Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chess, Jon Edwards, and the Veblen Connection

The World Chess Championship is underway, and we have a couple Veblen connections. One is Jon Edwards, a local chess master who first illuminated me on Veblen's role in early computing. Jon's article on "A History of Early Computing at Princeton" can be found here. Tonight and next Saturday, Nov. 23, from 7-8, Jon is co-leading a review of each week of the championship play at Princeton Public Library.

My friend Teresa originally put me in touch with Jon. Here's what she wrote:
"You might want to connect with Jon Edwards, who wrote the article you link to. He organized the Turing centennial (along with Bob Sedgewick). Jon knows a lot about the history of computing at Princeton. He is also a chess master and has a bit of an empire of self-published chess books. Interesting guy, Jon, and also one of the world's most decent human beings."
As it happens, the championship is a 12-game match with Norwegian chess superstar Magnus Carlsen challenging World Chess Champion Viswanathan (Vishy) Anand of India. When I checked in, the Norwegian was leading 4 games to 2

An internet search for any mention of Veblen's interest in chess, or lack thereof, yielded an interview of Jack Levine, who reminisces about the era of the 1930s, when Fine Hall was the center of mathematics at Princeton, and perhaps the center of gravity of the mathematical universe as well. Edmund Landau and John Vanderslice, a student of Veblen's, are said to have been good chess players, but no mention of Veblen himself taking an interest. Landau appears to be unrelated to the Landau's woolen store in Princeton, the back of which serves as the only permanent exhibit of Einstein memorabilia in town.

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