Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII

Hola darlings!  [Sure hope what follows makes sense -- no guarantee because my proof-reading abilities, always "iffy" at best, sure aren't working tonight.]

I came, I saw, I - well, I got a draw!  LOL!  And it was a good draw too, I think, in R3.  I had the white pieces against a 1300 player (I'm at 603).  More about that later.

I took TWO photographs during the entire tournament -- of the outside of the building! 

Main entrance of tournament site:  Holiday In Express Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Welcome, all Ye, who come willingly into the Maw of the Chess Goddess.  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha...
[imagine suitable sound effects here, munching and spitting out of bones, for instance].
Below is photo #2 -- my entire cache of photos taken the entire day.  Am I getting senile, do you think???

A view to the southeast from main entrance.  The original forecast today had been to wake up to intermittent showers and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon.  The showers were nowhere in evidence when I awoke a 6 a.m. Got ready and
had a cab to the hotel, arrived about 9:15 or 9:20 a.m.  Checked in with Tom and Robin and then ran outside with
my camera to take these photos, intent on doing an entire day of blog-worthy photos.  The Goddess had other plans for
me today, though.  The weather I travelled through was warm, slightly muggy, and beautiful.  There was some thunder
and rain -- was that during Round 3?  Maybe, because that is the round I scored my draw in.  A sign from Caissa?

The photos above were meant to be the start of a photographic essay on the odessey of my trials and tribulations during Challenge XVIII.  Geez Louise!  Didn't even think to pull out the camera in the skittles room.  I'm usually the photo-taking queen - snapping photos of everything in sight, including coffee carafes and errant score sheets and signs on restrooms and the errant butt-crack or two.  But - not a PHOTO showed up on my antique Nikon this evening.

I'm too tired to check tonight, but I do believe there are a few photos of Ellen Wanek, Janet Ulrich and I on my camera, taken by a passer-by parent or player we asked to "shoot us, please" in the lobby of the hotel prior to the start of R1.  Assuming those photographs do, in fact, exist and I didn't imagine the whole thing (reference my imaginary moves in R3, below), AND I don't look like the Bride of Freddy Krueger in them, I'll publish them tomorrow. 

I stayed for R4.  I already had a bad head-ache but I so wanted to see how it would turn out for everyone, and to see if I could press for a win (gasp!), a draw, or a game I would feel good about my effort despite a loss. Mistake.  I should have just hung out in the skittles room during R4 and not played.  But I didn't.  I had the black pieces in R4 and for some reason, probably because I am just so perverse sometimes, I often manage to play better with the black pieces than with white.  Maybe it's just because I try harder when I have the black pieces.  So I thought I might have another "competitive" game, competitive by my lights, and entered the round with pounding temples and high hopes.

I am rather proud of how I played those first three rounds earlier today.  No excuses, though, for crashing and burning in less than 10 moves in R4.  How embarassing!  As per usual, I did not see the checkmate coming AT ALL.  Arrrggghhhh!

The best news on a personal level is that I never felt close to tears the entire time I was at Challenge XVIII, and I'm happy about that.  I thought it might - could - happen.  Brace yourselves-- and for those of you too young to appreciate true romanticism, or those of you who gag at the slightest hint of l'amour -- DO NOT READ WHAT FOLLOWS!

Last night I watched "Return to Me," on regular old t.v. (no cable or U-Verse in this house).  I watched it 'cuz I had paid to watch it online some years before, in happier days when Mr. Don was still with us, and I was so touched by it.  It is a wonderful romantic movie made in 2000, starring Minnie Driver and David Duchovny ("X-Files"), with a great supporting role of "Grandpa" played by Carroll O'Connor -- and I cried and cried and cried!  Sobbed my butt off (I wish it had actually shed some pounds but, alas, it did not, according to the scale this morning).  Oh yes, I know, how absolutely STOOPID of me to watch Such. A. Film. On. The. Eve. Of. The. Anniversary. Of. Mr. Don's. Death.  Duh, Jan! 

Okay - here's the transcendent part of this uber-emotional experience last night -- I had my patio door open to the temperate evening to let in fresh air while I was working at my dinette table (am I the only person on the planet who still calls that dining space between kitchen and family room a "dinette") and the t.v. playing in the family room, with one eye on the laptop screen and one eye on the t.v. (I have developed ambidexterous eyes over the years...).  Then I started crying as the movie progressed, and then sobbing (loudly) during the happy and sad parts of the movie, and then the squirrels who are nesting in my back yard garden (many trees) started chiming in, too, with their cries, at about 10:30 p.m.

OH MY!  Not kidding -- Quite a sob-fest.  I didn't make a recording, though, to prove it to you, LOL!  (I have no idea how to do that on my now 'ancient' Nikon Coolpix 5600 that has about 3 split seconds worth of recoding time, anyway).  I'm laughing about it now, recounting it in this blog entry, and last night, I was laughing and crying about it at the same time. Those female squirrels who were "singing the blues" with me last night, some of them I've practically fed by hand with nuts since I was first able to entice them to come up to the patio door for a food offering (peanuts and in-shell hazelnuts).

Laugh or Cry!  I didn't shed a tear today.  I talked about Don with Ellen, and with Janet Ulrich, mom to the fabulous chessplayers Anne, Rachel and Susanna, and I was okay - not close to shedding a tear.  I'm so happy to have finally met Janet Ulrich in person -- we had some long chats in the skittles room between rounds.  Jim Ulrich, the head of the family, also played in Challenge XVIII. 

About that draw in R3. OF COURSE I did a "Jan" and somehow managed to add one extra set of moves into the game, geez!  I messed up the moves early -- on move 7.  But fortunately Ellen and I were looking over my score sheet after the game with the intent of playing through the game to see where I might have done better, and we got to the strange moves early.  I checked with Paul Kaye, the young man I had the W pieces against in R3, and we went through our score sheets.  They agreed on the first 6 moves, disagreed on the 7th and 8th sets of moves.  I had one more line of moves (29 versus Mr. Kaye's 28 in all) on my score sheet!  After lines7-8 on my score sheet, and line 7 on Paul's sheet, we agreed on the rest of the moves. 

After puzzling it over in the skittles room with Paul and Ellen, and as well as my fried and aching brain can figure out this evening, it looks like I wrote down a phantom move for my 7th move with white, wrote down my actual move with white under Paul's (black) move on line 7, wrote down another bogus move for me (white) on line 8, and recorded the correct move for Paul (Knight to d7) under black on line 8. 

On my score sheet, from move 9 down, our notations match. This was line 8 on Paul's scoresheet.  I'll scan it here tomorrow showing my notations and scribbles after consulting with Paul.  See what you think.

HOW ON EARTH DOES THIS HAPPEN?  No, I did NOT have my camera out or have to go to the bathroom (I am careful to always visit the Ladies' Room a few minutes before I seat myself for the ensuing round) and thus got distracted...

Of the three games I felt I played with my best effort, I was happy with them (in terms of  thinking about my moves, not worrying about time on the clock but trying to think things through before making a move that looked good on the surface but was a death in a move or two, trying to plot out alternative strategies and "what-ifs," trying to make my pieces dance, and trying to make sure all my pieces were protected -- I have about a thousand years worth of work still to do on THAT).  Game 4 - no tears shed.  I disregarded my own intuition regarding my physical limitations to play, and I paid the price for it.  Lesson learned.  Over, and over, and over again...  Hmmm.  Well, I'm nothing if not persistent...

More tomorrow, or possily later this evening, because at last the pounding in my head and the pains in my temples and between my eyes is starting to decrease.  Unfortunately, the only pain reliever that I can take while on Warfarin (Coumadin) -- blood thinner -- is Tylenol, and the only Tylenol I had in the house tonight was two sample capsules received in the mail, in April 1991.  Holy Hathor!  Talk about frugal, geez! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Controversial Evidence that People Were in the Americas 30,000 Years Ago

Ho ho ho and a gourd of rum, and some chickens, and who knows how long it took, but they got here, they got here.  This is a subject I find absolutely fascinating.  Enjoy!  Oh - ignore the classic come-on about sex -- I saw a faint depiction of what could possibly be a depiction of some sexual activity, but it's so faint one would need special equipment to make it out.  Besides, we know that humankind engaged in sexual activity else we wouldn't be here :)

Prehistoric Brazil artifacts star in exhibit, spark debate
By Yana MarullOctober 9, 2013 4:24 AM

Brasília (AFP) - It's no secret humans have been having sex for millennia -- but recently discovered cave art suggests they were doing it in the Americas much earlier than many archeologists believed.

A new exhibit in Brazil showcases artifacts dating as far back as 30,000 years ago -- throwing a wrench in the commonly held theory humans first crossed to the Americas from Asia a mere 12,000 years ago. The 100 items on display in Brasilia, including cave paintings and ceramic art, depict animals, ceremonies, hunting expeditions -- and even scenes from the sex lives of this ancient group of early Americans.

The artifacts come from the Serra da Capivara national park in Brazil's northeastern Piaui state, on the border of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, which attracted the hunter-gatherer civilization that left behind this hoard of local art. Since the 1970s, Franco-Brazilian archaeologist Niede Guidon has headed a mission to carry out large-scale excavation of Piaui's interior. "It's difficult to think there exists a site anywhere with a higher concentration of cave art," the 80-year-old Guidon told AFP.

Many paths led to Americas

Other traces of the civilization include charcoal remains of structured fires, explained Guidon, who hails from Sao Paulo.

"To date, these are the oldest traces" of human existence in the Americas, she emphasized.
The widely held theory has suggested human beings only reached the Americas some 12,000 years ago from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait to reach Alaska.

Some archeologists contend flaked pebbles at the Brazilian sites are not evidence of a crude, human-made fire hearth made some 40 millennia ago, but are rather geofacts -- a natural stone formation, not a man-made one.

But Guidon said she believes the Serra dwellers may have come originally from Africa, and she said the cave art provides compelling evidence of early human activity.

The paintings are estimated to date back some 29,000 years, she said, noting: "When it began in Europe and Africa, it did here too."

Other sites, including Valsequillo in Mexico and Monte Verde in Chile, also indicate the presence of communities tens of thousands of years ago. These sites have led archeologists to speculate that peoples traveled various routes to reach the Americas and at different stages, archeologist Gisele Daltrini Felice told AFP.

In search of tourists

UNESCO conferred World Heritage status on the Serra da Capivara in 1991, but tourists remain thin on the ground, which frustrates Guidon.

"After putting in a great amount of effort (to promote the site) we are up to 20,000 visitors a year," the archeologist said.

But "World Heritage sites get millions, and we are prepared to receive millions," she added.
The interior of the Piaui region is marked by widespread poverty, which has much to gain from tourism, Guidon stressed.

But resources are lacking to promote the attractions in a remote corner of the giant nation, she said. The nearest city is the modest town of Sao Raimundo Nonato, which has spent years trying to have an airport built.

The EU is promoting both the new exhibit as well as a swath of conferences on the area under the auspices of UNESCO, Brazil's Institute of Parks and the country's Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage.

"The idea is to promote cultural, historic and nature-based tourism in order to aid the development of areas adjoining Brazil's major parks -- and especially the Serra da Capivara, which has the most modern infrastructure," with 172 sites to visit, said Jerome Poussielgue, European Union cooperation and development officer for Brazil.

And the foundation behind research into the park is backing development projects -- including a ceramics factory that reproduces images of the cave art, a program aimed at giving local women work experience.

"We would like to help in the development of a region where women suffer hugely from violence," says Guidon.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

GM Jesse Kraai - Writer

Hola darlings!  Well, I practically fell off this chair (no, it does not resemble a bar stool) earlier this evening when I was scrolling through about 100 emails (when did I get so popular?) and I saw one from Jesse Kraai.

I went - WHAT?  Maybe my eyes bugged out a little, too, you know, like the cartoons -- BOIIINNNGG!

Then I thought, nah, that can't possibly be an email from GM Jesse Kraai.  Why on earth would he be writing to me?  But, turns out, I was dead wrong about that.  HOLY HATHOR!

Well, maybe he's written to half the female chess bloggers on the face of the earth, but that's okay.  What he asked was if I'd be interested in reviewing his new novel - about a young chess femme who learns the game under the tutelage of a Russian chessmaster.  It was a story he had to write. 

I mean, come on, how could I possibly resist?  Of course I said yes, send me the book at once, you understand - at once!  Nah, I wasn't quite that demanding.  I do have good manners on occasion and Grandma Newton would be proud of me, I brought them out tonight. 

So, I'm excited about this new project I've accepted.  It has been many moons since I've done a chess book review and this is the time of year in southeastern Wisconsin where settling in with a good book before the fireplace would be a perfect way to spend a few chilly afternoons on a weekend.

I quickly visited the link to the website Jesse sent me, and read this little tease of a post (really Jesse? One teensy-weensy post?  Give us something more please!) -- excerpted here:

The chess pieces knew how they moved. They knew what they wanted too.

and thought - OHMYGODDESS!  How on earth could he possibly know that THAT is exactly how I feel about chess and how it SHOULD work for a player who has IT, and how much I want to have IT and see those pieces dancing around the chessboard like the ibau that the ancient Egyptians called their boardgame pieces -- a pun on their words for dancers (ibau) and ivory (ebou, ebu, abu) .

Brooklyn Museum:  A partial gameboard of 30 squares (a/k/a Senet) and two different types of ibau, these made
of Egyptian faience, not ivory (ebou), as the earliest gaming pieces were carved from c. 5000 years ago. Taken in
May, 2009 during our second trip to New York. 

Of course chess pieces have a mind of their own!  Just ask me when a rook (most recent game against William, a pick-up game at or a bishop (a game a week or so ago with my chess buddy Shira Evans Sanford) just seem so damn determined to HANG THEMSELVES.  They just dance right over to the absolutely worst square on the board they could possibly pick, and laugh about it, rubbing their teeny little hands together in glee thinking how brilliantly they are performing.  No vision of the Big Bad Wolf with super-long blood-coated teeth just waiting to chomp them down ever enters into their vision, nope. 

Of course, those players who have IT, their pieces never have the thought of hanging themselves; they move about the board on angels' wings, like feathers, touching here, a toe there, a turn, a lunge, a pirouette and poof, there goes your Rook, white pieces, ha!  And it's checkmate in three and YOU don't see it coming for a change.  Ah yes, the stuff I dream about at night.  Do you know how damn frustrating it is, playing such chess in your dreams, only to turn into the Ash Girl, or in my case, old enough to be an Ash Grandma, in the morning?  I have not been able to shut down the chess dreams. May as well deliberately try and stop my own heart beating.  Ach!  I can truly say with what wisdom I have  garnered over 62 years that I sympathize with those chessplayers who have gone off the deep end when, like The Red Shoes, the ibau never stop dancing...

Jesse, are you going to turn this into a series, like a chessly Hermione Granger?  We need a better role model than Beth Harmon, Walter Bevis' creation -- and I only re-read his book five times, couldn't get enough of Beth and that fantastic, wonderful, glorious chess she played. Can't wait to meet Lisa! 

Listen to me - the book hasn't even been put into the mail yet.  Maybe Jesse will change his mind and decide he doesn't want me reviewing his book after all...

Okay, peoples, forget you read this blog post!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Hola darlings!

This Saturday is Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The Hales Corners Chess Challenges are put together and sponsored by my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club (formerly known as Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners) and are held in April and October each year. 

As you may know, Goddesschess has provided sponsorship to the Hales Corners Challenges since Challenge XVIII.  Now, it's Challenge XVIII.  How quickly the time has passed.

Our last time spent together (we were separated by a thousand miles and world apart...) was for a glorious week in Madrid in January 2012.  Then, we both fell ill, diagnosed with the same heart ailment (atrial fibrilation, me with some extra complications) within a few days of each other.  Don received first class treatment in Montreal and had been on the road to recovery by the beginning of August, 2012, but he passed away unexpectedly on October 12, 2012.

The photo above is one that was taken of Don at his home in Montreal a few months before we left for Spain in January, 2012.  He called himself  "Pallid'un," a spoof after the old television series that most of you are too young to remember, "Have Gun, Will Travel," and the "hero" of the series was "Will Palladin."  LOL!  He was a handsome/homely man, Just like Don.  In the photo, Don is holding an Avon "White Queen" he'd picked up at a rummage sale.  He brought that Queen to me here in Milwaukee in December, 2011.  We celebrated a late Christmas and New Year's together before departing to Madrid the first week of January, 2012.  That was our last person-to-person time together. 

How does one recover from the unexpected loss of a loved one?  I don't know that one can, really.  I had registered to play in Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVI.  GM Josh Friedel was playing in that event, and I so wanted to meet him, one of our few American-made GMs, but it was held on October 20, 2012 and I was, to put it simply, not up to the challenge.  No pun intended.

My adopted chess club was so great!  I received a personal note and autograph from GM Friedel on the back of a Challenge XVI flyer, and the chess femmes had group photos taken just for moi.  I was so touched, moved to tears.  Below is a photo of the FOUR chess femmes who played in the Open in Challenge XVI:

They're so beautiful!  And below is a photo of the NINE chess femmes who played in the Reserve section in Challenge XVII:

Equally beautiful! 

I did not play in Challenge XVII in April, 2013, but I promised that I would play in Challenge XVIII.


I started "training" -- my version of it anyway, LOL!  That meant playing game after game after game at, with my chess buddies and a few against strangers (one of whom was an obvious cheat) from April through this evening and still going on, and losing game after game after game.  My chess buddy Shira Sanford, formerly Shira Evans, who played with me in one of the Hales Corners Challenges (Holy Hathor, that was back in October, 2010) and who, at her peak, had a rating over 1700, told me I was improving. 

I sure the heck hope I look better now than I did in that photo above, and that was before I was diagnosed with my heart conditions, yikes!

So did another chess buddy, Ellen Wanek, who teaches chess in school programs and is a mover-and-shaker behind Chess in the Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  My recollection is that I met Ellen online after I emailed her about an online article I'd about her participation in the Sheboygan program, and then she came to play in one of the Challenges, and has come to every single one since then!  Ellen told me that I've improved too.  Here we are, yucking it up with some of the other chess femmes at Challenge -- I forget -- it was October, 2011.  Ellen and I are on the left side of the table:

Love Shira and love Ellen.  I think I have seen some miniscule improvement in my play, but I'm a million miles away from prime time. 

I hemmed and hawed the past few months about actually playing in Challenge XVIII.  YES, I started out with the intent to play when I was feeling particularly healthy in April, but as time went on and some health set-backs, I just didn't think it would happen. Challenge XVIII coincides with the first anniversary of Mr. Don's death, and as the time got closer and closer, I've been getting rather emotional. Not that those emotions have ever been far from the surface.  Far from it!

I was afraid. Oh, not of playing crappy chess, cuz I generally do that with no outside interference.  No, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to deal with the stress.  My physical stamina has been an issue for some years even before all this heart stuff started, and let me tell you, darlings, when you have a heart that will NOT behave despite procedures and strong meds, that saps the strength out of you and makes you feel cold all the damn time well, that's just the pits, and that's the truth.  What if I collapsed or, even worse, broke down in tears in front of everyone?

I had actually informed Tom F. that I was not going to play, and began to make arrangements with him to pick up the Goddesschess gift bags that, for the last few Challenges, have been given to the top finishing female in each of the Open and Reserve sections.  But I decided last Saturday after a sort of epiphany during a semi-nap on the sofa while that thunderstorm (I'm sure a lot of you heard it) rolled through our environs between about 2 and 3 p.m., that I needed to play and I must play and I would play.  STOP THE THUNDER AND LIGHTNING ALREADY, I GET IT, I GET IT.  Message from the Chess Goddess received, loud and clear.  Geez. 

So, I'm playing this Saturday.  Guess what - it's supposed to be rainy that day.  Oh oh - that means SHE is going to be hanging around making sure I give my best effort.  How many of you can say you're going to be playing chess with the threat of a Goddess wrought typhoon hanging over your head if you don't give it your all? 

Be there or be round.  As a special one-off prize for this event only, I'm giving a $100 gift card to the top male finisher in the Open and a $50 gift card to the top male finisher in the Reserve, after tie-breaks and all that stuff that I will never understand if I live to be 100. 
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