Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wild life of a white warrior goddess

Star Of The Morning: The Extraordinary Life Of Lady Hester Stanhope by Kirsten Ellis (HarperCollins, £25) By Katie Hickman Last updated at 5:30 PM on 22nd August 2008 What is it about ‘the east’ that seems to attract powerful Englishwomen? Some of our most fearless travellers - Isabel Burton, Lady Jane Digby, Gertrude Bell – all found something there answering to the deepest part of themselves. Each of them, however, was following in the footsteps of Lady Hester Stanhope, first among equals, and the subject of this spirited new biography. 'What are we going to do about this English princess?' a Syrian sheik once sighed. 'After all, she is not merely a woman.' A sentiment which, for different reasons, was shared by almost everyone who knew her.Other women feature little in Hester Stanhope’s life. All her life she preferred the company of men, and they she. The daughter of the renegade 3rd Earl Stanhope, Hester had an unusual degree of independence from an early age. She learnt to use firearms, and was a superb horsewoman (skills which, in later life, greatly impressed the Bedouin, and may even have saved her life). After the death of her mother she kept house for her uncle, William Pitt the Younger, at Walmer Castle in Kent, where she mixed with men of power and influence, and embarked on a number of affairs with them - a degree of promiscuity unusual even by randy Georgian standards (where most aristocratic women waited to be safely married, with at least a couple of legitimate children, before branching out). Ellis calls this behaviour ‘slightly scandalous’, but it was surely more than this, and does much to explain the almost total absence of women friends. After the death of Pitt, Hester decided to leave England, and set out with her lover Michael Bruce - a man thirteen years younger than she - on a journey to the Levant. Their open co-habitation, even if it was in far-flung lands, was a scandal that even Hester could not contain: she never returned to England. If Hester cared a fig for her English ‘reputation’ it was not in her nature to repine. Instead she kept on travelling, to Constantinople, to Egypt, the Holy Land, and finally to Syria. She adopted eastern dress (a man’s, of course) and rode astride, and such was the reputation that preceded her that when she arrived among the Bedouin in Palmyra they greeted her ‘like a white warrior goddess’, like Zenobia herself. 'I shall soon have as many names as Apollo,' she wrote triumphantly. 'I am the sun, the star, the pearl, the lion, the light from Heaven.' Star Of The Morning is a fascinating and atmospheric biography of a truly remarkable woman. Kirsten Ellis has left no stone unturned in this admirable book, doing some mean travelling of her own in the process, and it is not her fault if the personality of Lady Hester remains curiously elusive. Who really knew her? Even in her own lifetime Hester seems to have evaded those who knew her longest. She was attracted, as if by a magnet, to anything secret. In later life, by now permanently settled in the Lebanon, she offered herself, with her by now vast knowledge of the internecine politics of the region, as an agent to the East India Company, and at one point had no fewer than five men collecting intelligence on her behalf. She dabbled in mysticism, in esoteric cults, in treasure hunting and freemasonry; at one point she seems to have believed herself to be the Messiah. It is no surprise to learn that many people believed her to have supernatural powers; and others that she had gone quite mad. It seems inevitable that a personality as ‘violent’ as Hester’s should end in what can at best be described as eccentricity. In England she was too often dismissed as ‘poor, mad Lady Hester’, but this would be to underestimate her very real gifts, and particularly her subtle political mind. In the Lebanon her legacy is somewhat more macabre. In 1988, when the 150 year old remains of a woman were found in the hills, the local people were in no doubt who it was. The British Embassy was told that they belonged ‘to a famous Englishwoman still well remembered in these parts’. In Joun, near the hill-top fortress that was her last home, those still living can remember the elders of the village talking about her: ‘You can have dinner with El Sytt, and even sleep with her, but do not stay in her house. When a man goes to be with her, it will not be long before he will not wake up.’

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kirsan Speaks - Again (Ad Nauseum)

I just cannot go to bed until I report the latest from The Fearless Leader of the Chess World. Yes, the one, the only, the incredibly (fill in your own adjectives here) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE, has once again opened mouth and inserted foot! I did not think it was possible, but it's a miracle! Kirsan yet again makes an absolute doofus of himself and, like the Emperor in his new clothes, doesn't know it! Here's the latest from Chessbase (also reported at Susan Polgar's blog and FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DES ECHECS Recognized by the International Olympic Committee 9 Syngrou Ave., 11743 Athens, Greece Tel: (+30) 2109212047, Fax: (+30) 2109212859, Email: Elista, 21 August 2008 Letter by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to Mr. M. Saakashvili, President of the Republic of Georgia Dear Mikhail Nikolozovich! I am addressing my letter to you on behalf of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and millions of aficionados of the wisest game on the planet in respect of the statement of the Georgian Chess Federation regarding participation of Georgia’s representatives in the Women’s World Chess Championship. [Notice, he makes no mention whatsoever of the women's letter of August 12, 2008 - now he's blaming everything on the Georgian Chess Federation instead of the Georgian women chessplayers]. Following the decision of the FIDE Presidential Board regarding the said tournament, it is scheduled to be held in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian Federation, from 28 August to 18 September 2008. Six Georgian sportswomen – Maia Chiburdanidze, Leila Dzhavahishvili, Sopio Gvetadze, Maia Lomineishvili, Sopiko Khukhashvili, Nino Khurtsidze – received the right of participation, having gone through a most difficult process of selection, or, by a personal invitation, due to personal high rating. Highly esteemed Nona Terentievna Gaprindashvili has been appointed a member of the appeals committee of the tournament. Mr. Evgeni Melikset-Begi is a member of a arbiters’ board. Thus, it was supposed that the Georgian representation be one of the largest at this most prestigious event in women’s chess. I think that one should not mention the level of authority and respect which is being enjoyed in the world by the Georgian chess school and its representatives, who personify intellect and beauty of Georgia. [This is all true - shows the real impact, doesn't it, of the Georgian chess players' absence from what is fast becoming a farce of a Women's World Chess Championship]. Several days ago we all have become witnesses of a horrible humanitarian catastrophe. In my previous statements I have expressed my most sincere condolences to families of the catastrophe’s victims and FIDE’s position on this issue. Unfortunately, we are unable to change the dates and venues of the Championship. [Yeah, right - how about Elista, Kirsan? You've got a vacant chess palace just sitting there begging to be used]. Fully realizing all complexity of the present situation for the Georgian chess players and understanding their dear wish to defend honour of their country at the chess board, I am appealing to you for your kind assistance in providing the sportsmen with conditions for smooth participation in the World Championship. This is especially valuable and urgent during the days of the Olympic Games. Looking forward to your understanding. Gens Una Sumus Kirsan Ilyumzhinov President
Dear Fearless Leader, you've addressed your letter to the WRONG DUDE. Just what the hell do you think the President of the Georgian Republic can do in the face of Russian tanks and troops dug in all around his country? Infrastructure destroyed, roads blockaded and mined -- you should be petitioning Miniputin - he's the guy shooting off the guns and bombs, after all.
Oh, I have an idea. Kirsan, why don't you fly your private jet into Georgia and pick up the Georgian chessplayers and cohorts, and fly them to Nalchik, personally guaranteeing their safety and providing body guards for the entire party. I mean, come on, you're the one who's been spouting off about "we're all one big family" - so be a man and do the right thing. Politics has nothing to do with it, darling! As a man of honor, we expect no less of you.

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola darlings! Check this out - Russian pin-ups! No wonder the Russian army doesn't want to come home from Georgia. I mean, come on darlings, what young Russian bear wants to come home to his great-grandmother in a bikini? Compare these ladies to the Georgian female chessplayers who are sitting out this year's Women's World Chess Championship in Nalchik, Russia. If you were a young man, where would YOU want to be? The beautiful women are all in Georgia. This photo is from The New York Times photos of the day on 8/22/08. They're greeting the first Russian warship to return home from the Georgian invasion. Hmmm, they rather resemble the Willendorf Venus, don't they... This is a day for photographs. Here's the 16-year old Chinese bronze medalist on 10 meter platform diving from 8/21/08, Xin Wang. When I saw her on t.v. last night, my first thought was "ohmygoddess, she's anorexic." Taking a close look at this photo today, this 16 year old is, in my opinion, definitely suffering from something, and she is NOT healthy. Doesn't her facial expression in this photo resemble that famous painting "The Scream" - horrifying thought, isn't it? Was it the thought that a woman 11 years older and many pounds heavy and many inches taller beat her out for the silver medal? HOORAY TO THE CANUCK Emilie Heymans! Or was it the thought that while gold medal winners in China can live a life of ease compared to the hungering masses, what does a bronze medal winner get? Probably a trip to a work camp for failure to adequately express the Great and Positive Aspects of Chinese Culture - BORGISM. Good old China, you can always depend on the Dragon to make an ass of itself - arresting six Americans for protesting about Tibet occupation is just the latest gaffe; of course, everyone knows that at least three of their gold-medal winning "women" gymnasts are about 10 to 12 years old, not anywhere near 15-16 as their "official passports" purport! LOL! But the sad thing is that the international gymnastics federation will most likely let China get away with this, just like the international swimming federation let the East Germans get away with systematic doping of their female athletes back in the 1980's. Everyone knows what's going on, but "officially," no one knows nuthink! Tonight while writing about this stuff an old Tom Clancy novel came to mind - "The Bear and the Dragon." Anyone out there remember it? I had a rip-roaring good time reading it when it first came out. The basic story line is that an increasingly population overflowing, hungry, restive for human rights and natural resources deprived China starts casting envious eyes on the overflowing riches of Siberia. After much convoluted plotting, the Chinese launch a blitzkrieg-type invasion of Siberia! The Russians are not in position to immediately respond (and, after reading a story today at The New York Times about a 1960's era tank that no longer turns left, I can well imagine why) but - ta da! NATO comes to the rescue! Now darlings, just imagine for a moment. Wouldn't that be the ultimate in ironic justice? Russia coming hat in hand to NATO asking for military help to fend off the hungering hordes of China. Har! Truth is often stranger than fiction. We may well see this happening in less time than anyone thinks.

The Remarkable Trypilian Culture (5400-2700 BC)

This sounds absolutely fascinating! I saw it tonight at Art Daily and searched out the exhibition information at the website for the Royal Ontario Museum: Mysteries of Ancient Ukraine: The Remarkable Trypilian Culture (5400-2700 BC) November 29, 2008 to March 22, 2009 Who were the Trypillians? How were they able to build the largest settlements in Europe, well over five thousand years ago? And why did they burn them down? These and other questions are explored in this fascinating exhibition that uncovers the secrets surrounding this mysterious people. Nestled in the forest steppes of modern-day Ukraine, the prehistoric Trypillian people lived and prospered between 5000 and 2750 BCE. Highly sophisticated, the Trypillians were both farmers and hunters. Their ability to adapt to different terrain led to their prosperity, and soon they had the largest population growth of any other Neolithic people. They built the largest settlements in Europe at that time, some with an estimated population of 10-15,000 people. Every 60 to 80 years, they burned some settlements to the ground and moved to settle another location. In 1896, Ukraininan archaeologist Vikenty Khvoika discovered one of these settlements near the village of Trypillia. The artifacts he uncovered were instrumental in reconstructing the daily lives of this prehistoric civilization. Ancient Ukraine presents household tools, evidence of clothing, spiritual artifacts and art, all of which help to build the story of how the Trypillians lived, flourished and then all but mysteriously disappeared. This exhibition was organized by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada and the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, Kyiv in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, The Archaeological Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, The Odessa Archaeological Museum, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and The Vinnytsia Regional Museum, Ukraine. More information at Art Daily. Extracted: To place the Trypilian culture in context, The Neolithic Revolution examines the development of human societies in Europe from the end of the last Ice Age to the arrival of Copper Age cultures, including Trypilian. Other Neolithic cultures, such as the Halaf, from what is now known as northern Syria and south-eastern Turkey, and the Vinca from what is now known as modern Serbia, are juxtaposed, their artistic legacies having much in common. Here, visitors can study the earthenware portrait of a pensive male face, created by the Vinca approximately 7,500 years ago, and which bears striking similarity to the ‘realistic’ portraits of Trypilia. Spirituality and Artistic Expression highlights various puzzling pieces of ceramic art made by the Trypilians - specifically anthropomorphic figurines (ranging from stylized to quasi-realistic) and containers decorated in various ways (incised, monochromatic, polychromatic). Found in many Neolithic cultures, the female figurines on display, with exaggerated feminine features, are believed by some scholars to represent a ‘great mother goddess’. Other ceramic objects, such as footed platforms, and enigmatic, hollow “binocular” pieces, attest to the spiritual and ritual life of the Trypilians. A continuity/continguity of cultures and images of the great mother goddess - in this case, this is a "bird" goddess, a common iconic form throughout neolithic Europe and the Middle East. The photo is not specifically identified, it is from the ROM website with this under-tag: Photographs by Petro Hrycyk, from the exhibition "Ukraine -- Images from 5000 to 4000 BC: Treasures of the Trypillian Culture", The Ukrainian Museum, New York, 1993.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For Real?

From Yahoo.sports Thursday, Aug 21, 2008 4:42 pm EDT IOC orders investigation into He Kexin's age By Chris Chase The International Olympic Committee has ordered an investigation into the age of Chinese gymnast He Kexin, The Times of London reports. Faced with almost insurmountable evidence which suggests that He is two years younger than the birth date listed on her Chinese passport, the IOC has launched an inquiry that could result in the stripping of He's gold medals. This news comes on the heels of another Times report that details the findings of a New York computer security expert who found official Chinese documents that list He's age as 14 years and 220 days. Mike Walker used a Chinese search engine's cache feature to find He's actual date of birth on spreadsheets from a Chinese government website. The spreadsheets were taken down off the site recently and He's name had been removed. Assuming the IOC is committed to a real investigation and not some dog and pony show, the revelation that the Chinese government covered up the ages of gymnasts could end up being the defining moment of these Games for the host country. Officials wanted the Olympics to be a coming out party for a new China. But while the Games have been a huge success, there is a legitimate possibility that China's legacy from Beijing '08 will be that of a massive government cover-up, not the magical Opening Ceremony or the transformation of Beijing or anything else positive. All the good work China did to put on these Olympics could be forgotten because of an unnecessary, arrogant move by the government. Why risk everything to put a 14-year old in the competition when they could have replaced her with an of-age 16-year old gymnast? Sure, He is a better gymnast than the Chinese gymnasts who were eligible to compete, but with the judges they had at the Olympics, would it really have mattered? (Photo: from prior file, He Kexin at 2008 Olympics).

Soumya Swaminathan, India's Newest WGM

Congratulations to Soumya! Pune girl becomes state’s third woman Grandmaster Express News Service Posted online: Friday , August 22, 2008 at 12:40:27 Pune, August 21 City-based Soumya Swaminathan became the country's 11th woman Grandmaster when she made her third and final WGM norm at the Benasque Open Chess tournament at Spain last month. Soumya scored 6.5 points out of 10 rounds and was also judged the best woman player of the tournament. She is also the third WGM from Maharashtra and also from Pune, behind Swati Ghate-Teli and Eesha Karavade. Swaminathan made her first WGM norm in July last year at the Balaguer Open which was also held in Spain, while her second WGM norm came four months later at the Women's National A, held in Pune last November. She had tied for first place in the tournament, and was placed third on tiebreak, which assured her a place in the Indian team. She had also crossed the 2,300 rating mark in this year's January Rating list, which is a requirement for becoming a WGM apart from getting three WGM norms. Swaminathan played three tournaments in Spain last month, as part of the Indian junior girls team, and gained a total of 25 Fide rating points from the whole tour. Soumya had become a WIM in the same tour last year, where she had made a total of five norms, which included three WIM norms, one WGM and an IM norm. Though she started playing chess at an early age of eight, major results started coming in after 2004 when she won the U-17 National girls title. She went on to win the national junior girls title for 2005 and 2006. Last year was a fantastic run for Soumya when she not only became a WIM but also earned herself a place in the Indian Women's team and gained around 150 points in two rating lists. Soumya had infact narrowly missed her third WGM norm at the Commonwealth championship last year. At the international level, she has three bronze medals from various age group Asian championships and 1 silver medal in the junior category from the Commonwealth Chess championship 2006. Soumya was initially coached by Anjali Palande Sagar and was later trained by I M Arun Vaidya. She is currently practising in Kunte's Chess Academy where she works with other Pune players like Amruta Mokal and Eesha Karavade. The 19-year-old is a final year B.Com student in BMCC and is under scholarship from Indian Oil Corporation for the past two years. Her future tournaments include Commonwealth Chess championship, which will be held in September 2008 at Nagpur and Women's National A in December.

Women Ruled in Iran - 5500 Years Ago...

Remember the babe with the Golden Eye Ball? I'm sure I wrote about her somewhere - maybe at Random Round-up. She was, according to the latest, a personage of some importance in the ancient scheme of things. Here's more about the ancient history of "The Burnt City" a/k/a Shar-i Sokhtah (various spellings), where was exacavated an amazing wooden game board of 20 squares, carved in the classical shape of those game boards recovered from the Royal Tombs of Ur by Woolley dated to about 2600 BCE, but with the "squares" (playing cases) composed entirely by the intertwined bodies of two serpents! Serpents, as we've seen here in numerous posts, are ancient symbols of The Goddess. 5000 years ago women in control of Burnt City Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - ?2005 [Does this mean this story dates back originally to 2005?] LONDON, August 12 (IranMania) - Recent studies of a team of archeologists have shown that 5000 years ago (3200 BC) women had the economic control of the Burnt City. Some paleo-anthropologists believe that mothers in the Burnt City had social and financial prominence, director of the team working at the Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchestan Province, southeastern Iran said recently. Addressing the archaeology students at Zabol University, Seyed Mansour Seyed Sajjadi said that 5000 year-old insignias, made of river pebbles and believed to belong only to distinguished inhabitants of the city, were found in the graves of some female citizens. "Some believe the female owners of the insignias used them to place their seal on valuable documents. Others believe the owners may have used the seal to indicate their lofty status in society", he added. In December 2006, archaeologists discovered the world's earliest artificial eyeball in the city's necropolis, thought to have been worn by a female resident of the Burnt City. The artificial eye is a hemisphere with a diameter of just over 2.5 cm (1 inch). It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gilding and is engraved with a circle at its center to represent the iris. The eye includes gold lines patterned like the rays of the sun. A hole has been drilled through the eyeball, through which a golden thread is thought to have held the eyeball in place. Microscopic research has revealed that the eye socket of the female remains bear clear imprints of the golden thread, suggesting that the woman must have worn the eyeball during her lifetime. With her shining golden eye she must have been a striking figure, perhaps a soothsayer or an oracle. The woman with the artificial eye was 1.82 m tall (6 feet), much taller than the average women of her time. She was aged between 25 and 30 and had dark, exotic skin. Her Africanoid cranial structure suggests her origins were the Arabian Peninsula. [Interesting - a business woman who set up shop far from home? Or an imported bride?] Experts say that her skeleton dates to between 2900 and 2800 BC, when the Burnt City was a bustling, wealthy city and trading post at the crossroads of the East and the West. It is thought that the woman may have arrived at the city on a caravan from Arabia. Archeologists have not yet revealed the cause of the woman's death. Paleopathological studies on 40 teeth unearthed in the Burnt City's cemetery show that the inhabitants of the city used their teeth as a tool for weaving to make baskets and other handmade products. "More than 40 teeth lesions have been identified, the most prominent of which belongs to a young woman who used her teeth as a tool for weaving baskets and similar products," said Farzad Foruzanfar, director of the Anthropology Department of Iran's Archeology Research Center (ICAR) in an interview with CHN. The use of teeth as a tool in the Burnt City is seen in both males and females of different age groups. Evidence shows that weaving was more than a hobby in the prehistoric city. It was one of the most common professions in the city which required a special skill. Residents made a variety of weaved products such as carpets, baskets and other household items. The city, called Shahr-e-Sookhteh, sits on the banks of the Helmand River along the Zahedan-Zabol road in the southeast province of Sistan. The excavations at the Burnt City also suggest that the inhabitants were a race of civilized people who were both farmers and craftsmen. No weapon has ever been discovered at the site, suggesting the peaceful nature of the residents. The Burnt City has been continually excavated since the 1970s by Iranian and Italian archaeological teams, with new discoveries periodically reported. Covering an area of 151 hectares, the city was built around 3200 BC and abandoned over a millennium later in 2100 BC. The city experienced four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times. It took its eventual named because it was never rebuilt after the last fire. Learn more at Goddesschess.

Classic Jewelry - 2,500 Years Old

From Unearthed after 2,500 years, the gold earrings that could have been made yesterday Last updated at 03:39am on 17.08.08 It's the sort of classic jewellery favoured by modern women except these earrings were worn 2,500 years ago.An archeologist discovered gold earrings, a ring and other funeral gifts dating back to the 5th century B.C. while excavating a Thracian tomb near the village of Kushare, about 280km from Sofia, Bulgaria. Some of the oldest examples of gold jewellery and artifacts have been discovered in Bulgaria and it's Black Sea coast is considered the birthplace of the world's metal production. What are Bulgaria's borders today were part of several ancient civilizations, including Thracian cultures which existed from the 5th millennium BC up to the end of Roman rule. Bulgarian archeologist Georgi Kitov, who made these discoveries, specializes in Thracian cultures and is well known for his controversial excavation practices, such as using earthmoving machines. Last year his team unearthed a gold mask belonging to a fourth century B.C. Thracian King in southeastern Bulgaria.

More on the Venus of Willendorf

Venus of Willendorf still hot at ripe old age of 25,000 1 day ago
VIENNA (AFP) — Plump and 25,000 years old, this lady remains a mystery even after 100 years in the limelight.
The Venus of Willendorf, a small ochre-coloured figurine from the Paleolithic period, takes her name from the village in northern Austria where she was excavated on August 7, 1908 by three Austrian paleontologists.
"This was the first statuette (from this period) that had such detailed features and it was also the first statuette to be discovered at the time on an archeological site," says Walpurga Antl-Weiser, head of the prehistory section at Vienna's Natural History Museum.
On the 100th anniversary of her excavation, this Venus is being honoured with a special exhibition at the museum, alongside other artefacts from the same period.
Carved from oolitic limestone, she is a round woman, standing with her arms resting on her breasts and belly, her bowed head hiding her face but showing off elaborate hair.
"This statue is really remarkable and when you look at the way she was carved, the way the muscles and different parts of the body are rendered, you can tell the sculptor used a model," says Antl-Weiser.
This Venus "resulted from perfect observation of the human body, but she was also arranged to make her curves more harmonious," she adds.
The first and only statuette of her kind before the French Venus of Lespugue and the Russian Venus of Kostienki joined her two decades later, the lady from Willendorf can still attract crowds.
"I think a lot of visitors come to the museum just to see the Venus," says Antl-Weiser.
But where she came from and whether she represented a goddess or women's elevated place in society remains a mystery.
"We don't think she represented prehistoric women," says Antl-Weiser. "She's a rather older woman, one who has certainly already had children," she explains.
"Moreover, we can't prove that women played a predominant role during this period and that these female statuettes honoured them: there are many other statuettes (from that period) representing animals, part-humans and part-animals or assexual human beings."
Rather than being a goddess, the Venus of Willendorf could have been part of a ritual or a belief shared by several tribes over 20,000 years ago.
Although excavated at opposite ends of the continent, the French and Russian Venuses are similar in form to their Austrian sister.
"They could have been expressions of a single belief that spread through Europe," says Antl-Weiser.
But this does not explain where the lady from Willendorf came from. While other artefacts and statuettes were excavated near the same village in Lower Austria, no traces remain of the rock out of which she was carved.
Antl-Weiser concludes: "From that point of view, either the Venus was brought here, or the rock fragments disappeared when a railroad was built there in the 19th century."
The exhibition runs to February 1.

2009 U.S. Chess Championships

Knock me over with a feather, darlings! I read about this last night but was just too tired to post about it. Instead of an 11th hour bid coming in to save the U.S. Chess Championships, there is actually a venue AND a total prize purse of $100,000 several months in advance! The venue is none other than the fabulous new chess club that recently opened in St. Louis, Missouri: This is an abbreviated version of the article that appeared at (I think) USCF, at the St. Louis Business Journal Online, August 21, 2008: The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has been selected by the U.S. Chess Federation to host the 2009 U.S. Championship. The championship will be held May 2009. Invitations to potential tournament participants will be issued to some of the top-rated U.S. players, top-rated women and wild card participants who will be announced later. It will be a nine-round event, using the Swiss system with one round per day and a rest day between rounds five and six. Games will be played with 40 moves in two hours, with the remaining moves in one hour. The championship will have a purse of $100,000, with $30,000 awarded to the winner, twice the amount of last year's tournament. The center, which was founded by retired investment fund manager Rex Sinquefield and opened in July, is located at 4657 Maryland Ave. in the Central West End. The three-level, 6,000-square-foot facility features DGT chessboards, wooden chess tables, LCD-screen televisions, overhead paging and an adjustable lighting system.
With top prize at $30,000 I imagine that will attract more top GM talent.
Will a different prize structure be in place for the women players who, given the round-robin structure, will be mixed in playing against men and likely several of them end at the bottom of the results? What will make it worthwhile for any of them to play if their prizes should be lower than they earned in the 2008 U.S. Women's Championship? (I assume this will not be allowed to happen, but who knows?) How many players will be invited? What is the break-down of the prize structure?
This is a great coup for the USCF and I wonder, what is the story behind this gift from Heaven?
This is not meant to be a dis on Frank K. Berry, who single-handedly rescued the US Chess Championships after A4FC's contract terminated with USCF with the completion of the 2006 U.S. Chess Championships. Despite advertising for months in the useless Chess Life Magazine - yeah, like top corporate execs and sponsors READ it or visit Chesslife Online, lol! - only Mr. Berry put together consecutive bids for the 2007 and 2008 Men's and Women's championships. Without him, these events would most likely not have been held.
In addition to providing playing venues both years (I have no idea how much this cost; I assume it would be several thousands of dollars more), Mr. Berry also provided prizes worth $55,000 cash for the 2008 Men's Championship, with an additional prize for the Men's Champion as an instructor on a cushy cruise worth another $5,000, and $25,000 cash for the 2008 Women's Championship, for a total of $85,000. In 2007, Men's cash prizes totalled $65,000, of which $25,000 was provided by Eric Anderson of AF4C (I do not know if these funds were ever received by USCF). The Women's Championship prize fund was $25,000. So, over the course of two years, Mr. Berry provided prizes of at least $145,000 plus the cost of providing the playing venues plus the cost of the cruise package for the 2008 U.S. Chess Champion.
Thank you, Mr. Berry, for your generous sponsorship which allowed a totally disfunctional and unworthy USCF to keep the U.S. Chess Championships going for the past two years. Will Mr. Sinquefield prove to be as generous as you were - or will the entrenched bureaucrats at USCF manage to disgust him and chase him away too?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Napoleon Chess Table and Set

Thanks to Isis for sending me information on this interesting topic. There has been quite a bit published on the internet (much of it false) about Napoleon the chess player. If you do a search, you'll see what I mean :) This information is provided by the Biltmore Estate (Museum), Asheville, North Carolina, USA: The Vanderbilt Vision Continues at Biltmore America's Largest Home and More Asheville, NC August 2007 from press release): ...A chess set and gaming table, which belonged to Napoleon when he was in exile at St. Helena, are on display in the salon ... From the Biltmore Gift Shop!!! - a replica of the Napoleon chess chess, only $300 (image above): Sharpen your chess skills on this tabletop set that is part of Biltmore Estate For Your Home's collection. This piece replicates the beauty of Napoleon's chess set found in the Salon of Biltmore House. Gaming pieces are red and white. No provenance to authenticate the set as Napoleon's was provided at the Biltmore's website. I suppose they figured no one would be interested :)

Chess News

I've done updates at Chess Femme News (there are 3 pages for August, 2008!), including updated coverage on the PRE-events to the Women's World Chess Championship. Mr. Don has also done his weekly update of Random Round-up at Goddesschess! Enjoy!

Women's World Chess Championship

The ridiculousness and obscene farce of FIDE leadership continues to play out on the world stage for all chess fans to see. Chessbase and Susan Polgar's blog have published a new letter by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov that - ONCE AGAIN - totally ignores the thrust of the initial open letter written by the Georgian women chessplayers, which is their personal safety. Fearless Leader Kirsan has chosen to act the part of an ostrich and keep his head in the ground. For shame! Shame, shame on Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He has once again chosen not to do the right thing, the brave thing, the honorable thing. August 19, 2008 Dear chess friends! During last several days I have received a number of letters, including an open letter from six Georgian chess players in respect of a possible change of a venue and dates of the World Women's Chess Championship. As you know, the championship is scheduled to take place from 28 August to 18 September in Nalchik, capital of Kabardino Balkaria. I have already expressed my opinion several days ago. I reiterate: we should not mix sports and politics, and should not involve FIDE into various disputes and arguments. Once again I express most sincere condolences to all victims of the humanitarian catastrophy. As a response of the Georgian Chess Federation I would like to note that there are not any grounds for such a change. The Organisers have undertaken all necessary steps and carried out a good preparation and are ready to host all the guests. It is not their fault that blood was shed. We can't help taking into consideration interests of other participants, who purchased the tickets and are practically on the way to the venue of the tournament. But, first and foremost, the interest of lots of admirers of the talent of chess players should not suffer, as they are looking forward to the start of the Championship. I fully realise all complexity of this situation, I call on all participants, trainers, officials, guests and journalists – all without any exception – to come to Nalchik and show in fact, and not in words – that we are one family. Gens Una Sumus Kirsan Ilyumzhinov President Let's say it all together now - GAG! To it's credit, Chessbase has published a sampling of emails it has received about the issues. While a few are obviously trying to inflame political passions - not even addressing the issue of personal safety raised by the Georgian chessplayers - most are supporting of the players' request to move the location of the championship because Nalchik IS NOT SAFE. I also learned the following today - also from Chessbase: Dear ChessBase, I would like to remark that when FIDE and the Organizing Comitee write that the open letter was written by Georgian chess players they never say that it was later signed by eight more players from different countrys. They all agree with us 100%, that this champioship should be moved to another place. Here are their names: Irina Krush, USA Claudia Amura, Argentina Monica Socko, Poland Iweta Rajlich, Poland Anna Gasik, Poland Ketino Kachiani-Gersinska Tea Lanchava-Bosboom, The Netherlands Marie Sebag, France These are playes whom we were able to contact. I'm sure that if we had the emails of others they would suport us as well. So, please, if you have a chance, ask them to contact us at one of the following addresses: Many thanks and best regards IM Maia Lomineishvili, Georgia IM Lomineishvili, I'm not an invitee to the WWCC, but I do support you and all of the other players who have grave concerns about playing chess in Nalchik. Let us not forget that during the recent Grand Prix in Sochi, there was a terrorist attack - though not at the chess venue, thank Goddess! The entire region is a powderkeg. Why put chess players needlessly at risk?

Supporting Local Chess: Southwest Chess Club

Join in the fun this Thursday night!. We will have two parallel 3-Round Swiss events, 3 games in one night, August 21st. You have the option of risking your Regular USCF & Action USCF ratings in the Game/30 event (which is "Dual Rated"), or you can play it safe and risk only your Action Rating points in the Game/29 event (Action-rated only). Summer Actionade Cooler II: August 213-Round Swiss, Two Sections: Game/29 Minutes and Game/30 Minutes.USCF Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. (½ Point Bye available for only first round if requested prior to round). TD is Becker; ATDs are Fogec/Grochowski. BEFORE the tournament, Allen Becker will give a lecture at 6:00 PM on PLANNING IN CHESS. Looking ahead into late August and September, we will remain at the GREENDALE location until further notice (Layton State Bank (downstairs), at 5850 Broad Street. Here is a map to the club). Doggy Chess Days Extravaganza: Aug. 28, Sept. 4 & 11 -Round “Round-Robin” (a “Quad”). Four chess players to a Quad.Game/90 minutes. USCF Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. TD is Grochowski; ATDs are Fogec/Becker.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Divine Justice?

Just wondering... I find it interesting that Russia has (thus far) had such an anemic showing at the Olympics. As of today’s reporting, the USA has exactly twice as many medals (72) as Russia (36), and yet their population isn’t that much lower than ours. Hmmmm…. Will Miniputin now follow China and pour billions into training athletes from infancy on, to Borg perfection? Is the Great Goddess having a joke at Mother Russia’s lying expense? I find it interesting that while China adamantly refused and continues to refuse to use any of its influence to mediate the Darfur crisis, while China ruthlessly silences all dissent by immediately arresting any Chinese person and immediately deporting any foreign person who dares apply for a license to hold a protest rally in any of the designated "protest parks", and while China uses thug tactics to silence grieving parents of thousands of children killed in shoddily constructed schools during the June earthquake, China’s great track star was unable to race, being sidelined by a lingering injury to his ACHILLES’ HEEL. Now is that poetic justice or what? Are people all around the world now snickering into their hands at these two "super" powers – tee hee hee… Remember that great line uttered by Ann Baxter (as Neferteri) to Yul Brynner (as Pharaoh Rameses) in "The Ten Commandments: Do you hear laughter, Pharaoh?

Supporting Local Chess: Southwest Chess Club Simul!

News from Allen Becker at Southwest Chess Club (Hales Corners, Wisconsin): Congratulations to Anthony Parker, who won all six of his games, and becomes the new SWCC Club Champion! Blog. (If that link doesn't work, see entries on August 6th and August 8th. The tournament is now rated at USCF. Here are the results and prizes. See me next Thursday on arranging to receive your prizes. Don't forget, next week we have a one-night 3-round tournament, either Game/30 (Dual-rated), or Game/29 (Action-only rated). See you then! Well - I couldn't get the table to come out right in this blog format - it does not allow for tables! So, I posted it at Chess Femme News under August 18 entries. Kudos to Anthony Parker for a strong performance!

FIDE, ECU and WWCC Organizing Committee in La La Land!

If you haven't already read their issued statements in response to a heart-felt open letter published at Chessbase on August 12, 2008 by several Georgian women chess players who asked that the location of the Women's World Chess Championship be moved from Nalchik to a place of greater safety, I've got all the words of the fearless chess leaders (that I sincerely will one day come back to bite them on their big fatt butts) recorded along with a history of the events at Chess Femme News. Susan Polgar also has been following developments in her blog. A blogger at wrote about the situation too and posted a comment here. Yesterday the Parrot at Chessville (a/k/a Phil Innes) wrote about the situation too in his latest (8/16/08) column. Does the United States Chess Federation have anything to say about the subject? I would be interested to know if the Executive Board is willing to take a stand and publicly urge FIDE to move the WWCC to a safer location or, at the very least, a neutral location so that players from all countries will feel comfortable and welcome (and safe).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

World Juniors Chess Championship (Girls)

The official website reported the following norms were earned by the players: GM Norm: Hou Yifan CHN 2661 (Hou Yifan earned her first GM norm at Aeroflot earlier this year, so this is norm #2, not norm #3 as I believe I reported in an earlier post) WGM Norm: Kübra Öztürk TUR 2413 (Ozturk's first WGM norm, and the first ever earned by a Turkish female chess player according to official site) Miranda Mikadze GEO 2410 WIM Norm: Preethi Rajkumar IND 2277 Sarah Hoolt GER 2283 Khayala Isgandarova AZE 2254 Zusana Borosova SVK 2256 Narmin Kazimova AZE 2321 (Yah, Narmin!) Anastasia Bodnaruk RUS 2294 Zoja Severiukhina RUS 2296 Guliskan Nakhbayeva KAZ 2297 Tatev Abrahamyan USA 2266 (Yah, Tatev!) Adriana Nikolova BUL 2269 Nafisa Muminova UZB 2261 Homa Hour Alavi IRI 2266 Sona Pertlova CZE 2256


I just saw it confirmed in this report at Chessbase: IM Irina Krush, one of three U.S. players who qualified for the upcoming Women's World Chess Championships (along with Anna Zatonskih and Katherine Rohonyan), decided prior to Russia's invasion of Georgia to withdraw from the event because the area is unstable and unsafe and the U.S. government has specifically warned Americans to avoid the Caucasus region because of banditry, terrorism and kidnappings. This brings the total number of withdrawn players to 7 thus far, more than 10% of the field. Good for Krush! She is demonstrating sound common sense and a refreshing lack of greed in bypassing the prize money promised at the WWCC (less FIDE's 20% cut, of course). I hope more players withdraw. This is the only way to send a message to FIDE, the leadership of which has rocks in its head, scheduling an important world championship event in such a dangerous area! It is a shame and a scandal that FIDE has refused to take any steps to reschedule the event in a safer environment. I guess we all know who's calling the shots at FIDE, and it isn't Fearless Leader Kirsan - it's the Kremlin.
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