Saturday, July 23, 2011

2011 Women Grandmaster Chess Tournament

Final standings.  Dronavalli wasn't able to catch Ju Wenjun - nobody could. She finishes in honorable second place.  The Europeans and the sole American, Anna Zatonskih, did not have a good event. It's clear that Hou Yifan needs a rest of at least a few weeks. Give it to her already, heh? And no more women-only events for her. Geez!

Final Ranking crosstable after 9 Rounds

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*½1½½1½1½16.50.0427.25
2IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½*½½1½½½1½5.50.0223.50
3GMZhao Xue2470CHN0½*½1½1½½½5.00.5221.25
GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS½½½*10½½½15.00.5221.25
5GMZhu Chen2485QAT½000*½111½4.51.5318.25
6GMHou Yifan2575CHN0½½1½*1½0½4.51.5220.25
7GMSebag Marie2510FRA½½0½00*1114.50.0318.00
8GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½½½0½0*114.00.0215.50
9GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½0½½0100*½3.00.0114.00
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA0½½0½½00½*2.50.0011.25

Round 9 on 2011/07/23 at 11:00
15GMKosintseva Tatiana0 - 1GMDzagnidze Nana10
26WGMJu Wenjun½ - ½GMZhu Chen4
37IMZatonskih Anna½ - ½IMHarika Dronavalli3
48GMZhao Xue1 - 0GMSebag Marie2
59GMKosintseva Nadezhda0 - 1GMHou Yifan1

Advanced Style - I LOVE This Web Site!

I found the most fabulous blog today!!!


 Darlings, it has nothing to do with chess whatsoever but it is definitely about style and maintaining one's joie de vivre into one's golden years.  I guess I qualify for starting my golden years - turn 60 next month.  EEK! 

I sure as hell don't feel like 60, whatever it's supposed to feel like.  When I think back on my grandparents, they seemed very 'old' at 60 - not in spirit, but they looked old, you know?  They were bent over and had seemed to 'shrink' down from how I remember them when I first 'remember' them (probably about age 4 or 5), they had lots of wrinkles, and bad teeth; they had bad health problems, grey hair badly styled or no style, they dressed 'old.' I miss them all so much.  Hardly a day goes by I don't think of them, even after all these years.  I got especially close to my Grandpa Newton after Grandma Newton died.  Grandpa died when I just turned 13.  It was a traumatic event for me. 

A generation later, although I lost my dear dad much too soon, when he turned 80 (in November, 2002), mom turned 84 in May and is fine and going strong as ever.  She lives on her own in the house she and dad bought for their retirement back in 1987, and she works in the garden every day, weather permitting.  I think she will outlive us all, she is an Iron Woman!  Mom has lived to see several great-grandchildren born and sprouting up, and many of her grandchildren are now well into their 30's, so they've had years to spend with her and enjoy her company -- a big change from what happened when I felt cheated by losing my grandparents at such an early age. 

We know so much more now about how to take care of ourselves, and what we can do to stay as vital as we can, for as long as we can.  It's such a different world now, from when my grandparents died in the 1960's. 

My 60 is definitely not my Grandmas' 60! 

I'm adding Advanced Style to my favorite links list!  Please take a look.  Ari Seth Cohen, the creator of the blog and the person who took all the lovely photographs in it, I salute you for your original vision and appreciation of the fact that an aged wine has more character and flavor than the young, raw stuff! 

Now, I have to go cut the grass...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Woooo Wooooo Work Out Music!

This just happens to be one of my favorite put-together You Tube videos - by Heather.  She's a genius, pure and simple.  Jane Austen = Men + Women + Conflict + Sexual Tension + Obstacles to Overcome + Happy Endings + rip-roaring story-telling!  Mix it up with CHRISTINA and, well, this is why I love doing a work-out dance routine to this video! As the British say, thank you veddy much.

An App for an Ancient Mancala Game is a Finalist in Android Contest!

Very interesting!  Mancala is, perhaps, the oldest "board" game of which we know.  It has often been described as a "counting game" - but I am not certain that is the best description of the game.

I do not pretend to understand how it is played!  It has "counters," which can be pebbles, or beans, or shells, or whatever, and a defined number of "scoops" or "holes" into which the player deposits them according to a certain strategy - or perhaps there are set rules -- for instance, upon a turn, each player must deposit at least 1 counter in each of the scoops and while playing may (but is not required to) also strategically place an additional number of counters in certain specified scoops.  The number of scoops or holes varies from African country to country, and even from village to village.  As far as I am aware, the scoops/holes are laid out in a rectangular pattern, never a square, never a circle. 

Originally from, link
no longer active.
Players each receive a certain number of counters, and then they take turns depositing a number of their counters, which they decide upon or are dictated by certain rules, into the scoops, as they take turns, one after the other, going  around the "board." Winners of a round take all of the counters in a particular scoop or scoops.  Eventually, the final winner ends up with "all the beans."  In earliest times, the mancala "board" was actually a series of holes scooped out of the earth in a particular rectangular form.  This image of a modern-day earthen-mancala "board" is from the paper discussed below. 

Some say that the roots of Mancala may be related to the earliest times of the invention of agriculture; others say that the roots of the game are buried in ancient divination rituals which were not recorded because there were no written languages back then, and no true memory of its original purpose survived to the time when the legends were first written down and/or recorded in the oral traditions.

The modern-day challenge - Africa: come up with new apps for the mega-popular Android!


5 Nigerians In The Android Developer Challenge Finals
Posted by Information Nigeria in Home » Technology on July 21, 2011

Five Nigerian App developers have made it to the finals of the Android Developer Challenge – Africa. In a contest dominated by South Africa, Kenya and surprisingly Nigeria. The finalists are battling for the 25,000 USD (4 Million Naira) to be awarded to each of the first place winners in the three categories. We made a post earlier on the challenge and some Nigerian App developers took up the challenge.

[Category] Entertainment / Media / Games
Human Droid, Kenya – a game that lets players battle one another virtually while in the same physical location.
What’s Happening?, Kenya – an events and entertainment finder in Nairobi that could be customized for other cities.
Matatu, Uganda – a two player competitive card game.
Slate Racer, South Africa – a time trial racing game.
Gliese - South Africa, a 2D platformer game.
Bawo Board Game, South Africa – an app for a popular African board game.
Afrinolly, Nigeria – an app to watch African movie trailers and track the stars.
Ha!! Buggy, Senegal – a fast-paced racing game.
Ayo, Nigeria – an app for an ancient board game of strategy from West Africa.

Information on Ayo (game) - check out this individual page from a (former?) Clark University student, absolutely fascinating.  She studied one particular carved wooden mancala board.  I don't have a date for this article, but she uses some photo credits from 2002, so it would date no later than that year.  This is a photograph of the particular board on which she was focused:

Gameboard. Yoruba (Nigeria). Abeokuta area. Wood. L. 22 in. Collection:
Worcester African Cultural Center. Photograph: Jean M. Borgatti.

Ayo: The Yoruba Game Board
by Meaghan O'Connell
These types of game boards are usually found in the town square. They are carved out of large tree trunks, along which many games that can take place at the same time. The game is played with two people, each person sitting on either of the longer sides of the board. Four seeds are placed in each of the carved wooden pockets. The row of six pockets closest to each player is considered theirs to try to keep filled with seeds. The players take turns by picking up all of the seeds from one of the pockets and distributing one seed to each of the pockets in order. The first player to empty the other player’s six pockets wins the game. It may be inferred that the way this game is played, face-to-face, reflects the values of the culture pertaining to interactions amongst people. Yoruba people prefer interacting with others face-to-face, or directly, rather than sending messages through other people. This value is revealed in the playing of Ayo. I also learned about who would own such an elaborate game board such as the one that I have chosen to research. I discovered that due to the elaborate carvings on the sides, it would usually be owned by a religious person of stature.

The name mankala or mancala as it is sometimes written is derived from the Arabic word naqala, meaning “to move something around.” Mankala is actually a general name for the many variations of the game that are played throughout Africa, as well as many other parts of the world. The names of the game boards are usually determined by what type of seed is used for playing, and game boards may vary as far as the number of rows of pockets is concerned as well as slight variations in the rules. Because the art piece I am researching is from the Yoruba people, from now on I will refer to it as Ayo; but the Yoruba people will also refer to it as Ayoayo, meaning “real ayo,” which distinguishes the male version, from those played by women and children.

Ayo is usually played during the day, after work is finished. It is not just a game for the older crowd; in fact, many young children learn how to play Ayo in order to sharpen their math skills. Ayo is generally played by people of the same age group and gender, meaning men play with men, women play with other women, and children play amongst themselves. The mixing of these groups is very uncommon. As a tradition of African society and the belief of male superiority, males and especially elders commonly separate themselves from women and children in order to display their masculinity and authority.

Some resources state that Ayo is not just a recreational game, but that it also has spiritual significance:

“It is played in a house of mourning to amuse the spirit of the dead before it is buried. It is very unlucky to play the game at night as the spirits will want to join in and may carry off the living at the end of the game. Each village would have two types of boards, one with a flat top and one with a curved top, a bit like a banana. When a man died the villagers would play on the board that was not his favorite, so that his spirit would not want to join in” (Mancala Games 2004).

Stone Age "Erotic Art" Discovered in Germany

I believe this is a new discovery after reading the article, but I'm not 100% certain.  I would appreciate it if anyone can confirm and provide more details.  No photos provided in the article.  Of course the headline is deliberately provocative!

Stone Age erotic art found in Germany
(AFP) – 2 days ago

BERLIN — Researchers in Germany have discovered Stone Age cave art in the country for the first time including carvings of nude women that may have been used in fertility rites, officials said Wednesday.

Archaeologists working for the Bavarian State Office for Historical Preservation came upon the primitive engravings in a cave near the southern city of Bamberg after decades searching, a spokeswoman for the authority said.

The spokeswoman, Beate Zarges, confirmed a report to appear in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit that the engravings were believed to be around 12,000 years old, which would make them the first Stone Age artwork ever found in Germany.

"They include schematic depictions of women's bodies and unidentifiable symbols, among other things," she said.

The ancient artists appear to have taken their inspiration for the erotic images from rock formations in the caves resembling breasts and penises and then carved the images in the walls of the cave, Zarges said.

Die Zeit quoted geologist and archaeologist Bernhard Haeck, a member of the discovery team, as saying that the five-metre-long (16-foot-long) chamber in the cave may have been used for fertility rituals.

"It is a place full of magic," he said.

Zarges said the examination of the site was still ongoing and thus closed to the public.

The world's oldest cave paintings are believed to be the Chauvet Pont d'Arc murals in southern France, the subject of German director Werner Herzog's most recent documentary, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams". The artwork is thought to be more than 30,000 years old.

Copyright © 2011 AFP.

2011 Women Grandmaster Chess Tournament

Round 8 is now in the books, last round is tomorrow!  Dronavalli is charging, now moved into 2nd place.

Ranking crosstable after Round 8

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*½½½11½116.00.0421.25
2IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½*½½½1½1½5.00.5220.00
3GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS½½*½½1½½15.00.5218.75
4GMSebag Marie2510FRA½½½*001114.50.0316.00
5GMZhao Xue2470CHN0½½*1½½½½4.01.0114.75
6GMZhu Chen2485QAT0010*½11½4.00.0313.25
7GMHou Yifan2575CHN0½1½½*0½½3.50.0113.50
8GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½0½0½01*½3.00.0112.00
9GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½½0½0½*13.00.0110.75
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA000½½½½0*

Round 8 on 2011/07/22 at 15:00
110GMDzagnidze Nana½ - ½GMKosintseva Nadezhda9
21GMHou Yifan½ - ½GMZhao Xue8
32GMSebag Marie1 - 0IMZatonskih Anna7
43IMHarika Dronavalli½ - ½WGMJu Wenjun6
54GMZhu Chen1 - 0GMKosintseva Tatiana5

Round 9 on 2011/07/23 at 11:00
15GMKosintseva TatianaGMDzagnidze Nana10
26WGMJu WenjunGMZhu Chen4
37IMZatonskih AnnaIMHarika Dronavalli3
48GMZhao XueGMSebag Marie2
59GMKosintseva NadezhdaGMHou Yifan1

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kings v. Queens Chess Tournament

News!  That "Battle of the Sexes" chess tournament I've been hearing about - it's called Kings v. Queens Tournament.  I received notification today from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, for which I thank you kindly :)

The tournament will be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis September 9 - 16, 2011 with opening ceremonies on September 9th, first round of play on September 10th at 3:00 p.m. 

The Kings side of the event has yet to be fleshed out but will feature GM-in-residence at the CCSCSL Ben Finegold as well as GM Hikaru Nakamura, currently #6 in the world!

And the Queens!  Oh my!  A great line-up:

GM Judit Polgar
GM Kateryna Lahno
GM Alexandra Kosteniuk
IM Anna Zatonskih
IM Irina Krush

The Tournament will be held in conjunction with the grand opening of the newly-located U.S. Chess Hall of Fame and Museum in a remodeled building located directly across the street from the CCSCSL, on September 9, 2011.  You can read about the special exhibits and events scheduled in conjunction with the Grand Opening at the new website

Isis and I are looking forward to our "girls only" visit to St. Louis in September to enjoy some of the festivities :)

2011 Women Grandmaster Chess Tournament

Dronavalli is showing what she's made of! She is mounting yet another come-from-behind charge in the second half, and I sure won't count her out.

Ranking crosstable after Round 7

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*½½1½1115.50.0416.50
2GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS½*½½½½114.50.5215.00
3IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½*½½11½½4.50.5214.50
4GMSebag Marie2510FRA½½½*10013.50.0212.75
5GMZhao Xue2470CHN0½½*½1½½3.50.0111.25
6GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½½00½*1½3.01.0110.75
7GMZhu Chen2485QAT0010*½1½3.00.528.50
8GMHou Yifan2575CHN0½10½*½½3.00.519.50
9GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½0½0½*
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA00½½½½0*

Round 7 on 2011/07/21 at 15:00
14GMZhu Chen1 - 0GMDzagnidze Nana10
25GMKosintseva Tatiana0 - 1IMHarika Dronavalli3
36WGMJu Wenjun½ - ½GMSebag Marie2
47IMZatonskih Anna½ - ½GMHou Yifan1
58GMZhao Xue½ - ½GMKosintseva Nadezhda9

Round 8 on 2011/07/22 at 15:00
110GMDzagnidze NanaGMKosintseva Nadezhda9
21GMHou YifanGMZhao Xue8
32GMSebag MarieIMZatonskih Anna7
43IMHarika DronavalliWGMJu Wenjun6
54GMZhu ChenGMKosintseva Tatiana5

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Hola, darlings!

The last day I spent any substantial amount of time outside was last week Saturday (July 16), which was hot and muggy, but nothing - NOTHING - compared to what visited us last Sunday (July 17).  And has stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and will be staying, so the weather reports are saying, until NEXT Monday.  Today the relative temperature peaked at 107 degrees F, with a dew point of 75.  Now, shortly after 8 p.m., the temperature has dropped to a balmy 101 degrees F with a dew point of 72.  I wish I could say "no sweat."  Ha, ha, that's supposed to be a joke!

Tomorrow it will be - well, who the hell knows.  We've been breaking local temperatures every day since this "heat dome" thing began, and it's covering probably two-thirds of the entire country, from the Great Plains states all the way to the East Coast!  All I know is that I'm very grateful for my central air conditioned home, and my central air conditioned office, and even air conditioned buses.  I just drip sweat everywhere in between.  All kidding aside, this kind of heat is deadly, and many people have already died from heat-related causes.  It's damn scary out there, and I'm petrified.  I seem to have a tendency toward hypchondria and imagine every little bump, bruise, ache, pain, cold, etc., as some deadly disease.  It's horrid thinking that way and I fight it with all my might; so much so that sometimes I actually am actually very ill and ignore it, writing it off to my imaginings!

Since this nasty heat wave started, I've been experiencing problems breathing while outdoors just walking, not doing anything else but walking!  After doing some research and also talking to other people who have to be out and about outside like me sometimes, I was somewhat reassured that my breathing problems are rather normal.  The air is WET - it's saturated with water (that's the dew point).  As I've said before, the moment that dew points creeps above 60 (even 60 is uncomfortable for me), I lose my energy and get-up-and-go.  If I'm uncomfortable at dew point 60, can you imagine what I'm dealing with at dew point 75, which it's been at off and on over the past several days?

Well, relief is in sight (supposedly) by next Monday.  So, that's only Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to get through...

One good thing (is there any good thing out of something like this?) - I've lost weight.  Takes a fricking heat disaster to do it...

More Female Infanticide

Country in focus:  Pakistan. From  I hope the hokey commercial doesn't precede the video, but if it does, just ignore it!

Article at CNN.

Codex Colombino Goes Public!

How beautiful!  Awesome news!

From Fox News Latino (ohmygoddess - I didn't think Fox News acknowledged that Latinos exist except as illegal invader aliens)

Facsimile Edition of Pre-Columbian Manuscript Published in Mexico
Published July 18, 2011| EFE

Mexico City – The National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, has published in Mexico a facsimile edition of the Codex Colombino, dating back to the 14th or early 15th century, to put it within reach of the public.

The facsimile is complemented by research that sheds new light on the 11th-century Mixtec ruler Eight Deer Jaguar Claw, a central figure in this pictographic document, the only one of pre-Columbian origin preserved in Mexico, INAH said Friday in a communique.

The research, led by Manuel A. Hermann Lejarazu, complements previous studies of the document, such as those done in 1912 by the Englishman James Cooper Clark and in the 1960s by archaeologist Alfonso Caso.

The Codex Colombino, made up of 24 pages - which placed end to end would be over 6 meters (20 feet) long - is kept at the National Library of Anthropology and History.

The document chronicles the exploits of the ruler Eight Deer Jaguar Claw, who was born in 1063 A.D. in the town of Tilantongo in the Upper Mixtec area of what today is the southeastern state of Oaxaca, and who consolidated his power around 1101 A.D.

Eight Deer Jaguar Claw has been identified as the architect and founder of the Tututepec Empire in the coastal Mixtec area that centuries later rivaled the Aztec Empire.

According to Hermann Lejarazu, pre-Columbian Mixtecs considered the lineage and legitimacy of their rulers so important that this history of the royalty was able to outlast the days of the Spanish conquest.

The expert extracted data that led him to propose new areas under the Eight Deer's influence and that appear registered as pictographs in the Codex Colombino, which also abounds in the ritual paraphernalia surrounding this ruler and his court.

Lejarazu also discovered in the document two priests seen helping Eight Deer reach a godly sphere, a divine plane where his earthly power was legitimized.

Exciting Intact Pre-Inca Tomb Uncovered in Peru


Pre-Inca tomb found
9.00AM Sun Jul 17 2011
Peruvian archaeologists working in the north of the country say they've found an unspoiled tomb from the Lambayeque culture.

Initial studies indicate that the tomb belonged to a priest-like individual who performed human sacrifices during fertility ceremonies. [The article does not explain how this conclusion was reached.]

"He has with him, as offerings, three copper knives, some metal objects, a skirt made of circular copper sheets," says Fausto Saldana, an archaeologist working at the Huaca Chotuna site.
Archaeologists who have been working at Huaca Chotuna for three years say it's the first time they've discovered such a figure - and in such a well-preserved state.

Saldana and his colleagues also discovered a number of pieces of ceramic and pottery, including pots and jars, and the remains of three other individuals.

They said the tomb dates back to 1350-1400.

The Lambayeque culture - also known as the Sican culture - predated the Inca and inhabited what is now the north coast of Peru between about 750 and 1400.
By: ITV News

Buddha Statue Being Excavated in Kyrgyzstan

Very interesting find - and disappointing commentary by one of the archaeologists regarding the inability to date the statue's remains.  They don't do dating by analyzing the layers of soil around a dig in Kyrgyzstan?  There aren't any other means available to estimate the artifact's age other than fully excavating it and taking it to a laboratory?  I find this a little hard to swallow, actually...

Kyrgyz archaeologists unearth Buddha statue
Mon, 18 Jul 2011 2:49p.m.

Archaeologists in Kyrgyzstan have unearthed a massive statue of Buddha in the hills outside the capital Bishkek.

A team of archaeologists working in an excavation site at Krasnaya Rechka, 35km outside the capital, discovered a 1.5 metre high Buddha.

Archaeologists from the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, working with colleagues from the Russian Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, were digging in a series of fields which they believe cover the remains of a Buddhist monastery complex.

"This sculpture is as high as two humans. If we could straighten it out and put it vertically, its height would be about four metres. As it is sitting, it's about one and a half to two metres (high)," said Valery Kolchenko, an archaeologist from the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences.

Archaeologists believe the statue dates back to a time between the 8th to 10th centuries, though further tests are needed to pinpoint its exact age.

"The excavation of this sculpture is a very laborious task, that is why we cannot date this artefact to any particular time. First of all we need to excavate it and then we can say how old it is," said Asan Torgoyev from the Oriental Studies Department of the Hermitage.

Finding Buddhist remains of this kind is rare in the mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan. Pre-Islamic Buddhist culture is well documented further south in Tajikistan, but very unusual in its northern neighbour, Kyrgyzstan.

Locals are accustomed to the excavations, knowing very well that their farm land is in a rich archaeological area.

In earlier excavations at the same site near the village of Krasnaya Rechka, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Buddhist temple, a fortress, a Karakhanid palace complex and Buddhist as well as early Christian cemeteries.

2011 Women Grandmaster Chess Tournament

Ju Wenjun behind the black pieces defeated Women's World Chess Champion GM Hou Yifan today to maintain her game lead over the pack. U.S. Women's Champ Anna Zatonskih is not having a good tournament.

Ranking crosstable after Round 6

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*½½11115.00.0413.00
2GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS½*½½½114.00.0210.75
3IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½*½½½½13.50.019.50
4GMSebag Marie2510FRA½½*10103.01.029.25
5GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½½0*½1½3.00.519.25
6GMZhao Xue2470CHN0½½*½1½3.00.517.25
7GMHou Yifan2575CHN0½10*½½2.50.517.00
8GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½0½½*12.50.516.00
9GMZhu Chen2485QAT0010½*½2.00.015.00
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA00½½0½*

Round 6 on 2011/07/20 at 15:00
110GMDzagnidze Nana½ - ½GMZhao Xue8
29GMKosintseva Nadezhda1 - 0IMZatonskih Anna7
31GMHou Yifan0 - 1WGMJu Wenjun6
42GMSebag Marie1 - 0GMKosintseva Tatiana5
53IMHarika Dronavalli1 - 0GMZhu Chen4

Round 7 on 2011/07/21 at 15:00
14GMZhu ChenGMDzagnidze Nana10
25GMKosintseva TatianaIMHarika Dronavalli3
36WGMJu WenjunGMSebag Marie2
47IMZatonskih AnnaGMHou Yifan1
58GMZhao XueGMKosintseva Nadezhda9

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Um, Hikaru Nakamura the Next Bobby Fischer?

Well, it is from a St. Louis newspaper :) Let's hope Nakamura is NOT the next Fischer -- he has some maturing to do (personality wise, I cannot speak to his chess maturity) but I would not want to see him end up pulling out his fillings because of paranoid fantasies.

But what has been put together in a concerted effort in St. Louis, Missouri, which if not the exact geographic center of the United States is pretty darn close to it in my book, is exciting and worthy of the kind of attention paid to it in this article. Yes, Virginia, there is a pretty cool life to be had in the Midwest!

Hikaru Nakamura is the next Bobby Fischer -- and the reason St. Louis is suddenly the epicenter of American chess
By Kelsey Whipple Thursday, Jul 21 2011

Oh Those Viking Women...


Jul 19, 2011
Invasion of the Viking women unearthed

So much for Hagar the Horrible, with his stay-at-home wife, Helga. Viking women may have equaled men moving to England in medieval invasions, suggests a look at ancient burials.

Vikings famously invaded Eastern England around 900 A.D., notes Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia in the Early Medieval Europe journal, starting with two army invasions in the 800's, recounted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The Viking invaders founded their own medieval kingdom, 'the Danelaw', in Eastern England.

"There is some archaeological evidence for early Norse female settlement, most obviously oval brooches, but this evidence is minimal. The more difficult to date evidence of place names, personal names, and DNA samples derived from the modern population suggests that Norse women did migrate to England at some stage, but probably in far fewer numbers than Norse men," begins the study.

However, McLeod notes that recently, burials of female Norse immigrants have started to turn up in Eastern England. "An increase in the number of finds of Norse-style jewellery in the last two decades has led some scholars to suggest a larger number of female settlers. Indeed, it has been noted that there are more Norse female dress items than those worn by men," says the study.

So, the study looked at 14 Viking burials from the era, definable by the Norse grave goods found with them and isotopes found in their bones that reveal their birthplace. The bones were sorted for telltale osteological signs of which gender they belonged to, rather than assuming that burial with a sword or knife denoted a male burial.

Overall, McLeod reports that six of the 14 burials were of women, seven were men, and one was indeterminable. Warlike grave goods may have misled earlier researchers about the gender of Viking invaders, the study suggests. At a mass burial site called Repton Woods, "(d)espite the remains of three swords being recovered from the site, all three burials that could be sexed osteologically were thought to be female, including one with a sword and shield," says the study.

"These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary. This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with osteological sexing of skeletons are taken into account," says the study.

Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed, McLeod concludes. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists. "Although the results presented here cannot be used to determine the number of female settlers, they do suggest that the ratio of females to males may have been somewhere between a third to roughly equal," the study concludes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Women Grandmaster Tournament

Ranking crosstable after Round 5

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*½½1114.00.039.00
2GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½*½½1½3.00.518.00
3GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS½½*½½13.00.517.75
4IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½*½½½½2.51.006.00
5GMZhao Xue2470CHN0½½*1½2.50.515.50
6GMHou Yifan2575CHN0½*1½½2.50.515.25
7GMSebag Marie2510FRA½½0*
8GMZhu Chen2485QAT00½1*½2.01.014.00
9GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½½0*
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA0½½½0*

Round 5 on 2011/07/18 at 15:00
13IMHarika Dronavalli½ - ½GMDzagnidze Nana10
24GMZhu Chen1 - 0GMSebag Marie2
35GMKosintseva Tatiana1 - 0GMHou Yifan1
46WGMJu Wenjun½ - ½GMKosintseva Nadezhda9
57IMZatonskih Anna½ - ½GMZhao Xue8

Round 6 on 2011/07/20 at 15:00
110GMDzagnidze NanaGMZhao Xue8
29GMKosintseva NadezhdaIMZatonskih Anna7
31GMHou YifanWGMJu Wenjun6
42GMSebag MarieGMKosintseva Tatiana5
53IMHarika DronavalliGMZhu Chen4

Bronze Age Burial Found in Aosta Valley (Northern Italy)


17 July 2011
5,000-year-old skeleton unearthed in Northern Italy

The 5,000-year-old skeleton of a woman was recently found in Aosta Valley (Northern Italy). "The Lady of Introd", as it has been nicknamed, was in perfect conditions, but the archaeologists found no sign of any burial items apart from the bones themselves.

The tomb was discovered in the small Alpine village of Introd, today home to about 600 people and located not far from the main town Aosta. An archaeological survey made before a planned extension of the local kindergarten allowed scientists to discover the ancient burial. The human remains have been found on a hill near the village; in the same area there is also a castle, the parish church and a shack. The skeleton found at Introd is contemporary to Oetzi, the famous iceman found 20 years ago in Trentino-Alto Adige, the mountainous region on the border between Austria and Italy.

"This discovery is of great importance, and we are looking forward to organizing special meetings in order to allow local community to fully understand the value and the related historical information of such a find. We'd like to give access to our heritage to as many people as possible," regional Cultural assessor Laurent Vierin said.

The remains are now in a lab, and they will be carefully studied to assess the cause of death. In any case, the children of the local kindergarten have been granted the right to choose the official name of their ancestor.

This is very interesting.  A lone burial with no artifacts in the burial at all - not a single pot or offering of food? I wonder if this woman's burial was a lucky "escape" - it sounds as if there has been quite a bit of development in the immediate vicinity of the grave over the years and who knows what may have been destroyed along the way, unknowingly - or knowingly?  It's sad in a way.  Her body has survived 5,000 years (incredible when you think about it), but we may never know any more about her other than her approximate age, maybe a cause of death, and maybe a guess at ethnicity unless a DNA sample is taken and analyzed. 

Zahi Hawass Fired Again????

What the hell is going on - first he's there, then he's fired, then he's there, then he's fired again?

Egypt's iconic antiquities chief fired
By SARAH EL DEEB - Associated Press | AP – Sun, Jul 17, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country's best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, lost his job along with about a dozen other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak's regime.

"He was the Mubarak of antiquities," said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. "He acted as if he owned Egypt's antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt."

Despite the criticism, he was credited with helping boost interest in archaeology in Egypt and tourism, a pillar of the country's economy. But after Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11 in a popular uprising, pressure began to build for him to step down.

Hawass was among a list of Cabinet ministers protesters wanted to see gone because they were associated with the former regime. And archaeology students and professors blasted him for what they saw as his lack of serious research.

Shalaby said Hawass didn't tolerate criticism. She said most his finds were about self-promotion, with many "rediscoveries" in search of the limelight.

Hawass prided himself in being the "keeper and guardian" of Egypt's heritage. He told an Egyptian lifestyle magazine, Enigma, in 2009 that George Lucas, the maker of the "Indian Jones" films, had come to visit him in Egypt "to meet the real Indiana Jones."

Hawass, 64, started out as an inspector of antiquities in 1969 and rose to become one of the most recognizable names in Egyptology. He became the general director of antiquities at the Giza plateau in the late 1980s, before being named Egypt's top archaeologist in 2002.

In one of Mubarak's final official acts as president, Hawass' position was elevated to that of a Cabinet minister. After Mubarak's ouster, Hawass submitted his resignation but he was reinstated before finally being removed Sunday.

His name has been associated with most new archaeological digs in Egypt, with grand discoveries such as the excavation of the Valley of the Golden Mummies in Bahariya Oasis in 1999 and the discovery of the mummy of Egypt's Queen Hatshepsut almost a decade later.

He was also a staple on the Discovery Channel, which accompanied him on the find of Hatshepsut's mummy. He started his own reality show on the History Channel called "Chasing the Mummies." The channel introduces him as "the man behind the mummies."

Hawass has long campaigned to bring home ancient artifacts spirited out of the country during colonial times. He said since he became top archaeologist, he managed to recover 5,000 artifacts. In January, just before anti-government protests erupted, he formally requested the return of the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti that has been in a Berlin museum for decades.

Hawass also had a fashion line, including his hat, for which he organized a photo-shoot in the Egyptian Museum, something that drew the ire of many archeologists.

"He was a personality created by the media," said Abdel-Halim Abdel-Nour, the president of the Association of Egyptian Archeologists. [Jealousy!]

He said many campaigned for Hawass's removal, including on Facebook and in Tahrir Square, the center of Egypt's protests.

Just before news of his departure, Hawass was heckled near his office Sunday as he left on foot. Protesters tried to block his way, until he jumped into a taxi to get away from the melee, the taxi driver, Mohammed Abdu, said.

Hawass was replaced by Abdel-Fattah el-Banna, an associate professor in restoration. He was frequently present in Tahrir Square during the protests.

Independent Research Line Confirms "Neanderthal" Genes in Most Humans

Eventually they'll get it right...

From Discovery News
All Non-Africans Part Neanderthal, Genetics Confirm
Analysis by Jennifer Viegas
Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:25 AM ET

If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Discovery News has been reporting on human/Neanderthal interbreeding for some time now, so this latest research confirms earlier findings.

Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal's Department of Pediatrics and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center conducted the study with his colleagues. They determined some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals, but only in people of non-African heritage.

"This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred," Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions.

The ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago. They evolved over the millennia mostly in what are now France, Spain, Germany and Russia. They went extinct, or were simply absorbed into the modern human population, about 30,000 years ago.

Neanderthals possessed the gene for language and had sophisticated music, art and tool craftsmanship skills, so they must have not been all that unattractive to modern humans at the time.

"In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts," Labuda said.

This work goes back to nearly a decade ago, when Labuda and his colleagues identified a piece of DNA, called a haplotype, in the human X chromosome that seemed different. They questioned its origins.

Fast forward to 2010, when the Neanderthal genome was sequenced. The researchers could then compare the haplotype to the Neanderthal genome as well as to the DNA of existing humans. The scientists found that the sequence was present in people across all continents, except for sub-Saharan Africa, and including Australia.

"There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating with our ancestors and Neanderthals," said Nick Patterson of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. Patterson did not participate in the latest research. He added, "This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details."

David Reich, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, added, "Dr. Labuda and his colleagues were the first to identify a genetic variation in non-Africans that was likely to have come from an archaic population. This was done entirely without the Neanderthal genome sequence, but in light of the Neanderthal sequence, it is now clear that they were absolutely right!"

The modern human/Neanderthal combo likely benefitted our species, enabling it to survive in harsh, cold regions that Neanderthals previously had adapted to.

"Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species," Labuda concluded. "Every addition to the genome can be enriching."

The article is confusing, to say the least, because according to current theory, ALL people came out of Africa, including the ancestors of so-called Neanderthal.  So, when the article says "non-African" heritage, to what population is that pointing to?  Only people with no "black" African ancestry?  But I thought we ALL were descended from black Africans.  Didn't we all start out black skinned and over time different populations' skin color changed according to the level of sun received?  But if that's the case, why are people who live in the Nordic regions blond haired, white skinned and blue-eyed while the Native Americans and First Nations people who live in the Arctic regions are dark skinned and dark-eyed with black hair? 

There's a big part of the story still missing here, obviously, and in more ways than one!  For instance, if most of the interbreeding (which we know happened) between 'modern' humans and 'archaic' Neanderthals took place in the Middle East, how could this have had any impact on the resulting offspring and their offspring, etc. being able to adapt better to survival in cold Europe?  Where, in the Middle East, did it ever get that cold?  And does the Middle East include Egypt?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

All Polar Bears Today Traced to One Irish Female Bear!

This is absolutely fascinating news, and wouldn't you know it, ties in to a recently revived discussion about an ancient bone flute that started back in 2009.  First, here's the article:
Study: polar bears come from Ireland
Posted on 17 July 2011

Despite their dwindling numbers, Arctic polar bears have come a long way over the years, originally descending from a single brown bear from Ireland, according to a new study.

DNA samples taken from polar bears from Greenland, Norway, Alaska and Russia proved that each individual’s lineage traced back to an Irish mama bear that lived 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.

The two different species also periodically mated during the last 100,000 years, according to the analysis of genetic indicators which are passed down through females. The revelation could help to quell the fears of scientists that cross-species mingling is a further threat to the Arctic bears than are struggling to cope with the effects of climate change.

In recent years, since the Arctic species have been pushed beyond their usual environment due to melting ice, several ‘pizzlies’ (a cross between polar and grizzly bears) have been spotted by researchers. Although it was known that polars evolved from a large family of brown bears 150,000 years ago, it was not known whether further inter-species mating had dramatically shaped the current gene pool. [I like 'grolar' bear better :)]

“Hybridisation could certainly result in the loss of unique genetic sequences, which could push them toward extinction,” Beth Shapiro, lead researcher and a Pennsylvania State University professor, told AFP. “But scientists should reconsider conservation efforts focused not just on polar bears but also on hybrids, since hybrids may play an underappreciated role in the survival of certain species,” she added.

A team of scientists analysed DNA passed from females to their offspring in 242 living and ancient bears. “We found that the matrilines of the polar bears coalesce to a relatively recent common ancestor” – one which lived along Ireland’s Atlantic shore – said the study’s co-author Daniel Bradley.

Now, here's the blog discussion about ancient flutes that devolved into discussion about a controversial ancient bone flute - made out of a bear's bone, discovered in Slovenia in 1995:

World's Oldest Flute? June 24, 2009

Remember "Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean Auel?  I'm sure scientists shrank in horror from her popular novels about a "modern" young female raised by "Neanderthals," who bears a "cross-breed" child.  Lo and behold, many years later, traces of DNA found in a small percentgage of the overall modern population provide evidence that such "cross-breeding" did, indeed, occur!

Maybe Carlos has it right.  It was the ancient cave bear that most influenced the development of our ancient ancestors.

Biel Chess Festival

Several tournaments including the main event, the GM invitational, take place in Biel, Switzerland, July 16 - 29, 2011!  Official website.  No ladies are playing in the GM invitational, so I won't be paying much attention.  However, according to the calendar of events at GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's website, she will be playing in both the Biel Rapid (July 17th) and Biel Blitz (July 24th) chess championships.  She is not listed amongst the players at the official website but perhaps the playing lists haven't been updated.

There are also several chess femmes playing in Master Tournament, the highest rated I saw was WGM Elisabeth Paehtz of Germany (2466). 

No results posted yet - I'll keep an eye out for them.

2011 Women Grandmaster Chess Tournament

Results from

Standings after R4:

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts.TB1 TB2 TB3
1WGMJu Wenjun2515CHN*1½113.50.035.50
2GMHou Yifan2575CHN*½1½½2.50.014.25
3GMKosintseva Nadezhda2560RUS*½½½12.50.014.00
4GMZhao Xue2470CHN0*½½12.01.013.00
5IMHarika Dronavalli2513IND½½½*½2.01.004.50
6GMSebag Marie2510FRA0½½*12.00.513.75
7GMKosintseva Tatiana2557RUS½½½*½2.00.504.50
8GMDzagnidze Nana2537GEO0½0*
9GMZhu Chen2485QAT½00*½1.00.501.75
10IMZatonskih Anna2522USA0½0½*1.00.501.50

Results from R4 and pairings for R5:
Round 4 on 2011/07/17 at 15:00
110GMDzagnidze Nana1 - 0IMZatonskih Anna7
28GMZhao Xue0 - 1WGMJu Wenjun6
39GMKosintseva Nadezhda½ - ½GMKosintseva Tatiana5
41GMHou Yifan½ - ½GMZhu Chen4
52GMSebag Marie½ - ½IMHarika Dronavalli3

Round 5 on 2011/07/18 at 15:00
13IMHarika DronavalliGMDzagnidze Nana10
24GMZhu ChenGMSebag Marie2
35GMKosintseva TatianaGMHou Yifan1
46WGMJu WenjunGMKosintseva Nadezhda9
57IMZatonskih AnnaGMZhao Xue8

2011 St. Louis Chess Battle of the Sexes

I do not have any further information at this time, but I did find this post over at that confirms from an entirely different source than mine, and from an earlier date, that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis was intending to host such an event and that in addition to GM Judit Polgar, WGM Jennifer Shahade would be participating as well.

So, that's Polgar, Shahade and Kosteniuk. 

Isis and I are going to the CCI meeting in St. Louis scheduled for the same time as the tournament, so I do hope we will be able to drop by the club and check out some of the action!
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