Saturday, August 11, 2007

What if we taught chess like "School of Rock?"

Hola! The day was filled with chores, including cutting the front lawn and laying down a bug killer in an attempt (I fear, in vain) to eradicate those blasted sod web worms that have taken it over! I HATE those little grass-sucking buggers! It's been non-stop war for the past four years now - and I'm losing! To more pleasant subjects! Last night I watched "School of Rock" on regular commercial t.v. and had a good time rocking along with the movie. I can't help but wonder what chess would be like if we could teach chess to students like "Jack Black" taught rock to his students at the preppy private school - think about it. I'm sure the predominately male players would appreciate the "groupies" - but then, so would the few and far in-between female players appreciate their own private groupies - well, maybe I'm just fantasizing now... Against all better judgment, I've started yet another game against Crusader Scott at - did I write about this already? Sure hope not but if I did please put it down to the onset of the big ALZ. After finishing the yard work, I spent the greater part of the day putting together a report on the Goddesschess Eighth Anniversary celebration. It includes a separate photo gallery (as in prior years), but I think this year Dondelion outdid himself taking photographs. A few were taken by me too, mostly those at the St. John's Church Festival. Well, you'll see them in due course... Dondelion now has his laptop back (the hard drive crashed - a brand new computer purchased last November, can you believe it?) and he's just about finished rebuilding his data base (I hope), so updates should begin appearing at Goddesschess soon (I hope again). Then again, who knows? He's been re-invigorated by his recent visit and is chock-full of ideas for new projects - oh, I just got emailed, Crusader Scott has made a move, now it's my turn. This game I'm going all out - no holds barred - I being totally illogical in my moves and am just having FUN!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola Darlings. It's hot as hell and I have no choice but to continue to take it - unless I move, which I'm not planning on doing until I reach retirement age. Sigh. It's Friday night and I'm feeling alright other than a mild case of heat stroke; School of Rock is on and it's tres funny - love the manic character of Jack Black. Here's a selection of this and that. First up, Frank “Boy” Pestaño's column about King Kirzan and his abduction by aliens years ago. Eight year old C H Meghna models herself after India's GM Koneru Humpy... Gee - an integrated, comprehensive and cross-disciplinary approach and interpretation of archaeological finds yields - A NEW CONSENSUS on development of civilization in the Middle East? Well, DUH! One note - Jiroft IS located on a river - the Halilrood in Iran (Lawler didn't pick that up for some reason???) - and so the model of civilizations developing around rivers/alluvial plains still holds... Lately, I've become fascinated with "Marian" apparitions. I am about to tread on some religious sensibilities here so, if you are susceptible, please DISCONTINUE READING NOW! This ties into some research I've been doing off and on for years - about sacred spaces/sacred places. In many of these ancient "places of power" (for lack of a better descriptive term), apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been seen. But, as places of power are invariably ancient, predating christianity, I believe that in those ancient places (such as Lourdes) where the "Virgin Mary" has been seen, it is actually a manifestation of an older mother goddess tradition that is "filtered" through the eyes of Christians who have seen these visions and - thus - they say it's the Virgin Mary. I know, darlings, you think I'm full of baloney sausage but you'll humor me anyway :) I would like to point out this interesting "coincidence." The ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis (Aset), sometimes wore a star-spangled cloak or cape in some of her depictions. Isis (Aset) predates the Christian Virgin Mary by 3500 years, give or take a few years. The Virgin Mary, in her manifestation at Pontmain in 1871 for instance, also wore a star-spangled cloak. Hmmm, methinks that the Goddess doesn't change over time, but our perceptions do... Dylan McLain writes about chess in the movies at the New York Times. Enjoy -

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chess Princesses in Ely!

I saw this in the news just a few moments ago and just had to publish it here:

From the online edition of the Ely Standard

CHELSEA Ward and Sierra Humbert, pupils at the Rackham Primary School in Witchford, both enjoyed success whilst competing in the finals of the United Kingdom Individual Chess Tournament. Chelsea finished equal first in the under-seven section, and Sierra grabbed the prize in the under-11s.Both girls will go on to play in their respective age groups in the grand Terrafinal at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

(Photograph: Chelsea is on the left, Sierra on the right).

2007 USCF Annual Awards Luncheon

Oh for goddess' sake! Some of these are just downright FUNNY! From the USCF press release which came out on August 9th, even though the luncheon was on Saturday August 4th. Yep, that's our USCF all right, right on top of things... Chess City of the Year (1983): Stillwater, Oklahoma (accepted by Frank and Jim Berry). Oh puleeeessseee! Chess Club of the Year (1999): Atlanta Chess Center. Wouldn't it make more sense to name Atlanta Chess City of the Year, since it's the city that olds the Chess Club of the Year??? Prepare yourselves - this is great, just great: Committee of the Year (1982): 2007 Financial Review Committee. Not only does the Executive Board give some of its own members an award for being committee members - a true exercise in "patting oneself on one's own back" (I wonder if anyone broke an arm attempting this exercise...), this year they really went over the top and picked the Financial Review Committee! I couldn't make this kind of stuff up if I tried. Ace Girl Reporter Alpheta Patton of the gone but not forgotten "International Chessoid" must be laughing her knickers off! No doubt swimming through all that red ink that Susan Polgar aptly pointed out on myriad occasions over the past seven plus months at her blog just tuckered the poor committee dudes out, and the other EB members gave them a merit reward rather than free popsicles. Personally, I'd rather have the popsicles. Friend of the USCF: GM Garry Kasparov of the USSR. Yeah, that's right, Garry Kasparov is a friend of ours. NOT! LOL! What are those EB members smoking? This is either a brand new award (not having a date of origination behind it in parantheses) or something dreamed up for this year. Is this USCF's clumsy attempt to make a "political" statement? Geez! And - hey, how come Goddesschess wasn't nominated? We gave USCF $300 for a Brilliancy Prize. If Mr. Berry got a gold medal for $50,000, why doesn't Goddesschess qualify as a "friend" for $300? We wuz robbed! Gold Koltanowski Medal (1979): Frank K. Berry of Oklahoma for his contribution to the 2007 U.S. Championship. If Mr. Berry comes forward with more sponsorship dollars in 2008, does he get the deed to the Crossville property or first dibs on an EB member's organs should he need a transplant in the future? Outstanding Career Achievement (1986): Fred and Carol Kleist of Washington, Gordon Barrett of Nevada, Stephen Dann of Massachusetts. Are these people nuclear physicists or Nobel prize winners? Career in what - chess? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...snort...ha ha ha ha ha ha...

More Chess Lessons From Ancient History

Hola darlings! I'm exhausted. It was one of those "days from Hell" at the office and the weather is right up there supporting Hell Days. The forecast has changed - what promised to be a weekend of temperatures in the low 80's with lower dew point is now scheduled to be in the 90's with higher yet dew points. I tell you, I'm already scraping mold off my legs - and that's just after walking the half mile to the bus stop in the morning! I can see it now - Milwaukee is going to turn into Mold City and there will be sightings of "green and blue" monsters stalking the streets, should that dew point get much higher. I mean - how high can it go? Does it go on to infinity, like an irrational number?

This will be a short, sweet post. I want to continue the line about the "throne" iconography that is everywhere implied in the ancient game of chess but nowhere represented until the Islamists decided that playing with "figural" chess pieces broke a tabu against depicting living beings - or something like that. I still have not read a clear and convincing discussion of where this tabu came from and why anyone would think it could possibly apply to board game pieces. Ah well - religion never has been a very rational undertaking, has it...

When the Islamists designed their "abstract" chess pieces, the "king" and "vizier" took the form of a cylinder (the king's somewhat taller) with a cut out for what looked like a seat. In fact, many commentators have described the pieces as "thrones" - representative certainly of the king and to a lesser extent the vizier who, as the trusted royal advisor who sometimes served as "regent" when the king was absent, was the "power behind the throne." We've all seen those pieces, and variations on the theme. You can see two of those variations on the theme here (the "Nishapur" chess pieces, and also read the original 1943 article that I transcribed a few months back). Those designs, though, came late to the party, relatively speaking, first being seen in chess pieces in the mid-8th century CE.

Now, take a look at the lovely lady at the beginning of this post. She is a female figure, with an elongated neck and conical breasts, in the form of a chair. She was excavated at Ashdod in Israel, and dates to the 12th century BCE. She measures nearly seven inches tall. She was found near a site of cultic activity which, according to the November/December 2005 issue of Biblical Archaeology, may mean that it was used for votive offerings (the site, that is, not the object). Fragments of similar figurines were also found during escavations at Ekron (Israel). This "Ashdoda" figure shows Mycenaen influence, "harkening back to the Philistine homeland in the Aegean."

Now darlings, everyone knows that you don't make a chair simply to stare at it and go "oh how pretty." Chairs are made to be sat upon - and in this example of an Ashdoda (which is a replica offered for sale online by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem) we see the symbolism of the Isis "throne" now physically embodied as a female figure, incorporated into a votive. I'm not suggesting cross-cultural transfer here, although certainly that may have occurred to some extent or other; it is the overarching archetype that keeps cropping up in iconography from all around the Middle East, the Mediterranean and into Asia, crossing all cultural and religious lines and being carried on for thousands of years, that is of true importance here.

It has been said that chess is a game of archetypes. One of those archetypes is the concept of rulership, as embodied in the throne. The throne is a woman. As far back as we have datable archaeological artifacts, the throne is a woman (more on this later). This isn't a feminist manifesto of uterine power - it's just the plain ol' simple truth.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Chess Lessons From Ancient History

Her name is Isis, a Greek name for the ancient Egyptian Goddess, Aset (Auset), whose name literally means "throne."

Notice the shape of the "crown" upon Isis' head. It is a depiction of an Egyptian throne. It was, literally, upon the Goddess Aset that the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt sat, it was from that Goddess the Pharaohs derived their authority to rule. The Pharaoh - the "King" - sat upon the Goddess, who was the personification of the throne. Without the Goddess Isis, the King was powerless, for he lost his throne.

The depiction of Aset/Isis as a "throne" dates back to at least 3500 BCE (pre-dynastic) in Egyptian iconography. She was the mate of Osiris (Greek name), which in ancient Egyptian was variously Asar, Aser, Ausar, Wesir, or Ausare. That name "Wesir" sounds suspiciously like the much later title of "Vizier," who was the "King's" 'right-hand man,' the chess piece that later became the Bishop in western Chess.

What pieces today are placed on either side of the "King" and "Queen?" The Bishops - whose role in Medieval and Rennaisance European courts was advisor to the ruler and who, in many instances, wielded enormous power and influence despite their "godly" role as a representative of a higher power. De facto - the Vizier of old. Could Goddess Aset/Isis have been the original "King," She being the throne upon which the ruler sat - actually, the physical embodiment of the throne? And was God Asar/Wesir - Osiris - the original Vizier, who later became the "Bishop?"

Think about the tale of the relationship between Aset and Asar. Asar was killed by his jealous half-brother and cut into 14 parts, which he then scattered throughout the width and breadth of Egypt and the ancient Middle East. Isis found and reassembled 13 of the 14 pieces, but she could not find Asar's penis. And so by magic she conjured the 14th piece and thus restored Wesir/Osiris to his human form, and by magic she brought Asar back to life, but only as a God who lives in the Underworld, the King of the Dead. Asar/Wesir/Osiris was in a subsidary role, dependent upon Aset/Isis for his power, indeed, for his life.

Remember what the ancient lore teaches us. Remember the origin of "throne." We call a chess piece the "King" today, but that piece, representing the supreme throne, was originally a Goddess. Yes, to be sure, the female role of supreme throne was taken over by males in later history, but an echo of the Goddess remains down to this very day in the rules of chess; for just like the God Asar/Osiris, that piece that became the King owes His very life and existence to Aset/Isis, and as a sort of "divine" reminder, is thus severely restricted in his movements and power.


Twenty Squares (Royal Game of Ur)

From the British Museum Website:

One of the most popular games of the ancient world
From Ur, southern Iraq, about 2600-2400 BC

This game board is one of several with a similar layout found by Leonard Woolley in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The wood had decayed but the inlay of shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli survived in position so that the original shape could be restored. The board has twenty squares made of shell: Five squares each have flower rosettes, 'eyes', and circled dots. The remaining five squares have various designs of five dots. According to references in ancient documents, two players competed to race their pieces from one end of the board to another. Pieces were allowed on to the board at the beginning only with specific throws of the dice. We also know that rosette spaces were lucky.

The gaming pieces for this particular board do not survive. However, some sets of gaming pieces of inlaid shale and shell were excavated at Ur with their boards. The boards appear to have been hollow with the pieces stored inside. Dice, either stick dice or tetrahedral in shape, were also found.

Examples of this 'Game of Twenty Squares' date from about 3000 BC to the first millennium AD and are found widely from the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to India. A version of the Mesopotamian game survived within the Jewish community at Cochin, South India until modern times.

A board of identical shape but the playing spaces defined by the body of an intertwined serpent was excavated at Shar-i Sokhtah (Iran), and dates to about 2400 BCE. I wrote an article about the "serpent game board of Iran" for Goddesschess a few years ago.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Now Truly Fried...

Egoddess - the dew point is 75 - where am I living, the Equator? The "ambient" air temperature was 87 when I left the office at 5 p.m. I gasped my way to the bus stop (1 and 1/2 blocks away, crawling the last 25 feet) - it started to rain on my left side, while the sun was beating upon my back from the west. The bus arrived 3 minutes late; the bus driver, my "regular", instantly assessed my half-conscious condition and made the bus "kneel" so I could stagger on to it... Headed southwest for the next 50 minutes, when I regained consciousness I observed the black storm clouds speeding to the east/northeast, headed toward Lake Michigan, and clear skies speeding up from the ridge at the county line (124th Street) in the west. When I got off the bus, much refreshed from the 55 degree air conditioning and wiping a melting icicle off my nose, I headed south into a freshening wind from the west/southwest. I believe the dew point dropped about 2.5 degrees. After I settled in home, I cleaned up the patio from the earlier storm's detritrius, and settled in for an hour. Now it's 7:29 p.m. and I've got a Johnny Cash special on PBS (they're trying to sell me a CD) - it's quite good, a conpendium of all the top level stars he had on his t.v. sh0w way back when - amazing, just amazing - watching Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, for instance, when they had no wrinkles. Goddess, were we ever all that young? Hmmm, and now I seem to have forgotten the point about doing this particular blog entry - oh, and Carl Perkins (not particularly a fan) is on the t.v. (Johnny Cash Show) right now looking only 50 when everyone knows he's now 213 - and I have to admit, he sure could pick the electric GEE-TAR with a white twisted cord trailing on behind his behind, like a super-long piggy's tail. Oh, and the great pedophile Jerry Lee Lewis, looking all about 40 or so, doing the sqeezy-easy on the piano seat... Okay - enough of that! Ah - now I remember - I wanted to post this, about horse sacrifice. It's a good beginner's primer, even if it was put together by fans of the Theophilosophical Society... Ohmygoddess - now Derrick and the Dominoes are on!!!!! Wait a minute - something is wrong...Derrick is singing a country-western song... IT'S A POD PERSON - RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES... BTW, that primer was written about a late 1890's expedition to northwest Asia, a study of the Buriat peoples - complete with some photographs of the horse-killing portion of the ancient horse sacrifice ritual they practiced. Not for the weak of stomach.

Boris and the Ladies Steal the Show at U.S. Open

Veteran GM Boris Gulko beat out six other players, all with 7.5/9, on tie-break to take the title to the 2007 U.S. Open. I think Boris and some of the young ladies stole the show! There was Alisa Melekhina (2168) (ranked 66th), turning heads with her winsome looks and poised performance OTB. Alisa came to the notice of many chess fans (guys, that is) when she played in the U.S. Women’s Championship last month. Alisa, who recently turned 16, merited a story of her own at Chess Life Online with a score of 5.5/6 at the time, although she faltered a bit afterward and ended the tournament with a score of 6.0/9 to secure 36th place. Abby Marshall (2038), who was ranked 101st, finished in 15th place with 7.0/8. Abby is one of a crop of young female players who is gaining skills and confidence playing in various Susan Polgar-sponsored tournaments. Born in 1991, Abby won the 2006 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls (she also won the 2005 event). This is a great finish for Abby - and I wish her performance had received more press. Megan Lee (I believe she is 10, but I could not find her date of birth), another “Polgar girl” (she won the $500 Ursula Foster award for top under 14 girl at the 2007 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls), was ranked 302nd (1571) going into the tournament and finished in 110th place with 5.5 – another outstanding performance. I probably missed a few of the girls and women who participated in this year’s U.S. Open – I’m not always sure of the names and gender is not indicated in USCF’s player information. I’ve got a list of their final rankings and scores at Chess Femme News.

Fantasy Creatures on Display

Here Be Monsters Dragons, sea serpents and manatees, er, mermaids—a museum show looks at the all-too-human impulse to embellish nature. By Susanna Schrobsdorff Newsweek Updated: 10:38 a.m. CT July 31, 2007 At first, it's a bit of a mystery why the humble and homely manatee was included in an exhibit of fantastical creatures, both real and imagined. Some visitors might not even notice the shapeless gray form dangling from the ceiling, what with the 17-foot dragon just behind her and a stunning white unicorn standing on a pedestal just ahead of her. Nonetheless, the matronly sea mammal might be the most evocative item at the American Museum of Natural History's "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids" exhibit in New York City. Under the manatee, there's a small video screen on a stand. Twist a knob on the device and an image of the manatee slowly becomes a pretty mermaid. It's kind of like watching a bloated Marlon Brando morph into Angelina Jolie. You can't imagine how anyone could confuse the two—even at distance and even after months at sea eating nothing but salted meat. But somehow, the minds of 15th-century sailors turned these lumpy creatures into alluring women with fish tails who called to them from rocky shores. Or at least that's what they told everyone when they got home. Such is the human need to embellish nature and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. And that's what the exhibition is all about. Cocurator Laurel Kendall says she considers this collection of cultural artifacts, bones and theatrical renditions of imaginary animals a continuation of the museum's exhibits on human evolution—a testament to "the unique ability of humans to tell stories, to exaggerate." The exhibit, which took two years to create, is divided into land, air and sea; and for each legendary creature, there is an anthropological history of how the myth evolved, filled out by illustrations, models and costumes. Real animals are displayed alongside the mythic. The dim, dappled lighting in the exhibit is intentional, says Kendall: "We really wanted to distinguish this from the rest of the museum." There are animals you are sure couldn't have existed, but did, such as the Gigantopithecus blacki, a towering King Kong-like primate that stands taller than a man and has humanoid features. It looks like an artist's rendition of Bigfoot until you read the tag and find out it lived in Southeast Asia (and is now extinct). Then there are taxidermied animals that seem authentic, but are part of a long line of hoaxes, like the desiccated corpse of a small fish creature with arms and a round skull. It should be a missing evolutionary link, but it's just a tiny monkey's torso glued to a papier-mâché fishtail. In the mid-19th century, P. T. Barnum advertised this creature, or something like it, as a "Feejee Mermaid." Of course, the posters showed a gorgeous nymph, not the wizened Franken-fish visitors were confronted with once they paid their admission. And don't think for a second that the modern public is any less fixated on the idea of beings that we haven't yet been able to catalog and explain. "We mapped the world, now there's a lament for the unknown," says Kendall. So we fill in the blank spaces with imagined aliens from other universes or cling to old mysteries like the Loch Ness monster. While our collective imagination hasn't let up, kids (and adults) now find their mythic creatures on their computers more often than not. They create Neopets and other virtual animals online and invest them with human qualities. And if a Jules Verne-style animal surfaces, as it did earlier this year when a New Zealand fishing boat caught a 33-foot colossal squid off the coast of Antarctica, the public is utterly fascinated. A mythic squid is included in the exhibit. It's called a kraken, and its head and arms rise partway from the floor of the museum as if it were emerging from the sea. Nearby there are small photos of real giant squids to remind us that sometimes the tallest tales aren't that far off. The museum says the exhibit, which is slated to go on a world tour after it closes in New York on Jan. 6, has been a rousing success. In the peak summer period, about 300,000 people stream through the museum each month, and the $21 tickets for this exhibit usually sell out every day by early afternoon. And why wouldn't they? In the age of Harry Potter and Eragon, what could be more enticing to families traipsing the hot streets of the city than looking at unicorns and dragons in air-conditioned comfort? Of course, the show does at times seem to pander to a topic that is popular and lucrative. After all, visitors are funneled out past the Chinese dragon into a slickly designed gift shop brimming with Disney mermaids and Harry Potter figurines. Not to worry: after navigating the trinkets, you wind up in a spectacular sunlit hall of dinosaurs, where their massive bones belittle all of our imaginations.
As a child, I was fascinated, utterly fascinated, by the "mermaid" at the Milwaukee Public Museum. It never occurred to me for a second that it was a fake! When I took Don on a tour of the museum back in 2004, I took him right to the case that is home to the "mermaid" - it still exercises its magic over me.

Help, my brain is melting...

Starting late last night until around 6:30 this morning we were battered by loud thunderstorms – loud enough to rattle the house and wake me up several times despite the house being battened down and windows shut tight because the central air conditioning was on. I thought it was humid last week; this week it’s even worse and the rain (although welcome by my lawn and gardens) did nothing to abate the high temperatures; they’re going to climb during the rest of the week! I find it difficult to breath in this kind of weather – the air is hot, heavy, wet, mucky, icky, and nearly still. Clothes stick to you; sweat beads and then drips and does not evaporate. There is the smell of rotting vegetation in the air, which is remarkable given that we have been in drought conditions, so how can the vegetation be rotting? Whithering away into nothingness from the unrelenting heat is more like!

I usually look at the news a couple of times a day to scope out any likely blog entries on chess and subjects related to “Chess, Goddess and Everything…” but for the past couple of days nothing has resonated. Perhaps the heat and humidity have scrambled my brain – recently it seems nothing is quite relevant except trying to figure out how quickly I can walk the half mile from the bus stop to the house without dying of heat prostration and/or drowning in my own sweat. How small my world has become, focused on how quickly I can get from one air-conditioned space to the next…

Yesterday I revisited a subject I did some research on years ago – horse sacrifice and the copulation and eating rituals associated therewith, thinking perhaps I would do a couple of blog entries. Er, on second thought, no. Let me tell you, fill your brain with THAT kind of stuff long enough, and reading the entries at the Daily Grail seems an exercise in reality. Today I read about Mothman and something called (I think) Springing Jack that terrorized parts of England over 100 years ago and left strange cloven-hoofed prints in the snow, also about underground pyramids (allegedly) in the Crimea. Oh – and a repeat of the story about a giant black bird (at least, people think it’s a bird, but perhaps it’s just a hairy UFO) flying over the southwest. I took a look at the headlines at The New York Times – lo and behold, Georgia is claiming that a Russian warplane fired a missile at a Georgian village which, fortunately, did not explode. Moscow denies everything, even while the carcas of the missile is plastered all over the NYT’s front page. Of course, why would anyone ever believe any statement coming out of the Kremlin? I feel like I’m back in the pages of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” – the Minister of Magic constantly reassures the readers of The Daily Prophet that he-who-must-not-be-named is NOT back, while that old chessnut keeps running through my brain: “denial” ain’t just a river…

I must have shorted out a circuit by reading "Deathly Hallows" too fast.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Blast from the Past: Judit Polgar Wins U.S. Open

CHESS; Polgar Is First Woman to Win the Open By ROBERT BYRNE Published: August 25, 1998 Judit Polgar of Hungary, in a display of dazzling sacrificial tactics as well as slow strategic maneuvering, has become the first woman ever to finish first in a United States Open. Polgar, at 22 the highest-ranked woman in the world, and Boris Gulko, a Fair Lawn, N.J., grandmaster and former United States Invitational champion, each scored 8-1 to share a victory over some 300 entrants. The two grandmasters were each awarded a prize of $3,750 in the tournament, which was held at the Kona Surf Resort in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Aug. 1 to 9. The only time they faced each other over the board, in the seventh round, they had a respectful, carefully contested draw. To achieve her share of the victory, Polgar had to foil many of her opponents who would have been honored to get a draw with her. In some cases, she had to grind them down in lengthy endings; in others she set sneaky snares. Her most typical -- and most brilliant -- performance was her game against the Georgian grandmaster Georgi Kacheishvili. Polgar won with a decisive attack produced by a fascinating queen sacrifice. In the Classical Variation of the King's Indian Defense, 7 . . . Na6 is a 10-year-old move that lacks the central challenge of 7 . . . Nc6, but in the event of 8 d5 it is well-positioned to delay c5. Unlike 7 . . . Nbd7, it does not block the black queen bishop. After 11 f3, it would be wrong to play 11 . . . Nh2 because 12 Kh2 Qh4 13 Kg1 Bd4 14 Qd4 Qe1 15 Bh6. Polgar had to get some open lines for counterattack with 15 . . . f5 or suffer a permanently passive position. That's the kind of dare she never declines. After 19 . . . Bd7, there was no immediate chance for Kacheishvili to attack on the queenside, so he tried to prevent the black pieces from sauntering into his king position by the forcing 20 f4. But the aggressive Polgar soon let loose with the speculative pawn sacrifice 23 . . . Nc5!? 24 Nc7 Ne4 25 Be4 Re4 26 Re4 fe. [My note what is fe???] On 27 . . . Ne5!?, the penalty for 28 fe? would have been 28 . . . Qf3 29 Qg2 Qd1. Kacheishvili tried to kill off Polgar's threats with 31 Nf6 Qf7 32 Rd6 (32 Nd5 meets with 32 . . . Rg3! 33 hg? Qh5 34 Kg2 Qh2 35 Kf1 Qg1 mate), but Polgar set up a queen sacrifice with 32 . . . Qe7 33 Qd1 Rg6! 34 Qa1 Qd6 35 Ne8 Kg8 36 Nd6 Rd6, gaining a powerful attack with her rook and bishop. Kacheishvili played 40 Qb1 but gave up without going further. He had no defense against 40 . . . Ne1! 41 Qe1 e3 42 Kg1 Rg2 43 Kh1 Rg3 mate. If 41 Kg1, then 41 . . . Rg2 42 Kh1 Rb2! 43 Qb2 e3 44 Kg1 Nf3 45 Kh1 (45 Kg2 Ng5 46 Kg1 Nh3 mate) Ng5 46 Qg2 e2. If 41 Ne3, then Re2 42 Nd5 (or 42 Qc1 Nf3 43 Nf1 e3 44 Qe3 Ng5 45 Kg1 Nh3 mate) Nf3.

Spying Squirrels!

Oh those squirrels - what will they be up to next? Reading an op-ed article in today's Wall Street Journal by Amir Taheri, "Domestic Terror in Iran" about the Islamic regime's internal crackdown on people mostly between the ages of 15-30, my eyes goggled at this: "Khomeinist paranoia reached a new peak last week when the authorities announced, through the Islamic Republic News Agency, the capture of four squirrels in the Western city of Kermanshah and claimed that the furry creatures had been fitted with 'espionage devices' by the Americans in Iraq and smuggled into the Islamic Republic." I confirmed the story by a visit to MSNBC's World Blog - here is an entry from July 20: IRAN'S SPYING SQUIRRELS? Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007 3:07 PMCategories: Tehran, Iran By Ali Arouzi, NBC News Producer You can tell that Iran is feeling a little beleaguered these days when there are reports that Tehran may be under attack from rodents! That is what the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported this week, that police had, ahem, "arrested" 14 squirrels on charges of espionage. The rodents were found near the Iranian border, allegedly equipped with eavesdropping devices, according to IRNA. When asked to confirm the story, Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam, the national police chief, said, "I have heard about it, but I do not have precise information." He declined to give any more details. IRNA said that the squirrels were discovered by intelligence services – but were captured by police officers several weeks ago. 'Are you serious?'The reaction to the report on Tehran’s streets was varied – from disbelief to assigning guilt for the alleged infraction. "No, I had not heard about this, but it does not surprise me, foreign countries are always meddling in Iran," said Hassan Mohmmadi, a fast-food vendor. Mohammadi asked me if I knew where the squirrels were from, and I told him that I didn’t know. Then he came to his own conclusions. "I bet they were British squirrels, they are the most cunning," he replied. Meantime, an independent journalist, Sepher Sopli, was not surprised by the idea that another country would spy on Iran, so much as he was dumbfounded by their methods. "I read this story in the papers and though it was very bizarre; what struck me as odd was that in this age of modern technology, people were relying on squirrels to do their spying," Sopli said. But, the report was still strange enough to surprise. "That's very funny, but you’re not serious are you?" said Soraya Jafari, a student in Tehran. Maybe not a first Espionage not entirely foreign to animals. If true, this would not be the first time animals have been used for military endeavors. During World War II, Allied forces used pigeons to fly vital intelligence out of occupied France. More recently, U.S. Marines stationed in Kuwait trained chickens for a low-tech chemical detection system. It’s also well documented that dolphins have been used to seek out underwater mines. Spying is something that is taken seriously in any country, especially in a place like Iran, where numerous people are currently being held on charges of espionage. Still, the squirrels that breached the Iranian border carrying sensitive spying equipment must have been nuts. Well, I have a suspicion - some of the "Kermanshah 14" may be "my" squirrels. You know I feed every critter in the neighborhood, and not junk food either, but the good stuff. It's well known that for years I've grown the smartest, biggest, sassiest and boldest squirrels in the world; within the last couple of weeks, though, I noticed a definite decline in the number of squirrely visitors to my edenic environs; where normally I can count as many as eight squirrels visiting at one time, now there are only three or four. Hmmm, I wouldn't put it past NSA to have squirrel-napped some of my squirrels, delivered them to the Iraq-Iran border area and rigged them out with spying gear with instructions to infiltrate the local parks in Kermanshah to eavesdrop on the Islamic Guard...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Oh Goddess - Same Old Politics?

What's going on? Here is an entry tonight from Susan Polgar's blog. Is Susan Polgar, who has been elected "Chairman" of the USCF (Chairman? What does THAT mean?) already sidelined by politics as usual? Bill Goichberg is still President - oh please! If these people were attorneys in Wisconsin they'd all be disbarred for countenancing such an obvious conflict of interest. Is this just more and more hooey going on? Perhaps next year we'll run our Brilliancy Prize Funds through Mig - that way we know for sure they'll get to the player they are supposed to get to on a timely basis and they won't be funnelled through USCF. Geez!

The Goddess Tlaltecuhtli

Notice how they call this Goddess a "god" in the article - ha! She is clearly the new-world counterpart to the ubiquitous "White Goddess" (of whom Graves wrote about) of birth, death and regeneration of the old world. It was, in fact, the presence of a giant-sized stone carving of Tlaltecuhtli that tipped off archaeologists that this might be a very important tomb. She was uncovered in Mexico City in November, 2006.

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 3, 3:24 PM ET

MEXICO CITY - Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl, who ruled the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found.

The find could provide an extraordinary window into Aztec civilization at its apogee. Ahuizotl (ah-WEE-zoh-tuhl), an empire-builder who extended the Aztecs' reach as far as Guatemala, was the last emperor to complete his rule before the Spanish Conquest.

Accounts written by Spanish priests suggest the area was used by the Aztecs to cremate and bury their rulers. But no tomb of an Aztec ruler has ever been found, in part because the Spanish conquerors built their own city atop the Aztec's ceremonial center, leaving behind colonial structures too historically valuable to remove for excavations.

One of those colonial buildings was so damaged in a 1985 earthquake that it had to be torn down, eventually giving experts their first chance to examine the site off Mexico City's Zocalo plaza, between the Metropolitan Cathedral and the ruins of the Templo Mayor pyramid.

Archaeologists told The Associated Press that they have located what appears to be a six-foot-by-six-foot entryway into the tomb about 15 feet below ground. The passage is filled with water, rocks and mud, forcing workers to dig delicately while suspended from slings. Pumps work to keep the water level down.

"We are doing it very, very slowly ... because the responsibility is very great and we want to register everything," said Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead government archaeologist on the project. "It's a totally new situation for us, and we don't know exactly what it will be like down there."

As early as this fall, they hope to enter the inner chambers — a damp, low-ceilinged space — and discover the ashes of Ahuizotl, who was likely cremated on a funeral pyre in 1502.

By that time, Columbus had already landed in the New World. But the Aztecs' first contact with Europeans came 17 years later, in 1519, when Hernan Cortes and his band of conquistadors marched into the Mexico Valley and took hostage Ahuizotl's successor, his nephew Montezuma.

Ahuizotl's son Cuauhtemoc (kwow-TAY-mock) took over from Montezuma and led the last resistance to the Spaniards in the battle for Mexico City in 1521. He was later taken prisoner and killed. Like Montezuma, his burial place is unknown.

Because no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found, the archaeologists are literally digging into the unknown. Radar indicates the tomb has up to four chambers, and scientists think they will find a constellation of elaborate offerings to the gods on the floor.
"He must have been buried with solemn ceremony and rich offerings, like vases, ornaments ... and certainly some objects he personally used," said Luis Alberto Martos, director of archaeological studies at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The tomb's curse — water — may also be its blessing. Lopez Lujan said the constant temperature of the pH-neutral water in the flooded chambers, together with the lack of oxygen, discourages decomposition of materials like wood and bone that have been found at other digs around the pyramid, which was all but destroyed in the Conquest.

"This would be quite an important find for Aztec archaeology," said Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University who is not connected to the dig. "It would be tremendously important because it would be direct information about kingship, burial and the empire that is difficult to come by otherwise."

All signs found so far point to Ahuizotl. The site lies directly below a huge, recently discovered stone monolith carved with a representation of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee), the Aztec god of the earth.

Depicted as a woman with huge claws and a stream of blood flowing into her mouth as she squats to give birth, Tlaltecuhtli was believed to devour the dead and then give them new life. The god was so fearsome that Aztecs normally buried her depictions face down in the earth. However, this one is face-up.

In the claw of her right foot, the god holds a rabbit and 10 dots, indicating the date "10 Rabbit" — 1502, the year of Ahuizotl's death.

"Our hypothesis is precisely that this is probably the tomb of Ahuizotl," Lopez Lujan said.

Any artifacts linked to Ahuizotl would bring tremendous pride to Mexico. The country has sought unsuccessfully to recover Aztec artifacts like the feather-adorned "shield of Ahuizotl" and the "Montezuma headdress" from the Ethnology Museum in Vienna, Austria.

"Imagine it — this wasn't just any high-ranking man. The Aztecs were the most powerful society of their time before the arrival of the Spaniards," Martos said. "That's why Ahuizotl's tomb down there is so important."

Isis' Custom-Made Chess Boards and Pieces

Most people who are fans of Goddesschess don't visit the "commercial" link that we call Chesstique. We offer a number of chess-related gifts and products - like many other places on the internet - but I like to think our designs are truly unique.

We had a long and sometimes heated debate on whether Goddesschess should even host such a feature (over several years, actually), but after taking a long hard look at other chess-related products available for gifts on the internet, my more creative partners convinced me that we should have a forum to present our own designs.

The most beautiful, I think, are the chessboards designed by Isis. There is no one else out there as far as I know who hand-crafts products like those offered by Isis. She designs, weaves and sews chessboards from exquisite fabrics and crafts playing pieces out of glass. She offers several ready-made boards and chess pieces for sale at very reasonable prices, and also creates custom boards to your specifications. The custom part of her business has taken off recently - and if you take a look at her boards, you may appreciate why. They are gorgeous!
If you're looking for a unique reasonably priced gift for a chess-lover, please consider Chesstique.

Despite All Oppositions, the Regime in Tehran is Dedicated to Destroy Naqsh-e Rostam

Reports like this make me so sad - and angry - and frustrated! From CAIS August 4, 2007: LONDON, (CAIS) -- Despite all oppositions made so far by Iranians and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) against construction of Esfahan-Shiraz railway by the Islamic Republic only in 300-meter away from Naqsh-e Rostam historic site. Based on earlier agreements between authorities of Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Road and Transportation and ICHHTO, the project of Esfahan-Shiraz railway was due to change its path and be constructed with the maximum distance from Naqsh-e Rostam to cause the least harm to this historic site. However, its seems by purchasing the farmlands in vicinity of Naqsh-e Rostam and marking the path of the railway, the regime is pursuing their original plan. Prior to this, after revising the suggested route by Ministry of Road and Transportation, the technical council of ICHHTO decided that the path for construction the railroad must change. Experts of ICHHTO have previously warned that the powerful jolts caused by train would have a harmful effect on the historic monuments in the area - train vibrations would eventually damage Naqsh-e Rostam monument, and ensures the destruction of Ka’aba of Zoroaster less than ten-years. Considering that Pars-e Pasargadae Research Centre is determined to prepare the ground for registration of Naqsh-e Rostam in list of UNESCO’s World Heritage site, as annex of Persepolis world heritage site, construction of the railway in such a close distance of this historic site would ruin the chance of world registration of this Achaemenid site forever. UNESCO asked the regime in Tehran to give an explanation about construction of the railway near Naqsh-e Rostam in the 31st session of World Heritage Committee. Located in Iranian Fars province, 12 kilometer distance of Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rostam contains four tombs belonging to Achaemenid dynastic emperors which were carved out of the rock. Ka’aba of Zoroaster bears number of inscription belong to Parthian and Sasanian dynastic eras. Since the coming of theocratic regime to power in Iran, the regime leaders have dedicated themselves to restructure Iranian culture and history. Many pre-Islamic historical and archaeological sites have been devastated under the cover of development projects: destroyed as part of highway and railway track construction; contaminated irreparably by chemical factories; undermined by nearby hotels; obliterated as part of mining; or submerged beneath dam reservoirs.

Chess is - the Universe

I have no idea how these numbers were arrived at (and even if I did, I would probably not be able to wrap my mind around them), but this little mini-article perfectly expresses our belief at Goddesschess that chess is, quite simply, a reflection of the universe! August 5, 2007 Columbus, Ohio You'd Never Have Guessed Some things are just too strange to be coincidence. Maybe the universe is more interconnected than we think. Checkmate Want to know why the best human chess players can still beat the best computers? The secret, brought to you in math-speak, is that the primary game-tree search algorithm in chess faces a massive combinatorial problem. More simply, on average, there are 40 moves for each chess turn. And chess games can last up to 70 turns (although most good players will resign well before if they see their position is lost). So the resulting tree describing all chess games is 1073. Estimates for the number of particles in the universe range from 1070 to 1080, which means the two are actually pretty close!

Chess in the Park in the Summer - Ahhhh

I liked this article a lot: Enjoying the weather one move at a time Updated: 8/4/2007 9:48 PM By: Britt Godshalk ALBANY, N.Y. - With the humidity giving way to a soft summer breeze, what better way to enjoy the weekend weather than a visit to the park with some friends. And perhaps take out the Queen -- chess piece, that is. "We've been coming here for about three years here now," one of the several chess players in Townsend Park explained. "It's nothing official, it's nothing like that. It's a nice centralized place and when the weather's nice we'd all rather be outdoors than indoors. It was a motley crew of sorts. A student. A state worker. A retired computer programmer. A property manager. A nursing assistant. "We all from all walks of life, but we got a kinda chess relationship," said chess player Greg Williams. Chess is the common denominator. And each man had his own path to this table. "I was about 18 and ever since then I've been playing day, " said chess player Matt Peppe. "Everywhere I go I try to find a park where they play chess." "Myself I got into it when Bobby Fisher was going for the world championship in 1972," said another player."I was introduced to it back in '95 and I developed a love for it," said Williams. "I see chess as an art. It's a way of life. It's defense, it's patience, it's offense, it's aggressiveness." "Nothing comes easy, you gotta work for everything you get," Peppe said "You can't take anything for granted because you might seem like you're doing well and you turn around two seconds later and you're on the bottom, or the other way around." A guy the players call "Tiger" offered to give me a lesson after his win. It would prove to be one of his most difficult chess challenges yet. I was no "Grand Master." That's the nickname they have for player Bill Molloy. He has a bit more of experience at the board, than I do. "About forty years," Molloy said. "You can learn it, it just takes a while to learn all the subtle things.""You can start out barely knowing how to move the pieces, and within a couple weeks you can be competing with some of these people," Peppe said. "It's just a matter of practicing and trying to take in what you're learning." And what better excuse, than the perfect summer's day. *********************************************************************************** There was also this article recently on an outdoor chess spot in Chicago: Hot Times at the Chess Pavilion Where complete strangers meet and mate, exchange queens, and fianchetto in broad daylight By Ted Cox July 27, 2007 I was just down the shore from the North Avenue beach house, getting my ass thrashed but good and enjoying it perhaps a little too much. Don’t go getting the wrong idea. This was in broad daylight, out in the open, at the chess pavilion. Last Friday was a gorgeous day, the lake the color of jade, the wind blowing in from the northwest. I’d heard about the cutthroat competition on the chess risers there, seen the players from Lake Shore Drive, and wanted to revisit the game I’d played fairly well back in high school. (Yeah, I was on the chess team; wanna make something of it?) Yet over the years whatever skills I possessed had atrophied. I don’t know nothin’ about the French or the calculus I took, and as I gave up my queen to stave off checkmate it was clear I didn’t recall much more about chess. I was trying to complicate the play in this game of speed chess and take advantage of the five-minutes-to-two advantage I’d been spotted on the clock, but it ran quickly to its inevitable conclusion. Nevertheless it felt good to be sitting in the sun, to be distracted by the occasional big wave splashing over the revetment that runs north from Oak Street Beach, and to be playing chess again, even if I was losing $3 on the game. It helped that the opposition was a nice guy, though he showed no mercy on the board. Afterward, Ron Washington told me he’s been playing at the pavilion whenever weather permits for 20 years, mostly for stakes of $3 a game. A part-time cabbie, he also gives chess lessons for $20 an hour—most teachers charge $40, he insisted—at the pavilion and in the winter months at a nearby Starbucks. I asked if this makes him a living. “I do all right,” he said. There are always players at the pavilion, he said—more on the weekends of course—and most play for money, though there are free games as well. Chess is as popular as ever, he said, though the renaissance suggested in recent newspaper stories about inner-city high school teams is probably exaggerated. Aside from the pavilion, he said, “you have to know where to go” to find a good game. The pavilion has been the place to find a decent game in decent weather for 50 years. It was built in 1957, paid for with a $90,000 donation from Laurens Hammond, of the Hammond Organ Company. It was designed by Maurice Webster, and it’s made of limestone and enhanced with matching sculptures of a king and queen by Boris Gilbertson. The statues are a little worse for wear, thanks to their water’s-edge exposure to winter, but the pavilion offers shade and shelter and boards set into concrete—though most serious players bring their own plastic roll-up boards. I said I’d picked up the game during the mania over the 1972 world-championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. “That’s when everybody picked it up,” Washington said. Him too? “Oh no, I couldn’t wait for them,” he added, without saying exactly how long he’d been playing. He knows the game. He whomped me with a mildly unconventional English opening, which begins with the advance of the queen’s bishop’s pawn, while most games begin with a move by the king’s or queen’s pawn. Five-minute speed chess, played with a two-faced clock that times each player separately, calls on a player’s knowledge of set openings, and the English was a good choice to throw at an unknown opponent. I could have been anybody, even a master who needed $3, but when I uncertainly tried to respond with the old Nimzo-Indian defense I used to play against the queen’s pawn, Washington knew I was out of my element and made short work of me. He was very nice about it, though, and later said he studies the game constantly. “You have to if you’re gonna survive on chess,” he explained. This was actually my second game of the day. The first hadn’t been as enjoyable. Washington was playing someone else when I walked up, and only one other player was at the pavilion with a board set up. He had the look of the classic chess nerd—ball cap and spectacles—and he was working his way briskly through a sack lunch. I asked if he was waiting for someone and he said yes, but a couple of minutes later asked if I played. I said I used to. “I play for money,” he said in an eastern European accent. How much? Two or three dollars. So I sat down for a $2 game and got throttled. I threw my old, reliable Caro-Kann defense against his king’s pawn opening, but quickly forgot the proper sequence, moved my queen out prematurely, and got it trapped on a diagonal. It was brutal, but as I was limping away, Washington, having dealt with his previous opponent, invited me over for a much more pleasant drubbing. I had to admit I was a fish, as chess players like to say, but damn if it didn’t feel good to be back in the water. As Washington and I talked, a guy named Joe came riding his bike no-handed down the path. Washington greeted him and called him over. Joe, it turned out, was one of Washington’s regular students, so he invited us to play a free game off the clock on his board. I got white this time, opened with the king’s pawn, and Joe responded with a Pirc defense—again somewhat off the beaten path, but not exotic by any means. I gave up a pawn early, but otherwise handled my pieces well, and soon a hedgehog of pawns extended from side to side. It became a positional battle, which was always my strength, and the game began to come back to me. When a file opened, I beat him to it with doubled rooks and my queen and seized the initiative. Still down a pawn, I had some play and thought I could force a draw. The sun felt good, the waves were washing over the concrete, and kids from a camp arrived and began setting pieces down on the open boards as a counselor hectored and instructed them. That’s when Washington rushed over, having hooked another opponent. “I need my board back,” he said. “Gotta make some money.” What a perfect time to stop. I shook hands all around, thanked Joe and Washington for the games, and walked away resolved that I’d be back. Only next time I’ll crack my old copy of Modern Chess Openings beforehand.
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