Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blitz masterpiece: solution

A. Grishuk - M. Vachier-Lagrave (, 1/4 final 2017) G/3'+I2"

1. e5 !? White restricts black dark square bishop and prevents b7-b6. White knight can now be moved to f6 or d6, and white bishop is sacrifices for that. Stockfish prefers simple Bh4 or Bd6:
( 1.Bh4 b6 ( 1...Bd4+ 2.Bf2 ) 2.e5 Rb8 3.Qe3 Bb7 4.Rd4 +/= -- +/- ). This has to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, on 1. Ba3 Stockfish responds by 1... Bxc3 leaving dark squares around black king unprotected. Computer games and human blitz don't really mix. 

1... Rxe7! black has to accept, otherwise he has no play and gradually loses 2.Rd8+ Bf8 3.Ne4 Kg7 (or 3...Rd7 4.Nf6+ Kg7 ) 4.Nf6. Critical moment.

4... Qxc2? Black misses a brilliant refutation.
( 4...Rd7!! 5.Nxd7
Be7 6.Re8 Qd4+ (it seems likely that both players messed that check)
7.Kh1 Qxd7 -+ )

of course, white could still escape with a perpetual:
( 5.Rd1! Rxd8 6.Rxd8 Qxc2 7.h4 Qc6 8.Qxc6 bxc6 9.Ne8+ Kh6 ( 9...Kg8 10.Nf6+ 1/2 ) 10.Nd6 Kg7 11.Ne8+ 1/2 )  
After 4... Qxc2?, white found a brilliant checkmate

5.Qh3 h5 (the only defence from immediate checkmate) 6.Qg3 (white is threatening with either Nxh5 or  Qg5, Rxf8, Qh6#) 6... Qf5 ( 6...b6 7.Nxh5+ Kh6 8.Qg5+ Kh7 9.Nf6+ Kg7 10.Rxf8 Kxf8 11.Qh6# )

7.Rfd1! (GM Shipov in his live commentary suggested 7. Rc1, but that was not enough:
( 7.Rc1 b6 8.Rcxc8 Qb1+ 9.Kf2 Rxc8 10.Rxc8 Qxb2+ = ) 7... b6 

8.Rxf8! Kxf8 9.Rd8+ Kg7 10.Rg8+ Kh6 

11.h4! the final accord Bb7 12.Qg5+ Qxg5 13.hxg5# 1-0

Saturday, October 21, 2017

NJ rando 2018 calendar


4/14 Batsto 200km -- flat, mostly in Pine Barrens
4/28 Cranbury 200km -- flat, touches Pine Barrens on the way back
5/12 Princeton 300km -- this one does make a difference. On par with ePA300.
5/19 Jersey Devil 300km -- flat, Pine Barrens
6/12 Wildwood 400km -- flat, a good chunk in Pine Barrens
6/30-7/1 600km, sorta difficult stage 1, stage 2 is really flat. This year it was almost entirely in Pine Barrens. One very accomplished foreign randonneur who participated in 2017 edition of NJ600 characterized stage 2 as "terminal boredom". In the 2018 edition Stage 2 will be somewhat different, although Pine Barrens remains a major chunk.
7/21-22 Fleche
This year there was a 200km ride in September; I do not know the exact route, but there was a meal stop in Tabernacle, also Pine Barrens.

Well, this list tells it all. This is how you get a newly minted NJ SR quiiting on the very first day of TC1200. NJ SR prepares you ... for Florida and Carolina spring coastal loop (Wait a second... how are you going to qualify for Carolina Spring in NJ? NJ SR series finishes long after CS1200. Some organizers allow qualifying on perms, but NJ offers no long perms). You simply cannot compare Day 1 of TC 1200 to any NJ rando ride. Even to the first day of NJ600, which in fact consists mostly of flat/ soft rolling sections. Plus, you can afford barely making stage 1 of NJ 600K. If you manage to get to the overnight control in time, eat and rest for 1hr, you can survive 10mph pace in the Pines on Day 2. Eastern PA sends you to Lancaster on day 2 with 8000 ft gain over 200K. Good luck with that.

Princeton 300K is challenging, but does not look like a randonnee. Very local, with too many controls and sharp turns. The only NJ rando route that makes me want to ride it is Englewood - Port Jervis. In 2018 it is not even offered.

But they offer staffed controls!

PA Fall Classic 200K

Ride report:
Jeff's recap:
My ride:

Finally, Fall Classic. I feel kinda sorry for myself: FC was one of my goals for the season. It is a truly fun course, I wanted a fast ride. With the knee pain inherited from TC1200 and a commuter bike I had to ride (Orca has been scrapped following the TC crash) that became impossible. I experienced technical problems again when my chain got jammed between the BB and the crank and I could not pull it out. I detached the granny with a hex wrench to resolve the issue and put it back. Shifting problems were caused by faulty FD cable housing. I fixed the FD on the middle ring. That gave enough gears to get to the finish line.

Oh yeah, and the weather was nice. Finally, for the first time this year. No heat and no rain.

Fall Classic marked one year of randonneuring: FC 2016 was my first brevet. I did not even know what a brevet was! I just wanted a challenging ride to replace HTT 2016 that I could not attend. I ended up doing the ePA SR series and then TC1200. Today I got my SR plaque:

Jeff asked me in his usual fashion whether I will bring the plaque to Russia if I move back there. Oh yeah, sure, even if I don't. Maybe my my mom will keep it in the same folder with some of my drawings I did when I was 5 years old and medals for junior chess tourneys! BTW, she would not keep those if I was a US kid: in US nowadays every kid gets a medal for every Sunday swiss regardless his/her performance, keeping worthless junk makes no sense. In USSR one had to place in top 3 in an official regional or republican championship. And I still remember some of the games.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Taste of Carolina RM 1200 (10/6 -- 10/9)

Jeff's recap:
day 1:
day 2:
day 3:
day 4 before:
day 4 after:

My first (and very likely my last) RM. I was lucky to be joined by Jeff L. We shared the driving, and riding with Jeff is always fun. The ride had fixed overnight stops, so it felt more like 4 rides in a row rather than a single long one. To me that was good, as I had no prior experience and could have made a mistake in planning.

There were only 14 starters, including 5 NJ riders (3 of them Eastern PA Rando regulars: Jeff, Bill, and myself). Gil L and Chris S. were there as well.

Day 1: we were supposed to ride up north to VA and then back south. We had 234 miles to cover with 15+K ft gain. The whole stage did not include a single serious climb but rather consisted of endless rolling hills. I decided to tackle the stage alone. There was no benefit from drafting anyway. Again we had a back luck with heat. The locals were friendly and gave me water. I never experienced a real crisis and even accelerated towards to end, when the air cooled down. At some point a freight train blocked the road and stopped. Luckily, RR workers let us cross the railways 50 yards up. In the parking lot of the motel that was our destination for the day I caught up with Mark T (RUSA membership #64!!!!). We were first to arrive, 17 h 30 min after start. That was on par with my optimistic expectations (my "very optimistic" mark was 16-30, the normal mark was 18-00, the "very pessimistic" was 21 hrs).

Day 2: we started at 4 am with Jeff and Mark. We rode slowly to first control, where we had breakfast. After that the pace increased. On second control, we saw Metin U, who was riding a fixed gear steel bike! We decided to wait for him, he was quick. That group of four battled headwinds together for the rest of the stage. Not a very neat paceline but it helped a lot. At some point we were passed by Tonymobile. Gil sat in the passenger seat looking very happy and gave us water and gatorade. I was tempted to jump in but there was no more space in the van. Finally, we reached the streets of New Bern, our destination city. The nighttime urban riding was really unpleasant. I hit a pothole when I was standing on my left, and that produced some damage and a pain in my left knee. The pain started to bother, but finally we got to the overnight stop. Again we were the first group at the overnight control. 233 miles, 17 hrs 44 min.

Front to back: Aleksey, Mark, Metin, Jeff. Photo by Tony

Day 3. Only 166 miles, all flat. I debated myself whether my knee was strong enough to complete the brevet. Finally, I decided that if I was to give up that would happen on the course rather than in a hotel room. I started alone late and rode slowly, listening to my knee. After a number of bike adjustments a reasonable setup was found. My ass had to suffer from a low seat position, but that was acceptable. The pace gradually increased. That stage included a seashore stretch and a stretch to northwest through the rural plains on NC. Sunrise over the sea was plain magnificent, and the seashore ride was nice and pleasant. I was astonished by the poverty of the rural plains. It could compare to Russian Northwest, but the rural areas there are semi-abandoned and produce almost nothing. In NC, the poor soil is planted with cotton and soy, cattle farms are seen here and there. At noon, traffic became really intense but polite as the locals started driving home from thousands of churches of multifarious denominations. I have never seen such a multitude. My left knee started to hurt again, which forced me to slow down. Still I arrived relatively early.

Day 4. Only 118 miles, somewhat hilly. I woke up at night well before the alarm. Staying in bed made no sense, so I dressed up and started my way to the finish. I met Georgi S and Hamid A at the first controle but left before them. Gradually I let the pace increase. I do not remember exactly what happened near Corinth. Probably, I blundered railroad tracks in the morning twilight because of the rain and car headlights. I woke up on the pavement and collected my stuff. The rear derailleur bent and did not function, but that was ok. I continued the ride, but 15 miles after the rear chainstays suddenly fell apart forcing me to halt.

I called Tony and told him I DNFed. All other riders were still behind. Georgi and Hamid passed by in about 40 minutes, followed by Jeff. He agreed to pick me up after he had finished. Then came Tony in his Tonymobile van. To my great surprise, Tony let me ride his own crit bike he had in his van. We changed the pedals and tried to adjust the seat to fit me. It did not quite work but hey, there was a bike to ride! I rode to the next controle that was just a mile away. Mark and Metin were still there. I managed to stay with them and stopped the clock at 83-50. A happy end at least!

Well, sorta. Orca was a great bike and I spent a lot of time building it.

Hamid, Georgi, Jeff. (Source)

Mark, Metin, myself (Source)

Organization: Tony G is a great guy. He is a racer and a very accomplished randonneur. He knows what it takes and goes the extra mile to make things work. He threatened us with secret controls but none was actually encountered. Nevertheless, Tony and Jeff swept the course regularly and knew where we were. I hardly saw Martin S but he did a great load of work supporting the back of the pack, especially those who DNFed or went off course. The course was diverse and fun to ride. New Bern was unpleasant but I guess the course in that area is determined by the local geography and that stretch could not be entirely avoided. The registration was announced kinda late, so if you plan to go, better be flexible. Overall, a great event.

Hillier than thou 2017 (9/23/2017) century

Strava KOM/QOM list:
my ride:

Well, here comes the [in]famous HTT. Last year I could not participate and that made me try the Falls Classic and start randonneuring.

HTT is not really a randonnee, but just a century ride that includes the highest and steepest paved climbs of northwestern NJ. The essence is however the same: a rider has to cover the course, pass through controls (sure there were tons of opportunities to cheat) and there was a time limit implied: we were informed by email that if we were still on the course 10 hrs after the start, the broomwagon would pick us up. I do not know at was time that threat actually materialized.

HTT used to be a time trial race, then was converted to not-a-race with a finish protocol, cups and medals for not-winners. This year, there was no protocol but a mere  Strava segment list. Every rider was supposed to record his/her own ride and upload it on Strava. Then the times spent on eight "big" climbs were summed up, ant the riders with the lowest sum became KOM/QOM. It was quite obvious that many riders specifically concentrated on those segments. I did not even know what exactly counted. The Strava thing is very contrary to randonneurs mindset. During a brevet, the clock counts even your sleep, not just those special moments when you tackle something steep.

The 2017 route was not particularly steep, but the overall climbing tonnage was impressive, 13.5K feet (4km) according to my Garmin. There was no Bloomsbury climb or Shire rd, but Fiddlers elbow, Colemans - Bikel, Wester - For Farm and other nasty little climbs were still there. The road was marked pretty well with pavement arrows and roadside signs. Nevertheless, confusion began very early into the ride, as the GPX file provided by the organizers did not read properly on many riders devices, including my Garmin. As a result, a large crowd missed a turn and did a couple of extra miles. That crowd did not include me, because I (as always) was late at the start and was already riding in a gruppetto behind the main field, so we were warned. After some introductory hills and flats, we came to the main dish. Colemans was the first steep climb. Fiddler Elbow had to be taken right after controle/stop #1 and was approached from Roxburg Station. I cried at the top but kept going. Many riders had to stop. Then came Fox Farm and Iron Bridge. I reached the second controle 4 hrs 10 min after the start. Half of the course, including all tallest and steepest climbs, was already behind.

The weather however was very harsh and soon 85 degree heat started to take its toll on my notherner's body. At mile 63, I came to the point where I stashed my sandals and a wrench under a bridge. My feet were so unhappy that I decided to change. Sandals are not made for HTT, but they are not as painful in hot weather as my Sidi shoes. Efficiency fell further, but I kept plodding forward. Walked about 100 feet of Mt. Lebanon rd due to a cramp, and finally stopped the clock exactly 10 hrs after the start.

Well, not a great ride, to be honest. Bad luck with the weather, but I did it. The new/old Orca turned to be very comfy despite a racing frame. A really cool bike.

Hawks Nest 200K Brevet 7/22/2017

my ride
ePA Rando recap:
Jeff's recap:

Nothing to write home about, July is never a good month to me, my form is down, the weather is too hot. That randonnee also fell on a really hot day, which forced me to wear sandals. Almost the entirely route was familiar (to be hones, too much Delaware Water Gap this year). I rode alone for the most part. Tried to stay with Chris, Gavin, and Jimmy but couldn't, they dropped me on every climb. I managed to get back on flats and rollers. Got dropped again close to finish, stopped the clock at 8-20. Not bad though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Eastern PA 600K brevet

my ride:
Jeff's recap of last 200K:
Early spring brevets recap:
Mountain blue 400K recap:

Well, the ACP SR series completed, the first half of the season is over. Now I can slack of a bit and change the riding regime. In July, the preparation to the Hillier-than-thou starts and possibly I will "taste the Carolina" with Jeff L.

As for the ride, it went very smoothly. The first significant problem was a lack of riding partners on Saturday. Sean C. was too fast and the rest of the field fell off the back way too early. I made a difficult decision to try keeping up with Sean, and actually it was the right thing to do. I even caught up with him after he dropped me on the slopes of Blue Mountain. Last time I saw him at the i-84 intersection control (he went on and I stayed there for 10 min to relax my feet and repack my stuff). The crisis came just before the Old Mine rd climb with water food and morale running low, but I was saved by Len Z, who held a secret control right there and had water, bananas and even ice cream! After that I felt fine and finished in 17:40. Kinda reasonable, although my target for the day was 17:15.  I slept well and had no particular plan or target for the next day, but enjoying time with Jeff, Greg and Rudi (that is, our Fleche team). The heat was thoroughly unpleasant for a northerner like myself, but everything went quite well. The bike worked just fine, no mechanicals or even flats!

Nice scenery: Roebling aqueduct and Hawks Nest. I expected more from the town of Port Jervis though. Amish on their bikes and carriages returning from churches on Sunday were cool too!