Tag Archives: chess

Chess Is Child’s Play

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Chess Is Child’s Play: Teaching Techniques That Work [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]  by Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick.

Sherman Kilpatrick Chess Is Childs Play

Chess Is Child’s Play is a manual for adults on teaching chess to children. There are twenty-six chapters dedicated to instruction, arranged in a progressive topical sequence, so twice-weekly classes could cover the entire curriculum in a quarter. The authors have absolutely minimal expectations of the children and adults involved. The adult teacher need never have played chess before. The children may be pre-literate and new to board games. The teacher may be new to the teaching process. (There is a reiterated emphasis at the beginning that the teacher needs to read the book through before attempting to offer the lessons, which I thought would go without saying, but … there you go.) There are also some remarks apparently intended for adults familiar with chess, for whom the challenges faced in learning the game are so remote that they easily lose sight of them.

I wish that I had known some of these techniques when I first taught my daughter to play, and I will be using some of them to review with her, and try to renew her enthusiasm for the game. The authors are very careful to structure lessons in ways that avoid discouragement and frame learning as fun. Exercises and drills are called “mini-games.” The entire course brings the student very incrementally to the point of full working knowledge of the rules of play, and nothing more. The object is to have children be able to play and enjoy the game, not to make them formidable at it.

Some failings: Although the table of contents is sufficient for most purposes, I would have liked an index. An introduction to chess notation for teachers and students would have been an important addition at the end. Also, a glossary would also have been consistent with the aims and methods of the book. The authors deliberately keep the language simple to cater to younger players, so “block” always serves for what an experienced adult would call “interposition,” for example. Although the authors rightly say, “your child will continue to learn simply by playing” (302), it still makes sense to give new players explicit access to the vast range of chess literature, as well as to the argot that is used to analyze and discuss games in communication among players.

Materially, this book is a glossy textbook hardcover with text in a generous font and large-sized game diagrams throughout. Instruction is punctuated by relevant (if sometimes banal or saccharine) anecdotes about children learning the game, along with little maxims and atomized advice from the authors. It retails for under $20, which makes it a steal in my opinion. I would recommend it to anyone undertaking the exciting challenge of teaching chess to children.

How Not to Play Chess

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews How Not to Play Chess [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Eugene A Znosko-Borovsky, ed Fred Reinfeld, part of the Dover Chess series.

Znosko-Borovsky How Not to Play Chess

How Not to Play Chess is an elegant and engaging little treatise on its topic for experienced yet inexpert players like myself. The bulk of the book is organized into little two-to-four-page discussions of tactical principles. In each case, the idea is summed up with a maxim in the negative, e.g. Do not lose time. The examples are discussed with an eye to how the application of these principles to a given position can produce what Znosko-Borovsky calls “chess ideas,” motive concepts to organize one’s play within a given game. The text includes examples from a number of games, but nearly half of the discussion centers around a single game that serves to illustrate a wide range of the issues treated. 

Editor Fred Reinfeld has also appended a “Test Yourself Quiz” of twenty positions with useful diagnostic questions, so that the reader can reflect and answer before turning to Reinfeld’s discussions of them. The “correct” answers are as much about the reasoning involved as they are about the particular move(s) chosen, so the quiz would not lend itself to quick and definitive scoring. But it does provide a nice chaser to Znosko-Borovsky’s text, offering the reader an opportunity to apply some of what has been presented.

Underhanded Chess

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Underhanded Chess: A Hilarious Handbook of Devious Diversions and Stratagems for Winning at Chess [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Jerry Sohl.

Sohl Underhanded Chess

Sohl’s Underhanded Chess is a quick read, and entertaining enough for anyone fond of chess who has a little sociopathic streak. No, honestly, it is pretty funny throughout, whether analyzing Bobby Fischer’s methods of psyching out Boris Spassky, recounting anecdotes from Sohl’s own games, or offering hypothetical tactics to disorient and demoralize chess opponents.

All of this is for entertainment purposes only, of course. You wouldn’t really (often) want to win a chess game so badly that you would arrange for duplicitous confederates, work up conversational routines for the sole purpose of distracting your opponent, or specially engineer the furniture to discomfit him. But if winning really is the chief priority, Sohl suggests quite a few devastating rudenesses, and sagely notes, “Then you say you’re sorry. You can always be sorry.” (40)

The high point for me was chapter six, “How to Play against Weirdos,” full of funniness about players who see fairies and perform divinations. Yet here the author also observes, “Just the same, it really does come down to a hard embrace of this question: Whose magic is more powerful, yours or his?” (65) (On a related note, occultists who read this book will have an opportunity to recognize the chess aptitude of Aufnahmevermoegen as a crucial faculty in the development and deployment of the subtle body.)

There is an appendix on “Useful Trivia,” but a second promised appendix, to inventory names of various obscure openings, variations, and stratagems, is absent.

How to Win in the Chess Openings

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews How to Win in the Chess Openings [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by I A Horowitz.

Horowitz How to Win in the Chess Openings

Of course, no one “wins” in an opening as such, and Horowitz wished in his foreword that marketing considerations would have allowed him to call this book How to Understand the Chess Openings. It is a sound resource for readers just getting their feet wet in chess strategy. He discusses the general principles that inform the openings in modern chess, after which each chapter is devoted to a specific opening or variant. Horowitz uses descriptive notation with ample diagrams, and provides very detailed discussion of the motives for each move. 

A typical chapter includes a principal game to set forth the clinical logic of the opening, followed by one or more further examples in “movie” format, i.e. richly diagrammed, if more sparsely commented. Horowitz presents two of his own games among the chess movies, referencing himself in the third person, but mostly keeping to “white” and “black” for the players, unlike his usual movie narrative style.

Ten out of thirteen openings/variants treated are King Pawn openings, despite Horowitz’s remark that “The unostentatious move 1 P-Q4 is nowadays considered the most effective way of beginning a game of chess. This is evinced by a preponderance of Queen Pawn games in modern master tournaments.” (136) A single chapter treats the Queen’s Gambit Declined, and the remaining two chapters are concerned with hypermodern openings that yield the center: the Reti (typically begun with N-KB3) and the English (P-QB4).

Omnium Gatherum: July 16th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 16th, 2014

Hannah Kunkle Kim Kardashian Beautiful/Decay
Hannah Kunkle’s Controversial Project Turns Kim Kardashian Into The Devil, The Virgin Mary And Even Jesus — Victoria Casal-Data, Beautiful/Decay


  • The Dark Ages — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti

    “Perhaps in time to come the so-called Dark Ages may include our own.”

  • Witch Deposits and Witch Bottles — Gillian Bagwell, Wonders & Marvels

    “As I began to write my forthcoming novel Venus in Winter, I found an article about the practices common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of placing a shoe within a wall or of concealing other collections of items as ‘witch deposits’ that intended to deflect malevolent spirits or witches’ curses. Witch deposits might include ‘lucky’ items such as family heirlooms or objects associated with someone considered spiritually powerful. Another purpose for witch deposits may have been the desire of the householders to leave their mark after they were dead and gone.”

  • The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets, by Claude Lecouteux — Freeman Presson, Spiral Nature; a review of Lecouteux’s The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets: Tradition and Craft from Inner Traditions

    “The priests inveighing against these charms were particularly intent on discouraging the use of magical characters (alphabetic or sigilic writing that conveys spiritual power). They sometimes waxed poetic: ‘The demon slithers in the characters like the serpent beneath the flowers.’ This ties nicely into his statement that ‘the unknown always inspires the Church with fear.’

    Lecouteux summarizes part of this history thus: ‘Implicit in the background are notions of natural, licit magic and illicit black magic,’ ((p. 30)) after giving one of many examples of a churchman condemning the talismanic art as being an implicit pact with a demon, a pattern which, as he points out, is ‘commonly repeated throughout the sixteenth century.’ What this means to me is that the Faustian current which arose in early modern magick didn’t just appear without help. Apparently, it is as possible to call an egregore into being by constant execration as by constant evocation!

  • ISIS threatens to destroy the Kaaba after capturing Saudi Arabia — Vestnik Kavkaza [HT disinformation]

    “Representatives of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) stated that they will destroy the Kaaba after they capture Saudi Arabia, APA reports quoting Turkish media that ISIS wants to take control of the city of Arar in Saudi Arabia and start operations there.

    ISIS member Abu Turab Al Mugaddasi said that they would destroy the Kaaba in Mecca: ‘If Allah wills, we will kill those who worship stones in Mecca and destroy the Kaaba. People go to Mecca to touch the stones, not for Allah.'”

  • Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set — Scott Kidall and Bryan Cera [HT Boing Boing]

    “Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set is a 3D-printed chess set generated from an archival photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s own custom and hand-carved game. His original physical set no longer exists. We have resurrected the lost artifact by digitally recreating it, and then making the 3D files available for anyone to print.

    Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade — an ordinary manufactured object that the artist selected and modified for exhibition – the readymake brings the concept of the appropriated object to the realm of the internet, exploring the web’s potential to re-frame information and data, and their reciprocal relationships to matter and ideas. Readymakes transform photographs of objects lost in time into shared 3D digital spaces to provide new forms and meanings.”

    Readymake 3D printed Duchamp chess set


  • Carl Jung’s Surreally Illustrated “The Red Book” Documents The Therapist’s Psychospiritual Journey — Jené Gutierrez, Beautiful/Decay; about C G Jung’s The Red Book

    “This journal chronicles a deeply personal voyage of self-discovery that Jung did not wish to be published while he was alive for fear that the book could ruin his professional and personal life, and that people would think him mentally unstable. However, it’s the belief of Jungian scholar Sonu Shamdasani that Jung intended for this work to eventually be published. Shamdasani points to the fact that Jung’s journal is addressed, ‘dear friends,’ and that that he would often lend the journal to friends and patients during his lifetime. After Jung died in 1961, his heirs were reluctant to release the contents of the book, and kept it stored away in a bank vault in Switzerland. It took Shamdasani 3 years to convince his heirs to allow The Red Book to be published, and an additional 13 years for the entirety of the calligraphic text to be translated from German to English.”

    Carl Jung's Red Book detail


  • How to plan a pilgrimage — Jarred Triskelion, Spiral Nature

    “In this technological age, there are few places that cannot be reached in relative ease and comfort. For a pilgrimage, however, the journey is as important as the destination. […] You gain much by connecting with the environment through which you are travelling. It lends context to the site you are visiting as well deepening the sense of achievement felt at the end.”

  • Oldness — Ian Corrigan, Into the Mound

    “As I usually say, if one is lucky, one gets old. One of the goals of traditional magic has always been to extend life. For a Vedic yogi ‘immortality’ meant a lifespan of 100 years or more, as average lifespans of 40 or 50 years rolled on by. For many of my generation, and many more of those just following, 100 years will be achieved by the magic of modern culture and scientific medicine, far more effectively than it was ever managed by sorcery or alchemy.

    But, as they say, ‘Eat right, achieve wisdom, die anyway.’ Our spans are not determined by our effort, but by the capricious (or sneaky) cutting of the thread, the song ended in a half-measure, the nail-flick of a passing giant. To this annoyingly unfair reality, we can only respond with resignation. Our fate is not in our hands.”

  • Collective Nouns and Medievalist Collectivity: A Poem — Jonathan Hsy, In The Middle

    “During the conference banquet, some of the conference participants were wondering if there’s a collective noun for Gower scholars, and Brian Gastle joked that it should be called a ‘recension of Gowerians.’ On the last day of the conference I expanded Gastle’s joke on twitter and Facebook and other people began submitting their own suggestions for other collective nouns for medievalists.”

    “A troop of Anglo-Saxonists
    A roundtable of Arthurians
    An orientation of cartographers
    A compaignye of Chaucerians
    A gathering of codicologists
    A circle of Dante scholars
    A Swerve of Shakespeareans
    A fellowship of Tolkienists”

  • Haunting Knitted Animal Pelts Draw Attention To the Plight Of Endangered Species — Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein, Beautiful/Decay; from the now-I-can-cosplay-Aleister-Crowley-guilt-free dept.

    “Stretched and bound over wooden frames, the animal pelts of Australian artist Ruth Marshall are so utterly realistic looking that it is difficult to believe that they are not in fact fur and hide. Constructed out of knitted yarn, they compel us to consider the endangered species killed and skinned by poachers and collectors.”

    Ruth Marshall knitted endangered animal pelts


  • Agnostic and Gnostic — Troy W Pierce, The Path of Gnosis [HT disinformation]

    “One of the common misunderstandings when you tell people that you are a Gnostic is that they hear the more familiar word ‘Agnostic.’ (This becomes quite amusing when they mishear ‘Agnostic Priest,’ or ‘Agnostic Eucharist.’) This becomes a good opportunity to elucidate one of the truisms of contemporary Gnosticism: You have to be an Agnostic before you can become a Gnostic.”

  • Everything is Sound and Light, Plus Sigil Generation Technology — Thad McKraken, disinformation

    “What I love about this is whereas what I do is essentially translating mystical concepts for a generation of kids raised on crap like VICE and stoner comedy, he takes a vastly more scientific approach.”

  • Manifesting An Other World — Rhyd Wildermuth, Wild Hunt

    “Perhaps it might seem strange to some that I wasn’t seeing this all in a Wiccan shop or Occult store. Perhaps where I found these things may seem even more strange: an Anarchist café in Seattle.

    But this shouldn’t sound strange at all. Paganism and its beliefs mirror the struggle of Anarchists, and the indigenous activists who host ancestor prayers at that same cafe, and the queer trans* folk who hold meetings and organize protests against corporate pride events or the killing of a man who didn’t have correct fare on the light rail.”

    “They are fighting against hegemonic control of existence, the limiting of human life itself; against the structures which displace people from the earth, disconnecting them from the strength and influence of spirits and ancestors, and turn humans into consumers and producers and subjects of hegemonic control of the powerful. And particularly, they are all fighting against the crushing oppression wrought upon the world by Capitalism.

    We should be too, if our beliefs are more than mere opinion.”

  • Golem: a Pagan view of Corporations — Hermetic Library fellow Sam Webster, Wild Hunt

    “Like a Golem, a corporation is made by words; its articles of incorporation once signed and seal by the Secretary of State bring it to life. At one time ‘life’ might have seemed like hyperbole, but living in the age of the Citizens United ruling, corporations have personhood before the law and with it ‘human’ rights. It will continue doing what it was set up to do unless commanded or forced to stop. This can be very hard to do when those with the power of command are benefiting (making profit) from the creature’s actions. It is effectively immortal, only to stop functioning when it runs out of cash or credit, its life blood so to speak. It can only ‘die’ if it is disbanded by sale, in which case it continues in another form, or experience ‘true’ death by the revocation of its articles of incorporation, which will actually end it. Like the Golem, it will only stop when its words of creation are ‘erased’.”

  • Where has all the light in the universe gone? Astrophysicists mystified after noticing 80 per cent of the light in the universe appears to be missing — Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph; from the my-soul-is-wandering-in-darkness-seeking-for-the-light dept.

    “The universe is a pretty dark place – but according to astrophysicists it is much too dark.

    Scientists have been left scratching their heads after noticing there is a huge deficit of light.”

  • Public Priesthood: Big Fish in a Small Pond — Hermetic Library anthology artist T Thorn Coyle, Numinous Concrete

    “Some have written much about whether or not professional clergy is useful to Paganism. Others have written to deride or uphold ‘Big Name Pagans.’ I’m not going to do any of that. What I want to do is talk about the reality of my life. And some hard numbers. I’m offering this to give people a better idea of what we might actually be talking about in the midst of these conversations.

    People have asked how I planned my career trajectory. What did I do to end up where I am? My first response is surprised laughter at the question.”

  • Second 4,000 Year Old Timber Circle Revealed — Past Horizons

    “In the late 1990s two remarkable Bronze Age timber circles were discovered on Holme Beach, Norfolk (East England). One of these popularly known as – ‘Seahenge’ – was excavated in 1998 and 1999.

    Since the excavations the second circle has been monitored and evidence of damage by coastal processes has been recorded. In the last year dendrochronological (tree ring) dating has shown the timbers used to build this circle – ‘Holme II’ – were felled in the spring or summer of 2049 BCE, exactly the same time as those used to build ‘Seahenge’ and places the construction of both circles early in the Bronze Age.”

    Holme II from Norfolk Council Historic Environment Record
    Image of Holme II courtesy Norfolk Council Historic Environment Record


  • Intersectionality isn’t just a win-win; it’s the only way out — Henia Belalia, Waging Nonviolence [HT disinformation]

    “This question of intersectionality isn’t the first time that science is playing catch-up to traditional knowledge, and it won’t be the last. As Pachamama Alliance’s accompanying blog explains: ‘Scientific research is bringing knowledge of the natural world full circle, offering biological and theoretical authority to the enduring truth of indigenous wisdom.’ Yet, among all of these enduring truths, intersectionality is one of the most central. ‘Perhaps the most universal indigenous perspective is the idea of a world inextricably interconnected, on all levels, and across time,’ the Pachamama Alliance wrote.”

  • Cognitive bias in software development considered harmful — Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing; introducing Cognitive Biases in Software Engineering by Jonathan Klein

    “In an excellent 2013 article, Jonathan Klein lays out the many ways in which cognitive biases undermine the software development process. Whether it’s fundamental attribution error (‘my bugs are easily excusable mistakes, your bugs are the result of unforgivable sloppiness’); confirmation bias (‘that’s enough testing, we know that this works!’); bandwagon effect (‘Bob’s the bull-goose devops person, it would be silly to doubt his views on this software’); hyperbolic discounting (‘a shortcut that saves me a day’s work now is OK, even it costs me ten days’ fixing in a year’) and negativity bias (‘the last time we did this it was a huge pain in the ass, screw it.’)

    But more importantly, Klein also suggests ways that you can mitigate these universal biases in your own software development practices — procedures that you can follow to make sure that when your stupid brain tricks you, you can spot the slight of mind.”

  • We love to laugh at modern prophets – but we’ve forgotten how much they matter — Lionel Laborie, The Conversation [HT Sarah Green]

    “Each age has its visionaries, and the 21st century is no exception.”

    “Prophets are by definition those who provide insight into the future. Whether they are secular or religious, all claim superior knowledge and spark either interest, laughter or hostility. They find legitimacy in persecution; but they also deliver messages of hope, justice and the promise of a better future.

    The very fact that their predictions leave no-one indifferent points to our subconscious fascination with them. The dominant attitude in our Western societies is generally to dismiss prophets as fools and impostors, relics from the most obscure times in our history. Yet we often forget that new religious movements also appear every year.”

  • How to Make Sense of Conspiracy Theories — Rob Ager [HT disinformation]

    “Today conspiracy theories are a staple aspect of academia, entertainment and politics, though the term conspiracy theory isn’t always applied. There are thousands of conspiracy theory claims made across all forms of media distribution. The vast ocean of information on these subjects is far too great for any individual or even any government to fully absorb.

    On that basis, it is crucial that any person or group wishing to explore such matters should begin with a set of reliable information filters and organising principles. You will already have filters and organising principles of your own, but it’s likely that many of those perceptive habits are unconscious. It’s also likely that you have picked up those habits in non-conspiracy theory contexts.”

    “However, the type of scepticism we naturally hold unconsciously in our daily interactions with strangers tends to veer towards the idea that some people are simple opportunists trying to make a buck here or there or in some other way take short term advantage of us. We tend to be less adept at defending ourselves against society’s more cunning manipulators, especially the more intelligent ones.”

  • The Shortest Path to Happiness: Recommending Beautiful, Quiet, and Happy Routes in the City — Daniele Quercia, Rossano Schifanella, Luca Maria Aiello [HT Gizmodo]

    “When providing directions to a place, web and mobile mapping services are all able to suggest the shortest route. The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant. To quantify the extent to which urban locations are pleasant, we use data from a crowd-sourcing platform that shows two street scenes in London (out of hundreds), and a user votes on which one looks more beautiful, quiet, and happy. We consider votes from more than 3.3K individuals and translate them into quantitative measures of location perceptions. We arrange those locations into a graph upon which we learn pleasant routes. Based on a quantitative validation, we find that, compared to the shortest routes, the recommended ones add just a few extra walking minutes and are indeed perceived to be more beautiful, quiet, and happy. To test the generality of our approach, we consider Flickr metadata of more than 3.7M pictures in London and 1.3M in Boston, compute proxies for the crowdsourced beauty dimension (the one for which we have collected the most votes), and evaluate those proxies with 30 participants in London and 54 in Boston. These participants have not only rated our recommendations but have also carefully motivated their choices, providing insights for future work.”


If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.

Eminent Victorian Chess Players

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Eminent Victorian Chess Players: Ten Biographies by Tim Harding.

Tim Harding Eminent Victorian Chess Players

This book took me approximately forever to read. The prose style is clear and accessible; there’s just so very much information, and I was trying to appreciate it all at one go, interminably extended, as it turned out. Even so, I have not yet not much explored the appendices (of which the most entertaining promises to be Appendix VI on “The Career of Mephisto,” a chess pseudo-automaton sometimes operated by the player Isidor Gunsberg). Each biography contains an assortment of chess games actually played by the player under study, usually with annotations. I am a mediocre player myself, though I enjoy the game, and working through even a quarter to a third of these, as I think I did, hugely added to the time that I spent with this book. Beyond the diagrams for games, the book is extensively illustrated in black and white with photo and sketch portraits, and reproductions of primary documents.

Eminent Victorian Chess Players embraces a wealth of detail. The editorial apparatus is bracingly thorough, including multiple indices. The included games are all indexed by opening! The ten players treated are Evans, Staunton, Loewenthal, Bird, Skipworth, Steinitz, Blackburne, Zuckertort, Burn, and Gunsberg. Each of the biographies is a considerable work, reflecting extensive research. Although providing ample biographical context in each case, these are accounts of the men as players, teachers, and organizers of chess, with details on their other employment and their family lives all as a background to their chess accomplishments. Author Harding presumes the reader’s knowledge and appreciation of the 20th-century game, and in the course of these biographies he provides many perspectives on the 19th-century chess milieu, with some intimations of how it differed from what came later. In particular, he traces the development of a British chess culture over the period studied.

The volume is a significant work of chess history, exhibiting at every turn the fruits of original research. I would recommend it without reservation to those with an interest in this particular field. [via]


The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Enochian Chess of the Golden Dawn

Enochian Chess of the Golden Dawn: A Four-Handed Chess Game by Chris Zalewski is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Chris Zalewski's Enochian Chess of the Golden Dawn from Llewellyn



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Enochian Chess

Enochian Chess
Enochian Chess, originally uploaded by krahz.


The Hermetic Library visual pool is a visual scavenger hunt for images of a living Western Esoteric Tradition.

Images of your ritual or ritual space, images of sigils or tools, showing off your own library or special volume from the restricted stacks, sacred spaces and places, esoteric artefacts and installations, inspired paintings and people — these and much more are part of the culture and practice of magick.