seem quite civilized.
Not so one of my recent attackers, who sent vicious personal attacks in
an email to me. I found it quite alarming at first, then blocked him
out, as he clearly did not want to discuss things rationally.

Now, I am afraid you don't need to a theist in order to need to be reminded how important it is to be civilized. And I believe that only one of my commentators has identified himself as an atheist. (If we were discussing the Ontological Argument, I would come across sounding like an atheist, even though I am not one). Nevertheless, I am impressed with the high level of courtesy that has marked the discourse in this blog so far.

Vallicella on The Argument from Truth

In CSLDI I attempt to develop six arguments against philosophical naturalism. These arguments are
1) The argument from intentionality
2) The argument from truth
3) The argument from mental causation
4) The argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws
5) The argument from the unity of consciousness in rational inference
6) The argument from the reliability of our rational faculties

In a post found in October's archives at Maverick Philosopher, we find a response to my argument from truth. Is there a Place for Truth in the Naturalist's World. I wrote a response to Vallicella which I would like to include here:

You present an argument that a "sophisticated naturalist" ought to opt for the idea that truths are abstract states rather than mental states, something like Fregean Gedanken. Otherwise, the truth that P would fail to exist unless there were someone thinking P. If this argument goes through, then it severely cuts down the naturalist's options. Carrier, for example, will not be pleased; he really does think of truth as a correspondence between the brain and objects in the world. In Hasker's reply to me he claims that the naturalist should not be too worried about the AFT because of a Tarskian reply "P is true if and only if P" seems to be naturalistically acceptable. Perhaps Drange's argument on pp. 40-1 of the issue of Philosophia Christi is along the lines you are suggesting. He says

a) Only propositions can be true or false.
b) No propositions are states of a person.
c) Hence no states of a person can be true or false.

If this is true, then truth can exist in a naturalistic world, but, how those naturalistically conceived "truths" can possibly be relevant to the production of, say, states of the brain is going to be a serious problem for the naturalist. As I put it on p. 81 of my reply

"However, what this means is that whether or not those mental acts occur has nothing to do with the propositional content of the acts themselves, since those acts are governed by natural law, and what the laws of nature dictate has nothing to do with the propostional content of mental states (I should have added, especially if those propositional contents are conceived of as abstract states with no particular spatial location). so even if this is a possible reconciliation of propositional attitudes with naturalism, it has the disadvantage of making those mental states (I should have said the contents of those mental states) epiphenomenal, that is, without causal influence."

Hence the Drange-Vallicella response to the argument from truth, even if it works, is a poisoned pawn. It brings truth into a naturalistic universe, but makes it irrelevant to the actual occurrence of belief. This is going to be a serious problem if you are trying to argue, as naturalists are going to have to argue, that a creature's having true beliefs makes it more likely to survive and pass on its genes than those who believe falsehoods. Truth becomes irrelevant to the actual production of brain states, and hence invisible to evolutionary selection pressures.

Naturalists, therefore, may try to resist this analysis of truth-bearer in such a way as to make brain-states primary truth-bearers. Or come up with reductionist or redundancy analyses of truth that are not so ontologically expensive.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

an old simul game of mine

Since I promised to talk about chess some here, I thought I would begin by putting an old simul game of mine the blog. It has appeared on Bill Vallicella's blog, but I reproduce it here. Comments welcome.

57. Kc6 would have drawn it for me. The simul was held in Phoenix.

Reppert,V - Petrosian,T [C18]Simul, 19821.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4 f5 8.exf6 Nxf6 9.Qg3 Qxg3 10.hxg3 Nc6 11.Nf3 Ne4 12.Bd2 c4 13.Ng5 Nxd2 14.Kxd2 h6 15.Re1 0-0 16.Nh3 Rf6 17.Be2 Bd7 18.Bg4 Raf8 19.Nf4 g5 20.Nxd5 Rxf2+ 21.Re2 exd5 22.Bxd7 Kg7 23.Rb1 Nb8 24.Bg4 b6 25.Bf3 Rxe2+ 26.Kxe2 Nd7 27.Bxd5 Nf6 28.Bxc4 Ne4 29.Kd3 Nxg3 30.Re1 Nh5 31.Re7+ Kf6 32.Re6+ Kf5 33.Rxh6 Nf4+ 34.Kd2 Nxg2 35.Be6+ Kf4 36.Rh2 Nh4 37.Rf2+ Nf3+ 38.Ke2 g4 39.Bd5 Re8+ 40.Kd3 Re3+ 41.Kc4 g3 42.Rg2 Kg4 43.Bc6 Kh3 44.Bxf3 Rxf3 45.Rg1 g2 46.d5 Rf1 47.Rxg2 Kxg2 48.Kb5 Rb1+ 49.Kc6 Rc1 50.d6 Rxc2 51.d7 Rxc3+ 52.Kb7 Rd3 53.Kxa7 b5 54.Kb6 Rxd7 55.Kxb5 Rd1 56.a4 Rb1+ 57.Ka6 Kf3 58.a5 Ke4 59.Ka7 Kd5 60.a6 Kc6 61.Ka8 Kb6 62.a7 Ra1 0-1

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Should Christians Play Chess

Some fun from defenders of Dungeons and Dragons anticipating Dennis's question.

Should Christians play chess?

Monday, February 07, 2005

C. S. Lewis, Chess, and Pride

I should make reference to a couple of chessplaying philosophers whose blogging prompted me to start my own. First, Bill Vallicella, whose Maverick Philosopher blog is likely to be familiar to many of you. And also National Master Dennis Monokroussos' new chess blog, found here. (I'm working on a Mac right now, so your advice about links didn't work, Dennis.) Dennis's blog is devoted primarily to chess, but he raised an interesting question about the spiritual implications of playing chess. It brings back a memory of going from being a nominal Christian chessplayer in high school to trying to take my faith seriously in college. I remember reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity for the first time and remember feeling as if I had been kicked in the stomach when I read Lewis describe competitive pride as "the complete anti-God state of mind." Surely, this kind of pride is an occupational hazard of the chess world at all levels. Chess may teach humility, but lots of us don't learn the lessons very well. I always thought Lewis overstates his case in that chapter, but on the other hand I probably would not have benefitted from Lewis's kick to the stomach if he had not overstated his case. (I once preached a sermon entitled "True and False Humility" in which I put my own slant on Lewis's chapter.")

However, a good deal of my own cast of mind, my interest in the rationality of religious faith, and a lot of other things which I think have borne good fruit in my life are the result of having spent a lot of time hunched over a board of 64 squares with 32 pieces on it. I'd be a very different person without it, and I don't think I would be a better one.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

New blog

Well guess what everyone. I've decided to start a new blog! I hope to do a number of things with it. Part of it is to address issues that have arisen from my book C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. You can find my book here. Partly, I have the idea that I can discuss other philosophical matters, and even talk about chess sometimes. Or politics. And then sometimes, I am going to put things on the blog that will be helpful to students in my classes. And partly, I am here to test and develop ideas for philosophical work.

Anyway, welcome all.

Victor Reppert