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Dana's mugshot

Welcome to Dana Mackenzie’s chess blog! I am a national master, two-time former champion of North Carolina, and a regular lecturer at www.chesslecture.com. Don’t let all of that stuff impress you, though. Deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary player. I don’t play chess for money or glory, just for the love of the game.

In “real life,” I’m a freelance science writer. My latest book, The Universe in Zero Words, a history and celebration of 24 great equations in math and science, was published in April 2012 by Princeton University Press. I also wrote The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be (Wiley, 2003). Because this is a chess blog I won’t say any more about them here, but please visit my main website if you want to learn more. I may write a chess book someday, too. This blog is actually a small step towards that goal.

Other irrelevant information:

  • I’m now into my second half-century.
  • I’m left-handed.
  • I don’t wear the glasses you see in the photo any more. (I started needing bifocals. Sigh.)
  • My favorite writer is P.G. Wodehouse, and my favorite poet is Hayden Carruth.
  • My favorite openings are the King’s Gambit and Bryntse Gambit as White, the Two Knights Defense and the Bird Variation of the Ruy Lopez as Black.
  • My lifetime record against world champions is 1½-½. Yes, really. Here are the particulars:

Dana Mackenzie 1, Belle (World Computer Champion) 0. 1983 US Amateur Team Championship.

Gustavo Hernandez (World Under-18 Champion) ½, Dana Mackenzie ½. 1988 Continental Open.

If you’d like to read even more about me (why??), click here to go to the chess biography on my main web page. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the blog!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

admin September 22, 2008 at 8:11 am

I’ve written three articles for Chess LIfe, which were all more or less based on ChessLectures (but offer some additional material). You can find them online at http://www.uschess.org, by clicking on “Chess Life Magazine” and looking them up in the archive. But there’s a catch… you need a subscription to actually see them. :-(

In case you do have a subscription (or can find a hard copy) here’s where they appeared:

“Sac Your Queen on Move Six! (A New Anti-Computer Variation)”
Chess Life, March 2007, p. 30

“The Hook & Ladder Trick”
Chess LIfe, July 2007, p. 44

“Don’t Just Reassess Your Chess — IMPLODe It!”
Chess Life, May 2008, p. 37

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admin August 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I’ve deleted 12 comments that were previously in this space (leaving only the above comment that I wrote myself, which may be a useful reference for other readers). Most of the ones that I deleted were actually intended as comments on other posts. In the future, if you submit a comment here, please make sure it is actually in response to something on the “Profile” page.

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Leland Fuerstman November 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

Dana, my friend:
Carlsen is a notorious introvert. Just like me… Look, at least his last name does not begin with a “K.” LOL I observed you on the History Channel. Great job? However, there are a couple of complaints that I wish you would pass on to the editors. At least 6 of their “experts” have incorrectly used the word “decimate?” Decimate does not mean to annihilate or completely destroy? It literally means to “kill every tenth soldier; (you know; deci) generally to make sure that a captured army’s numbers do not exceed your own! Please see to it that they make that correction. Yeah, right!!!
Also, amateur astronomer that I am, everyone on the channel seems to be talking about an eclipse! However, in their thorough explanations, not one of them has used the descriptive word, SYZYGY? How ignorant are these people? Dude. Enlighten them!
If you ever come to Charlotte, NC, check us out at the Charlotte Chess Club http://www.charlottechess.com (you might enjoy reading my brand of friendly messages!!?)
Warmest regards,
NM Leland Fuerstman
Charlotte, NC
704-965-8931

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admin November 18, 2012 at 9:14 am

Hi Leland,

I’m always glad to hear from you! Um, I would not have thought of you as an introvert, in fact I always thought of you as someone who really likes being around other people. Maybe you’re an introvert who does a good impression of an extrovert!

It’s cool that you saw me on the History Channel episodes of “The Universe.” But here’s how much influence I had/have on them: ZERO. Well, maybe not quite zero, but pretty darned close. In the two episodes I appeared on, I got a chance to see a rough cut or a script. Both times there were huge mistakes — like, for example, Earth and the moon rotating in opposite directions. I think that one got fixed. But in the second episode, I had a huge battle over the fact that the producers were determined to say that the giant impact (which formed the moon) broke up Earth’s crust into pieces and started plate tectonics. I don’t know where they got that idea from, and I don’t know any planetary scientist who says so. No matter how many times I told them no, it kept popping back up in the script. “The higher-ups want it there,” the director told me. And it did make it into the final version, although thankfully only for about 30 seconds and they didn’t find a single talking head to corroborate it.

Lesson learned: the History Channel cares about entertainment first, the truth second.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of being on the show, and I thought the episodes were overall not too bad. In fact, the second one, about what Earth would be like if we had no moon, was much better than I expected. By asking questions that were outside the usual bounds of science, they really got the talking heads to say interesting things. I think it was valuable to see how a scientist approaches a question like that.

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Leland Fuerstman November 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

Oh, by the way. In the episode of the History Channel where aliens come down and spray some kind of fog from which these genii think the plague was spread??! Any chance those altruistic alien engineers could have been spraying DDT to get rid of the fleas?! I can’t imagine that I am the only person who has considered that? But, that would assume that I believe in prehistoric human-like visitors… which I do. In fact, I believe they brought chess with them, too!!!
Keep having fun!
Leland

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Sally Schwaner February 13, 2013 at 9:23 am

Hello, I stumbled on your website looking for information about Rich Delaune. To avoid a long story suffice it to say that I saw his picture in my high school year book. We were in the same class at Hampton Roads Academy (Class of ’73). Our class had all of 28 people in it so everyone knew everyone else. Rich had a place of his own. An original geek, chess player, tall and gawky, ready grin and quick wit. He was one of my favorites as I was a new comer to the class in the junior year and he was one of the first to try and make me feel welcome in a class of 25 other people who had been together since 7th grade. I’ve since found the memorial sites and was stunned to learn he had died at 49 from a heart attack. Rich was a devoted Christian Scientist when I knew him so whatever was wrong was probably never detected and certainly not treated. My favorite memory of Rich was showing up with 3 other girls from our class to cheer him on at a local chess meet in high school. While Rich was embarrassed to have us jumping around as quietly as we could behind him he was still smiling. Unfortunately I didn’t keep up with Rich after his graduation from UVA although I know he landed in the DC/MD area, married and Bruce Hornsby (of Bruce Hornsby and The Range) sang at his wedding (Bruce was also in our class for awhile at HRA). From what little I can find on the internet he had a wonderful life, a loving wife and a strong family life. Thanks for your story of July 1, 2008 about Rich. It certainly hit home for me as it appears Rich’s character had not change over time. By chance do you know what work he did after graduating?

thanks again,
Sally

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admin February 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

Sally, Thanks for your wonderful comment. No, I don’t know about Rich’s professional life. Unfortunately it often happens that chess players know each other deeply as competitors without knowing much at all about each others’ lives away from the chessboard.

I liked your story about the quiet cheerleading! Reminds me of the recent Super Bowl commercial about a fight in a library where people are throwing stuff around, knocking over bookshelves, etc. — but everyone is whispering (including the police who come in with a bullhorn) because, after all, they’re in a library.

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Sally Schwaner February 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I know the one – being a librarian at the NASA Langley Technical Library in I noticed that one right away. We were having a small super bowl party and I was in the kitchen when suddenly everyone in the room was calling me to come and look! Then I cringed at the thought of having to put all the books straight again.
So, thanks for the memories, for confirming the his character. I’ve thought about him so many times over the years but never looked him up. What a shame.

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Karin Gallagher March 26, 2013 at 8:24 am

Dana:

I’ve got a group of 6th graders from SLV middle school (in Felton) who have just started playing chess in class (with varying levels of ability). I’m going to see if they want to participate in the Aptos library chess tournament this spring. What do they need to do to sign up, what day is it, and how much is it?

-Thanks, Karin Gallagher

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Lonnie Best November 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm
Fauzi November 3, 2014 at 7:10 am

Hello Dana,
you can contact me at my e-mail if you want to have some interesting games to analyze or to discuss played by me, with the notes about the critical moves etc.
Best regards,
Fauzi Akram.

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Tanya Charbury January 13, 2015 at 6:38 am

I enjoyed your chess lectures SO much, especially your calm and soothing tone of voice, that I just wanted to write you and tell you THANK YOU! And, I liked how your taught about forks too. I was rated 1264 or so on chess.com and I played in an online tournament for the first time tonight, against someone who was 1372 or so (I don’t recall the exact numbers) and I ended up ALMOST being able to fork his queen and king, but a pawn was in the way, and his queen was already threatening my bishop and it was being protected by my queen. I remembered how you said automatic moves are a bad idea. Normally I’d have focused on protecting my bishop. But, instead, I saw the potential for a fork. He moved his rook into position, also threatening my bishop again but instead of moving or protecting the bishop, I moved the queen to where it was pinning (against his king) the pawn that was making the fork impossible. If he took the bishop with the rook, so be it. But if he took it with the queen, he might be offering a queen trade, and I’d be able to do my fork. I remember what you said about how queen trades are a funny emotional thing for people like with Bernie, during that one game. So, he captured my bishop with his queen, yay! And so I played the knight into position, which superficially looked suicidal because the pawn could take it, but …. not so fast. His pawn was pinned!! So my knight fork held, and he moved his king, and I captured the queen and I thought you’d be so proud to know that a 1200 ranking player ditzy blonde girl could pull off a setup like this, moving the opponent’s pieces (like you said) and not reacting automatically (like you said) and then doing the fork with the knight aggressively in the center of the board (like you said) and then using a pin to make the impossible-seeming fork possible. So, I won the game, after 65 or so moves and with 2 minutes left on my clock, wow. As a result my ranking is now 1300+ yay! All thanks to you. I’m normally kind of a silly blonde girl (part-time model, escort, and so on) but I felt SOOOO clever tonight. And, in a previous game also in tonight’s tournament, my knight was being attacked but instead of moving it, I did a Zwischenzug and threatened his queen, and then he moved the queen to a spot where with one pawn move I could uncover my bishop threatening his queen while that pawn move simultaneously threatened his bishop, and he could not with either threatened piece check my king or resolve the threat on the other. So, he was kinda stuck. I liked your advice there too!! Here are the moves. Gosh, sorry for being so chatty! I’ve been up all night, mesmerized. It’s 6:24 here in Nevada. Anyway, he played white, so the moves are: 1. e3, e5 2. qf3, nf6 3. bc4, bc5. So I think this was the fried liver attack but with my knight there it was all sort of futile. 4. g4, O-O yes, I’m paranoid. 5. g5, e4 so that’s the Zwischenzug instead of saving the knight, I’m attacking the queen … as you said, the threat had to be credible, and a pawn attaching a queen with the pawn being protected while doing so … plenty credible. 6. Qh3, d5 with a double attack with that one move. Anyway, did you see that movie Limitless? I felt like that main character, artificially smart due to your lectures. THANK YOU!! After the 6th move, something weird happened. The player vanished. He apparently lost the connection, and the display said he has 5 minutes to reconnect. So, I waited. Then the website displayed a note saying my opponent seems to have done something that violated the rules, and his account has been annotated and suspended. Game over. Wait, what? I was surprised. What sort of thing could he have done to violate the rules? Looked up my profile and sent me a mean private message? I don’t know. I’m just guessing. Can you guess? I’m kinda curious but I also don’t inadvertently violate the rules myself either. I thought cheating in chess is basically impossible? Anyway, sorry for the long comment. I just really wanted to say THANK YOU and also SHOW you how all your good advice made a big difference.

~Tanya, tired but happy and super-appreciative!!

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admin January 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Tanya,

I was delighted to hear about the way that my lectures helped your game. That’s the best kind of reward I can hope for! I am so impressed that you were able to learn so much just from a few lectures.

I don’t ever play online, partly because of people like your opponent, who showed poor sportsmanship. Instead of just resigning, they just disconnect, leaving you to sit and wait. Perhaps he has been reported in the past, and that is why you got the message. (I doubt that they would suspend him for doing this just once.) I don’t think there is a way to actually cheat in a game at chess.com because the computer won’t let you make an illegal move, but disconnecting to avoid losing rating points is a form of cheating.

Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t let his poor behavior spoil your satisfaction at playing the game well.

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Tanya Charbury January 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

I’m so glad! :-) Thank you for the nice reply.

Oh, that didn’t even occur to me as an option. I supposed that if after six moves, he’s going into hiding, my moves must have been pretty intimidating to him! I think that the whole Zwischenzug thing has a psychological effect in addition to the technical merits of the effect because it’s hard to figure out a player like that :-) The moves seem quirky yet effective!! Anyway, thank you again!!

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Tanya Charbury January 13, 2015 at 6:40 am

Oops sorry for the typo(s)!!

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Tanya Charbury January 13, 2015 at 7:08 am

Grrr I just figured out how to review my game and it wasn’t as I remembered it precisely but the gist of it is still accurate. Sorry! :-)

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Michael Bacon March 25, 2015 at 6:22 am

Dana,
The Legendary Georgia Ironman thanks you for the latest post on the Bird, which he loves.
I am writing to bring this post to your attention:

March 23, 2015
Dana Mackenzie’s Key Lime Pi Openings

But more importantly, I ask you take time to read my latest post:

March 25, 2015
The Future of Chess
https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-future-of-chess/

All the best,
AW

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Eli Lowry May 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm

I just found your blog on google. I love your chess translations page. I have been playing chess for 20 years and the more I learn the more I love the game. I coach the chess club at the school district I teach at and your blog would be excellent for them to learn from. I will definitely follow your blog.

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Ariel July 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Dear Dana,

I am writing from http://www.argedrez.com, an Argentine site that is online for almost 10 years and has a database of major chess tournaments and games.

Recently we started broadcasting live tournaments with an interface specifically designed for mobile phones. You can see it from http://www.argedrez.com/mobile

We are broadcasting these days a lot of tournaments, including British Open, Biel, Czech Open, Dutch Open and several others. Organizers are very happy with this way of broadcasting.

Hope you like it!

Best Regards

Ariel Fabian
http://www.argedrez.com

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Frank Sandez March 9, 2016 at 9:56 am

Am looking for Ricardo Sander/Sandez or Adrian Sander/Sandez who was the recipient of an Arizona chess championship trophy in the 1940′s. Thank you.

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ed rosenthal December 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Dana, you have a wonderful blog and its great you have a personality to go with. Now i want to ask, did you ever live in Berkeley Ca or around there, for it seems we might have played there – along with the likes of Dennis Fritzinger, James Tarjan, Max Burkett et. al.
all the best, Ed

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