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The World Series of Poker, The Clock & Goldilocks August 8, 2012

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I. The Clock
On the plane to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, I chatted with a businessman in his 50s. He was en route to Reno for a vacation and told me that “Well, at least you’re not going to Vegas in the summer, so the weather won’t be so terrible.” I said, “Really, it’s not so hot in June?” He: “What? It’s June already? I thought it was April.”

Usually clockwatching is antithetical to art and passion—aren’t you supposed to lose yourself and forget what minute it is, or even what month it is and how old you are?

Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” is a 24-hour collage of film, composed of clips representing each minute in the day. Although you are hyper-aware of time, Marclay’s installation inspires fresh questions like, “What is your favorite (or least favorite) hour of the day?” My answer, and presumably the best time to see “The Clock” is Magic hour, the flattering period before sunset or after sunrise when everything glows in warm, shadowless light. Alas, I saw “The Clock” in the harsh afternoon of 1 to 2 PM, which included a melody of “you’re late” clips (no one seems to arrive on time from lunch). At least this hour featured the famous When Harry Met Sally scene.

The simplicity of “The Clock” entranced me. Imposing such an artificial structure is a gimmick if done poorly but brilliant if well-executed, reminding me of two of my own projects:

1.“The ABC diet”, when I ate alphabetically for 26 days. On the first day, I ate only foods that began with A, such as asparagus and avocado up to ziti and zucchini on the final day. I wanted to show the pretentiousness of most fad diets, which tend to work simply because they restrict calories. In this way, the ABC diet can be effective as any diet that doesn’t let you eat pizza or bacon 25 out of 26 days. Indeed, I lost seven pounds.

2. A two part series I edited for Chess Life Online on the best move ever played on each square of the chess board (and a second part on the best composed moves on each square). Central squares and key attacking points like d4 and f7 present so many options compared to a less trodden square, such as b1. Similarly, the intensity of “The Clock” peaked at the top of the hour with a frenzy of tightly edited clips.

II. Goldilocks

In an NYU class on literary journalism, one of my most memorable professors lectured on a beautifully written piece on aging surfers, when he mused, “Isn’t the point of any subculture to freeze time?” [I must have been foaming at the mouth as he continued, because later that day, a popular blonde girl admonished me, “I think you get a little TOO excited in that class.”]

Though I can’t help but think of the passage of time as a curse, it’s also a privilege. Birthdays remind us that each year is an accomplishment of sorts. You didn’t do something dumb enough to kill yourself! In an 18th century precursor to the popular Milton Bradley game “Life”, the object of the game was to reach death first.

Our re-telling of Goldilocks is about aging during a card game. An early version of Goldilocks starred an older woman trespassing. But as the tale aged, the woman became a young girl.

Goldilocks from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.


The World Series of Poker is sometimes called “adult summer camp.” Like camp, it feels at once endless and transient. Endless because of the number of interactions, new people you meet and hours spent grinding 20 big blinds pre-ante. But when it’s over it feels momentary, since the experience is divorced from reality. A week later, the people I sent dozens of hand history and gossip texts were buried on my phone. I soon forgot about my daily routine of rubbing my face with too much moisturizer and eye-shadow, before layering up for hours of grinding in Amazon, a large conference room cold enough to hang meat.

These girls, including Alexa, the “poker prodigy” go to the WSOP instead of sleepaway camp

Sometimes I wanted to freeze time during a hand. Thinking for the wrong amount of time can give so much away. A lot of players spend a lot of time on easy decisions (known as Hollywooding when it’s a strong hand) to balance out the cases when they really need to think. Going too far with this conflicts with setting a quick pace to maximize hands per/hour.

Less than an hour after my elimination from the Main Event, I booked my flight home. They call it “the worst day” of a poker player’s year. If this is true, it’s a good year. A few days later back in Philadelphia, I started grinding and doing well on Bovada, one of the few sites open to US players since Black Friday. It was funny to run like god in tourneys with prize pools equivalent to the buy-ins I’d played in Vegas. But more importantly, I was feeling confident and excited again.

I didn’t think I’d be up for live poker so soon, but I’ve already played a couple of WPT Parx prelims and am psyched for the Main.

And the WSOP feels like a year ago. Getting knocked out of the Main Event feels more recent. It happened between the hours 1 and 2 PM.

Naked Chess in Amsterdam December 4, 2011

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The original, “Naked Chess” was a reversal of the famous photograph of Marcel Duchamp playing against a naked woman, as a promotion for the book Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess. The piece has since then been reworked into a more visceral edit for PokerFairytale.com and now has debuted as an art installation in Amsterdam.

The De Kring art society in Amsterdam hosted the closing ceremony of the Max Euwe Memorial on November 20th. I played against three nude opponents as the prize-giving commenced. In addition to referencing Marcel Duchamp, the striking visuals showed two important themes. Firstly, it was a humorous take on the many tourists who come to Amsterdam for sex and drugs. Here we had a show that was only sexual on the surface but at heart cerebral. Secondly, it played off the general theme of simultaneous exhibitions, which are so common in the chess world. The master or grandmaster giving the simul is in a position of power and by defeating numerous opponents at once, the public and the media is informed of her dominance.

More photos are on the official site–the piece was also featured in the Amsterdam Daily “Het Parool” and inspired the following drawing by Edgar Jansen.

Short Stacked Shamus of Hard Boiled Poker wrote a blog on strip poker and art about a recent installation in New York, “I’ll Raise You Once” by Zefrey Throwell. Shamus also touched on naked chess:

The strip poker piece reminds me of a similar but more interesting work, a short film titled “Naked” in which poker pro and chess champ Jennifer Shahade plays chess against a nude male amateur, Jason Bretz. That piece plays off of a famous photo of Marcel Duchamp (a big influence on the Fluxus crowd), reversing the roles of the man and woman to make a comment on the relationship of the sexes.

Naked Checkmate from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.

The Max Euwe Memorial tournament itself was also very exciting, featuring a combination of veterans, strong young players and inspiring female players such as Pia Cramling, one of the first women to earn the Grandmaster title. Find more information on the event on the official website which also features more details on my other appearances in Amsterdam and the closing ceremony.

Poker Fairytale is Live! July 5, 2011

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Poker Fairytale is up and running and I am in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. Life is good. Check out one of my favorite videos below and look for an essay about the site on this blog soon.

Goldilocks from Poker Fairy Tale on Vimeo.

The US Chess Scoop on the World Chess Hall of Fame June 5, 2011

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I’m happy to announce that I’ve been elected to the board of directors for the World Chess Hall of Fame, a wonderful institution that is moving from Miami to the locus of American chess, Saint Louis. But even before the doors open on September 9th, the World Chess Hall of Fame has partnered with HBO and Moxie Firecracker Productions to co-host Bobby Fischer Against the World events in Park City Utah, New York and Saint Louis. The movie, directed by Liz Garbus, kicks off the HBO Documentaries series on June 6th. I posted a piece on CLO including photos by Suzy Gorman about the Saint Louis event. Watch a US Chess Scoop video on the New York premiere, which featured a star-studded blitz tournament in Bryant Park. Stay posted on the World Chess Hall of Fame on facebook and twitter.

Lipstick Checkmate: The Play Like a Girl Trailer February 15, 2011

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The Play Like a Girl! Tactics by 9 Queens (Mongoose Press, 2011) trailer is live.

Even though I’m hardly a make-up fiend, I was able to find 70% of the pieces in mostly abandoned make-up bags and vanity drawers.

Finding sixteen of one item was the main problem, but lipstick was the clear aesthetic and conceptual choice. A thirty dollar Chanel lipstick, purchased because I cannot afford anything else Chanel, co-mingled with one buck steals at the drugstore bargain bin. A pawn is still just a pawn.

Enjoy some stills from the shoot and pick up a copy of the book on 9queens.org, amazon, Mongoosepress or USCF Sales.

Sundance Gallery February 6, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Sundance Film Festival and saw the Fischer biopic Bobby Fischer Against the World, directed by Liz Garbus. I had a great time–Park City, Utah was absolutely gorgeous and the film was tight. The purpose of my visit was generally to promote chess and specifically to participate in a reception hosted by the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum (mark the museum’s grand opening for September 8, 2011.) The reception displayed stunning never-seen before photos of Bobby by Harry Benson, who will also be showing his photos at a World Chess Museum exhibit in 2012. Watch the HBO Buzz clip below, where I was interviewed about the museum and Bobby’s influence on my generation of chessplayers. The Bobby Fischer Against the World section starts at 1:35.

Check out some photos of the event below by Shannon Bailey of the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum and add the World Chess Museum on facebook for more. Also coming soon to uschess.org/clo is “Grandmasters Sundancing” a piece on the trip by three-time US Chess Champion Joel Benjamin.

The beautiful Sundance setting

At the reception

Promoting chess at Sundance

WIM Iryna Zenyuk, GM Alexander Shabalov, GM Joel Benjamin and me

Alexander Shabalov teaching a young Utah chess player.

Going Deep in Guggenheim YouTube Play and WCOOP September 25, 2010

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I’m happy to report here that Hulachess has been shortlisted for the 1st Guggenheim YouTube Play biennial! 125 videos made the cut out of over 23,000 entries from 91 countries. Browse the shortlist at YouTube.com/Play and find hulachess either by my username (Superjenium) or in the “Non-Narrative” Category. Now an art and filmstar jury including Shirn Neshat and Takashi Murakami will whittle the field down to 20 videos to be installed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (as well as the Bilbao, Venice and Berlin institutions) from October 21-24.

Because I play in so many Multi-table poker tournaments (MTTs) I have a good sense of the luck and skill required to go deep in a field with thousands of contestants. Funnily enough, the day prior to the shortlist announcement I made the money at a NL Hold Em World Championship of Online Poker event (WCOOP) on pokerstars. I grinded the Sunday away, sadly missing a South Philly street fair outside my house, with drinks, dancing, sausage sandwiches and lemonade and carnival games. But when the bubble burst, I was happy to be indoors on a gorgeous day. Out of almost 10,000 players I ended in 514th place for a decent cash. Still, the 280K first prize was many dreams and coinflips away.

If only the Guggenheim gallery morphed into a cardroom to determine the YouTube Play finalists! I could I face my artist, musician and game designer opponents in either six max Sit and Gos (the winner of each six person poker tournament would advance to the top 20), a regular Multi-Table satellite or even a Heads-up Knockout. To be honest, I don’t think the Guggenheim jury intends to decide it heads-up, since they only picked 125 videos, and the round one heads-up brackets would need 128 artists. Well… a few videos, such as hulachess, could be seeded into round two :)

See a few of my other favorites below. In other words, I hope these aren’t seated to my left.

Congrats also to co-creator Daniel Meirom, dancer & choreographer Gabrielle Revlock and Director of Photography Blake Eichenseer. For more press on the 1st Guggenheim YouTube Play Biennial, see mashable, flavorwire, the Huffington Post, and Alexandra Kosteniuk’s chessblog.com. Also thanks to Samara O’Shea for letting me and Daniel know about the contest, and for a nice post about hulachess on letterlover.net.

Chess Scoop Up High September 17, 2010

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I had a great time last weekend in New York visiting the G-Star RAW chess challenge, where World #1 ranked chessplayer GM Magnus Carlsen took on, and defeated, all online comers. I also went gallery-hopping in Chelsea, and saw some amazing shows like Pippolini Rist at Luhring Augustine–Wouldn’t it be lovely to own an underwear chandelier?

I wrote an in-depth Chess Life Online blog on the G-Star event and Daniel and I made two chess scoop videos atop the Cooper Square Hotel.

A Golden Rule of Homeownership January 20, 2010

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A golden rule of homeownership, right next to “no keg parties” is “don’t let a film crew into your house.” I learned the lesson the hard way when filming my latest video art project with DimMak Films. After five minutes of production, a doorknob broke. For the next 14 hours, the cast and crew squeezed between tripods to enter bathrooms, and I hoped not only for good shots, but that the equipment that took up every spare square inch of our house (but somehow never showed up in the shots, hooray!), wouldn’t damage the 100-year-old home I recently bought.

Well, rules are meant to be broken, and I’m really excited about editing and eventually showing this piece. Goldilocks vs. the three bears. Place your bets now.

Hulachess on the news! October 15, 2009

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While promoting the US Women’s Championship in Saint Louis (October 3-13), I appeared on a news station to show them how to hulachess. Hulachess was also installed at the opening ceremony at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis. Irina Krush, Tsagaan Battsetseg and Rusudan Goletiani turned out to be natural chess-hoopers. Catch the full story on the opening festivities here.