That Seventies Blog

by admin on November 3, 2011

One of my stranger quirks is that I have kept a diary for most of my life. My parents gave me my very first diary on Christmas in 1963, when I was five years old, but I didn’t stick with it for very long. They tried again, giving me a five-year diary when I was eight years old, on Christmas of 1966, and this time I got hooked.

At first my entries were extremely short and telegraphic. (8/28/1968: “Ham for dinner. The house was priced at $39,750.”) Gradually they got longer, especially when I graduated to a one-year diary in 1972 that had more room in it. Throughout high school and college, I wrote every day.

In graduate school, two things happened. First was that I went to grad school and didn’t have as much time. Second was that I got married, and my first wife hated my diary. She called it a “curriculum vitae.” So I reluctantly gave it up at the end of 1981.

I got divorced in 1983, but didn’t have the heart to start my diary again. I still believed my ex-wife’s admonitions that it was better to live your life than spend time writing about it. Plus, I hated looking back at the old diary and seeing all the ways I had deceived myself about my relationship with her. I think that being deceived by yourself is worse than being deceived by another person. What do you think?

But in 1989 I got married to Kay, and when she found out about my old diaries she encouraged me to start writing a diary again. Unlike my ex-wife, she wanted me to be myself. So in January 1991 I started writing again, and I have kept the diary going ever since. The computer has made it much easier, of course. There are no space constraints; I can write as much as I want to. And if I don’t want to write an entry today, there won’t be any blank pages looking at me accusingly in the future. I probably average a little more than one entry a week, instead of religiously writing one entry a day as I did in the old days.

When blogs started getting popular, I toyed with the idea of starting a blog where I would literally post each diary entry 40 years after I wrote it. I’d call it “40 Years After” or “That Seventies Blog” or something like that. However, I always came to the conclusion that I couldn’t do it. There’s too much uninteresting stuff in my old diaries. The signal-to-noise ratio is like 0.01%. Also, and this is really key, when I read my old diary entries I do not like the person I was in high school and college. I was arrogant and conceited and clueless, all at the same time, an absolutely horrible combination. I just don’t want to share that with the world.

But just for fun, here is one entry from “That Seventies Blog.” Today’s entry, from 40 years ago.

November 3, 1971:  I BEAT DADDY IN CHESS FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT TIME! It came with a pinned [underscored three times] queen and a knight. The councilman for our district will be Stephen R. West, who won by 22 votes.

First, let me say that I did not know anything about Stephen R. West and did not follow his subsequent political career. At that age I was fascinated by numbers and contests of all kinds, and elections were just another kind of contest. (The previous day I wrote, “Mayor Lugar is clobbering challenger John F. Neff in the mayoral race.” Richard Lugar, as some readers may know, is now a senator for Indiana and has been senator for the last 34 years. But before that he was mayor of Indianapolis.)

Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I can now find out that Stephen R. West served on the Indianapolis City-County Council for 24 years, from 1972-1996, did lots of good things, and died in 2010. No mention is made in his obituary of his 22-vote victory, or whether he would have done any of those good things if he had lost by 22 votes.

I suspect, though, that readers of this blog will be more interested in the chess game I played against my father 40 years ago. Although a few moves make me cringe, it’s actually not too bad.

About nine months later I would play in my first rated tournament and get a rating of 1226. I think I was underrated, and closer to 1400 strength. So at the time of this game, I might have been around 1300 strength. Hard to be sure, of course — judge for yourself.

Walter Nance — Dana Mackenzie

(At the time, of course, my name was Dana Nance; I changed it in 1989.)

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nf6

Forty years later, I’m still playing this! For different reasons, of course. At the time, neither my father nor I really had a clue as to how d-pawn openings are different from e-pawn.

3. e3?! (Better is 3. cd.) Bf5 4. b4? (This space grab just weakens White’s position. Better would be 4. Qb3, when Black would be obliged to waste a tempo with 4. … b6.)  e6 5. a3 dc 6. Bxc4 Nc6 (Going for rapid development is not bad, but in conjunction with my next two moves you can see that I am completely unaware of the drawbacks of leaving my pawn on c7.) 7. Bd2 a6 8. Nf3 b5 (Clearly I had never heard the saying that “pawns can never move backwards.” Now Black has lots of weaknesses on the c-file. Fortunately, White’s development is so bad that he has trouble exploiting them.) 9. Bb3 Bd6

I like Black’s game better now. White’s queenside development is very confused, especially his bishop on d2.

Now my father blunders a pawn. Hey, I didn’t say this was a masterpiece. He was about 1300 strength, too.

10. a4?? Nxb4 11. ab ab 12. Rxa8 Qxa8 13. Nc3? (He really had to castle.) Nd3+ 14. Ke2 (I gave this a question mark at the time, but White is already busted.)

Black to move.

Now I really like the way that I finished the game. Black has lots of good moves here, such as 14. … b4 or 14. … c6, which would hang onto the pawn, but my next move clearly shows that I focused on the most important feature in the position, the dangerous location of his king on the a6-f1 diagonal.

14. … Qa6! 15. Nxb5? …

In all fairness to my father, I think my brilliancy was accidental. I don’t think I saw the pin on my queen coming. This is just typical class-D chess. He’s completely focused on his threats, I’m completely focused on my threats, and I just got lucky that mine got there first.

Objectively speaking, though, White had to realize that the pawn is poisoned. A better try is 15. Qa1! trying to trade queens. If Black obliges with 15. … Qxa1? (which I probably would have done) then after 16. Rxa1 White threatens Ra8+. After Black defends that threat (for example by castling), White wins his pawn back on b5. However, 15. … Ba3! prevents the queen trade and Black continues to have HUGE threats on the a6-f1 diagonal.

15. … Qxb5 16. Ba4 (pinning the queen, but…) Nf4+! 17. Ke1 Nxg2 mate.

Here’s the finishing position, which perhaps justifies all those capital letters in my long-ago diary entry.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ashish November 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. Your 15th move is easily …Qxb5! if not …Qxb5!! Definitely …Qa6!! if you saw the line as it unfolded.

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