Saturday, January 19, 2008

Corus 2008 7th Round Results

Group "A": Polgar, Judit - Anand, Viswanathan 0-1 (12th place with 3.0) Group "B": Smeets, Jan - Hou Yifan 0-1 (1oth place with 3.0) Koneru, Humpy - Krasenkow, Michal 1-0 (11th place with 3.0) Group "C": Negi, Parimarjan - Krush, Irina 1-0 (12th place with 2.0) Van der Werf, Mark - Ushenina, Anna 0-1 (11th place with 2.5) Peng Zhaoqin - Nijboer, Friso ½-½ (13th place with 2.0)

Sea Goddess to Appear at Celebration of Christ Child

From Cebu Daily News online
Gov says 'sea goddess’ gown her personal expense for Sinulog
Cebu Daily News

First Posted 12:08pm (Mla time) 01/18/2008

CEBU CITY, Philippines - Two days before the Sinulog parade, the designer of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia's gown is halfway through his job.

International couturier Cary Santiago, working overnight, finished the base of the governor's gown which is made of light turquoise jersey. He still has to sew on intricate “fish scales” made of metallic gold lamé.

Santiago, who’s built a reputation for making luxurious gowns with a flawless fit, said the costume would be finished on Saturday. He declined to give the tag price but said he was giving the governor a discount. A gown by Santiago would cost at least P50,000.

The governor will portray a sea goddess in her Sinulog performance with 100 dancers of the Palawod group from Bantayan Island.

Santiago, a favored designer, made five gowns for her in one year. The governor said the gowns were her personal expense and that those she wears on important functions of the provincial government have a personal value.

Asked what she would do with her Sinulog gown after Jan. 20, Garcia said she would keep it.

“I’d be embarrassed to auction the gowns. That's my personal choice. It's only mga hinangad nga icons angayan ana,” she said.

The five-minute Sinulog dance with the Bantayan contingent will portray how Sto Niño's blessing to a group of fishermen yielded a bountiful catch. Garcia started practicing her dance routine on Wednesday night. It will be her fourth straight year to dance in the Sinulog parade although this year, she’ll perform only in the Cebu City Sports Center. Garcia said she’s excited.

“First of all, I will fulfill my yearly promise to the Sto Niño. Many Cebuanos are waiting to see me dance. For that I am very glad ma highlighted pud ang palaod sa Bantayan,” she said.

Garcia said her participation this year is proof that she and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña can rise above their political differences. She said that “during that brief moment when I am dancing, I will be one with the Cebuanos. It will be my offering to the Sto Niño and to the Cebuanos.”

Dancing in four other Sinulog parades has made it easier to face the millions who will be watching. “I'm getting used to it,” she said.
Sto Nino is Santo Niño de Cebu is a representation of the Child Jesus, per Wikipedia. Here's an interesting article on the history of the Sto Nino. A Philippine goddess of the sea is Aman Sinaya.

Cuban Women's Chess Championship

News from ACN, Cuban News Agency (January 17, 2008): Cuban Females for the Crown of National Chess Tournament Holguin, Jan 17 (acn) Three rounds away from the finals of Cuba's national chess championship (women) underway in the eastern province of Holguin, the fight for the crown is becoming tighter since the scoring shows more than one possible winner. Grand Master (GM) Maritza Arribas (2234) from Santiago de Cuba leads the scoring with 8 points at the end of round 10, only half a point ahead of International Master (IM) Lisandra Ordaz (2284) from Pinar del Rio and FIDE Master (FM) Oleinis Linares (Santiago). Arribas, defending champ, drew with MI Zirka Frometa (2152) from Santiago, while Ordaz beat Yaniet Marrero (2299) from Las Tunas and Linares took the victory over FM Jeniffer Perez (2160) from Villa Clara. Fourth in the scoring with 6.5 points follows GM Sulennis Pina (2299) from Granma, who lost to MI Yerisbel Miranda (2126) from Pinar del Rio on Tuesday after five consecutive wins. The fifth position with 6 points is held by FM Zenia Corrales (2128) from Pinar, who beat her counterpart Lisandra Llaudy (2234)(Holguin) in 45 moves of a Sicilian Defense on Tuesday. Round ten ended after the win of GM Vivian Ramon (2293) (Havana) over Daniela Forgas (Santiago de Cuba), and draws between FM Ivette Catala (2136) (Havana) and IM Yuleiki Fleites (2217) from Villa Clara. The scoring is completed with Miranda in the sixth place (5,5), followed by Fleites (5), Catala (4,5), Vivian and Llaudy (4), Marrero (3,5), Perez (3), and Forgas and Frometa (2). The eleventh day of the tournament, being played in the Sports Museum Celso Enriquez, features a game between Arribas and Linares, besides the Corrales-Ordaz match. In other matches this Thursday, Sulennis should face Vivian, Fleites-Miranda, Marrero-Catala, Forgas-Frometa and Perez-Llaudy.

Thoughts of Robert J. Fischer

Isis and I discussed the sad news of Fischer's death last night on the telephone, and she reminded me of a thread we had started a long time ago (back in 2000) on Fischer at our Goddesschess Discussion Group. The Chief had some acquaintance with RJF and I shamelessly pressed for whatever information he could/would give us about him. The thread continued for several months.

Isis said she was going to publish some of the posts at her My Space site, and I think that's a good idea. What follows are a few of the posts, a trip down memory lane, not only memories of 2000 but memories from much further back.

From: RICALVO 2/21/00 5:08 pm
To: ALPHETA 2 of 197 39.2 in reply to 39.1
I met Bobby twice, but not on the same board. First in Havanna 1966. Second time in Siegen (Germany) 1970, when he allowed me to participate in the post-mortem analysis of a game agains Portisch. He retired because of the MiV in the federations, particularly Jeweis ones. He is retered because of danger for his life. He has money, but must escape as a fugitive from their powerful enemies. Not many people dare to speak about BF, but Patton is surely brave enough. SB

From: RICALVO 3/1/2000 10:37 am
To: ALPHETA 5 of 197 39.5 in reply to 39.4
Well, my dear Patton: It´s time to talik about BF, the greatest champion in chess history. He never accepted money as the ultimate reason. He never played tricky chess (no ease draw games of him are recorded). He hated federative crooks, Russian cheaters and particularly, Jeweish manipulators. You may or not agree with him, but the fact is that he won the World Championship in 1972 and was deprived of it by decree in 1975. Now he says that he is protecting his own life. He has been studying not only chess, but also history, above all history of religions. He seems to believe that troubles in the world are created not only by Soviet malignancy but, above all, by Jewish control of powers. Our tribe has some reliable sources, but on the whole, BF is a worthy point of discussion in this forum. SB

From: ALPHETA 3/1/2000 9:08 pm
To: RICALVO 6 of 197 39.6 in reply to 39.5
Greetings, Honorable Sitting Bull. I agree whole-heartedly that BF is a worthy subject of discussion. I was a full-time secretary and part-time hippy living on this city’s "fashionable east side" in 1972 when BF won the World Championship. I didn’t pay much attention to current events back then, but EVERYONE paid attention to BF and the Epic Struggle Against the Russian Juggernaut, and I was no exception! My brief six-month stint as a would-be chessplayer was behind me by this time, but it seemed as if EVERYONE had the name of BF on their lips. The young ladies who didn’t care a fig about chess thought he was oh so cute and "sexy" (he was a very compelling presence back then – still is, actually – at least I found him to be so in the 1992 photographs I have seen of him), the older more motherly type ladies thought him a clean-cut stand-up representative of the United States who clearly loved his mother (this is always counted a very good thing among Americans, home of Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet), the guys (both young and old) got into the "cold warrior" aspects of the match, and basically everyone American agreed that it would be a very good thing if BF could kick some Rusky butt!

Those days are long gone, but the memories will never disappear. They are etched in our collective consciousness as long as we (USA) exist as a country. That is Innisfree, Sitting Bull – a place of beauty, and peace and security; a secret place of the heart; a place we wistfully look back on and to which we perhaps, wish we could return; a place that exists corporally for each country, and for each of us individually no matter what our nationality.
So, talk to us about BF, Sitting Bull.

From: RICALVO 3/2/2000 5:22 am
To: ALPHETA 7 of 197 39.7 in reply to 39.6
Patton: Our tribe will obey your orders following strictly the points indicated by your posted guidelines. 1.Yes, the boom in US chess and in World chess was due to BF. Last year I travelled by car during several hours with Karpov, who declared to me: "I have tryed since 1975 to maintain the financial flowering in chess created by the image of Fisher, but nowadays the stupidity of the current top chess players are spoiling everything" 2.You say, with better instinct, that BF was and still is sexy. But sex seems a very negligible question in BF´s life program. Once, during a chess tournament in Buenos Aires, several chess grandmasters acted as go-betweens to procure the first sexual encounter of BF (with a biutiful woman). When asked maliciously the next morning, his answer was: "Chess is better". 3. His relations wit his mother (who by the way, had the fateful name of "Regina") had apparently nothing to do with Mom, Apple Pie and Chevrolet, ant at some points seemed rather conflictive and diverging. 4. About Innisfree, I agree with you. I saw "The quiet man" several times, but my reference was aimed basically at Yeat´s poem. Tell me, in case you don´t have it. What I can tell about BF is based mostly in readings, but also in internals reports because the international chess world is a curious group full of chats. BF´s image has suffered an aimed degradation because of many bastard interests of his jealous rivals, and the last one seems to us the article at the "Chess Café" you mentioned in a recent post.

Patton: let us know specific objectives for the next charges of our cavalry.

From: ALPHETA 3/3/00 7:24 am
To: RICALVO 11 of 197 39.11 in reply to 39.7
Greetings, S.B. Yes, I am familiar with Yeats’ beautiful and elegantly simple poem. I chose the recurring theme of Innisfree in "The Quiet Man" for a reason – I don’t recall the words of the song that Maureen O’Hara sang as she sat at her mother’s piano in the cottage she shared with her husband, John Wayne, their being married and together but estranged; I remember it was beautiful, and poignantly wistful, and it seemed somehow quite appropriate to an American Son who has been far from the shores of his homeland for over twenty years. Fitting, too, the theme of a man haunted by demons from the past that MUST be confronted and battled with before he can move forward and get on with the rest of his life. John Wayne as a retired Irish-American boxer at odds with himself and the world is an apt metaphor for our chess heavyweight, BF. …

From: RICALVO 3/3/00 5:49 pm To: ALPHETA 13 of 197 39.13 in reply to 39.11
Dear Patton: Your sensibility surprises our tribe. We can send an explorer to the "Pat Cohan´s Tavern" in Innisfree to obtain the song of Maureen O´Hara. BF is of finer stuff, and our council agrees with your overall impression. Our model for him is however not "The quiet man". First we thought on Coriolanus, as described by Plutarch in "Parallel lives": "Many people thought that his quite retirement was due to modesty, but they didn´t realized the tremendous fury containid inside his apparent stillness". The mother of Coriolanus was his driving force, as described by Shakespeare. Hamlet is in our opinion a much better metaphor. Deprived of his rights to the crown, searching for the history of his father dissapearance, looking at the power of usurpators ("smiling villains") and seeing his mother flirts with the established dictators. Our tribe was once allowed to read a big KGB dosssier on BF, but not to obtain a copy of it. If you wish, I can tell you in secrecy this story next Monday in this forum. SB

From: ALPHETA 3/3/00 8:59 pm
To: RICALVO 15 of 197 39.15 in reply to 39.13
Great Sitting Bull, Off to another chess tournament? Lucky man!

I prefer a happy ending to a tragedy, S.B., and that is why I chose "The Quiet Man". Alpheta JanXena is ever the optimist, in the face of all contrary evidence! I stick my tongue out at the boo-hooers and nay-sayers. I believe wholly and absolutely in the inherent power and triumph of good over evil. Naive you say? Perhaps we should put it to the test then - how about the creation of a "FREE BOBBY FISCHER" campaign? An interesting idea, don't you think?

… It seems to me that for the greater part of his life, people were either telling him what to do and when to do it, or TRYING to get him to do things that THEY wanted him to do. But what about what BF wanted? I've read pages and pages and pages of articles and not one of them addressed this simple and yet profound question - what did, and what does, BF want?

… I am engaging in research on BF … and I am merely reporting on what I have read and what I have concluded:

FACT: I have read many accounts of children approaching BF and asking for his autograph - and the Man always gave his autograph to these young ones without a second thought. Contrast this behavior with the attitude of today's so-called sports superstars, who charge for everything!

FACT: I read an article on one of the websites devoted to BF that described an afternoon spent in the country, somewhere in South America where he was appearing at a tournament - long ago and far away - and about BF's rapturous encounter and immediate friendship with an old dog who miraculously cavorted about like a puppy when BF came into her presence. This, perhaps more than anything else, spoke to me, S.B. Animals ALWAYS KNOW about people - ALWAYS!

FACT: I have read, from more than one source, about BF spending lots of time tutoring many children in The Game, about how patient and gentle he is with these children, and how the children, in turn, have responded to this loving attention. BF has never, as far as I know, either touted or confirmed these activities - the stories have come from the families of the children! I believe these accounts because in a recorded radio interview that I listened to the other night given in January, 2000, BF talked about how he had hoped one day to raise his children on a homestead on land he owned in Florida. Land that he had inherited from his mother, who had inherited it from her father. Land that, for various reasons, he decided to forfeit by refusing to pay the real estate property taxes thereon.

FACT: Just today at GKasparov's current (new and improved) website I read in a recent interview given by GKasparov about a connection between 19 year old Hungarian wunderkind Peter Leko and BF. Perhaps this isn't "news" to the world of professional chessplayers, but it sure was news to me! I believe that BF has lived in Hungary (Budapest) since 1992, and perhaps Peter Leko was one of the children (in 1992 he would have been 10 or 11) that BF took under his chess-tutoring wing...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Right now I'm watching BBC news on public television and they are doing a retrospect on Robert J. Fischer, the greatest American chess player who ever lived (to date). This is one of my favorite photos of Fischer, returning triumphant to NYC after winning the World Chess Championship in Iceland. I haven't read the latest news reports - what I read this morning indicated that Fischer died Thursday. I read that it was kidney failure, but someone at the office said she read it was liver failure. I read that he died at home, having removed himself from hospital perhaps in November because he did not trust western medicine/doctors; I also read that he died in hospital. So - I expect the facts will be sorted out in time.

I'm very sad that he died without ever having received treatment for his mental illness. He never gave himself a chance for a more normal life. I know attorneys who would have been glad to help him with his legal battles, if only he had been willing to return to the USA. But mental illness prevented Fischer from acting rationally.

Will his illness overshadow his great achievements in the world of chess? I'm no judge. I admired what he accomplished as an individual going up against what was the Russian chess monolith; I admire him even more for turning himself into a chess genius through sheer dint of will and hard work. I abhored, like many no doubt, his personally espoused views on my country, the USA, and his views on Jews and women.

Now I'm wondering if there will be a legal battle over Fischer's estate. Of course, I'm assuming that there IS an estate, but who knows for sure? Only Fischer's bankers. I understand that Fischer's deceased sister had two children, who would stand to inherit Fischer's estate (at least, under USA law) if he has not otherwise bequeathed it via Trust or Will (or married and his wife survived him). The USA is owed money for income taxes on Fischer's $3,000,000 prize won in the 1992 rematch against Boris Spassky. Will the IRS file a claim in whatever country Fischer's estate is probated? Will we ever know? Is it any of our business? Will friends now rush to print what they withheld for years on pain of banishment from Fischer's figurative side? Will others rush to attempt to cash in on Fischer's death? So many questions - no answers at the moment.

The Lehrer News Hour is on PBS now - it mentioned Fischer's death in a short story.

To a happier topic; today in many places of employment and schools throughout the state of Wisconsin, people wore their green and gold in support of our beloved Packers. The big game, the NFC Championship Game, is on Sunday, kick-off is at 5:40 p.m. I will be snuggled in my pajamas under an afghan, ensconced on the sofa in front of the fireplace to watch the game. The temperature turned sharply colder last night, and will drop even lower over the weekend. By Sunday evening it might be zero in Green Bay at game time, with windchills of - who knows? The winds are supposed to be strong here in Milwaukee County. We are under a winter weather advisory for dangerous windchill due to strong winds; but up in Green Bay I haven't heard that there will be much wind.

The supermarket was absolutely NUTS tonight, geez! The line for the liquor checkout was half a mile long, I swear, and the "regular" checkout lines were nearly as long. Everyone is stocking up on goodies for the Big Game, as well as extra so they won't have to venture out tomorrow or Sunday to pick up milk, eggs, bread or toilet paper (essentials to surviving life as we know it). Myself, I quit the office half an hour early because the forecast was for the winds to start whipping up around the time I'd normally leave. As it was, the 3/4th mile walk home from the supermarket loaded down with groceries was no picnic. The wind was out of the south/southwest and very cold - and the ambient air temperature was about 12 degrees F. I don't want to be out there when the highest temperature during the day is zero! Now I'm snug in front of my computer. I have my pizza, my mac and cheese, ground beef, assorted soups and casserole fixings, and lots of wine and liquored-up Christian Bros. eggnog (leftover from Christmas); also lots of peanuts for the squirrels and bird seed for the birds. I'm not stirring farther than the end of the driveway to get my mail and the newspaper until Monday morning, when I HAVE to go back to the office :)

I understand the Packers are 7 point favorites in the Big Game. Honestly, I have no idea what will happen in this game; but then, I expected that the Pack would have to play Dallas in Dallas, surprise surprise! I have nothing against the Giants - that is, I don't hate them like I hate the Vikings, da Bears, and Dallas. I've read that the Giants are dirty players - well, dirtier than average because I'm sure most players will take free shots in a pile-up if they think they can get away with it. Particularly dirty play, as opposed to just playing like nasty little boys with bad manners, does not set well with me. So I will be keeping a keen eye on the t.v. screen and if I see something I think is below the belt (so to speak), I won't hesitate to put a JanXena hex on the offending player. JanXena hexes ALWAYS work.

I've written a short piece about the TRUE history of football for Goddesschess - I expect it will be published shortly, so check there the next day or two to see if it's up and running. It will be published under my nom de plume of Alpheta Patton, former Ace Girl Reporter for the gone but not forgotten International Chessoid.

About that story that Dylan McClain published a few days ago in The New York Times (which, evidently, hardly anyone read, poor Dylan, just not very popular are you, gee, I wonder why?) about the USCF requesting the resignation of Executive Board member Paul Truong, who was elected to the EB in June, 2007. I do wish McClain would check his facts and solicit comments from more than a USCF press release before publishing his stories. Doesn't the man have an editor? That quote he published from Sloan - something like "now I'll always be known as a sex offender." Oh poor Mr. Sloan, playing the victim. What a hoot! If McClain had checked out Sloan's website, he would be in for a NASTY shock and see the reason why such charges have been leveled at Sloan from many different directions - they didn't come out of thin air. As I understand it, Sloan has not removed any of the truly offensive material he's posted over the years. I haven't visited there since 1999 (a one-time event, when I was innocent in the ways of the internet and didn't realize that people could and did publish such things, eek!) for fear of contracting some kind of loathsome disease, not to mention getting the heebie-jeebies at the mere thought.

Of course, a miracle could occur and Sloan could receive GODDESS and become born again. He could repent his formerly errant ways and seek forgiveness, and spend the rest of his life in penitence, giving free chess lessons New York prisons. Well - like I said, it would be a miracle.

I love this over at Anthony North asks the simple question of "Why Are We Here?" at Beyond the Blog. I mean, geez, get over it already. We're HERE. Deal with it! Do the best you can and duh! - die and then see what's beyond, if anything. That's what everybody else here has to deal with too. So boo hoo, eat some chocolate, drink some wine and get a good night's sleep. You'll feel better in the morning.

Corus 2008 6th Round Results

Group "A": Carlsen, Magnus - Polgar, Judit 1-0 (9th place with 3.0) Group "B": Cheparinov, Ivan - Koneru, Humpy ½-½ (13th place with 2.0) Hou Yifan - Movsesian, Sergei 0-1 (12th place with 2.0) Group "C": Krush, Irina - Caruana, Fabiano 1-0 (11th place with 2.0) Ushenina, Anna - Peng Zhaoqin 1-0 (13th with 1.5; 12th with 1.5) I'm interested in analysis of the Krush-Caruana game and Humpy's draw with Cheparinov. If you know where I can read one or both, please let me know (or provide one here, thanks).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Suicidal Squirrels?

From Romania to protest cartoon featuring with "suicidal squirrels" to the European Commission © AP 2008-01-17 16:51:38 - BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - A darkly humorous cartoon showing squirrels hanging themselves and throwing themselves in front of cars has drawn the ire of Romanian broadcasting authorities. But Romanian authorities have no control over the cartoon, because it is broadcast on a channel with a British license. The Romanian regulatory body for television broadcasting said Thursday it would make an official protest to the European Commission about the one-minute cartoon shown every afternoon on the British-licensed channel AXN.The cartoon, called "Suicidal Squirrels," is also broadcast on cable television in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova, officials said. The National Audiovisual Council argued that the cartoon is damaging for children to watch. AXN declined to reach an agreement with Romanian regulators, broadcasting officials said. "Some people may say this is an overreaction, but I don't think that such programs would be broadcast in Britain at two in the afternoon," said Gelu Trandafir, a member of the broadcasting council. AXN, which is seen on cable television, obtained its license from Britain and therefore is governed by British broadcasting rules.

Antiquities Thieves Strike Again

Or even worse - fanatical Muslims out to destroy anything that isn't "islamic?" I don't know. Perhaps it's both. What I do know is that lots of money can be made on the illegal antiquities market for finds of this stature. The article is presented as I found it online. The English isn't the best, but it's clear enough to report what happened: From (Yemen News) Unknown persons destroy ancient bronze coffin discovered recently [17 January 2008] IBB, Jan. 17 (Saba) - Unknown persons devastated early morning on Thursday an ancient bronze coffin and stole another one completely were in an archaeological location in al-Asibia area in Dhefar valley of Ibb province. The director general of Antiques and Cultural Properties Protection in the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums Hesham al-Thawr held the director general of the security office in the al-Saddah district responsible for destroying the location and disinterring the bronze coffin. Al-Thawr said that the security official has ordered the military patrols, which have been guarding the area for five days, to leave the location mentioning no reasons for such action that gave those devastators a chance to do their crime. Worth mentioning, the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums has announced that the excavation operations at al-Asibia area discovered last Wednesday a stone grave and bronze coffin in a marble-walled room dating back to the Sheba era. The characteristics of the coffin indicate to a royal one belongs to a king from the Sheba kingdom. TD/AF Saba

Corus 2008 5th Round Results

Group "A": Polgar, Judit - Lékó, Peter ½-½ (5th place, 3.0) Group "B": Koneru, Humpy - Sargissian, Gabriel ½-½ (13th place, 1.5) Spoelman, Wouter - Hou Yifan ½-½ (11th place, 2.0) Group "C": Negi, Parimarjan - Ushenina, Anna 1-0 (14th place, 0.5) Nijboer, Friso - Krush, Irina 1-0 (12th place, 1.0) Peng Zhaoqin - Li Shilong ½-½ (11th place, 1.5) Hmmm, the only chess femme who is having a "good" event thus far is Judit Polgar, with 3.0/5.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Dancing Girls of Islam

From The First Post Online Magazine Istanbul’s female dervishes are dividing Muslims Report and photos by Iason Athanasiadis January 17, 2008 In a cultural centre in Istanbul's Fatih district, nine Mevlevi dervishes, clad in the distinctive long gowns of their mystical order, revolve rhythmically in a sacred dance. It is a scene that has been repeated since the order was founded in Turkey's sacred city of Konya in the late 13th century. But there is one controversial innovation that would outrage most Islamists: no less than four of the participants are women. "The Mevlevis are an exception," says Carole, a convert to Islam who has lived in Istanbul for the past 20 years. "They allowed the sexes to mingle even at a time when men and women were not allowed to be buried in adjoining tombs." Male-female segregation continues to this day, notably in the cemeteries of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While Shia Muslim tradition allows men's representations to be drawn on their tombstones, the same does not apply for women. They are absent and invisible in death, as they were covered in life. Mystical Muslims have always departed from orthodox Islam's stern script. In formerly Christian lands, suddenly Islamised, Sufism was the natural continuation of ascetic tradition. Placing an emphasis on spirituality over religious protocol, the men who came to be called dervishes developed a pantheon of saints, challenging Islam's strict monotheism. In the secular republic of Turkey, at the heart of the old Ottoman empire, political Islam was dealt a death-blow by modernising leader Kemal Ataturk (right). In the 1920s he instituted the separation of mosque from state and abolished the Islamic Caliphate and its edict that the Sultan was also Allah's representative on earth. Sufi orders, including the Mevlevis, were terminated: the new state padlocked their lodges, razed them to the ground or reopened them as museums. Which is why the portrait of Ataturk hanging alongside icons of revered early Muslim figures Ali and Hussein in every Mevlevi lodge in Istanbul is so astonishing. Ataturk's name is invoked during prayers as the saviour of Sufism from the deracinating effect of politics. Hassan Dede, spiritual leader of the Mevlevi Order, has a youthful face framed by smiling white eyebrows, alert eyes and a moustache. In 1993, he declared that men and women should be free to worship alongside each other - in one stroke up-ending the taboo that for centuries consigned women to the first floor of a mosque, peering down through wooden latticework at the shaykh and his male devotees. Unsurprisingly, women outnumber men in Dede's gatherings. Many of them were secular and had never attended a mosque in their lives before coming across the Mevlevi Order. "It is wonderful, seeing men and women praying together," says Deniz Evreng, a 28-year-old female follower who was attracted back to Islam after she attended a Mevlevi ceremony. "Young people go to Dede and ask him about their love problems and get advice from him." In another break with mainstream Islam, hardly any of the 60-something women attending Dede's gatherings are veiled. One attractive woman wears red Capri pants. Many are successful, unmarried professionals and look as if they have come straight from the office. The painting of pre-restoration Mecca that hangs above them seems more art exhibit than religious article. In nearby Saudi Arabia, or neighbouring Iran, where the state presumes to be the protector and definer of religion, Sufism is scorned by Sunni and Shia alike. The fact that Dede allows females to participate in the sacred dance - an innovation that orthodox Muslims abhor, even when practised by men - could earn him a fatwa. But Hassan Dede has no time for Islamic Republics, divine monarchies or official Islams. His Islam has been shaped by 500 years of the multicultural Ottoman Empire; it was and is an Islam that stresses inclusiveness and flexibility. "Mevlana didn't come from Arabia," says Dede. "Mevlana said: 'Come unto me, even with blood on your hands, but without making rules or laws.' As for the other orders, I say they are Arab-based and dependent on legalism." With statements like this, it is little wonder that Dede is perceived as a potential ally by the Bush Administration in its struggle to reshape Islam. But Dede makes it clear that he will not be made the political pawn of any master. "The only terrorist is Bush," he declares, when asked about his views on Osama bin Laden. It is true Dede cuts an unorthodox figure in the world of Sunni Islam. But what he and others wish Bush and his neo-con supporters would understand is that there are many 'unorthodox' Islamists throughout the Muslim world, far more moderate than the combative, anti-Western strand currently parading the streets of Cairo, Karachi or Gaza. Dede, surrounded by his whirling dervishes, claims an aversion to politics. It's a pity the same cannot be said for the Bush neo-cons and their absurd Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week which starts on US campuses today, aimed at 'defending' America from the Muslim hordes.

Ancient Sword Recovered from Chinese Tomb


2,500-year-old sword excavated from tomb
2008-01-16 20:55:32.0
(Xinhua)Updated: 2008-01-16 20:55

Nanchang -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered an elaborately-made sword, which they believe is 2,500 to 2,600 years old, in an ancient tomb in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

"It is reckoned as the oldest ever excavated in the country," said Xu Changqing, chief of the excavation team.

The well-preserved sword, some 50 centimeters long, is black, gold and bright red. "A dragon pattern was carved on both ends of the scabbard, and the middle part of the scabbard was decorated with two rows of a W-shaped design," said Xu.

Xu and his colleagues have dubbed it the "First Sword under Heaven" in keeping with other two heritage pieces called "First Mat under Heaven" and "First Fan under Heaven", both of which were unearthed from the same tomb.

Since the start of excavation work last January, at least 1,000 relics have been found in the ancient tomb, which was built in the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). The findings include 47 coffins. The archaeologists are studying the valuable artifacts in hopes of discovering who was buried there and what the relics reveal about the funerary culture of the period.

Twelve Year Old Girl Beats Up the Guys (in Chess)

From January 27, 2008 Jack Khoury Thousands of chess aficionados from all over the world learned something new this week. The games of the Israel International Championship in chess were broadcast on the Internet directly from the community center in Ma'alot-Tarshiha. But chess fans around the world could not really see the Galilee panoramas. The Net cameras were focused mainly on the chessboards where the black and white pieces moved, but the organizers noted with satisfaction that the prestigious competition exposed the city to the entire world. Rami Tal, the tournament's organizer for the Israel Chess Federation, did not over the last few days conceal his excitement about the fact that the international competition was indeed taking place in an outlying area. Tal related that the last such tournament in this format held in Israel was 15 years ago. "We're used to international tournaments taking place in the center of the country, but it was no coincidence that Ma'alot-Tarshiha was chosen: The quiet character of the city, unlike the major cities in the center of the country, is suited to the nature of the game," said Tal. "And, anybody who followed the tournament over the Internet also happened to read about the place where it was being held, a city in the western Galilee where Jews and Arabs coexist." The Ma'alot-Tarshiha municipality and the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport also helped organize the tournament. ... "Some of the participants in the chess tournament were very impressed by the scenery in the area and so everything combines together: a game of intelligence and thinking, awareness of coexistence between Jews and Arabs and bringing the periphery to many surfers on the Internet via chess," says Tal. The Ma'alot-Tarshiha municipality is already thinking about turning the chess tournament into a tradition. On one hand, it does not eat up many resources and, on the other hand, it exposes the city to a large audience. The most important official event of the tournament took place on Tuesday in a long row of chess games played by grandmasters from Israel, Ukraine, Poland and Germany. At the same time, dozens of Jews and Arabs participated in the Galilee competition, which offered $20,000 in total prize money. But most of the spotlight was on a simultaneous exhibition match between a 12-year-old Israeli girl, Marsel Efroimski, and 20 chess players seated next to each other who waited anxiously for the young girl's fast-paced moves. Efroimski, the child of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, lives in Kfar Sava and is a seventh grade student. She says that since age eight, she has been playing chess. Her inspiration and her primary influences came from her father and grandfather. "Chess is a game that requires a lot of thought," Efroimski said. "I know that it's not a game that draws crowds, but it's a very interesting game and in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, there were actually people who were interested and came to watch the games or participate." The 20 courageous players did not stand much of a chance against the girl who in November was crowned the world youth chess champion in the under-12 girls category at the championships that were held in Turkey. The title earned her an invitation to receive the congratulations of President Shimon Peres. Within an hour of beginning the chess matches at the community center in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, 20 victories were credited to Efroimski, who stood throughout the entire competition, as is customary, and merely sprinted from one chessboard to the next.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the Earth

From The Seattle Times Froma Harrop / Syndicated columnist The inn at the top of the world Tuesday, January 15, 2008 There was another Hillary in the news last week. It was Edmund Hillary, the mountaineer who in 1953 became the first human to reach the top of Mount Everest — alongside his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. The New Zealander had died at 88. A climber who attempted Everest in 1924 and lost his life doing so offered the most famous line about the endeavor. Asked by reporters why he wanted to climb Everest, George Mallory answered, "Because it is there." The mountain is sacred to the indigenous people of the Himalayas, but to Mallory the peak was an "it" to be conquered. Hillary had a lot more soul than that, but upon climbing Mount Everest, he did remark, "Well, we knocked the bastard off!" Taking the test is why many of today's "adventurers" make the trek. The climb has become an extreme sport for which the mountain could as well be a giant rock climbing wall with bad weather. For the super fit with money, Everest is now an item on the checklist of life's exploits. Several climbers have posted YouTube video clips of themselves atop Mount Everest, one set to the music of James Blunt's "You're beautiful." Those who treat it merely as an icon to vanquish don't see anything. They don't appreciate anything. They just go up the hill to prove they can do it. You sometimes wonder why these folk — if they want to perform a spectacular feat — don't simply run two marathons back-to-back, instead. Snarky comments aside, one must still note the grit, strength and courage of people who do scale the mountain, which rises to 29,029 feet above sea level. Most intimidating is the high-altitude "death zone," where a lack of oxygen causes hallucinations. More than 200 climbers have died on Everest. The best-selling book and movie "Into Thin Air" recounted a tragic 1996 expedition during which eight members died. But rather than deter others, the story has apparently increased the desire to beat the mountain. Since Hillary's famous climb, more than 2,000 men and women have taken up the challenge, including a 70-year-old, a blind person and a man with one arm. Wealthy people pay guide companies as much as $70,000 to organize expeditions up the celebrated peak. It's amazing to think that Hillary's once astounding feat has been performed by socialites and doctors, and at least one Sherpa has done it 14 times. The lust for Mount Everest has never seemed to be much about Nepal, the country in which it partly resides (sharing it with Tibet) — or the local Sherpa who have a name for the mountain, and it's not Everest. They call it Chomolungma, which means "goddess mother of the Earth." The British named the mountain after Sir George Everest, who had been their surveyor general in the mid-19th century. For the Sherpa guides, the job of carrying stuff up pays a lot more than growing potatoes or herding yaks. Facilitating new bragging rights for wealthy Westerners is a good living in this poor part of the world, even though these Buddhist Tibetans are often treated as beasts of burden. Let it be said for Hillary that he dedicated his post-climb life to helping the Sherpa build schools, hospitals and bridges for the locals. Hillary was a good man, and brave. He also understood that mountains are more than recreational facilities. They are also spiritual places. That's why it's often painful to see the sides of mountains scraped clean of trees to make paths for ski runs and motorized lifts. Everest has not yet suffered the fate of being turned into a mass sports resort, but the goddess probably wouldn't mind if more people left her alone.

Albino Squirrel Beating the Odds


Squirrel's white coat isn't such a bright idea
Published Date: 09 January 2008
Source: Edinburgh Evening News
Location: Scotland

WITH its pure white coat and bright red eyes, it stands out like a sore thumb as it forages in city gardens.

The recent snowfall in the Capital offered a brief respite for this albino squirrel, giving it a rare chance to blend into the background. The creature's lack of natural camouflage means it lives with the constant threat from predators, such as foxes, as it darts through gardens around Morningside and Craiglockhart. Wildlife experts are amazed that it has survived into adulthood, but sadly they are pessimistic about its prospects.

The squirrel was photographed in the garden of Scott Neil, general manager of ice hockey team the Edinburgh Capitals, who lives in the Meadowspot estate.

Mr Neil said yesterday: "I saw it for the first time this morning and was quite surprised. I've never seen one before. My daughter put out nuts for the birds a few days ago and since then a few grey squirrels have been down. "It stands out from the rest, but doesn't seem to get treated any differently by other squirrels."

It is likely the albino squirrel's home is in the woods at Napier University's Craighouse Campus or in the conservation area between the campus and Craiglockhart. There have been other sightings of an albino squirrel at the campus, as well as other parts of the south-west of the city. Edinburgh poet Juliet Wilson wrote on her blog recently how she spotted an albino at the nearby Union Canal at Craiglockhart "playing happily with an ordinary grey squirrel".

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said while the squirrel had done well to survive this long, its future was probably bleak. Trust spokeswoman Clara Govier said: "White squirrels are an oddity and the result of a rare combination of genes. They are attractive but their distinct colour can make them more of a target for predators."

So this Morningside resident could have a more troubled future than its common grey siblings. It stands out – unless it's snowing.

A close shave for the squirrel shortly after it was spotted yesterday offered a sign of things to come. Mr Neil said: "I've just watched it being chased up a tree by a dog, but it got away in the nick of time."

In April 2005, an albino squirrel in Livingston lived long enough to breed and gave birth to another pure white squirrel. Experts said at the time that it was likely to have been the first ever case of a second generation albino. Specialists say the chances of a squirrel being born albino are about one in 100,000.

Carved Megalith Discovered at Lismullin, Ireland

Ancient Tomb Art Found in Path of Irish Highway

James Owen for National Geographic News
January 14, 2008

Tomb engravings dating back 6,000 years are among the latest discoveries unearthed on the route of a controversial highway under construction in Ireland.

The historic site, at Lismullin in County Meath, was handed over to road builders last month, just weeks after the Stone Age art was found inside a medieval bunker.

The engravings have been removed to allow construction of the highway to proceed.

The new find follows the discovery last spring of a prehistoric open-air temple nearby, causing construction along the 37-mile-long (60-kilometer-long) M3 highway northwest of Dublin to be temporarily suspended (see map).

The timber ceremonial enclosure was found just 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) from the Hill of Tara, once the seat of power of ancient Celtic kings.

The latest excavations at Lismullin revealed part of a large stone monument, or megalith, decorated with engravings dating to the Late Stone Age, according to archaeologists from Ireland's National Roads Authority (NRA).

Discovered some 165 feet (50 meters) from the temple's enclosure, the stone features a series of zigzags, concentric circles, and arcs.

"It's classic megalithic art," said Mary Deevy, NRA's chief archaeologist.

The engravings are similar to those that decorate other burial chambers in the region known as passage tombs, Deevy noted. "We've only got half a boulder, but we think originally it was probably a curbstone from a passage tomb," she said.

The stone would have formed a wall that kept the burial mound together, with the artwork displayed on the outer surface, Deevy said.

What the motifs symbolized remains a mystery, the archaeologist added.

The stone was discovered within an early medieval souterrain, an underground structure that may have been used by local inhabitants to defend themselves against Viking raiders, the excavation team reported.

Dating to around the 10th century A.D., the souterrain was probably constructed using the broken megalith as building material.
"The souterrain builders robbed or quarried the stone from a Neolithic [Late Stone Age] monument," Deevy said.

"Souterrains are common in Ireland, and it's not unusual to have stones from earlier monuments reused on them," she added.

The rock art will eventually go on public display, according to Deevy, who describes the Lismullin site as "100 percent excavated."

The site was handed over to road builders on December 18, with construction work expected to start soon.

Campaigners who want the highway re-routed away from the Hill of Tara area have attacked the decision. "Significant damage has already been done," said Vincent Salafia of Dublin-based protest group TaraWatch.

"But until the road is built on top of the site, I suppose there is still hope."

One of the "Top Discoveries"
Irish citizens opposed to the road project are currently fielding legal advice with a view to obtaining a court injunction to halt construction, the campaigner said.The European Commission has reportedly criticized the Irish government for failing to properly reassess the impact of the road project after the ruins of the open-air temple were uncovered last year.

Under European law, the discovery should have triggered a so-called environmental impact assessment, Salafia said.

While the Lismullin site was declared a national monument, "this has made no difference whatsoever," he added.

NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said the find led to a government-ordered review of the Lismullin site by a panel of independent experts. The panel concluded that the excavations had been properly conducted "and that all appropriate actions had been taken," O'Neill said. The concerns expressed by the European Commission related to Irish road projects in general and not specifically to the Lismullin site, he added.Salafia said that as many as 40 archaeological sites have been uncovered along the route of the M3 highway.

"The bigger argument that's at stake is that Lismullin is connected to all these other 40 sites, and that they are all part and parcel of one single large national monument, which is the Hill of Tara complex," he said.

"If a new environment impact assessment were done, that's what would be shown, and that the motorway should go outside that complex rather than straight through it."

Lismullin's timber enclosure site was recently named one of the top ten discoveries of 2007 by the magazine Archaeology, published by the Archaeological Institute of America.

"Construction of the new M3 highway, meant to ease traffic congestion around Dublin, threatens not only the Hill of Tara's timeless quality, but also newly discovered archaeological sites in the surrounding valley," the magazine said.

A New Game for GM Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili: "They can't intimidate me. They can only kill me" From Russian News and Information Agency 16:54 14/ 01/ 2008 Interview with five-time women's world chess champion The founding congress of the new United Democratic Georgia Party financed by oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili will soon be held in Tbilisi. The party is led by Nona Gaprindashvili, a five-time women's world chess champion. The head of the RIA Novosti office in Georgia, Besik Pipia, interviewed the legendary chess player in the oligarch's sprawling residence overlooking the Kura River. Question: What twists and turns have brought you to this sumptuous palace? What do you, a chess player, have in common with a rebel business tycoon? Answer: After the break-up of the Soviet Union and the formation of independent Georgia, I was approached and asked if I would head up the National Olympic Committee (NOC). I accepted the offer. I chaired the committee until 1996 while remaining the honorary president of the NOC. In 2004, Badri Patarkatsishvili was elected president of the Olympic Committee. It must be said that Mikheil Saakashvili really wanted him to take that job. He personally asked Badri to lead the campaign to revive Georgian sports. It would be no exaggeration to say that Badri saved athletics in Georgia. He managed to stop the exodus of Georgian athletes abroad. Previously, Georgian athletes would leave the country, change their citizenship and compete in the Olympic Games under the flags of other countries. They did not just take part; they won medals for these countries. During the 2004 Olympics in Greece, they won gold medals for Greece, Germany and Uzbekistan. In short, Badri breathed new life into Georgian sports, providing everything the athletes needed for training, including monetary compensation, which was unheard-of in Georgia. While the government paid an Olympic gold medal winner $25,000, Badri paid $225,000. So, it was athletics that brought me and Badri together. I thought it was my duty to be by his side in times of trouble. Q: Why did Badri Patarkatsishvili and Mikheil Saakashvili have a falling out? A: Because of the Imedi TV company, which was owned by Patarkatsishvili. The authorities were vexed by the criticism they heard on the channel, even though it was constructive criticism. Imedi did not sidestep delicate issues, drew public attention to high-profile murders, mass arrests, the illegal seizure of people and organizations' property, the state's extortion of money from businessmen and so on. Apparently the "rose" revolutionaries only like to be praised. The authorities tried to interfere in the TV company's editorial policy, but Badri fought them off. Then they offered him huge bribes if he sold Imedi. There was talk about exchanging Imedi for the Georgian Railways. "Imedi is my child, and one doesn't sell children," Badri replied. Q: What is the goal of the new opposition party that you have agreed to lead? A: The last presidential election has shown that hundreds of thousands of people support the program of reviving Georgia that Badri Patarkatsishvili has proposed. It would be wrong of us to leave these people in the lurch. Badri's campaign slogan, "Support, Breakthrough, Prosperity" still stands and it will be implemented. Q: Badri Patarkatsishvili promised to spend about a billion dollars within 18 months if elected. He has not been elected. Who will receive payments for gas, electricity and water supply bills, unemployment benefits and sizable compensation ($2,000-3,000) for every newborn child? Members of your party? There are 2 million unemployed people in Georgia. A: We are developing a scheme of social benefits and they will be given not only to members of our party. Q: Do you face pressure from the authorities? For example, to leave Badri and drop out of politics and play chess instead? A: In order to put pressure on someone, they need to have compromising materials. They can't dig anything up on me because there isn't anything. I have lived an honest and decent life. The authorities cannot make me budge. They can only kill me. Q: How could a girl from the little known Georgian town of Zugdidi rise to the top of world chess and set a record that is still unbeaten? You are a five-time world champion, you won 11 Olympics and the European Champions Cup twice. A: I was born in Zugdidi, a town I am very fond of, to the family of a teacher. My father, Terenty, taught accounting at a technical school and my mother, Vera Grigolia, was a housewife. She raised five sons and a daughter. All my brothers played chess, and I watched them and was sometimes allowed to play. Once a chess tournament for boys was held at the local Young Pioneers House and my brother could not play because he was sick. They were looking for someone to stand in for him and they chose me. I sat down at the chessboard and quickly beat my opponent, a boy several years older than me. I caught the trainer's eye. Q: Do you have any budding champions in your own family? A: My son David is 36. He works for a British company that clears mines in conflict zones. I have two grandchildren, Leri, 12, and Nikoloz, who is 18 months old. I don't see any future champions in the country. Perhaps nature is taking a break in Georgia. For 40 years Georgian female chess players were the best in the world. My record has not been beaten, but it has been equaled by Maya Chiburdanidze. Q: Do you have time to play chess nowadays? A: I take part in various contests. I placed second in a chess veterans' tournament in Italy two years ago. I get many invitations from Russia and have played in tournaments in Siberia and the Urals lately. I was aware of the same warm feelings toward myself and the Georgian people as in Soviet times. It is bad when our leaders fight. Will the Lord forgive us? Will we be able to explain to Him how two Orthodox Christian countries have allowed their relations to deteriorate to such an extent?

Philippines Chess

Asean Masters Chess Circuit Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 01:34:00 01/15/2008 Standings after 5 rounds: WIM Section5 points -- I. Sadikin (INA); 4.0 -- E. Handoko (INA), 3.5 -- C. Bernales (RP), G. Chua (SIN); 3.0 -- E. Lindiawati (INA); 2.5 -- B.Mendoza (RP), T.M. Hung (VIE); 2 -- J. Tay (SIN), T. Handayani (INA); 1 -- N. Verdiana (INA), V. Chan (SIN); 0 -- D. Citra (INA) MANILA, Philippines -- Filipinos posted contrasting results in the delayed first-round games played late Sunday in the ongoing first Asean Masters Chess Circuit in Tarakan, Indonesia. Woman National Master Christy Lamiel Bernales suffered her first loss, bowing to Woman International Master Beverly Mendoza. Bernales, daughter of a former taxi driver from Nueva Ecija, dropped to third in the WIM section with 3.5 points. She is now two points shy of clinching the WFM* title, according to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines. Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. *I believe this should be WGM, as a WFM title is below that of WIM.

Corus 2008 4th Round Results

Hola darlings! Results from Round 4 and femme standings after R4:

Corus "A":
Gelfand, Boris - Polgar, Judit 0-1 (6th place with 2.5)

Corus "B":
Short, Nigel D - Koneru, Humpy ½-½ (13th place with 1.0)
Hou Yifan - Stellwagen, Daniël ½-½ (11th place with 1.5)

Corus "C":
Van der Wiel, John - Peng Zhaoqin ½-½ (11th with 1.0)
Krush, Irina - Grivas, Efstratios 0-1 (12th with 1.0)
Ushenina, Anna - Nijboer, Friso 0-1 (13th with 0.5)

Good heavens! I just saw this photo of Judit Polgar from R3. What IS that thing she's wearing? Looks like something out of a bad Russian melodrama. FUR BALLS? For Goddess sake! I saw the photo at The Week in Chess, who said it came from Checked out Chessvibe's coverage - extensive - take a look - and lots of photos too.

I think Judit must win Chess Fashion Faux Pas of the Month for that fur-whatever-it-is (whether faux fur or not; although if it is faux fur, that somehow makes it even worse, because it's not even expensive!)

On the other hand, Judit looks tres chic and tres sleek in this photo from Chessvibes, giving the press conference today after her VICTORY with the black pieces against Boris Gelfand. YAAAAAAYYYYY!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warrior on Checkered-Neck Horse

From The Charles Politis Collection of Greek Art, The Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation Museum of Cycladic Art

Clay figurine of a soldier rider. The statuette, which is 12 cm. tall, is heavily decorated with geometric patterns. It was probably laid in a grave, like many similar objects. 6th cent. BC. Politis Col. No. 29.

The British Ambassador's Belly Dancer

Who is Nadira Murray? This is a review of a stage play in London from The Guardian Unlimited: Over at the Arcola, in east London, Nadira Murray is sinuous enough to have escaped from La Cage aux Folles. In Doc Martens, silvery bra, spangled gloves and long veil, she's a disconcerting mixture of the harsh and the insinuating. She's The British Ambassador's Belly Dancer, the woman for whom Craig Murray, the courageous diplomat who exposed the routine practice of torture in Uzbekistan, left his family. She describes herself as bimboed by the British press, written off as a lap-dancer when she has a degree in English, speaks five languages and was a teenage chess champion. But you don't see much chess on stage. Her story, scripted by the actor with Murray and Alan Hescott, is delivered, mostly seated, on an almost bare stage: red sand is spread around a chequered floor; a teapot and dishes stand on a small carved table. It's a catalogue of suffering, titillation, bravery and hard-headed opportunism. Her father was an actor who, falling into poverty, took first to vodka, then to heroin, and became a pusher, using his children as mules (she ferried the stuff in her knickers). Nadira, briefly a teacher after graduating, rescued the family from penury by working as a hostess in a club: Murray ('Who is this old foreigner?' she wondered) fell for her there. She discovered that 'spanking was his real weakness': she was used to being beaten but not to being spanked. He bargained with her father for her hand. She was, she explains, 'sold into freedom', where she seems to have bemused David Hare in her kitchen: 'Do you have mistress?' 'No. My wife is Nicole Farhi.' She's a subtle dancer who ripples like water under wind and isolates body parts you scarcely knew existed. But as an actor she falters. She can mimic the nightclub hostess who, in a 'voice that could open an oyster', told the 20-year-old to get her breasts out. But she's all dropped head and semi-closed eyes when inviting compassion. It's an evening of queasy fascination but no belly-flop. ********************************************************************************** A sort of "teaser" expose' from The Daily Mail gives background information on Nadira Alieva.

Corus in Historical Perspective

Great column from Lubomir Kavalek at the Washington Post: A Memorable Sacrifice Monday, January 14, 2008; Page C10 The Dutch coastal town of Wijk aan Zee is an addictive place despite the howling winds and the cold you are certain to get when playing chess there. Every January, many amateurs as well as the world's best players gather under the same roof in a huge tournament hall, sneezing their way through one of the world's most attractive chess festivals. A Memorable Sacrifice I took part in this traditional tournament seven times, playing 95 games -- the most by any American player. My first chess book, "Wijk aan Zee Grandmaster Chess Tournament 1975," was devoted to this event. The centerpiece of that work is one of my favorite games -- a draw against the tournament winner, Lajos Portisch of Hungary. A draw rarely gets you a brilliancy prize, but this game, featuring a positional queen sacrifice for a single bishop and a couple of pawns, was awarded the Leo von Kuijk prize for the most spectacular game of the event. Andy Soltis included this King's Indian game in his book "The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked." Portisch-Kavalek 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 (Portisch liked the sharp Samisch variation.) 5...c6 6.Be3 a6 7.Bd3 b5 8.e5 Nfd7 9.f4 0-0 10.Nf3 Nb6 11.b3 N8d7 12.a4! (Black's pieces are terribly tangled and white threatens to win outright with 13.a5. Black is clearly outplayed.) 12...bxc4 13.bxc4 c5!? 14.a5 cxd4 15.Nxd4! (After 15.Bxd4 dxe5 16.fxe5 Nxe5! 17.Bxe5 Bxe5 18.Nxe5 Qd4! 19.Kd2! white is better, but it is not Portisch's cup of tea.) 15...dxe5 (While choosing this move, sacrificing the queen crossed my mind. It allowed me to fight back.) 16.Nc6 Qe8!? (16...Qc7? 17.Nxe7+ Kh8 18.axb6 loses a piece without any compensation.) 17.axb6 exf4! 18.Nd5! (After 18.Bd2? Nc5 19.Nb4 a5 20.Be2 axb4! 21.Rxa8 bxc3 black is better.) 18...fxe3!! (The success of the queen sacrifice pivots around this strong pawn.) 19.Nc7 Bc3+! 20.Kf1 (Forced. After 20.Ke2? Nxb6 21.Nxe8 Bg4+ black wins.) 20...Bb7 21.Nxe8 Bxc6 22.Nc7 Rad8 23.Rc1 Bd2 24.Nd5 Bxd5 25.cxd5 Nxb6! 26.Rc5 Nxd5 27.g3 Rd6 28.Kg2 Rfd8 (Piling up all pieces on the d-file makes Portisch nervous.) 29.Rxd5?! (Getting rid of the knight gives Portisch control over the light squares. For some time 29.Bc4!? was considered winning for white, but after, for example, 29...Nb6 30.Qb3 Nxc4 31.Qxc4 e2! 32.Re5 e1Q 33.Rhxe1 Bxe1 34.Rxe1 Rd2+ 35.Re2 e6 36.Qxa6 Rxe2+ 37.Qxe2 h5 38.Kf3 Rd5 black creates a fortress that is hard to break.) 29...Rxd5 30.Bc4 Rf5 31.Qb3 (The computers show that after 31.Rf1 Ba5 32.Qa4 Rd2+ 33.Kh3 Rdf2! 34.Rxf2 exf2 35.Qe8+ Kg7 36.Qxe7 white is winning, but black continues 36...f1Q 37.Bxf1 Rxf1 38.Qe5+ Rf6 39.Qxa5 Re6 40.g4 h6 41.Kg3 g5 and holds the game.) 31...Rf2+ 32.Kh3 Rd6 (32...e2?? 33.Qb6 forks the rooks.) 33.Qb8+ (After 33.Rf1 Rxf1 34.Bxf1 a5 black is still in the game.) 33...Kg7 34.Qa7 g5! (Black threatens mate: 35...Rh6+ 36.Kg4 f5+ 37.Kxg5 e2+ etc.) 35.Qxe7 g4+! (With a little time on the clock, black chooses the perpetual check. It turned out to be the correct decision, confirmed later by the computer programs.) 36.Kxg4 Rg6+ 37.Kh3 Rh6+ 38.Kg4 Rg6+ draw. We will cover this year's event in the next few columns. Meantime, it can be followed at

Corus 2008 3rd Round Results

Group "A": Polgar, Judit - Topalov, Veselin ½-½ (8th place with 1.5) Group "B": L'Ami, Erwin - Koneru, Humpy 1-0 (13th place with 0.5) Hou Yifan - Short, Nigel D 1-0 (11th place with 1.0) Group "C": Peng Zhaoqin - Braun, Arik 0-1 (12th place with 0.5) Ushenina, Anna - Krush, Irina ½-½ (Krush 11th place with 1.0; Ushenina 13th place with 0.5)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The "St. Louis" Chess Set

From the Louvre Museum

The "St Louis" chess set comes from the Crown collection, but the tradition attributing it to Louis IX of France (1214-1270) is certainly mistaken. This set, made of rock crystal and smoked quartz, was in fact created in the late fifteenth century in Germany (the board) and France (the pieces). Extensively altered over the centuries, it nevertheless remains a fine example of the artistic inventiveness of the fifteenth century and of the magnificence of the French Crown collection.

A chess set of crystal, quartz, and silver
The board is composed of thirty-two squares of rock crystal alternating with thirty-two squares of smoked quartz, all cased in silver. Each square of rock crystal is backed with a silver foil bearing a silver flower with red enamel petals and green enamel leaves. Similarly, each square of quartz is backed with a black foil adorned with a gilt silver flower with leaves of silver. These flowers are thus visible through the opaque squares. Half of the pieces, which are not all original, are carved from rock crystal (the white pieces), and the other half (the black pieces) from smoked quartz. Each piece is six-sided, carved from a single block and mounted in gilt silver.

A chess set within a chess set
Arranged around the periphery of the board's sixty-four squares are eight small compartments covered with rock crystal lids. Inside are little boxwood figurines, both civilian and military, seated, standing or on horseback. Painted red or blue, they seem to echo the chessmen. On two of the sides, the tiny figures occupy the squares of a reduced chessboard of white and black metal. Each of these sixteen-square boards is framed by two bouquets of silver flowers on a ground of imitation greenery, which also appears inside two other compartments containing soldier figurines represented in a forest. The military figures are modeled on German soldiers of the late fifteenth century, suggesting that the board was made in southern Germany.

The chess set: Modifications and history
In 1791 the sides of the board were still embellished with gilt copper on a ground of blue enamel. Now the sides are plated with a stamped silver frieze of foliage added in the nineteenth century. The corners rest on the heads of chubby winged cherubs in gilt bronze dating from the seventeenth century. Added in the eighteenth century, these may be of Italian workmanship. Royal inventories often listed chess sets made of semi-precious stones. The presence of the little boxwood figures links this set with others listed in inventories as belonging to the Palais du Louvre. This set was listed in the inventory of the collections of Gabrielle d'Estrées (1573-99), and later in the gem collection of Louis XIV under number 31. As one piece was lost, Louis XVIII gave the set to his first valet de chambre, Thierry de Ville-d'Avray.

Technical information
Chess set known as the "St. Louis Chess Set"Late fifteenth century, seventeenth century, nineteenth century
Former collection of Gabrielle d'Estrées and Crown collection
Germany (board)Paris (pieces)Rock crystal, smoked quartz, cedarwood, gilt silver, gilt bronze
H. 6.50 cm; L. 43 cm.H. (kings) 6.20 cm; H. (pawns) 3.50 cm.
On loan from the Musée de Cluny, 1946
Cl 642
Decorative Arts

Admiral Zheng He

From the archives of Saudi Aramco World By Paul Lunde This article appeared on pages 45-48 of the July/August 2005 print edition of Saudi Aramco World When Tamerlane fell ill in 1404, his armies had already destroyed cities from Moscow to Delhi, as well as the principal centers of the Islamic heartlands. The Ottoman sultan Bayazid had been defeated; Mamluk Egypt had been granted a humiliating peace. Only China remained to be conquered. But Tamerlane died in January 1405, on the eve of his long-planned invasion of China. The destruction of so many cities on the overland East–West trade routes —especially Isfahan, Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo and Smyrna—and the slaughter of their populations had been a terrible blow to the Asian economy. The political instability following Tamerlane’s death made the search for a sea route to India imperative, both for Europeans and for the Chinese. As Tamerlane lay dying, the Yongle emperor of the Ming was already assembling an Indian Ocean fleet so large it would not be surpassed until World War II. And in 1405 the first of what would become seven major Chinese naval expeditions set sail to explore the Indian Ocean. The admiral of all seven fleets was Zheng He, the great-grandson of a Mongol warrior. His original name was Ma Ho, the Chinese version of Muhammad, for his father was a Muslim who had made the pilgrimage to Makkah. In 1404, the emperor conferred on him the honorific Zheng, and he was appointed Grand Eunuch, thenceforth to be known as Zheng He. The figures given for the size of Zheng He’s first fleet seem incredible, but there is no doubting them. There were 317 ships of different sizes, 62 of them “treasure ships” loaded with silks, porcelains and other precious things as gifts for rulers and to trade for the exotic products of the Indian Ocean. The ships were manned by a total of 27,870 men, including soldiers, merchants, civilians and clerks—equivalent to the population of a large town. Perhaps most astonishing are the dimensions given in later Chinese sources for the treasure ships: They were said to be some 140 meters (450') long by 57 meters (185') wide, carrying nine masts. This is twice the length of the first transatlantic steamer, which then lay four centuries in the future! Admitting the impossibility of these dimensions, it still seems certain that these were very big ships. Marco Polo voyaged to India in 1292 in a junk with a crew of 300, and Nicolò dei Conti mentions five-masted junks of perhaps 2000 tons. The bow and stern of these junks were almost square and heavily reinforced, as was the hull, which had bulkheads that formed self-contained, watertight holds. The largest ships had as many as 50 cabins. The sails were made of bamboo matting, slung fore and aft. The mainsail was raised with a windlass; on the larger junks, it weighed five tons. They ships were slow-moving, making about four and a half knots, but they could sail close to the wind. They were perfectly suited to deep-sea sailing; however, as Ibn Battuta’s disaster in Calicut showed, they were vulnerable in shallow water. Each ship had an official whose job it was to take compass readings. It is hard to know how accurate these could have been, though Chinese navigators, like the Arabs, corrected their compass readings by celestial observation, using the cross-staff or the kamal. They found their latitude from the stars and had stellar charts to help them do so. Speed was measured by dropping a floating object over the side and timing its passage along the length of the ship. Watches were timed by burning an incense stick of standard length. Charts were used, but surviving examples are schematic representations of coastal features as seen from offshore, located by elevation of the Pole Star, rather than marine charts with compass bearings like European portulans. Zeng He’s first argosy called at Java, Sumatra, Aceh, Sri Lanka, Calicut, Champa, Malacca, Quilon and other ports. It brought so many goods to Indian ports that pricing them took three months. His second expedition, said to have set off in 1407 and returned in 1409, consisted of 249 ships; it visited Thailand, Java, Aru, Aceh, Coimbatore, Kayal, Cochin and Calicut, where it spent four months. The third expedition sailed in 1409 and returned in 1411, and although it was composed of only 48 ships, it allegedly carried 30,000 troops, stopping at Champa, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Quilon, Cochin and Calicut. These first expeditions were motivated above all by the desire of the Ming to display their power and gain token allegiance from the rulers of Indian Ocean emporia. If this submission was not forthcoming, Zheng He did not hesitate to intervene militarily: The ruler of Sri Lanka refused to recognize the emperor and was taken to China as a prisoner. The same fate befell two rulers in Sumatra. Some 37 countries and principalities sent representatives to China to make formal obeisance. Zheng He’s latter four expeditions were recorded by a Muslim Chinese named Ma Huan, who was attached as a translator to the fourth armada, which sailed in 1413 with 63 ships and 28,560 men. Born near Hangzhou, he had learned Arabic and perhaps Persian, probably from Muslim merchants. This was the first of the seven expeditions to go west of India, and its objective was Hormuz. Ma Huan’s notes on the ports visited on this and the three later expeditions were published in 1433, the year the final fleet returned, under the title The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shore (Ying-yai Sheng-tan). He wrote, “I collected notes about the appearance of the people in each country, the variations of the local customs, the differences in the natural products and the boundary limits.” In the Chinese court, the expense of these extraordinary expeditions proved controversial, especially at a time when the Chinese army was in disarray following its defeat in Vietnam. Six years passed between the sixth and the final seventh expedition. Ma Huan’s survey is systematic. It contains 20 chapters of varying lengths, each dedicated to a specific place, beginning in the east with Champa in Vietnam and ending in the west with “The Country of the Heavenly Square”—Makkah. The principal entries are on Champa, Palembang, Thailand, Malacca, Sri Lanka, Quilon, Cochin, Calicut, Dhufar, Aden, Hormuz, Makkah, Sumatra, Bengal, the Maldives and Laccadives, Mogadishu, Brava and Malindi. Each entry gives the essentials, in extremely concise form, of the political, military, religious and economic background of each port. Ethnographic information is included, particularly observations on dress and food and exhaustive lists of the trade goods available. Unfortunately, Ma Huan typically did not distinguish between the products of a particular country and the goods it merely transshipped. Giraffes, he noted, were available in Aden: Though the Chinese bought one as a gift for the emperor, it was of course not indigenous. Though Ma Huan’s little book has some curious mistakes and omissions, these are minor compared with the wealth of other detail. As a visitor from a different civilization, he noticed things unremarkable to more local visitors. For example, he compares the women’s clothing to that of the Chinese goddess of mercy, Kuan Yin: “Over the body they put on a long garment; round the shoulders and neck they set a fringe of gemstones and pearls…. In the ears they wear four pairs of gold rings inlaid with gems; on the arms they bind armlets and bracelets of gold and jewels; on the toes they also wear toe-rings; moreover, they cover the top of the head with an embroidered kerchief of silk.” This sort of information is all the more valuable because of the general lack of iconographic evidence in the Arab world until the 16th century, when the first illustrated European travel accounts began to be published. In Yemen, Ma Huan seems to have been shown one of manuals on agriculture and agricultural calendars that were compiled under the Rasulid sultans, who encouraged agriculture and the introduction of new crops and techniques. “They will fix a certain day as the beginning of spring,” wrote Ma Huan, “and the flowers will in truth bloom after that day; they will fix a certain day as the commencement of autumn, and the leaves of the trees will in truth fall; so too as regards eclipses of the sun and moon, the varying times of the spring tides, wind and rain, cold and warmth.” Like Ibn Battuta, Ma Huan carefully listed the foodstuffs available in the markets: “Husked and unhusked rice, beans, cereals, barley, wheat, sesame and all kinds of vegetables…. For fruits they have…Persian dates, pinenuts, almonds, dried grapes, walnuts, apples, pomegranates, peaches and apricots.” Of pastry, absent in Chinese cuisine, Ma Huan could only say that “many of the people make up a mixture of milk, cream, butter, sugar and honey to eat.” He was impressed by the quality of craftsmanship in Aden. This is remarkable, because it was a commonplace of Arab accounts of China that it was Chinese craftsmanship that exceeded that of all other peoples. “All the people in the country who make and inlay fine gold and silver ornaments and other such articles as their occupation produce the most refined and ingenious things, which certainly surpass anything in the world.” He mentions the markets, the bath houses, the shops selling cooked food and even the bookshops. When the time came for the Chinese ships to depart, the ruler of Yemen, al-Malik al-Zahir, gave Zheng He gifts for the emperor, among them two gold belts inlaid with jewels, a letter written on gold leaf and a number of exotic African animals. The animals were a tremendous hit in the Ming court, and paintings of zebras and giraffes by court artists have survived. As usual, the Chinese interpreted these gifts as tribute; indeed, they carefully noted every place from which they received goods as a tributary nation to China. We know from Yemeni chronicles that the locals regarded this with great amusement: “The Chinese seem to think everyone is their subject,” said one Yemeni writer, “showing complete ignorance of political reality.” Zheng He visited Hormuz again on his seventh and final expedition, which lasted from 1431 to 1433. This time the fleet consisted of 100 ships and 27,500 men. He arrived when Hormuz was at the peak of its prosperity. “The king of the country,” says Ma Huan, “and the people…all profess the Muslim religion; they are reverent, meticulous and sincere believers; every day they pray five times; they bathe and practice abstinence. The customs are pure and honest. There are no poor families; if a family meets with misfortune resulting in poverty, everyone gives them clothes and food and capital and relieves their distress…. The limbs and faces of the people are refined and fair; they are stalwart and fine-looking.” Hormuz was linked by overland routes to the major cities of Iran, Central Asia and Iraq. “Foreign ships from every place,” says Ma Huan, “and foreign merchants traveling by land all come to this country to attend the market and trade; hence the people of the country are all rich.” He describes the local marriage customs, funerary practices and diet. This same expedition detached two junks to revisit Aden, but when they arrived in 1432, the political situation was tense in Yemen, and the captains of the junks, through a lengthy bureaucratic process, secured permission from the Mamluk sultan to offload their cargo of chinaware, silk, musk and other goods farther north, in Jiddah. Ma Huan disembarked there, at the city he called Chih-ta, and made his way inland to Makkah. He described the Ka‘bah and the rites of the pilgrimage. He apparently had a painter do a painting of the Ka‘bah, which on his return was presented to the emperor. The Ming expeditions overawed many local rulers and established a long-lasting relationship between China and the key port of Malacca. They might well have led to a permanent Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. Yet when the Hung-hsi emperor came to the throne in 1433, he put an end to the official voyages: Senior mandarins were complaining about the expense, pointing out that profits to the state were almost nonexistent, and that the money could be better spent patrolling eastern coastal waters against the menace of Japanese pirates. A Chinese state monopoly of Indian Ocean trade thus gave way to private enterprise, which the Ming had vainly tried to stamp out. It is probable that leading merchants in China used their wealth to support the court faction opposed to state-sponsored trade. The memory of Zheng He’s voyages lingered in Indian Ocean ports like Calicut and Malacca until the coming of the Portuguese in the early 16th century. When elderly inhabitants saw the bearded, light-skinned foreigners, they thought at first that the Chinese had returned. In China itself, the thousands of tons of pepper brought back by Zheng He’s treasure ships were used for years as currency, particularly to pay the army, in lieu of the traditional silk. Had the Ming maintained their naval presence in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese would have been faced with a formidable rival. In fact, their withdrawal helped make it relatively easy for the Portuguese, who made up in armaments what they lacked in numbers, to impose their will on the monsoon ports. From the point of view of geographical discovery, the Ming voyages must rank as the earliest state-sponsored effort to seek out new lands, markets and spheres of political influence. That the same idea occurred to the rulers of both the Far East and the “Far West” almost simultaneously is intriguing, and it shows that—long before the emergence of a “global economy” in the late 20th century—East and West were responding to the same rhythms of political and economic change. *********************************************************************************** Author Gavin Menzies postulates that Zheng He discovered America in 1421 in his book "1421 - The Year China Discovered America."

Corus 2008 2nd Round Results

"A" Group: Van Wely, Loek - Polgar, Judit ½-½ (Polgar in 5th place after R2) "B" Group: Harikrishna, P - Hou Yifan 1-0 (Hou in 13th place after R2) Koneru, Humpy - Nepomniachtchi, Ian ½-½ (Koneru in 12th place after R2) "C" Group: Carlsson, Pontus - Peng Zhaoqin ½-½ (Peng in 9th place after R2) I. Krush - D. Reinderman ½-½ (Krush in 10th place after R2) Li Shilong - Anna Ushenina 1-0 (Ushenina in 11th place after R2) Official website

Shona divination

Bravo! These are beautiful representations of the African diviner's art. There are many more to be found throughout Africa. As a collection, their suggestion of an ancestral form of chess or proto-chess is quite unmistakable. Ned Munger has commented on this and as a rule, it is possible to see close relationship between the visionary aspects of earlier divination systems and ancient board games. In general, I find the anthropological basis of games appears far more truthful and fascinating than the historical and as Munger laments, we are bereft of Afro-Egyptian histories that could put some dates on many of these items and bring them into the fold of "chess origins". Altogether, the archaeological record and the anthropological network rears back towards pre-historic times. Although historians argue incessantly about the true date and culture of chess, the foundations of the game apparently have less to do with proclaimed attributions listed among various researched declarations and opinions. One topical aspect of the African "dice" is their close resemblance to North and South American Indian casting sticks - NA women's games in particular. I have some interesting photos of those taken fairly recently during one of our museum tours. Otherwise, for reference sake, the nicely illustrated "Art and Oracle - African Art and Rituals of Divination" issued by the Met contains many wonderful pictures of divination events and objects used in the practice. My feeling on the entire subject of chess and chess history is that we should not allow ourselves to be led astray by deterministic scholars such as H.J.R. Murray. Chess is just the tip of a much larger iceberg and a good deal of what it tells us - even today - is that the womb of a great goddess held the bulk of its secrets before the dawn of any subsequently appearing chess or chaturanja a bientot DMc

Lewis Chess Pieces Back in the News

From The Scotsman Whose king (rook, pawn, knight etc) is it anyway? January 7, 2008 By TIM CORNWELL ROOM Two of the British Museum in London, visited by five million people a year, is home to the medieval Europe collection. It includes treasures such as the Limoges casket from France, an ivory triptych from Byzantium, and an early English citole, or guitar. Then there are 24 of the Lewis chessmen, dug up in a Scottish sand dune nearly two centuries ago. The British Museum holds 82 of the 93 Lewis chessmen, one of Scotland's most famous archeological finds. It shows another 34 in room 42, alongside Viking artefacts like the famous Sutton Hoo hoard of armour and treasure. Another 24 are behind closed doors, viewable by appointment. Some have just returned from a loan to Hong Kong. Nearly two centuries after they were found on the west coast of Lewis, Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, has called for the Lewis chessmen to return here, demanding a "united set for an independent Scotland". Several leading Scottish historians have welcomed the First Minister's call. There ought at least to be a fairer split between London and Scotland, they say – while Lewis has a strong case to become the permanent home of some, if not all, the figurines. The Glasgow University historian, Ted Cowan, said: "They should definitely be in Lewis. In the 19th century most of this stuff was whisked off to repositories in Edinburgh or London but nowadays with modern facilities why on earth shouldn't they be kept in the area to which they belong?"The chess pieces, in four sets with several missing, "may not be the best metaphor for an independent Scotland", he admitted. But he added: "They belong in their proper context in Lewis." The details of the chessmen's discovery in 1831 remain murky to this day. The hoard was found in the sand dunes of the west coast of Lewis, perhaps sheltered in a stone chamber. They seem to have ended up in London by chance rather than any grand design. They were found by Malcolm MacLeod, of Penny Donald, Uig, who took advice from a Stornoway merchant on how to sell them. An Edinburgh dealer, TA Forrest, bought them for £30 and the Scottish Society of Antiquaries tried and failed to buy them. Forrest sold 82 pieces to the British Museum, with the help of an assistant keeper fascinated by board games, for 80 guineas. Ten other pieces collected by Lord Londesborough were bought for the National Museum of Scotland in 1888, with another added later. The chessmen were made about 900 years ago, of walrus ivory and whales' teeth. They offer vital historical evidence of the strong trading, diplomatic or military links, at a time when Lewis and Skye were at the cross-roads of a world reaching from the west coast of Norway and Denmark around Scotland to Ireland. The exquisite carvings run from a hunched Norse warrior chewing on his shield to a queen who looks thoroughly bored. They came from Trondheim, Norway, it is thought, and were probably bound for Ireland or the Isle of Man, testimony to a vast 12th-century trading and diplomatic network in which the Hebrides played a central part. When the British Museum's pieces were shown in Lewis in the mid 1990s, they brought demands the islands should keep them. They travelled under police escort, witnesses remembered, delivered in a locked briefcase handcuffed to a curator's wrist. The St Andrews historian Alex Woolf, author of a recent textbook on Scotland at the time the 12th-century figurines were made, proposed a fairer three-way split between the British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and Lewis itself. "There's a lot of them, and it seems to me that dividing them between the three sites would be a sensible way to do it," Mr Woolf said. "If Scotland moved towards full independence, you would have to think again." The British Museum says it has had no official request for their return, but that the chessmen are part of its "unique overview of world civilisations". The National Museum of Scotland is proud to keep its own 13 chessmen on permanent display. But the director, Gordon Rintoul, showed little appetite for grabbing more from London. He responded cautiously that the two museums "provide wider public access to these internationally important items across Scotland, the UK and the world". The issue of returning artefacts to local areas is fraught with danger. The British Museum could face renewed pressure over iconic artefacts from the Elgin marbles to the Rosetta stone. The NMS has already seen locals campaign for the return of famous monuments like the Hilton of Cadboll Stone to Easter Ross. In 1999 the Dupplin Cross, a 1,200-year-old Celtic monument, was returned to Dunning, Perthshire. Both museums stress that they send their chessmen on loans round the world, from Hong Kong to Stornoway, when they are not on display at home. Sending them to Lewis could vastly shrink the numbers that see them; the British Museum has five million visitors a year, while Lewis has a population of 20,000. Historian James Fraser, of Edinburgh University, specialises in the early Middle Ages and regularly takes his students to see the chessmen, but does not support demands to bring them back. "As a scholar and a teacher my main concern is that the things be accessible to students and the general public. Places like Edinburgh and London are better situated for that kind of thing. Mr Fraser, who is Canadian, argued: "In a sense there should be some important Scottish artefacts in the British Museum, to show off the treasures in that forum. It's very difficult to say these are Scottish. That's where they were found, buried with someone who may not have been native. Whether the Irish or Scandinavians have more of a case for them to be returned is anyone's guess." Mr Salmond's advisers are aware of the arguments. A source close to the First Minister's office said: "The Scottish Government will continue to consult with interested parties to get a consensus in Scotland and we will take matters forward with a proposal." Mr Woolf said that Mr Salmond is questioning "whether we keep a national collection in a union sense, or a Scottish sense, or whether the British Museum should change its name to the English Museum. I think he's right to raise it as an issue. It does have to be talked about, though it's a typical nationalist hype thing. Are we going to ask them to return Gordon Brown? That's someone else from Scotland who has been stuck in London for years." 'Why not also bring back Cutty Sark and Mary, Queen of Scots?' THE Scottish leader of the Celtic League called yesterday for all cultural artefacts to be returned to their countries of origin. From Clyde-built ships like the Cutty Sark, to the royal passport from William Wallace's sporran, "all historical items belonging to a nation should be returned to that nation", said Iain Ramsay, the league's Scottish secretary. The rules apply to the Elgin marbles from Greece as much as to the Lewis chessmen, he said. "The British Museum is an Aladdin's cave of stolen articles from all over the world. The counter-argument to that is they are being well looked after." The league, a group of activists from six Celtic nations, claims to champion the cultural rights of the indigenous people of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Brittany, the Isle of Man and Cornwall. It has a few hundred members in Scotland who are usually nationalists, Mr Ramsay said. The policy on returns was agreed at a conference last year. The league is campaigning for the return of the royal passport from the French king in Wallace's sporran when he was taken by the English, Mr Ramsay said. "It is now in London, in the possession of the British authorities, and they refuse to return it. It should be returned to the French, or to Scotland. Even where people are buried is important. Mary, Queen of Scots should be interred in France, or Scotland, she shouldn't be in Westminster Abbey." Other items the league wants returned from the British Museum are the Gold Cape of Mold, a stunning Bronze Age garment discovered in North Wales. Another, the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles, a 13th-century history, is held by the British Library. The Cutty Sark, a 19th-century tea clipper, was ravaged by fire in a Greenwich dry dock last year, but it should have been on show on the Clyde where it was built, said Mr. Ramsay. The full article contains 1445 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper. Last Updated: 07 January 2008 11:59 AM

Artemis and the Stag

From The Buffalo News
'Artemis and the Stag' sculpture on display in NYC
by Colin Dabkowski - News Arts Writer

Updated: 01/07/08 4:26 PM

"Artemis and the Stag," the famous 2,000-year-old bronze sculpture sold in a controversial auction last year by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is now on view in New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Albright-Knox director Louis Grachos confirmed that the sculpture is on loan to the museum from an unnamed private collector, though it is not part of its permanent collection.

"I'm absolutely pleased that the sculpture is on public view, and of course at the Metropolitan it'll be seen by tens of thousands of people on a monthly basis," Grachos said. "We're delighted that 'Artemis and the Stag' is on public view."

The sculpture, a late Hellenistic/early Roman bronze hailed as one of the most important statues ever sold at auction, went on view last week in the museum's new gallery for antiquities. It now stands among an impressive collection of Greek and Roman sculptures that ranks as one of the finest in the world.

The whereabouts of the sculpture had been unknown since it was sold last March at Sotheby's auction house in New York City to an anonymous European collector for $28.6 million. It set a record both for the most expensive sculpture and antiquity ever sold at auction, though both of those records have since been eclipsed. It also served as the biggest single sale in a series of auctions that bolstered the Albright-Knox's endowment for the acquisition of new art by $67.2 million.
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