Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Woodpecker Method

Before Michael De La Maza published his book "Rapid Chess Improvement", he wrote an article by the same name.  Before he published this article, he sent it to me to get my suggestions, because I had a website since around 1996 that advocated the same idea.  I believed in doing a large number of tactical problems repeatedly to build pattern recognition.  When I did this myself, I saw my rating go from 1800 to 2000.

I can't guarantee that this is the best way to improve one's chess tactics.  For myself, my goal was to be able to see the vast majority of 1, 2, and even 3-move combinations instantly.  However, doing new puzzles might also be good.

My website hasn't changed much since I first published it.  It is dated.  At that time, the Internet (World Wide Web) was relatively new, and most people didn't have access to it.  Chess Life gave me an "award" for the best new chess website, but there weren't many chess websites at the time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


I tried really hard to convince one of my friends in Utah about vaccines, but he will have none of it. He told me that he doesn't believe in any vaccine. Therefore, I told him I don't want to waste any more of my time and will stop bugging him about it.

Unfortunately, he is not a lone case. I have several friends who are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines. Only 68% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

I could have asked him what he would do if a rabid animal bit him?  There is only one cure, and it is a vaccine. Otherwise, it is certain death.

Why is it that Polio and Smallpox are no longer a problem?


Thursday, December 22, 2022

First snow

As predicted, it is bitter cold out outside with a strong wind.

I spread a whole 40-pound bag of ice melt onto the sidewalk and driveway, which could have gotten washed away by the rain earlier.  It might not do much good, but I didn't want the driveway to get blocked by ice which has happened before.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Chess player

Dale is a Utah chess player I haven't seen in 10 to 12 years who out of the blue sends me a text saying he wants to play me again and claims (presumably jokingly) that he used to crush me on the chess board.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Nice Thanksgiving Meal


The Thanksgiving meal special at Bob Evan’s must be around 2000 calories, not counting the pie dessert we all took home.  

It is almost more than I can eat which is saying something.  I had to run home and take some antacids.

Most ham is too fatty for my taste, but their ham was perfect.  It was excellent. Everything was.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

iPad Pro M2: What Does "Pro" Even Mean?

If you have a good smartphone, a tablet feels unnecessary.

The last thing I need is a tablet that is 2.5 times faster than my desktop computer.  This is the kind of power you want on a laptop or a desktop.

The M1 is only 7% slower than the M2.  

A couple of years ago, I bought the Amazon Fire tablet on Black Friday for $80, which is not a powerful tablet, but it works just fine as a portable Internet and streaming device.

Friday, November 18, 2022


The word "sprite" is interesting. It means elf, fairy, or ghost, although it can also refer to flashes of different color lights in clouds caused by lightning. The word originated in the middle ages from the word "spirit". When I hear the word, I think of the Disney character Tinkerbell.

In computers and video games, a sprite is an image that can move on top of a background. Usually, these are 2D objects moving on top of a 2D background, although a game like the original Doom had 2D objects moving on top of a 3D background. The mouse pointer on a computer screen is technically a sprite.

Back in the days when computers and video games were 8-bit and 16-bit, it was helpful to have hardware support for sprites, which allowed graphical objects to move around independently of the background. The reason this was helpful was that it was more taxing for the old slow computers without hardware sprites to manipulate the graphics on the screen. When I was writing games for the Timex Sinclair 2068 and Atari ST computers, I had to write software to make all the graphics move because there was no hardware support for sprites, which makes the task more technically challenging.

The early arcade video games used hardware sprites and so did all early home video game consoles. The sprites on the Atari 2600 are extremely primitive and very difficult to program, but the programmers knew how to make them work.

Many people have touted the Commodore 64 as the best 8-bit computer because it had hardware support for eight 8x8 sprites, although this is not very many compared to the Nintendo Entertainment System that came out later. I think that the Atari 8-bit computer had better graphical capabilities overall.

Once we had 32-bit processors, there was no longer a need for hardware sprites. These systems were powerful enough that it was not a huge challenge to manipulate graphics on a screen. Also, with 32-bit systems, there was a greater emphasis on 3D graphics instead of 2D graphics.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

My life

A not-so-brief summary of my life:

My father wanted my sister and me to go to medical school.  We moved from Columbus in the summer of 1980, to Scott County, and attended IUS in New Albany.  We were both accepted to IU Medical School in 1984, but I disliked it so much that I dropped out.  I went back to school to study computers while running a bit of software business on the side, mostly writing video games, and got my first major job at a database company in Lafayette, Indiana in 1988.  I got a different database job in Indianapolis in 1991.

I lost my father to suicide in 1986.  He suffered from depression.

I wanted to program video games.  After searching nationwide, I got a job in Salt Lake City in 1993 programming video games.  It was a demanding job and they tended to work us to death, so I switched to a different company in 1999, a small video game startup in Sandy, Utah.  

In the fall of 2000, the second company went out of business, so I went looking for work.  I found a major military contractor in Salt Lake City that did satellite communications for military drone aircraft.  Their business spiked in a really big way after 9-11.  I worked there until September 2014.  Their business had contracted mostly due to cutbacks by the Obama administration, so they had major layoffs.

I loved living in Salt Lake City.

I had saved and invested enough that I retired at age 54.  In 2015, I moved to New Whiteland, Indiana.  In 2018, I moved to Columbus, returning 38 years after I left it.  That was always my plan.

My sister has been practicing medicine for around 34 years.  She lives in Russiaville, Indiana, just outside of Kokomo.

My mother has had cancer for 22.5. years.  At age 82 she has had more difficulty with the cancer but she is for the moment doing okay.  About 14 years ago she married Paul Belding, a nice man who is 85 years old.  They live in his home in North Vernon.  One reason I moved back to Columbus was to be closer to my mother, especially with her illness.

I was always interested in chess.  I barely qualify as an "expert", which is one category below "master."  I am officially 28nth in the state of Indiana.  In Utah I was 9nth.  I served for a while as the vice-president and then president of the Utah Chess Association.  I helped run state chess tournaments right up to the time that I left Utah.  

On moving back to Indiana, I started the Greenwood Chess Club.  I ran a chess club in Salt Lake City for 22 years.


Monday, October 17, 2022

Loss to Novag Super Constellation level 1

Back in 1984, the Novag Super Constellation chess-playing computer was one of my favorite possessions.  I doubt that many of these machines would still be working because the model is almost 40 years old and old capacitors tend to go bad given enough use.   

In 1984 the USCF gave the Novag Super Constellation a rating of 2018 which has been somewhat controversial.   Most online sites today claim that its actual strength is in the 1700s, which I don't believe.  I remember it being much better than me and I was rated in the 1700s at the time.

There was a golden age of chess-playing computers that went from about 1982 to 1995 before most people owned a PC and the only way to play chess against a computer was to buy one of these devices.  Once people bought computers, the market for chess-playing computers almost completely disappeared, although recently there has been a bit of a resurgence of chess-playing computers.  Also, playing chess on mobile devices has become very popular.

Since I am curious about everything, I have wondered for years how I would fair against the Novag Super Constellation today because I am now rated much higher.  I even considered trying to buy an old chess-playing computer on eBay, although not necessarily this model because there are much better ones that came out later.

Recently I found a way to play the Novag Super Constellation using emulation on my computer.  Although I did beat level 1 once, I have lost a few games too.  I'm not quite comfortable playing the simulated chess machine because graphically it is not as nice as playing a modern chess program, plus you have to move the computer pieces as if you were playing the real chess computer which is slightly distracting.

The computer proves that it does not miss tactics on level 1 where it averages 5 seconds per move, which is speed chess.  I think that it would crush most Class A players at speed chess.  This is impressive for an 8-bit 6502 processor running at just 4 MHZ.  It shows that you don't need much computing power to see 3 moves ahead, which is maybe enough to outplay or equal average tournament players even at tournament time controls.

I have set up positions to test the device, and I found that its playing strength only improves marginally as you give it more time.  The Novag Super Constellation seems to be optimized for 5 seconds per move and it plays pretty strong at that level.  One reason is that it has a very good opening book allowing it to reach strong positions out of the opening.

In this game, Stockfish analysis agrees with my opening moves up to move 12.  By move 20 it thinks that I am positionally crushing it, but it is not clear to me at all why it thinks that I am 4 pawns ahead.  I need to do more analysis.  On move 21, I blundered, unfortunately.  If I can avoid making these kinds of obvious tactical mistakes then I likely would beat the machine on level 1.  Once I fell behind, the computer showed no mercy and proceeded to crush me.

[Event "CB-Emu"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2022.10.16"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Coffey, John"]
[Black "Novag Super-Constellation Lv1"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E18"]
[WhiteElo "2016"]
[BlackElo "2018"]
[Annotator "Stockfish 14.1"]
[PlyCount "62"]
[EventDate "2022.10.16"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8.
Nc3 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bf4 c5 11. Rc1 Nc6 12. dxc5 {
Stockfish agrees with all my opening moves.} Bxc5 13. Bg5 ({Better is}
13. a3 {and White has a winning advantage.}) 13... d4 14. Ne4 Qe7 15.
Nxf6+ ({Better is} 15. Nh4) 15... gxf6 16. Bh6 ({Better is} 16. Bh4)
16... Rfe8 17. Re1 ({Stockfish 14.1:} 17. Nh4 {Now not} Qxe2 18. b4
Nxb4 (18... Bxb4 19. Bxc6) 19. Bxb7) ({Not} 17. b4 Nxb4) 17... Rac8 ({
Black can do much better with} 17... Rad8) 18. a3 Qd7 19. b4 Bf8 20. Qd2
Ne5 21. Nxd4?? {Here I blunder away a winning game.  The antique
chess computer has no problem seeing shallow tactics even on level 1.  To my
defense, I'm not quite comfortable visually playing on the simulated chess
computer.} ({Stockfish 14.1:} 21. Nxe5 Rxe5 22. Bf4 {And White is winning.})
21... Bxh6 22. Qxh6 Bxg2 23. Red1? ({Stockfish likes} 23. Qxf6 Qxd4 (
23... Bb7 {loses to} 24. Nf5) 24. Kxg2) 23... Ng4 24. Qf4 Rxc1 25. Rxc1 Re4 {
The computer proves how tactically strong it is.  I am sure it would beat most
A players at speed chess.} 26. Qb8+ Kg7 27. Rc8 Nh6 {
Shutting down any hope for White.} 28. e3? ({White can do better with}
28. Rd8 Qh3 29. Qc8 Qxc8 30. Rxc8) 28... Qh3? {
Stockfish thinks this is a blunder and prefers Bh3, but it hardly matters.}
29. Qb7? {A blunder.} ({Stockfish prefers} 29. Nf5+ Qxf5 30. Kxg2) 29... Rxd4
30. Qxg2 Rd1+ 31. Qf1 Rxf1# 0-1

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Fire Tablets

Right now Amazon is selling some of their Fire Tablets at half price. Although they are budget tablets, not nearly as powerful as iPads, I am pretty impressed with the value for the price.
I have argued that if you have a good smartphone then you might not need a tablet, but I have enjoyed my Fire Tablet while traveling. They are more useful if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Drain openers

I have heard that bleach can be a better drain opener than regular drain openers. I have used it successfully on slow drains. Bleach is so caustic that it can denature organ matter. In theory, so can chemical drain openers, which are part bleach, part lye, and mostly soap to make the clogs slippery to help clear the drain.

The four bottles of $1 drain openers that I bought at Walmart didn't help my stopped up disposal. They seem worthless. Yesterday I poured a gallon of cheap bleach that I got at Menards into my stopped-up sink. This morning I tried running the disposal. At first, it seemed to be still blocked, but then the drain cleared.

I'm very pleased that this worked. The last time this happened I paid a plumber to clear the drain. All he used was a plunger, although he had to work pretty hard at it.

Maybe the combination of bleach and drain opener is what worked.

My old plunger which is made out of plastic broke. So I ordered a "professional" plunger which just barely arrived.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Sunday, September 18, 2022

New iPhone and screen resolution

Recently, I cracked my iPhone 6s+ screen for the third time. I should be getting a new iPhone in the mail tomorrow.

The 10R is an ultra cheap version of the iPhone 10. I'm going from a 5.5 inch 1080P screen to a 6.1 inch 828P screen. Apple claims that this is a Retina Display, but it is only barely so. I was a bit annoyed when they came out with this phone four years ago, because it was inconceivable to me that Apple would go less than 1080P.

I've been arguing for a while that screen resolution is overrated. This will put my claim to the test.

For example, I tried playing videos and video games at various resolutions from 720P to a whopping 4K and 5K. Anything above 1080P is really hard for me to tell the difference. I like 1080P video the best, although 720P video is not terrible, but for a computer monitor I prefer 1440P. My 2017 iMac has a fantastic 5K display, but for a 27-inch screen this seems like overkill.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Re: Suing Amazon over guaranteeing lowest price

I wanted a Hawaiian shirt.  I found one on the Walmart website for $27, so I assumed at first that at that price it must be pretty good quality.  However, I went to the manufacturer's website and got the same shirt for $12.  As I suspected, the shirt is cheaply made but it still looks good so I wear it occasionally.   I am intending to shop for something of better quality.

On Wed, Sep 14, 2022 at 9:48 PM Larry wrote:

The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court takes aim at contractual language Amazon (AMZN) uses with third-party sellers that commits them to "price parity."

"Merchants must agree not to offer lower prices elsewhere — including competing sites like Walmart, Target, eBay, and, in some cases, even on their own websites

Wednesday, September 7, 2022


I got zero feedback from the "speech" I sent out last week, so I assume that people must not have liked it.   I made a couple of changes.

Friday, August 19, 2022


I was hungry, so I decided to go to Arbys drive through with some old coupons. My local Arbys will take expired coupons. I was going to get three Turkey bacon wraps, but they were out of Turkey and the only wrap available was buffalo chicken which I did not want. The cashier told me that the delivery truck failed to arrive. It looked like the lobby may have been closed.

So I used an old couple to get two bacon Swiss chicken sandwiches for $5. The newer coupons are $6 and I think that they have a special at that price anyway. I doubled the order and got 4 sandwiches.

I didn't see anyone at the Arbys except the cashier, who disappeared while my sandwiches were being made. I would be very disappointed if she was the only one working there and she had to make my sandwiches. The service was very slow by fast food standards and there was a long line of cars behind me.

I see this as a sign of the economy not doing well and maybe the restaurant or chain having financial difficulties. It is hard to understand since Arbys is usually busy.

However, I have to give the Arbys chain credit, because I ate one sandwich and it was very tasty. They know how to make good sandwiches.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Stop Being Socially Awkward: 11 Behaviors That Make You Look Weird

I imagine that autistic people would have trouble mastering the skills that are perceived as normal.

I don't think that I am autistic, but I have a loner personality.  I value interaction with people, but maybe less than average.  I value time alone.  I think that the reason for this is that I am "internally stimulated."  I have a very active mind.  Some people naturally need more external stimulation.

Monday, August 15, 2022

My Text today to some Greenwood Chess Members

"I'm glad that some of the people who felt sick last week are now feeling better.

Tomorrow I go to the cancer center with my 82 year old immunocompromised mother.

Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-like symptoms among chess club attendees, I've decided to not attend the chess club tonight. I'll be back next week.

Best wishes,

John Coffey"

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Fwd: Possible COVID exposure


---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: John Coffey 

Thank you for supporting the Greenwood Chess Club.

On Monday someone attended the Greenwood Chess Club who was symptomatic and later tested positive for COVID-19.  If you attended the chess club on Monday, I suggest taking an in-home test.  I tested myself and the test came out negative.  However, I quarantined this week just in case.

You can get free tests from the government.  They take several weeks to get delivered.  

Drug stores also sell COVID-19 tests.

I feel like I should not have to say this again, but please do not come to the Greenwood Chess Club if you are feeling sick or if you have symptoms.

There is much misinformation being spread about COVID, so I will address some of these issues here:

1.  The pandemic is over.

It has been my observation that most people are acting as if there is no pandemic.

One out of every 310 Americans has died from the disease.  I lost a cousin to COVID.  David Prowse (Darth Vader), Chloris Leachman, and Herman Cain died from the disease.

It used to be that measles was the most infectious disease on record, but the Omicron variant has surpassed measles.  In early November of last year, we had barely heard of the Omicron variant, but by late January of this year, it had caused a major surge in the United States.

2. Cloth masks don't work.

People who attack mask usage always say that cloth masks don't work, which is true.  However, they ignore that other types of masks are at least partially effective at preventing the spread of COVID.

"Wearing an N95/KN95 respirator (aOR = 0.17; 95% CI = 0.05–0.64) or wearing a surgical mask (aOR = 0.34; 95% CI = 0.13­–0.90) was associated with lower adjusted odds of a positive test result compared with not wearing a mask (Table 3). Wearing a cloth mask (aOR = 0.44; 95% CI = 0.17–1.17) was associated with lower adjusted odds of a positive test compared with never wearing a face covering but was not statistically significant."

3.  Vaccines don't prevent the spread of COVID.

As the virus has evolved, it reportedly has been more likely to have a vaccine breakthrough infection.

"Raw data shows the risk of breakthrough cases is very small for vaccinated people, potentially 1 in 5,000.

Additionally, the risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 after vaccination is extremely small, at about 5 in 100,000.

A new study found people who were not vaccinated were five times as likely to get COVID-19 compared to people who were fully vaccinated."

"COVID 19 vaccines are effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying."

"Booster Shots of COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against Omicron Subvariant",and%20its%20most%20common%20subvariant.

I personally have stayed up to date with the booster shots and I have not yet caught the disease.

4.  The vaccines are experimental.

5. The vaccines rewrite your DNA.

The only known case of this was outside the human body in a petri dish with just liver cells. 

However, the actual vaccines work primarily at the injection site.

"Research shows that spike proteins (here) remain stuck to the cell surface around the injection site and do not travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream, they added. The 1% of the vaccine that does reach the bloodstream is destroyed by liver enzymes."

The vast majority of viruses rewrite your DNA in some of your cells.  Your immune system finds these cells and destroys them.  This is a much bigger issue with the disease than it is with the vaccines.

6. The spike protein is toxic.

First of all, you are going to get much more spike proteins with the disease than you are going to get with the vaccines.

Second, the vaccine spike protein was deliberately made different to prevent insertion into cells.

COVID-19 can have serious long-term consequences.  COVID can damage your organs.  COVID can cause 2% brain shrinkage, which is normally 0.1 to 0.2% per year in adults.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

I15 Veterans Memorial Hwy - Google Maps

When I would drive from Vegas back to Salt Lake City, I would cross a point that said "Summit 6600" feet, around 125 miles north of Arizona.  This is the highest point on Interstate 15.,-112.6152588,3a,41.1y,54.8h,83.36t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sc3eYktLu7m4gCh5_m0bMHQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

This would be followed by the longest downhill drive I have ever seen:

The sign says "5-degree grade, next two miles."  Five degrees doesn't sound like much, but it seems significant while you are driving it.  According to my calculation, five degrees over two miles indicates a descent of 940 feet.

About a mile farther you go around a curve and get a fantastic view of a valley stretching before you.  Google Street View doesn't do it justice.  The drive north from southern Utah was mostly boring till this point.