Saturday, September 29, 2012

The New York Times on 2012 Women's GP Ankara

From The New York Times

Women’s Champion Cements Her Status at Grand Prix
Published: September 29, 2012

[Excerpted] There is no off-season in chess, but the past week was unusually busy, with three world-class events being held at the same time.

One was the sixth and final tournament of the 2011-12 Women’s Grand Prix series. The tournament, in Ankara, Turkey, wrapped up on Friday and was won by Humpy Koneru of India.
The Grand Prix’s top player was supposed to win the honor of playing for the world title next year. That turned out to be Hou Yifan of China, who is currently the champion but first has to defend her title at another tournament this year. If she does that, she would face Koneru, who was the Grand Prix runner-up. If she does not win the tournament, she would have to play the winner of the event.

Humpy Wins Ankara GP

From The Hindu:

Chennai, September 29, 2012
Humpy wins Ankara GP
Arvind Aaron
Grandmaster Koneru Humpy won an attacking final round game against Monika Socko of Poland to win the final leg of the FIDE Grand Prix which concluded at Ankara on Friday.
On course to her brilliant final round win, Humpy had sacrificed a rook and perched her other rook on the offensive path, to pin and win huge material and the game in 40 moves.
Humpy tallied 8.5 points from her 11 games to top the 12-player, all-play-all which followed the Chess Olympiad held in Istanbul.
Overall, in the six Grand Prix events held at Rostov, Shenzhen, Nalchik, Kazan, Jermuk and Ankara, world women’s champion Hou Yifan of China had won three already with a maximum 480 points. Each player took part in four of the six events with the best three counting for Grand Prix points.
Humpy’s victory in Ankara helped her overtake Muzychuk and win the second place with 415 points. Muzychuk was third with 405 points. Humpy won in Ankara, tied for first in Kazan with Muzychuk and finished third in Jermuk. She did not do well at Rostov. This brilliant showing should help
Humpy gain rating and climb[ed] back from the minor loss she had suffered in the last two years.
Final top standings: 1. Humpy 8.5/11; 2. A. Muzychuk (Slo) 8; 3. Zhao Xue (Chn) 7.5; 4-5. V Cmilyte (Ltu), Ruan Lufei (Chn) 6.5 each.
Grand Prix final placings: 1. Hou Yifan (Chn) 480; 2. Humpy 415; 3. Muzychuk 405.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Yeah, what about those women and children slaves?

From The New York Times:
Op-Ed Columnist

In Obama’s Speech, Their Voices

When President Obama made a landmark speech against modern slavery on Tuesday, many of us in the news media shrugged. It didn’t fit into the political narrative. It wasn’t controversial, so — yawn — it wasn’t really news.

But women like Sina Vann noticed. She’s a friend of mine who was trafficked as a young girl from Vietnam into Cambodian brothels — where she was regularly punished by being locked inside coffins with scorpions and biting ants. Now an anti-trafficking activist with the Somaly Mam Foundation, she sent me an exuberant e-mail (in fractured English, her third language) with a message for Obama: “We are survivors here so proud of you, you are the big president in U.S. and you take action of trafficking. So you give victims from around the world have hope.”
Rachel Lloyd, a survivor of human trafficking who was nearly choked to death by her pimp, felt the same way. Lloyd now runs a superb program in New York City, GEMS, to help American girls escape “the life.” She told me that watching the Obama speech was “one of the most gratifying moments in my 15 years of work on the issue.”
If Representative Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” provoked an uproar, shouldn’t it be incomparably more offensive that millions of human beings are still trafficked in the 21st century? Yet the world often scorns the victims and sees them as criminals: these girls are the lepers of the 21st century.
So bravo to the president for giving a major speech on human trafficking and, crucially, for promising greater resources to fight pimps and support those who escape the streets. Until recently, the Obama White House hasn’t shown strong leadership on human trafficking, but this could be a breakthrough. The test will be whether Obama continues to press the issue.
I’ve been passionate about human trafficking ever since I encountered a village in Cambodia 15 years ago where young girls were locked up, terrified, as their virginity was sold to the highest bidder. It felt just like 19th-century slavery, except that these girls would likely be dead of AIDS or something else by their 20s.
Granted, not all prostitution is coerced. Reasonable people can disagree about what to do in the case of adults who sell sex voluntarily. Put aside that disagreement, for we can agree to place priority on the millions of children and adults compelled to provide sex or other labor.
Prostituted kids are among the most voiceless of the voiceless around the world, and it will make a difference if the White House speaks up for them — and fights for them.
On the India/Nepal border, I once chatted with an Indian policeman who was on the lookout for terrorists and smuggled DVDs but was uninterested in the streams of Nepali girls passing through, destined for the brothels in Bombay and Kolkata. The policeman explained that America was pressuring India on movie piracy, so let’s show India and the world that we’re also concerned with enslaved children.
If we tell other countries to free their slaves, we also have to clean up our own act. Contrary to public opinion, the worst of America’s human trafficking arguably doesn’t involve foreign women smuggled into the United States, but homegrown girls.
It’s a disgrace that police officers and prosecutors routinely go after such teenage girls — often runaways fleeing abuse or other impossible situations — and treat them as criminals, while showing less interest in the pimps who exploited them.
Normally, if a man has sex with a young girl, he risks jail and she gets counseling. But, if she has a pimp who earns $50 from the transaction, then everything changes: The man may get a slap on the wrist and the girl may go to jail. Does that make any sense?
So let’s demand that police officers and prosecutors go after pimps and johns, while treating the teenagers as victims who need comprehensive social services.
Republicans have done superb work on this issue in the past, but now they’re balking at straightforward reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — landmark legislation against human trafficking. What are they thinking?
One person on the front lines here in the United States is Alissa, who has a scar on her cheek from where her former pimp mutilated her with a potato peeler as a warning not to escape. She did get away and now works with prostituted girls in Washington whose average age, she says, is 14. Alissa is her street name; she doesn’t want her real name published because pimps still harass her.
Alissa watched Obama’s speech, and then replayed it four more times. She has always been treated as a “throwaway,” she said, and now she was dazzled that the president was treating the issue as a priority.
Some 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, let’s make sure that this isn’t just a speech, but a turning point.

HUMPY WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix - Ankara

YAHOOOO!  I am so excited and very happy for GM Koneru Humpy. She gets another chance at the Women's World Champion title.  Here is what the official website said about today's events (the final round):

Humpy Koneru became a winner of 6th stage of the FWGP in Ankara and placed second in the overall Grand Prix series after Hou Yifan. The Chinese has already clinched the first place in the overall Grand Prix cycle and is a current World Champion among women.

Round eleven was as thrilling as it was expected. All the attention turned to the games which would identify the winner of Grand Prix in Ankara. Humpy Koneru confidently won against Monika Socko and had to wait for the final outcome of the game between Ruan Lufei and Anna Muzychuk. The victory could have given Slovenian player the second place in the Series but she missed a good chance for advantage and game was drawn. Another important game for the final standings was played between Zhao Xue and Tatiana Kosintseva. A draw guaranteed Zhao Xue the bronze medal in GP in Ankara. Both Turkish players Kubra Ozturk and Betul Yildiz lost in the 11th round to the higher rated Viktorija Cmilyte and Antoaneta Stefanova respectively. Munguntuul Batkhuyag won against Ju Wenjun and finished the tournament with +1.
Results (R11):


And the final standings:

18GMKONERU HUMPY2593IND*0½½1½111111039,50
22GMMUZYCHUK ANNA2606SLO1*½½½½1½½1118040,00
36GMZHAO XUE2549CHN½½*0½1½1111½036,75
49GMCMILYTE VIKTORIJA2520LTU½½1*½½0½1011½33,50
510WGMRUAN LUFEI2492CHN0½½½*½½½½111½29,50
61IMMUNGUNTUUL BATKHUYAG2434MGL½½0½½*½1½½1½6030,00
712GMKOSINTSEVA TATIANA2524RUS00½1½½*1½01½027,25
811WGMJU WENJUN2528CHN0½0½½00*11½15021,75
97GMSTEFANOVA ANTOANETA2502BUL0½00½½½0*1½1019,75
105WGMYILDIZ BETUL CEMRE2341TUR00010½100*½½017,25
114GMSOCKO MONIKA2463POL0000000½½½*108,50
123WGMOZTURK KUBRA2294TUR00½00½½00½0*2011,25

First, second and third places were crystal clear.  Ruan Lufei did what - I think - she was brought in to do - take out Anna Muzychuk.  What I do not think the Chinese were expecting was Humpy Koneru's performance.

Or, I could do a total Orwellian (or a Last Resort scenario -- see t.v. show premiere last night - like, WOW!  I know I'm gonna love that show) switcheroo and say that the Chinese intended to have Humpy finish in first place because of her prior weak record in competition against Hou Yifan, confident that in another match Koneru will fall victim once again.  Soooooo....

...personally, I think Karma's a real BEYATCH! 

Now - we've got a Women's World Chess Champion Knock-Out Tournament coming up in December in - wait for it - SIBERIA.  Siberia in December.  Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy.....guess the aliens that Kirzov talks to absolutely HATE FEMALE CHESSPLAYERS.  Or Kirzov does. Or both.

Great website, Ankara!  And thanks many times over to IsBank Turkey (Turkiye Is Bankasi) for their sponsorship for this event and many other women's chess events hosted by the Turkish Chess Federation.  The TCF stepped up and put a great package together for several strong women's tournaments when no other countries came through.  I wish wish wish there were more federations and sponsors like YOU!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The One Thousand Year Old "Iron Buddha"

Ancient statue discovered by Nazis is made from meteorite

An ancient Buddhist statue that was recovered by a Nazi expedition in the 1930s was originally carved from a highly valuable meteorite.

Researchers say the 1,000-year-old object with a swastika on its stomach is made from a rare form of iron with a high content of nickel.

They believe it is part of the Chinga meteorite, which crashed about 15,000 years ago.

The findings appear in the Journal, Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Does this look like an oriental
Buddha to you???  Not to me! The
sculputure does bear the Indian 'swastika'
sign on his chest.
The 24cm (9-inch) tall statue is 10kg (22lb) and is called the Iron Man.

Origins unknown

The story of this priceless object owes more perhaps to an Indiana Jones film script than sober scientific research.

It was discovered in Tibet in 1938 by German scientist Ernst Schafer. His expedition was supported by the Nazis, in particular by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. Himmler was said to believe the Aryan race originated in Tibet and was keen to recover objects from the area.

Brought back to Germany, the statue became part of a private collection and disappeared from view until 2007. A new owner then sought scientific advice on the origins. He turned to Dr Elmar Buchner from the University of Stuttgart.

"I was absolutely sure it was a meteorite when I saw it first, even at 10 metres" said Dr Buchner.

He said that the clue was in small, thumb like impressions caused by the melting of the surface. Further analysis showed that it was a rare ataxite class, a type of meteorite not often found on Earth.

"It is rich in nickel, it is rich in cobalt. Less than 0.1% of all meteorites and less than 1% of iron meteorites are ataxites, so it is the rarest type of meteorites you can find."

Meteorites have been seen as a sign of divine activity across many cultures since the dawn of time. Knives and jewellery were made from iron meteorites by ancient Inuit. But tracing their exact origins is often extremely difficult.

The German and Austrian scientists who worked on the Iron Man with Dr Buchner were surprised to be able to trace the statue to a specific event in meteorite history.

Absolutely priceless

The researchers believe it was carved from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that fell in the border region of eastern Siberia and Mongolia about 15,000 years ago.

The debris from the crash was only discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, but the individual fragment from which the statue was carved was collected many centuries before.

"We were quite astonished by the results," said Dr Buchner.

"OK, it's a meteorite but what amazed me was that we could also say it was from Chinga, that we could find the provenance, that was really astonishing for me."

The statue is believed to portray the god Vaisravana. The researchers think it belongs to the pre-Buddhist Bon culture that existed in Asia about 1,000 years ago.

"If we are right that it was made in the Bon culture in the 11th Century, it is absolutely priceless and absolutely unique worldwide," observed Dr Buchner.

Neither the person who carved it or the Nazis had any idea it was made from such a rare substance, he said.

In keeping with the Hollywood element in the story, Dr Buchner said the statue had a certain aura.

"It is extremely impressive, it was formerly almost completely gilded - there is a great mystery represented by it."

2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix - Ankara - R10!!!!

Oooooooooohhh, this is so exciting!  R10 results:

Round 10 on 2012/09/27 at 15:00

Woooo hoooo!  I called Muzychuk v. Cmilyte - I knew Cmilyte wouldn't roll over and play dead!  Humpy won, as expected.  An added bonus was Kosintseva knocking off Ju Wenjun - wasn't expecting that!  Zhao Xue also won, as expected.  So - where are we at now:

12GMMUZYCHUK ANNA2606SLO*1½½½1½1½11133,50
28GMKONERU HUMPY2593IND0*½1½½11111033,75
36GMZHAO XUE2549CHN½½*½011111½7031,00
410WGMRUAN LUFEI2492CHN0½*½½½½1½116023,50
59GMCMILYTE VIKTORIJA2520LTU½½1½*½0½011028,50
61IMMUNGUNTUUL BATKHUYAG2434MGL½½0½½*½½½1½5022,75
712GMKOSINTSEVA TATIANA2524RUS00½1½*10½1½5021,25
811WGMJU WENJUN2528CHN½00½½0*11½15019,75
95WGMYILDIZ BETUL CEMRE2341TUR00001½10*½½015,25
107GMSTEFANOVA ANTOANETA2502BUL½00½0½½0*½1015,00
114GMSOCKO MONIKA2463POL000000½½½*108,00
123WGMOZTURK KUBRA2294TUR00½0½½0½00*2010,25

So, here are the FINAL match-ups tomorrow:

Round 11 on 2012/09/28 at 11:00

Will Ruan Lufei take out Muzychuk?  Could we see a three-draw scenario?  And woooohaaaa!  I'm watching a t.v. program right now that is like the ultimate chess game - "Last Resort."  The most scary thing about it, though, is that I could see this happening...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

35,000 Year Old Ivory "Workshop" in Germany?

I'll be interested to read more about this site. My gut feeling upon reading this is that the archaeologists have been a bit cavalier in making certain assumptions about it.  Photographs would be nice -- if this is a worshop as asserted, did they find any half-finished or discarded ivory models?  Any 35,000 year old "venuses" for instance?  Come on - give us more more more...

Reported at Science Daily

Oldest Ivory Workshop in the World Discovered in Saxony-Anhalt

ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2012)Excavations at the mammoth hunting site of Breitenbach near Zeitz have uncovered a 35,000-year-old ivory workshop.
In an international co-operation project, archaeologists from the Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for the Evolution of Hominin Behaviour, part of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, (RGZM) and the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege and Archäologie in Saxony-Anhalt are excavating the 35,000 year old site of Breitenbach, close to Zeitz in Saxony-Anhalt. Other co-operation partners are the Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Leiden (NL), the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (ArchPro) in Vienna, the Institute of Geoinformatics i3mainz of the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz as well as the Institutes of Geosciences at the universities of Mainz, Tübingen and Cologne.

During this year's campaign, site directors Dr. Olaf Jöris and Tim Matthies and their team found the oldest evidence for clearly distinct working areas which are interpreted as standardized workshops for working mammoth ivory. It was possible to identify a zone where pieces of ivory were split into lamella, as well as a second area where the pieces had been carved and their waste had been discarded. Some ivory beads and rough outs of unfinished products were also found amongst this debris, alongside several other ivory objects, including a decorated rod and fragments of a three-dimensionally modified object, very likely an object of art. The manufacturers were early modern humans similar to ourselves, who obtained mammoth ivory which had probably lain around at this site for some time, either from the carcasses of mammoths which had died here naturally or from the bodies of the victims of expert hunters. In the case of the latter scenario, the mammoths could have been hunted by modern humans or even by Neanderthals, since Neanderthals had only become extinct a few thousand years before the site was occupied by modern humans.

The clear spatial deposition of the finds in different working areas allows us to draw conclusions about the use of space at around 35,000 years ago, a concept apparently still unknown to Neanderthals.

The settlement at Breitenbach covers an area of at least 6,000 m2 and perhaps as much as 20,000 m2, making it one of the largest sites of the younger Palaeolithic period (Upper Palaeolithic) known to date. The first archaeological excavations were carried out in the 1920's; the more recent campaigns have investigated some 70 m2 of the site. Many students from 25 countries have helped to excavate the site. Close to 3,000 finds have been recovered so far in this year alone.

Finds comparable in age to the ones from Breitenbach are most commonly found in caves, where the utilisation of space was governed by the natural formation of the cave walls. This led to restrictions on, and compromises by, the cave inhabitants. In addition, the same areas of caves were repeatedly inhabited over a long period of time, superimposed over and often blurring details of earlier settlement remains. In the open, as at Breitenbach, humans had the possibility to organise their space more or less free of restrictions or preconditions and establish structures which allow us to reconstruct the daily life of this period at the highest resolution.

Field work at Breitenbach has provided new insights into the spatial activities of people at the beginning of the younger Old Stone Age (Upper Palaeolithic), especially into the spatial organisation of settlement sites and thus of daily life during the Aurignacian at around 40,000-34,000 years ago. This is ultimately of great importance for our understanding of the roots of modern human behaviour itself, since indications for "organizing oneself"in a well-defined and regulated manner which we are accustomed to today, are recognized for the first time worldwide through the new features discovered at the site of Breitenbach.

Due to the unparalleled large size of the settlement area, the Breitenbach site offers a unique opportunity to undertake a detailed investigation of an open site of the Aurignacian period. This will enable us to gain new insights into the complexity and spatial organisation of an early Upper Palaeolithic settlement site, where evidence of personal adornment, art, music or even burials, which are to date hardly known from this period, can also be expected.

4000 Year Old Lunar Calendar Uncovered in Vietnam

From Voice of Vietnam Online (

Updated : 2:31 PM, 26/09/2012
Ancient calendar unearthed in Tuyen Quang
Archaeologists have found a stone tool assumed to be an early calendar dating back 4,000 years in a cave in the northern province of Tuyen Quang.
According to Prof. Trinh Nang Chung from the Vietnam Archaeology Institute, the stone tool, with 23 parallel carved lines, seemed to be a counting instrument involving the lunar calendar.  A similar tool was found in Na Cooc Cave in the northern province of Thai Nguyen's Phu Luong District in 1985, Chung said.

Similar items have been found in various areas in the world, including China, Israel and the UK, suggesting that people 5,000 years ago knew how to calculate the lunar calendar by carving on stones.

The stone tool was discovered in a tomb marked with 14 large stones laid at a length of 1.6m. Bones were uncovered under the stones but no skull was found, with Prof. Chung guessing that the skull may have decayed due to the humidity in the cave.  A number of other stone tools were buried with the corpse, he added.

The excavation was conducted on a total area of 20 sq. m inside Nguom Hau Cave in Na Hang District, unearthing about 400 objects to a depth of 1.2m belonging to two cultural layers of the Late Neolithic period (4,000-4,200 years ago) and the Metal Age (around 3,000-3,500 years ago).

The deeper layer (of Late Neolithic), about 1m thick, consisted of well-polished axes and other stone tools, while the later cultural layer measured only 20cm contains fewer tools with axes and ceramic pieces.

There was also a large amount of animal teeth and shells found at the site, thought to be the remnants of food left by the ancient dwellers. Scientists also found traces of burned coal and fire in both layers.

The cave was discovered in May last year, while the excavation was conducted within a 20-day period earlier this month.

Earlier excavations in the same province have found traces of human populations dating back to 7,000-8,000 years ago.

"These findings prove that early people have lived continuously in local caves since 8,000 years ago, until more advanced material cultures developed," Chung said.

What a fascinating find!  My first thought was - with the 'missing' skull, that it may have been kept as an oracle.  Why would the skull dissolve over time but not the other bones????  But I do not know anything about the cultures in the area (in the time period in question or any other time.  We just do not pay much attention to countries like Vietnam in more "popular" press coverage of archaeological discoveries unless they involve TREASURE!

Because of the richness of the burial (OTHER tools/items buried with the bones besides the marked tool/calendar), I assume this was a personage of some importance!  It took a long time to make tools and implements, not to mention artistic objects, out of stone; I cannot imagine that people would readily give these much used, and possibly much loved implements into a burial unless it was very important to do so.  Then again, maybe people then were a lot less selfish and self-centered than we are today. 

The tomb was also maked with" 14 large stones" and, well, the lunar month is roughly 28 days, and one-half of that is -- 14.  Just saying...

2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix - Ankara

Results from R9:


Standings after R9:

12GMMUZYCHUK ANNA2606SLO*1½½½11½117027,25
28GMKONERU HUMPY2593IND0*½1½1½111028,75
36GMZHAO XUE2549CHN½½*½01111½6025,00
410WGMRUAN LUFEI2492CHN0½*½½½1½11019,00
59GMCMILYTE VIKTORIJA2520LTU½1½*½½00115½21,75
611WGMJU WENJUN2528CHN½00½½*11½15½18,25
812GMKOSINTSEVA TATIANA2524RUS00½1½*0½1½4014,50
95WGMYILDIZ BETUL CEMRE2341TUR00010½1*½½013,25
107GMSTEFANOVA ANTOANETA2502BUL½00½00½½*13012,50
114GMSOCKO MONIKA2463POL0000½00½*1216,25
123WGMOZTURK KUBRA2294TUR0½00½½½00*209,00

Yep, the top 2-seeded players met each other today, and Anna took Humpy dowwwwwnnnnn.  Realistically, was it worth not taking a draw for Anna?  Absolutely!  She's points ahead of Humpy in the Grand Prix totals thus far (375 to 320 for Humpy) so maintaining a lead over her, Zhao Xu (295) and Ju Wenjun (305) is paramount. 

There are also BONUS points awarded - not sure what the criteria are for their award, but they're there, dangling out there, like ripe apples for the picking, along with some very nice prize money:

RankPrizeGP Points
1st6.500 €120 points + 40 bonus
2nd4.750 €110 points + 20 bonus
3rd4.000 €100 points + 10 bonus
4th3.750 €90 points
5th3.500 €80 points
6th3.250 €70 points
7th3.000 €60 points
8th2.750 €50 points
9th2.500€40 points
10th2.250 €30 points
11th2.000€20 points
12th1.750 €10 points
TOTAL40.000 €

With two more games to go, it looks like Humpy HAS to take clear first place in order to score 120 plus 40 bonus points (320 + 120 + 40 = 480) in order to be the challenger, but Anna would still win the challenger position for the 2013 Women's World Championship against Hou Yifan if Anna takes clear second place and wins 110 plus 20 bonus points (375 + 110 + 20 =  505).  Things get too crazy for me to figure out if Ju Wenjun somehow finishes in first place, or Zhao Xue.

So, who is playing who tomorrow:


The games I'll try to check tomorrow:

Muzychuk v. Cmilyte: Cmilyte, a former Lithuanian champion and a tough, experienced player, will fight hard. 

All other things being equal, Koneru should win against Kubra Ozturk -- not because Ozturk is a lousy player (far from it!), but simply because there is a 300 ratings point differential between then.  

Zhao Xue, who is currently in 3rd place overall, has much to play for!  She should be able to gain a point over Yildiz.

Things are getting interesting, darlings!
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