It is rare that I will straight up make a mass recommendation of a book but War by Sebastan Junger is one I will. I am only 1/3rd of the way through the book and find it full of insight on a variety of topics that should interest persons interested in combat dynamics, real combat, and the situation in Afghanistan.
If you have not read this book, you should. It is not a rehash of the movie Restrepo. It is superior in content, story and insight.
Will add this book to my To Read list which is way too much, but with your reco and 'our man formerly in Iraq', I will bump it up closer to the top of my list
O'Byrne is standing at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 36th Street with a to-go cup in each hand and the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up. It's six in the morning and very cold. He's put on twenty pounds since I last saw him and could be a laborer waiting for the gate to open at the construction site across the street. Now that he's out of the Army I'm supposed to call him Brendan, but I'm finding that almost impossible to do. We shake hands and he gives me one of the coffees and we go to get my car. The gash across his forehead is mostly healed, though I can still see where the stitches were. One of his front teeth is chipped and looks like a fang. He had a rough time when he got back to Italy; in some ways he was in more dan-ger there than in combat.
O'Byrne had been with Battle Company in the Korengal Valley, a small but extraordinarily violent slit in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains of eastern Afghanistan. He was just one soldier out of thirty but seemed to have a knack for putting words to the things that no one else really wanted to talk about. I came to think of O'Byrne as a stand-in for the entire platoon, a way to understand a group of men who I don't think entirely understood themselves. One valley to the north, two platoons from Chosen Company accumulated a casualty rate of around 80 percent during their deployment. Battle Company wasn't hit that hard, but they were hit hard enough. This morning I'm going to interview Justin Kalenits, one of the wounded from Chosen, and O'Byrne has asked if he could join me. It's a cold, sunny day with little traffic and a north wind that rocks the car along the open stretches and on the bridges. We barrel southward through the industrial dross of New Jersey and Pennsylvania talking about the deployment and the platoon and how strange it is — in some ways for both of us — to find ourselves in the United States for good. I spent the year visiting O'Byrne's platoon in the Korengal, but now that's over and neither of us will ever see it again. We're both dreaming about it at night, though, weird, illogical combat sequences that don't always end badly but are soaked in dread.
Kalenits was shot in the pelvis during what has come to be known as the Bella Ambush. Bella was one of the firebases operated by Chosen Company in the Waygal Valley. In early November, fourteen Chosen soldiers, twelve Afghan soldiers, a Marine, and an Afghan interpreter walked to the nearby village of Ara-nas, met with elders, and then started to walk back. It was a setup. The enemy had built sandbagged po-sitions in a 360-degree circle around a portion of the trail where there was no cover and the only escape was to jump off a cliff. By some miracle, Chosen held them off. Six Americans and eight Afghans were killed and everyone else was wounded. An American patrol hasn't taken 100 percent casualties in a fire-fight since Vietnam.
We turn into Walter Reed Army Medical Center and park in front of Abrams Hall, where Kalenits lives. We find him in his room smoking and watching television in the dark. His blinds are down and cigarette smoke swirls in the slats of light that come through. I ask Kalenits when was the first moment he realized he was in an ambush, and he says it was when the helmet was shot off his head. Almost immediately he was hit three times in the chest, twice in the back, and then watched his best friend take a round through the forehead that emptied out the back of his head. Kalenits says that when he saw that he just "went into awe."
There were so many muzzle flashes around them that the hills looked like they were strung with Christmas lights. The rounds that hit Kalenits were stopped by ballistic plates in his vest, but one finally hit him in the left buttock. It shattered his pelvis and tore up his intestines and exited through his thigh. Kalenits was sure it had severed an artery, and he gave himself three minutes to live. He spotted an en-emy machine-gun team moving into position on a nearby hill and shot at them. He saw the men fall. He went through all of his ammunition except for one magazine that he saved for when the enemy came through on foot to finish everyone off.
Kalenits started to fade out from lack of blood and he handed his weapon to another man and sat down. He watched a friend named Albert get shot in the knee, and start sliding down the cliff. Kalenits's team leader grabbed him and tried to pull him back, but they were taking so much fire that it was going to get them both killed. Albert yelled to his team leader to let go and he did, and Albert slid partway down the cliff, losing his weapon and helmet on the way. He finally came to a stop and then got shot three more times where he lay.
Rocket-propelled grenades were exploding all around them and throwing up so much dust that the weapons were jamming. Men were spitting into the breeches of their guns, trying to clear them. For the next hour Kalenits faded in and out of consciousness and the firefight continued as one endless, deafen-ing blur. It finally got dark and the MEDEVAC bird arrived and started hoisting up the wounded and the dead. There was a dead man in a tree below the trail and dead men at the bottom of the cliff. One body fell out of the Skedco harness as it was being hoisted into the helicopter, and a quick-reaction force that had flown in from Battle Company had to search for him most of the night.
The last thing Kalenits remembered was getting stuck with needles by doctors at the base in Asada-bad; the next thing he knew, he was in Germany. His mother had come home to a message telling her to get in contact with the military immediately, and when she did she was told that she'd better fly to Ger-many as fast as possible if she wanted to see her son alive. He was still alive when she arrived, and he eventually recovered enough to return to the United States.
O'Byrne has been quiet most of the interview. "Did anyone bring up the issue of walking at night?" he finally says. "On the way out, did anyone bring that up?"
I know why he's asking: Second Platoon left a hilltop position during the daytime once and got badly ambushed outside a town called Aliabad. A rifleman named Steiner took a round in the helmet, though he survived.
"No — the lieutenant said, 'We're leaving now,' " Kale-nits answers. "What are you going to say to him?"
"F--- off?" O'Byrne offers.
Kalenits smiles, but it's not a thought anyone wants to pursue.
KORENGAL VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN
O'Byrne and the men of Battle Company arrived
in the last week in May when the rivers were running full and the upper peaks still held their snow. Chi-nooks escorted by Apache helicopters rounded a massive dark mountain called the Abas Ghar and pounded into the valley and put down amid clouds of dust at the tiny landing zone. The men grabbed their gear, filed off the birds, and got mortared almost immediately. The enemy knew a new unit was coming into the valley and it was their way of saying hello; fourteen months later they'd say goodbye that way as well. The men took cover in the mechanics' bay and then shouldered their gear and climbed the hill up to their tents at the top of the base. The climb was only a hundred yards but it smoked almost everyone. Around them, the mountains flew up in every direction. The men knew that before the year was out they would probably have to walk on everything they could see.
The base was called the Korengal Outpost — the KOP — and was considered one of the most dangerous postings in Afghanistan. It was a cheerless collection of bunkers and C-wire and bee huts that stretched several hundred yards up a steep hillside toward a band of holly trees that had been shredded by gunfire. There was a plywood headquarters building and a few brick-and-mortars for the men to sleep in and small sandbag bunkers for mortar attacks. The men ate one hot meal a day under a green Army tent and showered once a week in water that had been pumped out of a local creek. Here and there PVC pipe was stuck into the ground at an angle for the men to urinate into. Since there were no women there was no need for privacy. Past the medical tent and the water tank were four open brick stalls that faced the spectacular mountains to the north. Those were known as the burn-sh---ers, and beneath each one was a metal drum that Afghan workers pulled out once a day so they could burn the contents with diesel fuel. Upslope from there was an Afghan National Army bunker and then a trail that climbed up to Outpost 1, a thousand feet above the KOP. The climb was so steep that the previous unit had installed fixed ropes on the bad parts. The Americans could make the climb in forty-five minutes, combat-light, and the Af-ghans could make it in half that.
Several days after they arrived, O'Byrne's platoon went on patrol with men from the 10th Mountain Di-vision, whom they were replacing in the valley. Tenth Mountain had begun their rotation back to the United States several months earlier, but Army commanders had changed their minds and decided to ex-tend their tour. Men who had arrived home after a year of combat were put on planes and flown back into the war. Morale plunged, and Battle Company arrived to stories of their predecessors jumping off rocks to break their legs or simply refusing to leave
the wire. The stories weren't entirely true, but the Korengal Valley was starting to acquire a reputation as a place that could alter your mind in terrible and irreversible ways.
However messed up 10th Mountain might have been, they'd been climbing around the valley for over a year and were definitely in shape. On the first joint patrol they led Second Platoon down toward the Ko-rengal River and then back up to a granite formation called Table Rock. Tenth Mountain was intentionally trying to break them off — make the new men collapse from exhaustion — and halfway up Table Rock it started to work. A 240 gunner named Vandenberge started falling out and O'Byrne, who was on the same gun team, traded weapons with him and hung the 240 across his shoulders. The 240 is a belt-fed machine gun that weighs almost thirty pounds; you might as well be carrying a jackhammer up a moun-tain. O'Byrne and the rest of the men had another fifty pounds of gear and ammunition on their backs and twenty pounds of body armor. Almost no one in the platoon was carrying less than eighty pounds.
The men struggled upward in full view of the Taliban positions across the valley and finally began tak-ing fire halfway up the spur. O'Byrne had never been under fire before, and the first thing he did was stand up to look around. Someone yelled to take cover. There was only one rock to hide behind, and Vandenberge was using it, so O'Byrne got behind him. 'F---, I can't believe they just shot at me!' he yelled.
Vandenberge was a huge blond man who spoke slowly and was very, very smart. 'Well,' he said, 'I don't know if they were shooting at you . . .'
'Okay,' O'Byrne said, 'shooting at us . . .'
Inexperienced soldiers are known as "cherries," and standing up in a firefight is about as cherry as it gets. So is this: the first night at the KOP, O'Byrne heard a strange yammering in the forest and assumed the base was about to get attacked. He grabbed his gun and waited. Nothing happened. Later he found out it was just monkeys that came down to the wire to shriek at the Americans. It was as if every living thing in the valley, even the wildlife, wanted them gone.
O'Byrne grew up in rural Pennsylvania on a property that had a stream running through it and hundreds of acres of woods out back where he and his friends could play war. Once they dug a bunker, another time they rigged a zip line up between trees. Most of those friends wound up joining the Army. When O'Byrne turned fourteen he and his father started fighting a lot, and O'Byrne immediately got into trouble at school. His grades plummeted and he began drinking and smoking pot and getting arrested. His father was a plumber who always kept the family well provided for, but there was tremendous turmoil at home — a lot of drinking, a lot of physical combat — and one night things got out of hand and O'Byrne's father shot him twice with a .22 rifle. From his hospital bed, O'Byrne told the police that his father had shot him in self-defense; that way he went to reform school for assault rather than his father going to prison for attempted murder. O'Byrne was sixteen.
A shop teacher named George started counseling him, and O'Byrne spent hours at George's wood shop carving things out of wood and talking. George got him turned around. O'Byrne started playing soc-cer. He got interested in Buddhism. He started getting good grades. After eight months he moved in with his grandparents and went back to high school. "I changed my whole entire life," O'Byrne told me. "I apologized to all the teachers I ever dissed. I apologized to kids I used to beat up. I apologized to every-one and I made a f---ing vow that I was never going to be like that again. People didn't even recognize me when I got home."
One afternoon, O'Byrne saw a National Guard recruiter at his high school and signed up. The unit was about to deploy to Iraq and O'Byrne realized he would be spending a year with a bunch of middle-aged men, so he managed to transfer into the regular Army. The Army wanted to make him a 67 Hotel — a tank mechanic — but he protested and wound up being classified as 11 Charlie. That's mortars. He didn't want to be a mortarman, though — he wanted to be 11 Bravo. He wanted to be an infantryman. His drill sergeant finally relented after O'Byrne got into a barracks fight with someone the sergeant didn't like and broke the man's jaw. The sergeant was Latino and spoke English with such a strong accent that often his men had no idea what he was saying. One afternoon when they were filling out information packets, the sergeant started giving instructions that no one could understand.
"He'd be like, 'Take your motherf---er packet and put it in your motherf---er packet,' " O'Byrne said. "And we're all like, 'What the f--- is he talking about? What's a "motherf---er packet"? And then he starts pointing to things he's talking about: 'Take your motherf---er packet' — which is a packet — 'and put it in your motherf---er packet!' — and he points to his pocket. Oh, okay! You put your packet in your pocket!"
O'Byrne wanted to go to Special Forces, and that meant passing a series of lower-level schools and selection courses. Airborne School was a joke; he passed SOPC 1 (Special Operations Preparation Course) with flying colors; got himself selected for Special Forces; tore through SOPC 2; and then was told he couldn't advance any further without combat experience. 'You can't replace combat with training,' a black E7 at Fort Bragg told him. 'You can't do it. You can't replace that f---ing experience. Get deployed, and if you want to come back, come back after that.'
O'Byrne thought that made sense and joined the 173rd Airborne, based in Vicenza, Italy. He'd never been out of the country before. He wound up in Second Platoon, Battle Company, which was already thought of as one of the top units in the brigade. Battle Company had fought well in Iraq and had seen a lot of combat in Afghanistan on its previous deployment. There were four platoons in the company, and of them all, Second Platoon was considered the best-trained and in some ways the worst-disciplined. The platoon had a reputation for producing terrible garrison soldiers — men who drink and fight and get ar-rested for disorderly conduct and mayhem — but who are extraordinarily good at war. Soldiers make a distinction between the petty tyrannies of garrison life and the very real ordeals of combat, and poor garri-son soldiers like to think it's impossible to be good at both.
"I used to score three hundreds on my PT tests s----canned . . . just drunk as f---," O'Byrne told me. "That's how you got sober for the rest of the day. I never got in trouble, but Bobby beat up a few MPs, threatened them with a fire extinguisher, pissed on their boots. But what do you expect from the infantry, you know? I know that all the guys that were bad in garrison were perfect f---ing soldiers in combat. They're troublemakers and they like to fight. That's a bad garrison trait but a good combat trait — right? I know I'm a sh--ty garrison soldier, but what the f--- does it matter? Okay, I got to shine my f---ing boots. Why do I care about shining my goddamn boots?"
The weekend before they deployed to Afghanistan, O'Byrne and three other soldiers took the train to Rome for a last blowout. They drank so much that they completely cleaned out the café car. Traveling with O'Byrne were two other privates, Steve Kim and Misha Pemble--Belkin, and a combat medic named Juan Restrepo. Restrepo was born in Colombia but lived in Florida and had two daughters with a woman back home. He spoke with a slight lisp and brushed his teeth compulsively and played classical and fla-menco guitar at the barbecues the men threw on base. Once in garrison he showed up at morning PT drunk from the night before, but he was still able to run the two-mile course in twelve and a half minutes and do a hundred sit-ups. If there was a guaranteed way to impress Second Platoon, that was it.
On the train Restrepo pulled out a little one-chip camera and started shooting video of the trip. The men were so drunk they could barely speak. Kim was propped against the window. Pemble tried to say something about putting a saddle on a miniature zebra and riding it around. O'Byrne said his job in Rome was to just keep Restrepo out of trouble. "Not possible, bro," Restrepo said. "You can't tame the beast."
On the far side of the window the gorgeous Italian countryside slid past. "We're lovin' life and getting ready to go to war," Restrepo said, his arm around O'Byrne's neck. His face was so close to the camera there was almost a fish-eye effect. "We're goin' to war. We're ready. We're goin' to war . . . we're goin' to war."
The Korengal Valley is sort of the Afghanistan of Afghanistan: too remote to conquer, too poor to intimi-date, too autonomous to buy off. The Soviets never made it past the mouth of the valley and the Taliban didn't dare go in there at all. When 10th Mountain rolled into the valley in 2006, they may well have been the first military force ever to reach its southern end. They were only down there a day, but that push gave 10th Mountain some breathing room to finish building the KOP at the site of an old lumberyard three miles in. The lumberyard was not operational because the Afghan government had imposed a ban on timber exports, in large part because the timber sales were helping fund the insurgency. Out-of-work timber cut-ters traded their chainsaws for weapons and shot at the Americans from inside bunkers made out of the huge cedar logs they could no longer sell.
They were helped by Arab and Pakistani fighters from across the border in Bajaur Province and local militias run by a veteran of the Soviet jihad named Gulbuddin Hekma-tyar. Video made by insurgents dur-ing one attack shows tiny figures — American soldiers — sprinting for cover and trying to shoot back from behind ragged sandbag walls. The KOP is surrounded by high ground, and to mount an attack local fighters only had to scramble up the back sides of the ridges and pour machine-gun fire down into the compound. This is called "plunging fire," and it is hard to suppress or take cover from. The only way to fix the problem was to take over the high ground with small outposts, but those positions then also became vulnerable to attack. The battle plan for the valley became a game of tactical leapfrog that put the Ameri-cans into the village of Babiyal by the spring of 2007.
Babiyal was about half a mile south of the KOP and had ties to the insurgents, though it was not overtly hostile. American soldiers with 10th Mountain rented a residential compound from a local school-teacher and fortified it with enormous cedar logs that locals had cut on the upper slopes of the valley. The position was named Phoenix, after the city in Arizona, and had its counterpart in Firebase Vegas across the valley. Unfortunately, all you had to do to figure out the tactical problems at Phoenix was to tilt your head upward at Table Rock. Insurgents could pound Phoenix from there and then just run down the back side of the ridge when the Americans started hitting back. One American was killed by an 88 mm recoil-less round that shrieked through the narrow opening of his bunker and detonated; another was killed while running to one of the machine-gun positions during an attack. A soldier at the KOP was shot while stand-ing at one of the piss tubes. An American contract worker was shot and wounded while taking a nap on his cot. Another soldier stumbled and drowned while wading across the Korengal River in his body armor.
At a brief ceremony at the KOP on June 5, Captain Jim McKnight of 10th Mountain took down his unit's guidon, climbed into the back of a Chinook, and flew out of the valley forever. Battle Company's guidon was immediately raised in its place. In attendance was a dark, handsome man of Samoan ancestry named Isaia Vimoto; he was the command sergeant major of the 173rd and the highest enlisted man in the brigade. Vimoto's nineteen-year-old son, Timothy, was a private first class in Second Platoon, and af-ter the ceremony Vimoto asked Battle Company's First Sergeant LaMonta Caldwell where his son was. Caldwell walked Vimoto over to the wire and pointed down-valley.
'He's down there at Phoenix,' he told him.
Vimoto had requested that his son serve in Battle Company because he and Caldwell were best friends. 'You tell him I said hello,' he told Caldwell before he left the KOP. 'Tell him I came out here.'
There had been some contact earlier in the day, and Second Platoon spotted what they thought was an enemy position on top of Hill 1705. A twenty-five-man element, including two Afghan soldiers and an interpreter, left the wire at Phoenix in early evening and started walking south. They walked in plain view on the road and left during daylight hours, which were two things they'd never do again — at least not at the same time. They passed the villages of Aliabad and Loy Kalay and then crossed a bridge over a western tributary of the Korengal. They started up through the steep holly forests of 1705, crested the top, and then started down the other side.
The enemy was waiting for them. They opened fire from three hundred yards away with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. A private named Tad Donoho dropped prone and was low-crawling to cover when he saw a line of bullets stitching toward him in the dirt. He rolled to one side and wound up near PFC Vimoto. Both men began returning fire, bullets kicking up dirt all around them, and at one point Donoho saw Vimoto open his mouth as if he were about to yell something. No sound came out, though; instead, his head jerked back and then tipped forward. He didn't move again.
Donoho started shouting for the platoon medic, but there was so much gunfire that no one could hear him. It didn't matter anyway; the bullet had gone through Vi-moto's head and killed him instantly. One mo-ment he was in the first firefight of his life, the next moment he was dead. Donoho shot through all twelve magazines he carried and then pulled more out of his dead friend's ammo rack. There was so much gun-fire that the only way the men could move without getting hit was to low-crawl. They were on a steep ridge at night getting raked by machine-gun fire, and everyone knew the MEDEVAC helicopters would never dare attempt a landing in those conditions; they were going to have to get Vimoto and another man named Pecsek down to the road to get picked up. Pecsek had been shot through the shoulder but seemed able to walk. A staff sergeant named Kevin Rice hoisted Vimoto onto his back, and the men started down the steep, rocky slopes of 1705 in the darkness and the rain.
Captain Dan Kearney, the commander of Battle Company, drove down to Aliabad in a Humvee to help evacuate the casualties and remembers turning a corner in the road and hitting a wall of Taliban fire-power. "I was blown away by the insurgents' ability to continue fighting despite everything America had to throw at them," Kearney told me later. "From that point on I knew it was — number one — a different enemy than I fought in Iraq and that — number two — the terrain offered some kind of advantage that I'd never seen or read or heard about in my entire life."
When Battle Company first arrived in the Korengal, O'Byrne was a gunner in Second Platoon's Weapons Squad. A squad is generally eight men plus a squad leader, and those eight men are divided into two fire teams designated "alpha" and "bravo." In a Weapons Squad, each team would be responsible for an M240 heavy machine gun. O'Byrne spent two months in Weapons Squad and then switched to First Squad under Staff Sergeant Josh McDonough. The men called him "Sar'n Mac," and under his tutelage First Squad became one of the hardest-hitting in the company, possibly the entire battalion. When his men didn't perform well, Mac would tilt his head forward and bore through them with an unblinking stare that could go on for minutes; while he was doing that he was also yelling. "Mac was just a f---ing mule," O'Byrne said. "He was just so goddamn strong. His legs were the size of my head. His guys were his only concern. If one of us team leaders wasn't doing our job he got furious — because he cared. He just had a very rough way of showing it."
First Squad was line infantry, which meant they fought on foot and carried everything they needed on their backs. Theoretically, they could walk for days without resupply. O'Byrne was in charge of First Squad's alpha team, which included a former high school wrestler from Wisconsin named Steiner, an eighteen-year-old from Georgia named Vaughn, and a wiry, furtive oddball named Monroe. Each man car-ried three or four hand grenades. Two out of the four-carried standard M4 assault rifles and a chest rack of thirty-round magazines. Another man carried an M4 that also fired big fat rounds called 203s. The 203 rounds explode on impact and are used to lob onto enemy fighters who are behind cover and otherwise couldn't be hit. The fourth man carried something called a Squad Automatic Weapon — usually referred to as a SAW. The SAW has an extremely high rate of fire and basically vomits rounds if you so much as touch the trigger. If you "go cyclic" — fire without stopping — you will go through 900 rounds in a min-ute. (You'll also melt the barrel.) O'Byrne's fire team probably had enough training and ammo to hold off an enemy force three or four times their size.
Every platoon also has a headquarters element composed of a medic, a forward observer, a radio op-erator, a platoon sergeant, and a lieutenant who had graduated from officer candidate school. Second Platoon went through two -lieutenants during the first half of their deployment and then wound up with Steve Gillespie, a tall, lean marathon runner who reminded his men of a movie character named Napo-leon Dynamite. They called him Napoleon behind his back and occasionally to his face but did it with af-fection and respect: Gillespie was such a dedicated commander that his radioman had to keep pulling him down behind cover during firefights.
Lieutenants have a lot of theoretical knowledge but not much experience, so they are paired with a pla-toon sergeant who has probably been in the Army for years. Second Platoon's sergeant was a career sol-dier named Mark Patterson who, at age thirty, had twelve years on the youngest man in the unit. The men called him Pops. Patterson was both the platoon enforcer and the platoon representative, and his role al-lowed him to keep an eye not only on the grunts but on the lieutenants as well. His face got bright red when he was angry or when he was working very hard, and he could outwalk just about everyone in the platoon. I never saw him look even nervous during a fight, much less scared. He commanded his men like he was directing traffic.
The men of Second Platoon were from mainland America and from wherever the American experiment has touched the rest of the world: the Philippines and Guam and Mexico and Puerto Rico and South Ko-rea. A gunner in Weapons Squad named Jones claims he made thousands of dollars selling drugs before joining the Army to avoid getting killed on the streets of Reno. O'Byrne's soldier Vaughn was eleven years old when 9/11 happened and decided right then and there to join the U.S. Army. As soon as he could, he did. Danforth was forty-two years old and had joined the year before because he was bored; the others called him Old Man and asked a lot of joking questions about Vietnam. A private named Lizama claimed his mother was a member of the Guamese Congress. There was a private named Moreno from Beeville, Texas, who worked in the state penitentiary and had been a promising boxer before joining up. There was a sergeant whose father was currently serving in Iraq and had nearly been killed by a roadside bomb.
The Army has a lot of regulations about how soldiers are required to dress, but the farther you get from the generals the less those rules are followed, and Second Platoon was about as far from the generals as you could get. As the deployment wore on and they got pushed farther into enemy territory it was some-times hard to tell you were even looking at American soldiers. They wore their trousers unbloused from their boots and tied amulets around their necks and shuffled around the outpost in flip-flops jury-rigged from the packing foam used in missile crates. Toward the end of their tour they'd go through entire firefights in nothing but gym shorts and unlaced boots, cigarettes hanging out of their lips. When the weather got too hot they chopped their shirts off below the armpit and then put on body armor so they'd sweat less but still look like they were in uniform. They carried long knives and for a while one guy went on operations with a small samurai sword in his belt. The rocks ripped their pants to shreds and they occasionally found them-selves more or less exposed on patrol. A few had "INFIDEL" tattooed in huge letters across their chests. ("That's what the enemy calls us on their radios," one man explained, "so why not?") Others had tattoos of angel wings sprouting from bullets or bombs. The men were mostly in their early twenties, and many of them have known nothing but life at home with their parents and war.
The men who were killed or wounded were replaced with cherries, and if the older men got bored enough they sometimes made the cherries fight each other. They'd been trained in hand-to-hand combat, so they all knew how to choke someone out; if you do it right, with the forearm against the carotid artery, the person loses consciousness in seconds. (They die in a couple of minutes if you don't release the pressure.) Choking guys out was considered fine sport, so soldiers tended to keep their backs to some-thing so no one could sneak up from behind. Jumping someone was risky because everyone was bound by affiliations that broke down by platoon, by squad, and finally by team. If a man in your squad got jumped by more than one guy you were honor-bound to help out, which meant that within seconds you could have ten or fifteen guys in a pile on the ground.
O'Byrne's 203 gunner, Steiner, once got stabbed trying to help deliver a group beating to Sergeant Mac, his squad leader, who had backed into a corner with a combat knife. In Second Platoon you got beat on your birthday, you
got beat before you left the platoon — on leave, say — and you got beat when you came back. The only way to leave -Second Platoon without a beating was to get shot. No other platoons did this; the men called it "blood in, blood out," after a movie one of them had seen, and officers were not exempted. I watched Gillespie get held down and beaten, and Pops got pounded so hard his legs were bruised for days. The violence took many forms and could break out at almost any time. After one particularly quiet week — no firefights, in other words — the tension got so unbearable that First Squad finally went after Weapons Squad with rocks. A rock fight ensued that got so heavy, I took cover behind some trees.
Men wound up bleeding and heated after these contests but never angry; the fights were a product of boredom, not conflict, so they always stayed just this side of real violence. Officers were left out of the full-on rumbles, and there were even a couple of enlisted guys who had just the right mix of cool and remove to stay clear of the violence. Sergeant Buno was one of those: he ran Third Squad and had Aztec-looking tattoos on his arms and a tattooed scorpion crawling up out the front of his pants. Buno almost never spoke but had a handsome, impassive face that you could read anything you wanted into. The men sus-pected he was Filipino but he never admitted to anything; he just wandered around listening to his iPod and saying strange, enigmatic things. The men nicknamed him Queequeg. He moved with the careful precision of a dancer or a martial artist, and that was true whether he was in a firefight or brushing his teeth. Once someone asked him where he'd been the previous night.
"Down in Babiyal," he answered, "killing werewolves."
here's one of the entries i typed up for a friend, posting here also:
al·go·rithmn. A set of rules for solving a problem.
No, the first anonyponymous person in the book is not Al Gore.
When a word begins with al-, there’s a good chance it comes from Arabic. This is true with alchemy, almanac, alcove, alcohol (ironically), and algorithm, named for Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, or, as his Latin translators called him, Algorismus.
In the early ninth century Baghdad was fast becoming the world’s most important center of trade and learning, and while engaged at its illustrious House of Wisdom, al-Khwarizmi produced his most famous work, The Book of Restoring and Balancing. In it, al- Khwarizmi explained how to solve complex mathematical equations by a method called al-jabr, Arabic for “reunion of broken parts,” which came rendered in Latin as “algebra.” (See about those al- words?) On an even more basic level, al-Khwarizmi was instrumental in the spread of Arabic numerals. Not that he invented them, nor did anyArab; the symbols originated on the Indian subcontinent in the centuries leading up to Christ.
The set of rules laid down by al-Khwarizmi for working with these fancy Hindu number signs was so revolutionary that his name came to mean arithmetic, first in the Arab world, and then in the form algorism throughout the West. But this wouldn’t happen until al-Khwarizmi’s books were finally translated into Latin, about three hundred years after he wrote them, an indication of just how far the Christian world lagged behind the Muslim one during the intellectual deep freeze of the Middle Ages. Roman numerals—a system invented for notching sticks—didn’t get replaced by Hindu-Arabic ones until the mid-1500s.
Let's consider the short-lived but brutal rivalry of Waitzkin vs. Waitzkin. For the first two months of my chess life, my father and I played nearly every day. We had some terrific battles. Dad thought he was pretty good and in our games he never held back. Some afternoons he beat me three or four times and afterwards I felt numb. But by the next day, after school, I was ready to fight him again. We must have played a hundred games before I finally beat him. After that, our competition changed in almost every respect. I recall that after my first win Dad was thrilled ... but this didn’t last. For the next couple of weeks, as I began to win more often, he read chess books to get the upper hand. He was terribly proud of my chess ability, but at the same time he seemed frustrated. He didn't like losing to me. For my part, I didn't really want to play him so much anymore. I felt uneasy about checkmating my own father, but for an uncomfortable several weeks or so, we kept playing until he realized that this competition was not very good for either of us.
We would square off seated on the floor on opposite sides of a stubby-legged coffee table in the living room of our apartment. I couldn't quite reach all the way across the board and on long moves more often than not knocked over half the pieces. More than once, Dad suggested that I did this after he had built a winning position. Maybe this was so. For sure, Dad couldn't reconstruct the position once it was scrambled, and in those early games of my career I was at my wit's end trying not to lose.
Anyhow, at the time of the following game, I had turned the tables on Dad and was winning most of our games. By now he had become a little gun-shy. In this game he figured he'd play it safe and copy my moves surely if his position were identical to mine nothing terrible would happen to him. Lots of beginners try the copycat strategy, but it is a critical error.
I had noticed that my father was copying my moves up to this point, so I set a little trap. You might try to find it.
HINT: I figured that his predictability would persist and his next two moves would be ... Nxf3 and Bh3. The question to ask yourself is: how can I change my position so that after he copies me I can take advantage?
I played 11.Kh1 ! and he played right into my hands:
11 ... Nf3 12.gf3 Bh3?
Now I used the small difference in the positions to win Black's queen. What did I play?
HINT: Notice that Black's king is exposed to check on the g-file, while my king is safely tucked away behind the h-pawn. The rook can escape the bishop's attack and check the king, gaining a tempo. Then, check and check to win the queen.
I played 13.Rg1 +! Kh8 14.Bg7+ Kg8 15.Bf6+ (discovered check-the bishop has moved away exposing the king to the rook's attack. This is a double threat because the bishop is also attacking the black queen. We will look at these concepts again and again.) 15 . .. Kf8 16.Bxd8, and White is up a queen. Soon after this my father and I stopped battling on the coffee table.
In my chess life my father moved very quickly from major rival to passionate coach. He had misgivings about our early slugfests and would be the first person to say that unless your little kid is very, very good, don't try to beat him every game. Chances are, repeated thrashings will kill his or her love for chess rather than kindle it.
As a coach, my father was terribly earnest about my early games, and I believe that this helped instill in me a sense for the importance of chess. When I was eight or nine and had suffered a bad defeat, he would not talk about chess moves. He would say to me things like, "You know, Josh, instead of looking at the game you were looking all around the room." Even today he watches my face and body English for clues about the quality of my focus. Before important tournaments we talk a lot about the kinds of things I must do to bring myself into top form, and afterwards we try to figure out what I might have done better: Did I study enough? Too much? Did I study the wrong material? Had I done enough physical training before the tournament? Had I slept enough? This, I believe, is the best way for a coach or a parent to help a young player. I am always appalled when I hear a frustrated dad scolding his four-foot son for playing queen to h6 instead of rook to a7. I wonder if that parent believes that he is helping his little warrior. His chess player will play brilliantly and make mistakes in the course of learning to attack and defend. It is the role of a parent to bring a healthy, well-rested child to the game, and then to focus on the psychological aspects of chess: to encourage good concentration, coolness under pressure, stamina, and patience to turn an advantage into a win. Sometimes a dad or mom should be no more than a shoulder to lean on, someone with a strong, fresh perspective. Life goes on. You win and you lose. You'll get 'em next time. Let's go get an ice cream cone.
SG's note: I scanned and OCR'd the pages... please forgive me for any typos and/or spacing I may have missed.
Just some ramblings on my part... after this post, many may think I'm a crackpot or whatever... but just wanted to get some food for thought added to the table.
@Guro ... that is great insight from Guro I. Thank you for sharing! I massage my head/scalp and neck at times to invigorate it with bloodflow with a similar idea to 'wake up'.
@Kaju ... although you miss the Gatherings and the brothers of the Tribe miss testing themselves against you, I know they all understand. Heal yourself first! We have a mutual brother/friend in the process of healing himself which should be inspiration (if not already) on your road to recovery. Only you are responsible for yourself. Good luck and speedy recovery!
@C-Mighty Dog ... I'm a wannabe and probably may end up a "never was" ... lol @ myself. BTW, good luck and speedy recovery!
Here's the rambling...
Some times 'things' are written off because it is not the norm. Society says we must lift weights to be healthy, we must have muscle definition to look good, we must do this or do that because it is society's norms. Sadly that would be the easy way. We are all individuals, we must find out what works for us and what doesn't. Society's way may not be my way. My way may not be your way. Sounding very JKD-ish I realize, but it's Truth.
Who hasn't lifted weights because society says lifting weights is good? Like anything, if you have the wrong form, do it the wrong way, lasting injuries may happen. Sometimes there are alternatives which may not be accepted by the norm, but yet may work if you give it a try. Forgot which DBMA dvd mentioned this: Guro Lonely was sick with a flu and something else, but there was filming to be done and he showed up, not 100%. Guro Crafty took him to a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and the Dr. prescribed some herbs to make an herbal tea... Guro Lonely mentions boiling the herbs for 10 hrs or so... after the tea, he felt better, nowhere near 100% but way better before he left Switzerland. Is Oriental Medicine accepted by society yet? It may still have that witch doctor/shamanism stigma attached to it that keeps it from wide acceptance as an alternative to Western medicine. I am of the belief that Western Medicine suppresses symptoms while Oriental Medicine seeks to heal the sickness which causes the symptoms...Western medicine is also about getting doctors, pharmaceutical co's and insurance co's paid but I digress. I could go on about acupunture, qigong/chi kung etc. which faces the same stigma that Oriental Medicine faces.
There is yin and yang, there is hard and soft... to the commonly accepted Western conditioning/training hardness perhaps some of the soft arts like yoga or the Chinese internal martial arts (neijia - taiji/tai chi, bagua/pa kua, xing yi/hsing i) and qigong/chi kung may help. We hear stories of Chinese masters who are in their 70's-90's who seem as lively and energetic of someone in their 30's-40's. The Sports Illustrated article mentioned 37 as an age where things seem to go downhill... the Chinese have a saying, I forget the exact translation, but it's words to the effect of "Before 30 yrs of age, one fears nothing... after 30, one starts fearing sickness/ailments/body malfunctions starting". Perhaps if a good foundation is laid with understanding the body with the internal arts, there is lessened chance of the effects of aging? Westerners hear someone 60+ yrs old and they think they need a cane to walk... there are many Asians who are 60+ who are still active...of course there are also non-active 60+, but most of the active elderly I encountered have practiced Tai Chi/Taiji or Qigong/Chi Kung... perhaps there is something to this mysterious (unproven scientifically to Western mindsets) 'thing' called Chi/Qi? The basic idea is that qi/chi/blood/energy is flowing and if it flows, your body is healthy and the effects of aging are retarded.
For the record I'm 46 this year, I am nowhere what I used to be physically. I regret not keeping up tai chi practice when my dad taught me when I was 10. He taught me some yoga when I was younger than that. My dad never forced me to do anything and unfortunately, I regret not keeping up with the valuable lessons I learned when younger. I'm exploring them again along with qigong/chi kung and some internal martial arts. We will see where it takes me. My sojourn continues...
It's late, I'm rambling, I'm sure you all think me wacked after this post... thank you for letting me 'speak' and present food for thought.
It's the members only portion of the site, discussions not meant for the public forum... you get access to Vid-Lessons - not meant to be shared with general public, 10% discount on items sold in the Store, discuss DBMA with other members (some of them instructors from other systems, as well as some being full DB), also ask Guro C something and get a reply that he wouldn't normally disclose in public forum, etc.
There is a LOT of information and knowledge shared in the DBMMA forums by Guro C as well as other DBMAAers! Highly reco'd!!
edit: if you are serious about DBMA, DBMAA is a must. I neglected to renew my membership recently when I sent in my order for loads of dvd's... saving now and cannot wait to get back in DBMAA.
Josh Waitzkin should be no stranger to chess enthusiasts as well as MAists (chess prodigy, subject of the book and movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, as well World Champ in Push hands competition, student of William CC Chen, and also a brown belt under Marcelo Garcia BJJ)... he "teaches" chess in Chessmaster: Art of Learning. There are various strength levels of your opponents... options for quick play, rated play with or without a chess clock. There are also chess 'games' where it's not standard chess, but IMO it develops aspects of one's chess game... one of them is to use a knight to capture pieces randomly placed on board... another helps your combinations, etc
If you have 2 DS's, you can play vs live opponent, although, at that point, if i had the space and board/pieces, would not prefer to play it on the DS.
Guessing other portable gaming systems should have a chess game on it.
This morning I fooled around with the a PK4,KBP4 gambit operating under the assumption the gambit would be accepted. Who could resist such recklessly offered bait after all? Apparently the Russian I played with this evening. I could tell about 4 moves into declined gambit he played that he was good. Around move 12 I foolishly pushed a pawn to harass his knight and things went down hill from there.
Alerted by this experience to his level, I beat him in games 2 and 3
I kicked ass with a lesser player or two with it and then used it to good effect with a good player. Fortunately he gifted me a piece early in the game, which made things easier, especially as the quality of his play got very strong in the latter part of the game. I really had to struggle to get the win even though for a while I had a substantial advantage in pieces.
Initial impression: This opening seems very promising and a good fit to my temperament. Very aggressive AND unfamiliar to most people- which helps against quality players who have really studied openings while I am more or less winging it. With the KBP gambit, we are both winging it
This is the "King's Gambit". I used to play this opening but I didn't delve that deeply into it after hearing at the GM/Master levels it's usually draws, or at least back when I played, not sure if there were recent innovations to it. It was in Bobby Fischer's repertoire, it is usually attack-oriented, gambiting a pawn early to facilitate rapid deployment of your forces which was precisely why I played it against from friends. Around the time I played, it's said the GM's used this opening to secure a draw instead of playing a riskier opening and chancing a loss. It became more positional play for them. At which point, the opening probably fell out of favor in upper-level play.
Ages ago, we discussed Chess, I don't remember, did I send you a King's Gambit book? Although it was dated, it should have given you a basic understanding of the opening and the various lines of gam
Too bad I was so beat last year after Guro Hunt's hosting of you, I had to go home to wife and kids and I suspect you wouldn't have time for a few quick games. And mentally my head was spinning from the material you taught those 2 days, so I probably wouldn't have played my sharpest LOL
Around move 12 I foolishly pushed a pawn to harass his knight and things went down hill from there.
One concept I learned early on... pawn structure is very important because pawns cannot move backwards... once a pawn is pushed it changes the dynamics of the position. Andy Soltis back in da day had a good book about it, IIRC, "Pawn Structure Chess"... Aron Nimzovich, wrote a book called "My System", he was one of the Fathers of the Hypermodern School of chess (attack from flanks and not the center... he wrote a bit on pawn structure in that book. Haven't looked at a chess book in ages, not sure if there are other and better books out there, but Nimzovich teaches about pawn chains and how to break them, where to attack...
Against the KP opening, the French Defense (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5) and the Caro-Kann defense (1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5) will be about pawn chains and of course for the QP openings, the Queen's Gambit are all about pawn chains.
Fortunately he gifted me a piece early in the game, which made things easier, especially as the quality of his play got very strong in the latter part of the game. I really had to struggle to get the win even though for a while I had a substantial advantage in pieces.
Not sure of the position, but sometimes despite one player's advantage of having an extra piece, his forces are not coordinated in their efforts to attack the enemy King... and if you were up a piece, perhaps your opponent was able to take some pawns as compensation... a knight/bishop is worth roughly 3 pawns/3.5 pawns... a rook = 5 pawns. One general strategy is if you are up a piece, look to trade pieces and when the dust settles, you would have a clear advantage with your extra piece. Quoting a wise man I know, despite this quote not coming from chess, it is apt: "WHEN YOU HAVE ADVANTAGE, TAKE ADVANTAGE!" (for the lurkers, that's Guro Crafty's quote in DBMA) Of course, this presupposes your endgames are decent already (knowing how to create a passed pawn, how to activate your king to help protect the passed pawn, ...). Be sure you know the basic mating patterns also.
I brought a nice travelling set with me to Bern |(the board rolls up, classic Staunton design for the pieces) and set it up in open invitation in the dining area at the campground where we are holding the Euro Gg and Training Camp. A man in his 50s chatted with me briefly to size me up and then he said he had time for one game. My play was pretty solid for about 10 moves- I could tell he was good- and then I made one minor mistake and he stomped me with ruthless efficiency. I asked for another game and he readily agreed. Now fully aware of his level, I played much better, but the result was the same. He complimented me (in response to his Queen's pawn opening I had played an off center QB pawn gambit that I developed playing against my son) Shyly, to help assuage my feelings, he let me know he had been a professional player and had been the champion of Switzerland with a ranking of 2300! We played for about three hours more- or perhaps I should say he coached me for three hours. Awesome experience!
That is awesome! That would be like me having a private with you in DBMA or with any of the masters! 2200+ is called "Master" rank... very very strong in terms of openings, middle games, tactics, strategy, mental stamina to keep at it as well as superstrong in endgames.
LOL! My initial thought was because Kostas is from Greece he is C-Spartan Dog!
Very cool that Guro C was able to give you a few pointers, if you need more, you can always watch/rewatch Gordon Liu Chia-hui in "36th Chamber of Shaolin" aka "Master Killer" or "Heroes of the East" aka "Shaolin vs Ninja"
Sounds like this Euro Gathering was a huge success! Congratulations to everyone involved especially Guro Crafty and Guro Lonely!!
Out of all the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association European members, feel the 'closest' to C-Gong Fu Dog and candidate DB Kostas (what's your DB name going to be?) - Congratulations to both of you!!! Cannot wait to check out the 3 Sectional Staff fight!
'Columbo' Star Peter Falk Dies 6/24/2011 10:35 AM PDT by TMZ Staff
Falk -- who suffered from Alzheimer's disease -- was 83.
A rep for the family tells TMZ, "Peter Falk, 83-year-old Academy Award nominee and star of television series, 'Columbo', died peacefully at his Beverly Hills home in the evening of June 23, 2011."
The rep continued, "Peter Falk is survived by his wife, Shera, of 34 years and two daughters from a previous marriage."
In addition to "Columbo," Falk starred in "Princess Bride," "Brigadoon" and "The Great Race."
Peter's wife, Shera and daughter Catherine were locked in a legal battle in 2009 over the creation of a conservatorship for Peter and who would control it. In the end, the judge appointed Shera conservator.
May Peter Falk meet Bobby Fischer and play chess forever.
Given two days of outstanding fighting it is no surprise that there were several ascensions, indeed more names than I can remember. Here are the few that I do remember off the top of my head. If I failed to mention you, please email me and I will put things right
Been jammed at work last week with coworker travelling on business and I was flying solo... I wanted to make a post wishing all the Fighters at the Tribal Gathering, brotherhood and a good learning experience! Sorry for the belated posting.
I may be over-thinking, but think that Jake Ellenberger was testing Pierson's peripheral vision with his left hand move after the parry of Sean's jab... once the left hand reaches a certain point, Pierson won't pick up on it without moving his head, but once he does that, the right may be coming so he doesn't move the head... and Jake launches a left hook out of Pierson's peripheral vision... don't think I've ever seen this before.
I am firewalled from my pichost, I made this gif, think this should be it, I posted this elsewhere for UFC 98... may or may not be a good example of Lyoto's BB... also, not sure if I used up my monthly free allotment of bandwidth or not... will check at home. If pic doesn't show up, I will re-up to another pichost. If anyone finds the picsize is too big for the thread, please let me know, I will resize.
Agreed... true on W. Silva's reactions and the 'newness' of the technique at the time.
If memory serves, in a recent fight, Lyoto Machida started his boxing blast on Rashad Evans, either by the 3rd step or 4th step Evans either sidestepped or something else and disrupted Machida's blast. Will check.
Meant I have the Vunak VHS set, I should put them onto dvd and discard my vhs.
Good fight! Jones was unrelenting... GnP with the elbows, way longer reach... noticed some jeet teks, some just raised to stop Rua's movement... a few side kicks, very good fight.
And hours prior to fighting for the UFC's LHW championship in the biggest fight of his career to date, Jon Jones was meditating in the park and he and Coach Greg Jackson and 1 other coach caught a would-be mugger crackhead.
On a whim, I checked Google Books for free books to download (and can also be read online) for "Chess"... went through 15 pages of hits and the below books caught my eye due to name recognition of author and/or subject:
The only caveat to note is that these are old books, therefore, the chess notation used is Descriptive Notation and not the modern Algebraic Notation.
edit: p.s. there were quite a few chess problems/puzzles books, I didn't check them out, but if they are in the vein of 'find the winning move' or 'mate in X amount of moves'... those types of books will sharpen your tactics up
Conrad always plays white against me. For quite some time he has focused on a QP opening. For a while I did well playing QB-4 in response, but eventually he solved that
Thought I helped you learn algebraic notation before? Old dogs didn't learn new tricks yet? Back to descriptive notation
Conrad plays 1 d4 (1 P-Q4) and you reply 1 ... c5 (1 ... P-QB4) ? His reply can be 2 d5 (2 P-Q5) commanding the center... but that can lead to the Benoni if you play 2 ... e6 (2 ... P-K3)
Eventually IMO Conrad should learn to play black... it's like the MA, only playing offense and no defense makes one a one-dimensional player. If Conrad plays anyone else but you, they may not be as accomodating to allow him to always play White.
Re: Benoni Defense - it's a razor-sharp opening for Black vs a QP opening. Generally, Black should be tactical-minded. Interesting background which I didn't know... it's from a Hebrew term meaning 'son of sorrow'.
For beginners, for QP openings, learning the Queen's Gambit Declined variations or Queen's Gambit Accepted would be easier to learn than the Benko/Benoni as black.
Some other tips I neglected to mention:
Develop your pieces... do not 'fight with just one hand'... use your whole 'body' -- in the opening the general idea is to control the center as the King is still in the center... work to move pawns which clear the way to develop pieces.. generally you don't want to move your queen until you develop your other pieces... Castling is one of the best ways to get your rook into the center
Generally you want knights in center... they command more squares... you want rooks with open files... you want to double up your rooks... doubled-up rooks are more powerful than 1 queen, the rooks protect each other.
Know the point values of the pieces... this is a quick way for beginners to know if a trade of pieces is even or advantageous gain for yourself or for your opponent but be cognizant that sometimes if your opponent lost out on the trade with respect to value, it may be a precursor to a multi-move combo which will net him some advantage... easiest example is a mating attack, "sac a piece" (sacrifice) to open up position to hunt the king. Most chessplayers value a Bishop slightly more than a Knight, hence Bishop = 3.5 pts and knighs are valued as 3 pts. Queen is 9 pts, rooks are 5 pts (but doubled-up rooks are 10 pts, more than 1 queen), pawns are 1 pt (so roughly 3 pawns for 1 bishop/knight is fair trade, but doesn't take into consideration the position on the board)... the King has no numerical point value as it's the object of the game.
QP openings slightly slower-paced, KP openings are faster-paced... one opening I used to play as white was the English opening. The original idea was that if the Sicilian Defense (1 ... c5) was so good vs 1 e4, why not play it as a first move for White. Generally this opening is very positional as well as loads of transpositional possibilites.. if you play the English, you are being flexible, not quite imposing your will or committing too quickly... you want to see what Black will respond with, which may allow you to steer the opening to something that you find favorable/familiar. English opening can transpose to Queen's Gambit easily.
Another approach to learning chess... if for some reason you like a famous player, read up on his games, if not the player himself, someone would've collected his games into a book with analysis. Back when I was into chess, Anatoly Karpov and Garri Kasparov were the 2 top players. Kasparov was risk-taker and active attacker... Karpov was the Yin to Kasparov's Yang, Karpov was slow and methodical, playing like a machine. Compared to BJJ/MMA, it's like saying you like Rickson or Royce's style, slow and methodical, so you watch their fights and try to emulate them... or you like Randy Couture's dirty boxing/GnP style, you would work for the clinch etc.
p.s. forgive me please for my rambling stream-of-consciousness posting. Any q's, please ask.
Following up on my 'style of play' comments, IMO best to learn the basics of the game before worrying about memorizing an opening... learn how to mate, recognize you are under attack, don't 'hang' pieces... set up attacks to net you some advantage, think ahead 2-3 moves, once you are at that level, then perhaps learn an opening.
Part of playing chess is not handing over your pieces to your opponent... sometimes it's not your opponent beating you, it's you beating yourself by giving away pieces for free... if you are making a sacrifice attack, that is different than outright blunders.
Good luck to everyone on this thread and have fun! If you have q's, I may be able to answer but just know that ages ago, I invested some time to chess and but am but a mediocre player.
I haven't played chess in quite some time. I used to play in JHS, HS and College. I was never any good, just slightly above the average... USCF rated ~1500-1600. Most of my friends were experts 1900+ or Masters 2000+. One was a chess prodigy and learned from Jackie Collins, who also taught Bobby Fischer. They never formally taught me, just showed me stuff, also played loads and loads of games with them. Always got my butt kicked.
The masters were able to play 'blindfold' chess... they need not look at the board and can play the whole game in their head... you just have to tell them your movie... they also could play 'speed' chess (many many different names for this... but you use a chess clock and if you run out of time before you checkmate your opponent or s/he runs out of time, and they 'call your flag' you lose). Standard games were 5 mins apiece, against the masters, they were able to spot all the 'fishes' (easy victims who cannot even keep afloat) 5 to 1... meaning they have 1 min and you get 5. A few parks in NYC have chess tables set up and you pay 1 or 2 dollars (may have went up, or depends on the park) a game... sometimes side bets abound.
Anyway, if you are able to learn from books, you can start with some books first before actually paying for lessons... like the MA or anything you want to learn/do/practice, it's much better to have a capable instructor teach you, but partly like the MA, you have to put in the flight time too and play to play, play to recognize patterns (opening, mating, advantageous exchanges, command position/board space, endgame, etc)... if you play enough, you get to a point that you won't 'hang' pieces (lose pieces stupidly by giving them away free)... unlike the MA, there are loads of chess programs or standalone games that can help you sharpen up your skills as well as teach you some basics.
I started with 2 books: Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess and My 60 Memorable Games by Fischer... 1st book is great for beginners, and 2nd book, helps you how a chess master plays inspiring chess... how to grind out a win with only a pawn advantage, etc. 1st book shows you a chessboard, and you are told how many moves you have to play to gain some kind of advantage. Chapters include Forks, Skewers, Mate in x amount of moves, etc. Bruce Pandoflini had some readable books on basics for beginners as well. Sure there are loads more.
I don't know if there are free chess sites which instruct but you can get the basics from a book as well as a chess program. If you come across a site, by all means go for it, just wanted to mention that another viable way to learn is via books, local libraries are full of how-to books if you don't want to buy the books. The NY Times, every tuesday in the Science section (section C) will have a column on chess... it analyzes some recent game played by masters or grandmasters... really helps to see strategy... may not go over the openings all that much, columnist probably presumes you know the openings a bit, but for middlegame and strategy and tactics, can help sharpen up your game.
My general tips for new players:
1) Learn how each piece moves
2) Learn the special moves of 'en passant' and 'castling'
3) Clear the board, learn how to mate with only: a) King and 2 Rooks vs King (easiest) b) King and Queen vs King (easy) c) King and Rook vs King (easy to medium difficulty) d) King and 2 Bishops vs King (harder) e) King and Knight and Bishop vs King (hardest, at least for me) f) King and Pawn (any pawn except A or H pawns) vs King (hard)
4) Once you understand how to mate, it gets your mind to thinking ahead, when there are other pieces (which are really obstacles to your objective, like Trapping in MA, clear the obstacle!) which are in your way to a mating attack... gets you to set up plans... or at the very least, set you up for an advantageous combination ending with some material gain for you either in pawn/pieces or position.
5) Have some idea of pawn structure... many beginners if they have no move in mind, and want to play a waiting move will play a pawn move... pawns cannot move back, therefore pawn structure is changed and may be weakened. Learn how to create a 'passed pawn' -- this is really important, coupled this with knowing how to mate with King and Queen vs King, you have some idea then to promote that passed pawn.
6) Like BJJ, learn one opening for King pawn (aka open game), one for Queen pawn (closed game), learn one defense for KP and one defense for QP... a general book on openings should help... if you get really serious about your chess, there are countless books on specific openings as well as specific variations/lines within a specific opening.
7) Regarding position... command the center is usually best... much like striking, learn how to deploy your pieces so as to give you control of the center as well as be able to help you attack... one chess saying comes to mind... "A knight on the rim is dim"... knights as well as other pieces generally have little influence if they are on the edge of the board (A and H files)
Loads more I can write about... sorry for my rambling thoughts...sorry for the lack of cohesiveness. Also, just keep in mind, I was no expert, not even class B player, was class D at best (iirc that was 1500-1600).
Guro C, that is awesome about your son beating you. One of the proudest moments a parent can have is when their children can beat them at something, especially if you know you didn't take it easy on them. My 7 yr old son has yet to do it, he has given up on chess against me for now... my 9 yr old daughter sometimes beats me in Connect Four!
Regarding style of play - if you are offensive in nature, learn a KP opening as white, as Black, learn the Sicilian Defense against 1 e4... as Black vs 1 d4, learn some sharp defenses like the Benoni Defense. Problem for beginners is learning the openings, there are literally 20-25 moves in opening lines and the variations of the 'if he plays this, then I play that' can get deep. My advice for beginners, don't get bog down by opening lines, just understand a little about them, play to work on your strategy... much like BJJ, work for position first, learn to forward your game by gaining small advantages and over the course of the game, if you don't blunder, you will be able to capitalize on your advantages.
An invaluable piece of advice if you are serious about chess, learn chess notation, not just to read and follow the books, but to write down your game and you can analyze where you went wrong... with a chess program, you can take back moves and try a different move instead... with human opponents, you generally won't have that option. Best to learn notation, and analzye your game later.
Regarding Chinese chess, I played a little, understood how to play, how pieces moved, but with my chess background, I was better than a beginner, but nowhere able to play to win against a halfway-experienced player.... IIRC it was way easier to stalemate in Chinese Chess than Chess. Learned Shogi (japanese chess) but my CC was better than shogi.
Go was hard for me, I didn't play much and ultimately, IMO Go is harder to master than Chess, therefore if you really want to develop your analytical skills and foreplanning and visualization, there is no better boardgame than Go.... trumps chess easily in my book in those respects.
To any that celebrate the Lunar New Year, Happy New Year! or as the Chinese say it, Gong Xi Fa Cai (mandarin) / Kung Hei Fat Choy (cantonese) ! May the Year of the Rabbit bring you and your loved ones Health, Happiness and Prosperity!
Fought 20 mins (not sure if this was verified or the Adrenaline Dump misperception of time)... killed 3 and injured 8... 40 bandits in total, luckily, if it's the stereotypical railroad train car, narrow passage in middle, limited access at Gurkha by bandits.
IIRC their battlecry,
EDIT: it's "Gorkhali Ayo!" (The Gurkhas are coming!)
EDIT 2: Apologies to Matt Tucker, he posted it above. Didn't see it. LOL @ me
on this link i am pointing out the two you tubes about a kiai master, the first shows him with his students in training, the second showing him fighting an mma guy, the video speaks a volume or two to me.
Firewalled at work, will have to check out at home when I have a chance.
Each eye sees a slightly different world. (Put a finger in front of your face, switch from one eye open to the other and that finger will shift, just a little bit.) But rather than walk around all day seeing in double vision, your brain pulls the world back into one-ness.
Brains decide what we see. Kokichi Sugihara knows this better than anyone. He makes videos that trick your brain into seeing things that you know, you absolutely know, can't happen.
And yet —
That's the short 1:30 or so clip... at the link above is a link to a longer 13 mins vid.