Thursday, 22 November 2012

Travels to Events at Conway Hall in London

Over the 11-12 November I travelled to Conway Hall in London for two very different meetings
On the Sunday I booked online on the National Express Coach to London (Victoria Coach Station), thinking I would try this route for a change. It meant getting up early to catch the coach ar 8:15 from the stand in Queen Street. There was only one other person there, but others were picked up on the way, at Battle, Frant, Tunbridge Wells and other places.

In London I walked down Victoria Street hoping to see something of the Cenotaph ceremonials and hear the band playing. The nearest I could get was by the statue of Abraham Lincoln at one side of Parliament Square, where the sound of the band was completely drowned out by the bells from Westminster Abbey. To get through to Conway Hall I had to go back to Queen Anne's Gate and slip through the barriers there.

At Conway Hall there were two meetings, an EGM followed by an AGM. At the first the decision was made to change the name of "South Place Ethical Society" to "Conway Hall Ethical Society". I voted to retain the old name (there were also choices of "The Ethical Society" or just "Conway Hall" but these were eliminated in a series of votes).

Despite leaving before the end of the AGM I only just made it back to Victoria with a minute to spare before the coach was due to leave at 6:0 pm. I sat near the front and was kept amused by a conversation between the driver, a Geordie from Sunderland, with a lady in the front seat. The journey was quicker since it didn;t have to go via Battle.

On Sunday I caught the train to go to a talk by Sir Roger Penrose on his new Cycles of Time theory of cosmology. I got there an hour early at which time he was signing books in the foyer, and I bought a copy of his book. My ticket was for the balcony area, and I sat at one side, where I could hardly see the speaker, but nevertheless enoyed the talk a great deal. He spoke very clearly.

More on the subject next post perhaps.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chess and Rainbows in Bournemouth

I got back on Monday afternoon from a weekend away playing chess in Bournemouth, as I did last year. I managed to score 2.5/5 consisting of one loss, one win and three draws, which is about the best I've achieved. This photo of a rainbow was taken from the pier on the Friday before the first game. The rainbow was a complete semicircle but too large to capture in a single image. The sun was low in the sky, setting in the West, and the rain clouds were heading East. There are some photos of the Chess Congress here. A reasonable one including me is number 2754.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Grasshopper Chess

Thought it was about time I updated this diary. I seem to have been too busy with a variety of things to get round to writing about them.

I've spent a lot of time recently in putting the collection of Grasshopper Chess problems, that I made a good many years ago, onto my website. I've just completed all the problems with six or fewer pieces (unless some more turn up in other boxes). Also a group of helpstalemate problems, which tend to have more pieces. Several of these lacked solutions and I found I enjoyed solving them. Several of them, by C. M. Fox and P. C. Taylor in particular, were published in the Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement back in the thirties and show considerable ingenuity. Finding some of the unexpected solutions made me smile or even laugh.

There are still four folders and three boxes of problems to be processed, but if I will ever get round to doing them I don't know. I hoped they would inspire me to do some composing. I did add a line to one composition, and composed a variant of another. Perhaps that's a start.

Here's a link to the collection so far:
If anyone spots mistakes please let me know (george . jelliss @ virgin . net).

Monday, 6 August 2012

More chess playing experiences

I always seem to be a week or more behind with updates to my actvities here. Over the weekend of 28-29 July I took part in two chess matches for Hastings & St Leonards Chess Club. In each case I played Black on the bottom board and won my game, though not without making it difficult for myself.

The Saturday match was played in Hove. We travelled by train as a group, although our sixth player failed to turn up, apparently having gone to Warrior Square station instead of Hastings. It was a sunny day, so the walk from the station to the venue, the Bridge Club in Third Avenue, was pleasant. The return journey was not so good since most of us had to stand as far as Eastbourne. In my game I let my opponent have my king's pawn for free, but decided that having my knight on d4 against his backward d-pawn was sufficient compensation. In the end it came down to my having free pawns on each side of the board that I could push towards promotion.

The Sunday match, where I was on board 9, was played in Hastings against the Greater London Chess Club. After a poor start I managed to equalise the position, where the pawns were ranged right across the board in a fixed barrier, and offered a draw which was declined. The only way forward I could see was to execute a knight's tour of seven or so moves to get my knght across the barrier. Meanwhile my opponent tried a knight sacrifice to break through on the king's side. At one point he had two rooks and queen on the h-file while I had the same on the g-file. Fortunately I weathered the attack and, after exchange of queens, broke through  and he fell into a relatively easy checkmate.

I've been trying to understand the ECF grading system. It's a puzzle to me why two of my junior opponents are shown as having lower grades than I was given to believe they had when I played them. My grade has gone down from 85 to 79. To improve it seems I need to avoid losing in the third round of tournaments to lower graded players, when I'm tired after hard games against higher graded players.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Restyling the Hastings Chess Club Website

I've spent most of the last few days working at my computer on the website of Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club. This morning I replaced all the oldstyle pages with my newstyle more open and light design. The historical aspects now appear in a separate section, the home page emphasising the current activities of the club.

I've also improved the Gallery by actually showing the photos in smaller form (so-called thumbnails) as links to the larger images. There is also a separate History Gallery, where the photos of past Presidents and Champions link to their biographies.

Another innovation is a page with links to all the games (about 200) that appear in the biographies. At present they are just listed, but eventually they will be grouped according to opening. (Some of the older ones were handicap games.) This makes them much more easily accessed. I don't think many members realised they were there, to be played through.

Having finished this, and the sun shining at last, I thought it was time I had a bit of exercise. So took a brisk walk as far as the old bathing pool at West St Leonards and back via West Hill Road. Ended up with a shower and a rest before tea.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Acoustic Problems at BHA AGM

I went to the BHA AGM in London today. Overslept, so caught a late train and arrived at London Bridge station at 11:55. As usual the ticket I was issued with, which states "London Terminals" as the destination rather than London Bridge, would not allow me to pass through the barrier, but the inspectors there seem to allow one to pass through the gap at the side without bothering to check anything.

I walked over London Bridge, where lots of tourists were photographing Tower Bridge which has the Olympic Rings suspended from the walkway. Then past the Monument and up Gracechurch street to Bishopsgate. The BHA meeting was at the Bishopsgate Institute, in the Upper Hall whch I'd not seen before.

I sat down to listen to the Education and Promotion session which was already in progress, though the acoustic was very poor. There was a break at 13:15 for a tour round the Library downstairs, where some archives were on display. I wish I could find time to go there to do some historical research. Back in the Hall the BHA Choir was entertaining, but I couldn't make out many of the words they were singing.

Then there was the Report by the Chief Executive (Andrew Copson) who was as usual quite amusing. Then the AGM proper began, and I stayed as far as the end of the address by the Chair (Robert Ashby). However I was having increasing difficulty making out what he was saying.

This was due to the bad acoustics. I could hear a deep background noise, which may have been reverberation, or perhaps from some other source such as the air conditioning. Others didn't seem to be bothered, but I do have sensitive hearing, as you can maybe tell from the size of my ears.

By that time the strain was making me feel distinctly ill. I complained about the acoustic problem to the staff at the back of the Hall and decided to catch the early train back. So a bit of a wasted journey in many ways.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cycling to Chess

Last Saturday (23 June) I got out on my bicycle which I haven't used for a long time, and cycled to Bexhill along the recently extended cycle path, to take part in a chess match. It was a rapidplay (30 minutes each) which I'm not really keen on but am trying to get used to. I was playing for the Hastings club against the Bexhill club. In my first game we reached a position where I forced exchange of queens and followed up with a knight fork of king and rook to win back the exchange and equalise forces. So I offered a draw and this was accepted. The second game against the same opponent however I lost fairly comprehensively. As a whole the team lost 4-6. I must find more excuses to get out on my bike, as I'm not getting much other exercise than walking lately. The problem is I like to have a definite destination to head for, and reason for travelling.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

On a Circular Tour of Kent

On Friday morning I set off for a week-end of chess and travel. Initially I asked for a period return at Hastings station on the 8.36 to Ashford, but they would only sell me a single, which was just as well since I would have had to return the same way instead of taking the circular route. Although the train was 7 minutes late and there were only 12 miniutes allowed for the change at Ashford this didn't prove a problem as the train to Maidstone East was on the same platform. From Maidstone I took the 101 bus to Chatham Waterfront, spent some time walking around and having a meal before signing in at the St George Hotel. The room had a pleasant view over the river.

After a rest I went down to the High Street to catch a 145 bus to the chess venue, Warren Wood Social Club, paid my fee and played the first game, which was against a junior, and managed to win though he was graded higher than me. I always try to play the board and take as little notice of my opponent as possible, though when he has a habit of slipping down and peering up at you it's a bit distracting.

I misread the start of the afternoon's play which was 3:30 and not 2:45 as I thought so I didn't manage to get away into the town. Instead I walked around trying to find a shop to boost my provisions, but could only find one. The access to the venue by bus was difficult since there were less buses running on the Saturday and Sunday, and also not going as far.

On the Saturday I lost both games, the first one a hard-fought game against a strong opponent, but the evening one against a weaker player I was just too sleepy. Maybe didn't sleep too well due to noise at the hotel because of the England football match being shown on the TV in the lounge.

On the Sunday I won the first game in what I thought was good style with a kingside attack, though my opponent was obviously upset, and at first refused to hand in her score sheet, though she calmed down later and agreed to run through the game. I lost the final game, though it came down to a king + knight + pawns endgame, but he had too many pawns.

On the Monday I decided to return by taking the train to Dover Priory. Once there I walked up to the Castle and saw the sights, but didn't manage to get a tour of the WWII tunnels due to there being lots of tourists, including two classes of students from France.

Finally returned by another 101 bus to Folkestone, where I had a walk through the Lower Leas park, below the cliffs, before catching the 101 again, which took me as far as Lydd, and from there on the 100 bus back to Hastings.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rationalism and Nostalgia in London

On Monday afternoon I took the train to London for the Rationalist Association AGM. This was held in the Library of the Bishopsgate Institute. There were only about twenty people there, including the three speakers, considerably less than last year's meeting at the Arts Guild. No doubt this was due in part to the heat. The main topic was the intention to concentrate efforts on electronic media rather than print, following current trends in the media. Opening an online forum was mentioned and I pointed put that there used to be one, but it was closed down. I hope it will be an open forum and not just for members, as a closed forum (as with the BHA members forum) can be rather dull, though of course it would require more moderators. I also complained about the lack of a question and answer session at the Aaronovitch meeting earlier in the year, arguing that such a session is essential to any rationalist meeting, otherwise it can seem patronising and authoritarian. A talk by Jonathan Miller, the RA President, to be given in the main hall at the BI, is planned for later in the year.

On the way to the meeting I walked from London Bridge station, taking a route deliberately past the base of 30 St Mary Ax, otherwise known as the "Gherkin", since I hadn't seen it from close up. It is all very neatly done, with the diamond-shaped panels right down to ground level. I had a coffee and Pret bar in the cafe opposite. Since I was early I also took a walk round Exchange Square on the other side of Bishopsgate. The architecture, both new and old, is impressive, but I can't say the same for the sculpture of a big woman reclining on one side of the square; I've no idea what if anything she is intended to represent. After the meeting I took a stroll to the east and ended up in Jewry Street by Sir John Cass College which I attended for a while some fifty years ago. This led down to the Tower of London, and I walked across Tower Bridge, and past the building that used to be St Olaves Grammar School, now being converted into a hotel. Then up Tooley Street to catch my train back to Hastings. The next day I felt quite tired, from the heat, and still do to an extent.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Another Long Walk

Last Saturday, 12 May, I took a walk along to Bexhill. This was prompted in part by the fact that Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity of which I am a supporter was holding a "family fun day" at Glyne Gap to celebrate the new cycle link between Hastings and Bexhill along the seafront, avoiding the main road. The photo shows the main part of the work where it rises up to the small hill just before it reaches Glyne Gap. In fact it was being used more by pedestrians than cyclists while I was there. The quality of the path is not as good as the previously existing path past the coastguard post to Bexhill, since it is not tarred, and is rough in many places, which is not good for cycle tyres. I was walking rather than using my bike, and the tide was out so that I took the opportunity to walk along the beach some distance away from the shore. In the process I took 12 other photos besides this one. As you can see it was a fine sunny day, though with a chill wind. The flags and stands of the Sustrans exhibition didn't much interest me, though I noticed Councillor Lock and the Hastings MP were involved. Instead I carried on to Bexhill and looked into the Bestsellers bookshop, which is run by one of our Hastings Humanists members (Mike Lynott). There we had a chat and I bought a couple of books (The Story of Philosophy by Bryan Magee, and The Fire by Katherine Neville, which is a sequel to her novel The Eight which I enjoyed some years ago.) By chance I met another Hastings Humanists member (Graham Martin-Royle) in the street and we stopped for a chat. After a meal at the Pop In Restaurant, and after buying a Guardian newspaper, I returned home by bus. Quite an eventful and pleasant day out.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Day Walk

Went out to do some shopping in Kings Road this morning but felt distinctly doddery, probably from lack of exercise lately. So decided it would be better to go for a longer walk. Took the steps up to London Road and walked up to Silverhill to buy some coffee and biscuits in Asda. They no longer seem to stock Hovis Crackers, which is disappointing, as no other shops round here stock them as far as I'm aware. From there I took the scenic route, all the way through Alexandra Park into Hastings. The clock on the Town Hall registered 12:30 so I decided to go to the Royale Cafe for sustenance. They make a very nice steak pie with roast potatoes and three veg. This is more of a plateful than I normally eat when I'm at home. Completed the circuit with a walk along the promenade, and home in time to watch some more of the snooker on TV. Feel a lot better for the exercise, but must try to keep it up.

Monday, 2 April 2012

I've been neglecting these diary pages, so maybe that indicates I'm not doing much of any wider interest. A lot of my efforts recently have been put into playing more chess. This last weekend (31 March - 1 April) I went to play in the St Albans congress. In fact I set off on the Thursday and spent a lot of time just walking around exploring the city. I'd only been there briefly once before over 20 years ago. In the chess I only managed 2/5 and those wins were against very low-graded players.

On Friday 9 and 16 March I played the last two games in the Hastings Chess Club internal tournament called the Rush Cup. In the first of these games, against Greg Chandler, I played very poorly, but the second against Joe Sharp, the winner of the tournament, was much more eventful, running to over 70 moves, with three pawns promoting to queens, two being mine yet still not enough to win!

The best game I have played recently was this one in the Paul Watson Trophy competition against a team at St Francis and Hayward Heath Chess Club. Although my opponent was a junior player his grade was 105 to my own 85.

White: George Jelliss, Black Joe Thorley:
1.Nf3 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.Bf4 Nf6 4.Nbd2 Bf5 5.e3 a6
6.h3 Ne4 7.NxNe4 BxNe4 8.Bd3 e6 9.c3 Bd6 10.Bg3 BxBg3
11.fxBg3 Qf6 12.0-0 0-0-0 13.Qe2 Rdf8 14.Bxa6 bxBa6 15.Qxa3+ Kd7
(with the Rook battery against the black Q I thought this sacrificial
attack pushing the black K to d7 might work, and it did!)
16.Ne5+ NxNe5 17.RxQf6 gxRf6 18.dxNe5 fxe5 19.Rd1 Rb8 20.b4 Rhg8
(Rd1 sets up a pin, which white Q proceeds to use, Black chooses to
sacrifice the Bishop in favour of a Pawn and Rook attack.)
21.g4 h5 22.Qc4 hxg4 23.QxBe4 gxh3 24.Qh7 Rxg2+ 25.Kh1 Rxa2
(Black got four Pawns for his Bishop but another pin coming up.}
26.Qxh3 Rc2 27.Rxd5+ Ke7 28.Rd3 Rg8 29.Qh4+ f6 30.Qh7+ Kf8
31.Rd8 mate.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

More Updating In House and On Line

I've now updated the Rationalist Essays section of my website
The changes are mainly cosmetic, using CSS to keep the style consistent and put in coloured backgrounds. There is one new Essay on "Rewriting of History by Christian Apologists", which was the subject of my 9 February talk to Hastings Humanists.

On Friday I took delivery of a new sofa-bed. This is to replace the oslo futon I previously had but found too heavy, because of the metal base, and difficult to keep the mattress in place in the upright position. The new one is smaller and has no arm rests. It is in plain brown upholstery but I can cover this with a selection of differently patterned duvet covers. I've also moved everything round to make space for it, but not sure I've found the best way to fit the computer in.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

History of Ideas and Science Overview

I've at last got round to updating the sections on my website dealing with "History of Ideas" and "Science Overview". Much of this was done towards the end of last year but I've only just got to the position where all the necessary facilities my new computer are operational. There is still a lot of work to be done on these pages - they are an ongoing project. The "History of Ideas" pages make much use of colour-coding of the entries, to distinguish between subjects.

Next on my to-do list is the section on "Rationalism", which I propose to put in the form of a series of Essays.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Catching Up

I seem to have lost the motivation to keep this diary up to date lately.

Before christmas I invested in a new computer, a Samsung laptop with Windows 7 and considerably more power than my previous desk top tower type, and I've now just about got it all working, transferred all the files from my old machine, and reinstalled the key programs that I use. Now I should be able to catch up on all the updating work on my website, and on the Hastings chessclub site, that I have in mind.

Over the new year I played in the Hastings chess congress, just in the lower sections, and didn't do particularly well, but I'm hoping my grade may have improved slightly. I seem to be getting better at prosecuting an attack once I have obtained an advantage, particularly using queen and knight together.

Today (Sunday) I went to London by train, to attend the 11 am lecture by Kenan Malik at Conway Hall. The subject was "The Myths of Christian Europe". I thought it might provide me with some material for my own talk to Hastings Humanists on 9 February, which is on the rewriting of history by christian apologists.

I also stayed for a symposium held at 2.30 pm on the future of South Place Ethical Society, of which I am a member. It seems some members fear a "take-over" by the BHA, but personally I can see no harm in greater cooperation between the two organisations. I would also like to see the Rationalist Association involved. Some of the members there seem to hold strange ideas about what "Humanism" is.

Going to the first meeting meant getting up very early since there were works on the line and a bus service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge. The train left at 7.38 and I arrived at Charing Cross about 10.15. The return journey was longer due to waiting for the connecting bus and train. The "bus" was in fact a very long "Eurocruiser" coach which had considerable difficulty negotiating some of the sharp bends on the side roads and station entrances.