Games and Recreations

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

Jeremy Silman wrote a famous book called “Reassess Your Chess.” In this article, I make Silman’s principle of imbalances easier to remember with a mnemonic device, add one imbalance to the list, and provide an example.

The Hook and Ladder TrickChess Life, July 2007, pp.44-45.

A little-known middlegame trap catches amateurs and grandmasters alike. This was one of my earliest and most popular lectures for ChessLecture. The “Hook and Ladder Trick” can go by other names (it’s basically a deflection sacrifice), but it’s a distinctive enough pattern that I felt it deserved its own name.

Sac Your Queen on Move Six! (A New Anti-Computer Variation), Chess Life, March 2007, pp. 30-33.

I spent two years working out an amazingly early sacrifice of the queen (normally the most valuable piece) in the Sicilian Defense. Eventually I got to the point where I could beat the strongest commercial computer chess program, set to maximum strength. And then I got my first chance to play it against a human!

Ballistics Expert. Wired, March 2011, p. 28.

Engineer Jenn Rossmann explains why Wiffle balls do the crazy things they do — and how expert players can control the ball by strategic (and legal) scuffing.

The Cycling Speed Freaks of Battle Mountain. New Scientist, 4 December 2004.

Once a year, the fastest human-powered vehicles in the world come to a flat stretch of highway outside Battle Mountain, Nevada, and their riders strive to become the world’s fastest human. Forget Lance Armstrong — these bikes go almost twice as fast as he does.

Non-Trivial Pursuits. SIAM News, December 2004, 1-4.

To be a successful mathematician, do you have to give up all your other interests? Not necessarily! Read about five people people who have balanced math with other hobbies: swing dancing, soaring, photography, musical composition, scrapbooking, and taking care of zoo animals. (This may be the first time you will ever see a mathematician and a giraffe in the same photo.)

The Mathematics of … Shuffling: The Stanford Flip. Discover, October 2002, 22-23.

Persi Diaconis, a former magician and blackjack card counter, defects to the other side and helps the casinos figure out why their shuffling machines aren’t producing random shuffles.

Top Young Problem Solvers Vie for Quiet Glory, Science, 27 July 2001, 596-599.

The  International Mathematics Olympiad came to the U.S. in 2001. The Chinese stole the show, but the Americans did pretty well, especially Reid Barton, who became the first person to win four gold medals in four years.

Exploring OrigamiExploratorium, Summer 1999, 20-24.

The Exploratorium did a fantastic job of Web-ifying this article that was originally written for print. See Jeremy Shafer fold a paper crane while the paper is on fire! See his “flasher” hat that can instantly expand to two feet wide or collapse so that it can fit into your pocket! Also see a gallery of other fascinating and unusual origami creations, with some helpful explanatory text by yours truly.

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