Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Now Truly Fried...

Egoddess - the dew point is 75 - where am I living, the Equator? The "ambient" air temperature was 87 when I left the office at 5 p.m. I gasped my way to the bus stop (1 and 1/2 blocks away, crawling the last 25 feet) - it started to rain on my left side, while the sun was beating upon my back from the west. The bus arrived 3 minutes late; the bus driver, my "regular", instantly assessed my half-conscious condition and made the bus "kneel" so I could stagger on to it... Headed southwest for the next 50 minutes, when I regained consciousness I observed the black storm clouds speeding to the east/northeast, headed toward Lake Michigan, and clear skies speeding up from the ridge at the county line (124th Street) in the west. When I got off the bus, much refreshed from the 55 degree air conditioning and wiping a melting icicle off my nose, I headed south into a freshening wind from the west/southwest. I believe the dew point dropped about 2.5 degrees. After I settled in home, I cleaned up the patio from the earlier storm's detritrius, and settled in for an hour. Now it's 7:29 p.m. and I've got a Johnny Cash special on PBS (they're trying to sell me a CD) - it's quite good, a conpendium of all the top level stars he had on his t.v. sh0w way back when - amazing, just amazing - watching Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, for instance, when they had no wrinkles. Goddess, were we ever all that young? Hmmm, and now I seem to have forgotten the point about doing this particular blog entry - oh, and Carl Perkins (not particularly a fan) is on the t.v. (Johnny Cash Show) right now looking only 50 when everyone knows he's now 213 - and I have to admit, he sure could pick the electric GEE-TAR with a white twisted cord trailing on behind his behind, like a super-long piggy's tail. Oh, and the great pedophile Jerry Lee Lewis, looking all about 40 or so, doing the sqeezy-easy on the piano seat... Okay - enough of that! Ah - now I remember - I wanted to post this, about horse sacrifice. It's a good beginner's primer, even if it was put together by fans of the Theophilosophical Society... Ohmygoddess - now Derrick and the Dominoes are on!!!!! Wait a minute - something is wrong...Derrick is singing a country-western song... IT'S A POD PERSON - RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES... BTW, that primer was written about a late 1890's expedition to northwest Asia, a study of the Buriat peoples - complete with some photographs of the horse-killing portion of the ancient horse sacrifice ritual they practiced. Not for the weak of stomach.

Boris and the Ladies Steal the Show at U.S. Open

Veteran GM Boris Gulko beat out six other players, all with 7.5/9, on tie-break to take the title to the 2007 U.S. Open. I think Boris and some of the young ladies stole the show! There was Alisa Melekhina (2168) (ranked 66th), turning heads with her winsome looks and poised performance OTB. Alisa came to the notice of many chess fans (guys, that is) when she played in the U.S. Women’s Championship last month. Alisa, who recently turned 16, merited a story of her own at Chess Life Online with a score of 5.5/6 at the time, although she faltered a bit afterward and ended the tournament with a score of 6.0/9 to secure 36th place. Abby Marshall (2038), who was ranked 101st, finished in 15th place with 7.0/8. Abby is one of a crop of young female players who is gaining skills and confidence playing in various Susan Polgar-sponsored tournaments. Born in 1991, Abby won the 2006 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls (she also won the 2005 event). This is a great finish for Abby - and I wish her performance had received more press. Megan Lee (I believe she is 10, but I could not find her date of birth), another “Polgar girl” (she won the $500 Ursula Foster award for top under 14 girl at the 2007 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls), was ranked 302nd (1571) going into the tournament and finished in 110th place with 5.5 – another outstanding performance. I probably missed a few of the girls and women who participated in this year’s U.S. Open – I’m not always sure of the names and gender is not indicated in USCF’s player information. I’ve got a list of their final rankings and scores at Chess Femme News.

Fantasy Creatures on Display

Here Be Monsters Dragons, sea serpents and manatees, er, mermaids—a museum show looks at the all-too-human impulse to embellish nature. By Susanna Schrobsdorff Newsweek Updated: 10:38 a.m. CT July 31, 2007 At first, it's a bit of a mystery why the humble and homely manatee was included in an exhibit of fantastical creatures, both real and imagined. Some visitors might not even notice the shapeless gray form dangling from the ceiling, what with the 17-foot dragon just behind her and a stunning white unicorn standing on a pedestal just ahead of her. Nonetheless, the matronly sea mammal might be the most evocative item at the American Museum of Natural History's "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids" exhibit in New York City. Under the manatee, there's a small video screen on a stand. Twist a knob on the device and an image of the manatee slowly becomes a pretty mermaid. It's kind of like watching a bloated Marlon Brando morph into Angelina Jolie. You can't imagine how anyone could confuse the two—even at distance and even after months at sea eating nothing but salted meat. But somehow, the minds of 15th-century sailors turned these lumpy creatures into alluring women with fish tails who called to them from rocky shores. Or at least that's what they told everyone when they got home. Such is the human need to embellish nature and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. And that's what the exhibition is all about. Cocurator Laurel Kendall says she considers this collection of cultural artifacts, bones and theatrical renditions of imaginary animals a continuation of the museum's exhibits on human evolution—a testament to "the unique ability of humans to tell stories, to exaggerate." The exhibit, which took two years to create, is divided into land, air and sea; and for each legendary creature, there is an anthropological history of how the myth evolved, filled out by illustrations, models and costumes. Real animals are displayed alongside the mythic. The dim, dappled lighting in the exhibit is intentional, says Kendall: "We really wanted to distinguish this from the rest of the museum." There are animals you are sure couldn't have existed, but did, such as the Gigantopithecus blacki, a towering King Kong-like primate that stands taller than a man and has humanoid features. It looks like an artist's rendition of Bigfoot until you read the tag and find out it lived in Southeast Asia (and is now extinct). Then there are taxidermied animals that seem authentic, but are part of a long line of hoaxes, like the desiccated corpse of a small fish creature with arms and a round skull. It should be a missing evolutionary link, but it's just a tiny monkey's torso glued to a papier-mâché fishtail. In the mid-19th century, P. T. Barnum advertised this creature, or something like it, as a "Feejee Mermaid." Of course, the posters showed a gorgeous nymph, not the wizened Franken-fish visitors were confronted with once they paid their admission. And don't think for a second that the modern public is any less fixated on the idea of beings that we haven't yet been able to catalog and explain. "We mapped the world, now there's a lament for the unknown," says Kendall. So we fill in the blank spaces with imagined aliens from other universes or cling to old mysteries like the Loch Ness monster. While our collective imagination hasn't let up, kids (and adults) now find their mythic creatures on their computers more often than not. They create Neopets and other virtual animals online and invest them with human qualities. And if a Jules Verne-style animal surfaces, as it did earlier this year when a New Zealand fishing boat caught a 33-foot colossal squid off the coast of Antarctica, the public is utterly fascinated. A mythic squid is included in the exhibit. It's called a kraken, and its head and arms rise partway from the floor of the museum as if it were emerging from the sea. Nearby there are small photos of real giant squids to remind us that sometimes the tallest tales aren't that far off. The museum says the exhibit, which is slated to go on a world tour after it closes in New York on Jan. 6, has been a rousing success. In the peak summer period, about 300,000 people stream through the museum each month, and the $21 tickets for this exhibit usually sell out every day by early afternoon. And why wouldn't they? In the age of Harry Potter and Eragon, what could be more enticing to families traipsing the hot streets of the city than looking at unicorns and dragons in air-conditioned comfort? Of course, the show does at times seem to pander to a topic that is popular and lucrative. After all, visitors are funneled out past the Chinese dragon into a slickly designed gift shop brimming with Disney mermaids and Harry Potter figurines. Not to worry: after navigating the trinkets, you wind up in a spectacular sunlit hall of dinosaurs, where their massive bones belittle all of our imaginations.
As a child, I was fascinated, utterly fascinated, by the "mermaid" at the Milwaukee Public Museum. It never occurred to me for a second that it was a fake! When I took Don on a tour of the museum back in 2004, I took him right to the case that is home to the "mermaid" - it still exercises its magic over me.

Help, my brain is melting...

Starting late last night until around 6:30 this morning we were battered by loud thunderstorms – loud enough to rattle the house and wake me up several times despite the house being battened down and windows shut tight because the central air conditioning was on. I thought it was humid last week; this week it’s even worse and the rain (although welcome by my lawn and gardens) did nothing to abate the high temperatures; they’re going to climb during the rest of the week! I find it difficult to breath in this kind of weather – the air is hot, heavy, wet, mucky, icky, and nearly still. Clothes stick to you; sweat beads and then drips and does not evaporate. There is the smell of rotting vegetation in the air, which is remarkable given that we have been in drought conditions, so how can the vegetation be rotting? Whithering away into nothingness from the unrelenting heat is more like!

I usually look at the news a couple of times a day to scope out any likely blog entries on chess and subjects related to “Chess, Goddess and Everything…” but for the past couple of days nothing has resonated. Perhaps the heat and humidity have scrambled my brain – recently it seems nothing is quite relevant except trying to figure out how quickly I can walk the half mile from the bus stop to the house without dying of heat prostration and/or drowning in my own sweat. How small my world has become, focused on how quickly I can get from one air-conditioned space to the next…

Yesterday I revisited a subject I did some research on years ago – horse sacrifice and the copulation and eating rituals associated therewith, thinking perhaps I would do a couple of blog entries. Er, on second thought, no. Let me tell you, fill your brain with THAT kind of stuff long enough, and reading the entries at the Daily Grail seems an exercise in reality. Today I read about Mothman and something called (I think) Springing Jack that terrorized parts of England over 100 years ago and left strange cloven-hoofed prints in the snow, also about underground pyramids (allegedly) in the Crimea. Oh – and a repeat of the story about a giant black bird (at least, people think it’s a bird, but perhaps it’s just a hairy UFO) flying over the southwest. I took a look at the headlines at The New York Times – lo and behold, Georgia is claiming that a Russian warplane fired a missile at a Georgian village which, fortunately, did not explode. Moscow denies everything, even while the carcas of the missile is plastered all over the NYT’s front page. Of course, why would anyone ever believe any statement coming out of the Kremlin? I feel like I’m back in the pages of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” – the Minister of Magic constantly reassures the readers of The Daily Prophet that he-who-must-not-be-named is NOT back, while that old chessnut keeps running through my brain: “denial” ain’t just a river…

I must have shorted out a circuit by reading "Deathly Hallows" too fast.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Blast from the Past: Judit Polgar Wins U.S. Open

CHESS; Polgar Is First Woman to Win the Open By ROBERT BYRNE Published: August 25, 1998 Judit Polgar of Hungary, in a display of dazzling sacrificial tactics as well as slow strategic maneuvering, has become the first woman ever to finish first in a United States Open. Polgar, at 22 the highest-ranked woman in the world, and Boris Gulko, a Fair Lawn, N.J., grandmaster and former United States Invitational champion, each scored 8-1 to share a victory over some 300 entrants. The two grandmasters were each awarded a prize of $3,750 in the tournament, which was held at the Kona Surf Resort in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Aug. 1 to 9. The only time they faced each other over the board, in the seventh round, they had a respectful, carefully contested draw. To achieve her share of the victory, Polgar had to foil many of her opponents who would have been honored to get a draw with her. In some cases, she had to grind them down in lengthy endings; in others she set sneaky snares. Her most typical -- and most brilliant -- performance was her game against the Georgian grandmaster Georgi Kacheishvili. Polgar won with a decisive attack produced by a fascinating queen sacrifice. In the Classical Variation of the King's Indian Defense, 7 . . . Na6 is a 10-year-old move that lacks the central challenge of 7 . . . Nc6, but in the event of 8 d5 it is well-positioned to delay c5. Unlike 7 . . . Nbd7, it does not block the black queen bishop. After 11 f3, it would be wrong to play 11 . . . Nh2 because 12 Kh2 Qh4 13 Kg1 Bd4 14 Qd4 Qe1 15 Bh6. Polgar had to get some open lines for counterattack with 15 . . . f5 or suffer a permanently passive position. That's the kind of dare she never declines. After 19 . . . Bd7, there was no immediate chance for Kacheishvili to attack on the queenside, so he tried to prevent the black pieces from sauntering into his king position by the forcing 20 f4. But the aggressive Polgar soon let loose with the speculative pawn sacrifice 23 . . . Nc5!? 24 Nc7 Ne4 25 Be4 Re4 26 Re4 fe. [My note what is fe???] On 27 . . . Ne5!?, the penalty for 28 fe? would have been 28 . . . Qf3 29 Qg2 Qd1. Kacheishvili tried to kill off Polgar's threats with 31 Nf6 Qf7 32 Rd6 (32 Nd5 meets with 32 . . . Rg3! 33 hg? Qh5 34 Kg2 Qh2 35 Kf1 Qg1 mate), but Polgar set up a queen sacrifice with 32 . . . Qe7 33 Qd1 Rg6! 34 Qa1 Qd6 35 Ne8 Kg8 36 Nd6 Rd6, gaining a powerful attack with her rook and bishop. Kacheishvili played 40 Qb1 but gave up without going further. He had no defense against 40 . . . Ne1! 41 Qe1 e3 42 Kg1 Rg2 43 Kh1 Rg3 mate. If 41 Kg1, then 41 . . . Rg2 42 Kh1 Rb2! 43 Qb2 e3 44 Kg1 Nf3 45 Kh1 (45 Kg2 Ng5 46 Kg1 Nh3 mate) Ng5 46 Qg2 e2. If 41 Ne3, then Re2 42 Nd5 (or 42 Qc1 Nf3 43 Nf1 e3 44 Qe3 Ng5 45 Kg1 Nh3 mate) Nf3.

Spying Squirrels!

Oh those squirrels - what will they be up to next? Reading an op-ed article in today's Wall Street Journal by Amir Taheri, "Domestic Terror in Iran" about the Islamic regime's internal crackdown on people mostly between the ages of 15-30, my eyes goggled at this: "Khomeinist paranoia reached a new peak last week when the authorities announced, through the Islamic Republic News Agency, the capture of four squirrels in the Western city of Kermanshah and claimed that the furry creatures had been fitted with 'espionage devices' by the Americans in Iraq and smuggled into the Islamic Republic." I confirmed the story by a visit to MSNBC's World Blog - here is an entry from July 20: IRAN'S SPYING SQUIRRELS? Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007 3:07 PMCategories: Tehran, Iran By Ali Arouzi, NBC News Producer You can tell that Iran is feeling a little beleaguered these days when there are reports that Tehran may be under attack from rodents! That is what the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported this week, that police had, ahem, "arrested" 14 squirrels on charges of espionage. The rodents were found near the Iranian border, allegedly equipped with eavesdropping devices, according to IRNA. When asked to confirm the story, Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam, the national police chief, said, "I have heard about it, but I do not have precise information." He declined to give any more details. IRNA said that the squirrels were discovered by intelligence services – but were captured by police officers several weeks ago. 'Are you serious?'The reaction to the report on Tehran’s streets was varied – from disbelief to assigning guilt for the alleged infraction. "No, I had not heard about this, but it does not surprise me, foreign countries are always meddling in Iran," said Hassan Mohmmadi, a fast-food vendor. Mohammadi asked me if I knew where the squirrels were from, and I told him that I didn’t know. Then he came to his own conclusions. "I bet they were British squirrels, they are the most cunning," he replied. Meantime, an independent journalist, Sepher Sopli, was not surprised by the idea that another country would spy on Iran, so much as he was dumbfounded by their methods. "I read this story in the papers and though it was very bizarre; what struck me as odd was that in this age of modern technology, people were relying on squirrels to do their spying," Sopli said. But, the report was still strange enough to surprise. "That's very funny, but you’re not serious are you?" said Soraya Jafari, a student in Tehran. Maybe not a first Espionage not entirely foreign to animals. If true, this would not be the first time animals have been used for military endeavors. During World War II, Allied forces used pigeons to fly vital intelligence out of occupied France. More recently, U.S. Marines stationed in Kuwait trained chickens for a low-tech chemical detection system. It’s also well documented that dolphins have been used to seek out underwater mines. Spying is something that is taken seriously in any country, especially in a place like Iran, where numerous people are currently being held on charges of espionage. Still, the squirrels that breached the Iranian border carrying sensitive spying equipment must have been nuts. Well, I have a suspicion - some of the "Kermanshah 14" may be "my" squirrels. You know I feed every critter in the neighborhood, and not junk food either, but the good stuff. It's well known that for years I've grown the smartest, biggest, sassiest and boldest squirrels in the world; within the last couple of weeks, though, I noticed a definite decline in the number of squirrely visitors to my edenic environs; where normally I can count as many as eight squirrels visiting at one time, now there are only three or four. Hmmm, I wouldn't put it past NSA to have squirrel-napped some of my squirrels, delivered them to the Iraq-Iran border area and rigged them out with spying gear with instructions to infiltrate the local parks in Kermanshah to eavesdrop on the Islamic Guard...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Oh Goddess - Same Old Politics?

What's going on? Here is an entry tonight from Susan Polgar's blog. Is Susan Polgar, who has been elected "Chairman" of the USCF (Chairman? What does THAT mean?) already sidelined by politics as usual? Bill Goichberg is still President - oh please! If these people were attorneys in Wisconsin they'd all be disbarred for countenancing such an obvious conflict of interest. Is this just more and more hooey going on? Perhaps next year we'll run our Brilliancy Prize Funds through Mig - that way we know for sure they'll get to the player they are supposed to get to on a timely basis and they won't be funnelled through USCF. Geez!

The Goddess Tlaltecuhtli

Notice how they call this Goddess a "god" in the article - ha! She is clearly the new-world counterpart to the ubiquitous "White Goddess" (of whom Graves wrote about) of birth, death and regeneration of the old world. It was, in fact, the presence of a giant-sized stone carving of Tlaltecuhtli that tipped off archaeologists that this might be a very important tomb. She was uncovered in Mexico City in November, 2006.

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 3, 3:24 PM ET

MEXICO CITY - Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl, who ruled the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found.

The find could provide an extraordinary window into Aztec civilization at its apogee. Ahuizotl (ah-WEE-zoh-tuhl), an empire-builder who extended the Aztecs' reach as far as Guatemala, was the last emperor to complete his rule before the Spanish Conquest.

Accounts written by Spanish priests suggest the area was used by the Aztecs to cremate and bury their rulers. But no tomb of an Aztec ruler has ever been found, in part because the Spanish conquerors built their own city atop the Aztec's ceremonial center, leaving behind colonial structures too historically valuable to remove for excavations.

One of those colonial buildings was so damaged in a 1985 earthquake that it had to be torn down, eventually giving experts their first chance to examine the site off Mexico City's Zocalo plaza, between the Metropolitan Cathedral and the ruins of the Templo Mayor pyramid.

Archaeologists told The Associated Press that they have located what appears to be a six-foot-by-six-foot entryway into the tomb about 15 feet below ground. The passage is filled with water, rocks and mud, forcing workers to dig delicately while suspended from slings. Pumps work to keep the water level down.

"We are doing it very, very slowly ... because the responsibility is very great and we want to register everything," said Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead government archaeologist on the project. "It's a totally new situation for us, and we don't know exactly what it will be like down there."

As early as this fall, they hope to enter the inner chambers — a damp, low-ceilinged space — and discover the ashes of Ahuizotl, who was likely cremated on a funeral pyre in 1502.

By that time, Columbus had already landed in the New World. But the Aztecs' first contact with Europeans came 17 years later, in 1519, when Hernan Cortes and his band of conquistadors marched into the Mexico Valley and took hostage Ahuizotl's successor, his nephew Montezuma.

Ahuizotl's son Cuauhtemoc (kwow-TAY-mock) took over from Montezuma and led the last resistance to the Spaniards in the battle for Mexico City in 1521. He was later taken prisoner and killed. Like Montezuma, his burial place is unknown.

Because no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found, the archaeologists are literally digging into the unknown. Radar indicates the tomb has up to four chambers, and scientists think they will find a constellation of elaborate offerings to the gods on the floor.
"He must have been buried with solemn ceremony and rich offerings, like vases, ornaments ... and certainly some objects he personally used," said Luis Alberto Martos, director of archaeological studies at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The tomb's curse — water — may also be its blessing. Lopez Lujan said the constant temperature of the pH-neutral water in the flooded chambers, together with the lack of oxygen, discourages decomposition of materials like wood and bone that have been found at other digs around the pyramid, which was all but destroyed in the Conquest.

"This would be quite an important find for Aztec archaeology," said Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University who is not connected to the dig. "It would be tremendously important because it would be direct information about kingship, burial and the empire that is difficult to come by otherwise."

All signs found so far point to Ahuizotl. The site lies directly below a huge, recently discovered stone monolith carved with a representation of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee), the Aztec god of the earth.

Depicted as a woman with huge claws and a stream of blood flowing into her mouth as she squats to give birth, Tlaltecuhtli was believed to devour the dead and then give them new life. The god was so fearsome that Aztecs normally buried her depictions face down in the earth. However, this one is face-up.

In the claw of her right foot, the god holds a rabbit and 10 dots, indicating the date "10 Rabbit" — 1502, the year of Ahuizotl's death.

"Our hypothesis is precisely that this is probably the tomb of Ahuizotl," Lopez Lujan said.

Any artifacts linked to Ahuizotl would bring tremendous pride to Mexico. The country has sought unsuccessfully to recover Aztec artifacts like the feather-adorned "shield of Ahuizotl" and the "Montezuma headdress" from the Ethnology Museum in Vienna, Austria.

"Imagine it — this wasn't just any high-ranking man. The Aztecs were the most powerful society of their time before the arrival of the Spaniards," Martos said. "That's why Ahuizotl's tomb down there is so important."

Isis' Custom-Made Chess Boards and Pieces

Most people who are fans of Goddesschess don't visit the "commercial" link that we call Chesstique. We offer a number of chess-related gifts and products - like many other places on the internet - but I like to think our designs are truly unique.

We had a long and sometimes heated debate on whether Goddesschess should even host such a feature (over several years, actually), but after taking a long hard look at other chess-related products available for gifts on the internet, my more creative partners convinced me that we should have a forum to present our own designs.

The most beautiful, I think, are the chessboards designed by Isis. There is no one else out there as far as I know who hand-crafts products like those offered by Isis. She designs, weaves and sews chessboards from exquisite fabrics and crafts playing pieces out of glass. She offers several ready-made boards and chess pieces for sale at very reasonable prices, and also creates custom boards to your specifications. The custom part of her business has taken off recently - and if you take a look at her boards, you may appreciate why. They are gorgeous!
If you're looking for a unique reasonably priced gift for a chess-lover, please consider Chesstique.

Despite All Oppositions, the Regime in Tehran is Dedicated to Destroy Naqsh-e Rostam

Reports like this make me so sad - and angry - and frustrated! From CAIS August 4, 2007: LONDON, (CAIS) -- Despite all oppositions made so far by Iranians and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) against construction of Esfahan-Shiraz railway by the Islamic Republic only in 300-meter away from Naqsh-e Rostam historic site. Based on earlier agreements between authorities of Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Road and Transportation and ICHHTO, the project of Esfahan-Shiraz railway was due to change its path and be constructed with the maximum distance from Naqsh-e Rostam to cause the least harm to this historic site. However, its seems by purchasing the farmlands in vicinity of Naqsh-e Rostam and marking the path of the railway, the regime is pursuing their original plan. Prior to this, after revising the suggested route by Ministry of Road and Transportation, the technical council of ICHHTO decided that the path for construction the railroad must change. Experts of ICHHTO have previously warned that the powerful jolts caused by train would have a harmful effect on the historic monuments in the area - train vibrations would eventually damage Naqsh-e Rostam monument, and ensures the destruction of Ka’aba of Zoroaster less than ten-years. Considering that Pars-e Pasargadae Research Centre is determined to prepare the ground for registration of Naqsh-e Rostam in list of UNESCO’s World Heritage site, as annex of Persepolis world heritage site, construction of the railway in such a close distance of this historic site would ruin the chance of world registration of this Achaemenid site forever. UNESCO asked the regime in Tehran to give an explanation about construction of the railway near Naqsh-e Rostam in the 31st session of World Heritage Committee. Located in Iranian Fars province, 12 kilometer distance of Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rostam contains four tombs belonging to Achaemenid dynastic emperors which were carved out of the rock. Ka’aba of Zoroaster bears number of inscription belong to Parthian and Sasanian dynastic eras. Since the coming of theocratic regime to power in Iran, the regime leaders have dedicated themselves to restructure Iranian culture and history. Many pre-Islamic historical and archaeological sites have been devastated under the cover of development projects: destroyed as part of highway and railway track construction; contaminated irreparably by chemical factories; undermined by nearby hotels; obliterated as part of mining; or submerged beneath dam reservoirs.

Chess is - the Universe

I have no idea how these numbers were arrived at (and even if I did, I would probably not be able to wrap my mind around them), but this little mini-article perfectly expresses our belief at Goddesschess that chess is, quite simply, a reflection of the universe! August 5, 2007 Columbus, Ohio You'd Never Have Guessed Some things are just too strange to be coincidence. Maybe the universe is more interconnected than we think. Checkmate Want to know why the best human chess players can still beat the best computers? The secret, brought to you in math-speak, is that the primary game-tree search algorithm in chess faces a massive combinatorial problem. More simply, on average, there are 40 moves for each chess turn. And chess games can last up to 70 turns (although most good players will resign well before if they see their position is lost). So the resulting tree describing all chess games is 1073. Estimates for the number of particles in the universe range from 1070 to 1080, which means the two are actually pretty close!

Chess in the Park in the Summer - Ahhhh

I liked this article a lot: Enjoying the weather one move at a time Updated: 8/4/2007 9:48 PM By: Britt Godshalk ALBANY, N.Y. - With the humidity giving way to a soft summer breeze, what better way to enjoy the weekend weather than a visit to the park with some friends. And perhaps take out the Queen -- chess piece, that is. "We've been coming here for about three years here now," one of the several chess players in Townsend Park explained. "It's nothing official, it's nothing like that. It's a nice centralized place and when the weather's nice we'd all rather be outdoors than indoors. It was a motley crew of sorts. A student. A state worker. A retired computer programmer. A property manager. A nursing assistant. "We all from all walks of life, but we got a kinda chess relationship," said chess player Greg Williams. Chess is the common denominator. And each man had his own path to this table. "I was about 18 and ever since then I've been playing day, " said chess player Matt Peppe. "Everywhere I go I try to find a park where they play chess." "Myself I got into it when Bobby Fisher was going for the world championship in 1972," said another player."I was introduced to it back in '95 and I developed a love for it," said Williams. "I see chess as an art. It's a way of life. It's defense, it's patience, it's offense, it's aggressiveness." "Nothing comes easy, you gotta work for everything you get," Peppe said "You can't take anything for granted because you might seem like you're doing well and you turn around two seconds later and you're on the bottom, or the other way around." A guy the players call "Tiger" offered to give me a lesson after his win. It would prove to be one of his most difficult chess challenges yet. I was no "Grand Master." That's the nickname they have for player Bill Molloy. He has a bit more of experience at the board, than I do. "About forty years," Molloy said. "You can learn it, it just takes a while to learn all the subtle things.""You can start out barely knowing how to move the pieces, and within a couple weeks you can be competing with some of these people," Peppe said. "It's just a matter of practicing and trying to take in what you're learning." And what better excuse, than the perfect summer's day. *********************************************************************************** There was also this article recently on an outdoor chess spot in Chicago: Hot Times at the Chess Pavilion Where complete strangers meet and mate, exchange queens, and fianchetto in broad daylight By Ted Cox July 27, 2007 I was just down the shore from the North Avenue beach house, getting my ass thrashed but good and enjoying it perhaps a little too much. Don’t go getting the wrong idea. This was in broad daylight, out in the open, at the chess pavilion. Last Friday was a gorgeous day, the lake the color of jade, the wind blowing in from the northwest. I’d heard about the cutthroat competition on the chess risers there, seen the players from Lake Shore Drive, and wanted to revisit the game I’d played fairly well back in high school. (Yeah, I was on the chess team; wanna make something of it?) Yet over the years whatever skills I possessed had atrophied. I don’t know nothin’ about the French or the calculus I took, and as I gave up my queen to stave off checkmate it was clear I didn’t recall much more about chess. I was trying to complicate the play in this game of speed chess and take advantage of the five-minutes-to-two advantage I’d been spotted on the clock, but it ran quickly to its inevitable conclusion. Nevertheless it felt good to be sitting in the sun, to be distracted by the occasional big wave splashing over the revetment that runs north from Oak Street Beach, and to be playing chess again, even if I was losing $3 on the game. It helped that the opposition was a nice guy, though he showed no mercy on the board. Afterward, Ron Washington told me he’s been playing at the pavilion whenever weather permits for 20 years, mostly for stakes of $3 a game. A part-time cabbie, he also gives chess lessons for $20 an hour—most teachers charge $40, he insisted—at the pavilion and in the winter months at a nearby Starbucks. I asked if this makes him a living. “I do all right,” he said. There are always players at the pavilion, he said—more on the weekends of course—and most play for money, though there are free games as well. Chess is as popular as ever, he said, though the renaissance suggested in recent newspaper stories about inner-city high school teams is probably exaggerated. Aside from the pavilion, he said, “you have to know where to go” to find a good game. The pavilion has been the place to find a decent game in decent weather for 50 years. It was built in 1957, paid for with a $90,000 donation from Laurens Hammond, of the Hammond Organ Company. It was designed by Maurice Webster, and it’s made of limestone and enhanced with matching sculptures of a king and queen by Boris Gilbertson. The statues are a little worse for wear, thanks to their water’s-edge exposure to winter, but the pavilion offers shade and shelter and boards set into concrete—though most serious players bring their own plastic roll-up boards. I said I’d picked up the game during the mania over the 1972 world-championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. “That’s when everybody picked it up,” Washington said. Him too? “Oh no, I couldn’t wait for them,” he added, without saying exactly how long he’d been playing. He knows the game. He whomped me with a mildly unconventional English opening, which begins with the advance of the queen’s bishop’s pawn, while most games begin with a move by the king’s or queen’s pawn. Five-minute speed chess, played with a two-faced clock that times each player separately, calls on a player’s knowledge of set openings, and the English was a good choice to throw at an unknown opponent. I could have been anybody, even a master who needed $3, but when I uncertainly tried to respond with the old Nimzo-Indian defense I used to play against the queen’s pawn, Washington knew I was out of my element and made short work of me. He was very nice about it, though, and later said he studies the game constantly. “You have to if you’re gonna survive on chess,” he explained. This was actually my second game of the day. The first hadn’t been as enjoyable. Washington was playing someone else when I walked up, and only one other player was at the pavilion with a board set up. He had the look of the classic chess nerd—ball cap and spectacles—and he was working his way briskly through a sack lunch. I asked if he was waiting for someone and he said yes, but a couple of minutes later asked if I played. I said I used to. “I play for money,” he said in an eastern European accent. How much? Two or three dollars. So I sat down for a $2 game and got throttled. I threw my old, reliable Caro-Kann defense against his king’s pawn opening, but quickly forgot the proper sequence, moved my queen out prematurely, and got it trapped on a diagonal. It was brutal, but as I was limping away, Washington, having dealt with his previous opponent, invited me over for a much more pleasant drubbing. I had to admit I was a fish, as chess players like to say, but damn if it didn’t feel good to be back in the water. As Washington and I talked, a guy named Joe came riding his bike no-handed down the path. Washington greeted him and called him over. Joe, it turned out, was one of Washington’s regular students, so he invited us to play a free game off the clock on his board. I got white this time, opened with the king’s pawn, and Joe responded with a Pirc defense—again somewhat off the beaten path, but not exotic by any means. I gave up a pawn early, but otherwise handled my pieces well, and soon a hedgehog of pawns extended from side to side. It became a positional battle, which was always my strength, and the game began to come back to me. When a file opened, I beat him to it with doubled rooks and my queen and seized the initiative. Still down a pawn, I had some play and thought I could force a draw. The sun felt good, the waves were washing over the concrete, and kids from a camp arrived and began setting pieces down on the open boards as a counselor hectored and instructed them. That’s when Washington rushed over, having hooked another opponent. “I need my board back,” he said. “Gotta make some money.” What a perfect time to stop. I shook hands all around, thanked Joe and Washington for the games, and walked away resolved that I’d be back. Only next time I’ll crack my old copy of Modern Chess Openings beforehand.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Is "Deathly Hallows" Really the Last Potter Novel?

Personally – I don’t think so. I think Rowling left just a wee bit of an opening for herself to – if she (or someone else) wants to - write a whole new series of Potter-world novels. I say this for two reasons: Reason 1: The final two sentences of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:" "The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well." The phrasing invites one to speculate that all would NOT be well in the future – particularly if Harry’s scar started to "itch" again. Just because it had been quiescent for 19 years does not mean it would be quiescent in the future… Why, you ask, would Harry’s scar start to "itch" again after 19 years? Hints were given throughout Novel 7 of a deeper relationship between Bellatrix and Voldemort, and this leads to point 2. I’m not going to trawl through the novel now to write them all down. Suffice to say that Rowling made sure we got the gist of Bellatrix’s fascination with and, indeed, nearly god-like worship of, Voldemort – and there was certainly a sexual element implied if not explicitly conveyed in her various descriptions of their interactions, including this scene: (Page 724 U.S. hard cover version): "My Lord…my Lord…" It was Bellatrix’s voice, and she spoke as if to a lover. (Page 725 U.S. hard cover version): "My Lord …" "That will do," said Voldemort’s voice. …Voldemort seemed to be getting to his feet. Various Death Eaters were hurrying away form him, returning to the crowd lining the clearing. Bellatrix alone remained behind, kneeling beside Voldemort. In the final battle scene, Bellatrix is fighting "fifty yards away from Voldemort, and like her master she dueled three at once" (Page 735). After just missing Ginny Weasley with a death curse, Mrs. Weasley shoves the three Hogwarts duelers aside and herself engages Bellatrix in a one-on-one battle to the death, slipping a killing curse in underneath an upraised arm just as Bellatrix taunts her: (Page 736): Bellatrix’s gloating smile froze, her eyes seemed to bulge: For the tiniest space of time she knew what had happened, and then she toppled, and the watching crowd roared; and Voldemort screamed. Reason 2: Based on these hints of a deeper relationship, I believe that Bellatrix and Voldemort conceived a child and Bellatrix gave birth prior to the final confrontations in "Deathly Hallows." The child was – depending upon the time line – either forcibly taken from Bellatrix while she was still imprisoned and hidden away with an adoptive family (Muggles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA, for instance?) or whisked away to a place of safety by Voldemort’s minions before – or after – Bellatrix’s escape from Azkaban. I can easily see a story line developed around a relationship between Voldemort after he re-incorporated into a physical body (in that spell that used some of Harry’s blood) and a physical union with Bellatrix, who then conceived Voldemort’s child. Voldemort's motives for such a thing happening - well, I leave that to the writer's imagination. The time line of the novels provides sufficient time for a child to have been conceived and born –either after Bellatrix and the other death-eaters were broken out of Azkaban (Book 5 - "Order of the Phoenix"), or perhaps Bellatrix conceived and possibly even gave birth while she was still imprisoned – the child could have been conceived, for instance, during an occasional fly-by visit of Voldemort to Bellatrix's cell… That child – now older than 19 years (I think age 21) – would have a physical link to Harry (via Harry’s blood that had been taken in by Voldemort and then passed along to his child) – and thus Harry’s scar could possibly be reactivated if, for instance, that child learned of his or her true heritage and decided to follow in the footsteps of his parents… Well, the possibilities for developing an entirely new series along these lines are overwhelming. Remember my sugestion in a prior post about a Harry Potter daugher (whom I called Penelope)? According to the postscript in #7, Harry and Ginny have three children: James, Albus Severus, and Lily. What if Lily and the offspring of Voldemort & Bellatrix mix it up in subsequent novels...

Karen Allen Returning to "Indiana Jones" Movie

Yahhhhh! Actress Karen Allen (photo, right) (who is my age) has signed on for the new Indiana Jones film project, according to Fox News. I just loved her character Marion in the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark" film - hard to believe that was in 1981 - eek - my first year in law school! At one time I fancied that we looked somewhat alike :) Well - probably not. Among other things, my eyes are hazel-brown, not blue, and except over my nose right now after being burnt half to death during our Chicago outing, I don't have as many freckles. But personality wise Marion and JanXena are twins in the womb! Of COURSE darlings, we're both more beautiful now than in 1981 and better than ever! 'Indiana Jones 4': Karen Allen Back As A MomDirector Steven Spielberg let a big cat out of the bag Thursday. Karen Allen is back in “Indiana Jones 4” as Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s first love. The character helped kick off the series in 1981’s phenomenal “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In fact, although Spielberg didn’t say it, Allen returns as the mother of Indy’s son, played by 21-year-old actor Shia LaBoeuf. That’s the same kid who’s on the cover of Vanity Fair this month. Sources say that Allen was asked to join the movie last January. She hadn’t been in a film since 2004, but instead was concentrating on a successful retail business in Great Barrington, Mass. Karen Allen Fiber Arts sells fine cashmere clothing. Allen also had a yoga center, and that experience came in handy. “When they called, there was a lot of training involved,” said one observer. “Karen’s yoga made her ready for that.” Allen turns 56 in October, but you’d never guess it. She looks like she’s not a day over 35. She’s been in plenty of memorable films, but the most popular were probably "Animal House" (1978) and "Starman" (1984). Ironically, none of the math in “Indy 4” really works out. LaBoeuf is 21 and Allen is 56, which means she allegedly had him at age 35. But in 1981, when “Raiders” was released, Allen was barely 30 and looked 20. That’s Hollywood for you! At least we know that Marion and Indy had conjugal relations. Theirs was the only bed shared in an “Indy” movie. Now that we know Allen is back, maybe Spielberg has plans for cameos of his real-life wife Kate Capshaw (“Temple of Doom”) and Irish beauty Alison Doody (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) who subsequently retired from films. One character who won’t be returning with the original actor: Indy’s dad. Sean Connery decided not to reprise his role as Henry Jones from “Last Crusade.”

The Eight - Six (Philidor's Tale continued)

(Page 173) "I initiated myself," said Bach calmly. "Oh, I know that there are secret societies of men who spend their lives trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe, but I am not a member. I seek truth in my own fashion." Saying this, he reached over and plucked Euler's formulaic ches map from the piano. With a nearby quill he scratched two words across the top: Quaerendo invenietis. Seek, and ye shall find. Then he handed the Knight's Tour to me. "I do not understand," I told him in some confusion. "Herr Philidor," said Bach, "you are both a chess master, like Dr. Euler, and a composer, like myself. In one person, you combine two valuable skills." "Valuable in what way?" I asked politely. "For I must confess, I've found neither to be of great value from a financial standpoint!" I smiled at him. "Though it is hard to remember sometimes," Bach said, chuckling, "there are greater forces at work in the universe than money. For example - have you ever heard of the Montglane Service?" I turned suddenly to Euler, who had gasped aloud. "You see," said Bach, "that the name is not unfamiliar to our friend the Herr Doktor. Perhaps I can enlighten you as well." I listened, fascinated, while Bach told me of the strange chess service, belonging at one time to Charlemagne and reputed to contain properties of great power. When the composer finished his summary, he said to me: "The reason I asked you gentlemen here today was to perform an experiment. All my life I have studied the peculiar powers of music. It has a force of its own that few would deny. It can tranqulize a savage beast or move a placid man to charge in battle. At length, I learned through my own experiments the secret of this power. Music, you see, has a logic of its own. It is similar to mathematical logic, but in some ways different. For music does not merely communicate with our minds, but in fact changes our thought in some imperceptible fashion." "What do you mean by that?" I asked. But I knew that Bach had struck a chord within my own being that I could not quite define. Something I felt I'd known for many years, something buried deep inside me that I felt only when I heard a beautiful, haunting melody. Or played a game of chess. "What I mean," said Bach, "is that the universe is like a great mathematical game that is played upon a tremendous scale. Music is one of the purest forms of mathematics. Each mathematical formula can be converted into music, as I've done with Dr. Euler's." He glanced at Euler, and the latter nodded back, as if the two shared a secret to which I was not yet privy. "And music," Bach continued, "can be converted into mathematics, with, I might add, surprising results. The Architect who built the universe designed it that way. Music has power to create a universe or to destroy a civilization. If you don't believe me, I suggest you read the Bible." Euler stood in silence for a moment. "Yes," he said at last, "there are other architects in the Bible whose stories are quite revealing, are they not?" "My friend," said Bach, turning to me with a smile, "as I've said, seek and ye shall find. He who understands the architecture of music will understand the power of the Montglane Service. For the two are one." *********************************************************************************** David has listened closely to the story. Now, as they approached the fretted iron gates of his courtyard, he turned to Philidor in dismay. "But what does it all mean?" he asked. "Waht do music and mathematics have to do with the Montglane Service? What do any of these things have to do with power, whether on earth or in the heavens? Your story only serves to support my claim that this legendary chess service appeals to mystics and fools. Mucha s I hate to tie such appellations to Dr. Euler, your story suggests he was easily prey to fantasies of this sort." Philidor paused beneath the dark horse chestnut trees that hung low over the gates of David's courtyard. "I have studied the subject for years," the composer whispered. "At long last, though I've never been interested in biblical scholastics, I took it upon myself to read the Bible, as Euler and Bach had suggested. Bach died soon after our meeting, and Euler immigrated to Russia, so I was never again to meet the two men to discuss what I had found." "And what did you find?" said David, extracting his key to unlock the gates. "They'd directed me to study architects, and so I did. There were only two architects of note within the Bible. One was the Architect of the universe. That is, Gog. The other was the architect of the Tower of Babel. The very word 'Bab-El' means, is discovered, 'Gate of God.' The Babylonians were a very proud people. They were the greatet civilization since the beginning of time. They built hanging gardens that rivaled the finest works of nature. And they wanted to build a tower that would reach to heaven itself, a tower that would reach to the sun. The story of this tower is the one, I felt sure, that Bach and Euler alluded to. "The architect," Philidor continued as the two men passed through the gates, "was one Nimrod. The greatest architect of his day. He built a tower higher than any known to man. But it was never completed. Do you know why?" "God smote him down, as I recall," David said as he crossed the court. "But how did He smite him down?" asked Philidor. "He did not send a bolt of lightning, a flood, or a plague, as was His custom! I shall tell you how God destroyed the work of Nimrod, my friend. God confused the languages of the workers, which until then had been one language. He struck down the language. He destroyed the Word!" ************************************************************************************** This is the end of Philidor's tale. I would like to add one other Bible story in which "music" (sound) is used to destroy a civilization. Perhaps you will recall the tale of Joshua and Jericho. Joshua was instructed by God to have his army march around the seemingly inpenetrable walls of the city for a prescribed seven days: for the first six days the army and seven priests playing seven rams' horns marched around the city once; on the seventh day the seven priests once again played their horns as they marched around the city with the army seven times, but not a word was spoken, only the music of the rams' horns was heard. And then, at a signal, all the Israelites let lose a great war cry. And the walls of Jericho crumbled and fell down. Interesting...

Goddesschess Meeting 2007

This year's Goddesschess meeting was held in the most beautiful spot in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Jan Newton's lovely home. Jan Newton is the driving force behind Goddesschess, and is responsible for making our web-site and blog a great success. I am honored to have such a wonderful friend and research partner. The focus of this year's meeting was how to promote and market chess. Earlier this year I attended the Las Vegas Open Chess Tournament held at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada. My assignment, for Goddesschess, was to attend Susan Polger's seminar and report new ideas to market chess. I was impressed with the ideas that Susan and her charming husband detailed in the seminar. For more on this subject go to Susan Polgar's Blog. Susan Polgar explained how difficult it is for women chess players to get recognition from the "Old Boys Club" of chess...The boys seem to be stuck in the dark ages, they need to move into the 21st Century. Women need sponsorship, and larger prize money, in order to continue competing in tournaments. The lack of money makes a career in chess almost impossible for young women. The chess world needs to follow the lead of other successful games, such as Billards and Poker. Both of these games have become multi-billion dollar businesses now. I believe that chess can also become a multi-billion dollar industry, and move into the main stream. The secret is women!! Women bring money to the games. Steve Miserak, World Champion pool player, mentioned during an interview on PBS, that women took pool out of the pool rooms, and put it on major sports net-works. He also mentioned that women were the best thing that has happened the game of pool...there is money to be made playing pool now, which means one can make a comfortable living playing pool professionally. The prize money in tournaments has increased tremendously. Poker is another game that has benefited from the influx of women. Over 60% of the people that watch poker on TV are Women! Women have help take the game of poker from the back room to the front room of every home. Women bring money to games...billions of dollars. The "Old Boys Club" is missing the boat when it comes to marketing chess. The discriminatory attitudes of these men has kept chess from growing. When are they going to wake-up and smell the roses, or smell money? In summary, women need to have more opportunities to make a living playing chess. Bigger prize money, more sponsorship, and more exposure. We at Goddesschess support the efforts of the beautiful, and brilliant, women chess players through out the world.


Cub-reporter for Goddesschess

Friday, August 3, 2007

Kirzan and the Aliens!

It's not even an article from The International Chessoid (wish I'd thought it up when TIC was up and running!) Weekend Herald nzherald.com.nz Weird world of chess-loving enclave 5:00AM Thursday July 26, 2007 By Shaun Walker In the full glare of the ferocious midday sun, a chubby teenage boy scoops up his plastic castle, and moves it one square forward on the giant marble chessboard carved into Elista's central square. Murmurs run through the watching crowd. The only person who doesn't adopt a horrified expression is Lenin, who remains stoic surveying the square from a pedestal. "You idiot!" cry out three men in unison. Sure enough, a few seconds later his metre-high castle is pole-axed by an opposing pawn, and the game is all but lost. The boy wanders away dejected, and another takes his place to challenge the victor, a youngster sporting a Barcelona football shirt. Chess is everywhere in Kalmykia, an arid chunk of steppe, that lies on Russia's Caspian Sea coast. The fetish is largely down to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, an eccentric millionaire with a taste for sharp suits and fast cars, who has ruled the isolated republic for almost 15 years. And since 1998, when Ilyumzhinov added the presidency of the World Chess Federation (Fide) to his portfolio, the ex-schoolboy champion has turned his region into a chess mecca. Despite crippling poverty and unemployment in the republic, which is one of the poorest of Russia's regions, US$50 million ($62 million) was found to build a "City Chess" complex outside Elista, and compulsory chess lessons for every child over 6 were introduced in schools. And last year at another Elista arena his ultimate chess fantasy became reality. Fide champion Veselin Topalov and classical champion Vladimir Kramnik went head to head in a match that ended the divide in international chess and created a single world champion for the first time since 1993, the year Ilyumzhinov came to power. Elista is a dilapidated but pleasant city, filled with cottages and five-storey Khrushchev-era apartment blocks, the windows covered in silver foil to keep out the ferocious sun. But out of the capital, life is hard. Farming is still the major source of income, despite the difficulties of rearing livestock in almost-desert conditions. Incomes are as low as US$50 per month and unemployment is rampant. Ilyumzhinov doesn't share these financial problems. At Elista's weed-strewn airport, the only two planes are the presidential jet and a rusty 32-seater Yak 40 jet that meanders to Moscow three times a week. And once on the ground, he has a fleet of Rolls-Royces to call on. He made his money in murky circumstances during the early 1990s, and seems to have become richer during his time as leader of Kalmykia. Opposition figures say this additional wealth is the result of corruption, where companies taking advantage of Kalmykia's tax haven status in the 1990s made payments into Ilyumzhinov's personal account. He denies the allegations. The Kalmyk leader has great faith in the predictions of an elderly Bulgarian fortune teller named Vanga, who apparently foretold his presidencies of both Fide and Kalmykia. He counts among his friends Chuck Norris, the Dalai Lama, and the late Saddam Hussein, whom he met during an attempt to bring the World Chess Championships to Baghdad. Ilyumzhinov's office set three interview dates but cancelled them all at the last minute. As a substitute, they provided a copy of his 1998 autobiography, entitled The President's Crown of Thorns, a strange mix of pseudo-philosophy and stream-of-consciousness reminiscences. One chapter is entitled: "Without me, the people are incomplete." Another is charmingly headed: "It only takes two weeks to have a man killed." Among the stranger claims of Ilyumzhinov is that he was abducted by aliens in September 1997. "I was taken from my apartment in Moscow to this spaceship," he said in a recent television interview. "We went to some star. After that I said 'Please bring me back' because the next day I had to go to Kalmykia and then to Ukraine, and they said 'No problem, Kirsan, you have time'." He rejects the idea that these claims make him appear to be a few pieces short of a full chess set. "I'm not a crazy man. From the United States every year more than 4000 people are contacted in such a way. It's an official statistic." Ethnic Kalmyks make up just over half of Kalmykia's 300,000 population. A Mongol people who originated in what is now western China, they settled in the area nearly 400 years ago, and are traditionally Buddhist. The Kalmyks didn't have a very good run during the Soviet period. All the Buddhist temples were destroyed in the 1930s, and the entire Kalmyk population was deported to remote Siberian outposts in 1943 for alleged collaboration with Nazi forces. In a dark page of the Russian war effort, that rarely forms part of public discourse on the World War II here, around 10,000 troops were mobilised in Kalmykia. And on a cold morning in December 1943, Kalmyk families were bundled out of their homes on to cattle wagons. Most of the men were fighting at the front, so the victims were mainly women, children and the elderly. In the three-week journey to Siberia, and in the first difficult months of exile, more than 40 per cent of the Kalmyks perished, estimates local historian Vladimir Ubushayev. "There was a special wagon at the back of each train that was used to hold the bodies of those who died on the way." In 1957, the Kalmyks returned as part of Nikita Khrushchev's thaw, but the years in dispersed exile had taken a toll on their traditions and language. Now, few people under 50 speak fluent Kalmyk, a language close to Mongolian. Buddhism, however, has undergone a gradual renaissance since the fall of the Soviets, with the Dalai Lama making three visits to Kalmykia, and new temples springing up every year. The most impressive is the Golden Temple in central Elista, a cream and white structure of immense proportions - the largest Buddhist temple in Europe. It was officially opened in December 2005, but the interior is still being painted by a team of travelling Tibetan artists, a pleasingly medieval process that could take up to five years. "Before 1917 there was a strong tradition of Buddhism here, but then the communists destroyed it," says Tupten Shaty, a Tibetan monk at the temple. "Now we're here to revive the tradition." On the top floor, a luxurious multi-roomed suite awaits a return visit from the Dalai Lama to bless the completed temple. Nobody else is allowed to stay in the palatial residence, but so far even Ilyumzhinov's charms have been unable to bring the Dalai Lama back to town - Moscow is wary of issuing him a visa given improving relations with China. Pictures of Ilyumzhinov with the Dalai Lama abound in Elista, as if the Kalmyk leader wants to reinforce his credibility among his Buddhist people. In fact, Ilyumzhinov's portrait is everywhere. Here he is with the late Pope John Paul II; there he is with Vladimir Putin. He even makes it into a display about antelopes in the local museum. Many Kalmyks seem to be happy with their leader. "Kirsan does the work of three men, and is an excellent role model for young children," says Anatoly Shamakov, a tutor at a chess school. "I think he was sent to us from God. Sanal Shavaliyev, the editor of a local newspaper and chairman of the Kalmykia Union of Journalists, agrees. "He's an exceptionally intelligent man and has turned Kalmykia into a place that people all over the world know about," he says. "We're very proud to have him as our President." The approval is not unanimous. "He's a pathological liar with serious psychological problems," says Semyon Ateyev, director of the Kalmykia Bureau of Human Rights. "After 14 years of his rule, we're still one of the poorest regions of Russia. "We have a Minister of Economic Development, who's also in charge of organising chess tournaments. We don't have any economic development, because he spends his whole time organising chess tournaments." Many also suggest that there's a darker side to the quirky Kalmyk ruler. Nine years ago, Larisa Yudina, editor of Sovietskaya Gazeta, a local Opposition newspaper, was murdered. "She told me she had found some documents that clearly implicated Ilyumzhinov in a huge corruption scheme," says Valery Badmayev, the paper's current editor. "A few days later she was dead." Two former members of Ilyumzhinov's administration were found guilty of the murder, but the leader himself escaped the fallout. When President Putin abolished elections for regional leaders in the aftermath of the Beslan school siege, analysts pointed to one potential positive outcome being that unaccountable local rulers could no longer manipulate local elections and remain in power. "In 2004, in just one month we collected 74,000 signatures against Ilyumzhinov's rule," says Badmayev. It was expected that Ilyumzhinov would be one of the first victims of Putin's new law. But in 2005, the President came to Elista and reappointed Ilyumzhinov, giving him a mandate until 2010. "The Opposition here is going through a bad period, like in the rest of Russia," says Badmayev. "We've given up hope of getting rid of Kirsan while Putin is in power." They can only pray that the aliens come for Ilyumzhinov again, and this time don't bring him back. - INDEPENDENT

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The New York Times Review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

Hola darlings! Well, I don't know what all the hoo-ha was about. I read the review this evening and the reviewer didn't - in my view - give anything important or critical away at all! I had pre-ordered the book from Amazon and it was delivered on 7/24. I did not read non-stop because I had vacation guests here - I didn't open it until 7/26, thinking I would save it for after my vacation. But then Michelle arrived and had read several chapters already and was eager to discuss the developments, and so I eagerly dived in and we had a sort of reading contest. I finished the book a week ago today (I literally read last Tuesday until I could not uncross my eyes anymore).

Well, what can I say? I disagree vehemently with any critic who says the book was boring and left much to be desired, I thought it was excellent and I could only put it down when I was forced to do so either by eyes that refused to cooperate any longer to read or the call of duty as a hostess (like cooking, socializing and going on outings). Fortunately, my guests, who are my closest Goddesschess buddies and Don is also my long-suffering fiance, showed great forebearance :)

So, here is the New York Times review. Why, you ask, should Harry Potter appear here? Well darlings, Harry Potter is, amongst other things, a modern-day take-off on the tales surrounding the death, resurrection and adventures of the Osiris, Isis and Horus triad in Egyptian mythology - with doses of just about every other worthy ancient myth thrown in for good measure -- ahhh, and magic too, the realm of the goddess Isis in ancient Egypt. That Rowling wove such threads into her monumental seven volume epic is just extra spice to the sauce of life. The tale is good enough to stand on its own merits as a classic coming of age story without any such allusions.

Books of The Times
An Epic Showdown as Harry Potter Is Initiated Into Adulthood
Published: July 19, 2007

So, here it is at last: The final confrontation between Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the “symbol of hope” for both the Wizard and Muggle worlds, and Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, the nefarious leader of the Death Eaters and would-be ruler of all. Good versus Evil. Love versus Hate. The Seeker versus the Dark Lord.

J. K. Rowling’s monumental, spellbinding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas — from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to “Star Wars.” And true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, “Soprano”-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big-screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people’s fates. Getting to the finish line is not seamless — the last part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series, has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours — but the overall conclusion and its determination of the main characters’ story lines possess a convincing inevitability that make some of the prepublication speculation seem curiously blinkered in retrospect.

With each installment, the “Potter” series has grown increasingly dark, and this volume — a copy of which was purchased at a New York City store yesterday, though the book is embargoed for release until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday — is no exception. While Ms. Rowling’s astonishingly limber voice still moves effortlessly between Ron’s adolescent sarcasm and Harry’s growing solemnity, from youthful exuberance to more philosophical gravity, “Deathly Hallows” is, for the most part, a somber book that marks Harry’s final initiation into the complexities and sadnesses of adulthood.

From his first days at Hogwarts, the young, green-eyed boy bore the burden of his destiny as a leader, coping with the expectations and duties of his role, and in this volume he is clearly more Henry V than Prince Hal, more King Arthur than young Wart: high-spirited war games of Quidditch have given way to real war, and Harry often wishes he were not the de facto leader of the Resistance movement, shouldering terrifying responsibilities, but an ordinary teenage boy — free to romance Ginny Weasley and hang out with his friends.

Harry has already lost his parents, his godfather Sirius and his teacher Professor Dumbledore (all mentors he might have once received instruction from) and in this volume, the losses mount with unnerving speed: at least a half-dozen characters we have come to know die in these pages, and many others are wounded or tortured. Voldemort and his followers have infiltrated Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, creating havoc and terror in the Wizard and Muggle worlds alike, and the members of various populations — including elves, goblins and centaurs — are choosing sides.

No wonder then that Harry often seems overwhelmed with disillusionment and doubt in the final installment of this seven-volume bildungsroman. He continues to struggle to control his temper, and as he and Ron and Hermione search for the missing Horcruxes (secret magical objects in which Voldemort has stashed parts of his soul, objects that Harry must destroy if he hopes to kill the evil lord), he literally enters a dark wood, in which he must do battle not only with the Death Eaters, but also with the temptations of hubris and despair.

Harry’s weird psychic connection with Voldemort (symbolized by the lightning-bolt forehead scar he bears as a result of the Dark Lord’s attack on him as a baby) seems to have grown stronger too, giving him clues to Voldemort’s actions and whereabouts, even as it lures him ever closer to the dark side. One of the plot’s significant turning points concerns Harry’s decision on whether to continue looking for the Horcruxes — the mission assigned to him by the late Dumbledore — or to pursue the Hallows, three magical objects said to make their possessor the master of Death.

Harry’s journey will propel him forward to a final showdown with his arch enemy, and also send him backward into the past, to the house in Godric’s Hollow where his parents died, to learn about his family history and the equally mysterious history of Dumbledore’s family. At the same time, he will be forced to ponder the equation between fraternity and independence, free will and fate, and to come to terms with his own frailties and those of others. Indeed, ambiguities proliferate throughout “The Deathly Hallows”: we are made to see that kindly Dumbledore, sinister Severus Snape and perhaps even the awful Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley may be more complicated than they initially seem, that all of them, like Harry, have hidden aspects to their personalities, and that choice — more than talent or predisposition — matters most of all.

It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding-school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.

In doing so, J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis. With this volume, the reader realizes that small incidents and asides in earlier installments (hidden among a huge number of red herrings) create a breadcrumb trail of clues to the plot, that Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor. Objects and spells from earlier books — like the invisibility cloak, Polyjuice Potion, Dumbledore’s Pensieve and Sirius’s flying motorcycle — play important roles in this volume, and characters encountered before, like the house-elf Dobby and Mr. Ollivander the wandmaker, resurface, too.

The world of Harry Potter is a place where the mundane and the marvelous, the ordinary and the surreal coexist. It’s a place where cars can fly and owls can deliver the mail, a place where paintings talk and a mirror reflects people’s innermost desires. It’s also a place utterly recognizable to readers, a place where death and the catastrophes of daily life are inevitable, and people’s lives are defined by love and loss and hope — the same way they are in our own mortal world.

More Press on Humpy

From Sportstar Weekly From the publishers of THE HINDU VOL.30 :: NO.31 :: Aug. 04, 2007 CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR By the high standards she has set for herself, 2006 wasn’t a great year for Koneru Humpy. “My game didn’t progress the way I wanted it to, and the main reason for that was that I didn’t play in as many tournaments as I would have liked to, because I didn’t have a sponsor,” says the Vijayawada-based World No. 2 in women’s chess. “After joining ONGC as a personnel administrative officer, I can now play in all the tournaments I want to.” She could as well have said that she could win all the tournaments she wanted to. The 20-year-old won two open tournaments in Europe, back to back, recently. And in both of those events — the HSG Open in Hilversum (Netherlands) and the Kaupthing Open in Differdange (Luxembourg) — most of her rivals were men. She has always relished her battles with the stronger sex. She had won the Asian (under-12) boys’ title in 1999. She has won men’s events before this twin triumph in Europe, too. Humpy says she didn’t anticipate her two latest victories, though. “My aim was to gain some Elo points so that I could improve my rating, which hasn’t changed much for a year. I had actually wanted to cross the 2600 mark last year.” She is inching close to that mark now, having collected 25 points from the two European events. Her July rating is 2572, so she should be able to go past the 2600 mark in the next rating list, to be released in October. In the history of women’s chess, only one player — Judit Polgar of Hungary — has been there before. Humpy is looking forward to gain more Elo points from her forthcoming tournaments so that she could go beyond 2600. “My next event is the Abu Dhabi Open from August 12. Then I will be playing for Monaco Chess Club in the European Club Championship in Turkey — my teammates are Zhu Chen, Pia Cramling, Almira Skripchenko and Monica Socko — and the Asian Indoor Games in Macau,” she says.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Breaking Into the Top

From Dylan McClain's chess column at the New York Times:

Published: July 22, 2007

A nagging question over the years has been: Why aren’t there more good players who are women?

Since the World Chess Federation began ranking players more than 40 years ago, only one, Judit Polgar of Hungary, has been in the top 100.

Some men, notably Garry Kasparov, the former champion, have suggested that women do not have the psychological makeup (meaning aggressiveness) or intellectual capacity to play high-level chess.

Late last year, a study in Psychological Science concluded that that was not necessarily true. It said a likely reason for the dearth of good women players was that not enough of them played competitive chess.

The study was by Christopher F. Chabris, a research associate in the psychology department at Harvard, and Mark E. Glickman, an associate professor of health policy and management at Boston University.

“If you look at boys and girls who started at roughly the same playing strength,” Professor Glickman said, “if you look at them at the start and follow them over time, there tends not to be a difference.”

Still, it is puzzling that Polgar has stood alone for so long. At long last, however, she may be about to get some help in the battle of the sexes. Humpy Koneru, a 20-year-old from India, may be poised to break into the elite ranks. She is now the No. 2 woman in the world, one of just 10 to earn the title of grandmaster, which she did at 15 years 2 months, three months younger than Polgar was when she earned the title. Over the last 18 months, she has played a number of strong tournaments against men, including the second section of the elite Corus tournament in 2006, with good results.

Two weeks ago, in a field with 13 grandmasters, she tied for first at the Kaupthing Open in Luxembourg with Hannes Stefansson of Iceland. Going into the last round, she was in a six-way tie for first, but beat Sebastian Siebrecht of Germany. How’s that for lack of aggression?

After 3 Nf3, Siebrecht had a few options as Black, but steered the game into a Benoni opening, showing he was spoiling for a fight.

Koneru and Siebrecht showed that they knew recent theory, playing more than 20 moves that followed the course of recent games, in particular a 2001 encounter between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, which ended in a draw.

Siebrecht should have removed his king from in front of Koneru’s rook with 22 ... Kh8. Koneru’s 29 Rf1 was not the most accurate, as Siebrecht could have played 29 ... Qb2. Instead, 29 ... Qd5 opened the critical a2/g8 diagonal for White’s bishop.

Still, the position was not fatal. After 30 f5, Siebrecht could play 30 ... c4, when 31 Bc4 is met by 31 ... Rf5.

But 30 ... Ref7 was a critical error. Even after 31 ... Rf5 32 Rh4 Kg8 33 Rg1 Qb7 34 Bc3, Black is losing.

Siebrecht fell on his sword with 33... Be4 rather than play out a most likely hopeless position with 34 ... Qg2 35 Kg2 Bc2.
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