Trump’s Base Isn’t Enough

There shouldn’t be much question about whether 2018 was a wave election. Of course it was a wave. You could endlessly debate the wave’s magnitude, depending on how much you focus on the number of votes versus the number of seats, the House versus the Senate versus governorships, and so forth. Personally, I’d rank the 2018 wave a tick behind both 1994, which represented a historic shift after years of Democratic dominance of the House, and 2010, which reflected an especially ferocious shift against then-President Barack Obama after he’d been elected in a landslide two years earlier. But I’d put 2018 a bit ahead of most other modern wave elections, such as 2006 and 1982. Your mileage may vary.

In another important respect, however, the 2018 wave was indisputably unlike any other in recent midterm history: It came with exceptionally high turnout. Turnout is currently estimated at 116 million voters, or 49.4 percent of the voting-eligible population. That’s an astounding number; only 83 million people voted in 2014, by contrast.

This high turnout makes for some rather unusual accomplishments. For instance, Democratic candidates for the House will receive almost as many votes this year as the 63 million that President Trump received in 2016, when he won the Electoral College (but lost the popular vote). As of Tuesday midday, Democratic House candidates had received 58.9 million votes, according to the latest tally by David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. However, 1.6 million ballots remain to be counted in California, and those are likely to be extremely Democratic. Other states also have more ballots to count, and they’re often provisional ballots that tend to lean Democratic. In 2016, Democratic candidates for the House added about 4 million votes from this point in the vote count to their final numbers. So this year, an eventual total of anywhere between 60 million and 63 million Democratic votes wouldn’t be too surprising.

There isn’t really any precedent for the opposition party at the midterm coming so close to the president’s vote total. The closest thing to an exception is 1970, when Democratic candidates for the House got 92 percent of Richard Nixon’s vote total from 1968, when he was elected president with only 43 percent of the vote. Even in wave elections, the opposition party usually comes nowhere near to replicating the president’s vote from two years earlier. In 2010, for instance, Republican candidates received 44.8 million votes for the House — a then-record total for a midterm but far fewer than Barack Obama’s 69.5 million votes in 2008.

Democratic candidates for the House in 2018 received almost as many votes as President Trump in 2016

Opposition party’s total popular vote in midterm House elections as a share of the president’s popular vote in the previous election, 1938-2018

Popular vote
Election house opp. party For House Opp. party for President in prev. election Opp. party’s house vote as share of pres. vote
2018 D 60-63m 63.0m 95-100%
1970 D 29.1 31.8 92
1994 R 36.6 44.9 82
1950 R 19.7 24.2 81
1982 D 35.3 43.9 80
1958 D 25.6 35.6 72
1946 R 18.4 25.6 72
1962 R 24.2 34.2 71
2006 D 42.3 62.0 68
1998 R 32.2 47.4 68
2002 D 33.8 50.5 67
1990 D 32.5 48.9 66
1954 D 22.4 34.1 66
2010 R 44.8 69.5 64
1974 D 30.0 47.2 64
1938 R 17.3 27.7 62
2014 R 40.0 65.9 61
1978 R 24.5 40.8 60
1986 D 32.4 54.5 59
1966 R 25.5 43.1 59
1942 R 14.3 27.3 52

“The resistance” turned out voters in astonishing numbers, performing well in both traditional swing states in the Midwest — including the states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) that essentially lost Hillary Clinton the presidential election in 2016 — and new-fangled swing states such as Arizona and Texas. Turnout among young voters was high by the standards of a midterm, and voters aged 18 to 29 chose Democratic candidates for the House by 35 points, a record margin for the youth vote in the exit-poll era. The Hispanic share of the electorate increased to 11 percent from 8 percent in the previous midterm, according to exit polls. To some extent, these are stories the media missed when it was chasing down all those dispatches from Trump Country. In a descriptive sense, this was a really big story.

In a predictive sense, what it means is less clear. Sometimes — as was the case in 2006, 1974 and 1930 — midterm waves are followed by turnover in the presidency two years later. But most presidents win re-election, including those who endured rough midterms (such as Obama in 2010, Bill Clinton in 1994 and Ronald Reagan in 1982). Nor is there any obvious relationship between how high turnout was at the midterm and how the incumbent president performed two years later. Democrats’ high turnout in 1970 presaged a landslide loss in 1972, when they nominated George McGovern.

This year’s results do serve as a warning to Trump in one important sense, however: His base alone will not be enough to win a second term. Throughout the stretch run of the 2018 midterm campaign, Trump and Republicans highlighted highly charged partisan issues, from the Central American migrant caravan to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. And Republican voters did indeed turn out in very high numbers: GOP candidates for the House received more than 50 million votes, more than the roughly 45 million they got in 2010.

But it wasn’t enough, or even close to enough. Problem No. 1 is that Republicans lost among swing voters: Independent voters went for Democrats by a 12-point margin, and voters who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016 went to Democrats by 13 points.

Trump and Republicans also have Problem No. 2, however: Their base is smaller than the Democratic one. This isn’t quite as much of a disadvantage as it might seem; the Democratic base is less cohesive and therefore harder to govern. Democratic voters are sometimes less likely to turn out, although that wasn’t a problem this year. And because Republican voters are concentrated in rural, agrarian states, the GOP has a big advantage in the Senate.7

Nonetheless, it does mean that Republicans can’t win the presidency by turning out their base alone, a strategy that sometimes is available to Democrats. (Obama won re-election in 2012 despite losing independents by 5 points because his base was larger.) In the exit polling era, Republicans have never once had an advantage in party identification among voters in presidential years. George W. Bush’s Republicans were able to fight Democrats to a draw in 2004, when party identification was even, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

There are usually more Democrats than Republicans

Share of respondents to presidential election exit polls who identify as a member of each party

Year Democrats Republicans Independents Advantage
2016 37% 33% 31% D+4
2012 38 32 29 D+6
2008 39 32 29 D+7
2004 37 37 26 EVEN
2000 39 35 26 D+4
1996 40 35 22 D+5
1992 38 35 27 D+3
1988 37 35 26 D+2
1984 38 35 26 D+3
1980 43 28 23 D+15
1976 37 22 41 D+15

Source: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

I don’t want to go too far out on a limb in terms of any sort of prediction for 2020. In fact, lest you think that the midterms were the first step toward an inevitable one-term Trump presidency, several facts bear repeating: Most incumbent presidents win re-election, and although Democrats had a strong midterm this year, midterm election results aren’t strongly correlated with what happens in the presidential election two years later. Moreover, presidential approval numbers can shift significantly over two years, so while Trump would probably lose an election today on the basis of his approval ratings, his ratings today aren’t strongly predictive of what they’ll be in November 2020.

But presidents such as Reagan, Clinton and Obama, who recovered to win re-election after difficult midterms, didn’t do it without making some adjustments. Both Reagan and Clinton took a more explicitly bipartisan approach after their midterm losses. Obama at least acknowledged the scope of his defeat, owning up to his “shellacking” after 2010, although an initially bipartisan tone in 2011 had given way to a more combative approach by 2012. All three presidents also benefited from recovering economies — and although the economy is very strong now, there is arguably more downside than upside for Trump (voters have high expectations, but growth is more likely than not to slow a bit).

Trump’s political instincts, as strong as they are in certain ways, may also be miscalibrated. Trump would hate to acknowledge it, but he got most of the breaks in the 2016 election. He ran against a highly unpopular opponent in Clinton and benefited from the Comey letter in the campaign’s final days. He won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote — an advantage that may or may not carry over to 2020, depending on whether voters in the Midwest are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt again. Meanwhile, this year’s midterms — as well as the various congressional special elections that were contested this year and last year — were fought largely on red turf, especially in the Senate, where Trump may well have helped Republican candidates in states such as Indiana and North Dakota. The Republican play-to-the-base strategy was a disaster in the elections in Virginia in 2017 and in most swing states and suburban congressional districts this year, however.

At the least, odds are that Trump needs a course-correction, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’ll be willing to take one. While there’s some speculation that Trump could move in a more bipartisan direction, that hasn’t really been apparent yet in his actions since the midterms, or at least not on a consistent basis. Instead, he’s spent the first fortnight after the midterms firing his attorney general, implying that Democrats were trying to steal elections in Florida, and bragging about how he’d give himself an A-plus rating as president. The next two years will less be a test of Trump’s willpower than one of his dexterity and even his humility — not qualities he’s been known to have in great measure.

One Bad Pawn Move Has Kept The World Chess Championship Deadlocked

One has to be better than good to win at the World Chess Championship. One has to be nearly perfect.

Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 2, was reminded of that today in his eighth game against the reigning champion and world No. 1, Magnus Carlsen. As he did two games ago, Caruana leapt to an early advantage. If he could only retain it going into the endgame, he’d likely be able to collect a win against Carlsen, who has looked mortal a few times during this match.3

But to capitalize against a player as good as Carlsen requires relentless rightness — one wrong move and a tenuous advantage can slip out of your grasp.

Caruana, so sure-handed for 23 moves on Monday, forgot to dry his hands before the 24th. Just like that, Caruana’s advantage was lost. Game 8 ended the way all the others had. After 38 moves and nearly four hours, the two men agreed to a draw — the eighth in a row. The best-of-12 match is level 4-4.

The two began in the Sicilian Defence, an opening that the book “Modern Chess Openings” assures is “active and unsymmetrical.” (In other words, lots of action, and from very different setups for each player.) That was indeed the case on Monday. Specifically, the players were engaged in the Sicilian Defence: Lasker-Pelikan Variation. Chess fans were hopeful that this pelican would fly on Monday afternoon in London.

And it began to, at least for Caruana and the white pieces. Carlsen’s early moves were thought to be slightly careless, and Caruana nursed an advantage. “I’m a little bit surprised by the opening, especially for Magnus,” said Hikaru Nakamura, the American grandmaster and world No. 16, on a Chess.com broadcast. “I think Fabiano is doing quite well.” And not only that, by the 18th move, Carlsen had backed into a 30-minute deficit on the clock.

Caruana began to mount an attack on the queenside, including an aggressive knight that he’d installed in a forward outpost on b6, which hampered black’s artillery. Meanwhile, Carlsen’s available laser beams were pointed down the kingside, and he began to push his pawns down that flank. One of these moves — pawn to g5 — “was not a Magnus move,” Nakamura said. In other words, it was a mistake.

As Caruana pondered his response a bit later, on the 21st move, the board looked like this:

1r1q1rk1/1p2b2p/pN1p4/P2Pnbp1/2P2p2/2B2B2/1P4PP/R2Q1RK1 w – – 0 0
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Carlsen (playing the black pieces) appeared to be overextended on the kingside, and his king itself sat largely unprotected. The game would come down to the next couple of moves. Carlsen’s time deficit had swelled to an hour. And if Carlsen’s knight on e5 was dislodged from its station, Caruana’s warpaths toward Carlsen’s king would be opened wide.

Would Caruana see “21. c5!”? The chess world waited on the edges of seats and the edges of their boards. If he did, Carlsen would not be able to capture the pawn right away, as that would leave his knight undefended, allowing the bishop on c3 to attack without repercussion. The white pawn could puncture black’s territory, potentially wreaking havoc. It was likely the highest leverage move of the match thus far. Caruana thought, starting at the position above, for nearly 34 minutes.

Then he pushed the pawn. The chess world was jubilant. Maybe overly so.

But pawn moves can give, and pawn moves can take.

Carlsen’s position had been successfully breached, but he responded by putting Caruana on the backfoot, trading pieces with Caruana to keep him occupied and away from the pawn drama.

But then, on Caruana’s 24th move, the American pushed a different pawn, this one to h3. Better, perhaps, was dispatching a queen into Carlsen’s territory, which would have continued to apply the pressure. It was a subtle but crucial misstep — a move too slow and plodding for what a successful attack on the world champion would require.

“No, no. He’s done something wrong,” Nakamura said. “This does not feel right.”

And, poof — Caruana’s enormous two-pawn advantage, at least according to a supercomputer analyzing the game, evaporated. The position quickly simplified, as the queens and a pair of rooks were traded. The two grandmasters entered a rooks-and-bishops endgame that looked like this:

4r1k1/1p6/p7/P1pP3p/6bB/8/1P4P1/5RK1 w – – 0 0
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It looked drawish and indeed it was — Carlsen and Caruana shook hands on the 38th move, agreeing to the match’s eighth consecutive draw. These are the ebbs and flows that have kept the match deadlocked so far. “There’s a lot of chess to be played,” Carlsen said after the match. “For today, I’m happy with a draw with the black pieces.”

Four games of the regulation 12 remain, and quicker tie-breaking games will follow if necessary. The match rests tomorrow and resumes with Game 9 on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Another World Chess Championship Draw — It’s Time For Caruana To Attack

Seven games. Seven draws. And the World Chess Championship in London, between the two top-rated grandmasters in the world, remains level with five games to go.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, 27, is No. 1 and trying to successfully defend his title for the third time. Fabiano Caruana of the U.S., 26, is No. 2 and trying to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972. On Sunday, Carlsen marshalled the white pieces and Caruana the black.

The first nine moves of Game 7 exactly matched those of Game 2, which ended in a 49-move draw this past weekend. These moves fall into a category of chess opening called the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Harrwitz Attack. In 1858 in Paris, Daniel Harrwitz deployed his eponymous attack to victorious effect in a game against Paul Morphy, the great American player and unofficial world champion. But “Attack,” in Sunday’s case, was a bit of a misnomer.

“What I did was just way too soft,” Carlsen said after the game.

Caruana’s 10th move — retreating his queen back to its home on d8 after it essayed an aggressive journey to a5 — was a rarity. And after the 11th move, the two grandmasters were in completely uncharted chess territory, according to the ChessBase database. That looked like this:

r1bq1rk1/pp3ppp/1bn1pn2/3p4/2P2B2/PNN1P3/1PQ2PPP/R3KB1R w KQ – 0 0
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The game’s brakes locked in this complex position, and moves 12, 13 and 14 alone took an hour and a half to complete as the players each contemplated a number of plans.

But the game never really appeared to anyone like anything but a draw. (I’ll renew my pro tip here: If you want to sound smart about a championship chess game, just say it “looks drawish.”) In an interview at the venue in London, Demis Hassabis, the co-founder of DeepMind and co-creator of the impossibly strong chess-playing program AlphaZero, predicted a draw at this point. Bookmakers put the live chances of a draw at around 97 percent. The supercomputer assessed it at 0.00 — dead level. And Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the world No. 6, predicted a draw within the next half hour on a Chess.com broadcast.

But Carlsen wasn’t quite done yet.

“Magnus likes to play these positions until he’s sucked the life out of them,” Vachier-Lagrave said. Such is Carlsen’s reputation at the board. The position in question was a bishop-versus-knight endgame with constellation of pawns that looked like this after the 36th move:

8/p2k2p1/bp1Nppp1/4P3/5P2/P1P3P1/5KP1/8 w – – 0 0
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The sucking took more than half an hour, but the vampiric approach drew no blood on Sunday. All four rooks had came off the board in quick succession around move 20, and the queens were cleared a dozen moves later. Caruana, for his part, was playing like he was happy with a draw, and why not? He’d survived a mid-series gauntlet where he had to play two games in a row against Carlsen and the white pieces and their first-move advantage.

Carlsen and Caruana agreed to a draw on the 40th move after about 3.5 hours of play. We’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

Someone will win eventually. If the 12 games end with the score tied — a possibility that is drifting toward a probability — the two grandmasters will play a tie-breaking series of much faster “rapid” and possibly “blitz” games — and possibly even an “Armageddon” game. According to the live world ratings, Carlsen is the No. 1 rapid player and the No. 1 blitz player in the world. Caruana is No. 8 and No. 16, respectively. Given that Carlsen would be the heavy favorite in the tiebreakers, meta-match strategy seems to dictate that Caruana should favor the gas pedal in the five lengthy games to come. If he has any secret attacking weapons, the time has come to fire them.

Watching every second of this match has taken on the cast of a Buddhist meditation — the games are drawn and the mind is cleared and the mantra is repeated. It is, frankly, a rather lovely routine and a cheap bit of self-care. I’ve also been starting to dream about this match. Last night’s installment featured Caruana and an unidentified friend sitting on the ground in the center of a large complex of tennis courts, with me on the outside of its chain link fence, looking in. Players on these courts were equipped with strange wooden spatulas, rather than racquets, and white tennis balls. Caruana and friend had given up playing this weird quasi-tennis, cast their spatulas aside and sat playing with purple Gameboys. What does this augur for the rest of the match? I do not know. Freudians, get in touch.

Game 8 begins Monday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Chess World Rattled As Someone Nearly Wins Game

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the world’s No. 1 chess player, fended off a vicious siege at the hands of U.S. grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 2, in London Friday. It was the sixth frame of the World Chess Championship, and one that for hours appeared likely to give the American a critical lead. But Carlsen escaped, and the match remains level, 3-3. Each of the six games so far have been a draw.

“It’s a miracle save,” said Robert Hess, an American grandmaster commentating on the match for Chess.com.

To catch you up: Carlsen is seeking his fourth world title while his challenger Caruana is trying for the first American world championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972. Their horns are locked in the middle of a best-of-12-game match for the game’s most important title.

The two began Friday’s Game 6 in one of Caruana’s favorite openings: the Petroff. (Specific lines of this opening were featured in the deleted video that scandalized the match days ago.) Game 6’s first three moves appear in 12,289 other games in the ChessBase database. In 11,802 — or 96 percent — of those, white moves its knight to f3 on its fourth move. In 17 of those — or 0.1 percent — white moves its knight to d3.

Carlsen moved his knight to d3.

rnbqkb1r/ppp2ppp/3p1n2/8/4P3/3N4/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq – 0 1
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Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.

And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.

Many moves later, as the game cantered through its middlegame, winning chances emerged and swelled for Caruana’s black pieces, according to both the computer engine and human grandmaster commentators. (Surprisingly, black, which is usually at a disadvantage, has often had an advantage over white in this match.) While there was no single blunder for Carlsen, there was an accumulation of … what to call them? “Mistakes” seems too serious. “Slip-ups” make them sound like pratfalls. Let’s go with “inaccuracies.” Carlen admitted after the game that he’d made a number of imperfect moves. By move 34, knights and bishops were the only firepower left on the board, and they threatened salvo after salvo in a crucial struggle over the pawns.

By the 47th move, Carlsen was down a knight but up three pawns, which gave him a few slim hopes. Two had open routes to the end of the board, where they could become queens. Much delicate, asymmetrical and impossibly complex maneuvering commenced, as Caruana tried to prevent the pawns’ promotion.

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A dozen moves later, Caruana had captured three of Carlsen’s pawns, including those aspiring to become queens, and still had one of his own. That left him in a victorious position — if only he could see it. On the 68th move, a supercomputer analyzing the game found a guaranteed checkmate a distant 30 moves down the road — down a lengthy bridle path, say.

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Caruana is an unbelievably strong player — though not that strong. As play continued, the silicon’s guarantee quickly went away. If only Carlsen could eliminate the pawns, he’d survive: a bishop and a knight versus a bishop is a theoretically guaranteed draw.

Finally, through many feats, Carlsen was able to spirit away his king to a fortress on black’s side of the board.

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Despite black’s apparent material advantage, there was no progress to be made. The players agreed to a draw on the 80th move.

Carlsen had walked a slippery bridge and survived. His escape act drew attention. As the tension built toward the end of the game, the match became the most-viewed stream on the popular game-streaming site Twitch. Books could be written about this endgame. (Though not by me.)

So, another draw, huh? Yawn, am I right? Not so fast. Today’s Game 6 was an instant classic. Journalist David Hill, who’s been in London reporting on the match, tweeted that there can be beauty in draws. Not all of them are created equal.

And while the six consecutive draws we’ve seen thus far is a lot, it’s certainly not a record. Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin began their 2016 world championship match with seven draws. Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand fought to eight in a row to open their 1995 match. And at one point in Kasparov’s 1984 championship match against Anatoly Karpov, there were 17 straight draws. “There was a 20-second burst of applause” after a decisive game broke the grueling streak, the New York Times reported. That match, which began in September, was finally halted in February of the following year — 40 of its 48 games were draws.

The data scientist Randal Olson analyzed hundreds of thousands of chess games in an article a few years ago. The closer players are in rating, he found, the longer games tend to go. And as the players get better, draws become far more common. Carlsen and Caruana are as good — and about as close in rating — as you can get. Indeed, they are even beyond the scope of Olson’s chart below, with Elo ratings (which measure the strength of players given the opponents they’ve played) north of 2800.

We’ll keep the draw-filled chart below updated throughout the match. And perhaps we’ll be able to add a decisive result to it at some point. Or perhaps not. And that could be exciting, too.1

The match rests tomorrow. Game 7 — in which Caruana will once again have the black pieces — begins Sunday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. That’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Iowa State Is A Contender (Finally)

For most of the century-plus that Iowa State has been playing college football, the Cyclones have toiled in misery, the doormat of virtually every conference they’ve been a part of. That neighboring programs at the University of Iowa and University of Nebraska rose to national prominence, in part at the expense of the Cyclones, no doubt made this fact more painful for the faithful in Ames.

But despite losing to Iowa in the first game of their season, the No. 16 Cyclones are the class of the region this year.

At 6-3, Iowa State’s record doesn’t jump off the page, but coach Matt Campbell has turned the program around. In 2017, Campbell’s second season on the job, the Cyclones snapped a seven-year streak of losing records and capped the season with a win in the Liberty Bowl — just the fourth bowl victory in school history.

Now currently on a five-game winning streak against conference foes,1 including two wins over ranked opponents, Iowa State has a chance to play in the Big 12 championship game if it beats Texas on Saturday and Kansas State next week, and West Virginia loses either to Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. The Cyclones haven’t won a conference title since before the television was invented, last doing so when they were a part of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Even being ranked this late in the season has the Cyclones on the brink of another accomplishment: The team has finished a season in the Associated Press rankings only twice in school history — and never higher than 19th. By comparison, their rival to the west, Nebraska, has finished 48 seasons in the rankings.

Iowa State is 12.89 points better than the average team this season, according to Sports Reference’s Simple Rating System. That would be the team’s third-best season of all time and the best mark since 1976. Not bad for a program that, through the 1990s — despite having a transcendent talent at running back — averaged an SRS of negative-4.7 and won less than 26 percent of its games.

Campbell, at least at podiums, is hardly satisfied. “I think what’s exciting is that I sit here right now knowing that our best is still out there,” he said after the team’s most recent win.

Iowa State’s five-game winning streak coincides with Campbell’s decision in early October to play true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy, who spurned a scholarship offer from Alabama. Purdy’s Total Quarterback Rating of 85.0 trails only Shea Patterson of Michigan (85.2), Kyler Murray of Oklahoma (95.3) and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama (95.8).

Purdy has an elite target in Hakeem Butler, the successor to recently graduated star receiver Allen Lazard. At 6-foot-6, Butler is a ball-hawking skyscraper who ranks second nationally in yards per reception (22.7) and share of receptions resulting in a first down or touchdown (86.1 percent). Add in a bruising tailback like David Montgomery — a consensus first-team All-Big 12 selection from a season ago who has amassed 1,108 yards after contact over the past two seasons, the fifth most of any running back — and the Cyclones have a frightening offensive triumvirate. In the seven seasons under Paul Rhoads, Campbell’s predecessor, Iowa State never ranked in the top 50 in offensive efficiency, but the team is on track to crack it for the second season in a row.

But the pulse of Iowa State’s success is in the dominant defense installed by Campbell and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. This season, the Cyclones rank 13th in defensive efficiency at 79.22 — 8.79 points higher than any previous season in the previous 10 years and 30.62 points higher than their average over that stretch. Iowa State leads the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.1), opposing passer efficiency rating (125), yards allowed per play (4.94) and opponent drive score percentage (25.9 percent), among other metrics.

The Cyclone defense displayed its chops on Oct. 13 against West Virginia, which touts a top-five passing offense (337.3 per contest) and top-10 scoring attack (40.89 per contest). Will Grier, a likely Heisman finalist, was held to a season-low 100 passing yards, and the Mountaineer offense managed just 7 points. (West Virginia finished with 14 total points, but 7 came by way of a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.) “We didn’t do anything right,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said afterward.

Iowa State’s toughest assignment left on the regular-season schedule comes Saturday against No. 15 Texas, before the Cyclones close with matchups against Kansas State and Incarnate Word.2 But that last game, scheduled for Dec. 1, would be canceled if Iowa State can reach the conference championship.

For decades, conference foes worked Iowa State like a speed bag on Saturdays, turning Jack Trice Stadium into a virtual burial ground. Opposing coaches like Tom Osborne at Nebraska and Hayden Fry at Iowa inflicted substantial punishment, year after year. But under Campbell, the cardinal and gold have shown that they won’t be pushed around. FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating pegs the Cyclones higher than it does Central Florida, a team largely crowdsourcing its playoff candidacy but that does have the nation’s longest current winning streak. A win Saturday in Austin, a game some consider to be the program’s most significant in the past decade, wouldn’t vault Iowa State into the playoff conversation. But it would rubber-stamp a growing notion: The Cyclones — yes, those Cyclones — are finally ready to contend.

Check out our latest college football predictions.

Global Point – IT Managed Services

IT Managed Services

Happy to work with a business to business organization in Chicago Global Point LLC.  They currently offer IT Managed Services, AWS Cloud Computing, Disaster Recovery and more.

From their website, Global Point was launched by corporate IT consultants who wanted to bring their skills and experience to companies that need them, helping businesses grow and avoid growing IT headaches. They bring a comprehensive understanding of technology, from small offices up to multinational corporate infrastructure. We emphasize working with customers to identify their immediate needs, as well as to anticipate growth. As a business ourselves, we understand how critical it is to dependably meet the needs of your growing businesses we support. Global Point Works with you and for you as a business partner.

Global Point IT Managed Services

If you’re looking for a help desk, cloud computing, disaster recovery IT services company I encourage you to consider them.

Help Desk Support

Global Point lists the benefits of their business to business Help Desk Support and they include:

Global Point’s technical advisers understand your business
With our engineers holding years of experience in their respective fields, our clients are given access to exceptionally high level engineers with qualifications in migrations, integration, support engineering, and much more. All our technicians take the time to understand your environment. This is solely for the reason of enhancing efficiency of the resolution of all your issues.

Fixed monthly rate
Our fixed monthly rates ensure that you are not incurring any unexpected costs along the way. That way we can provide your business with updates of when you are nearing your limit or if the support is unlimited and we have a contract that doesn’t require so much work, we will advise you on the better options.

Have agreements built on your terms
We know how important it is to transparently communicate expectations. After understanding your business needs, we’ll suggest best practice ideas for responding to issues. However, all our clients are given the autonomy to dictate exactly what they expect from their computer systems. The SLAs simply enforce them!

Reduced financial risk
When you upgrade your support from casual support to a fixed monthly rate, it becomes an operational expense. This allows for more cash flow to occur without the massive bumps in the budget. This also allows us to understand your environments better than providing your business with ad-hoc support.

All-year round support of your IT
We know the importance of having a range of support options. But what about ensuring consistency? Throughout the year; we make sure that your team is supported and your systems are managed accordingly.

Highly responsive turn-around time
We often have new clients approach us because they are frustrated with their current IT. Our personal aim is make sure that your business receives the highest level of service, especially during the critical time-periods.

https://www.matthewleffler.com/global-point-it-managed-services/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-point-it-managed-services

What’s It Gonna Take For Somebody To Win A Chess Game?

Game 5 of the World Chess Championship began under a cloud. Not a literal cloud, though there were those in London, too. Rather it was the lingering hubbub of a published and deleted video. Since that video was released, a prominent chess writer resigned and, oddly, the event’s organizing body announced that it had hired a security firm that was ready to sweep for illicit electronic devices and deploy polygraphs on the players if necessary. Was the latter related to the video? To some other bit of intrigue yet to fully emerge? Or just because chess’s governing body is, how do you say, filled with plenty of intrigue of its own?

I have no answers for you. But I do have some chess to relay. To catch you up if you’re just joining us: Magnus Carlsen of Norway is seeking his fourth world title. His challenger Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. is trying to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972. The pair began the day’s game tied 2-2 in the best-of-12 title match.1 It didn’t end much differently.

The two grandmasters started Thursday’s game with the Rossolimo variation of the Sicilian Defence — the third time they’ve opened with that sequence of moves in the match’s five encounters. But then came a lightning bolt that briefly illuminated the match. It was known as “6. b4!?”

Caruana’s sixth move — his white pawn to b4 — electrified the encounter. This is what the board looked like after it struck.

r1bqk1nr/pp1p1pbp/2n3p1/1Bp1p3/1P2P3/5N2/P1PP1PPP/RNBQR1K1 b kq – 0 0
You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess diagram visualization.

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This is a rare move in this position at the game’s highest levels, and it’s an aggressive one — one often reserved for speed-chess games, rather than the lengthy, classically timed games of a world championship. Carlsen had faced this move with the black pieces only once before, according to ChessBase — in a 2005 game against the Dutch grandmaster Daniël Stellwagen, when Carlsen was just 14. (That game ended in a draw.) Given Carlsen’s prodigious memory for positions, it would be no surprise if he remembered that game well. And he claimed not to be troubled.

“To be honest, I was pretty happy about the opening,” Carlsen said after the game.

Lichess’s analysis tool calls that sixth move the “Sicilian Defense: Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Attack, Gurgenidze Variation.” Gurgenidze was the Georgian grandmaster Bukhuti Gurgenidze, and “one of the most original and striking players of the Soviet era,” wrote ChessBase upon his death in 2008. The early part of Thursday’s game was striking, too. Grandmasters called it the sharpest opening they’d seen in world championship history.

Generically, this sort of move, a pawn to b4, is called a wing gambit, and it can be ventured in a few different openings. White sacrifices a pawn to potentially gain an advantage in the center of the board and in the mobilization of his pieces — the claiming of territory and the arming of his troops. Indeed, it was perhaps the first time in the match that the player with the white pieces had been able to sustain anything one might be able to call an attacking advantage.

Yet Carlsen was able to parry the threats. He appeared calm throughout the game, occasionally throwing one arm over the back of his chair, ever so suave in his gray suit.

By Caruana’s 19th move, he was perhaps regretting that his brief advantage had fizzled. And indeed it had. He spent nearly 32 minutes on that move, head often in both of his hands, pondering the board. Carlsen and Caruana agreed to a draw after 34 moves and just over 3 hours, in the position below. The match now sits level, 2.5-2.5.

8/5R2/5bp1/3rpk1p/6P1/4B2P/5P2/5K2 b – – 0 0
You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess diagram visualization.

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Given the way the championship’s scheduling works, Carlsen will play with the white pieces — and its first-move advantage — for the next two games. It will prove a critical gauntlet for Caruana’s title hopes. Here’s a visualization of how things have gone, and we’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

Game 6 begins Friday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Villanova Won A Title. Now It Must Start Over From Scratch.

The Villanova Wildcats produced one of the most dominant seasons in NCAA history last year, going 36-4, including a complete dissection of a strong Michigan team to win the championship game. The Wildcats scorched teams on offense, ranking No. 1 in the country in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage, according to college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy. This helped them beat the Wolverines by 17 points.

But the team that is defending that title — currently ranked eighth heading into Wednesday’s rematch with Michigan — is hardly recognizable eight months later, as four of coach Jay Wright’s stalwarts from a season ago are now in the NBA.

The departure of Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges — a pair of juniors left over from the 2015-16 national title-winning team — has left a crater in Wright’s lineup. Along with the exits of Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman, the outgoing quartet combined for a whopping 26.1 win shares last season1.

It’s typical for reigning national champions to lose a large chunk of their talent the following season, especially in the one-and-done era. And while the Wildcats may not have lost the most win shares of past champions, the immediate exodus of talent will have huge consequences for their prospects to repeat as champions this season. This is perhaps a long way of saying winning back-to-back titles, or even coming close, has become very difficult in college basketball — and for good reason.

Villanova’s departures have left a sizable hole

Total win share of players who left NCAA championship teams the season after their championship, since the beginning of college basketball’s one-and-done era

Departing players
Season Champion Number Win Share
2017-18 Villanova 7 26.1
2016-17 North Carolina 7 21.8
2015-16 Villanova 5 11.4
2014-15 Duke 4 25.5
2013-14 Connecticut 7 19.8
2012-13 Louisville 4 12.3
2011-12 Kentucky 7 36.3
2010-11 Connecticut 5 13.4
2009-10 Duke 6 20.7
2008-09 North Carolina 9 26.6
2007-08 Kansas 9 35.3
2006-07 Florida 10 33.7
2005-06 Florida 2 1.5

Source: Sports-reference.com

Billy Donovan’s 2007 Florida Gators are the only team in the past 45 years to repeat as NCAA men’s basketball champions, after John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins capped off seven consecutive titles. Back then, Wooden had the luxury of coaching future NBA Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar2 and Bill Walton for three seasons, something that is largely unheard of in today’s game.3

And when it comes to the one-and-done era, the Gators are an anomaly themselves, as Donovan managed to persuade the likes of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer to remain in Gainesville for their junior years before winning another title and then moving to lengthy careers in the NBA.

For most champions, winning a national title usually means saying goodbye to their best talent — the nation’s top freshman are forced to use college as a stopgap for a year before jumping to the NBA, and upperclassmen often ride their team’s success to test the NBA’s waters. For his part, Wright did well to keep Brunson and Bridges in Philadelphia for another two years after winning their first title, which built a bridge to that second championship.

But the team that cut down the nets last year has been gutted, particularly on the offensive side. Among the top four players of each champion since 2006, when the one-and-done began, Villanova’s departed quartet leave the greatest offensive hole for a reigning champion, a hole that might be too great to overcome.

Villanova fans might choose to view things in a more optimistic way, instead thinking themselves as fortunate that they only lost four players, especially seeing the Wildcats of Kentucky lose an unimaginable six players after their championship in 2012 and then stumbling into the NIT a year later. Nova’s relatively tiny rotation last year — Villanova ranked 302nd in total bench usage, according to KenPom — could be a blessing in disguise as the likes of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth are still available to make the leap to the top of the college ranks and potentially beyond.

Still, Villanova fans thinking of a repeat might want to curb the enthusiasm.

Any team not named Duke, Kentucky or Kansas — whose recruiting prowess means a revolving door of NBA-bound super freshmen — has struggled to be relevant again immediately. If you look past these three blue bloods, Louisville is the only reigning champion to reach the Sweet 16 the year following championship in the last dozen years. It’s why the 2010 North Carolina Tar Heels couldn’t even make the NCAA Tournament after winning the whole thing a year earlier. It’s why last year’s Tar Heels were swept aside in the second round of the tournament by Texas A&M.

Back-to-back has become a pipe dream

How men’s NCAA champions have fared the following season in college basketball’s one-and-done era

Season after championship …
Season Champion Wins Losses Postseason
2017-18 Villanova 2
0 ?
2016-17 North Carolina 26
11
2nd Round
2015-16 Villanova 32
4
2nd Round
2014-15 Duke 25
11
Sweet 16
2013-14 Connecticut 20
15
NIT
2012-13 Louisville 31
6
Sweet 16
2011-12 Kentucky 21
12
NIT
2010-11 Connecticut 20
14
2nd Round
2009-10 Duke 32
5
Sweet 16
2008-09 North Carolina 20
17
NIT
2007-08 Kansas 27
8
Sweet 16
2006-07 Florida 24
12
NIT
2005-06 Florida 35
5
Champion

The NCAA Tournament’s First Four was known as the First Round until the 2015 tournament.

Source: Sports-Reference.com

Joining senior Paschall, who’s being touted as a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and redshirt senior Booth, who netted 23 in his season debut last week, is the 12th best recruiting class, according to ESPN. Five-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly is considered one of the best freshman point guards in the nation, and four-star forwards Cole Swider and Brendan Slater both also have a place on the ESPN 100. Whenever this is enough for Wright’s team to make waves again in March is a question for the season ahead. However, with currently the fifth-best ranked recruiting class for next year, Wildcats fans may have another title-winning team in the not-too-distant future, maybe just not in the immediate one.

The Biggest Blunder Of The World Chess Championship Is A Deleted YouTube Video

Game 4 of the World Chess Championship in London began with a fitting surprise: the “English Opening.”

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the three-time defending world champion and world No. 1, began the game by pushing the white pawn in front of his left bishop to the c4 square — a relatively rare move at the game’s highest levels. Fabiano Caruana, the U.S. challenger and world No. 2 trying to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972, pushed a black pawn to e5. And with that, the English had come. Few bells would be rung for the rest of the game.

Game 4 ended in a draw, just as the three previous games had. It was an uninspired 34-move, 2.5-hour episode. The match for the game’s highest prize remains level, at 2 points apiece in a race to 6.5.1 The boring result failed to overshadow the real drama of the day: the Zapruder film of this world championship.

But first, the chess.

“Carlsen is trying to avoid that really annoying Petroff,” Robert Hess, a grandmaster, said during a broadcast on Twitch. The Petroff Defence is one of Caruana’s favorite chess tools when he has the black pieces, but he can deploy it only when white cooperates by opening with a pawn to e4. Carlsen’s opening move, therefore, was preventive — or “prophylactic,” as chess players like to say. (Bards of the game, one and all.)

The pattern of pieces that developed on the board is called, rather delightfully, a “Reverse Dragon.” The Sicilian Defence has a variation called the Dragon — named after the resemblance of the pawns to the constellation Draco — except in this case its colors were reversed. But the position breathed no fire on Tuesday.

After 10 moves, the game was an exact match of a game that Caruana played against Wesley So, another top American grandmaster, earlier this year — the only such game that had ever featured this position, according to ChessBase. Given how recent and high-profile it was, this was a game that Caruana and Carlsen almost certainly both remembered well.

r1bqr1k1/ppp2ppp/8/2b1p3/3n4/2BP1NP1/PP2PPBP/R2Q1RK1 w – – 0 0
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After that, the two entered previously unseen territory. But the uncharted wilderness did not provide much in the way of excitement. Carlsen and Caruana agreed to a draw after 34 moves, in the position below. Despite the many pieces on the board, the grandmasters’ expertise told them that there was only one way this was likely to go.

2r5/5p2/2pbk3/1p2p2p/rP2P3/5PPP/2RBK3/2R5 b – – 0 0
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Here’s how things have gone on the chessboard thus far, and we’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

The day’s humdrum play was overshadowed by some excitement off the board, though. A chess-world controversy — or at least what qualifies as one — erupted. Before the game, the posh Saint Louis Chess Club posted, and quickly deleted, a YouTube video appearing to show aspects of Caruana’s pre-championship preparation sessions. The club is Caruana’s de facto office and was founded by the billionaire retired financier Rex Sinquefield, who also helps fund Caruana’s chess career — both the club and Caruana are totems of Sinquefield’s deep pockets and deep love of chess. A chess columnist named John Hartmann tweeted this screenshot from the video.

It shows a laptop screen, complete with chess ideas in progress — a “Fianchetto Grunfeld,” various Queen’s Gambits Declined (an opening that was played in Game 2), and a number of ideas related to the favorite Petroff. It also shows a number of games from the 2016 world championship, to which Caruana was surely paying close attention.

A clip of the video shows Caruana leafing through a book of Carlsen’s past championship games and then handing it across a chessboard to his grandmaster coach and “second,” Rustam Kasimdzhanov, while grandmaster Alejandro Ramírez sits nearby.

Scandalous, I know.

Some chess commentators suggested that it was a huge blunder; others suggested that it was a deft piece of a disinformation campaign. The Saint Louis Chess Club did not respond to my emailed requests for comment, and Caruana’s manager declined to comment. Caruana himself declined to comment at a post-game news conference, and Carlsen claimed that he hadn’t seen it but was aware of its existence.

World Chess Championship preparation is always closely guarded. Kasimdzhanov warned me last spring that anything I might write about Caruana’s prep would be pored over by his Norwegian opponent and his team of hired chess guns for any shred of usable information. A player readying for a championship match typically enters seclusion with a small, handpicked crew of grandmaster aides and other associates. Even revealing their identities could be risky, I was told, because different grandmasters have different chess tendencies, and revealing the grandmasters might signal a game plan to the opponent. When Fischer was readying for his championship match, at a resort in upstate New York where prizefighters trained, he told an interloping New York Times reporter to “shove off” and stopped answering the phone.

In April, FiveThirtyEight was promised access to Caruana’s training camp by Caruana’s managers — a promise that was rescinded in July. That change of heart was not unique to this website. At least one other major online outlet was promised exclusive access to his training camps — another promise that was rescinded in July.

But the players will have to play their moves in public eventually. Perhaps one of them will even win a game of chess.

The match rests on Wednesday, but Game 5 begins Thursday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Can You Stave Off A Cold With Willpower?

cwick (Chadwick Matlin, deputy editor): :sniffle: Maggie, Anna and Christie, I’ve gathered you all to discuss the kind of question that could change EVERYTHING (and one well-timed for flu season): When I know it’s really important for me not to be sick for a day or two (say, if there’s an election coming), can I stop myself from feeling sick? Does my mind really have power over my matter? Is my brain that dope?

You’re not doctors, but in my book, you’re close enough: journalists who talk to doctors. So tell me: Do I have the power???

slackbot: I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well. There is Advil and Tylenol in the cabinet in front of Nate’s office/Vanessa’s desk.

cwick: Readers, that’s an auto-response triggered every time one of us says “sick” anywhere in our chat app. But if you ever need an Advil in the FiveThirtyEight office, now you know where to find it.

christie (Christie Aschwanden, lead writer for science): Hi, Chad! I love it when an editor sends writers off to get an answer to his personal medical problem.

maggiekb (Maggie Koerth-Baker, senior science writer): I get where he’s coming from, though. This is a pretty common belief. I mean, my super skeptic engineer husband is convinced that he saved all his illnesses for the end of the semester in college. Last test done. And then the deluge.

cwick: I suffered through a 102-degree fever the day after my wedding. I don’t think anything you say will convince me that I WASN’T holding it at bay the whole weekend.

christie: Because I like you, Chad, I asked a few experts. I have a few pet theories myself. But first, the expert opinion: “Sorry. No evidence of the willpower effect!” That’s according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

anna (Anna Maria Barry-Jester, senior reporter): Was that a “no evidence for or against” the willpower effect, Christie?

christie: I think he meant there was no evidence that there is a willpower effect.

And Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard, said the same thing that several others did: “I don’t know of any research one way or another about these things.”

anna: (Thank you for that prescient answer to my at-that-point unasked question, Mr. Lipsitch.)

christie: One of my theories: It’s all about attention and focus. When you’re stressed about something else or hyperfocused on getting through finals week or meeting a deadline or getting out a grant proposal, all of your attention is going to that other task. When you get through it, you have more attention to pay to your symptoms, and you can kind of bask in them. So it’s not that you’re not sick (while you’re supposedly holding it off), it’s just that you’re in denial or you’re ignoring the symptoms.

anna: I can buy that (though I assume you’re talking about mild colds here).

christie: Yeah, I’m talking about the usual winter crud. Not the kind of illness that you can’t possibly ignore, like a heart attack.

anna: The one interesting thing I found was some research about colds and placebo. But before we get to that, there seems to be very little research on warding off illness altogether or delaying it and a lot more on reducing symptoms or shortening how long you are sick. Part of the problem there is that mild colds come and go, making them difficult to study.

christie: Good point, Anna. And that’s also what makes placebos so good at treating them.

anna: But a study from 2011 really intrigued me. It’s one study and it’s small … It looked at echinacea, an herbaceous flower commonly used to treat colds (the National Institutes of Health says some preparations may potentially treat colds, but the evidence is weak). The study essentially found that people who believed in the power of echinacea and were given a placebo pill had shorter colds (by a lot, 2.5 days!) than those who didn’t believe. Placebo: It’s a hell of a drug.

christie: If you take the placebo when you are feeling your worst, which is usually the low point no matter what, then what is really just the illness’s natural course appears like an effective treatment. (When it’s at its worst, it can only get better.)

anna: What about my favorite cold placebo, vitamins in the form of a fizzy additive to water? I take that before I get on a plane. Or ride the NYC subway.

christie: Oh, the fizzy vitamin water? People love those! And they’re a great placebo. But … a Cochrane review found that vitamin C did not reduce the incidence of colds and that “trials of high doses of vitamin C administered therapeutically, starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on the duration or severity of common cold symptoms.”

anna: Oh, I know that there isn’t particularly convincing evidence about the effect of vitamin C on colds. It is literally my favorite placebo, not pharmaceutical. The placebo effect is real.

christie: I wonder how they measured the duration of the cold in the echinacea study. Because if it’s derived from a self-reported “how do you feel?” question, there’s a lot of wiggle room. If you expect to feel better, you might in fact rate yourself as feeling better. Because how you feel is a rating of your experience. It’s open to suggestion.

anna: “Duration was defined as total time elapsed from enrollment until the last time answering yes to the question, ‘Do you think you still have a cold?’” I think that’s part of why that study intrigued me, Christie. Because it suggested that how people felt depended on whether they thought the treatment could work. I don’t see why that couldn’t in theory translate to keeping a cold at bay, as well.

christie: Agree, Anna. How we actually feel is a conglomeration of a lot of things, which include how we expect to feel.

cwick: So are we really talking about two different questions: Can I stop myself from feeling sick for a bit? (No, you dummy.) Can I make myself feel better once I am sick? (Maybe if you truly believe.)

maggiekb: I’m going to add one more question here, Chad. Instead of asking whether you can hold off your illness until your stressful life events are done, what about the question of whether stressful life events make you sick. And the answer to that, kind of surprisingly, is … well … maybe … yeah.

There’s a line of research — enough individual research papers to make a meta-analysis — that suggests stressful life events can make you more susceptible to things like the common cold.

christie: That’s a good point, Maggie. And that leads me to another theory: When you’re stressed about that thing in your life, you may be more susceptible to illnesses. You may be skimping on sleep, not eating well, drinking too much, skipping exercise, etc. The illness just catches up to you.

maggiekb: The studies on this are super interesting because they actually involve getting these sample groups of people, doing inventories about their stressful life events, and then exposing them all to cold virus intentionally. So for instance, in one 2012 study, the people who reported stress and stressful life events were twice as likely to get sick.

cwick: Wait, what does purposeful exposure to cold virus look like? Do I get misted? Do I get slobbered on? Does someone wipe their snotty hand on my face?

anna: In the nose, Chad.

cwick: 👃!!!!

christie: In one study, Chad, they gave nasal drops containing rhinovirus. Turns out, people who were sleep deprived were most likely to get sick.

maggiekb: Misting in some of these studies. Swabbing in others.

cwick: My nose is twitching just thinking about it.

anna: Which is to say, don’t pick your nose after riding the subway.

christie: And don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth ever during flu season if you want to stay well. Seriously, good hygiene practices are your very best defense. Wash your hands with soap and water. Don’t cough on people (or get coughed on).

maggiekb: It’s not just cold/flu, either. There are some papers that show connections between stress and worse outcomes for HIV/AIDS. Including higher levels of virus in the bloodstream, an increased risk of picking up other infections, and increased risk of death.

I’m kind of fascinated now by this researcher at Carnegie Mellon who has basically made it his life’s work to figure out WHY stress is able to increase your risk of contracting a communicable disease. And you guys are going to love this … he’s the American Psychosomatic Society’s 2018 distinguished scientist.

christie: Wow, there’s an American Psychosomatic Society?

anna: Pardon, what?

cwick: Cheap joke: They dreamed it into reality

maggiekb: Anyway, his theory is that the receptors that bind to stress hormones can become resistant to those hormones. The more resistance, the worse your body is at suppressing inflammation. The more chronic inflammation, the worse things work … in terms of preventing illness.

anna: Chad, you really just want to know if you can will yourself into not getting sick, right? Do you care at all about what you can do to make that sickness … shorter, less … sick?

cwick: IDK, once I am sick, I sort of revel in complaining about it. If you shorten my colds, what would I have to talk about?

christie: Go ahead and joke, Chad, but I think we should be careful about stigmatizing the connection between mind and body health.

maggiekb: It’s not hokum. At least not completely.

christie: The mind is a crucial part of the body, so it’s not surprising that one’s psychological state of being can affect physical symptoms. Instead of joking that it’s “all in their heads,” we might be better off trying to harness this connection.

anna: Related: A recent New York Times magazine story delves into the new science of placebo and after reading it, it’s hard not to feel like a whole new era of treatment could be upon us. But it means completely revamping how we think about things like placebo.

christie: You know where this is leading, right, Chad? To my perpetual mantra: It’s complicated, and science is hard.

cwick: When will science get easier?

christie: Never! Sorry.

cwick: Lame.