Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Eight and Kasparov

Of all the places to find "The Eight" - here at the India Times, in an article about cricket!

TIMES NEWS NETWORK / Siddhartha Mishra

Every number has a story. And so with 15,000. For a cricketer still flush with the achievement of crossing that unprecedented and seemingly non-repeatable run-milestone in ODIs, that number is perhaps the worst measure imaginable for Sachin Tendulkar, blessed - yet ironically, cursed - as he is to turn everything he touches into a record-breaking statistic.

And yet, there is no escaping the eternal truth of sport. Sport is all about numbers. It is the numbers on scoreboards and clocks that define victory and defeat. When legacies are mulled over, a simplistic gauging of skill is insufficient. Eventually, in that great filing cabinet called history, it is certain numbers that symbolise achievements and heights once deemed unattainable.

Subsequent to May 6, 1954, when Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds, thus becoming the first human to run the distance in under 4 minutes, the record was broken eight times over the next 12 years. But it was that man, that moment which defied a human limit, a psychological barrier.

A record establishes what a human being can do, what we can do. Each time a new bench-mark is established, one person's 'superhuman' achievement redefines what it means to be a human being. The instant a new record is set, that level of performance becomes the next mark on the sand. And with it grows our addiction to the thrill of seeing the word 'possible' redefined.

It is said that records are made to be broken. Possible. Most of the time.

With due respect to the human capacity for constantly-higher levels of sporting achievement, and while making allowances for changes in rules, conditions, or equipment that extend the scope for record-breaking, it would be logical to assume that every athletic activity has a limit. Unlike the cow in the nursery rhyme, man will never jump over the moon.

And indeed, certain numbers tell more than a story: they threaten to defy the test of time. 99.94, 100, 555... the numbers defining the likes of Donald Bradman, Wilt Chamberlain and Jahangir Khan tread so far into uncharted territory that even the most cynical are forced to be converts as their legend grows.

And yet. And yet... as immortal as certain achievements are, everything in sport is short-lived. Bar irony.

Cut to November 10, 1985. Rhona Petrosyan, widow of chess legend Tigran Petrosyan, told Garry Kasparov: "Garry, I am sorry for you." A stunned Kasparov who, just the previous day, had won the world title to become the youngest-ever chess champion in history at the age of 22, queried: "And what is there to feel sorry about?" Petrosyan replied: "I am sorry for you, Garry, because the best day of your life is already over." [Emphasis added]

Because, in sport, a record is never important in itself. Its significance lies in what it says about the performer - and about ourselves. And when a number, no matter how larger-than-life, does not say something about ourselves, its real story is lost in translation.

Because perfection does not end with Nadia Comaneci's 10.0 scores at the Montreal Olympics in 1976; it is only found in infinite possibilities. Infinity, of course, is not a number but a symbol.
Darlings, the symbol this article is talking about - the symbol that means "infinity" is an "eight" laying on its side. Eight is the number of the Goddess. Eight is the number of Chess. Chess is the game of the Goddess.

A Human Chess Game

From "The" BORDER PATROL A human chess game plays out on border in South Texas In tangled thornscrub on Rio Grande's banks, Border Patrol is vigilant, but so are the illegal crossers. By Juan Castillo AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Saturday, June 30, 2007 HIDALGO — The Rio Grande twists and turns so severely in South Texas that it takes more than 320 miles to travel from Falcon Dam near Roma to Boca Chica Beach on the Gulf Coast — by straight shot, a distance of about 150 miles. The river courses through snarly thickets of mesquite, huisaches, hackberry trees, cat claw, cactus and reeds. This thornscrub jungle is the front line in the battle to stem the flow of illegal immigration in the Rio Grande Valley. "Most of our apprehensions are here," Camilo Garcia, a Border Patrol spokesman, said of a roughly five-mile stretch along the steep riverbanks, just below the international bridges and the bustling port of entry. To the south, about a hundred yards away, the sprawling city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, crackles with symbiotic energy. Those who successfully navigate the river change into dry clothes in the brush and then wait for the right time to sprint to a nearby strip shopping center, where they can blend in with the crowds. The Border Patrol and the National Guard are vigilant, with an array of technology on their side. At night, stadiumlike lights flood a field between the riverbank and the strip mall. In a booth high in the sky, Guard troops monitor a display screen capturing infrared images from cameras that sense body heat. On the ground, sensors record movement. "We just try to deter them," Garcia said. Another agent, S. De Los Rios, scours the riverbanks, looking for fresh signs that someone might be hiding. De Los Rios says illegal crossers have scouts positioned on both the U.S. and Mexican sides and on the international bridge. They watch the Border Patrol's movements to time their crossings. Garcia says it's not uncommon for smugglers to send two groups from points far apart, hoping that while Border Patrol agents respond to one, the other will make it safely across. "It's like a big chess game out here," Garcia said. Asked if agents sometimes feel outnumbered, he said: "Yeah, but what are you going to do?"

The Cherubim

I've always been fascinated by the biblical accounts of the Ark of the Covenant and the gold "Cherubim" that guarded it. It's popularly believed that the Ark, along with all the other Treasures of Solomon's Temple were taken by the Babylonians in 586 BCE when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Some of the Temple "implements" were restored to the Jews when the were sent back to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem by - I believe it was Darius - in about 537 BCE, but there was no mention of the Ark of the Covenant and/or the Cherubim being among those Temple implements. Graham Hancock has theorized that the Ark was removed from the Temple a long time before its destruction, perhaps due to the apostasy of the Jewish kings, and that the Ark could be hidden in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. Now, Dr. Sean Kingsley has a new theory about the Cherubim that used to guard the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Catholic Encylopedia, "the Jews at the time of Christ had completely forgotten the appearance of the Temple cherubim. Josephus (Antiq., VIII, 3) says that no one knows or even can guess what form they had." This obviously means that there were no Cherubim present in the reconstructed Temple at the time of Jesus or at the time of the Temple's destruction in 70 CE by the Romans. The latest issue of Minerva magazine features new research by archaeologist and explorer Dr Sean Kingsley, who believes he has found evidence not only for the survival of replicas of the cherubim in Jerusalem in the Roman period, but also what they originally looked like... According to Dr. Kingsley, in the sixth century AD the ancient historian John Malalas was sifting through the municipal archives in the city of Antioch in southern Turkey for material for his book, the Chronicle, when he chanced upon a centuries-old wrinkled report about the fate of Jerusalem's Cherubim. Malalas tells us that after pulling down a local synagogue in AD 70 and replacing it with a new theatre inscribed Ex Praeda Iudaea, 'From the Spoils of Judaea', the emperor Vespasian "built in Antioch the Great, outside the city gate, what are known as the Cherubim, for he fixed there the bronze Cherubim, which Titus his son had found fixed to the temple of Solomon. When he destroyed the temple, he removed them from there and brought them to Antioch with the Seraphim, celebrating a triumph for the victory of the Jews that had taken place during his reign." "This was no tall story invented by John Malalas to spice up his Chronicle", confirms Dr Kingsley. "In fact, the area where the Cherubim were set up over the gates became so famous that the Temple statues lent their name to the entire city district. And there they stayed for over five hundred years. So the Life of St Simeon Stylites, who died in AD 597, describes how the saint saw a vision of Jesus Christ 'at the old wall called that of the Cherubim' and during a later visitation by the devil 'there arose from the so-called Cherubim. a great cry, and weeping and much lamentation'. The co-existence of references to the Cherubim district in different sources proves John Malalas was reporting fact not fiction." Based on the prophet Ezekiel's biblical description of the 'divine presence', accompanied by hybrid guardians incorporating calf's feet, wings, and composite faces of a human, lion, ox and eagle, Dr Kingsley visualises the cherubim as sphinx-like winged creatures with a human head: "Sculpted ivories of the First Temple period excavated at Samaria in Palestine and Arslan Tash in Syria capture the exact confused form described by the prophet Ezekiel. The lion's body is inspired by the sphinx and the human head also wears an Egyptian headdress. However, the graceful wings are purely Near Eastern in inspiration, drawing on the tradition of winged animals like the demon Pazuzu and the Akkadian lion-demoness Lamashtu, which were so popular from Iraq to Palestine in the second and first millennium BC." ...Dr. Kingsley has identified two images which most closely resemble the physical form of the Temple Cherubim in the first century AD: a statue of a rearing woman with outstretched wings and sphinx-like lion body excavated in a bath-house at Ephesus in Turkey in 1896, and a sphinx-like cherub sculpted on to a basalt disc dug up in a house at Antioch itself and now in the Hatay Archaeological Museum. From the Daily Grail (posted June 28, 2007) So - was Josephus full of baloney about no Cherubim being in the Second Temple?

The Eight

Excerpts from "The Eight" by Katherine Neville in 1988 (eat your heart out, Dan Brown): (Page 143-paperback edition): Nim went to the woodpile stacked against the fireplace wall and broke up a bed of kindling, swiftly piling heavy logs on top. After a few minutes the room glowed warmly with an inner light. I pulled off my boots and curled up on a sofa as Nim uncorked some sherry. He handed me a glass and poured another for himself, taking a seat beside me. After I'd peeled off my coat, he tipped his glass toward mine. "To the Montglane Service and the many adventures it will bring you," he said, smiling, and took a sip. "Yum. This is delicious," I said. "It's an amontillado," he replied, swirling it in his glass. "People have been bricked into walls still breathing, for sherries inferior to this one." "I hope that's not the sort of adventure you're planning for me," I told him. "I really have to go to work tomorrow morning." [Spoken like a true JanXena...] (Page 145): Nim had located his jacket draped over a chair and pulled out the cocktail napkin from the fortune-teller. He looked at Llewellyn's printing on the napkin for a very long time. Then, handing it to me, he got up to stir the fire. "What do you notice that is unusual about this poem? he asked. I looked at it but didn't see anything odd. "Of course you know that the fourth day of the fourth month is my birthday," I said. Nim noddded soberly from the hearth. The firelight turned his hair a brilliant reddish gold. "The fortune-teller warned me not to tell anyone about that," I added. "As usual, you kept your word at all cost," Nim observed wrily, throwing a few more logs on the fire. He went over to a table in the corner and pulled out some paper and a pen, returning to sit beside me. "Take a look at this," he said. Printing in neat block letters on the paper, he copied out the poem into separate lines. Previously it had been scrambled across the napkin. Now it read: Just as these lines that merge to form a key Are as chess squares; when month and day are four; Don't risk another chance to move to mate. One game is real and one's a metaphor. Untold times this wisdom's come too late. Battle of white has raged on endlessly. Everywhere Black will strive to seal his fate. Continue a search for thirty-three and three. Veiled forever is the secret door. "What do you see here?" said Nim, studying me as I studied his printed version of the poem. I wasn't certain what he was driving at. "Look at the structure of the poem itself," he said a little impatiently. "You've a mathematical mind, try to put it to some use." [Patience, Mister, patience!] I looked at the poem again, and then I saw it. "The rhyming pattern is unusual," I said proudly. Nim's eyebrows went up, and he snatched the paper away from me. He looked at it a moment and started to laugh. "So it is," he said, handing it back to me. "I hadn't noticed that myself. Here, take the pen and write down what it is." [Spoken like a true male chauvenist - always the boss, even when he's not...] I did so, and wrote: "Key-Four-Mate (A-B-C), Metaphor-Late-Endlessly (B-C-A), Fate-Three Door (C-A-B). "So, the rhyming pattern is like so," said Nim, copying it below my writing on the paper. "Now I want you to apply numbers instead of letters and add them up." I did so beside where he'd printed the letters, and it looked like this: ABC 123 BCA 231 CAB 312 666 "That was the number of the Beast in the Apocalypse: 666!" I said. "So it was," said Nim. "And if you add the rows horizontally, you'll find they add to the same number. And that, my dear, is known as a 'magic square.' Another mathematical game. Some of those Knight's Tours that Ben Franklin developed had secret magic squares hidden within them. You've quite a knack for this. Found one your first time out that I hadn't seen myself." [The truth comes out - he's disgruntled because she saw something he didn't, tsk tsk]. "You didn't see it? I said, rather pleased with myself. "But then, what was it you wanted me to find?" I studied the paper as if searching for a hidden rabbit in a drawing from a child's magazine, expecting it to pop out at me sideways or upside down. "Draw a line separating the last two sentences from the first seven," said Nim, and as I was drawing the line he added, "Now look at the first letter of each sentence." I traced my eye slowly down the page, but as I moved toward the bottom a horrible chill had started to come over me, despite the warm and cheery fire. "What's wrong?" Nim said, looking at me strangely. I stared at the paper, speechless. Then I picked up the pen and wrote what I saw. "J-A-D-O-U-B-E/C-V," said the paper, as if speaking to me. "Indeed," Nim was saying as I sat, frozen, beside him. "J'adoube, the French chess term meaning I touch, I adjust. That is what a player speaks when he is about to adjust one of his pieces during a game. Followed by the letters 'C.V.,' which are your initials. It suggests that this fortune-teller was sending you a mesage of some sort. She wants to get in touch with you, perhaps. I realize...what on earth is making you look so dreadful?" he said. "You don't understand," I told him, my voice limp with fear. "J'adoube...was the last word that Fiske said in public. Just before he died." [Cue spooky music...ooooohhhhwhhhooooooohhhhoooooo...]

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blast from the Past - Judit Polgar - Batumi

Chess By Robert Byrne January 16, 2000 Polgar, Just One of the Boys,Hems In a Russian's Queen Terms that no longer have any application sometimes persist in a vacuous afterlife. One such is the locution ''men's tournament,'' when what is really meant is ''not exclusively for women,'' or ''open to both sexes.'' It would be reasonable to call such a competition an ''open tournament,'' but few sponsors make the effort to reach this level of verbal precision. In the European Teams Championship in Batumi, Georgia, we get the anomalous report that the best result on Board 2 of the ''Men's Tournament'' was achieved by Judit Polgar of Hungary. You can take my word for it that Judit Polgar, a grandmaster, is a woman, the strongest in the history of the game. Her score of 6�-2� and her gold medal were also not in dispute. She gave a taste of her skill in her third round game with the grandmaster Sergei Volkov of Russia. The capture with defines the Burn Variation of the French Defense. Black relinquishes his main center pawn, thus avoiding a cramped position, but after 5 Ne4, White has an advantage in space. After 5...Be7, a retreat with 6 Ng3 would lack punch, and 6 Nf6 Bf6 7 Bf6 Qf6 would oversimplify and create too many chances for a draw. The favored method is 6 Bf6, when 6...Bf6 7 Nf3 gives Black problems arranging a counterattack on the white center, and the best continuation, the recapture with, leaves Black with doubled f pawns. After 9 Qe2, Volkov disdained the stodgy, defensive 9...c6, to be followed by 10...Qc7 and 11...Nbd7, in favor of Qd5, by which he prevented Polgar from castling queenside, the more potent of her two options. No sooner had Polgar taken the first step of a mating attack with 12 a4! than Volkov erred with 12...f5? and found after 13 Nc3! that his queen, cut off from h5, was in trouble. He should have defended by 12...a5. After 13 Nc3, he became rattled and blundered again, this time with 13...Qa5? instead of doing the best he could with 13...Qd6. However, that could not be expected to save him from 14 a5 Kb8 15 ab ab 16 Ra7! Bc6 17 Rea1, threatening the quietly crushing 18 Bb5! or 18 Nb5! Polgar's 15 c3 threatened to win material with 16 b4, thus forcing Volkov to loosen his king position with 15...c5. After 16 g3!, her king knight was released to do deadly damage. If 16...f4, then 17 Nd2 fg 18 hg Bd5 19 Bc4 Bc4 19 Nc4 Qa6 20 Ne5 Qb7 21 Nf7 Nf8 22 Nd8 Kd8 23 Rad1 will win easily. Volkov judged that 16...a6 17 Nd2! ab 18 ab Qa1 19 Ra1 cd 20 cd Bd6 would let him put up maximum resistance. After 22 Qc2, Volkov should have tried 22...Kb8, which would offer more resistance than losing a pawn by 22...Nf6? 23 Nb6 Kb8 24 Qc5. After 27 Ra4, Volkov had no defense against 28 Qa7 Kc8 29 Rc4, so he gave up.

The Queen Who Became King

No, this isn't about Judit Polgar, although come to think of it, perhaps there is a slight resemblance... :) Queen/Pharaoh Hatshepsut has been in the news a lot recently, with Supreme Antiquities Director of Egypt Zahi Hawass saying that the Queen's mummy has been positively identified by virtue of a tooth, although DNA testing is also underway. The Smithsonian online magazine featured an extension article about Hatsepsut in September, 2006, and it's fascinating. A lot of things that we were taught about this female Pharaoh were colored through the eyes of 19th century white male historians who were HORRIFIED that this Queen allegedly usurped the throne of the young Thutmose III. And, it turns out, a lot of those things were WRONG! Hmmm, a familiar theme... Here's the link to the Hatsepsut article - it's too lengthy to reproduce here.

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Final Line-Up

USCF posted a story with the final line-up for the 2007 Women's Championship to be held in Stillwater, OK next month, along with a link to a dedicated website for the Championship. I really like the idea of having a website just for the event - there was no separate website for the "Men's" event. 2006 Women's championship Zatonskih will be competing, so the final field is: Player USCF Rating FIDE Rating Krush, Irina (WGM, IM) 2497 2479 Zatonskih, Anna (WGM, IM) 2491 2462 Baginskaite, Camilla (WGM) 2361 2328 Rohonyan, Katerine (WGM) 2304 2332 Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg (WIM) 2275 2236 Abrahamyan, Tatev (WFM) 2258 2237 Battsetseg, Tsagaan (WIM) 2234 2241 Melekhina, Alisa (WFM) 2168 2104 Airapetian, Chouchanik (WFM) 2157 2162 Vicary, Elizabeth (WFM) 2155 2148 Prior posts on the Championship may be found here, here and here. Thanks to Frank K. Berry for bearing most of the expense for this Championship and for being a big fan and supporter of women's chess. We need more people like you, Mr. Berry. Everyone please read Mr. Berry's website (I assume it is sponsored by him, it doesn't appear to be the work of USCF) and please read here for my scintilating commentary when the Championship begins :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prison Chess 2

As a follow-up to Prison Chess, what should I find tonight but an article about Karpov playing chess with Russian inmates! Karpov to play online chess with prisoners Posted online: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 0000 hours IST MOSCOW, JUN 26: Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov will play online chess with inmates of the Russian prisons on Wednesday. Russian agency Novosti on Tuesday reported that the prison inmates would be able to log on to Karpov's website and play online chess with him. The Federal Prisons office feels the exercise will help them check about the welfare of the inmates. "This online chess tournament would also give us a unique opportunity to test the integrated automated information system for the welfare of the prison inmates," the office said. ******************************************************************************* Well, I guess I'm just an old Democrat reactionary after all -- what the **** - an opportunity to test "the integrated automated information system for the welfare of the prison inmates?" Do they have microphones in the urinals?

The Lady, the Canadian and the Viking

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño Chessmoso (From the Cebu Sun-Star online - Philippines) A LADY member? So what’s the fuzz all about? A lady chess player is not something extraordinary. There are probably hundreds of professional women out there who play chess. However, in all my years of involvement in the game, I have observed that women are very shy and are afraid to compete against men. The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) was established in June 1990 and there has never been a lady member. That is 17 long years! And to think that we had a peak of more than 130 members in the early 90s. True, we have women who sometimes play in our tournaments, but they only play as invited guests. Noteworthy among the lot was Therese Gonzales, who was able to win a monthly title, not with her charms, which she has plenty of, but with her true chess talent. This brave young lady is 29-year-old Marylou Pagarigan, who is presently connected with Cebu International School as a teacher in computer science and information technology. She learned to play the game when she was six years old and has been quite active in competing in big tournaments. She was the best female player in the Cagayan leg of the Shell Active Chess Championship in 1996 and competed in the Palarong Pambansa games in Cebu (1994), Pangasinan (1995, board 2 champion), Socsargen (1996), Naga (1997) and in Bacolod (1998). She also joined the Philippine National Women’s Championship in Iligan City in 1995, the National LGUlympics in Iloilo in 1998 and the Far East Bank’s regional tournaments from 1995-97 in Iligan City. She joined our monthly tournament last Sunday, when she won over another new member, Harry Doyle and drew with Surigao’s Manie Yuson, another potential new member, who played as a guest for the meantime. Yuson had expressed her intention to upgrade to full member soon. Doyle is a Canadian, who obviously enjoyed the exercise and who has a lively sense of humor. He wrote in the information sheet, “My name is Harry Doyle and I lived in the East Coast of Canada on the Atlantic Ocean. The big cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver produce our best players. In 2000, I suffered a stroke and was advised by my doctor from the Philippines to play an hour of chess everyday. Seven years later, all the symptoms of the stroke are gone. My chess, however, has not improved much, but I do have fun. I am happily married to a Filipina who gave me a beautiful son, Joseph, who is now seven.” Another new member is a Viking from Demark, Per Stentejerg-Hansen. Hansen is the strongest foreigner to ever become a member of Cepca. He has an Elo rating of 2240 and that should make him a National Master. Not surprisingly, he won the tournament, the first foreigner to do so. Hansen defeated the great Bent Larsen in 1996 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Larsen was obviously on the decline as he was one of the best players in the 1960’s and ’70s and was once called the strongest player never to become a world champion. To beat the great Larsen, who visited Cebu I think in 1973, is certainly a great achievement. Hansen is married to Crispina Limpot from Baclayon, Bohol since 1994 and they have two daughters aged nine and 11 years old. He is an accountant by profession. He wrote, “Chess helps me find new friends. It is a game about fight and strict analysis and it is nice to relax with.” Another new member is Randy Cabuncal, 27, who is connected with Fast Logistics Corporation. Cabuncal was a board one varsity player of the University of San Carlos Boys High School. Here are the results of last Sunday’s June tournament at five rounds; first placer, Hansen (4.5), second and third placers, Mandy Baria (4.0) and Joe Atillo (4.0), fourth and fifth placers, Ramon Pangilinan and Maggie Dionson (3.5). ********************************************************************************* Well, for goddess' sake, the least he could have done was give Marylou Pagarigan's score too!

The Tomb of Firuzan (Abu-lolo) in Kashan Destroyed

A horrible thing has occurred in Iran. To the Iranian people, who are rightly proud of their past (pre-Islamic) and their culture's contributions to the world, this is probably akin to the world's loss of the Bamiyan Buddhas blown up by the barbarian Taliban. CAIS (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) issued a press release today: Mohammad-Ali E. from Isfahan LONDON, (CAIS) -- The tomb of Firuzan commonly known as Emāmādeh Abu-lolo (or Abu Lulu) in Kashahn, Isfahan province is being destroyed by the order of the Islamic Regime. A large crowd of Iranians have gathered outside the governor's office on Tuesday, June 26th, to voice their objection regarding the destruction of the Iranian heritage, and a shrine which was one of the symbols of Iranian resistance against the Arab invaders in 7th century CE, and to some, a Shia and a revered Sufi. Umar al-Khattab, the second Moslem Caliph was put to death by Firuzan in 645 CE. It is said that Firuzan was a POW captured after the fall of Ctesiphon in what is today known as Iraq, and sold as a slave. A parvenu Arab leader called Mughira ibn Shu’ba bought him and took him to Medina in Arabia for slavery work. Most probably Firuzan was a Zoroastrian (by some accounts he was a priest), as the majority of Iranian were at the time of Arab occupation of Iran in 7th century. “His [Firuzan] action was in response to atrocities that were committed by Arab-Muslim invaders in Iran, which resulted in massacre, rape, looting of our country – we Iranians never forgot nor forgive their crimes against us”, said one of the protestors. Some Arab, as well as committed Muslim historians, in order to undermine Firuzan’s bravery and heroism have claimed (ultimately all derived from Ibn Shihab account) that he murdered Umar, and an argument over the tax levy. During the Safavid era and the rise of Shia Islam to power, the dynasty named him Bābā Shojā ul-Din (the one who is brave in the cause of religion) and claimed that he was a devout Shia and a martyr. Another angry protester said: "they say he is not buried here - or some say he wasn't Muslim at all - so what? - as far as we concern this edifice represents him, our faith and resistance against the uncivilised invaders" - and another one added: "if Abu Lolo was an Arab, they would have erect a golden dome on top of his shrine, rather than destroying it - but no, no - they destroy his shrine, just because he was an Iranian - a noble Iranian - this is an insult to Iranian nation". Mohammad Salim Al'awa, the Secretary-General of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), who believes God have "created women for pregnancy and childbirth" purposes speaking to Al-Arabiat New-agency said: "the request for its destruction was delivered to Iran by a group of Arab representatives a few months ago, after the Doha assembly at the beginning of the year. At the assembly a large number of Sunni scholars asked Iran for the destruction of the tomb". "Imagine the Germans asking Britain to destroy the graves of the brains behind the British plan to kill Hitler [Operation Foxley] during WWII, sine it is considered an insult to Protestants - would the British accept that? - the murder of Omar by Firuz[an] wasn't to do with religion, it was simply removing a despot and a tyrant from the face of the earth - as the British wanted to do the same with Hitler", said N. one of the protestors outside the governor's office in Kashan. Firuzan mausoleum located on the road from Kashan to Fins consisted of a courtyard, porch and conical dome decorated with turquoise coloured tiles, and painted ceilings. The Original date of it's construction is unknown, but in second-half of fourteen century it was fully restored and a new tombstone was placed over his grave. There are what I believe to be "before" and "after" photos of the tomb at CAIS.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The 2006 Women's World Chess Championship

I was curious about what’s going on, if anything, with respect to the Women’s World Chess Championship. The "other" event that no one calls the "men’s" championship has been so much in the chess news lately, what with FIDE doing yet another change of the rules or whatever so that Topalov will be able to play – well someone – it’s all very confusing to me, even after I read through the posts at the Daily Dirt on the subject. So the guys who are playing in Mexico City in a few months now are basically just playing for a check and not the right to play – well – whoever? Something like that. The Mexico City sponsors should pull their money out and tell FIDE to go shove it while also taking them to Court for breach of contract. But that won’t ever happen, folks, too much money’s already changed hands for that! FIDE has a Women’s World Chess Championship listed on its 2008 calendar but no dates or venue have been penciled in yet – perhaps sponsorship is a problem, or perhaps 2008 will be the year FIDE pulls the plug on the separate Women’s Championship once and for all. I seem to have contracted amnesia when it comes to who the current Women’s World Chess Champion is! The last one I remember is Stefanova, but the actual Champion is Xu Yuhua of China, who won the event in Ekaterinburg in 2006 – yes you’re going WHO? Thing is, through April, 2007 she hasn’t played a single FIDE rated game since she won the Championship! I didn’t remember who she was/is either! Not a good sign. I dug up some old gossip at Mig’s Daily Dirt to the effect of press reports that she was pregnant during the 2006 event and she was 30 at the time. Subsequent reports confirmed the birth of a son on August 23, 2006. Certainly 31-32 isn’t old for a chessplayer (Judit Polgar is the same age), but perhaps the demands of motherhood and the fact that she’s won the Championship once may mean that personal inclination and the possibility that the Chinese government wants the women’s crown to pass to a younger player (such as 13 year old Hou Yifan) may be coinciding. My guess is that Xu won’t be defending her title, although how one can defend in a knock-out event is beyond me!!! Unless she starts playing soon and training real hard (or is already doing so behind the scenes), it doesn't seem likely she'd be in chessly shape to compete. I wonder if she made any money through endorsements at home in China? Xu WON the 2007 China Laureus Award for best "non-Olympic" sportsperson title on May 12, 2007 at the Chinese Laureus Sports Awards held in Changsha, Hunan Province. The article incorrectly states that she has won several world chess championships; she has only won one title, that in 2006. However, she won the Women's World Cup in 2000 and 2002, so perhaps that is what was meant. Mark Weeks has a website entirely devoted to the world chess championships (regular and women’s). Here is a list of women’s champions: 2006 Ekaterinburg (Xu Yuhua 1st) 2004 Elista (Stefanova 1st) 2001 Moscow (Zhu Chen 1st) 2000 New Delhi (Xie Jun 1st) 1995-99 Kishinev Groningen Xie Jun - Z.Polgar (forfeit) 1993-96 Jakarta Tilburg Z.Polgar - Xie Jun 1991-93 Subotica Shanghai Xie Jun - Ioseliani 1990-91 Azov Borzomi Xie Jun - Chiburdanidze 1987-88 Smederevska Palanka Chaltubo Chiburdanidze - Ioseliani 1985-86 Havana Malmo Chiburdanidze - Akhmilovskaya 1982-84 Bad Kissingen Matches Chiburdanidze - Levitina 1979-81 Alicante Matches Chiburdanidze - Alexandria 1976-78 Roosendaal Matches Chiburdanidze - Gaprindashvili 1973-75 Menorca Matches Gaprindashvili - Alexandria 1971-72 Ohrid Matches Gaprindashvili - Kushnir 1967-69 Subotica Gaprindashvili - Kushnir 1964-65 Sukhumi Gaprindashvili - Kushnir 1961-62 Vrnjacka Banja Gaprindashvili - Bikova 1959-60 Plovdiv Bikova - Zvorikina 1958 Bikova - Rubtsova 1955-56 Moscow Moscow (3 players; Rubtsova 1st) 1952-53 Moscow Bikova - Rudenko 1949/50 Moscow (Rudenko 1st) 1939 Buenos Aires Menchik 1st 1937 Stockholm Menchik 1st 1937 Semmering Menchik - Graf 1935 Warsaw Menchik 1st 1934 Rotterdam Menchik - Graf 1933 Folkestone Menchik 1st 1931 Prague Menchik 1st 1930 Hamburg Menchik 1st 1927 London Menchik 1st

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prison Chess

Some players are so desperate to play in a local rated tournament they will do just about anything - even go to prison :) Inmate, cellmate, checkmate! (The Barre Montpelier Times Argus) June 25, 2007 By Wilson Ring Associated Press NEWPORT — When a doctor, a lawyer, a software tester and three other people were buzzed through the heavy metal doors into the Northern State Correctional Facility one day recently, they weren't there to serve sentences. They were there for the competition — in chess. In a four-hour tournament recognized by the U.S. Chess Federation, the six civilians and 10 inmates from the prison chess club squared off in an event welcomed by players from outside and in. "One of the coolest things about this, is to play a rated game around here, I'd have to go to Foxwoods (the Connecticut casino) or Boston," said Bob Sassaman, of Calais, a veteran tournament chess player. While it's not uncommon for inmates to pass their time playing chess, what makes quality tournament chess in prisons is the influence of players from the outside. "Whether it's a prison club or regular club, they draw a variety of players. They don't differ much," said Joan Dubois, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee-based U.S. Chess Federation. "They will have their good players and their bad. The problem in a prison is you do not draw in outside people, the pool of players gets stagnant. They really need to play against new blood." And that's what the tournaments at the Newport prison accomplish. The prison chess club was formed in January by Bill Storz, a chess buff who teaches at the Northern State branch of the Community High School of Vermont, an education system run by the Vermont Department of Corrections. It held one tournament in April and another on June 15. "What you get out of it is what you put into it," said Storz, who founded the club as an extracurricular activity for the students. "I help guys pick up on some of the life lessons: ... Thinking through a sequence of events, what are the possible outcomes? If I do this for short-term benefit, without thinking of long term results, what really is the benefit of that?" Inmate Rick Doner, 32, of Rutland, said he and others play on their own, even when the club isn't meeting on Friday afternoons." The competition in here is actually better than I thought it was going to be," said Doner, who is serving 1-to-10 for grand larceny. The U.S. Chess Federation lists seven affiliated clubs in prisons, from Maryland to Massachusetts. (The Northern State club isn't on the list because it's listed through its connection to the school rather than the prison). In New Hampshire, inmates at the men's prison in Concord have a chess club, Corrections Department spokesman Jeff Lyons said. They play among themselves, not against outsiders. At Northern State, games are played in a small room in the school section of the prison, with the only sound coming from clicks when players hit their time clocks. Some games move quickly and are over within a handful of moves and a few minutes. Others take longer, the pieces staying on the board as each player maneuvers for advantage. Charles Aronowitz, a retired attorney from Montreal who teaches chess in an elementary school and has played in both of the tournaments at the Newport prison, finished second in April and 12th in the June 15 tournament. "These guys have improved in only two months," said Aronowitz. The top-rated player in the event was Newport urologist Armando Lopez, an "expert" under the chess federation's rating system. Not that the rating guaranteed a win; he lost in the title match to Sassaman, a software tester with a "B" rating. The prison's top-rated player, Al Hennessey, 28, of Burlington, who's serving a 2-to-10-year sentence for burglary, won the first tournament held at the Newport prison, in April. He finished fifth in the most recent one, and he says he looks forward to playing in more. He says he spends a good deal of his time studying chess strategy. "I have a lot more time on my hands," he said. On the Web:Community High School of Vermont: U.S. Chess Federation: Hmmmm, there is something about this that really bothers me. I don't think the USCF should be promoting chess among convicted criminals. I don't have a problem with people in jail playing chess - but I wonder - if the benefits of chess are as touted by the scholastic people and assuming these criminals don't have atrophied brains - is chess teaching them how to be better criminals in the future, when they have served their time and/or get out on parole??? You know - learning how to plan ahead, foresee consequences, and execute both short-term tactics and long-term strategy? One might also wonder what might happen if, say, a jailed pedophile learns chess inside and - under the auspices of these USCF authorized tournaments, learns about the popularity of scholastic chess either through chatting with outside chessplayers and/or being exposed to USCF's magazines and promotional materials; and after he gets out, he becomes a "volunteer" at a local scholastic chess outreach program or involved in a grade school chess club. Well, maybe I'm just being paranoid. Maybe.

Monday, June 25, 2007

2004 U.S. Women's Olympiad Chess Team in Budapest?

BUDAPEST, June 22 (Xinhua) -- After a 10-year interval, the chess Olympic champion Polgar sisters - Zsuzsa, Zsofia and Judit -will once again play together in a simultaneous chess exhibition in Budapest on Sunday, local media reported.

Judit agreed to play 34 games while her elder sisters will meet 33 opponents each in the Corinthia Grand Hotel, starting at 1500 hours local time.

Meanwhile, members of the U.S. Olympic team, for which Zsuzsa played in the last Olympics, will play 30-minute rapid games with young Hungarian talents during the meet.

The Polgar trio triumphed in two chess Olympics, winning in Thessaloniki in 1988 and in Novi Sad two years later. Each of the three has two children, with Zsuzsa living in the United states, Zsofia in Canada and Judit in Budapest.

Judit is way out ahead in first place on the women's world ranking list and is 13th on the men's global list.
This was interesting, not because of the simul by the Polgars in Budapest (Susan Polgar posted photographs of the event on her blog, the sisters looked very glamorous and quite lovely, the shot above is my favorite, they all look absolutely spectacular), but the mention of the U.S. Olympic team that Susan Polgar played on in the last Olympics - meaning the 2004 Olympics as she did not play on the 2006 Team - is playing 30 minute games with Hungarian children.

Okay - so does this mean that Jennifer Shahade, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih are in Budapest? Anna Zatonskih who may not play in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Chess Championship because she had a baby in March? Did Judit arrange for Aquaprofit to fly the ladies over for such an event? I sure haven’t seen any publicity about it – maybe this is a mistake???

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Alisa Melekhina and "The Eight"

It’s all Katherine Neville’s fault that I ever got involved in the old message board at the Art Bell website (long defunct, but we saved all of our posts from there and call it "The Weave", stored at Goddesschess) – all because of her book "The Eight," which I have read twice and now feel a hankering to read yet again, it’s that good of a story.

I don’t want to give too much away – I recommend you read it for yourselves, darlings – it’s a great read, on many levels. I was first struck by the fact that the main "heroes" in the story are two women! They are amply supported by male characters but – that’s the point – the men are helpful and romantic interests – but they are subsidiary, usually the role reserved for females in novels – except romance novels written mainly by and for female readers, but this ain’t no romance story. It’s a rip-roaring adventure with a mystery that grabs you by the throat right from the beginning of the story, and I sure as hell didn’t figure it out until the very end when it was like WOW – WHAT AN ENDING! And it revolves around a chess set – the mythic Charlemagne chess set, rumored to have been a gift to him from the powerful and learned Muslim ruler ar-Rashid. Fascinating stuff – lots of history and lots of adventure and action, more twists and turns and surprises than you can shake a stick at. Neville wrote a female character, Catherine "Cat" Velis, the equivalent of Indiana Jones.

It’s probably not going too far to say that Katherine Neville’s novel literally changed my life in ways I could not have foreseen when I first settled down to read the book. I should not have been surprised then, when I started to do research on Alisa Melekhina, that – sure as shooting – "The Eight" showed up!

At 15, Alisa is the youngest player in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, and I wanted to learn more about her. I learned that Alisa and her parents emigrated to this country when she was just a few months old; that Alisa is a dancer, a writer and published author as well as a chessplayer, and that she is an all around great young lady. And this is one of the things that showed up in my Google search:

Alisa and The Eight
by Steve Goldberg
columnnist, "Scholastic Chess"
February, 2005

It's part of a larger story about youthful "Chess Queens"

You can also read the full story here. And if you’re interested in learning more about Katherine Neville and her writing, check out her website.

Long live The Eight and good luck to Alisa in the upcoming Championship.
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