Saturday, August 18, 2007

Paul Hoffman Has a new book that I believe you will enjoy. "The King's Gambit" Date: Aug 16, 2007 11:54 AM I received, hot off the press, one of the first copies of King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game. I’m excited, of course, because the book is the culmination of years of my thinking about chess and what it means to me, an amateur fan, and those who play it at the highest level. The book is part memoir (of growing up with a brilliant bohemian father in New York’s Greenwich Village and my escape into chess as a troubled child) and part a deep look at the emotional pressures of championship chess.Of course, I’m combing the 433-page tome for errors. I hope I’ve eliminated most of them—many people read earlier drafts—but I know that gremlins, which I’ll correct in future printings, will inevitably slip in. The book, which will be in stores on September 11, was mailed to reviewers yesterday. Now I just need to sit back and hope that King’s Gambit catches the Zeitgeist.
The Great Film maker and lover of chess Ingmar Bergman has surrendered his game to death...His wonderful movie "The Seventh Seal", a must see, is played out through a chess game...Ingmar includes the Goddess in this fasinatin g film. He will be missed, but never forgotten. Legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman buried Sat Aug 18, 8:57 AM ET Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, one of the most influential film directors of the 20th century, was buried on Saturday in a private funeral on Faaroe Island in the Baltic Sea. A small circle of family and friends, including actresses Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman, attended the ceremony at Faaroe Church. "The funeral service was carried out as a traditional Faaroe funeral, in line with Ingmar Bergman's wishes," his family said in a statement sent to Swedish news agency TT after the ceremony. Bergman died at his home on the island on July 30 aged 89. No details of the private ceremony were disclosed in advance, and police and security guards kept media and curious onlookers at bay. The statement said only family, some Faaroe residents and a handful of Bergman's colleagues and friends were invited to the funeral. During the service at the Faaroe Church, a white building with medieval origins where the Swedish flag flew at half-mast on Saturday, two Swedish psalms were sung and a cellist played Bach's Saraband from Cello Suite Number 5. Bergman was buried in the church cemetery after the religious service, according to the statement. Daily Dagens Nyheter said in its online edition that Bergman's simple wooden coffin had been made by a Swedish carpenter who helped design parts of his beloved home on Faaroe, a small island in the Baltic Ocean where the director lived as a virtual recluse. Bergman was laid to rest next to his fifth and final wife Ingrid von Rosen, who died in 1995. A shared tombstone bearing both von Rosen's and Bergman's names was erected after her death. In order to keep the date of the funeral a secret as long as possible, his grave was dug in the church cemetery at dusk on Friday, Aftonbladet reported. Bergman's films won three best foreign language film Oscars. Despite his preoccupation with dark themes such as death and sexual anguish, he was widely acclaimed for perennial arthouse favourites such as "The Seventh Seal" (1957) and "Fanny and Alexander" (1982). For many movie buffs, Bergman was the greatest of the authorial filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s, outranking such figures as Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel or Jean-Luc Godard. Bergman was married five times and had nine children. His strict childhood -- his father Erik was a clergyman in Stockholm -- and family relationships influenced him profoundly and were reflected in all his work. He directed his first film "Crisis" in 1945 but it was not until 1956 that he won international acclaim when "Smiles of a Summer Night" was shown at the Cannes Festival. For more than three decades he produced an average of a movie a year, including "Wild Strawberries" (1957), "The Virgin Spring" (1960), "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961), "Winter Light" (1963), "Scenes from a Marriage" (1973), "Autumn Sonata" (1978) and "Saraband" (2003).

Blast from the Past - Zhu Beats Kosteniuk, Wins Women's Title

In this New York Times article, GM Robert Byrne gently reminds us that the old chestnut about women not playing "aggressive" chess is a lot of hooey. Chess; China's Zhu Beats a Russian To Win the Women's Title By ROBERT BYRNE Published: January 6, 2002 The old prejudice that women play timid chess was again exploded in the Women's World Championship, which ended Dec. 20 in Moscow. There wasn't one draw in the final confrontation. They kept on beating each other in a rhythmic tattoo until the winner, Zhu Chen, 25, of China, put two victories together and won the tiebreaker and the championship against Alexandra Kosteniuk, 17, a new star from Russia. The score in the four regulation games was 2-2. In the tiebreaker, Zhu forged a 3-1 triumph. The previous champion, Xie Jun of China, chose not to defend her title. Rumor has it that she wishes to follow Judit Polgar's road and enter only open competitions, against men. In the decisive game 8, Zhu showcased her power in attack. The Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense, introduced by 5 . . . a6, the favorite of two world champions, Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, is played more often than all the other Sicilian variations put together nowadays. Black plans to thrust . . . e5, but wishes to exclude 5 . . . e5 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 Bd7 Qd7 8 Nde2 Qc6 9 Ng3 h6 10 O-O g6 11 f4 Nbd7 12 Qf3 Bg7 13 f5 with superior play for White. The advance 9 . . . h5 is typical of today's union of tactics and strategy. Black loosens her kingside pawn formation to prevent the opponent from thrusting g4 with the idea of continuing with g5, cramping the defender and thus an attack. Black knows that she has diminished the chance to make a safe place for her king on the kingside. She is willing to make that choice. It's not clear why Kosteniuk substituted 10 Be2?! for the usual 10 O-O-O, after which 10 . . . Nbd7 11 Nd5 Bd5 12 ed Rc8 13 Kb1 Nb6 14 Qa5 would yield her a slight superiority. In thrusting 13 . . . h4, Zhu went over from defense to attack. The white king position is not as secure as may appear. Zhu's 17 . . . f4!? leaves a hole at e4 and commits her to a mating attack. In the long run, a white knight would be sitting pretty at e4, but it takes three moves to get there, and a black knight could still challenge it. Kosteniuk's 19 c5!? is based on positional values: after 19 . . . dc 20 d6, she has a strong passed pawn at d6 and the diagonal a2/g8 becomes open for her king bishop. But maybe she should first have interpolated 19 g3!? to deny her foe the chance to exchange the dark-square bishops with 20 . . . Bh4! After 24 . . . Kf8, Kosteniuk should have tried 25 Be6 to make use of this piece. Her 25 Re2? was a terrible oversight in light of Zhu's smashing breakthrough with 25 . . . e4! 26 fe Ne5! The two threats were 27 . . . Nf3 and 27 . . . Nc4. After 27 Qc3 Ne4 28 Qc2, Zhu stormed through with 28 . . . Nf3! 29 Kf1 (29 Kh1 plunges into 29 . . . Ng3! 30 hg hg 31 Kg2 32 Qg3 33 Kf1 Qg1mate) Nh2 30 Ke1 Nf3 31 Kd1 hg 32 Qe4 g1/Q 33 Kc2 Nd4 34 Nd4 Qd4. With only a bishop for a queen, Kosteniuk staggered onward with 35 Rf1 Qe4 36 Re4, but after 36 . . . Qg2, she had to lose a rook, so she called it quits.

Crows are Smart - Well, Duh!

Why are people continually surprised when new research reveals that the creations of Mother Nature aren't as stupid as humankind? Excerpted from a Newsweek online article: Think Apes are Smart? Meet Mr. Crow By Sharon Begley Thursday, August 16, 2007 10:48 AM ... Scientists are reporting today that New Caledonian crows are no slouches when it comes to sophisticated tool use. As they report online in the journal Current Biology, the crows can spontaneously combine two tools to get a snack--and in a way that suggests they solved the problem not by trial and error, but by reasoning through analogy. That is, the crows were able to see that a novel situation was essentially the same as one they'd encountered before. "Evidence suggests that, from the earliest human stone tools, analogical reasoning has been at the core of human innovation," Russell Gray of the University of Auckland, who led the study, said in a statement. "This hallmark of human intelligence may also be at work in both the great apes and New Caledonian crows." In the study, the researchers put food in a hole that was unreachable unaided. They also left a stick lying around, but it was also too short to reach the food. They left one more prop: a long stick in a "toolbox." This stick was long enough to reach the food--but it, too, was out of reach. No problem. The crows used the short stick to get the long tool out of the box, then used the long stick to get the food. In fact, six out of seven crows immediately tried to get the long stick with the short stick; only one dunce did the bird-brained thing of trying to get the food directly with the short stick and realizing that wouldn't work, and that he had to use the short stick to get the long stick. Next challenge: food still at the bottom of a deep hole, small stick inside the toolbox and long stick within the crows' reach. The crows briefly used the long stick to poke the toolbox, but immediately saw their mistake and then just carried the long stick directly to the hole to fish out the food. They did not brainlessly apply the rule, "use available stick to acquire hidden stick and then proceed to food hole," but instead scoped out the situation and employed the most efficient algorithm for getting their snack--in this case, "forget about out-of-reach short stick, and notice instead that available long stick is all I need to fetch food." It's fascinating to think about the evolution of intelligence, and perhaps a measure of our collective ego that we fancy only we have it, with our direct ancestors and perhaps a few cousins having pale shadows of it. Clearly, as the continuing research on animal intelligence shows, that is not the case. ****************************************************************************** Evolution? Yeah, right. Well, when I was a child, I believed in fairy tales too :) I wonder, is this reasoning ability restricted only to Caledonian crows? Or is it an attribute of crows in general? If I stick a tool box out in my yard, dig a hole and put some treats down into it that my run-of-the-mill Wisconsin crows can only get at by using the tools in the box (I'll make it easy and leave the box open for them), will they be able to figure it out? Hmmm, I think I'll try it. I've been meaning to do some transplanting and I'll have to dig a hole in order to move this particular shrub - By the way, this article got me to checking out some of my old research, which led me to other things and other things, and lo and behold, I'm right in the middle of a full-blown research project which ties Athena, crows, serpents and possibly even the god of medicine to the checkerboard pattern which, as we know, is used in western chess. Of course, the use of the two-colored checkerboard is a WHOLE nother topic! Oh my, a woman's work is never done.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Night Miscellany

Some kind of critter was out in the yard last night rummaging around for food and was making the strangest kind of noise - it sounded sort of like "CRRAAAAKKKKEEEE" (very loud, or pehaps it just sounded loud because at that time of the early morning there was nothing else out there making noise!); there would be a couple of "crakes" and then silence for a little while, and them more "crakes." It was about 2:39 a.m. I staggered out of bed and peered out of the window but it was too dark to see anything without a moon. So I went around the upstairs and shut the windows so I wouldn't hear the "crake" noise anymore and tried to get back to sleep. I have no idea what it was. There are some juvenile raccoons who hang around, perhaps it was one of them. I figure there must have been some other critter out there rummaging around too, otherwise the first critter would not have been making the loud "crake" noises. Ah, such is life in the suburbs... In the quickest time yet, we already have a review/summary/report or whatever you'd like to call it of our Goddesschess Eighth Anniversary get-together during my recently concluded vacation. To save download time a lot of the pics are done in minis and there is also a separate photo gallery; if you click on a mini pic it turns into a larger photo but hopefully not so large that it will take forever to download on dial-up. Now that vacation is over Random Round-up has been updated and we're back on schedule to update it every Sunday. I don't think I mentioned that I finished David Shenk's "The Immortal Game - A History of Chess" a few weeks ago - what an excellent book, I highly recommend it. It's not dry, dull and boring like HJR Murray's tome on the origins and history of chess - and certainly not 800 plus pages - these days I only read Harry Potter novels that are that long! Shenk hits all the highlights, particularly with respect to the mysteries surrounding the origins of chess and the early days of the game's development. He frames each chapter in the book by a series of moves in the "Immortal Game" between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kierseritsky on June 21, 1851, in London - a game that was a throw-away, a practice game - but it didn't turn out that way... Shenk struck a good balance between writing for a non-chessly audience while providing enough meat for serious chessophiles. Now, onto the spooky and wierdo stuff - what the heck is this I've been reading about "Mothman?" What is Mothman, anyway? Lately over at the Daily Grail there are items that refer to Mothman. At least some bloggers see a connection between this Mothman and bridge collapses (recently occurred in Minnesota and one in China), and other disasters. Is Mothman some kind of omen or harbinger? Check out this headline (in red ink, no less) from the Gulf Daily News: Tissir masters 42 in stimulation chess Oh my! Well, if you live long enough, I guess you'll see just about everything... "It was a really enjoyable event, and I feel that it was very educational for the young and amateur players that took part," Tissir told the GDN afterwards. Double Oh My! Educational, heh? Er, it turns out this was a "simultaneous" game by IM Mohammed Tissar, although it certainly may have been "stimulating!" One of those "lost in translation" things... Ah, Viktor Korchnoi won Banja Luka 2007. I wish he had emigrated to the United States - the history of chess here might have gone a whole different path with such a player "on our side." Chessbase has a nostalgic article about the history of the Banja Luka tournament. Oh, by the way, I don't believe for a single second that the Russian Chess Federation "mistakenly" sent a 16-year old Kasparov to Banja Luka in 1979 under the assumption that it was a "junior" tournament. Ha! What a joke! Okay, that's it for tonight. It's supposed to start raining tomorrow around 4 p.m. so I cut the grass in the backyard tonight after trudging home from a long hard day at the office; since I hadn't cut for nearly 2 weeks it was rather long, with the rain we've had lately. Yes, rain! It seems the drought is over, at least for this area of southeast Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the farmers in the northern part of the state can't say the same, and it's too late for them. We're talking about crop losses in excess of 60-70%. Anyway, since the grass in the back was rather tall, it took more effort than usual, and somewhat longer than usual, to get it cut to my exacting specifications. On the plus side, I got a real good work-out. On the minus side, I'll probably sleep until 7 a.m. tomorrow and blow half the day recuperating from overdoing it today! Tomorrow the plan is to cut the front yard as soon as it's decent enough to rev up the gas power mower without disturbing the neighbors toooo much. I do try to keep the front yard presentable for the neighbors, so it isn't nearly as shaggy and overgrown as the backyard was, as I cut it last week Saturday morning. Then it's party party - my birthday is Sunday and I'm celebrating tomorrow night AND on Sunday, whooppee, while dodging in between thunderstorms. 'night.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Krista Selby Wins U-18 at 4th Kasparov All Girls Open

It must have been a slow news day in Terre Haute; first NOW they're reporting a tournament result from March!!! From the Tribune Star website (Terre Haute, Indiana) Published: August 14, 2007 10:19 pm South student wins girl’s chess title Staff ReportThe Tribune-Star TERRE HAUTE — In March, Krista Selby of Terre Haute won first place in the 18-and-under division at the fourth annual All-Girls Open National Chess Championships in Chicago. The event was organized by the Kasparov Chess Foundation in association with USCF and Chess Wizards. One-hundred-thirty-six girls from kindergarten to 12th grade competed in the event and 19 states and one province were represented. For two years in a row — in 2005 and 2006 — she was the Indiana representative at the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. Selby, who started playing chess when she was about 5, is a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School this year. ********************************************************************************* Interesting, very interesting. I'm going to check to see if Selby played in any Polgar-sponsored events this year. Added August 17, 2007: I did a search of SP's blog for Krista Selby's name and didn't find anything, which seems very strange. Perhaps the feature isn't working correctly.

Malawi Tournament Chooses Players for the All Africa Games

This event in Malawi got Sports Page coverage in its home country, when chess in the USA can't BUY coverage! Hooray for the winners, and I wish them luck in the All Africa Games. A perennial problem for chessplayers - funding to attend important international events - is mentioned in the article, too. In Malawi, though, it seems the government may provide funding for the players to attend the All Africa Games; in the USA, we're dependent upon the USCF (ha ha!), parents, friends, and the kindness of sponsors! From the Malawi Daily Times Jambo wins women chess championship BY MPHATSO MALIDADI 11:01:58 - 16 August 2007 Unheralded Linda Jambo emerged as women chess queen after shrugging off resistance from defending champion Susan Namangale during the All Africa games selection tournament that was held in Lilongwe on Saturday. The Mzuzu University student, showing her guts and guile, accumulated five points to top the competition. The unstoppable player rounded up her impressive showing by defeating Namangale, who ended on second position with four points. Another budding chess star Royce Msiska ended third with three points while Caroline Mwale, sister to 14-year-old national champion Joseph Mwale, finished fourth. Women's junior champion Ellyn Mpinganjira was the notable face that failed to impress despite representing Malawi at various competitions across the southern Africa when she finished at a disappointing sixth position. Chess Association of Malawi president Kezzie Msukwa described the event as a success but he paid more tribute to the winner, who was outstanding during the tournament. “Her performance was very impressive," Msukwa said. "She was playing with purpose. She made some wonderful moves and most importantly she made sacrifices which in the end worked for her.” Msukwa also believes the top two women, who will join three men - Henry Matewere, Alfred Chinthere and Kajani Kaunda in representing the nation in Namibia - can do better at the event if they get adequate preparation. However, the Chessam president expressed his concern over the delay in passing budget following the current stand off between government and opposition parties in Parliament, saying this would greatly affecting their plans to camp the team before leaving for Namibia. “We only hope that the budget will be allowed to pass so that our program should go as planned,” he said.

Ancient Board Game Pieces Discovered in Bulgarian Tomb

Story excerpted from, Sofia News Agency: Yet Another Ancient Tomb Unearthed in Bulgaria's Sozopol 14 August 2007, Tuesday A team of Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed Tuesday an ancient stone tomb, dated back to the 4th century BC, Darik News reported. The team, lead by Krastina Panayotova, stumbled upon the tomb during the annual archaeological excavations on the Harmani beach of the Black Sea town of Sozopol. A man, probably an athlete, had been buried in the tomb because the team found an object used by athletes in antiquity. Just a day earlier the archaeologists came upon the grave of another man, probably a gambler. The grave was full of dice, backgammon pieces and coins. (Emphasis added). The team of Krastina Panayotova is working on the Harmani beach of Sozopol, a site which archaeologist have been exploring for many years now. Sozopol is one of the oldest towns on Bulgarian Thrace's Black Sea coast. The first settlement on the site dates back to the Bronze Age. ***************************************************************************** I am a study in frustration. A further web search failed to turn up more details about the discovery of the board game pieces the article identified as "backgammon" pieces. There are a number of things we do NOT know from the article, unfortunately, including the exact date of the discovery. All we can deduce is that it was reported in the newspaper on August 14, 2007! We don't know how old the tomb is. Evidently it is quite a large necropolis that is being excavated, but just because one tomb is dated "Hellenic" to c. 400 BCE doesn't mean the team of the "gambler" is from the same era. We don't know how the archaeologist(s) on site arrived at the conclusion that the gaming pieces recovered were "backgammon" pieces. For all we know, they could have been smoothed pebbles used in the Greek game of Polis, or any other petteia game, as no description of the pieces was given and no photograph was provided. The fact that dice - also no description or photograph provided - were found in the same tomb does not necessarily mean that they were related to the gaming pieces. And the reference to coins found in the same tomb is intriguing. Does this imply that the "gambler" was buried with some of his winnings? Or perhaps the coins were meant to be a stake for his future games in Hades/the Afterworld? Or were the "coins" actually tokens from some other kind of board game? For example, ancient Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess) pieces have been mistaken for coins because they were circular, inscribed flat pieces of metal. All I can do at this point is make a note to check in the future to see if I can find published field notes from this excavation (ruts of ruck, Jan!) Arggghhh!

Blast from the Past - Judit Wins Japfa in 2000

From the New York Times website (photo from my files)

Published: June 11, 2000

Judit Polgar of Hungary surpassed a former world champion, Anatoly Karpov, and the current International Chess Federation champion, Aleksandr Khalifman, both of Russia, in winning the Japfa Classic International Tournament in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, recently.

In this 10-player invitational event, held April 22 to May 2 at the Bali Beach Hotel, the 23-year-old grandmaster scored 6 1/2-1 1/2 and picked up a $20,000 prize.

As the last round got under way, four players -- Polgar, Karpov, Khalifman and the Brazilian grandmaster Gilberto Milos -- were tied at 5 1/2 each.

Polgar defeated Milos to take undisputed first place as Karpov and Khalifman played to a draw and tied for second.

Control and precision were Polgar's weapons in her victory over Milos.

The attack with 6 Bc4 against the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian was considered ridiculous half a century ago. Black simply plays 6 . . . e6, as in this game, and continues with an early . . . d5. This was thought to spoil the opponent's plan.

Actually, this line leaves Black with an isolated d pawn after ed ed, and there is no joy in that. Bobby Fischer brought 6 Bc4 to life in the 1960's.

An alternative to 7 . . . b5, namely 7 . . . Nbd7 8 f4 Nc5, worked out well for Black after 9 e5 Nfd7 10 ed Nf6 11 Be3 Bd6 12 Qf3 Qc7 13 O-O-O Bd7 in a Lanc-K. Hertel correspondence game, 1997-99. But Polgar wants something more adventurous.

After 10 . . . Qb7, the black defense has taken shape. The black queen and king knight bear down on the e4 pawn, while the queen bishop guards against a possible sacrifice on e6. This was introduced by Lubomir Kavalek against Yevgeny Vasyukov in a Moscow-Prague match in 1966.

After 11 . . . Nbd7, Milos abstained from 12 Qg7?! because 12 . . . Rg8 13 Qh6 Ne4 14 Qh7 Ndf6 15 Qh3 Nc3 16 bc e5 costs him his queen.

On 17 . . . bc, Milos could have kept material even by recapturing with 18 bc, although after 18 . . . Nb3 19 Rab1 e5 20 Nc2 f5! 21 Rb3 Qc6 22 ef Bf5, Polgar would have the advantage of the two bishops.

Instead, he chose a line that played directly into Polgar's 22 . . . Qb3, winning a pawn.

After Polgar's 35 . . . Bc4!, there was nothing for Milos to do but go into 36 Nd6 Nd6 37 Rd6 Qd6 38 Qd6 Rd6 39 Rd6, when her 39 . . . a3! set up a winning endgame.

He could not play 40 Rd1 because 40 . . . ab 41 Rb1 Rb3! 42 Bb2 Bd3! 43 Rd1 Rb2 44 Rd3 ends in 44 . . . Rb1.

After 44 . . . Rc2, Milos had to lose heavy material. For example, 45 Be1 Bc4, and there is no coping with the looming 46 . . . Rc1. He gave up at once.

Blast from the Past - A Grateful Whale

This story was confirmed true by Snopes (infamous buster of "urban legends"): From the San Francisco Chronicle website Daring rescue of whale off Farallones Humpback nuzzled her saviors in thanks after they untangled her from crab lines, diver says Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, December 14, 2005 A humpback whale freed by divers from a tangle of crab trap lines near the Farallon Islands nudged its rescuers and flapped around in what marine experts said was a rare and remarkable encounter. "It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing that it was free and that we had helped it," James Moskito, one of the rescue divers, said Tuesday. "It stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun." Sunday's daring rescue was the first successful attempt on the West Coast to free an entangled humpback, said Shelbi Stoudt, stranding manager for the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County. The 45- to 50-foot female humpback, estimated to weigh 50 tons, was on the humpbacks' usual migratory route between the Northern California coast and Baja California when it became entangled in the nylon ropes that link crab pots. It was spotted by a crab fisherman at 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the open water east of the Farallones, about 18 miles off the coast of San Francisco. Mick Menigoz of Novato, who organizes whale watching and shark diving expeditions on his boat the New Superfish, got a call for help Sunday morning, alerted the Marine Mammal Center and gathered a team of divers. By 2:30 p.m., the rescuers had reached the whale and evaluated the situation. Team members realized the only way to save the endangered leviathan was to dive into the water and cut the ropes. It was a very risky maneuver, Stoudt said, because the mere flip of a humpback's massive tail can kill a man. "I was the first diver in the water, and my heart sank when I saw all the lines wrapped around it," said Moskito, a 40-year-old Pleasanton resident who works with "Great White Adventures," a cage-diving outfit that contracts with Menigoz. "I really didn't think we were going to be able to save it." Moskito said about 20 crab-pot ropes, which are 240 feet long with weights every 60 feet, were wrapped around the animal. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the tail, the back and the left front flipper, and there was a line in the whale's mouth. The crab pot lines were cinched so tight, Moskito said, that the rope was digging into the animal's blubber and leaving visible cuts. At least 12 crab traps, weighing 90 pounds each, hung off the whale, the divers said. The combined weight was pulling the whale downward, forcing it to struggle mightily to keep its blow- hole out of the water. Moskito and three other divers spent about an hour cutting the ropes with a special curved knife. The whale floated passively in the water the whole time, he said, giving off a strange kind of vibration. "When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me," Moskito said. "It was an epic moment of my life." When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in circles, according to the rescuers. Moskito said it swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one. "It seemed kind of affectionate, like a dog that's happy to see you,'' Moskito said. "I never felt threatened. It was an amazing, unbelievable experience." Humpback whales are known for their complex vocalizations that sound like singing and for their acrobatic breaching, an apparently playful activity in which they lift almost their entire bodies out of the water and splash down. Before 1900, an estimated 15,000 humpbacks lived in the North Pacific, but the population was severely reduced by commercial whaling. In the 20th century, their numbers dwindled to fewer than 1,000. An international ban on commercial whaling was instituted in 1964, but humpbacks are still endangered. Between 5,000 and 7,500 humpbacks are left in the world's oceans, and many of those survivors migrate through the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Whale experts say it's nice to think that the whale was thanking its rescuers, but nobody really knows what was on its mind. "You hate to anthropomorphize too much, but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it," Menigoz said. "I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something that I will always remember. It was just too cool." Humpback whales hold a special place in the hearts of Bay Area residents ever since one that came to be known as Humphrey journeyed up the Sacramento River in 1985. The wayward creature swam into a slough in Rio Vista, attracting 10,000 people a day as whale experts tried desperately to turn it around. Humphrey went back to sea after 25 days of near-pandemonium and worldwide media attention. In the fall of 1990, Humphrey turned up again inside the bay in shallow water near the Bayshore Freeway, finally beaching on mud flats near Double Rock, just off the Candlestick parking lot. He remained stuck for 25 hours, until volunteers, helped by a 41-foot Coast Guard boat, pulled him free and sent him back to the ocean. He has not been seen since. Humpbacks like Humphrey do seem to relate to people more than other whales, according to Stoudt. "You do hear reports of friendly humpbacks, whales approaching boaters, especially in Baja California," Stoudt said, "but, for the most part, they don't like to be interacted with."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Meat Assyrian Style

Hola! I have often been met with a raised eyebrow and an indulgent smile when I tell people that I love ancient history and study it industriously for traces of hints about the origins of ancient board games and, in particular, chess. Their expressions say (in various imagined intonations from English high-brow to Boston Brown-nose) "Oh darling, how - er - interesting," with a cheesy, insincere smile. But, the study is rewarding, sometimes in unexpected ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with ancient board games, and everything to do with fully living the kind of life that makes you happy, not what makes other people happy. This evening I came across such a wonderful little piece of - serendipity - that which makes your life spark all the more - I just have to write about it here. I promise, it's about ancient history :) Ancient cooking, to be exact! Having just recently watched the season's grande finale of "Hell's Kitchen," a show that absolutely fascinates me, and having recently concluding hosting the Eighth Anniversary of Goddesschess Get-Together in my home and cooking up a veritable storm, this article seemed like a natural continuation of a series of events... If you would like to read the entire article (and I highly recommend it), you can find it here. It's from (brace yourselves) the Society of Bible Literature. Okay okay, come down off the ceiling (or pick yourselves off the floor where you were rolling laughing) - it's a fine article by Dr. Alice L. Slotsky, who studied three ancient cunieform tablets from Mesopotamia that date to about 1600 BCE, containing 40 recipes, more or less - that's rather an abrupt summary, you'll get a better, richer and tastier picture by reading the actual article, darlings :) Here are some excerpted parts: Babylonian food has come a long way since Jean Bottéro, doyen of the cuneiform recipe tablets in the Yale Babylonian Collection, pronounced it fit for only his worst enemies. This year at Brown University, one hundred twenty-two ravenous diners grazed on fare cooked from these recipes with exclamations of amazement and satisfaction. ... Such epicurean results would not have been possible without my initial source of inspiration, Bottéro's Textes culinaires Mésopotamiens. This book, of course, was meant to be a scholarly tome, and, to be sure, it contains his painstaking and meticulous transcriptions and translations of the difficult and cryptic clay cooking tablets inscribed in Akkadian. Still, it turns out to be so much more. The reader is treated to a rich commentary on the enigmatic recipes, their cooking methods, and the requisite utensils and equipment. As if this were not enough, there is an elegant discussion of the preparation and presentation of the finished dishes, as well as a dictionary of Akkadian culinary terms and recipe ingredients. ... Armed with Bottéro's book as a lifeline, I decided that there was nothing else to do but dig in and put the recipes to the test with a trial-and-error approach to the translated lines of text. ... This would not have been possible without the benefit of Bottéro's initial and keen analysis of the underlying technicalities involved in the preparation of the recipes. He observed that all of the dishes had one thing in common. Every item, be it meat, fowl, vegetables, or grain, was cooked in water or some other liquid. As he saw it, this was an enormous culinary innovation, a vast departure from the more ancient methods of baking, roasting, grilling, and broiling. What's more, not only was boiling or simmering meat and vegetables in liquid a revolutionary change in methodology but it opened up brand new opportunities to create richer, more succulent flavors than afforded by the simpler cooking of the past. The sophisticated refinements it introduced added a whole new dimension to the practice of cooking and brought Mesopotamian cuisine across the fine food frontier. MEAT ASSYRIAN STYLE Akkadian: me-e shirim shi-rum iz-za-az me-e tu-ka-an li-pi-a-am ta-na-ad-di [break in tablet] karsum ha-za-nu-um te-te-er-ri me-eh-rum shuhut innu i-sha-ru-tum ash-shu-ri-a-tum shi-rum iz-za-az me-e tu-ka-an li-pi-a-am ta-na-di [break in tablet] ha-za-nu-um zu-ru-mu da-ma sha du-qa-tim tu-ma-la kar-shum ha-za-nu-um te-te-er-ri me-he-er na-ag-la-bi English Translation: Meat (cooked in) Water. Meat is used. Prepare water; add fat, [break in tablet], mashed leek and garlic, and a corresponding amount of raw shuhutinnû. Assyrian style. Meat is used. Prepare water; add fat [break in tablet], garlic and zurumu with [break in tablet], blood, and mashed leek and garlic. Carve and serve. Working Recipe: Chop/slice/dice: (many) onions, shallots, garlic, chives, leeks, scallions. Fry in oil until soft. Brown all sides of an eye round pot roast in this mixture, add salt to meat and onion mixture. Turn down heat, and simmer until done in a small amount of water to which a quarter to a half bottle of Guiness stout has been added, turning once or twice during cooking. Remove meat. Boil down onion-beer mixtures until it is reduced to a thick vegetable-rich gravy. Carve and serve.

Archaeological Terrorism by Iran's Islamist Regime

The Islamists in control of the Iranian government are evidently intent upon destroying as many vestiges of Iran's pre-Islamic past as possible, including priceless archaeological sites: From Mehr News 6000-year-old prehistoric site totally bulldozed in central Iran TEHRAN, Aug. 14 (MNA) -- Bulldozers working for the Ammar Yasser construction project in Qom have entirely demolished the 6000-year-old Shad Qoli archaeological site in central Iran, the Persian service of CHN reported on Tuesday. “The license for excavation of the area was issued by the Archaeological Research Center of Iran (ARCI) two years ago at a time when approximately half of the site had already been flattened,” said Siamak Sarlak, director of the team which was to have conducted salvage operations at the location. “According to the cultural heritage regulations in Iran, the Governor General’s Office of Qom, which is in charge of the Ammar Yasser construction project, was responsible for sponsoring salvage excavations. However, the office refused to provide the necessary funds for carrying out the excavation work and we have recently been informed that the remainder of the site has been completely destroyed by bulldozers,” he added. The salvage team needed a sum of 50 million rials (about $5250) to excavate the site. “A dispute arose over which organization -- the governor’s office or the ARCI -- was responsible for funding the operation. Meanwhile the bulldozers continued the process of destruction, which has resulted in total loss of the archaeological significance of the area,” Sarlak explained. Archaeologists believe that people used to live in the Qoli Darvish Tepe, another nearby prehistoric site, but that due to the flooding of the Qomrud River they migrated to the Shad Qoli region and continued to dwell there for about a millennium. The Qoli Darvish Tepe, one of the principal pre-historic sites situated on Iran’s central plateau, includes the remains of a number of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. There is evidence that Qoli Darvish was inhabited from the fourth millennium BC until the ninth century CE. This area has also been seriously damaged over the past decade by the construction of the Qom-Jamkaran Highway, such that only ten percent of the ancient site now remains intact. MMS/MA END MNA 534635

Squirrels Back in the News Again!

If this keeps up, I think we're going to have to seriously consider running a squirrel for President... From the Squirrels wield a hot, secret weapon 22:30 13 August 2007 news service Jeff Hecht It's Californian ground squirrel versus rattlesnake in a potentially lethal showdown. But the squirrel has a secret weapon that until now has remained invisible to the human eye. The ground squirrel heats up its tail then waves it in the snake's face - a form of harassment that confuses the rattler, which has an infrared sensing organ for detecting small mammals. This defensive tactic remained invisible to biologists until they looked at the animals through an infrared video camera. Now they believe that many other animals might be using infrared weaponry to ward off potential predators. Young California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) are easy prey for snakes, so protective adults harass the predators while puffing up their tails and wagging them. Infrared organ Graduate student Aaron Rundus and his supervisor Donald Owings of the University of California, Davis, wondered how this might affect the snakes’ interaction with the adult squirrels. So he borrowed a $35,000 infrared camera from another scientist and spied on squirrel-snake stand-offs. He saw the adults’ tails heat up, presumably due to increased blood flow, when they were warning rattlers away – making the squirrel appear larger to the snake’s infrared organ. Confronted with a gopher snake, which has no infrared sensory organ, the squirrels wagged their tails but didn’t bother to warm them up first. Tests with robotic squirrels confirmed that a warmed squirrel tail made rattlesnakes more likely to act defensively, say Rundus and Owings. The squirrels themselves do not see in infrared, so they cannot see another squirrel's tail heating up. But the snakes can, proving that the squirrels have evolved a specific way to deter rattlesnakes. “It taught us to focus on the perceptual world of the animal we’re studying” rather than thinking only of human perceptions, says Rundus. Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0702599104) ******************************************************************************** So, how did the squirrel know that one of the snakes was a gopher snake without an infrared sensory organ, and so heating his or her tail wouldn't do any good to scare the snake away? Explain that, Mr. Scientist! Those squirrels are smart, I tell you, smarter than some people running things at the White House right now, I'd wager. Perhaps they're plotting behind our backs, taking my peanuts and sunflower seeds every day and laughing up their collective paws while they plan a major coup - first Milwaukee, then the nation, then the world! Hey, if they're smart enough to spy for the Americans in Iran, maybe we've got to start watching our backs...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sheila Dines Goes For "Top Girl" Prize

From the Croydon Guardian

Pupil’s move to chess final
By Graham Moody
1:57pm Saturday 11th August 2007

A schoolgirl from Croydon is in with a shout of winning this year's junior UK chess challenge, after beating 74,000 rivals to reach the final.
Sheila Dines, 14, has made it to the last 65 after winning her southern final last month.

And, after finishing as joint top girl in the competition last season, it is hoped the Old Palace pupil will go one better this year.

The youngster from Sanderstead will be competing against boys and girls aged between five and 18-years-old for the £2,000 first prize at the North Leamington Arts and Community College in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

The top girl player will also receive £1,000 - which Sheila shared after winning four of her six matches last year.

Mike Basman was the British chess champion in 1973 and organises the chess challenge. He said: "The aim of the tournament is to make chess inclusive, as it is very directed to intellectual boys at the moment. We want to get all ages playing and girls playing too.

"Sheila has always been one of the most successful girls in Surrey and has been playing since she was seven or eight years old. Last year, she won £500 for coming joint top girl and is in with a definite chance of going better this year."
The tournament is not a straight knock-out but instead sees each player play six games under the Swiss system. This means they compete against other players performing the same as them. For example, a player who has won three out of three games will face-off against someone who has done the same.
"Sheila has always been one of the most successful girls in Surrey and has been playing since she was seven or eight years old. Last year, she won £500 for coming joint top girl and is in with a definite chance of going better this year."
The tournament is not a straight knock-out but instead sees each player play six games under the Swiss system. This means they compete against other players performing the same as them. For example, a player who has won three out of three games will face-off against someone who has done the same.

2007 World Youth U-16 Olympiad

Record 34 Teams in World Youth U-16 Olympiad in Singapore (August 4 - 12, 2007) So says a headline at the FIDE website. Here is the official website. The event is now over and the USA sent two teams of all boys. Why two teams? The event was won by the Indian Team - good for them - although according to the scant publicity I found for this event, India was one of the favorites. Here are the final standings for the top six places: Final Standings: 1st - IND 28.0 2nd - HUN 27.5 3rd - PHI 25.5 4th - UZB 24.5 5th - AUS 1 24.0 6th - TUR 23.5 Players on the two U.S. teams: 19. United States of America 1 (0 / 0) Bo. Name Rtg FED 1 Tanaka Christian T 2114 USA 2 Lau Robert 2025 USA 3 Tan Jared E 0 USA 4 Zhang Eric 0 USA 33. United States of America 2 (0 / 0) Bo. Name Rtg FED 1 Huang Vincent 0 USA 2 Gunawan Cheston 0 USA 3 Polsky Ryan P 0 USA 4 Ambartsoumian Michael 0 USA I hunted around at the official website for final team standings for all of the teams but couldn't find them - I checked a couple of times already, but perhaps they will be posted later. So, I have no idea how the two U.S teams did. I didn't see a story on this at the USCF website. Does anyone know if USCF paid for the teams to attend the Olympiad?

Australian Primary Principals Association - Say No to Chess in Schools

This is a rather interesting article: From The Chess at school a shrewd but contested move Farrah TomazinAugust 13, 2007 VICTORIAN students would be offered chess coaching to boost their thinking skills under an idea being pushed from within senior State Government ranks. Evan Thornley, Premier John Brumby's parliamentary secretary for national reform and innovation, wants the Government to provide more chess programs across the public school system. According to the former businessman, the move would give students the chance to compete on "a pretty level playing field" against private schools or other students from wealthier backgrounds. But while chess coaches praised the idea, others in education circles raised concerns it would clutter an already over-crowded school curriculum. Mr Thornley declined to comment yesterday. In a recent speech to Parliament, he said the benefits were twofold: children would learn to think more strategically and build their self-esteem, while recent immigrants from Russia or Eastern Europe, where chess is a popular sport, could be offered work as coaches. "The game of chess is a terrific way for young people to learn skills of strategy, logic, planning and other important intellectual disciplines in a fun, friendly and mildly competitive environment," Mr Thornley said. "It is a great way for many young people to build their self-esteem, because they quickly become capable of beating all the adults in the room … which is not something they can often achieve in many other fields until later in life." Some schools, such as Doncaster Gardens Primary School, MacRobertson Girls High School, Flemington Primary School and Brighton Grammar School, already offer chess programs to students. Some schools provide one-hour classes, while others offer a recreational activity outside classroom hours. David Cordover, director of ChessKids, which offers coaching services to 430 public and private schools in Victoria, said even kindergarten children were getting lessons. Mr Cordover said "it would go a long way" if the Government provided more resources for chess coaching right across the education system. But Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said the school curriculum was already too crowded with "add-on" subjects. A recent paper by the Australian Primary Principals Association called for making English, maths, science and history the only four "core" subjects in schools, with other subjects and programs to be given less status.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blast from the Past - The Spittoons are Gone!

Love this great column by chess great Robert Byrne.
From the New York Times
By ROBERT BYRNE Published: April 2, 2006
Not too long ago it would have been unthinkable that women en masse could compete with men and make a respectable showing. There were indeed one or two standouts. Take the mysterious sister of Louis Paulsen, who accompanied her famous brother to the United States championship in New York in 1857. She knew she would not be allowed to enter, but she got an offhand game against one of the strongest players in the competition and gave him a terrible drubbing.
She did not stay long enough to give further evidence of her great skill, but returned home immediately. In those days, chess clubs with their spittoons were not considered the proper place for women.
Another notable woman of the game was Vera Menchik, who took some potshots at the leading men of the late 1920's and throughout the 30's. She died in 1944 during an air raid in London.
After World War II, the Soviet stars Nona Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze reached the level of male grandmasters. The greatest player among women now is Judit Polgar of Hungary. She is in the top handful of all players, men or women. She is an inspiration to all.
This year's women's winner in the United States Championship at the NTC Promenade in San Diego was Anna Zatonskih. Just observe her splendid victory in the preliminaries over Walter Browne, a six-time United States champion.
After the Nimzovich Variation of the Queen's Indian Defense, 4 ... Ba6, the most favored system is 5 b3, followed by 5 ... Bb4 6 Bd2 Be7. However, the alternative with 5 ... Bb7 6 Bg2 Bb4 7 Bd2 a5 is still played, as it was in this game.
After 9 Nc3, there is nothing wrong with 9 ... d5. Why give up the bishop pair with 9 ... Bc3? Not that there is something directly faulty about it, but one must always play so carefully afterward. If, after 10 ... Be4, this bishop could have been kept on this central square of its main diagonal, there would have been some point to this. But it could not remain hunkered down there.
The trouble with the advance with 17 ... b5 was that it left more squares on the queenside open for the white queen bishop to use.
After 18 e4, Zatonskih had control of the center.
And with 28 cd, this passed pawn further emphasized her advantage.
After 33 ... Bg6, this poor bishop had no good vantage points.
With 40 Bf5, Zatonskih was bearing down on the black king and threatening to penetrate on the c file.
After 41 Rc8, there was nothing Browne could do but give up. If 41 . . . Bf5, then 42 Qf5 g6 43 Qe6 Nf8 44 Rf8 Rg7 45 Rcc8 g5 46 Qf5 Rg6 47 Rh8 Kg7 48 Rcg8 Kf7 49 Qe6 mate.

Want to Make a Miracle Happen?

A modern-day fairy tale. Once upon a time, there was a small town in Massachusetts called North Adams. North Adams was once a part of Adams, but partitioned from Adams long ago. The birth of the town goes back to the 1700s.. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 14,681, making it the least populous city in Massachusetts. Now perhaps best known as the home of the largest contemporary art museum in the nation, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams has in recent years become a center for tourism, culture, and recreation. That’s the positive spin. The truth is, times are hard for folks in North Adams. For many years, North Adams was an industrial center, first as a mill town before the Revolutionary War, and then marching along with the Industrial Revolution right up through World War II. During WWII Sprague Electric Company bought out Arnold Print Works, which specialized in printing cloth; the company had suffered greatly during the Great Depression and still had not recovered despite the advent of WWII. Sprague physicists, chemists, electrical engineers, and skilled technicians were called upon by the U.S. government during WWII to design and manufacture crucial components of some of its most advanced high-tech weapons systems, including the atomic bomb. After the war, Sprague's products were used in the launch systems for Gemini moon missions, and by 1966 Sprague employed 4,137 workers in a community of 18,000, existing almost as a city within a city. From the post-war years to the mid-1980s Sprague produced electrical components for the booming consumer electronics market, but competition from lower-priced components produced abroad led to declining sales and, in 1985, the company closed its operations on Marshall Street. After Sprague closed up shop, North Adams’ population gradually dropped from 18,000 to the 2000 census level of 14,681. People could not find work. The 2000 census data tells the tale of the impact of Sprague’s closing: The median income for a household in the city is $27,601, and the median income for a family is $37,635. Males have a median income of $30,292 versus $23,012 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,381. 18.2% of the population and 13.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 30.1% of those under the age of 18 and 9.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. Chess has a place in North Adams. Jim Eade, National Chess Master and best-selling author of Chess For Dummies, was born in North Adams. As part of a fund-raiser in 2001, Eade held a simul and gave a lecture on chess in conjunction with a chess tournament held for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art located in North Adams. North Adams has two chess clubs, the Ahern Chess Club and the North Berkshire Chess Club. And there is the YMCA. The Northern Berkshire Y in North Adams is a going concern, sponsoring swimming lessons and summer camps – and kids play chess there, too, although it’s not really advertised… The Y maintains a website. Thanks to grant money, the Y’s computer room was revamped and new computers obtained in September, 2006. This is a great accomplishment, considering that a few years ago, the North Adams Y was in financial trouble, and considered closing its doors. The Y survived, but grant money is uncertain. It’s staff recently started talking about a major fund-raising project – the goal - $1.2 million – to build a new Youth Center. Impossible! Pipe Dream! Back to cold hard reality – right now, Jan! How, you ask, do I happen to know about the North Adams, Massachusetts YMCA? I’ve never been to North Adams, never been to Massachusetts. I have no friends or family who live there, or visited, or have ancestors there, or any connection whatsoever. It’s just that I happen to believe in pipe dreams and, chess goddess that I am (albeit Junior Level Minus Grade 2), goddesses have a way of communicating with each other when there’s a pawn to be passed. And, so a certain Fairy God Mother let me in on the story of the North Adams YMCA. I am asking you to open your hearts and help the North Adams Y raise money for its Youth Center. I am asking you to please, if you can, if the Chess Goddess moves your heart, contribute a few dollars. Here is the address to which to send contributions: 22 Brickyard Ct North Adams, MA 01247 Miracles do happen. Pipe dreams do come true. Be a part of it, and may the Chess Goddess bless you.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Archaeological Trench Warfare

This article highlights just exactly the kind of dirty dealing that goes on when someone comes along with evidence and arguments that threaten cherished preconceptions and accepted theories - it could just as well be a story about politicians, or religious leaders or the corporate hierarchy at a Fortune 500 company. Because of its length, I won't publish the entire article here, but I highly recommend it! What is most interesting - and unfortunate - is that subsequent excavations at other sites SUPPORTED the finds at Glozel as being authentic, but that got lost in the shuffle of acrimony and charges and counter-charges of fraud and duplicity. Glozel 101: How to get ahead in archaeology If one word could be used to describe the Glozel affair, it should be "controversial". It has been described as the "Dreyfus affair" of French archaeology, and the Dreyfus equivalent was Emile Fradin, a seventeen-year-old, who together with his grandfather Claude Fradin stepped into history on 1 March 1924. Working in a field known as Duranthon, Emile was holding the handles of a plough when one of the cows pulling it stuck a foot in a cavity. Freeing the cow, the Fradins uncovered a cavity containing human bones and ceramic fragments. So far, this could have been just any usual archaeological discovery, of which some are made every week. That soon changed. It is said that the first to arrive the following day were the neighbours. They not only found but also took some of the objects. That same month, Adrienne Picandet, a local teacher, visited the Fradins' farm and decided to inform the minister of education. On 9 July, Benoit Clement, another teacher, this time from the neighbouring village and representing La Societe d'Emulation du Bourbonnais, visited the site and later returned with a man called Viple. Clement and Viple used pickaxes to break down the remaining walls, which they took away with them. Some weeks later, Emile Fradin received a letter from Viple, identifying the site as Gallo-Roman. He added that he felt it to be of little interest. His advice was to recommence cultivation of the field-which is what the Fradin family did. And this might perhaps have been the end of the saga, but not so. The January 1925 Bulletin de la Societe d'Emulation du Bourbonnais reported on the findings. It brought the story to the attention of Antonin Morlet, a Vichy physician and amateur archaeologist. Morlet visited Clement and was intrigued by the findings. Morlet was an "amateur specialist" in the Gallo-Roman period (first to fourth centuries AD) and believed that the objects from Glozel were older. He thought that some might even date from the Magdalenian period (12,000-9500 BC). Both Morlet and Clément visited the farm and the field on 26 April 1925, and Morlet offered the Fradins 200 francs per year to be allowed to complete the excavation. Morlet began his excavations on 24 May, discovering tablets, idols, bone and flint tools, and engraved stones. He identified the site as Neolithic and published his "Nouvelle Station Néolithique" in September 1925, listing Emile Fradin as co-author. He argued that the site was, as the title of the article states, Neolithic in nature. Though Morlet dated it as Neolithic, he was not blind to see that the site contained objects from various epochs. He still upheld his belief that some artefacts appeared to be older, belonging to the Magdalenian period, but added that the techniques that had been used appeared to be Neolithic. As such, he identified Glozel as a transition site between both eras, even though it was known that the two eras were separated by several millennia. Certain objects were indeed anachronistic: one stone showed a reindeer, accompanied by letters that appeared to be an alphabet. The reindeer vanished from that region around 10,000 BC, yet the earliest known form of writing was established around 3300 BC, and that was in the Middle East. The general consensus was that, locally, one would have to wait a further three millennia before the introduction of writing. Worse, the script appeared to be comparable with the Phoenician alphabet, dated to c. 1000 BC, or to the Iberian script, which was derived from it. But, of course, it was "known" that no Phoenician colony could have been located in Glozel. From a site that seemed to have little or no importance, Glozel had become a site that could upset the world of archaeology. ...

Refreshing Change - Article on Humpy Koneru's Father

Here's a refreshing change, an article about Humpy Koneru's father, who has been her coach/trainer for the past 14 years and recently won an award for his work in that area. Interestingly, he followed the same path for Humpy that Susan Polgar's father followed for her - putting Humpy into strong international open tournaments where she took her lumps from older, experienced male players as she honed their instincts and chess-playing skills, rather than showcasing her and earning women's titles in a much weaker women-only field of events in India. From India Times Sports Humpy's father is a proud man AMIT KARMARKAR August 11: As a father, K Ashok has had a few proud moments in his life. As a coach, it's a first. The father and coach of K Humpy, the world's second-best woman chess player, has been named as one of the Dronacharya awardees. There have been examples of husbands of reputed players winning the Dronacharya (like Bobby George in athletics and Raghunandan Gokhale in chess). But Ashok is perhaps the only father on this elite list. "I'm happy for getting this award," said Ashok. "But I thought I would get it after Humpy won the World junior (under-20) title in 2001 or after she became men's Grand Master (youngest lady to do so at 15 years, one month, 27 days in 2002). I think the Asian Games gold medals did the trick this time. It's great to get recognition from the government." Humpy, 20, also felt the award should have come earlier. "He deserves it a lot," she said, oozing with pride. "He has trained me for almost 14 years." The criteria for getting the Dronacharya award is that you have to be the current coach of a player who has won international titles in the last two years. So, there could be many fathers who had trained their daughters at the initial phase of their careers. But not at this level. "I didn't get much time to present him anything," said Humpy. "But I guess becoming a Super GM would be a fitting gift for him." Humpy is just three Elo points away (at 2597) from the coveted mark and she hopes to achieve it in Abu Dhabi this week. Ashok has always craved for out-of-the-ordinary. "Rather than having monetary belongings, I would prefer to be remembered as father of a GM," he had remarked seven years ago. A former National 'B' player himself (he qualified as there was no donor entry during his time), he quit his job as a teacher in Vijayawada to concentrate on Humpy's coaching and career chart. "I used to teach her for 2-3 hours a day in 1994. But when she came only fourth in the Under-8 Nationals at Madurai, I increased it to 5-6 hours." And along the way he took two brilliant decisions: helping Humpy play in Open (competing with men) tournaments abroad and skipping Women's National 'A' for three years (2000 to 2002). Playing with men took Humpy to another level as merely dominating the Women's National 'A' would have been a regressive step. "It could have given her titles. But she would have remained of that standard only. Playing in Open tournaments abroad made her grow." Meanwhile, there had been whispers about authenticity of Humpy's GM norms, doubts about whether she is being trained secretly by a foreign GM. "They were just rumours," said Ashok. "I have confidence in me. I have sufficient knowledge of the chess theory, like a GM, to teach Humpy."

Learn Life Skills by Learning Chess

This week Errol Tiwari writes about an upcoming clinic in his hometown to teach kids how to play chess, and plugs the benefits of learning how to play: Chess with Errol Tiwari You want smarter kids? Then take them to the chess clinic Sunday, August 12th 2007 It is said that chess is the gymnasium of the mind. We know it is the classic game of strategy. Fortunately, it can be played by anyone and everyone. It is a thinking game, and has this image of a brainy pastime. But children as young as five, six or seven, have been able to learn and grasp the basics of the game. In selected elementary schools overseas, chess is a regular part of the maths curriculum. Why? As kids play chess they actually use logic and problem-solving skills. They learn to develop strategies because it is necessary to plan ahead, and this represents excellent training for a young, undeveloped mind. It teaches the child patience and concentration; the importance of analysis and how to draw on memory. Chess has the virtue of being completely free of the element of luck. The result of each game depends entirely upon the skill of the player. When a child plays chess he or she soon learns that failure cannot be blamed on anyone else. Results are completely owing to a child's own abilities and efforts, and that child must take responsibility for his or her own actions. Victory is earned and savoured as a personal accomplishment. The ancient and regrettable notion that chess is for a privileged few is false. Everyone who learns chess gets immediate benefits; and everyone decides for themselves how far chess can take them - from absolute beginner to chess master. Beginning tomorrow, August 13 and continuing until Friday, August 17, a chess clinic will be held for kids/teenagers at the Carifesta (National Service) Sports Club on Carifesta Avenue. The committee which has been established to promote chess locally has been requested by Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport to organize the programme. The committee is inviting thirty school-age kids and youths to participate in the programme. Each participant is required to complete an application form at the Oasis Café in Carmichael Street, and the first 30 applicants will enter the programme. Participants will be taught the moves of the game and how to play. They will also be given a demonstration on how to use the chess clock. Parents, if you want your kids to be smarter, if you want them to be focused, if you want them to observe carefully and concentrate on an assignment deeply, bring them to the chess clinic. We intend to begin at 9.30 am and end at 1 pm each day. There will be a one-hour lunch break. Admission to the programme is free. The clinic is being sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
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