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Started by Zombie Kaczynski, January 25, 2009, 02:44:46 AM
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QuoteLester Piggott had only one aim in viewThe best flat-racing jockey of the 20th century died on May 29th, aged 86 The cheekiest thing Lester Piggott ever did in racing happened during the Grand Prix de Deauville in 1979. A bit over a furlong from the finish he dropped his whip, so he did what he had to, and stole another. His right hand went out, as he drew alongside at full gallop, towards the left hand of Michel Lequeux, and plucked his whip away. Thus armed, he whipped a path to the finish line.This combination, exquisite balance and ruthless will, typified his whole career. He won 4,493 races in Britain, including 30 Classics. Among them were eight St Legers, six Oaks, five 2,000 Guineas, two 1,000 Guineas; and, nine times, the Epsom Derby, then the world's foremost race on the flat. When he won it first, in 1954 on Never Say Die, he was just 18; when he reached his ninth, in 1983, he set a record that still stands. At Royal Ascot, usually in front of the queen, he rode 116 winners. All these were on the flat, but he excelled at hurdles too, winning 20 from 56 rides. Eleven times he was Champion Jockey, with the most wins in a season. Racing pundits said he thought like a horse, and there was some truth in that. He knew how horses felt. As an only child, and partially deaf, he had found it hard from childhood to make friends and get on with people. As an adult he was mostly silent, "Old Stoneface" as some called him, but he could mumble a good riposte if he wanted to. And with horses he had an understanding. He had grown up with them, his family involved in racing and training on both his father's and his mother's side, and at seven had been lifted onto his first racehorse to feel the raw quivering power of it. He could be almost eloquent as he described the secret of his riding: how, because a horse could not change the centre of gravity that lay behind its shoulders, he would adjust his own centre of gravity at every second and with every stride. To achieve that he first starved his body, keeping it roughly two stone below his natural ten-stone weight: dry toast for breakfast, scraps of protein, no carbs, until his frame, tall for a jockey, was lean as a rake. Then he hit on the idea, when he was still a schoolboy racer, of shortening his stirrups and perching high above the saddle, almost bent in two. There, even at speed, he could keep his balance like a circus rider. Most other jockeys tried to copy him, but he was the first. Having mastered that extraordinary technique, he would then "encourage" a horse, as he thought of it, by laying on the whip in the last stages with a ferocity that could shock spectators, as when he bludgeoned his mount Roberto past Rheingold to win the Derby by a short head in 1972. Yet it did not always work. Despite his 1979 whip-stealing he came second in that race, later relegated to third, to his disgust. You went out to win. That philosophy was his father's, whom he trotted after round the stables in the same flat cap and jacket: win, win, win. He won his first real race at 12, at Haydock Park, and was set like an arrow from then on. As a teenager he was often penalised for bumping other riders; he cut them up, they cut him up back. There were fewer cameras in those days. At Royal Ascot in 1954, when he was 18, he was suspended by the Jockey Club for reckless riding ("nothing really"). He was also ordered to leave his father's stable and serve his apprenticeship somewhere else. This made no difference to his attitude. He was never a complacent stable jockey, content to do what trainers or owners wanted. He knew horses, and a rider like him did not need instructions. His best seasons were with Noel Murless, a royal trainer, in the late 1950s and Vincent O'Brien in the 1970s, but he left both in bitterness and, each time, went freelance. For him the only point of a stable connection was to find and ride the fastest horse. If that horse threw him, as one did at Longchamp, giving him a hairline skull fracture and headaches for years, he would be back riding, and winning, much sooner than doctors recommended. About his mounts he was not sentimental. "He's a good horse" was his highest praise. Even the famous cruising Nijinsky, on which he won the Derby in 1970, "never felt as good to ride as he was". He liked Petite Etoile, a grey filly, for her flying speed as she won two Coronation Cups; The Minstrel, a brave little chestnut, because he triumphed in the Derby with no fear of the whip. On the gallops, rather than carefully assessing how much exercise the horses needed, he just wanted to test their best speed. When an exceptional mount appeared, he insisted on riding it in the next big race—no matter whether it was being kept for another jockey, or not. "Jocking off" was his speciality, and he felt no compunction about picking up the phone to plead his case to the owner. In search of wins he travelled round the country, from racecourse to racecourse, riding through muck and rain, to win the Champion Jockey title, even though he got nothing for it. It peeved him intensely that in 1963 he lost the title by one race, on the last day of the season, to the great Australian jockey Scobie Breasley, and he made sure he won it for the next eight years. Money, though, was also an obsession. His mother had stressed the importance of getting cash and hanging on to it. If anyone asked him for any, he liked to joke that they were talking into his deaf ear. He gambled, too, and in 1985, after he had retired to be a trainer, he was found to have evaded tax for a decade and a half, which earned him a sentence of three years in jail. It was all a great waste of time, he thought. The greatest waste was that, adding prison to retirement, he was out of the saddle for almost five years. Meanwhile, the racing world had expanded to take in America and even Hong Kong. He had bristled at the arrival in England of Steve Cauthen from the States in 1979, though he came to respect him. And in 1990 he staged his own remarkable comeback in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park, New York. He was 54, 42 years older than when he had lifted his first cup at Haydock. For a while, on Royal Academy, he dawdled at the back of the field. Then he picked up speed and finished, by a neck, ahead of everyone else. Confident as ever, plucking the sting of age and disgrace, he won, as he had to. He said it was the most satisfying ride he had ever had.
Quote from: maritime on July 20, 2022, 04:18:41 AMChess and chess strategy books: The Complete Chessplayer, Fred ReinfeldThe Amateur's Mind, IM Jeremy Silman and two on the way:Irving Chernov's The Chess CompanionWinning Chess Strategies, Yasser Seirawan
Quote from: Dexter on July 20, 2022, 01:23:21 PMHave you read "The Pride and sorrow of chess"? It is about Paul Morphy.
QuoteStill standing at her podium, the distinguished conductor Marin Alsop wiped away a tear. She says she cannot remember the last time she cried onstage, but she was far from alone in feeling moved by the artistry of Lim Yun-chan. Ms Alsop had just conducted the 18-year-old South Korean pianist in Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3" in Fort Worth, Texas—a performance that last month helped make him the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. A video of his mesmerising interpretation of "Rach 3", as the piece is known by pianophiles, has been viewed more than 5m times on YouTube.Some classical musicians and aficionados think artists ought to have more experience of life before tackling works that demand emotional maturity, whether late Beethoven piano sonatas or Rach 3. Daniil Trifonov, a superb Russian pianist, decided not to perform the concerto early in his career because he didn't feel ready to convey its intensely passionate arc. But despite his youth Mr Lim "is an old soul", reckons Ms Alsop, as well as a "phenomenal talent" with "jaw-dropping technique", which complements "an innate musicality that is hard to fathom". He also has a fearsome work ethic: Mr Lim explains that his usual practice routine stretches from around 1pm until the following dawn.A pianist and conductor as well as a composer, Rachmaninoff wrote the 40-minute concerto in 1909 and gave its premiere during a successful American concert tour in the same year. He practised on a cardboard keyboard during the long voyage from Russia. Other pianists of his generation were intimidated by Rach 3, which was mostly ignored until it was championed in the 1930s by the Kyiv-born pianist Vladimir Horowitz (whose recordings of it Mr Lim cites as an inspiration). Gary Graffman, an American pianist who is now 93, has said he regretted not learning the concerto when he was "still too young to know fear".Rach 3's formidable reputation was reinforced by "Shine", a film of 1996 about David Helfgott, a troubled Australian pianist played by Geoffrey Rush (who won an Oscar); in the movie, Helfgott collapses from nervous exhaustion at the end of the concerto. It is a wildly emotional, lyrical piece that reflects the Russian romantic tradition, which Rachmaninoff continued as his peers experimented with avant-garde sounds. (Stravinsky began the groundbreakingly dissonant "The Rite of Spring" in 1911.) Some scholars have noted echoes of folk and liturgical music in the melancholic d-minor melody that opens Rach 3 and resurfaces throughout, though the composer denied any such influences, claiming the tune wrote itself.Mr Lim plays this melody with a mournful dignity. At the beginning of the video he sits almost completely still, his hands barely moving over the keys. This initial restraint allows him to slowly build tension as the music ebbs and flows, until he renders the fiery climax of the third movement with exhilarating speed and force. Played by inferior musicians, Rachmaninoff's cascading notes often become a blur, but Mr Lim makes each crystalline, purposeful and often startlingly beautiful. After only two rehearsals, he and the accompanying Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra evince the chemistry of longtime collaborators. Their seemingly intuitive give-and-take imbues the complex score with an increasingly urgent pulse.He was one of three pianists to take on the piece in the finals of the Cliburn, which bucked current trends and invited young pianists from Belarus and Russia to compete. Anna Geniushene, a Russian who has expressed solidarity with embattled Ukraine, won silver; Dmytro Choni, a Ukrainian, claimed bronze. (The contest is named after an American pianist who won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war.) But the headline news was the music itself. Anyone needing a break from doom-scrolling is advised to join the millions of listeners enthralled by Mr Lim's Rach 3.