Friday, November 5, 2010

Chess Invented in Bulgaria?

I didn't think it was possible but FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has made an utter ass of himself in this article.  Well, he has been an ass for a long time, but now he's growing ears and a tail too, geez!  Read the pronouncements of the Man Who Visits With Aliens:

Bulgaria Possible Place of Origin of Chess
Sports | November 4, 2010, Thursday

The Bulgarian city of Plovdiv is one of the plausibly suspected places of origin of chess, according to the President of the international chess federation FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

In an interview for the Russian Kommersant daily, Ilyumzhinov explains that during his stay in Bulgaria in October he discussed with the heads of the Bulgarian Chess Federation the possibilities for staging the first international conference on history and origins of chess, to be hosted by the city of Sofia.

The FIDE states that India is only one possible places of origin of chess.

"This is one version. But do you know that ancient chess pieces have been found in Plovdiv? And this is one of the oldest cities in Europe. There are still theories about which country is the birthplace of chess. We first talked about India, then - about Persia. Last year I was in Mongolia, and its president showed me chess pieces found found in the tomb of Genghis Khan and the excavated burial mound. Check out their approximate age - they turned out to be 3 500 years old. The oldest chess pieces in India are maximum 2000 years old ... Chess pieces have also been found in Latin America, in Peru. How did they end up there?" Ilyumzhinov asked.

He said the first ever scientific conference on the history of chess will take place in Sofia but did not specify when.
There are so many things wrong with this article - but here are some major outright WRONG items in this article:
(1) As far as I'm aware, Genghis Khan's tomb has not been found, so it could not possibly have been excavated, unless it was done so illegally.  If it has been discovered and excavated, where were the headlines?
(2) Where are photographs of whatever it is the President of Mongolia says are chess pieces recovered from Genghis Khan's tomb?  It would be nice, too, to see the scientific analyses that date these alleged chess pieces to 3500 years ago.
(3) What chess pieces were discovered in Plovdiv?  Never heard about it.  I keep my ear pretty close to the ground - where is the article?
(4) A FIDE sponsored international conference on the origins of chess would not be the first international conference on the origins of chess. There have been several international conferences of scholars, archaelogists, games historians, historians, mathematicians, and interested amateurs (such as yours truly) that have addressed the origins and history of chess - none sponsored by FIDE - thank Goddess!
(5) What chess pieces discovered in South America? Never heard about it.
(6) An announcement that a new ancient chess piece has been discovered is a big deal.  Remember the itnernational coverage the chess piece discovered at Butrint received back in 2002 (photo, right)?  Chess historians crawled out of the woodwork to condemn the archaelogists who excavated the chess piece for calling it - a chess piece!  Whatever you think the Butrint chess piece may be (oh, excuse me, I should call it the Butrint artifact), there was plenty of hoo ha raised when it was announced.  Indeed, some people came forward expressing opinions whom I thought had died years ago - such is the power of an announcement that a new ancient chess piece has been discovered!  
For further information on the Butrint chess piece - er - ancient artifact, see:

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