Monthly Archives: May 2014

A recent game of mine

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[Round "?"] [Result "*"] [TimeControl "60/120"] [TimeControl "60/120"] 1. c4 {I an playing White. This was in the London League. I gather from the ECF database my opponent is fourteen though he looked a bit older.} 1... e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. b3 {?} 4... Be7 ({After I moved I saw the rather embarrassing} 4... dxc4 5. bxc4 Qd4 {Fortunately my opponent&#8217;s brain hadn&#8217;t got warmed up either.}) 5. Bb2 O-O 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nc6 {McDonald suggests the knight should go to d7 in this sort of position.} 8. d3 ({I was worried about} 8. e3 dxc4 9. bxc4) 8... b6 9. e3 Bb7 10. Qe2 Qc7 11. Nbd2 Rfd8 12. Rac1 Rac8 13. Ne1 dxc4 {My opponent admitted he was out of ideas here.} ({I was more worried about} 13... e5) 14. bxc4 Rd7 15. f4 {White&#8217;s play is quite slow and the computer is not enthusiastic, but he seems to have some dynamic prospects on the kingside whereas it is not clear how Black will get play. I had in mind a plan that Neil McDonald recommends in his book on the English (though I find he recommends a4 to counter Black&#8217;s potential b5.} 15... Rcd8 16. a3 Na5 17. Bc3 Bxg2 18. Qxg2 Nc6 19. Ndf3 {Probably too slow.} (19. g4 {may be better}) 19... Ng4 20. Qe2 Bf6 ({I expected} 20... f5 {but it makes sense to get rid of White&#8217;s bishop,}) 21. h3 Bxc3 22. Rxc3 {It&#8217;s a pity to have lost the dark-squared bishop, but I hoped the kingside play still offered prospects.} 22... Nf6 23. g4 e5 {I thought I had deterred this.} 24. Nd2 ({I had planned} 24. g5 {but now saw} 24... Nh5) 24... exf4 25. Rxf4 Re7 26. Qf2 Qe5 {I had missed this and was very glad to find a reply} 27. Rxf6 Qxf6 {after a long think by my opponent, who had not seen the exchange sac} (27... gxf6) 28. Qxf6 gxf6 29. Ne4 {A whole exchange down, I think White has reasonable practical chances of saving the game, because it is hard for Black either to create a passed pawn or to open lines for the rooks.} 29... Re6 ({My opponent wondered about returning the exchange with} 29... Rxe4) ({I had also thought of} 29... Rxd3 {but} 30. Nxf6+ Kg7 31. Nh5+ {refutes.}) (29... Kg7 {can be met by} 30. Ng3) 30. Kf2 Ne5 31. Ng3 Kg7 32. Ke2 Ng6 33. Ng2 Kh6 {?! This is rather risky.} 34. Nf5+ {here I thought I might be winning. It looks as if Black has walked into a mating net and he can indeed only extricate himself by giving a piece up; but exactly this allows him into White&#8217;s position. My opponent said he didn&#8217;t known what he was doing with the king march so I think we were both a bit out of our depth.} 34... Kg5 35. Kf3 {?} ({The computer comes up with the very sensible} 35. Rc1 {activating the rook. But it was hard to see that winning the knight immediately was not the right thing to do (and I&#8217;m not sure I had yet spotted his next move, though I did before he played it}) 35... h5 {after a long think, the saving move} 36. h4+ Nxh4+ 37. Ngxh4 hxg4+ 38. Kg3 Re5 39. e4 Ree8 40. Ng2{ <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> Here I realised that despite winning a piece back my position was difficult and offered a draw. The knights look very pretty but White also needs the rook and cannot activate it without a sacrifice. With the rook on c3 it is hard to stop penetration on the h file.} (40. Rb3 Rh8 41. Rc3 Rh7 42. Rb3 Rdh8 {illustrates the problem}) 40... Rh8 41. Nf4 Rh1 42. Nd5 Rdh8 43. Kg2 {Walks into a mate, but there is probably no salvation.} 43... R8h2+ 44. Kg3 Rd2 45. Nf4 Rg1+ {and I resigned.} * 0-1
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Eleutheria: art as liberation

The enjoyment of art is, importantly, its own reward. But art does not leave its recipient unchanged. No doubt there are many things that can happen, many benefits and some harms that can come about. I want to suggest, here, one thing that art can do for us. This is to leave us a little freer from habitual patterns of thought; a little bit more open to possibility.

I have sometimes been embarrassed by the question: what sort of poetry do you like ? – partly because there is so much. But I have come to see that my preferences cluster round a number of particular explosions of poetic energy. Three come to mind.

The first is the sudden emergence of great poets at the end of the Roman Republic. The Roman poets of that moment – Lucretius,Catullus, Horace, Virgil and Ovid – were deeply dependent on Greek examples and on Greek philosophy. But their work effectively offers a space in which the Greek philosophers’ ideas about life are lithely tested and troped.

The second explosion happens in the early seventeenth century in England (and coincides with a similar eruption in Spain). Donne and Herbert offer an exploration of the self at the very same time that European philosophy was taking a decisive turn towards modernity. The poets’ exploration is no less pioneering than the philosophers’.

 My third favoured explosion is that of the first three decades of the twentieth century. The poets who came to maturity in these decades take nothing for granted; at its best, their work reimagines the world as radically as physicists were doing at the same time. Among the best poets of this moment are are Hardy, Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot, Pound, Williams, Stevens, Moore, Loy, Frost, Machado, Lorca, Montale, Trakl, Rilke, Benn, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam, Blok, Akhmatova, Pasternak, Kharms, Cavafy, and Apollinaire. Vastly diverse as they are, their work retains its freshness. Several of these poets are often seen as their country’s best in many generations. And more or less the same thing happened in music and painting. I believe we are still living in the aftershock of this event and find myself returning to and translating these authors.

One legacy of that explosion was to open up a broader space of possibility for poetry, as for other arts. That affects anyone reading or writing poetry now. I find myself drawn, as reader and writer, to the enterprise of keeping this space open. This takes a kind of energy.

 Art does not literally remake the world. But the objects of art can help to release us from the manacles of the habits of consciousness. Art is not, or not usually, propaganda; but its mission is no less important.

Areopagus: a manifesto

This blog is concerned with philosophy, politics and economics.

At the heart of philosophy are the questions: what should we be promoting ? what kinds of human life should we want to see more of ? what ways of life should make us glad when we see people living them ? I call this the investigation of the human good, and am working on a substantial book on the subject. The philosophical posts here will be partly related to this large project, though I’m also interested in other aspects of philosophy – in both Anglo-Saxon and ‘continental’ modes.

The political commentary here is rooted in the traditional left-wing conviction that the world is unequal and unjust and that politics can change this. But ‘equality’ can mean many things: a better account of the human good can help us see which kinds of equality are important. And we need a politics that is more radical than prevailing centrist political parties but more effective and constructive than prevailing radical protest.

 My experience in development economics, as well as the philosophical investigation discussed above, will inform an economic commentary touching both on economic theory and approaches to economic change in different parts of the world.