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Friday, September 14, 2012

Being a class A player

Joel Sappenfield, a photographer in Denton, Texas in the sixties and seventies was also chess player and was once asked by a beginner, "How good are you."  He replied that he was a class A player.  The questioner then wondered what it meant that he was a class A player (Category 1 in the new terminology).  I would have answered with something like:  "There are about 50,000 serious chess players in the US and being a class A player would have put him in the top 10% of those players."

Joel, not being a mathematician, replied somewhat differently:  "It means that if you play chess and you have beaten your mother, your sister, your brother, your father and all of you cousins, but you have never studied chess, then I can beat you.  (long pause) Every time."

About this time (while I was gone) there was a horrific accident in Denton in which a woman's head got cut off.  Consequently the press learned the word decapitated.  Joel was very amused by their reaction to it because, as he recalled it for me later, they used their new word at every opportunity - people got fingers decapitated and a foot was decapitated.  Joel worried that a thunder storm might decapitate the electricity.

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