Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Butter Cake

Butter cake is a popular dessert in Dutch households. In Dutch it is called boterkoek. Here is a recipe for this simple and delicious cake:

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
almond halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a round cake pan. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, leaving just a little to brush over the top later. Stir in the almond extract. Combine the flour and baking powder to make a stiff dough. Press evenly into the pan. Add almond halves if desired. Brush the top with a thin layer of egg. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown.

I hope you enjoy this Dutch cake as much as I do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early Resignation

I played a game of speed chess at chess.com which only lasted nine moves. My opponent was Zhenek of Russia who played black. He decided to resign rather than play on. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Bc5

It is unusual for black to move the bishop so early. A more common move here is Nf6 which attacks the white king pawn.

3. c3 Nc6
4. Bc4 h6
5. 0-0 Nf6
6. d4 exd
7. cxd Na5

I expect black to move his bishop but instead he attacks mine with his knight. His king is in the centre of the board, so I take advantage.

8. Bxf7+ Kxf7
9. dxc Nxe4

Though material is even, black resigns. He notices that I can play Qd5+ on my next move which allows me to capture his knight with Qxe4 on the following move. Another possibility is Qe1 which forks the black knights on a5 and e4. I prefer Qd5+ because it is a more forceful move. I win quickly because the black knights are clearly uncoordinated and unprotected, the black king is too exposed and I can win material with my next move.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspirational Victory

In a recent game of speed chess at chess.com, I had a victory which was a moment of inspiration. My opponent was Baagiiherlen of Mongolia who played black. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 g6
2. d4 d6

I have a strong pawn centre.

3. Nf3 Bg7
4. Be3 a6
5. Bd3 Nf6
6. Nc3 c6
7. Qd2 0-0

I have the option of castling on either side.

8. Bh6 Bg4

I now intend to castle queenside so that I can launch a powerful attack on the kingside.

9. Bxg7 Kxg7
10. h3 Bxf3
11. gxf3 Kg8

Now the g-file is open.

12. h4 Nh5
13. f4 Nd7
14. f5 Qc7
15. 0-0-0 b5

I castle and connect my rooks.

16. fxg fxg
17. Rdg1 Nf4
18. Ne2 Nxd3+
19. Qxd3 Rxf2

Black gains a pawn but the black king has little protection.

20. h5 Nf8
21. e5 d5
22. hxg Nxg6
23. Rxg6+ Kh8
24. Rxh7+ Kxh7

In a moment of inspiration I sacrifice my rook.

25. Rg2+

This move is a discovered check. Black resigns because no matter how he moves, I play Qh3# on my next move. The keys to victory in this game are my ability to expose the black king and successful rook sacrifice to end the game.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Memorable Sacrifice

I recently played a game of speed chess at chess.com against a Canadian, Jlnfrtn. In the game I played white. During the game, I sacrificed my knight to expose his king and pin his knight. It was a memorable sacrifice which helped me to win the game. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd
3. c3 dxc
4. Nxc3 Nc6

I sacrifice a pawn for rapid development.

5. Bc4 e5
6. Nf3 h6
7. h3 Bb4

I play h3 to prevent a future pin on my knight by the black bishop.

8. 0-0 Nf6
9. Re1 Bxc3

Black decides to ruin my pawn structure but gives up a valuable bishop.

10. bxc3 0-0
11. Bd2 a6
12. Qc1 Kh7

I plan to sacrifice my bishop on h6 but black prevents this with Kh7.

13. Ng5+ hxg5

I sacrifice my knight to open the h-file and pin the black knight with my bishop.

14. Bxg5 b5
15. Bb3 d6

Black opens a diagonal for his bishop.

16. Qd1 Bb7

I play a waiting move.

17. Qd3 Kg6
18. Qg3 Kh7
19. Qh4+ Kg6
20. Re3 Rh8

I want to use my rook in an attack against the black king.

21. Qg3 Kh7
22. Bxf7 Qe7

My move is powerful because it takes away g8 and g6 as escape squares for the black king. Black attacks my bishop but this is a mistake. He has no time for this move. He should play g6 so that g7 becomes an escape square. However, he is clearly in trouble.

23. Qh4+

Black resigns. The only move for black is Nh5 but then I play Qxh5 and it is checkmate. Black loses because he cannot protect his king. Two key moves for me in this game are my knight sacrifice, Ng5+, and the capture of a key pawn by my bishop, Bxf7. My sacrifice proves successful.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flemish Pronunciation

Flemish is the variety of Dutch spoken in Belgium. It differs from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands with respect to vocabulary and pronunciation. In fact, it is often divided into two dialects- West Flemish and East Flemish. In this post I wish to explore the differences in pronunciation between Flemish, the Dutch spoken in Belgium, and the Dutch of the Netherlands.

One notable difference in pronunciation occurs with the w. In the Netherlands it is usually pronounced as a labiovelar approximant, a sound with less friction than the English v. In Belgium, however, it is often pronounced as a labiovelar glide, the same as the w of English.

The mid vowels of words such as "zee" (sea) and "zo" (so) tend to be monophthongs in Belgium whereas they are diphthongs in most of the Netherlands.

The r is usually trilled in Belgium but many Dutch speakers use a uvular fricative and even an alveolar approximant in syllable-final position which is similar to that of English.

The g and ch are pronounced as a velar fricative in most of the Netherlands, similar to the German pronunciation of Bach. In Belgium, however, these letters are pronounced as a palatal fricative.

Another difference occurs with words that end with the suffix -tie. In the Netherlands, this suffix is pronounced /tsi/ but in Belgium it is pronounced /si/. This is heard in a number of words such as "revolutie" (revolution) and "situatie" (situation).

Flemish refers to the Dutch language spoken in Belgium. Many of the differences between these two varieties of Dutch are reflected in pronunciation. As a result, these pronunciation differences can identify Dutch speakers from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Northern Lagoon

Here is my latest poem, a poem inspired by the Blue Lagoon of Iceland. I've never been there but think it must be an oasis of warmth in a northern landscape.

Northern Lagoon

In northern air lagoon water is rare.
Warmed by many active volcanoes near,
Sky blue waters warm guests with time to spare,
Many guests who return year after year.

Though long days of winter turn dark and cold,
Northern lagoon resists her frigid air.
Wishing to remain outside winter's fold,
Lagoon waters stay warm for guests to share.

Northern lagoon strengthens mind and body
With mineral waters to cleanse and heal.
This northern lagoon represents beauty,
Health and tranquillity her great appeal.

Found surrounded by quiet, stark landscape
Northern lagoon offers scenes of contrast.
Thermal waters provide welcome escape,
Bringing mind and body rewards that last.