Saturday, May 26, 2007

I have been searching for connections between the God Mithras and Chess. Any help will be Gladly welcomed. Here is a post from the Delphi. Persian Temple of Mithras Found in Germany Author: The Tehran Times Source: The Tehran Times Title: PERSIAN TEMPLE OF MITHRAS FOUND IN GERMANYArcheologists in southwest Germany have uncovered a 1,800-year-old temple built to the Persian god Mithras while they were working on a Roman dig, authorities in the town of Gueglingen said Friday.Well preserved parts of an altar, jewelry and pieces of a fresco have been discovered, said Andrea Neth, director at the site, which will be opened to the public on Sunday, AFP reported.Additonal Article Link: [Click HERE] Options: [Read Full Story]

Playing Games Together

I read an article today about families playing board games and card games together, and how beneficial this type of activity is to family dynamics. This article produced an avalanche of reminiscence!

(Photo: Michelle, Georgia, Don and I were playing cribbage in the kitchen at my house, 2005, Don took the photo - that white box near the lower left corner is what's left of a box of fudge, Don ate most of it :))

I have very fond memories of playing games as a family and with family members as I was growing up. As young children, we would sit around the kitchen or dining room table watching my parents and assorted aunts and uncles play poker - wild games like Baseball (3's and 9's are wild and 4 gets you an extra card); and there was almost always at least one wild-card even in "Five Card Stud." It was rare a "straight" game (with no wild cards) was called. They played for small change, and we learned the game by watching and after the end of the hand, asking questions.

We learned very quickly not to say a word or even make faces at each other while an actual hand was being played; we would generally position ourselves so that we could see one or even two players' hands! I remember some very early games, I was perhaps four, and I would fall asleep on dad's lap while they played, the hum of conversation, the slapping sounds of the cards, the laughter, the slide of coins across the table into the pot, the absolute feeling of contentment and belonging, closeness, love. Soon, my siblings and I were playing with the grown-ups and having a ball. The stakes were always small; we'd play for pennies and nickels, and winning a 50 cents pot was a big deal! There was a special really good feeling associated with those times; I never thought much about it as a child, it was just taken for granted; but looking back, part of it must be the feeling of being included in the group of adults (and therefore being special, admitted to the "high ranks" of the adults), of not being ignored, of being nurtured and appreciated. There was always lots of joshing talk and laughter, but sometimes serious conversations about politics and their "work" and such, and we soaked it all in and felt very "grown up" for being part of it all.

We also played Monopoly (lots of Monopoly) and Life, and we would play "team" Battleship. Invariably, at any family gathering, a large group would gather around a table or two and play card games and board games. The favorite game of my mother's family was penny-ante poker and my aunties would call some crazy games, with 3 and sometimes 4 wild cards! The uncles would follow along, with much laughter. The favorite game of my father's family was cribbage. My paternal grandfather taught me to play cribbage when I was 11 (he taught me about baseball then, too) and whenever that side of the family gathered together we'd have tables to play cribbage, sometimes team cribbage, while other family members would play Monopoly and poker.

At big family reunions where relatives from all over would join together at a county park, I'd move from table to table, playing crazy poker games, Monopoly and Clue, and cribbage, lots of cribbage. We also played Bocci ball - I'm pretty good because we also all learned to bowl when we were kids, that was a big deal in my hometown. You never lose the "eye," it seems...

The older I got, the more I appreciated the ritual. I would catch myself just watching the family talking, laughing, enjoying the time and the moment, and memorizing it, like a snapshot.

One of my best friends in the "old neighborhood" was Donna, and her mother and grandmother (and even, on occasion, her father) loved playing Canasta. They taught me how to play the game so I could join in because I spent a lot of time over at their house; often there would be Donna, her mom, her dad's mom and me playing Canasta around their kitchen table. I don't remember how to play Canasta anymore and I haven't seen Donna since she married and moved away in the early 1970's, but I do remember many afternoons playing cards with the Berne family. It was Grandma Berne who taught me how to play Gin. I was 13 and she and I sat at the Berne kitchen table smoking cigarettes (she smoked Camels and I smoked Salem Lights) as she taught me the game and tried to helped me with my atrocious "French" accent (it was my 'foreign language' in junior high and high school). I don't remember much French and I never did learn how to properly "roll" my ‘r’s’, but I still remember how to play Gin and I remember Grandma Berne, with her thick glasses that she only put on when she absolutely had to, her real French-Canadian accent, her furs, her expensive perfumed scent, her high-heeled pumps and black leather handbags that always seemed to hold the most wonderful things, and her perfectly groomed dark auburn coif, very 1940's and quite elegant. And bright red lipstick.

Now we're all grown up; I'm a "great aunt" (eek!), my sisters are grandmothers, my mother who loved playing 500 rummy with us at night around the kitchen table while dad was at his second-shift job is a great-grandmother. My youngest niece is seven; my oldest nieces and nephews are married and have children of their own! The family is even bigger now than it was when I was a child. We are more scattered now, too, and it seems harder these days to have those big family get-togethers than when I was a kid. But we still do have get-togethers, it's just not all of us at one time and place. We’ll be having a get-together tomorrow, to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday party and (weather permitting), having a cook-out. I’m sure that after we eat, someone will break out a deck of cards and we'll gather around and play some of those crazy poker games my mom still loves. My mom grew up in a family of seven sisters; four of them have passed away, the torch from that generation has been and is being passed to my generation. This makes me sad - and scared.

Because there are so many of us, the family gathering tomorrow is an "everyone bring a dish" event. I am the designated "bringer of the jello." I am grateful for the fact that the sister who suggested I do the jello doesn't remember the debacle from a few years ago when - for some mysterious reason - my jello failed to "set"...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chess Champion at 10 Might Not Make It To 11...

I detest children who are obnoxious like this. Mama needs to teach this boy a little humility, or at least some decent manners! Or, someday soon, he may find himself on the wrong end of a punch in the nose. St. Petersburg Times Neighborhood news Chess champion at 10 By Helen Anne TravisPublished May 25, 2007 The champion arrives 30 minutes late. He's sweaty and out of breath from a school skate party. Two dozen elementary school students look up from their chess boards. Logan McElvenny doesn't apologize for his late arrival to the weekly chess tournament at Center Place in Brandon. He's 10 years old. He placed first in the state in the K-5 under 750 rating division at the 2007 Florida Scholastic Chess Championship in Miami in March. He likes the games where he wins trophies. Doing well on this night would only merit him a ribbon. Shreya Chidarala, an 11-year-old who beat Logan once, plays him first. Logan uses his signature Ruy Lopez opening. While he waits for Shreya to make her move, Logan talks to the other kids who have gathered around to watch him play. He hums to himself. He loses track of when it's his turn. He barely glances at the board before moving his piece. He wins twice. He reminds Shreya that he's been featured in the newspaper more times than she has. Around them chess pieces clack on the boards and an occasional shriek of "check" rings out. These children are fearless about striking conversations with adults. They're smart, inquisitive, white, Asian, Indian, blond, dark-eyed. Logan is the only redhead in the room, except for his sister Annie, 6. She waits with their mother and the other chess moms. She doesn't play chess, but wants to "horseback ride" instead. She's his biggest fan and, as long as she stays out of his bedroom, she doesn't annoy him. When he's nice, she helps him arrange his 11 chess trophies. When he's mean, she cries in her bedroom. She and their mom painted their toenails by the hotel pool while they waited for him to finish his games in Miami. A fast learner Logan, of Valrico, learned to play chess two years ago. His father, John, had saved the chess board that he learned to play on as a child. He taught Logan to play on this board, just like his father had taught him more than three decades ago. Logan was bad at checkers and wary when he saw that chess used a similar game board. He thought a checkmate was something you could draw. In two weeks, Logan was able to beat his father. Now he sneaks out of bed at night to play chess by himself and work on his strategy. "I can't shut it off, " he says. Logan's mom, Kathy, doesn't know what to say when she catches her son playing chess by himself hours after his bedtime. A part of her wants to tell him to go back to sleep. But she usually gives him two minutes to wrap it up. He might be in the middle of learning a strategy or teaching himself a move. If it was anything else - video games or playing with Legos - she wouldn't give him the extra time. But it's chess, a hobby Kathy sees as enriching. It's something she knows he can take with him as he grows older. He can play it in college, he can play it in the nursing home. Teaching mom Kathy always assumed she wasn't smart enough to learn how to play chess, but Logan taught her the ropes. He goes easy on her, tells her to take back a move if it will let him win too easily. Sometimes he avoids check mating her. He doesn't have any lucky chess rituals, but he says that if he drinks orange soda before a chess game he will be too high-strung to win. At the skate party before the community tournament, Logan indulged in some soda. His last game with Shreya ends in a stalemate. "I tied him, " Shreya calls out to the room. She smiles and claps her hand. Parents appear in the doorway. It's almost time to go. In June, he's moving to South Carolina, Logan tells the children around him. He'll be the state champion there, too, he says. Helen Anne Travis can be reached at 661-2439 or [Last modified May 24, 2007, 07:41:18] *************************************************************************** An obnoxious teenaged chess prodigy was featured on the television medical series "House" recently - too bad House saved the punk. Maybe this kid, at 10, still has a chance to be turned into a decent human being. TV Review "House: The Jerk" (no, not House, who is a jerk, the punk chessplaying kid): It's quite the shock to realize that the jerk of this episode's title is not House, at least not exclusively or even primarily. Nick Lane as rage-prone teenager Nate is possibly too effective as the mini-jerk. From the unmodulated bullhorn voice to the constant, not-particularly-funny smart remarks, the fictional kid is not someone I'd want to spend even an hour with. Not even an hour between 9 and 10 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. I realize this confession reveals my own jerkdom, but it was the first ever House episode where I was rooting for the patient to die. I'm not completely heartless – I would have settled for a prolonged coma. Even a persistent vegetative state. ...

I Couldn't Make This Up...

Throughout the ages, there have been reports about people being killed because of the results of a chess game. I have to admit, though, that I couldn't have dreamed up this story if I tried: Ohio Inmate Executed for Killing Cellmate After They Fought Over Chessgame (Court TV News, May 24, 2007) LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An execution was delayed more than an hour Thursday while prison medical staff struggled to find suitable veins in the condemned man's arms — the second time that has happened in Ohio in little more than a year. The execution team stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles to get in place the shunts used to administer the lethal chemicals. Newton, who had insisted on the death penalty as punishment for killing a cellmate, continued to talk, smile and laugh with the prison staff, and at one point was even given a bathroom break. When he eventually was moved from his holding cell and strapped to a table in the death chamber, he made this short statement: "Yes, boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That's it." Newton, 37, was pronounced dead at 11:53 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility; his execution had been set to begin at 10. He weighed 265 at his physical on Wednesday. The head of the Public Defender's death penalty division, Joe Wilhelm, said Newton told him it was hard for blood to be taken from his veins because of his weight. The public defender's office said the decision was made not to intervene when the execution was delayed. "You have to remember that Newton wanted to die. Our job isn't to oppose the death penalty, it's to represent our clients," said Greg Meyer, chief counsel for the Ohio Public Defender's Office. In May 2006, the execution of another Ohio inmate, Joseph Lewis Clark, also was delayed more than an hour because the team could not find a suitable vein; a prison official said at the time that Clark's history of drug use may have been a factor. That case has been cited by death penalty opponents as an example of problems with lethal injection. Executions typically last about 20 minutes. A group of Ohio inmates is suing over the state's injection method, saying it is unconstitutionally cruel, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on the state to stop executions because of Thursday's problems. The delay will be discussed as part of that suit and helps show the state is unable to complete executions smoothly, Meyer said. "There will be a day in trial that they will have to answer up as to what caused this two-hour delay," Meyer said. "That's a lot of time messing around trying to get a needle in a vein." Gov. Ted Strickland closely monitored Newton's execution, his office said. The governor had delayed Newton's execution for a few months to research the case just after he took office in January. "There was not a cause to intervene," Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said. "Out of an abundance of caution, every precaution was taken before the procedure began to ensure that there would be no problems when the procedure began." Newton beat and choked cellmate Jason Brewer, 27, to death in 2001 after they argued over a chess game. In a statement read by public defender Robert Lowe after the execution, Newton apologized to his victim's family. "If I could take it back, I would," the statement said. "To my family, I love you and I'm sorry." Although his attorneys argued Newton should be spared the death penalty because of mental disorders, a court last fall found him competent to forgo his appeals. The prosecution had argued that he had feigned mental illness. Court documents say Newton, who spent much of his adult life in prison, knew Brewer's killing was a capital crime, and refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty. In an interview with reporters last month, Newton said he killed Brewer because he repeatedly gave up while they were playing chess. "Every time I put him in check, he'd give up and want to start a new game," Newton said. "And I tried to tell him you never give up ... I just got tired of it." Newton also claimed that he had intentionally gotten himself put back in prison by leaving behind a handprint during a 1999 break-in at his father's house.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Woman Who Made A Difference

As so often happens when I'm conducting online research, I came across this article about a chess femme of whom I've never heard while doing research on a totally different subject! I don't know how many people read it when it was first published, or how many people will read it here; I'm trying to find out more about the lady. Her story, I think, speaks volumes about the kind of lady she is. The article was originally published in 2005 at the "" website: Player was a trailblazer in women's chess By Michelle DeCrescenzoUNION-TRIBUNE COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER August 19, 2005 SOLANA BEACH – Alina Markowski delved into chess in the 1950s, at a time when women in the sport were uncommon. She heard remarks such as "You're a good player, for a girl." On occasion, she said, "You could see, if a player lost to me, how disgusted he was that he had lost to a woman."This stoked a fire within her to promote women in chess through writing articles, organizing women's teams and tournaments and volunteering time to help a number of chess organizations as secretary, treasurer and more. The 95-year-old Solana Beach resident's chess stories include the shortest win on record, a tale she volunteers with a chuckle. She said her competitor refused to play against a woman during a tournament in Milwaukee in 1973. He was faced with disqualification if he failed to make at least one move. After he sat down to make his move and then left, Markowski earned the win and boosted her ratings. All that changed, she said, when she moved to Escondido in 1975 and joined the North County Chess Club, where she was warmly received by members. "Usually when people get to be 65, they stop studying chess," said Michael Nagaran, the club's president. "She never stopped. She tried to learn as much as she could." Nagaran estimates he has played up to 100 games with Markowski. "She would always say something positive whether she won the game or lost the game," he said. "And she was always ready for another game." Markowski said that when she's playing, the game takes precedence over friendships. "You play for blood," she said. "But when the game is over with, you can congratulate your opponent." Markowski has played an integral role in bringing players – especially female players – together for tournaments. "As a chess player, I'm average, but my strong point was organizing," Markowski said. "I was most happy when I was organizing the women's teams." She recruited local female players to organize the first regional chess tournament for women. She was an active board member and lifetime member of the Southern California Chess Federation, and wrote articles on women and chess for the organization's publication, Rank & File. As well as belonging to the North County Chess Club, Markowski has been a member of the San Diego Chess Club. She has reached chess players through the mail as well. She has been active in correspondence chess, in which moves are sent by mail between two players. Markowski served as captain of a women's team for an international correspondence chess tournament. She chose the best five players from the United States to compete in a game that lasted several years. Markowski was introduced to postal chess by her husband, who died from cancer in 1971. During the end of his life, he was an active postal chess player, since he was no longer able to attend tournaments. After 30 years of involvement in the local chess community, Markowski played her last tournament game in June, and the North County Chess Club held a retirement party for her. Nagaran called her the "driving force" behind organizing the tournaments and said she will be greatly missed. When she reflects upon her years of dedication to chess, she said, "I look back with pleasure on them." I put a piece together on Ms. Markowski at Goddesschess.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1st World Women's Team Chess Championship-3

Here are the Round 3 and Round 4 results: Round 3 results: Poland (0) v. China (4) Socko, Monika 0-1 Zhao Xue Rajlich, Iweta 0-1 Hou Yifan Zawadzka, Jolanta 0-1 Ruan Lufei Przezdziecka, Marta 0-1 Shen Yang Russia (3.5) v. Vietnam (0.5) Kosintseva, Tatiana 1-0 Le Kieu Thien Kim Kosintseva, Nadezhda ½-½ Le Thanh Tu Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 1-0 Hoang Thi Bao Tram Tairova, Elena 1-0 Nguyen, Thi Thanh An Georgia (2) v. Germany (2) Chiburdanidze, Maya 0-1 Paehtz, Elisabeth Javakhishvili, Lela ½-½ Kachiani-Gersinska, Ketino Khurtsidze, Nino 1-0 Ohme, Melanie Khukhashvili, Sopiko ½-½ Schoene, Maria Randi Ukraine (4.0) v. Botswana (0.0) Ushenina, Anna 1-0 Sabure Tuduetso Gaponenko, Inna 1-0 Lopang, Tshepiso Vasilevich, Tatiana 1-0 Sabure Ontiretse Vozovic, Oksana 1-0 Pilane Masego Sylvia Armenia (4.0) v. Czech Republic (0.0) Danielian, Elina 1-0 Jackova, Jana Mkrtchian, Lilit 1-0 Sikorova, Olga Aghinian, Nelly 1-0 Blazkova, Petra Aghabekian, Liana 1-0 Nemcova, Katerina Round 4 results: VIE (3.0) v. CZE (1.0) Le Kieu Thien Kim ½-½ Jackova, Jana Le Thanh Tu 1-0 Sikorova, Olga Hoang Thi Bao Tram ½-½ Blazkova, Petra Pham Le Thao Nguyen 1-0 Nemcova, Katerina BOT (0.0) v. ARM (4.0) Sabure Tuduetso 0-1 Danielian, Elina Lopang Tshepiso 0-1 Aghinian, Nelly Modongo Boikhutso 0-1 Andriasian, Siranush Sabure, Ontiretse 0-1 Aghabekian, Liana GER (2.0) v. UKR (2.0) Paehtz, Elisabeth ½-½ Lahno, Kateryna Kachiani-Gersinska, Ketino ½-½ Ushenina, Anna Nill, Jessica ½-½ Gaponenko, Inna Schoene, Maria Randi ½-½ Vasilevich, Tatiana CHN (2.0) v. GEO (2.0) Zhao Xue ½-½ Chiburdanidze, Maya Hou Yifan 0-1 Javakhishvili, Lela Ruan Lufei ½-½ Khurtsidze, Nino Shen Yang 1-0 Gvetadze, Sofio RUS (2.5) v. POL (1.5) Kosintseva, Tatiana ½-½ Socko, Monika Kosintseva, Nadezhda ½-½ Rajlich, Iweta Korbut, Ekaterina ½-½ Zawadzka, Jolanta Tairova, Elena 1-0 Szczepkowska, Karina

2007 U.S. Championship-8

Hola darlings! Well, it's over for 2007. GM Alexander Shabalov won the U.S. Championship ("Men's") with 7.0/9 by winning the last game (Round 9), 1/2 point clear of defending Champion Alexander Onischuk. The chess femmes didn't fare so well. Contrary to my expectations, IM Irinia Krush did not make 4.5 and thus, did not earn a spot in the Women's World Chess Championship zonal event for which the U.S. has three spots. Therefore, all three spots will now be determined in the upcoming 2007 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship. Well well well! Does that mean that Krush will now play in the July Women's Championship? Stay tuned. Perhaps there is some other way for her to qualify for the zonal? I don't understand all this chessly stuff, that's for sure! My suspicion is that the powers that be keep this all deliberately obscure on purpose :) Here are the final standings for the chess femmes: (24) IM Irina Krush (2488), 4.0; (32) WFM Iryna Zenyuk (2229), 2.5; and (36) WFM Chouchanik Airapetian (2188), 1.5. And now, the Brilliancy Prize Fund that Mig raised over at Chess Ninja/Daily Dirt, over $1800, will be distributed in a manner I find somewhat strange (why aren't they equal?) - but hey, I only contributed $25, to winners to be determined by a combination of recommendations from the regulars who post there and two IMs who volunteered to help him out on the matter. The top brilliancy prize will be at least $1000.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dragon Capital - Trying a Queen's Gambit?

This is an interesting story – Dragon Capital, an English asset management firm that specializes in Vietnamese investments, is trying to get expatriot chess players GM Hoang Thanh Trang (HUN 2472) and GM Cao Sang (HUN 2548) to return home to Vietnam to play for that nation: (28-04-2007) Dragon Capital likes chess The Viet Nam Chess Federation (VCF) has sewn up an annual sponsorship deal with financial investment firm Dragon Capital to the tune of US$40,000, which will run from 2007-2009. The funds will be used by the VCF to organise and fund chess tournaments. The deal will allow the company to serve as the premier sponsor of the World Youth Chess Championships, to be held in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province from September 8-20, 2008. Dragon Capital and VCF also called on International Grand master Hoang Thanh Trang, who now represents Hungary and finished fourth at the recently concluded European Championships, to come back to the Vietnamese national team. The company has offered the player a sponsorship deal worth $50,000-$100,000 a year. According to a subsequent news story, Dragon Capital has paid $50,000 (USD) to the VCF. The VCF then turned the money over to FIDE as part of its bid, evidently, to host the 2008 World Youth Chess Championships, and the VCF is now out of funds: Great Master doesn’t want to play for Vietnam chess yet 13:17' 22/05/2007 (GMT+7) VietNamNet Bridge – In its sponsor plan for Vietnam chess, one of the top priorities of Dragon Capital is bringing back home two great masters Hoang Thanh Trang and Cao Sang, who are playing for Hungary. The two above chess players are invested by the company of Hoang Minh Chuong, Thanh Trang’s father. The representative of Dragon Capital has met with Thanh Trang’s family members in Da Lat and Cao Sang’s family as well. However, the two families’ initial feedback is that they don’t want to play for the Vietnamese national team because the investment for sports talents in Vietnam is nearly zero now. According to Secretary General of the Vietnam Sport Federation Dang Tat Thang, if investment is less than US$50,000 a year, it is utopian to bring Thanh Trang back to the national team because Trang needs better conditions to develop her talents. However, even when the federation receives $50,000 in the first year of sponsor from Dragon Capital, the money has been transferred to the International Chess confederation (FIDE) to register as the host of the World Young Chess Tournament 2008. With this tournament, the federation is clean out of money to spend for other tasks like bonuses for national tournaments, training, and to send players to international contests. Once again investment in sport talent of Vietnam is in a vicious circle. (Source: Tuoi tre) "Once again investment in sport talent of Vietnam is in a vicious circle." One can substitute the name of many countries for "Vietnam" and it will be the same sad, frustrating story.

Monday, May 21, 2007

U.S. Chess Scholarships to Foreign Students

The University of Texas/Dallas announced a partnership with the European Chess Union to award two scholarships to the winners of the boys’ and girls’ European Youth Chess Championships to be held in Croatia September 13 – 24, 2007. I’m not sure I approve. At a time when the skyrocketing cost of a college education in the U.S. is putting it out of reach of more and more families, why are we giving precious scholarship dollars to non-citizens??? Don’t we have enough young promising chessplayers in the United States to fill the bill? Somehow, saying this will increase "diversity" doesn’t seem very convincing in the face of genuine financial hardship by so many of our own young people! Arrrggggghhhhh.

1st World Women's Team Chess Championship-2

The 1st Women’s Team Chess Championships started on May 19 and two rounds of action have been completed. There have been some surprises, including four wins by the Chinese team over the Russians (whose team includes the two strong Kosintseva sisters, Tatiana and Nadezhda, who finished first and third at the recent European Individual Women’s Chess Championships). The 12-year old up-and-coming star Hou Yifan is on the Chinese team. It really is too bad the Americans are playing, it would have been great experience to play against such strong opponents. Instead, we have a team from Botswana, that all the other teams will beat-up on but the team members will probably have a great time. How can Botswana afford to send a team to this championship, when the Americans couldn’t even keep their team together (or afford to send the team if it had stayed together)? Pathetic, just pathetic. Official website: Round 1 results: CHN (3½) vs VIE (½) Zhao Xue 1-0 Le Kieu Thien Kim Hou Yifan 1-0 Le Thanh Tu Ruan Lufei 1-0 Hoang Thi Bao Tram Shen Yang ½-½ Nguyen Thi Thanh An POL (4) vs BOT (0) Socko, Monika 1-0 Sabure, Tuduetso Zawadzka, Jolanta 1-0 Lopang, Tshepiso Szczepkowska, Karina 1-0 Sabure, Ontiretse Przezdziecka, Marta 1-0 Pilane, Masego, Sylvia RUS (3) vs GER (1) Kosintseva, Tatiana ½-½ Paehtz, Elisabeth Kosintseva, Nadezhda ½-½ Kachiani-Gersinska, Ketino Korbut, Ekaterina 1-0 Nill, Jessica Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 1-0 Schoene, Maria Randi GEO (2½) vs CZE (1½) Chiburdanidze, Maya 1-0 Jackova, Jana Javakhishvili, Lela 1-0 Sikorova, Olga Khukhashvili, Sopiko ½-½ Blazkova, Petra Gvetadze, Sofio 0-1 Nemcova, Katerina UKR (3) vs ARM (1) Lahno, Kateryna ½-½ Danielian, Elina Ushenina, Anna 1-0 Mkrtchian, Lilit Gaponenko, Anna 1-0 Aghinian, Nelly Vasilevich, Tatiana ½-½ Andriasian, Siranush Round 2 results: VIE (2.5) v. ARM (1.5) Le Kieu Thien Kim 0-1 Danielian, Elina Le Thanh Tu ½-½ Mkrtchian, Lilit Hong Thi Bao Tram 1-0 Andriasian, Siranush Pham Le Thao Nguyen 1-0 Aghabekian, Liana CZE (1.0) v. UKR (3.0) Jackova, Jana ½-½ Lahno, Kateryna Sikorova, Olga 0-1 Ushenina, Anna Blazkova, Petra 0-1 Vasilevich, Tatiana Nemcova, Katerina ½-½ Vozovic, Oksana BOT (0) v. GEO (4.0) Sabure, Tuduetso 0-1 Javakhishvili, Lela Lopang, Tshepiso 0-1 Khurtsidze, Nino Sabure, Ontiretse 0-1 Khukhashvili, Sopiko Pilane Masego, Sylvia 0-1 Gvetadze, Sofio GER (1.0) v. POL (3.0) Paehtz, Elisabeth ½-½ Socko, Monika Kachiani-Gersinska, Ketino ½-½ Rajlich, Iweta Nill, Jessica 0-1 Zawadzka, Jolanta Ohme, Melanie 0-1 Szczepkowska, Karina CHN (4.0) v. RUS (0) Zhao Xue 1-0 Kosintseva, Tatiana Hou Yifan 1-0 Kosintseva, Nadezhda Ruan Lufei 1-0 Korbut, Ekaterina Huang, Qian 1-0 Tairova, Elena

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Typical Inquiry to Goddesschess - Akasa Ashtapada

From time to time we get email at Goddesschess and they are invariably interesting. Sometimes they're "fan" mail; sometimes we get inquiries on a chess-related topic. Here is one we received a few days ago: Interesting comment appears in 5th century BC, Digha nikaya where, Buddha admonishes monks: "Monks, Where as some ascetics addicted to such idle persuits such as eight row or ten row chess, chess in the air (mental chess), hopscotch, spillikins, dicing, ball games, guessing letters, hand pictures, guessing thoughts, mimicking deformities, playing with toy ploughs the ascetic Gotama refrains from such idle pursuits". Digha Nikaya, Maurice Walsh, translation, page 70 4th century Sri Lankan commentators says the game was known as "Ashtapada" and "Dasapada" (8 and 10 rows). Any info about the Akasa Ashtapada (Akasa means sky or air), is appreciated. Thanks I responded that I had not heard of the (Indian concept of) Akasa Ashtapada but if the Walsh translation was correct, then chess was being played 900 years before it was supposed to have been invented. I said I would do some research in my books and get back to him (or her). I forwarded the email to Don and Isis and they sent separate responses to the correspondent. I then received another email from the correspondent: What can be established with the available information is that some board game was played in the air. (similar to blindfold chess conceptually). Please find the exact Pali paragraph and Walsh translation below. “‘Yathā vā paneke bhonto: (Omitted - because the alphabetical transliterations could not be reproduced by my balky "Word" program. If you are interested, you can find the Pali language transliteration at the link given below). Reference: (paragraph 14) Atthapadam (Attha = eight; Padam = rows, Dasapadam = (Dasa = ten Padam = rows) Akasam = sky or air Pariharapadam = doing Akasam Pariharapadam = doing in the sky or air (Doing what? Since atthapadam and dasapadam was discussed...from context doing atthapadam and dasapadam in the air). Walsh translation: "Monks, Where as some ascetics addicted to such idle pursuits such as eight row or ten row chess, chess in the air (mental chess), hopscotch, spillikins, dicing, ball games, guessing letters, hand pictures, guessing thoughts, mimicking deformities, playing with toy ploughs the ascetic Gotama refrains from such idle persuits". Digha Nikaya, Maurice Walsh, translation, page 70 Atthapada appears in another place in Vinayapitaka. Buddhist dictionary by Pali text society gives "chess = atthapadakila; caturangakila. (How they figured Atthpadakila = chaturangakila? I dont know what kila means either). I was unable to find any rules on Atthapada. I was told by someone that he remembers that sinhala atthakata has a description on Atthapada. Unfortunately sinhala atthakata have not been translated to English (probably never will be). Sinhala = language of ancient Sri lanka; Atthakatha = commentary to Buddha's discourses. Pali atthakatha or Pali commentaries has being translated by PTS and I do not know what they say. (Pali atthakatha was compiled in 4th century AD by Buddhagosha). Sinhala atthakata is much older. But then there are Tikas (commentaries to atthkata) - compiled by Anuruddha in 6th century (Not been translated to English). Then there is Anutika - commentaries to Tika. If you find any more information please share with me. Thanks The question is interesting (1) because of the allusion to playing some kind of board game "in the air" (i.e., "blindfold") and (2) because of the dates involved. Popular theory dates the invention of chess to around the 5th century CE. But, if chess was being played during the time of Buddha (5th century BCE), that is about 900 years earlier than when the game is popularly assumed to have been invented! I did some research (online and in my small chess library) and, to make a long story short, provided the following reply: I do not know if this information will be of any assistance to you. I cannot read or speak Sansrkit or Pali, so I must rely solely on translations provided by others. I checked in H.J.R. Murray's "A History of Chess" to see if he had written anything about the "blindfold chess" (akasam ashtapada). Murray writes on page on pages 34-35: "(Page 34) Of more importance is a passage in the Pali (23) Brahma-jala Sutta, or Dialogues of the Buddha,(24) according to Rhys Davids one of the earliest of Buddhist documents, purporting to record the actual words of Gotama himself, and dating back to the 5th cn. B.C. The Buddha is contrasting the conversation and thoughts of the unconverted man with those of the disciple: " 'It (sec. 7, p. 3) is in respect only of trifling things, of matters of little value, of mere morality, that an unconverted man when praising the Tathagata, would speak. And what are such trifling minor details of mere morality that he would praise?' " "He then proceeds to enumerate all the many trifles which occupy the thoughts of the unconverted man, and finally comes to games, and gives us a most interesting and valuable list of games - quite the oldest known - which from its interest I quote entire: " 'Or (sect. 14, p. 9) he might say, 'Whereas some recluses and Brahmans while living on food provided by the faithful continue addicted to games and recreations; i.e., to say - 1. Games on boards with boards with 8 or 10 rows of squares. 2. The same games played by imagining such boards in the air (Pali, akasam). 3. Keeping going over diagrams drawn on the ground, so that one steps only where one ought to go. [my note - hopscotch] 4. Either removing the pieces or men from a heap with one's nail, or putting them in a heap, in each case without shaking it. He who shakes the heap loses. [my note - spillikins or 'pick-up sticks' as we called the game when I was a child] 5. Throwing dice (Pali, khalika). 6. Hitting a short stick with a long one. 7. Dipping the hand with the fingers outstretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour water, and striking the wet hand on the ground, or on a wall, calling out 'What shall it be?' and showing the form required - elephants, horses, &c. 8. Games with balls (Pali, akkham). 9. Blowing through toy pipes made of leaves. 10. Ploughing with toy ploughs. 11. Turning somersaults. 12. Playing with toy windmills made of palm leaves. 13. Playing with toy measures made of palm leaves. 14, 15. Playing with toy carts, or toy bows. 16. Guessing at letters traced in the air, or on a playfellow's back. 17. Guessing the playfellow's thoughts. 18. Mimicking of deformities. " 'Gotama the recluse holds aloof from such games and recreations.' " "This passage is quoted at length in many other early Buddhist works, e.g. in Vinaya, ii. 10, and iii.180. The translation naturally depends considerably on the early native commentaries, and it must be remembered that the earliest commentators are considerably later than the original; indeed they only appeared when changes in the spoken language made the written work archaic and unintelligible to the ordinary reader. The commentator was often in a worse position than the modern scholar for interpreting the text, (page 35) and we often find his explanation absurd or impossible. We are accordingly compelled to accept the above translation with some reserve.(25)" "We are only concerned now with the first two of the games named. These are the ashtapada - here in its Pali form atthapada - and the dasapada. One of the two commentators used by Rhys Davids, the Sinhalese Sanna, who belongs to the 10th c. A.D. or even later, says that each of these games was played with dice and pieces (poru, from purisa = men) such as Kings and so on.(26) His evidence is far too late to be of any value as to the nature of the games in question, but is important as showing that these boards were still used for dice games in his day in Ceylon. Yet, if the second sentence is accurately translated, the games must have been of a character which permitted 'blindfold' play without the use of material boards." There is more in Murray that discusses the nature of the game of ashtapada (he concludes it was a race game played on an 8x8 board, similar to chapur or pachisi, played with dice. I can make a scan of the pages and email them to you if you like.) I did not transcribe the footnotes ( ) referenced above, if you would like them, let me know. Based upon the translation you provided (Walsh), and the Rhys Davids translation Murray provided in "A History of Chess", the reference to the game described in number 2 can be confirmed as a "blindfold" game. It is evident to me, based upon what Murray wrote, that he found himself with a dilemma; on the one hand, there was clear evidence from the Rhys Davids' translation of the Brahma-jala Sutta that players were playing some kind of "blindfold" game (imagining the board in the air), and yet his position had to be that this could not be chess, since chess - according to Murray's theory - was not invented at the time to which the commentaries are referring - 500 B.C. Murray therefore fell back to the weak position that the later commentators and translators made errors in translation. Rhys Davids did not translate the 'games on boards played in the air' as "chess." But, I find it hard to believe that the players of that time were playing "blindfold" chapur or pachisi! Playing a game with imaginery dice??? No, it must have been chess or a chess-like game that they were playing, a game that did not rely upon dice to determine the moves of the pieces, just like players today play blindfold chess in demonstrations and, of course, the famous Melody Amber tournament held every year. Those are my thoughts. I hope this was helpful to you. JanXena Indeed, just how would players go about playing a game such as Chapur or Pachisi with imaginary dice? I don't see how it would be possible, as each player would naturally call a dice throw most favorable to his own move (for instance, 6 +1 or other combinations of 7, or two, three, etc. - whatever would be needed to out-race the other player's pieces, land on a favorable square or land on the same square and send the other player's piece back to "home"). On the other hand, chess, or a chess-like game, where the moves of the pieces are well-established and known by both the players and the audience and do not depend upon the chance element of the toss of dice, would be in keeping with "blindfold" play. It would be skill (and memory) only that would determine the course of play, not the intentional manipulation of a pair of imaginary dice to drive the pieces hither and yon. Murray never adequately addressed this in his learned tome. Perhaps he thought it would all just "go away" when he tried to sweep it under the rug by suggesting "bad translation" was at fault for implying that the blindfold game referred to was chess! But does anyone play "blindfold" Pachisi today? Did anyone do so during Murray's time, or prior thereto? If there was any evidence of such a practice, don't you think the meticulous Murray would have hunted it down and recorded it? Of course he would have done so. The fact that there is no written evidence of such feats recorded in his book is highly suggestive of the fact that there is NO such evidence. However, we DO have numerous examples attested to, at least in more "historical" times according to "The Oxford Companion to Chess" by Hooper and Whyld, of blindfold chess being played; and they state (p. 45): "Nearly as old as the game itself, blindfold play originally called for the player's eyes to be covered but allowed the pieces to be touched. ... All the great masters of SHATRANJ were able to play at least one game blindfold. ..." "Shatranj" is the Arabic name for "Chatrang," which was the Pahlavi (Middle Persian) name for chess, attested to in Persian literature from the mid-500's CE or so. Of course, there are those of us who believe the game of chess is much older than that. The quote from the Brahma-jala Sutta certainly seems to confirm that!
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