Saturday, July 7, 2007

Where Is AF4C In It's Own Home Town?

Isn’t Seattle where America’s Foundation for Chess got it’s start??? What the heck is going on here – why aren’t these kids in a program funded by AF4C??? Did Eric Anderson run out of money??? Seattle Times July 1, 2007 Chess club teaches kids skills to play and live by By Tricia Duryee Seattle Times staff reporter Jacob Lewis, 7, watches intently as his opponent gets help from Seattle Police Officer Denise "Cookie" Bouldin at Rainier Beach Library's Urban Youth Chess Club on Saturday. Amauri Boss didn't want the chess club at Rainier Beach Library to end for the summer, so the 10-year-old wrote a letter. "The letter said I enjoy coming to the chess club, and I think that it should keep going in the summer and even next year," he said Saturday during the club's championship. Boss sent the letter to Seattle Police Officer Denise "Cookie" Bouldin, who organized the club as part of her job as a community liaison. Last year, Bouldin said, she held a basketball tournament to provide activities for South-end youths, but this year, she asked the kids what they wanted, and they said chess. "It is still a surprise to me, as well as everyone else, but I think the kids wanted people to know they aren't just about basketball," she said. Since February, Cookie's Urban Chess Club has met every Saturday for two hours. At first, only three kids showed, but soon, 15 to 25 kids — ages 5 to 16 — started attending, she said. To teach the game, Bouldin recruited volunteer David Delgado, a youth counselor and chess coach. Delgado said chess teaches the important life skill of evaluating situations before making quick decisions. "Seattle is missing chess. I grew up on the East Coast, and every city has a chess park. This city doesn't have that, and chess kept me from a lot of negative things," he said. On the final day, about 15 kids showed up. Each child received a bright yellow T-shirt and a trophy that said "Make chess not war." Anika Brown, 7, sat down to play Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who was there to congratulate the children on completing the program. Anika was so small she had to kneel in her chair to reach some of the chess pieces, but Kerlikowske admitted defeat. "She pulled it off," he said. On the opposite side of the table, competition was just as intense. Seven-year-old Jacob Lewis told his opponent, 5-year-old Nile Hunter: "I can beat you in four moves." Anika's father, Daryl, who said all four of his kids have attended the club, said the game offers something that athletic sports don't: "It is an equalizer. It's not about size. It's about how hard you work." And Amauri got his wish: The club will resume in August. Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

The Eight - Trois

(Page 169) The Chess Master’s Tale (As recited by Philidor) At the age of nineteen, I left France and journeyed to Holland to accompany upon the hautebois, or oboe, a young pianist, a girl who, as a child prodigy, was to perform there. Unfortunately I arrived to discover the child had died a few days earlier of smallpox. I was stranded in a foreign country with no money and now no hope of an income. To support myself, I went to the coffee houses and played chess. From the age of fourteen, I’d studied chess under the tutelage of the famous Sire de Legal, France’s best player and perhaps the finest in Europe. By eighteen I could beat him with the handicap of a Knight. As a result, as I soon discovered, I could better every player I encountered. In The Hague, during the Battle of Fontenoy, I played against the Price of Waldeck as the battle raged around us. I traveled through England, playing at Slaughter’s Coffee House in London against the best players they had to offer, including Sir Abraham Janssen and Philip Stamma, beating them all. Stamma, a Syrian possibly of Moorish ancestry, had published several books on chess. He showed these to me, as well as books written by La Bourdonnais and Marechal Saxe. Stamma thought that I, with my unique powers of play, should write a book as well. My book, published several years later, was entitled Analyse du Jeu des Eschecs. In it I proposed the theory "The pawns are the soul of chess." In effect, I showed that the pawns were not only objects to be sacrificed, but could be used strategically and positionally against the opposing player. This book created a revolution in chess.

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Airapetian

WFM Chouchanik Airapetian 2162 (FIDE)

C.A. participated in the 2007 U.S. Championship (it is not so designated and is open to qualifying players of both sexes, but I call it the "Men’s" event because that’s what it is, de facto) but did not do very well, scoring only 1.5/9.

She’s an underdog in the Women’s Championship, being one of the lower-rated players, but she’s a fighter, and I expect we’ll see some exciting games from C.A.

I got the following biographical information from the USCF website:

Chouchanik (b. April 20, 1975) originates from Leninakan, Armenia and learned the royal game from her mother at the age of seven. A talented youngster, she earned a place at the Armenian national team and eventually represented Armenia during the Women's Interzonal tournament, a qualification tournament for the Women's World Championship, in Georgia,1993.

Arapetian came to the U.S. in August, 1994. Chouchanik lives in Burbank, California with her husband, a former member of the Armenian national volleyball team. Among her hobbies are swimming, tennis, and shopping.

A longer biography on C.A. can be found at this Chessbase article (written by Duif) from October 2, 2005, along with several photographs of C.A. and her husband, Ararat Agaian.

In the 2005 Championships C.A. finished with 3.5 points (54th out of 64 players), winning $2,400 for her performance.

You can find some of C.A.’s games here.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola Darlings! Man oh man, it is HOT and HUMID out there. Yech! After bussing it from downtown (where I work) and trekking a half mile from the bus stop to the supermarket, and then lugging home 16 pounds of groceries (I have it down to an art - I can carry eight pounds in bags dangling from each hand) and walking the mile home, I am pooped! And sweaty - double yech! I am very girly when it comes to sweat - I hate it, even though it is designed to cool one off. I just get drippy and my make-up starts to run, I don't get any cooler. So tonight I'm just winging it while I sit front and center next to the cooling vent and slowly decompress (and dry off). I'm taking the night almost-off! I wanted to mention first off about Susan Polgar's appearance and involvement with the 2007 Canadian Youth Championship. All those great photographs she's had posted at her blog makes me want to visit Ottawa. My significant other is a Canadian and a few years ago we talked about taking a road tour to Ottawa, I think I'll resurrect the subject :) It looks like a lovely city. I think it's just great that Susan Polgar has made herself so accessible to the young chess players, as well as giving lectures and simuls and signing autographs and advice - whew! The CYC is just the latest in a string of events that she has been involved in. The woman is a whirlwind! I may not always agree with her views or some of her actions, but I do admire her and have a great deal of respect for her, both for her accomplishments (which are myriad) and for her personal integrity. Although I do not know her personally and have never met her, I also find her to be a warm woman, and a committed and caring and passionate woman. Those qualities come through in her posts and photographs. She'd be someone really nice to get a hug from if you needed one, and someone you could always rely upon to cover your back in battle - er, just everyday life. Moving on - I received the July edition of Chess Life Magazine in the mail today. I've just been flipping through it here and there. It's fabulous that the cover this month is of Jesse Krai, who at age 34 recently earned his third and final GM norm. WAY TO GO JESSE! He is also, as the cover by-line reads, the first American-born person in TEN FRICKING YEARS to earn a GM title. Well, it doesn't exactly say that - but that's the point it makes! Okay - I'm a little emotional over the subject, I'll admit. We have 300 million people in the USA and at least some of them have been BORN here - why aren't we producing more GMs (of both sexes)? (Darlings - that was a rhetorical question...) Just skimming through Jennifer Shahade's interview with Jesse on page 25, he was pleased to note "that I could still do well with the ladies and ride my bike around!" (even though he was "materially poor"). Well yes of course, darling! Some women prefer guys with great legs, and biking gives a man great legs. My own main man bikes all over Montreal and environs and has really great legs :) (Gee, maybe I shouldn't write that, he may get embarrassed - oh, what the heck). Back on page 8, in an article about the Fairfield Knights chess team of Fairfield High School in Ohio - I noted only one girl in the photograph of a group of "fans" that includes nine bare-chested teenaged boys who have no business going shirtless because they just don't have the physiques for it :) She was fully dressed, by the way, and quite cute, too. Alas, what kind of role-models do those shirtless boys - who painted letters on their under-developed chests spelling out "CHECK MATE" - have? They are only emulating what they see on television during football season - grown men who should know better parade around half-naked and painted in NFL stadiums all across the land. LOL and blech! I'd really rather not see all those shots of gelantinous blobs of men who need bras, serious diets and liposuction. Now here's a thought - if a baby was hungry and needed milk, could a man with such breasts nurse, do you think? With a blanket thrown over the offending boob, of course! We wouldn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, after all... You know, I'm sure I read a story somewhere - perhaps the National Inquirer? - about just such a man who, under dire circumstances, nursed an infant from his man boobs. Hmmm... Getting back to that article on page 8 of Chess Life - the article was "signed" by one Jonathan Hilton and he has a sense of humor, yippee! He actually led off the article with a "cheer" regarding Bobby Fischer that was performed at one time or other on Saturday Night Live. I don't recall ever seeing the cheer performed but just reading the words - and being familiar with the zanies who have populated the show over the years - I was laughing out loud "seeing" it performed in my mind's eye. This introduction caught my attention and I read the rest of the article to find it very interesting - and well done. Okay - one more entry while my bubble bath is filling up - I'll go back and read the entire article later on but I have to mention the ending to the "All Girls' National Again a Success" article on pages 36-37 by Betsy Dynako which ends "If you looked at the sea of chess players studying moves while in dresses and pigtails, many with stuffed animals at their side, it may lead you to believe that the players are weak. Most boys would consider those "girly" things a sign of weakness, ..." Well, the only photograph of the event in the article shows NO girls with pigtails and they are wearing teeshirts (probably with jeans or shorts). As for the stuffed animals "on the side," if it's good enough for Judith Polgar, it's good enough for me, darlings!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Could this be Xi Wang Mu - Queen Mother of the West?

Xi Wang Mu (Hsi Wang Mu) is the Queen Mother of the West, the Chinese Daoist goddess of immortality. Many legends have been written about Xi Wang Mu; in some, she hands out beautiful ripe peaches to worthy mortals who, when they eat the fruit, attain the gift of everlasting life. In some legends, Xi Wang Mu started out her life as a mortal woman who achieved everlasting life by mastering a series of tests; in still older legends, Xi Wang Mu was a goddess or the instrument of the primary Chinese mother goddess who inflicted terror and vengence on men, a fearsome creature who is part woman, part tiger. Xi Wang Mu shares many characteristics with other goddesses during the ancient times, including the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Hathor, the Assyrian goddess Astarte (Ashtoroth or Ashtoreth) and the Babylonian goddess Inanna.

During the Qin and Han Dynasties in particular (220 BCE - 206 BCE and 206 BCE - 220 CE), the Goddess Xi Wang Mu became closely identified with the board game liubo (literally "six sticks"). Liubo was first mentioned in events in the Shang dynasty (1600-1028 BCE), some six to twelve centuries after the invention of Weiqi ("Go"), but it died out from popular by the 5th century CE.

Some authors have suggested that liubo was an ancestor of Xiangqi - Chinese Chess; others see no connection, and others still say the evidence is insufficient to say either way.

When I saw this photograph, I was reminded of certain depictions of Xi Wang Mu, one of her titles of whom is "Queen of the Heavens." Here is the story of the photograph:

July 3, 2007
Metaphysical China: Buddha/Mary calling?

Some odd news from the nation's favourite English paper today:

A human-shaped shadow in the middle of a rainbow halo appears on Zushan Mountain after a heavy rainfall in Qinhuangdao, North China's Heibei Province, July 1, 2007. The vision, which many tourists believed to be the Buddha, stayed for more than an hour. Meanwhile, it seems a revered shrine in Henan that has attracted 40,000 pilgrims annually on news of Marian apparitions may be torn down for "illegal religious activity". Hmm.


There is a scientific explanation for the phenomenon called "brocken spectre." But I think I prefer my explanation - it's a manifestation of the Goddess...

Sounds Like a Chess Politician to Me...

(Background: This is a story of the aftermath of what is called an 'eminent domain' proceeding, where a governmental authority condemns land for a public use, paying just compensation based on market value to the property owner. You'll see once you start reading the article that Mr. Biddy - I'm not making that name up - sounds an awful lot like one or more chess politicians we all know and don't love...) It was all a chess game Letters Article Launched: 07/05/2007 03:01:43 AM EDT Thursday, July 5 for Mr. Biddy My wife will look at me and ask how you can be so naive. A perfect example would be: Early on in the TAM transfer station debate, to use a Select Board member's strategy, I was told by someone. Mr. Biddy had stated to TAM that for a million dollars he would go away, I thought, how ridiculous. The town of Shaftsbury embarked upon the single biggest issue since the mining of Hale Mountain. The Select Board, Zoning Board, Planning Board and Solid Waste Committee spent thousands of hours looking at this project. Not really sure how many hours were spent by the Shaftsbury Committee for Responsible Growth. Right in the middle of the debate was Mr. Biddy. After all, Mr. Biddy had his entire life on the line. His home was going to have this impact. A building that Mr. Biddy himself wrote to the listers was falling down around him. People on the boards were very professional in not asking Mr. Biddy where he really was living. Mr. Biddy was more often than not a very sarcastic participant. I was included among those who were insulted by Mr. Biddy. I am amazed to this day that Mr. Trevor Mance didn't file a defamation of character (suit) against him. As a result of Mr. Biddy's actions, our own Select Board (some members) questioned the integrity of our own DRB. People who were trying to do the best they could under the law. I should also mention the time spent by the Act 250 Committee and state people who were called upon. In the meantime Shaftsbury taxpayers continued to pour money into the legal fray brought on by Mr. Biddy. Why am I bringing this all up now? The transfer station is up and running. The Selectman and TAM have been working out some of the kinks of the transfer station. It bothers me that this was all a method for Mr. Biddy to end up with $290,000. As Mr. Biddy stated, "It's all a chess game." I must say that I have spent a week vacillating between anger and sadness for lack of a better word. I started the process by having a townwide meeting. I stood before everyone and said there would be a process. Even if you didn't like the process or agree with the outcome, everyone had the opportunity to speak. In the meantime Mr. Biddy was expounding on moral issues, environmental issues and our world's future. In reality it was all about $290,000. Mr. Biddy did win the chess game. Unfortunately, the losers in the game are our friends and family here in Shaftsbury. If Mr. Biddy has any integrity left, let's see if he pays back the taxpayers of Shaftsbury. WYNN METCALFE

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Baginskaite

(Baginskaite defeated Nakamura during the 2006 U.S. Chess Championships, photo right).

Ms. Baginskaite will be playing in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. She has a current rating of 2328(FIDE). Here is some background information on CB:
Biography from the old portion of the USCF website and from new portion of USCF website:

WGM Camilla Baginskaite was born in Vilnius, Lithuania on April 24, 1967 and learned to play chess from her father when she was about eight years old. Baginskaite finished third in the World Championships for Girls under 20 in 1987 and a year later Camilla won the event — a remarkable accomplishment considering it was only her second international tournament and her first outside the USSR. This victory earned her the international master (IM) title.

  • She played first board for the Lithuanian women's team in three Olympiads (Manila, Moscow, Yerevan). In 1997, Camilla moved to the United States.
  • Camilla is married to GM Alex Yermolinsky and they have a son named Edward.
  • In 2000, CB won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship title after defeating Elina Groberman in a play-off round.
  • CB was NOT one of the members of the victorious U.S. Women’s Olympiad Team that won a Silver Medal for the USA at the 2004 Olympiad – our first ever Women’s Team Medal. She has, however, been a mainstay on our Women’s Olympiad teams, having played on the 2006 Team, which finished in 4th place in Turin, Italy (3.0/5), the 2002 team (5.5/11), and the 2000 team (5.5/10).
Some chess games of CB can be found here. Good luck to her in the upcoming championship!

Celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day!

Today is Independence Day – July 4th. As it does every year on this day, my local newspaper published the full text of the Declaration of Independence. I’m really getting sappy and sentimental in my old age, darlings! Reading it over my morning coffee brought tears to my eyes. This is going to sound more like a paeon to Thanksgiving Day than July 4th, but it’s suitable to think about all the wonderful things that being a citizen of this country affords me.

I am FREE to worship as I please – or not - with no one holding a figurative (or literal) gun to my head to make me practice a particular religion. I am FREE to work in my chosen profession, to have a fulfilling career, and make a decent living at it. I have not been deprived of my right to seek an education, decent housing, vote or work simply because I am a woman. I have not been sexually mutilated simply because I am a woman. I have a loving, healthy family and great friends all around me, and a wonderful man who – despite all warnings to the contrary, loves me very much - and we’re all busy seeking our own particular paths to happiness and fulfillment – being FREE to do so! I have a nice home that I had built just for myself and paid for out of my own wages, and a beautiful yard that I designed and labored over and continue to work on – my gardens are a joy, this is my own little piece of Paradise. Despite unceasing reports of violent crime in the USA I do not own a gun, I have never taken a class in self-defense, and I do not fear to walk down the streets, take public transportation or to go about my daily routine.

I have as much clean water as I need – just by turning the taps, to drink, cook with and to bathe in; I have an excess abundance of foods and products to choose from at the supermarket, I can afford to eat meat and fresh vegetables and drink milk every day, if I wish. I have access to the best medical care in the world and I don’t worry about how I’m going to pay for it. If I want some new clothes or new shoes or a new crock pot, I go out and buy them – no problem – there are thousands of choices I can make just by travelling to the mall a mile away. Or I can simply order things online! It’s hot and muggy here today; with the flick of a switch I turn on central air conditioning and have cool dry air to comfort me; in the winter with the flick of a switch, I have heat.

I am FREE to argue as much or as little (or not at all) as I want about politics, religion, the price of gasoline and property taxes and public education, and I have no fear that I will be thrown in jail because of the views I express (despite George W. Bush’s best efforts and, thank goddess, he’ll be out of office soon).

Well, I could go on and on – but I think you get the point! I am one LUCKY woman. I could have been born in Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or Ghana. But I was born and raised in the USA – and I have a wonderful life in no small part just because of that fact!

I will never forget one night in Amsterdam, at the end of November, 2001, where I was attending a symposium of chess historians. We had a gala dinner evening and I chatted with attendees to my right, and to my left, and across the table too (we Americans have such bad manners, but they seemed to like me anyway). As the long meal progressed and as more drinks and beer were consumed, conversation loosened. The very nice gentleman to my right, who was a director at the Max Euwe Centrum where the symposium was being held, said I must be very very rich! I said no, not at all, I’m just a middle class person. But, he said, you must be rich, you own your own home – a big home. No, I said, it’s not so big, just about 1,600 square feet. He said, that is a BIG house, and you have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a driveway and a garage big enough to hold two cars, and a big yard. Well, I said, it’s not all that big, it’s much smaller than average, actually, but I like it. And, he said, you live there all by yourself, shaking his head in disbelief. Yes, I said, that’s correct. You have no idea, he said, how rich you are. But, I said, you have a house too. Yes, he said, I do. It is a townhouse, with houses on either side, that go on block after block. There is no land, you see, for such gardens as you describe. And we do not have a garage, because we do not own a car, although some of the houses have put garages into the basements. But most people will not do that, only the very rich can afford to do that and one has to give up so much living space. Just for a car, no no. Only the very wealthy who own homes out in the country, have such a house and land as you describe, and most of them are not new, but are old, very old. And, until they died a few years ago, our parents shared the house with us, we could not have afforded to buy it otherwise.

Well, I said, I guess I am rich.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Eight - Deux

(page 168) "Montglane, did you say?" said Philidor, lowering his voice as they reached the club entry. "My dear David, as a chess player, I can assure you I know a good deal of the history of Montglane Abbey. Don’t you know the story?" "Yes, yes," said David, trying to control his irritation. "All a lot of mystical poppycock. The Montglane Service does not exist, and I’m surprised you should give credence to such a thing." "Give credence?" Philidor took David’s arm as they stepped out onto the blazing hot pavement. "My friend, I know it exists. And a great deal more. Well over forty years ago, perhaps before you were even born, I was a visitor at the court of Frederick the Great in Prussia. Whilst there, I made the acquaintance of two great men of such powers of perception as I shall never forget. One, you will have heard of – the great mathematician, Leonhard Euler. The other, as great in his own way, was the aged father of Frederick’s young court musician. But this musty old genius has been fated, I’m afraid, to a legacy buried in dust. Though no one in Europe has heard of him since, his music, which he performed for us one evening at the king’s request, was the finest I’ve heard in all my years. His name was Johann Sebastian Bach." "I’ve not heard the name," David admitted, "but what do Euler and this musician have to do with the legendary chess service?" "I shall tell you," Philidor said, smiling, "only if you agree to introduce me to these wards of yours. Perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of the mystery I’ve spent a lifetime trying to unravel!" (Page 169) David agreed, and the great chess master accompanied him on foot through the deceptively quiet streets along the Seine and across the Pont Royal toward his studio. The air was still; no leaf stirred on any tree. Heat rose in waves from the baking pavement, and even the leaden waters of the Seine coursed silently beside them as they walked. They could not know that twenty blocks away, in the heart of the Cordeliers, a bloodthirsty mob was battering down the doors of l’Abbaye Prison. And Valentine was inside. In the still, warm silence of that late afternoon, as the two men walked together, Philidor began his tale… Here's the first excerpt from The Eight, by Katherine Neville. Once you read this novel, you will know forever the connection between the game of chess and the Goddess...

"Living Goddess" Fired!

Nepali "living goddess" fired after U.S. visit

Tue Jul 3, 2:11 AM ET

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A 10-year-old Nepali girl worshipped as a living goddess, or Kumari, has lost her "divine" status for defying tradition and visiting the United States.

Sajani Shakya was installed at the age of two as the Kumari of the ancient town of Bhaktapur, near the capital Kathmandu, where she was revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike in deeply religious Nepal.

But a recent trip to the United States to promote a British-made documentary exploring Nepal's traditions and contemporary political turmoil has upset local religious leaders.

"It is wrong and against the tradition for her to go on a foreign tour without any permission," the chief of a trust that manages the affairs of Bhaktapur's Kumari tradition, Jai Prasad Regmi, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"This is impure in our tradition. We will search for a new Kumari and install her as the living goddess," Regmi said.

Bhaktapur's is one of several Kumaris in the Kathmandu valley, home to 1.5 million people. The most important lives in a 15th century temple in Kathmandu's ancient Durbar Square.

Living goddesses are chosen from the Buddhist Shakya family after a tough selection process.

They are required to stay in temples blessing devotees until reaching puberty, after which they rejoin their family and lead a normal life.

"We are discussing whether or not to pay Sajani monthly pension. We are positive on this," Regmi said.

While other living goddesses get a monthly pension of $17 (8 pounds) each after retirement, Kathmandu's gets about $50 a month.

Nepal's Supreme Court last year ordered the government to submit a detailed report on whether the Kumari tradition violated the children's human rights. Officials say the study is underway.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blast from the Past - Donaldson and Akhmilovskaya Elope

The New York Times
American Chess Captain Weds a Soviet Champion
AP Published: November 27, 1988

LEAD: The captain of the American Olympic chess team secretly married a Soviet woman ranked second among the world's woman chess players and left with her for the United States today.

The captain of the American Olympic chess team secretly married a Soviet woman ranked second among the world's woman chess players and left with her for the United States today. John Donaldson, 31 years old, and Yelena Akhmilovskaya, 32, were wed in this Greek port during a major tournament Friday, according to American players.

''It's a real love match - a marriage, not a defection,'' said Inna Izrailov, a Soviet who plays for the American women's team.

The couple's elopement deprived the United States men's team of its captain at a crucial stage in the Olympiad, a biannual world team championship that began in Salonika earlier this month. With three rounds remaining, the men's team is fourth.

''We really do mind losing our team captain, but we couldn't think of a finer reason why we should,'' said Yasser Sierawan of Seattle, America's top player and Mr. Donaldson's closest friend.

Mr. Sierawan said the couple hoped that Ms. Akhmilovskaya's daughter would eventually be allowed to join them in the United States. The 7-year-old girl is staying with her grandmother in the Soviet Union. Mr. Donaldson, an international master also from Seattle, and Ms. Akmilovskaya met three years ago at a world championship event in Havana.

The loss of Ms. Akhmilovskaya, a women's grandmaster, may make a bigger difference in the women's championship. The Soviets are slightly ahead of Hungary, whose remarkable three sisters - including Judit Polgar, the highest-ranked 12-year-old player ever - threatens to break three decades of Soviet domination.

Mr. Donaldson and Ms. Akmilovskaya were married in a civil ceremony at City Hall here, then returned to the playing hall to watch the United States women's team hold the Soviets to a draw.


The rest, as they say, is history. Here are some excerpts from Cathy Forbes' book "The Polgar Sisters: Training or Genius?", covering the events at the Thessaloniki Olympiad in 1988:

"In the event, the sisters [Polgars] did not disappoint, although the event was far from being a one-sided affair. Thessaloniki 1988 was the strongest and most dramatic women's Olyumpiad ever. It soon developed into a two-filly race between Hungary and the Soviets in which the lead fluctuated and outside events had a strong impact on the chess.

"The first of these was news of the tragic death of Bela Perenyi, euphemistically described as a 'close friend' of third board Ildiko Madl. This had a depressing effect on the Hungarian camp; Madl had to be rested for a few rounds, Sofia Polgar was in poor form and after en rounds Hungary was one and a half points behind the Soviets. Despite the absence of Gaprindashvili (who had scored 10/10 in the previous Olymmpiad in Dubai) it looked as though the experience of the Soviet team would tell in their favour. After all, their board two, world title challenger Elena Akhmilovskaya, was doing splendidly for them with 8 1-2/9...

"Round 11 - no Akhmilovskaya! The biggest story evr to hit an Olympiad broke. The Soviet board two had married the American team captian, IM John Donaldson, eloped with him, and defected to the United States! "

This extraordinary event was a major blow to Soviet hopes of the gold medal. Had Akhmilovskaya delayed her romantic flight for a few more rounds, it is more than possible that 'Polgaria' would have been trounced. As it was, news had leaked out of the Donaldsons' wedding in Greece and John and Elena feared her departure would be obstructed by the Soviet authorities if they got word of what had happened. Therefore both felt compelled to leave their teams in the lurch.

"Now the Hungarians seized their chance, drawing level with the Soviet Union by the end of the penultimate round. So all depended on the fourteenth and final round of matches. In a tense and nail-biting situation the Soviets could only manage a draw against the surprising Dutch team. Hungary, however, was not having things all its own way against Sweden. Judith won, taking her personal score to 11 1-2/13, but Madl could only draw. Susan was struggling, a pawn down, against Pia Cramling and it looked as though calculators would be required to work out the tie-break. In the event Susan fought back to hold the draw and so Hungary came home by half a point."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ghosts of Chessplayers Past

Larry Evans' column this week from the is too good to pass up! Ghosts of chess players past Posted July 1 2007 "I asked Viktor Korchnoi if he thought he had really played against the ghost of Geza Maroczy. 'Well, you can never be sure,' he said. But my impression was he thought there was a good chance that he had." — Dutch grandmaster Hans Ree Is there chess after death? A weird experiment to substantiate reincarnation was devised in 1985 by Dr. Wolfgang Eisenbeiss at the Swiss Institute of Parapsychology. A game between Korchnoi and the spirit of Maroczy slogged on by mail for eight years. The conduit for White's moves was Robert Rollins, a medium who claimed Maroczy's spirit guided his hand on paper, a technique known as automatic writing. "Maroczy was actually able to enter my body and move my arm. I can't play chess and never even liked the game, but when he plays through me I'm one of the best in the world. It's eerie," alleged Rollins. I'm reminded of that old saw about a guy who was in jail for striking a happy medium. The game took so long because the medium moved only when the spirit moved him. This great hokum was reported in The National Enquirer decades ago and was revived last year in a lead article for the British journal of Psychical Research. The authors claimed that private details provided by Maroczy through automatic writing were confirmed by research to be 94 percent accurate. Maroczy died at age 81 in 1951. He was one of the world's best players in his heyday at the turn of the 20th century. Hungary issued a stamp in his honor in 1974. "Maroczy plays in an outmoded style that nobody uses today, but he's tough," said Korchnoi. Yet White had little hope after botching the opening. The real Maroczy faced the Winawer Variation four times, choosing 4 exd5 twice and 4 Nge2 twice instead of the uncharacteristic 4 e5. Correct was 12 Ng5! Nxe5 13 f4 Rxg5 14 fxg5 N5g6 15 h4. And 14 Ng5! was far stronger than entering an inferior and tedious endgame in this ghostly encounter. Larry Evans is a five-time U.S. chess champion and nationally syndicated chess writer. Write to him at P.O. Box 1182, Reno, NV 89504.

An Inca in Norway

Archaeological mysteries intrigue me. One of the biggest mysteries in chess archaeology, for instance, is how the Venafro chess pieces discovered in 1932 (made out of bone and carved in the Islamic style), dated to the 9th century CE, ended up in a Roman era grave?

And how did the body of an Inca end up in a grave in Norway dated to about 1000 CE? Here is the article:

The Norway Post
June 26, 2007

Archaeological sensation in Oestfold
Norwegian arhaeologists are puzzled by a find which indicates an Inca Indian died and was buried in the Oestfold city of Sarpsborg 1000 years ago.

The remains of two elderly men and a baby were discovered during work in a garden, and one of the skulls indicates that the man was an Inca Indian.

- There is a genetic flaw in the neck, which is believed to be limited to the Incas in Peru, says arahaeologist Mona Beate Buckholm.

The Norway Post suggests that maybe the Vikings travelled even more widely than hitherto believed? Why could not the Viking settlers in New Foundland have strayed further down the coast on one of their fishing trips?

Meanwhile, more digging will be made in Sarpsborg, in an attempt to try to find an answer to the puzzle, NRK reports.
Here is another article on the subject with a bit more information:

Viking Age Inca Indian Found in Norwegian Burial Ground?
Monday, 25 June 2007 Written by Alexander G. Rubio

It has long been known that Viking explorers, traders, and settlers made their way across the North Atlantic, first to the North Sea Islands, then to Iceland and Greenland, and even to the Newfoundland area of North America. But the accepted narrative is that the forays into the American continent proper were brief, and their contact with the native peoples there was nasty, brutish, and short.

But a 1000 year old skeleton found in a burial ground in Norway shows traits usually only found in Inca Indians.

[T]he Norwegians, seafarers by nature, due to their long coastline and lack of farmland, struck out across the North Sea, to the North of England, Scotland, Ireland, and to the islands in the north Atlantic, and eventually North America. We know that they encountered natives on their voyages there. But how they could have come across a South American Indian, or how he made his way to the north east coastal regions of Canada, would seem to defy imagination.

Archaeologists working on the conservation of the ruins of the old St. Nicolas church at Borgarsyssel in the Norwegian city of Sarpsborg came across some skeletal remains by accident, as they were removing some rose bushes. "As we pulled out the rose bushes, bones just poured out," archaeologist at Borgarsyssel Museum, Mona Beate Buckholm told Norwegian Public Broadcasting NRK.

It turned out to be the remains of two older men and an infant. And it was the skull of one of the men that puzzled the forensic archaeologists. "A particular bone at the back of the head was not fused. This is an inherited trait found almost exclusively among the Incas of Peru," Buckholm added.

To this day, no other example of this trait has been found in Norway. "While it is tempting to speculate, seeing as St. Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors, it's hard to imagine a Peruvian making his way here at the time. This is quite puzzling."

As one would almost expect with such a maritime culture, there have been finds in the past of people from far off lands ending up in ancient Scandinavia. One such example was the recent DNA evidence that one of the women buried in the royal tomb at Oseberg, one of the most famous Viking Age finds of all time, turned out to be of Black Sea origin. But this would be on another scale entirely. If, and this is still a massive if at this time, further tests and excavations could turn up corroborating evidence for an American link, and the find turns out to not be another Piltdown Man, or simply a very anomalous individual, it would be a sensational discovery, turning established views on pre-Columbian contacts between Europe and the Americas on their head. Right now though, that is speculation more fit for Hollywood movies than science journals.

Elizabeth Vicary on Chess, Girls and Genius

Jen Shahade has an excellent piece at Chess Life Online in which she interviewed Elizabeth Vicary. The interview focuses on Elizabeth's Masters of Education thesis: "Encouraging Middle School Girls' Success and Involvement in Chess." Shahade and Vicary have a revealing give and take during the interview and the respect and affection they have for each other is obvious, but to their credit they don't spare themselves answering some hard questions. Elizabeth Vicary will be playing in the upcoming U.S. Women's Chess Championship. You can find some of her games at There is some information about Vicary's chess coaching, etc. in an article by Steve Goldbert at Chess Cafe. She's going to have a tough row to hoe - in the 2006 U.S. Chess Championship, she finished tied for 25-30th place with 3.5 points in Group A, but did not face any of the women who will be competing for the 2007 title in Stillwater. The Chablis and Glickman article that Vicary talks about in her interview is summarized in this article at Goddesschess.
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