Saturday, April 30, 2011

Round 5 Games

Nick does it again, another draw with a highly rated player!  Nick is leading our team and disappointing his opponents time after time.  His hard work and practice is paying dividends in this tournament.  I like his style . . . play what makes sense and what is natural.

Desmond is still in the exploring stages of the Colle -Zuckertort and loses focus around move 25. Rd3?  He should have challenged the rook with h6 or placed queenie on f3.  I think the later.

National High School Scholastics Day 2

Round-by-Round (link)

This place is a very busy hotel.  There are over 1000 chess players, families and coaches here.  There were two weddings last night, and others today, prom kids running around in dresses and tuxedos, a national nursing convention with over 1000 nurses packed into meetings everywhere around the tournament hall, the Nashville Marathon participants, hundreds of boy scouts-in uniform (why aren't they camping?), and an occasional prostitute!  That's right, Nashville is hosting a National Prostitute Convention!  Thank the lord that that convention isn't at this hotel.  Teenage boy fantasies are already at their peak this weekend with all the fancy dressed ladies!

While getting milk for the boys cereal, I met Elizabeth Vicary filming the "Garden Room".  She asked where we were from and when I told her, she immediately recognized Idaho as housing Luke Vellotti.  It was early and I noted that I follow her blog.  She nodded.  "So, you guys were in Minneapolis last weekend, huh?" I asked.  "No, it was Columbus."  Oops!  I walked away.  I really do visit her blog often and fantasize that I might be able to have a national championship team someday.

I played in the Parent & Friends Tournament side event.  I did not do so well.  Maybe the games were too short?  My first round was with a 1900 so I lost after a bishop and knight was forked early on in the game- don't push c4 too early when playing the Colle!  He was a rather stuffy and serious chess player - the type that knows it all.  I'm glad I lost . . . NOT!  In the second round, I played well and was winning, but lost out to the clock.  Weird game, though, as I developed a pawn chain in the opening that extended from here to Idaho.  My opponent seriously asked me the name of that opening.  I told him, "The Union Pacific Opening."  Round 3:  I won solidly using the Colle.  I again got my bishop and knight forked, but this time I set a trap that netted me a queen.  In the fourth and final round, I succeded after much work, to gain a drawn position, but I again ran into time trouble and literally wrecked my game by handing him my bishop with a bit over a minute left.  It was going to be a neat draw with only one pawn each gone, both kings facing off in the center, opposite color bishops and a knight that couldn't move until I placed my bishop neatly in its mouth.  I love playing chess!

Round 3 Games

Nick passed on a draw offer and thought a one pawn advantage would net him the game.  Lesson learned:  when you are playing a highly rated player and he offers . . . TAKE IT!

Miles learns the hard way about where rooks operate best . . . that would be on open files and together.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Round 2 Games

Round-by-Round Results
Our livers have been chicken fried occasionally, so it was about time to make some Tennessee Fried Livers!  (They taste betta!).

Here, Desmond's move 18. Rb8 was not a critical move but demonstrated how nervous some of my players are.  "I was afraid of Nb7 checking the Queen."  Then move your queen!  It became a critical target later.

I am proud of the way my team is doing right now.  In all our drawn games, my kids knew early on to request draw.  Their opponents did not accept in all cases.  Too bad . . .they could have saved a lot of time and effort.

Round 1 Games

I like Shane's move 21.

Desmond's move 19.  doh!

Miles had a possible win with 25. ..Qxd4
I awoke at 7 am and began exploring the huge complex that we are staying in.  The gardens are beautiful and our Botany class would love to discover all the tropical plants in the massive gardens with waterfalls, rivers, and quaint nooks where you would expect to find a gnome or a den of hobbits.  At least 6 species of palms were counted and several varieties of bromeliads hung from the trunks or the simulated, limestone cliffs.  Also, orchids of all colors and odors could be found among the numerous ferns and flowering domesticas.  While in the Delta Complex, I found a pair of wood ducks kicking around in the river.  Outside is just as lovely with dogwood, honey suckle and magnolias blooming and filling the air with sweetness.

I don't know how I am going to keep my coffee fix satisfied in this resort.  One cup cost me $4.75!  Desmond was the first to wake and his breakfast of packaged oatmeal, orange juice and cinnamon roll coast $11!  Nick, Andrew, Shane, and Alex must be new to travel and slept until nearly 11:00.  Miles pointed that out to me as he was the next to get up and perform his daily calisthenics and exclaimed, "they're still sleeping? Travel noobs!"  Des and Miles played some practice games during breakfast and the others later joined them.

By the time "breakfast" was completed at noon, we sauntered over to the playing hall for the opening ceremonies.  On the way, Desmond, Nick and Alex built a report with a chess board salesman that gave them each a "stylized" and "built in America" chess board.  It happened to be that our bright pink shirts attracted his attention.

The shirts were perfect for such a large tournament.  I could spot our boys sitting anywhere in the room and I was happy that was the case since there were nearly 1100 kids with all varieties of colors, except pink!  Round 1 began on time and at the moment, Shane is the only one done with his game.  The round is scheduled to end at 5:00 and I have a feeling that the boys will be starving.

I am encouraged by some of Shane's moves after Fritz gave it a look.  Especially  move 21. ..Bxd4+ where the game was scored as 0.3 again.  Shane learned that he should not be so nervous about his opponent's intentions (not all moves are traps) and play more natural moves.
Shane is happy to have his first game done and is looking forward to the next round

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Travels with the Chess Club

Sweet Mother of Mary!  What a wacky day!  Leaving the Wood River Valley at 3 am to drive 2 1/2 hours to Boise to catch a flight is crazy enough, but holy Toledo . . .

Dodging herds of elk and and the occasional mule deer with 6 sleeping and unsuspecting chess players, we arrived safely at the Boise airport.  We got our tickets, made it through the TSA, and waited patiently to board the plane.  Shane dropped his ticket and was paged by the TSA to retrieve it.  I begged the officials to take Shane and search him in the back room as negative reinforcement, but they refused.

In our Denver connection to Dallas/Ft. Worth, they happened to have a direct flight to Nashville in the gate next door.  Of course the kids began grilling me because our itinerary allowed for a 4 hour lay over in Dallas.  The hymning and hawing began in earnest.  Remember the Mall fiasco in West Jordan?  I was hoping to get some last minute practicing in during that time, but it became clear that I needed to ask if they could switch us to the direct flight.  It doesn't hurt to ask, or does it?

The clerk said possible but I would need approval at the Service Center.  So I ran (literally) a half a mile down to the service center to inquire and they said that it would be fine as long as I could get booked in time.  Latte spilling and armpits wet with determination, I ran back to the Nashville desk, who then sent me to the Dallas desk to switch the tickets.  Time was becoming of essence . . . So we were all removed from the passenger list on the Dallas flight and given coupons (but not tickets!) for the Nashville flight.  Hey, this would cut nearly 6 hours of travel, some of the kids could enter the blitz tournament, and it seemed like a good idea, right?  Andrew is wrestling with Miles on the floor when I return with the good news.

Back at the Nashville desk . . . the agent was unable to remove a block from adding passengers and ticketing us and said we'd have to go on our original flight.  Now I am stressed and struggling to avoid an aneurysm.  Back at the Dallas desk . . . the dude tried to put us on the flight BUT THEIR COMPUTERS WOULD NOT add anymore passengers because they just started boarding.  Holy . . . we missed the flight!  O.K. so get us on the next one.  "Only six can go and the other would have to go a bit later."   Okay.  FINE!  I was beginning to think one should not ask logical questions!  "Oops, sorry sir, the last seat was taken while we were talking.  We can get you to Nashville from Dallas tomorrow morning?"  Egads!  My downturned brow is now wrinkled and I feel like I just lost an easy endgame. I convinced myself that this is all my fault and I shouldn't be upset. There is plenty of time and we can sit around in a hotel in Nashville, or Dallas as easily.  A moment later the clerk says, "there we go, a seat just opened!"  A sigh of relief and we spent our lay-over in Denver instead of Dallas and were back on the original itinerary.  The direct flight to Nashville forgotten like a bad grade.  Nick and Des play a game on the floor while waiting, and the others sit and kibitz until Nick and Des are too disturbed to play further.

On our way in, the clerk says, "those are not very good seats."   He was right,  the very back, no reclining, no leg room, no place for our carry-ons, the windows are blocked by the jet engines, and noise like a t.v. at 3 am.  Maybe the white noise will help us focus better tomorrow?  Alex asked Miles if he could touch his beard that he began focusing on.  Slap!  "This is like traveling with a bunch of brothers," says Miles.  We are giddy with fatigue.

At our original time (7 pm), we arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center and suddenly forgot how worn out we were.  The place is grand and the boys began taking pictures immediately.  Sculptures, paintings, waterfalls, flowers, palm trees, and other charming accoutrement's adorned the palatial building that has as much square footage as the city of Bellevue, and possibly Hailey.  Chess players of all ages, races, and creeds   were already gallivanting through the gardens and islands of restaurants.

Shane and Alex indicate that the furthest east traveled was Montana and are in awe of our trip already.  All students should have to embark on a trip such as this. The team's awkwardness in the Boise airport has disappeared and they now look like comfortable travelers.

We made our way to the Blitz room in time to see a speedy game being finished with several TDs surrounding the players.  The younger player is hyperventilating and has tears streaming over his face.  I overheard a TD saying that instead of pausing the clock to ask a question, the player shut the clock off and they were going to forfeit him since he did not even know what times were left on the clock.  After much discussion, an agreement was reached and the compromising player ended up losing to the frantic opponent that messed up the clock and the times.  The TD should have forfeited him.  I cannot help but think this was a ploy for personal gain.  My players just watch and look thoughtful.  I am excited for them.  They are about to face challenges they have never experienced.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fund-raising and thank yous

Tomorrow night we finally leave for the National High School Championship!  Desmond is very excited and working on Chess Tempo tactical training right now.  He picks out the right moves right away while I take a bit more time to decide what to do.  I played Alex today and his game has improved.  He sees some great tactical moves that will net material and space.  Nick stopped by to play.  I like how aggressive his game has become and how competitive he plays.  Shane worked on Chess Tempo, as well.  Even though I gave out all the paperwork and forms to fill out by today (and even made sure Andrew had two copies of each form), only Miles delivered.  I sure hope they get everything in order by tomorrow.

We have been planning this trip since January and have been raising money where possible.  We sold hundreds of ring-pops, Krispy Kreme donuts, and ran a successful car wash.  Our earnings totaled over $2000 and donors provided another $1800.  Some major thank yous are in order.  These are the people and organizations that supported our chess club team:

  • Splash-and-Dash Gas
  • Krispy Kreme Donuts
  • Wells Fargo Bank
  • Blaine County School District
  • Prinicpal Peter Jurovich
  • Katrina Kolman
  • Dody Chatterton
  • Tim Richards and Family
  • Norman Friedman
  • Edward Wheeler & Elizabeth Simpson
  • Marshall Peterson
  • Harry & Michelle Griffith
  • Mark & Jami Grassi
  • Elizabeth Hendrix
  • Blair Hull
  • Hull Family Foundation
A very special thank you to Mr. Blair Hull & the Hull Family Foundation for a very generous donation.  Without the support of our WRHS faculty and staff, and the Wood River Valley community, this trip would not have been possible.  Chess is very important to these young adults and has been a very positive influence.

Chess Club Practices for Nationals

The last two Wednesdays were "Guess the Next Move" games for the players going to the National High School Championship.  We are practicing as diligently as we can, however, this is the first time any of the players have been to a tournament of this magnitude, excepting Desmond.  As Nick and Andrew are rated above 1200, our team will be entered in the U1600 section.  I was hoping to be in the U1200 section, given our experience and average rating, but this will provide needed challenges and inspiration for these players.  This will be the first high school team from Idaho to compete in the championship and I am looking forward to many positive games and individual successes for all of our players.  Here is the WRHS Chess Club team:
Nick at the MVCC

Desmond at the MVCC

Andrew at the State Scholastics 
Shane at the State Scholastics

Alex at the State Scholastics

Miles at the 2011 Idaho Open
Between fundraising bouts since January, players have been participating in the few tournaments available to us as practice.  We also have been studying the mainlines for various openings including the Caro-Kann, the French Defense, Queen's Gambit, the Scandanavian, the Scotch, the Ponziani, the four knights, and others.  Some players are also focusing on the Colle System and others are trying to master some of the Sicilian games.

Desmond, Miles, and Nick are spending long hours outside of chess club playing on internet servers.  Alex and Shane have been tackling Chess Tempo problems.  My trap book is seeing a lot of use and I have been able to share analysis of weak squares in many games between the players.  And Miles, Desmond, and Shane have been also working on "Think Like a King" software.  I have been providing carefully selected chapters from my workbooks, including "removing the guard" and  one on "perpetual check."  My lessons at this point are seemingly cliche so I have been privy to new instructional ideas, without becoming a tyrant.

Despite the studying, our players games still lack the consistency of more experienced players.  There are still occasional blunders and definite straying outside of book moves (sort of like my explorations of the chess world!).  While learning about the Sicilian Defense, Nick lamented that he needs some more work.  I began my researches and my own education.
Jeff Baggett and his favorite Sicilian Game.
I invited Jeff Baggett (1696), 2011 Idaho Closed 3rd place, to share his knowledge of Sicilian Games.  He selected M. Botvinnik v. V. Ragozin, 1924 (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6).  We made a game of it, "Guess the Right Move"  where students that guess the next move of black receive a point for a right answer.  It engaged the players fully as there were candy m&m's on the line.  Nick won by one point over me (I like to play too!) and a couple of points above the rest of the club.
Alex and Miles play "Guess the Right Move!"
Last Wednesday, I did the same thing with a game that was more in the style that they might see this weekend:  C. Vellotti vs. C. Abernathy (game #76).  In this game, Caleb's Colle was not enough to stop Carl's powerful bishops.  This was a very good confidence booster as my players felt they could cope with these moves.  They, in fact, found several moves during the game that were better.

Tomorrow, I have a special post for our fund-raising efforts.  Wednesday at 3 a.m. we will start our trek to Nashville and the tournament.  Join this blog during the tournament for pictures and updates and games.  Excitement and nervousness is high, so please comment and provide some encouragement for Idaho's first high school national championship attendee's!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eagle Cam

Here is a science link to the live eagle-cam.  This is a great link to just keep running on your computer and occasionally tune in to see how the little eaglets are.

Teachers are not computers essay by 5th grader

I had nothing to do with this but love it immensely.  The State Superintendent of Idaho desires to replace some graduation requirements with online courses.  His last effort failed because he was invested in the companies that he was going to allow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Octopus wins the Idaho Open

The Octopus
Greg Nowak (a.k.a. the octopus) wins the Idaho Open with 3.5 points.  Mr. Nowak is from Montana and appreciates his nickname so much that bumper stickers were made in his honor:  "I lost to the Octopus, but I his genius rubbed off!"
Sean Manross(left) came from Cali to play
Other than being so tired after coaching soccer and then driving 3 hours to the tournament, I cannot explain my Saturday losses, but I am very glad that I ended in 8th place after Sundays wins.  Whew!  I was ready to hang up my kings and queens after this confidence shaker!
Miles and Desmond learned a lot at  this tournament
Overall, the tournament was very hard with a tough Utah contingent of kids and adults that rattled the Idaho regulars and brought much needed diversity of play to the Open. 

Open Section
1Gregory W. NowakMT2114W7D2-H-W6D31st
2Sean ManrossCA1906W6D1W3L4D532nd-5th (tie)
3Alan E. KobernatCA2021-H-W5L2W8D132nd-5th (tie)
4Frank NiroOR1700-H-W8L6W2D732nd-5th (tie)
5Gary OwenWY1589-B-L3D7W9D232nd-5th (tie)
6Fred BartellID1600L2-B-W4L1D8
7Barry D. EackerID1612L1W9D5-H-D4
8Clancey George BlackUT1233-H-L4W9L3D62
9Stephen Rex BlackUT1194-H-L7L8L5-B-

U1400 Reserve Section
1Gary HollingsworthID1277-H-W7W10W6D341st
2Rhett StephensID455D5W4W12L3W62nd-3rd (tie)
3Matthew McConnellIDUnr.L10W14W9W2D12nd-3rd (tie)
4Miles Perry HendrixID1085-H-L2W7W12D53
5Rannyn R. StephensIDUnr.D2L13W8D11D4
6Gatlin Scott BlackUT760-H-W8W11L1L2
7Desmond PorthID715-H-L1L4W14W12
8Adam PorthID1312-H-L6L5W9W11
9Nicholas Marc HarrisonID647W13L10L3L8W142
10Cindy HansonIDUnr.W3W9L1-N--N-2
11Carly Sophia AtkinsonUT160-B-D12L6D5L82
12Jacob Ari NathanIDUnr.W14D11L2L4L7
13Jared Lee ArpIDUnr.L9W5-N--N--N-1
14Robert PerkelIDUnr.L12L3-H-L7L9½

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chess Blocks and Fires at the Idaho Open

Just set my board on fire!  Call it fatigue, call it a mental block, I don't know what to call it and I don't understand why it creeps into my games.  I keep losing to kids that are much less than my adult competitors.  I lost to two children today at the Idaho Open Chess Championship.  In one case, I just did not make the better moves that I knew were better.  I even lost by dropping my rook on the wrong square after I recorded the right square to place it!  In the second game, I began by thrashing my opponent and took all his minor pieces and most of his pawns, I then did not take a pawn that he marched down the board to checkmate me with.  When I consider the last four tournaments I have been in, my only loses were all to kids except one to Barry Eacker.  I am dumb-founded and I discovered very little on the net to address problems such as these.

In talking to other players, I have heard of gender blocks - girls that don't play boys well and girls that don't play girls well.  The net is full of stories and analysis of gender blocks, but there seems to be little to nothing about age blocks.  Maybe there are too many embarrassed adults who are unwilling talk about continually losing to kids?  Kids today are very good and they tend to be underrated or overrated due to scholastic tournaments and the problems of rating those tournaments.

Why do I lose to kids?  It can't be to educate the opponent (which is my profession).  Nobody would intentionally lose to a child in a tournament as that certainly doesn't help the child get better.  It can't be pity because that displays a lack of respect.  And I certainly don't feel bad when I have beat a child who was a tough opponent.  It isn't that I think less of my opponent because they are younger.  I know not to underestimate anyone in chess.  It is not that I am not seeing the flawed moves, as I certainly knew what the better move was.  What could my sub-conscious self be thinking or basing decisions on?

My next thoughts were to play up a section to increase my chance of playing adults.  For example, there aren't any children in the Open Section.  My game would definitely be better than it has been in the Reserve Section.  On second thought, this would be avoiding the problem rather than exploring and getting to the root of the cause.  After my opponent in round 3 took pity on me and said, "it's o.k., you played a fine game,"  I wanted to run out of the tournament room and set my board on fire.  Instead, I spent a sleepless night visualizing the board and the five different ways to prevent checkmate in my match.  Tomorrow brings two more games and two more kids to play.  Place your bets!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Game for Knights

Fun and good for quickly organizing a knight.  Here is a link to a game (reminds me of zombies attacking):  link

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Andrew Uriarte (2nd place 12th grade with 4.0 pts.)

Great Job, Andrew!
Andrew Uriarte has tremendous talent and is one of Wood River High School's best.  Amazingly, he does little to maintain that position and I suspect that he rarely studies.  It would be interesting to see his game with more intensive study and practice.  He played a tough field at the State Scholastics and only lost to the winner, Carl Velotti.  Andrew is very unique and I really enjoy how much he owns his games.  After his game with Carl, he walked into the skittles room and exclaimed, "I got destroyed!"  As an extrovert with a dark sense of humor, Andrew is a good teammate that encourages his peers and the up-and-coming players in the club.  He is also going to the National High School Championship and no matter what the outcomes, Andrew will find success.
One of our best calculators!
Round 2:

Likin' on the pencil

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trophy Presentations

Nick Bruck presents Ms. Martinez the Wood River  Elementary Championship trophy that the Bellevue Bears won during Nick's senior project tournament.
Members of the Chess Club present Mr. Jurovich our 2nd place Scholastic Championship trophy.
Chess Club members present Katrina Kolman (our accountant) with a donation for our trip to the National Chess Championship to be held in Nashville, Tennessee.  Mr. Blair Hull donated $1000 to help send 6 of our members to the tournament.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

MVCC Results

Wood River takes home 1st - 3rd place
The Magic Valley Chess Championship attracted only 15 participants this year. The low numbers did not dissuade intense and very competitive games, however. For the second year in a row, I endured an early morning blizzard driving to Twin Falls for the championship. This time I had 3 other sleeping club members with me: Nick Bruck, Riley Clark, and Desmond. Twin Falls is approximately an hour south of the Wood River Valley and the climate seems to be a whole continent away. We still have snow and Twin is already growing grass.

My first game was a dismal failure and I played as if I was training one of my elementary students. I was paired with Jared Arp, a ninth grader?, that was trying to show me a new opening that he even named. I listened and nodded with teacherly instinct. The match was about to begin and I was still yawning from the drive and my lesson. I was black and responded to e4 with the Karo-Cann (c6) and quickly got into a comfortable position. Maybe too comfortable because on move 15 I gave up a knight. . . en prise! A couple of moves later, another knight from my forces and desire to play vaporized immediately.
Desmond plays David in Round 1
I frequently have trouble playing children in competitive tournaments, but vowed to not lose another game in this tournament. And I didn't. When playing in a tournament, it is necessary to be unmerciful and relentless. A tournament is for competition and challenging yourself to play your best. It isn't an experiment or a venue to "see if". The sting I felt when the boy shook my hand and said, "I guess it wasn't your day," was a wake up call to my competitive instincts. Always play your best in a tournament.
Barry plays Gary Dugger in Round 2
Tournaments at the Obenchain Building are always entertaining and the friendly faces that are there to greet you are welcoming. Barry Eacker was the TD and he always knows just what to say to make my stomach hurt with laughter. I gave him plenty of material during round 1 and I hope he continues to chide me so that my embarrassment keeps me in the winning spirit. The insurance building that we play in is small, very plain, and smells and looks of the seventies. The toilet is always on the brink of spilling over, as in other tournaments there. This time the plumbing problems seemed to emanate from under the sink. A slowly growing pool began creeping across the floor.
Riley played two very good games in this tournament
The day ended positively for Nick with 2.0 points, Desmond (1.0), and me (1.0). We got home about 11 o'clock and I suggested that Nick and Riley just stay the night. We needed to leave at about 6:30 am to be on time for round 3 beginning at 8:00 am.
Nick had a mission in round 3 . . .beat me!
I was paired with Nick for round 3 and figured that he would expect me to open with something he has never seen before. So I planned to open with the Colle-Zuckertort and work to positionally weaken him. It certainly worked well in that game.

At lunch, we began the requisite pre-calculation of the possible outcomes of the tournament. I was paired with David Dalesandro, a strong tournament newcomer. If I win, and Nick and Desi play to a draw, or Desmond wins, our Wood River group wins 1st-3rd place. If Desmond loses, or I lose, then our group only will take home one trophy. I decided that it is better for our club if we win all three positions.
Desmond and Nick battle
Round 4, brought some interesting games. Nick was actually playing to obtain a drawn position on the board and never offered Desmond a draw. Desmond was caught up in a great position and went for the win against Nick and got it. Nick slammed his king down and scattered pieces like Irina Krush against Anna Zatonskih, and then stormed off. Always play your best. Meanwhile, I successfully removed the three defending pawns of David's castled king but had to give up a rook to maintain pressure and tempo. I felt waves of adrenalin surging through my abdomin and then work its way up to my face in several tense moments.  In the end, we did it and despite some misunderstanding, Desmond and Nick learned how to work together, and Nick began  recognizing larger views.
Dan Looney, MVCC Champion
In the championship section, Daniel Looney (1636) won first place with 3.0 points, Jim Stark (1617) second with 2.5 points, and Glen Buckendorf (1800) won third with 2.0 points. Trophies were for first through third. Glen has been donating books from his library for 4th place prizes and this went to Aleksandr Vereshchagin (1433). In the challenger section, I won first place with 3.0 points, Desmond won second with 3.0 points, and Nick won third with 2.0 points. David got to take home the book. Next year, I get to be in the championship section.  Always play your best and to win.
Glen Buckendorf plays Aleksandr Vereshchagin

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