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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Play the Ruy Lopez

Play the Ruy Lopez - Andrew Greet The Ruy Lopez, often called the Spanish, is one of the oldest chess openings. It's named after its inventor, a 16th century priest who also gave the frequently-quoted bit of advice "seat your opponent so that he has the sun in his eyes". He's right. Hard to spot a king-side attack when it's coming at you out of the sun. The opening is supremely logical. It starts 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5, reaching the position shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Ruy Lopez: chess opening

White is a tiny bit better, and can torture Black for hours. It's very popular all the way up to top Grandmaster level.

We had a chessplayer friend and his family to dinner on Saturday, and over vegetarian lasagne the following question occurred to us: if there were a chess opening called the Jennifer Lopez, what would it be? For chessplayers who can't tell one celebrity from another, I've included a picture in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Jennifer Lopez: star

After some thought, we decided that the best candidate was 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5. My friend at first didn't like this, on the grounds that it was disrespectful to the ever-fragrant J-Lo. But after a little analysis, he changed his mind. I can now, for the first time in print, reveal the Jennifer Lopez Trap, which goes as follows:

1. e4 e5 2. Bb5!? Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Ba4 Qa5+?

This looks natural: the check also attacks the bishop on a4, and Black thinks that White has to play 5. Nc3, when ... d5 is a bit embarrassing. But, instead, White calmly responds

5. c3!

after which Black discovers to his annoyance that he's totally misplaced his queen and is probably worse.

If you ever get a chance to play this, please credit me!