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Plessiez

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  • Birthday 10/26/1984

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  1. Finished The Light Brigade. I still think it's the best of the Hugo nominees I've read this year, with Arkady Martine's A Memory of Empire in clear second. Now about a hundred pages into J. V. Jones' A Fortress of Grey Ice. I read A Cavern of Black Ice about eighteen months ago (and The Book of Words about twenty years before that...) and it's taken a while for me to remember what happened in the previous book. But I remember liking that first book quite a bit: I didn't think it was hugely original but it felt well-executed all the same. (And this is one of the few physical books I have access to at the moment, so...) Not sure if this is the consensus view, but I think Bujold tends to vary in quality quite a bit. I remember liking Paladin of Souls a lot, for example, but I think that the early Vorkosigan books are ... not great. (I think the first book in the series I read was Memory, which is really good, but is also a very bad place to start the series.)
  2. I'm about two-thirds of the way through Kameron Hurley's The Light Brigade now. It's well-written -- probably the best of this year's Hugo Award nominees that I've read, though I've not got to Gideon the Ninth yet -- but it's also incredibly depressing, so I've only been able to manage it in relatively short doses. That said, I don't really read much military SF (although I read Joe Haldeman's The Forever War years and years ago, and that seems like the most obvious single influence on this book) and possibly people more familiar with the genre would find this less bleak. (I don't remember finding Haldeman's book to be quite as viscerally grim as The Light Brigade can be though. I suspect that's because reading The Forever War in the early 2000s it was easy to think of it as a historical piece that was, at least in some sense, obviously 'about' the Vietnam War. The setting of Hurley's book feels a lot more plausibly contemporary.) I've seen people suggest it's a lot more conventional than some of Hurley's earlier work, which is definitely true but doesn't feel like a bad thing at all. I probably enjoyed reading The Stars Are Legion more than I did this, but I think that the newer novel is a lot more focused and all the better for it. (This also happens to be the first physical book I've read in several months, and has largely confirmed my impression that, all else being equal, ebooks really aren't for me.)
  3. I read this recently too (as part of my ongoing effort to avoid making progress on any of the books I lied to myself about finishing during lockdown). I agree that it had some pacing issues, though rather than the start being slow I felt that the final third was a bit too rushed. I enjoyed it, but it does feel a lot like a debut novel at times. I quite liked the book-within-a-book (I just really like footnotes, I guess) but the pattern of January repeatedly losing and regaining possession of the book just in time to alternate chapters felt rather contrived at times. Several of the major plot developments also seemed a bit too obviously telegraphed. It wasn't always clear to me whether the reader was meant to see these things coming quite so much further in advance than January could. Yeah, thinking about it, I've read rather a lot of portal fantasy in one form or another. It's obviously a very common trope in children's literature / YA: as well as the obvious Lewis Carroll / C. S. Lewis / Alan Garner examples, there Gaiman's Neverwhere and Coraline, China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, Cat Valente's Fairyland series (which isn't just another example of portal fantasy, but of portal fantasy with a protagonist named after a month...), Seanan McGuire's Every Heart A Doorway and probably others I can't remember off the top of my head. But it's also quite common in other work too: Kay's Fionovar tapestry is arguably portal fantasy, for instance, and both Charlie Stross's Merchant Princes and Foz Meadows's Manifest Worlds certainly are. One reason it's not so clearly a well-defined subgenre, apart from the association with YA or the overlap with urban fantasy more broadly, might be the fact that sometimes the very existence of portals/other worlds is only revealed as a fairly late plot twist. (I'm thinking of one series in particular here, but of course it would be a spoiler for me to name it.)
  4. The full list of participants in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational has been announced, and it's actually pretty impressive. Magnus Carlsen Fabiano Caruana Alireza Firouzja Anish Giri Ding Liren Hikaru Nakamura Ian Nepomniachtchi Maxime Vachier-Lagrave The first games should start next weekend on April 18th. After an initial round-robin, there'll be a second stage where the top-finishing four from that first phase play a series of knockout games. Based on rapid rating, that final four would be Calrsen, MVL, Ding and (somewhat surprisingly?) Nakamura; but I don't think it would shock anybody much if Firouzja ended up there.
  5. Very sad news about Arianne Caoili. In a happier development, Chess24 will be broadcasting an online top-level rapid event to start later this month; organised by (or at least named after) Magnus Carlsen. It seems as though Ding and MVL will both be taking part -- not clear if any of the other Candidates will be, though I'd guess most of them will have been invited. Probably not the best preparation for the second half of the Candidates tournament, but since nobody knows when (if?) that will happen, perhaps that won't be such a pressing concern. (No word on whether Radjabov has been invited to this event, either, though if Carlsen has a say in who gets invited I'm guessing not...) My guess would be that the World Championship itself gets delayed until next year, to coincide with the postponed Dubai World Expo. So probably FIDE has a little more time left to organise the second-half of the Candidates than they claim. (I guess it's probably not feasible to play the second half online, is it?)
  6. FIDE suspends the Candidates, effective immediately. Good decision for the players and officials; not so good for us. (Officially this is because of Russia suspending flights, not the pandemic itself -- small comfort for Radjabov, of course.)
  7. Because I've got too much time on my hands, I put together a small spreadsheet to calculate each of the players' expected scores over the tournament, given their ratings, the results so far and the remaining pairings. (I used the players' latest FIDE ratings, but made a small adjustment to account for the fact that in practical games at the top level White tends to score around 55% -- this can be modelled by increasing the White player's rating in each game by about 35 points). Before any games were played, the expected results the model gave were obviously in line with the rating list: Caruana 8.52 Ding Liren 7.71 Grischuk 7.08 Nepomniatchti 7.01 Vachier-Lagrave 6.87 Giri 6.76 Wang Hao 6.73 Alekseenko 5.32 After the first half of the tournament (and updating everyone's ratings to match the live ratings on 2700chess.com, where possible), the expected results now look like this: Nepomniatchi 8.16 (+1.15) Vachier-Lagrave 7.99 (+1.12) Caruana 7.73 (-0.79) Grischuk 6.99 (-0.09) Wang Hao 6.93 (+0.20) Giri 6.84 (+0.08) Ding Liren 6.15 (-1.56) Alekseenko 5.20 (-0.12) (About 60% of Nepo's predicted 0.17 lead over MVL is because the former has four White games remaining while MVL has only three; the rest is just pure rating differences. Obviously the model doesn't know anything about the tiebreak system, which favour MVL as things stand because he'd now go through against Nepo on head-to-head results.) Not really sure what -- if anything -- this shows, but it's nice to have a semi-objective baseline against which to make predictions (... and I like spreadsheets?). I think it feels intuitively right to suggest that the current co-leaders and Caruana are the only players who have a real chance of winning the tournament now, and that Caruana doesn't have quite as good a chance as either of the other two. It also feels right that Grischuk, Wang Hao, Giri and Alekseenko are all basically doing as well as expected. I was hoping for Ding to win the Candidates, but I think it's more likely that he finishes the tournament outright last than win it, at this point. Really reminded of Wesley So last cycle, although the circumstancs around Ding's collapse feel a little easier to explain. I guess Ding is young enough that he might get another shot in two years -- but maybe not. The good news for Caruana is that despite a fairly poor start his future is still entirely in his own hands: he only trails the co-leaders by a point, and hasn't lost to either of them. (So in that sense MVL winning today helped him a lot, even though he didn't directly benefit this round.) If Caruana manages to win both his remaining games against MVL and Nepo, and at least equals them in other results then he'd go through on tiebreaks. Which on paper seems doable -- and Caruana has shown that he can finish tournaments strongly in the past, including at Wijk earlier this year. But if he doesn't beat MVL tomorrow his situation gets a lot worse. So I guess tomorrow we find out if Caruana has anything special prepared against the Grunfeld.
  8. Looking pretty good for MVL at the moment, actually.
  9. MVL-Nepo is definitely the big game of the round. I think anything but a loss is a great result for Nepomniachtchi given the current tournament situation. On the other hand, if MVL can manage a win he can catch Nepo in the lead (and potentially help Caruana or any of the other group currently on 50% move within half a point themselves). On paper, Ding and Caruana are both fairly clear favourites in their games today (against Alekseenko and Wang Hao respectively), but given their seeming lack of form ... well, I'd not want to bet much on them both winning. Or perhaps on either of them winning. The Ding-Alekseenko game in particular seems like it could be a battle to see who can avoid coming last, which is really not what I'd have predicted a month ago.
  10. If you like dramatic instrumental music I guess you might like post-rock? Largely instrumental, sometimes influenced by 20th century composers like Ennio Morricone or Steve Reich, and quite often show up in move soundtracks. Some particular suggestions: 65daysofstatic ("Radio Protector") Explosions In The Sky ("First Breath After Coma") Godspeed You! Black Emperor ("Storm") Mogwai ("Christmas Steps") Mono ("Ashes In The Snow") This Will Destroy You ("The Mighty Rio Grande")
  11. I think Nepomniatchi is becoming the clear favourite now, given not just results so far but the way today's games are going. Ding just looks to be lost against Nepo after palying 31. ... Qg4 and although Grischuk is (obviously) in time trouble, his position against Caruana seems very solid.
  12. Well, Caruana managed to hold on (or rather, Giri missed the win) -- but his chances of winning the Candidates aren't looking amazing at the moment all the same.
  13. And meanwhile Caruana might be losing against Giri...
  14. Yesterday's games were a bit dull, compared to the excitement of the first three rounds, but today's games look a bit more interesting. Alekseenko-MVL looks incredibly complex; equal according to the engine but very easy for either side to go wrong. Both players seemed to be in prep (or at least bluffing that they were) until move 17; Alekseenko then took about ten minutes before playing 17. Rxg6 and then after MVL's almost instant reply of 17. ... Rxc3 he started thinking ... and about fifty minute later, he's still thinking. Oh, wait - he found 18 Nxe6!. Should be fun.
  15. Oh, yeah, you're right. I'd missed the end of the game -- the last position I'd seen was just after Black had castled and had been seeming to get a hold of the position. At the press conference Nepomniatchi said that he'd thought he was worse even then, which was why he allowed Alekseenko to play 34. Qxf7 and then go for the perpetual. Which actually makes quite a lot of sense on reflection, given how the game had actually gone; arguably Alekseenko was unlucky not to get more out of it. I can't see Grischuk ever getting over his time trouble addiction, honestly. And although he's had decent positions, the other way to look at this is that he's already had White against the eighth and sixth seeds and only managed to get two draws. I don't think that's a great start. Ding's win against Caruana helps him a lot with the tiebreakers (as long as he can avoid losing in the round 10 rematch, of course), but I think he's still got a lot of work to do. I'd agree that Caruana is still the favourite, with MVL and Nepomniatchi both close behind. But with both the original favourites dropping points early on, I wouldn't be surprised if the final winning margin was smaller this year than in previous years.
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