Saturday, September 12, 2009

Evidence for the Mystical Rukh?

Story from Discovery News Perhaps evidence that some old legends have a basis in fact after all... Image: From an article at Goddesschess "Rook" (rukh), Ferghana. Eighth to ninth centuries (?) Ivory, 5 cm. Hermitage, St. Petersburg. "The Art of Chess," I. M. Linder, H.G.S. Publishers, Moscow, 1994, ISBN 5-7588-0386-3, p. 66. As a sidenote, Dr. Linder argues that this is a chess piece. Is he right? Extinct Eagle May Have Hunted Humans Michael Casey, Associated Press Sept. 11, 2009 -- Sophisticated computer scans of fossils have helped solve a mystery over the nature of a giant, ancient raptor known as the Haast's eagle which became extinct about 500 years ago, researchers said Friday. The researchers say they have determined that the eagle -- which lived in the mountains of New Zealand and weighed about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) -- was a predator and not a mere scavenger as many thought. Much larger than modern eagles, Haast's eagle would have swooped to prey on flightless birds -- and possibly even the rare unlucky human. Ken Ashwell of the University of New South Wales in Australia and Paul Scofield of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand wrote their conclusions in the peer-reviewed Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Using computed axial tomography, or CAT, the researchers scanned several skulls, a pelvis and a beak in an effort to reconstruct the size of the bird's brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord. They compared their data on the Haast's eagle to characteristics of modern predator birds and scavenger birds to determine that the bird was a fearsome predator that ate the flightless moa birds and even humans. The researchers also determined the eagle quickly evolved from a much smaller ancestor, with the body growing much more quickly than the brain. They believe its body grew 10 times bigger during the early to middle Pleistocene period, 700,000 to 1.8 million years ago. "This work is a great example of how rapidly evolving medical techniques and equipment can be used to solve ancient medical mysteries," Ashwell said. Because fossils are so fragile and most of the species were never seen by humans, CAT scans allow researchers to closely examine body parts of the long-extinct animals to learn about their behavior, Scofield said. "The fossils are very valuable and you can't just cut into the skull to look at the brain," he said. "So by using nondestructive techniques, you can get a much better idea of the neurobiology of these animals." Scientists believe the Haast's eagle became extinct about 500 years ago, most likely due to habitat destruction and the extinction of its prey species at the hands of early Polynesian settlers. Before the humans colonized New Zealand about 750 years ago, the largest inhabitants were birds like the Haast's eagle and the moa. Scofield said the findings are similar to what he found in Maori folk tales. "The science supports Maori mythology of the legendary pouakai or hokioi, a huge bird that could swoop down on people in the mountains and was capable of killing a small child," he said. New Zealand paleontologist Trevor Worthy said the study did a good job of proving the eagle was a killer. "They provide a convincing case that the body of this eagle has rapidly enlarged, presumably adapting to the very much larger prey it had access to in New Zealand, but that the brain size had lagged behind this increase," he said in an e-mail interview. "Convincing data shows beyond doubt that this bird was an active predator, no mere scavenger. It is a nice use of modern technology and the same old bones as yesteryear to advance knowledge." Jamie R. Wood, a researcher from New Zealand who has done extensive research on the moa, said the analysis strengthens the case that the eagle evolved quickly from a much smaller ancestor, "in what must be one of the most dramatic examples anywhere of how rapidly evolution can occur on islands." **************************************************************************************** Okay, so this New Zealand eagle evolves quickly to a giant bird body-wise, but the brain stays bird-brained size. Isn't it possible then, that the bird was just too frigging stupid to survive and it died out from stupidity rather than lack of prety? Doh!

Child Burials Found in Peru

My guess is that they were human sacrifices to the Goddess of the Mountain, but I know nothing :) Human Archeological Remains Found in Sacsayhuamán Katrina Heimark September 8, 2009 (Note: Please ignore the photograph that was embedded in the article. It depicts a length-wise human burial, not a fetal-position burial as was mentioned in the article. I don't understand why authors and/or editors DO this kind of thing without tagging it as baloney!) Remains of two children, estimated to be between 12 and 13 at the time of their death, were found within the Archeological park of Sacsayhuamán, next to the huaca Qowiqarana. They were placed in the fetal position and were facing the Apu Huanacaure, one of mountains that dominates the landscape around Cusco. The children were found buried with a small stone model of the hilltops that surround the Huanacaure, as well as painted vessel. Luis Guevara, the archeologist in charge of the excavation managed by Cusco’s National Cultural Institute, states that “the cult of the Apu Huanacuare was founded by the Inca Pachacúteq. As we know, this mountain was considered by the Incas, and by today’s population, to be sacred because it is associated with the foundation of Cusco.” The huaca consists of a large rock that sticks out of the slope. According to Guevara, a secondary path crossed through this area, which connected to the path of the Antisuyo. Experts believe that this huaca is associated with the Apu Huanacaure cult because from its top, one can observe the mountain in its entire splendor. I do not have a tentative date on these remains, as I am not familiar with the cultures mentioned in the article. Actually, other than some specialists, who is???

Sacred Mayan Pools to Be Explored

About time! Well, actually, I know that funding is a perennial problem for archaeological projects and particularly digs like this, in Central and South America. Seems people just aren't that interested. I suggest, though, that everone pay attention to local stories and legends about sacred water - whether pools, rivers, lakes, streams or tiny trickles of water out of a cave or rock face. These are often places of the Goddess. Story from Scientists to Explore Sacred Mayan Pools Published: Sept. 9, 2009 at 1:24 PM CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A University of Illinois archaeologist says she will lead a team that will be the first to explore the sacred pools of the southern Mayan lowlands in Belize. Professor Lisa Lucero said she will lead a team of expert divers, a geochemist and an archaeologist in the expedition, funded by the National Geographic Society, to investigate the cultural significance and environmental history and condition of three of the 23 pools of Cara Blanca, in central Belize. The groundwater-filled sinkholes in limestone bedrock, called cenotes, were treated as sacred sites by the Maya, Lucero said. The cenotes vary in depth from approximately 15 feet to more than 165 feet. "Any openings in the earth were considered portals to the underworld, into which the ancient Maya left offerings," she said. "We know from ethnographic accounts that Maya collected sacred water from these sacred places, mostly from caves," Lucero said, noting the Maya also left elaborate offerings in the lakes and pools. Patricia Beddows, a lecturer of earth and planetary sciences at Northwestern University and an expert diver, will explore the geochemistry and hydrology of the pools in Belize. The researchers will videotape and map the pools and any artifacts they find. © 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship

I've been waiting for these for hours! Finally - some results to report! From After Round 2: In Group A (42 players), WGM Salome Melia is the only chess femme participating in the Open, and she is currently in 2nd place, with two wins, nominally tied with several chess hommes: # Name ID Rtng Tot 1 GM Bator Sambuev 100539 2531 2 2 *Melia Salome 2441 2 3 Jean Hebert 10495 2418 2 4 Louie Jiang 100245 2278 2 5 Roland Chabot 24838 2245 2 6 Kishor Ramaswamy 11002 2202 2 7 Lloyd Mai 74384 2194 2 8 Daniel Rousseau 44662 2149 2 There aren't too many chess femmes playing in the B Group (55 players): # Name ID Rtng Tot 54 *Kelly Wang 101318 1529 0 55 *Marguerite Yang 101308 1317 0 C Group (62 players) - one chess femme has a share of first place: 7 *Mei Chen Lee 1516 2 19 *Claire Trottier 88121 1202 1,5 31 *Indy Ma Olivier 100247 1371 1 55 *Shi Lingyun 101549 1211 0 57 Cendrina Bilodeau-Savaria 101304 1109 0 60 *Esther Paquette 101011 992 0 62 *Jesrael Noelle Del Agua unr. 0 Group D (32 players): 9 *Kate Brichko 101557 1054 1,5 17 *Lorraine Dubois 100010 989 1 21 *Sandy Dormeus 101959 850 1 27 *Christine Gao 101555 1105 0,5 28 *Catherine Gao 102392 747 0 I count 191 players - unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Zahira El Ghaby is not playing after all. Perhaps next year? I do not know if 191 players is a record - it will have to wait until after the end of the tournament and all the smoke has cleared because I am certain that right now, my contacts at Ahuntsic Chess Club (organizer) are very busy! I'm waiting to hear from Mr. Don - and hopefully find out what happened to his downloaded videos and photos.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hales Corners Chess Challenge X!

NEWS! Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is graciously providing books and CDs that will be distributed as special prizes to chess femmes at the Hales Corners Chess Challenge X on October 17, 2009 at the Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - stay tuned for the particulars! Thank you, GM Kosteniuk, for your generous support! GM Kosteniuk shares our goals of encouraging more female chess players to participate in local chess tournaments and for girls and women of all ages to take up the game! The Hales Corners Challenge series of USCF-sanctioned Grand Prix Tournaments is organized by the Southwest Chess Club, Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

Learning Chess - Future World Chess Champion

This is Mia Arculeo. She is four years old. Mia is the daugher of friends of my friend, Shira Evans (Computer Labs for Kids). Today Shira taught Mia "some moves." Shira reports Mia wants to learn MORE: She's a little chess genius in the making. She loved it and wants to learn more. Right now she is just learning about the pawns - how they move and how they capture. Her face lit up when she "won"! Shira

2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

The beautiful Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, which hosted the 2009 U.S. Championship earlier this year, is once again the scene of championship chess, this time the Women's Championship. The Championship dates are October 3-13. The 10-player round robin has the largest U.S. women's prize fund ever, including $15,000 for 1st. List of confirmed players: IM/WGM Anna Zatonskih (2496) IM/WGM Irina Krush (2478) IM/WGM Rusudan Goletiani (2437) WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor (2390) WGM Camilla Baginskaite (2356) WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (2334) WIM Alisa Melekhina (2301) WIM Iryna Zenyuk (2281) WIM Battsetseg Tsagaan (2265) NM Yun Fan (2201) There are several special events that will be held in conjunction with the Women's Championship, including an all women performers jazz concert, a blindfold simul by current U.S. Women's Chess Champion Anna Zatonskih, and a blitz tournament in which all of the WCC players (except for Zatonskih, who will be doing the simul) will be playing! Free to the public. What a great way to promote chess and encourage our young players, particularly the chess femmes. There is also going to be something special happening at the conclusion of the Championship - this directly from the USCF website: Finally, on October 14, the night after the tournament, witness a unique contest of chess and chance as the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Champion, crowned just a day before, will face off against a special guest. This event will take place at the Kemper Museum in Washington University. I've no idea what this could be, but it sounds interesting :) NEWS! On behalf of Goddesschess, I'm also pleased to announce that we are once again sponsoring a Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award of $500. GM Susan Polgar, despite her busy schedule, has graciously agreed to once again act as our Judge to select the winner of the Award at the conclusion of play! GM Polgar selected the winner of the 2008 Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award, Tatev Abrahamyan, for her record of 6 wins, no draws, and 3 losses in last year's U.S. Women's Chess Championship. We are very grateful to GM Polgar for her continued support and willingness to lend her expertise.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yeah, Right!

This is the sort of ridiculous article with absolutely no scientific merit that millions of people will end up believing. So sad. Shame on you Mr. David Derbyshire - if that is your real name. Shame, shame on you for putting your name to this drek! (Image: The 9000-year-old figurines dug up in Turkey are thought to have been used as educational toys - from article. Do these look like dudes to you?) Ancient figurines were toys not mother goddess statues, say experts as 9,000-year-old artefacts are discovered By David Derbyshire Last updated at 12:57 AM on 10th September 2009 They were carved out of stone and squeezed out of clay 9,000 years ago, at the very dawn of civilisation. Now archaeologists say these astonishing Stone Age statues could have been the world's first educational toys. Nearly 2,000 figures have been unearthed at Catalhoyuk in Turkey - the world's oldest known town - over the last few decades. The most recent were found just last week. Made by Neolithic farmers thousands of years before the creation of the pyramids or Stonehenge, they depict tiny cattle, crude sheep and flabby people. In the 1960s, some researchers claimed the more rotund figures were of a mysterious large breasted and big bellied "mother goddess", prompting a feminist tourism industry that thrives today. But modern day experts disagree. They say the "mother goddess" figures - which were buried among the rubbish of the Stone Age town - are unlikely to be have been religious icons. Many of the figures thought to have been women in the 1960s, are just as likely to be men. Archaeologist Prof Lynn Meskell, of Stanford University, said: "The majority are cattle or sheep and goats. They could be representatives of animals they were dealing with - and they could have been teaching aides. "All were found in the trash - and they were not in niches or platforms or placed in burials." Out of the 2,000 figurines dug up at the site, less than five per cent are female, she told the British science Festival in Surrey University, Guildford. [And how many were male???] "These are things that were made and used on a daily basis," she said. "People carried them around and discarded them." Catalhoyuk is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Established around 7,000 BC, it was home to 5,000 people living in mud brick and plaster houses. Their buildings were crammed so tightly together, the inhabitants clambered over the roofs and used ladders to get into their homes. The town dwellers were early farmers who had domesticated a handful of plants and kept wild cattle for meat and milk. Cattle horns were incorporated into the walls of their homes. The town contains the oldest murals - paintings on plastered walls. Unlike later towns, there is no obvious hierarchy - no homes for priests or leaders, no temples and no public spaces. The dead were buried in spaces under homes, rather than in cemeteries. Some researchers believe it was an equalitarian society. The town survived for around 2,000 years. It is not known what happened to its inhabitants, but they may have been killed by invaders or driven away by the loss of nearby farmland. ************************************************************************************* Ahem - so what if the "majority" of the little clay artifacts found were of sheep and cattle? What has THAT to say about the female figurines that were discovered at Catalhoyuk? Short answer: Nothing. It is well known to anyone who has read practically anything about the excavations at Catalhoyuk that both male and female figurines were excavated there, something the article does NOT mention, but I understand the findings were the ratio of female to male figures was much greater, also something the article does NOT mention. It is also well established that not only at Catalhoyuk, but at many sites excavated in the Middle East and in Greece (and perhaps elsewhere in the world, I just cannot think of them at the moment, but it's late and I'm not a professor of archaeology so these facts do not come as readily to my mind as pawn to e4) thousands of figurines were "sacrificed" as votive offerings to goddesses (and gods, too), often (but not always) smashed and thrown into pits that were conveniently situated at central places of worship. Catalhoyuk people worshipped within their homes. It makes sense that such sacrificed offerings would be found in the middens and garbage pits of the homes! This isn't anything new. In looking at the figurines in the image in the article, my inexpert eyes - and common sense - say at least three of the four are females, for these reasons: -- Three of the four are holding their hands under their breasts - a well-known pose that travelled down through the millennia to depictions of Astarte, Asherah and Aphrodite, to name just a few goddesses who struck similar poses. The fourth figure, on the far left, is either resting its arms along its sides or could, perhaps, be supporting its stomach (very much like a heavily pregnant woman does), but the hands are not visible, and so it is inconclusive. I would like to see a photo of that figurine from the side - to see whether there is a baby-bulge. -- There are no penises on any of the figurines shown in the image. Men have penises. No penis - not a man. Unless someone wants to argue that these were "instructional toys" about eunuchs? -- Why use flabby models? Weren't there any buff 20-somethings around if "instructional toys" were the goal? It is well known, however (I could teach a college course on this) that women who were heretofore buff start to "spread" once menopause hits. It then becomes a losing battle against "pinch an inch." -- Surely no one in his or her right mind is going to suggest that the figurine excavated at Catalhoyuk of a quite buxom and hefty female figure sitting upon a throne flanked by two felines (some say the figurine is in the process of giving birth) is a MAN. Just take a look at her, and compare the figurines shown in the photo in the article, and draw your own conclusions as to their femaleness. I could go on - but you get the idea. One final thought for the night -- who are the other archaeologists mentioned in the article who support this er, reinterpretation of the archeological evidence? Are there any? If so, why weren't they named? Is this just puffery?

For Sale So Males Can Eat: Wives and Daughters

This is a copyrighted story from AFP. Drought-hit Indian farmers sell wives to pay debts By Kulsum Mustafa (AFP) – 16 hours ago LUCKNOW, India — Drought-hit farmers in northern India are resorting to selling their wives to repay debts to local loan sharks, activists say, as one of the weakest monsoons in years takes its toll. Poverty, poor administration and a lack of education means farmers in the rugged Bundelkhand region are taking extreme steps to pull through a poor rainy season, they say. "This has been happening for quite some time now, but people were hesitant to come out with all this," said Manoj Kumar, a social activist working with farmers in the area. Excluded from the formal banking sector, the poverty-stricken farmers often turn to usurious private money lenders when banks refuse them loans or even accounts. After five years of poor crop yields and steadily decreasing rainfall, the crushing weight of the high interest payments has led to a well-documented spate of suicides and increasing cases of human-trafficking. Another social worker, Shailendra Sagar, said the situation of farmers in Bundelkhand, a region that spans the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, was "pathetic." "They are living in debt. Selling off one's wife or daughters is the last resort," he said. The sale price for married women is hard to ascertain and their fate after being sold is equally difficult to follow. Local reports have suggested wives can be pawned or sold for anything between one rupee to 12,000 rupees (240 dollars). Some women are sold under the guise of a legal marriage, complete with a formal contract, but activists believe others end up being exploited by prostitution rings. In the last four to five years around 50 percent of the region's population has left Bundelkhand villages to find work in cities, and at least 500 farmers have committed suicide, according to various Indian media reports. For India's 235 million farmers, a bad monsoon can spell financial disaster because of the lack of irrigation. Low rains have ravaged India's rice, cane sugar and groundnut crops, and have disrupted the flow of water into the main reservoirs that are vital for hydropower generation and winter irrigation. About 40 percent of India's districts have declared a drought, and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) this week said the country faced a 20-percent annual rainfall deficiency, though that figure is expected to improve with recent patchy rains. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi, said research had identified Bundelkhand as one of the regions most vulnerable to sex trafficking. "This region is famous for that. Even earlier such incidents have happened, it's not the first time," she said. Some farmers are aware that they are selling their wives to prostitution rings, Kumari added, but "they do it out of absolute desperation. They have absolutely no other alternative before them." A government-funded scheme in which states are obliged to guarantee 100 days of paid employment per year to villagers has yet to be fully implemented in Bundelkhand. "There are no specially dedicated schemes to develop these regions. If skill training was delivered, this whole situation would have been different in the past six decades," said Kumari. Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

9 Queens: All Queens Chess Day!

A special event hosted by 9 Queens and Bookmans! "All Queens Chess Day" October 18, 2009 between 1 - 4 PM It is Tuscon, Arizona's "first chess tournament and workshop exclusively for women and girls." PLACE: Bookmans, 6230 East Speedway, Tuscon, AZ CONTACT: Email to pre-register for the tournament or sign up for chess lessons! For further information. WOW! This events sounds like so much fun! 9 Queens is doing great work with the most vunerable, at-risk children. By teaching them chess, the children learn so much more than just how to play the game. It is well-documented that the skills a child acquires in learning how to play chess spreads far beyond the chessboard, into every area of the child's life, and the results are almost immediately discernable: increased concentration and focus; increased ability to formulate goals and plans to achieve those goals; discipline; self-control; learning good sportsmanship; learning how to deal with defeat; learning how to deal with success and ego. I'm no expert in this area by any means, but I understand from what I've read that better academic results are also seen quite early on as a child progresses in chess learning, too. These are worthy goals for anyone - but especially for our children. More than ever, we need to teach our kids these kinds of skills, because they are not now and will not only be competing against each other in the future; in the global economy, they are and will be competing against just about everyone else in their generation in the entire world! Please consider making a donation to 9 Queens to aid their great work!

Not Just for 'Nerds'

Story from The Pendulum Elon University's Studen Newspaper September 9, 2009 Chess club encourages community involvement, female participation by Sarah Costello, September 8, 2009 Brows glisten and fingers twitch during the final stages of a long battle between two passionate competitors. Tension is evident as the board quickly becomes vacant of pieces. Eyes widen and collected breaths are released with the subtle tap of a fallen king. Checkmate. Intense competition between Elon chess players can be expected every week at Chess Club meetings, when players of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability challenge and learn from one another. "Our club is kind of unique because we have total community involvement," said Aaron Peeks, associate professor of sociology and the adviser of the Elon Chess Club. Students, faculty, staff and even children attend the Tuesday evening meetings for instruction, as well as friendly competition. "Chess is about puzzles," Peeks said. "If you love puzzles, you'll love chess."Peeks has played chess since high school and temporarily sacrificed his undergraduate studies to compete in national tournaments his freshman year. He said he loves the beauty of the game and the ability to relate chess to life. "Chess keeps my brain sharp," Peeks said. "Chess provided me with a level of self-control. It's made me a better planner." One of Peeks's goals as the faculty adviser is to shatter existing stereotypes that often accompany chess. "Chess is (often) seen as a nerdy game for geeks," he said. He advocates that chess is not solely for individuals with high IQs, impressive GPAs or a collection of pocket pens. Peeks also wants to interest more women in the game. With female representation at less than 10 percent in national tournaments, Peeks said he believes it is important to encourage women to play a game often perceived as explicitly masculine. "There's a more feminine side to chess," Peeks said. "There's artistic beauty and motion, but a lot of females think they can't grasp it." Jennifer Shahade, a two-time American Women Chess Champion and the author of "Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport," is attempting to combat misconceptions by empowering women and girls through the art of chess. Shahade is the co-founder of 9 Queens, a nonprofit organization in Tuscon, Ariz., which provides chess instruction to girls and youth in the inner city. "It's important to teach chess to girls and women because chess improves confidence and rewards healthy aggression," Shahade said. "For cultural reasons, these are areas in which women often don't feel as comfortable as men. Chess is a medium where boys and girls can compete on an equal playing field." Peeks, a self-proclaimed feminist, said he believes women should have equal opportunity to participate in chess and would like to interest more women in the game. Peeks hopes to attract more male and female students by spreading the word through public tournaments and a "Beat the Professor Challenge" Sept. 22 at College Coffee. Students who can beat Peeks will receive a $10 gift certificate. "Come to chess club," Peeks said. "It's uncanny how chess can improve academic skills. Research shows kids who play chess have higher GPAs."

Hales Corners Chess Challenge X!

It will be here before we know it! (Photo: Nicole Niemi, one of the winners of a Goddesschess prize in Hales Corners Challenge IX) Information and a link to the registration form below. Goddesschess would like to see the Hales Corners Challenge X be the biggest and best Challenge yet! And we want to see a record-breaking number of chess femmes come out and play.
FORMAT: Four Round Swiss System - Four Games in One Day USCF Rated Two Sections – Open & Reserve (Under 1600) TIME LIMIT: Game in One Hour (60 minutes per player) ENTRY FEE: $35 – Open; $25 – Reserve (both sections $5 more after October 14, 2009) Comp Entry Fee for USCF 2200+: Entry fee subtracted from any prizes won SITE REGISTRATION: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. ROUNDS: 10 am -- 1 pm -- 3:30 pm -- 6 pm Pairings by WinTD---No Computer Entries---No Smoking PRIZES OPEN RESERVE 1st—$325* 1st—$100 2nd—$175* 2nd—$75 A—$100 D—$50 B & Below—$75 E & Below—$40 * guaranteed Goddesschess prizes for top performing females: Open Section: 1st - $60, 2nd - $40; Reserve Section: 1st - $40, 2nd $30, 3rd $20 Tournament Director: Tom Fogec Assistant Tournament Directors: Robin Grochowski & Allen Becker SITE: Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel—4747 S. Howell Avenue—Milwaukee— Telephone 414-481-8000 (formerly known as Four Points Sheraton, across street from airport) ENTRIES TO: Allen Becker—6105 Thorncrest Drive—Greendale, WI 53129 QUESTIONS TO: Tom Fogec—414-425-6742 (home) or 414-405-4207 (cell) USCF I.D. Required -- Bring your own clocks – Sets and Boards Provided Half point bye available in Round 1, 2 or 3 if requested prior to round 1; not available in Round 4. Registration form See the announcement in the September, 2009 print edition of Chess Life Magazine under Grand Prix.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Unexpected Gift!

A little background: On Friday 9/4, as everyone who had to work at the office was grinding their teeth and counting the agonizing, never-ending minutes toward 5 p.m. and freedom for the 3-day Labor Day weekend, a particular lady stopped by my office during the lunch hour to linger over the candy dish I try to keep stocked with chocolates for stressed-out workers. That candy dish gets heavy traffic (from attorneys and staff). The lady and I have shared many agreeable conversations over the past seven years. This time, she caught me playing chess online, LOL - I was still working on my training games at prior to my upcoming weekend match with Shira. "Oh," she said. "Chess!" We got into a discussion, and soon I was going on and on about the Shira Chess Challenge and some of the sponsorships for chess femmes Goddesschess has been putting out there - small but we hope to grow them over time. She listened politely, and I shut up finally, when it dawned on me - DUH! - that I was boring her to tears with my "other full-time career."

This morning: I walked into my office, turned on the light, turned around to reach down underneath the desk to turn on the hard drive and an array of chess pieces were sitting there next to my computer screen, before my amazed eyes! What the - I honestly do not think I can describe what I felt at that moment! Almost instantly my eyes registered that there were 16 pieces - the "royalty" - no pawns. Six of the pieces were still in boxes that read "British Caledonian," showing a picture of the piece within on one side and other information provided on each of the remaining sides of the box.

I knew who had left those chess pieces, a complete set of major pieces for black and white with some duplicates of both the black and white pieces. I emailed her my thanks, and suggested I could not accept such a valuable gift, because surely these were collectibles! Then - in between bursts of work - I did a no-no and researched those chess pieces and confirmed that they are certainly not dimestore ware! A little later she came to my office and said no no, I want you to have them, and she explained why she wanted me to have them. I asked only that she send me an email describing the particulars of how she had collected these pieces, and she obliged.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this gift means to me. I don't care about any potential monetary value for my own part, I didn't want her to give away something that could be valuable financially, not to mention embued with so many priceless memories... But that is exactly why she wanted to give them to me, because, I think, she knows that I will appreciate those confidences and wonderful memories connected with each piece, and chess in general, and the role it played in her life.

This is NOT my set! I need to take photographs of my pieces.

A history of George Wade and Son, the pottery that made the Thistle and the Rose chess pieces.

These pieces (photo above - the white major pieces) look identical to my pieces (minus pawns), except my pieces, even those in the boxes, don't have those "stamp tax" seals on them, and the rooks (towers) do not have the gold wrap (or whatever it is) near their tops. From Carlopeto's Figural Mini-bottles.

Information about British Calendonian and The Thistle and The Rose Beneagles Whisky Chess Set.

Review: "The Queen's Gambit" by Walter Tevis

A fan had told me some time ago that I should check out this book - but I never did. Now, I intend to. In fact, tonight on the way home from the office, I stopped at a downtown used book store and checked their stock, but they didn't have it. So, I'll probably order it from I came across this review today at I had no idea the book was written in the 1980s! The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis Thursday, 03, Sep 2009 11:25 Reissued by Penguin Books, paperback, 243 pages, £9.99. In a nutshell... Life is a game of chess What's it all about? Ever since she was a little girl, emotionally neglected under an authoritarian regime in an orphanage, chess has been a form of spiritual rapture for Beth, a form of escapism from the realities of her life and her addiction to tranquilisers (and later her alcoholism). The book follows her progress from prodigy to adulthood, her career and emotional development. Who's it by? Walter Tevis (1928-1984), the American writer perhaps most famous for his novels The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth, both of which have been adapted for film. The Queen's Gambit was originally released in 1983. This Penguin edition includes an introduction by Lionel Shriver, the acclaimed journalist and novelist, who won the Orange prize in 2005 for We Need to Talk About Kevin. As an example... "She did not open her eyes even to see the time remaining on her clock or to look across the table at Borgov or to see the enormous crowd who had come to the auditorium to watch her play. She let all that go from her mind and allowed herself only the chessboard of her imagination with its intricate deadlock. It did not really matter who was playing the black pieces or whether the material board sat in Moscow or New York or in the basement of an orphanage; this eidetic image was her proper domain." - page 240 Likelihood of becoming a Hollywood blockbuster The problem of representing the highly cerebral chess scenes aside, most of the text is the internal reflections and feelings of the protagonist Beth, which would be hard to recreate for the screen. We doubt whether Hollywood has the subtlety or finesse for either. What the others say "The author's most consummate and heartbreaking work." - Jonathan Lethem So is it any good? Beth Harmon is not initially a warm, charismatic character: she is emotionally detached, at times amoral, and compulsive. However, there is something very rewarding about watching how she grows and develops, and the reader cannot help being in awe of her intelligence and genius. The novel has an immense cast of characters, and though some are not as fleshed-out as they may be, all add colour to the tapestry of the plot. The story itself is anti-sentimental and bleak, and an understanding of cold war tensions is necessary to fully appreciate the book's context and the importance of Beth's competition in the Soviet Union. Tevis' style is terse but evocative, with many throwaway comments that succinctly express an incredible amount of information, and he never condescends his reader. However, not everything can be taken as truth. Some readers may find the non-erotic and passionless sex scenes uncomfortable to read, and sometimes the chess scenes carry on for too long. Nonetheless the book is beautifully written, and full of tension and suspense. Two minor niggles: firstly, the introduction by Shriver, though an interesting read and accurate analysis, gives away too much of the plot and should instead be included as an afterword; secondly, the almost fetishistic photograph of a glamorous and beautiful woman on the cover of the edition is unnecessary and irritating, especially as the physical attractiveness of Beth is not an issue in the text. 8/10 (9/10 if you can follow the chess scenes) Louise Champion

Your Chess Coach: Become a Strategist - Learn Chess!

An article by Laura Sherman, reproduced here with the permission of the author. Become a Strategist - Learn Chess! By Laura Sherman Ever sat there with your head in your hands wondering what went wrong in your business? Could it be that you just missed "the right move"? When you play many games of chess you learn to look ahead into the future and plan several moves deep. You learn to predict outcomes. Yes, the over-the-board lessons do translate to life. I learned to play chess when I was a little girl. I loved the game, but hated losing. I was usually the youngest person at any tournament or club event I entered and was often the only girl there. As a result other participants would gather around my table and watch my games, interested to see what I could do. Because of the added attention I played every game to the best of my ability, treating each battle as if everything was on the line. I spent a lot of energy on each move, making sure it was the best possible move I could make in the time allotted. And if I made a mistake in one game you’d better believe that I did everything I could to learn from that error, making sure I didn’t make it again. I developed intricate plans and strategies, which had back-up plans in case I had missed something. Each move I made had more than one idea behind it, more than one tactic to ensure success and ultimately victory. Now you might think with all this caution that I was a timid player. Not so! I was actually very aggressive and attacked my opponent’s king with gusto each game. I wasn’t afraid to sacrifice a couple of pawns or even a piece to get a glorious attack. I learned which sacrifices worked and which did not lead to a win, but I enjoyed the living-on-the-edge type games the most. When you become experienced at chess and you care about the outcome, you develop good habits in life. Today I love a challenge and will take on mammoth tasks, but will think through every step carefully. I create back-up plans for my back-up plans and even some of those will have back-up plans. When it comes to business and marketing you can’t be shy. Put yourself out there - live on the edge. And it isn’t that I never make mistakes, but when I do, you’d better believe that I learn from them! Laura Sherman founded Your Chess Coach ( with her husband, Dan Sherman. Together they teach children [and this adult] to play chess through various schools in Pinellas County, Florida, as well as online. They are currently working with a company in Los Angeles, Real Ability, to create a series of e-courses and books that will teach parents and educators how to teach chess properly to children.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge for Charity: Postscript

First of all - THANK YOU SO MUCH - to:
  •, for giving us front-page publicity on its website the day before our match began, and their private kind words of support and encouragement.
  • Current Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk for her kind words and the publicity she provided to us at her
  • Chessville - who began it all with an article published on June 23, 2009 from sometimes columnist JanXena :)
  • Kelly Atkins a/k/a Chessdaddy (whom I met eons ago at the message board now affiliated with Chessville), who volunteered to be my coach, despite knowing what a difficult femme I am - kiss my foot, Chessdaddy! He tried hard to whip me into shape, and I resisted every step of the way :) Despite his own fully-booked family and work schedule, he found time somehow to teach me some good stuff, and I found his analysis of Game 2 invaluable - not in preparing for Game 3, but in providing a template for patterns in my own play. I'm going to study that game a lot more.
  • Laura and Dan Sherman of Your Chess Coach, who spent a lot of hours with me via email and on the telephone giving me pointers on how to play and analysis of two of my prior "practice" games from I cannot tell you how much I learned from that time on the telephone with Dan, wow! Dan, I was even able to use "c3" in my game today - and it worked just as you said it would :) Unfortunately, I blew the game, but not because of that move. Laura, thanks for that sweet supporting shoulder to cry on!
  • Don McLean, my long-suffering fiance. He's not keen on playing chess - and neither had I been until I cooked up this Chess Challenge for Charity with Shira a few months ago. Mr. Don indulged me and while he was here a few weeks ago for my 58th birthday (we were going to Las Vegas to celebrate with our friends) he willingly played four games to help me with my training. Two here at the house, and one each to and from Las Vegas. I love you with all my heart, mon homme, and I'm soooo glad I won that game at 35,000 feet flying back from Las Vegas :)
  • Phil Innes and Rob Mitchell. Your enthusiasm at the beginning of this "project" was invigorating and inspirational. Rob, thanks for the practice games :)
Shira, I hate you! LOL! I hate you so much I donated $100 to your Cause at Facebook. I hope this will spur some donations. Interest in the Chess Challenge for Charity was high. Traffic at this blog where I did daily updates on the Challenge games increased substantially over average. Thank you all for your support! Donations to Shira's Foundation are 100% tax deductible to qualifying taxpayers and the Foundation accepts donations in cash and in kind - that is, if you have a working in good order laptop you'd like to donate, you can contact Shira at the Foundation for further information. If your laptop is accepted by the Foundation, you get to write off its value as a charitable deduction. Shira and I are very sorry that our plan for playing "live" games did not work out. Neither of us realized that the live play interface at is a "beta" model still a work in progress, prone to malfunctions. Oy! We are sorry that anyone who wanted to follow along with our play was not able to do so while we were playing them. You missed all of our sparkling repartee :) A summary of the action over the past several days: Game 1 Update for Game 2 – Technical Difficulties Game 2 Game 3 In tribute to Chessdaddy's hard work on my behalf, I post his analysis of my Game 2: Event "Online Chess"] [Site "Chess. com"] [Date "2009. 09. 06"] [Round "1"] [White "JanXena"] [Black "shirae"] [Result "0–1"] [WhiteElo "979"] [BlackElo "1421"] No time control we played in real time but without clocks game lasted about hours] [Termination "shirae won by resignation"] 1.d4 d6 2.e4 e5 3.Be3 Not a blunder by any means, but it is fundamentally wrong as it is way too passive & defensive instead of using White's advantage of having the first move to maintain the initiative and create threats. Be3 just gives Black equality and hands the initiative to her. Nf3 or dxe5 were better. 3...Be7 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 [5.dxe5 Bxf3 (5...dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Bxd8 7.Nxe5 and you've won a pawn, have a big lead in development and a much better position.) 6.Qxf3 dxe5 with a nice lead in development.] 5...f5 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 f4 8.Bd2 you're still in good shape here, but your dark-squared bishop has been pushed back to an ineffective square and will have a hard time getting active - on reason putting it on e3 wasn't so hot. OTOH, Black has gained some space and pushed the bishop away, but has really opened up her kingside 8...Nf6 9.Bd3 Again, not a blunder, but putting a piece on a square where it's ineffective and unlikely to have any scope. Remember, the opening is not just about developing pieces, but developing them to effective squares, anticipating what they'll be able to do from those squares, developing them to work with the rest of your pieces, etc. It's also about creating threats and causing your opponent problems she must address that compromise her position. If you really want to castle short and needed to get that bishop out of the way in order to do so, putting it on e2 to back up the queen, have access to the more open d1–h5 diagonal, and not be staring into the back of one of your blocked center pawns would've been better.Here, you needed to do some planning and assess the future of the game. With Black being very open on the kingside, she likely won't (or at least shouldn't) castle to that side. Also, with Black having penetrated to f4 with a supported pawn, you are gonna need to bust that up or suffer a very cramped position and be vulnerable to attack if you castle there. A rule of thumb is to attack in the direction your center pawns are pointing, meaning Black is probably going to have better attacking chances on the kingside and you on the queenside. Since Black is gonna need to castle long and you are gonna be vulnerable on the kingside, you should too, and all this means that if you both castle long, you should have the better attacking chances against your opponent's king. This also means you can afford to play g3 in the near future and start busting up Black's advanced pawns on the kingside. Moves like Nc3, Rg1, or g3 were better than Bd3. This is a good position to learn how to evaluate and assess and plan correctly. 9...Nbd7 10.Nc3 0–0 11.0–0–0 Very good! You obviously realized you would be vulnerable after 0–0. With opposite side castling, a pawn storm is almost always in order. It gets very nasty and the first one who push their pawns into the opponent's king's position and open it up usually wins. Time is VERY important here and you must make every move count. 11...c6 This is a great position to stop and assess the strengths & weaknesses of both sides, then make a plan for how to make the most of your strengths and take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses. Doing this well isn't as easy to learn as tactics, but it's not all that hard either. ALL plans MUST be based on objective analysis of the position, not on what you just WANT to do.Here, you have a very solid, secure castled king, the bishop pair, more space on the queenside, and an opportunity to launch a pawn storm on the kingside. Your weakness is that your bishops have very little range or scope, and your knight doesn't have a good advanced square to go to. A very helpful rule of thumb is that when you have bishops, open the position... usually by forcing pawn swaps in and around the center. If you have knights, or your opponent has the bishop pair, keep the position blocked and closed. You can almost put an automatic 1 in the win column in this position by simply pushing pawns in the center and on the kingside to open the position up.Shira's king is castled, but the position around him is a little loose. Her only bishop is bad (on the same color squares as her center pawns, meaning it doesn't have much scope), her knights don't have many good squares to go to, and she's behind in development.The plan for you here should be to immediately play g3, bust up Black's advanced K-side pawns, open lines for your rooks to attack down the g and/or h files, and push any remaining pawns on the K-side to attack Black's castled king. This will also open up the c1–h6 diagonal for your bishop; after you remove Black's f4 pawn you can play f4 to remove her e5 pawn then advance your own e-pawn to open the diagonal for your light squared bishop, or maybe have to reposition it to e2. Also you may need to play Ne2 to bring the knight over to the kingside to put extra pressure on f4 and g3 and perhaps on to directly assisting in the kingside attack. In a nutshell, open up lines on the kingside, throw your kingside pawns at Black's king, and throw all your pieces at him also. 12.Bc4 Unnecessary and not helpful. You're responding to Shira's threats instead of taking the initiative. You don't want to recapture here with your bishop anyway, as that gives up the bishop pair unnecessarily. Let her capture then retake with your knight or e-pawn. Best was to ignore the threat since it didn't really hurt you at all, and play g3, forcing Shira to respond to you, then follow the plan of opening up the center & K-side and flooding it with your pieces in a direct attack. 12...b5 13.dxc6+ Not a huge blunder, but a mistake nonetheless. It doesn't lose material, but it gives up your bishop (and the bishop pair, and opens up attacking lines for Black against your king. Much better was preserving your bishop and keeping the Q-side closed with Bb3. It's these little subtle things that make the difference in a good position that's easy to win from, and a hard-to-defend bad position where you become overwhelmed with problems. This move took you from having a very solid position with a decent advantage, to a position that was just about dead even, but with some potential problems. 13...bxc4 14.cxd7 Qxd7 15.g3 fxg3 16.Qxg3 Nh5 17.Qg2 Qg4 here forces a Q trade, removing most of Black's attacking chances, making you much safer and pretty much assuring you of a draw. Not necessarily better than Qg2, but would have given you an almost certain draw. 17...Rab8 18.Rdg1 Not a losing move, but I think you failed to anticipate Black's direct attack on your king and take steps to defend. Moving your king to b1 to bring your bishop to c1 in order to defend b2 was good. b3 will work, but it will also weaken the area around your king, though you should still be able to fight off and attack. 18...Bh4 19.Bh6 Looks good at first glance, but doesn't work due to Black's threats at f2 and his solid defense of g7. Easy to see why you'd play this though and it's not easy to calculate this accurately and see if it works or not. [19.Qg4 Black either has to give up the attack by trading queens, or play Qb7 and take a pawn or two and run your king around while letting you get a free piece, leaving you with a nice advantage.] 19...Rxf2 20.Qxg7+ [20.Qg4 was your only decent move here. Everything else loses the queen. Even with Qg4, you're still in some trouble, though not really lost... just down a pawn and under some pressure.] 20...Nxg7 21.Be3 [21.Rxg7+ MUCH better. You get a Q & N for a R & B. Still leaves you a pawn & rook down, but...] 21...Rf7 22.Rg2 Rbf8 23.Rhh2 Kh8 24.Kb1 Rf1+ 25.Bc1 Re1 All in all, you played MUCH better than expected. Shira by NO means ran over you. In fact, you had the advantage throughout most of the game and played well with no big mistakes until a small miscalculation near the end. Until then, all your mistakes were very small, minor things that are easily corrected. Although you lost this game, you have a LOT to be proud of and you played quite well. 0–1 Thanks, Chessdaddy :)

Shira Chess Challenge for Charity: Game 3

Hola darlings! It's another gorgeous day here, but that didn't help my chessplaying today, oy! I fell flat on my face nearly out of the gate and it went downhill from there. My only consolation is that I managed to play enough defense to make Shira chase me halfway around the board before she was finally able to close in on checkmate :) I even teased her about it, saying I was making her work for it. Naughty JanXena! For whatever reason, I just had nothing today! I'm embarrassed to post this game here, I played so poorly. Oh well. Here goes - don't laugh too hard at me! [Event "Online Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2009.09.07"] [Round "1"] [White "shirae"] [Black "JanXena"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "1455"] [BlackElo "945"] [TimeControl - none - we played without clocks and finished in about 1.5 hours] [Termination "shirae won by resignation"] 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 f6 3.Bf4 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bf5 5.e3 e6 6.Bd3 Qd7 7.a3 Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.Bxf5 O-O-O 10.Bd3 g6 11.Nbd2 g5 12.h3 h6 13.c4 Nge7 14.Rc1 f5 15.b4 Qd7 16.b5 Nb8 17.Ne5 Qe8 18.c5 Rf8 19.c6 Nexc6 20.bxc6 Nxc6 21.Nxc6 bxc6 22.Qa4 Rd6 23.Qxa7 Kd7 24.Bb5 Ke7 25.Qxc7+ Kf6 26.Qxd6 cxb5 27.Rc7 Rf7 28.Qe5+ Kg6 29.Rxf7 Qxf7 30.O-O g4 31.Rc1 Kg5 32.Rc7 Qg6 33.Rg7 1-0 I am sooooo glad the match is over! Now I can relax! It was fun, but exhausting. I sincerely doubt now that I would ever be able to play in a tournament, even if I could get my game up to snuff. I don't have the physical stamina. Right now I feel like a wrung-out dishcloth, although I feel better now than at 11:30 a.m., about when the game finished, because I walked down to the store to relieve some of the built-up stress and tension almost immediately after I signed off to Shira. At least today my head didn't ache! It just wasn't working at all, LOL! I think I must have left my brain in bed this morning. My faithful coach Kelly Atkins a/k/a Chessdaddy, did an analysis of Game 2 for me, and I even understand it! That's rather scary, actually :) He was very encouraging too, about the level of my play in Game 2. He said something to the effect of "you played better than you led me to believe you could." Alas, Chessdaddy, not today! I'm sorry. I will sit down soon and play over Game 2 the slow way on a real board (I get too confused trying to do it online), and also Game 1 when I have that analyzed. I can't stand the thought of looking at Game 3! Here is a picture of Shira (again at Starbucks) taken during our game today. Of course she looks happy! She won all three games, boo hoo hoo. Part of me wants to get REVENGE! The rational part of me is saying "Oh for goddesssake, Jan, concentrate on something you do well, like writing and researching. Forget chess." Oy - now I've to listen to good angel/bad angel battle it out on my shoulders for the next couple of days. Geez!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goddess Anahita of Persia

(Image: The winged-angel Goddess Anahita flanked by felines, wearing her golden crown of stars). I really enjoyed reading this! I found it at Anahita – Lady of Persia by Nabarz 02-Sep-2009 By Payam Nabarz The following is based on the Anahita chapter from ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’. By Payam Nabarz, Inner Traditions, 2005. Mighty Anahita with splendor will shine, Incarnated as a youthful divine. Full of charm her beauty she will display, Her hip with charming belt she will array. Straight-figured, she is as noble bride, Freeborn, herself in puckered dress will hide. Her cloak is all decorated with gold, With precious dress Anahita we shall behold. -Original poem based on Kashani’s Persian folk songs, from an Avestan invocation to Anahita. Dusk of Shabe Yalda (Yule) 777 B.C. somewhere on a beach by the Caspian sea. A young Magi (who later was to be known as the prophet Zoroaster) has been keeping a night vigil. His solitary fire is the only light for miles around and his recitation of Aban Yasht the hymn to angel-goddess Anahita the only sound to be heard apart from the waves gently crashing onto the beach. “Angel-Goddess of all the waters upon the earth and the source of the cosmic ocean; she who drives a chariot pulled by four horses: wind, rain, cloud, and sleet; your symbol is the eight-rayed star. You are the source of life, purifying the seed of all males and the wombs of all females, also cleansing the milk in the breasts of all mothers. Your connection with life, means warriors in battle prayed to you for survival and victory. A maid, fair of body, most strong, tall-formed, high-girded, pure, . . . wearing a mantle fully embroidered with gold; ever holding the baresma [sacred plant] in your hand, . . . you wear square golden earrings on your ears . . . a golden necklace around your beautiful neck, . . . Upon your head . . . a golden crown, with a hundred stars, with eight rays . . . with fillets streaming down.” 1 The Magi’s prayer is answered by the sea in the form of a vision; as midnight approaches and time slows, the sea parts. A large silver throne appears; on either side of it sits a lion with eyes of blue flame. On the throne sits a Lady in silver and gold garments, proud and tall, an awe-inspiring warrior-woman, as terrifying as she is beautiful. Tall and statuesque, she sits, her noble origins evident in her appearance, her haughty authority made clear and commanding through a pair of flashing eyes. A dove flies above her and a peacock walks before her. A crown of shining gold rings her royal temples; bejeweled with eight sunrays and one hundred stars, it holds her lustrous hair back from her beautiful face. Her marble like white arms reflect moonlight, and glisten with moisture. She is clothed with a garment made of thirty beavers, and it shines with the full sheen of silver and gold. The planet Venus shines brightly in the sky. 2 Time passes.....history takes place.... The Sassanian Empires fades and Islam arrives in Iran. 900 C.E. Moslem pilgrims make their way to the 1100-year-old shrine of Bibi Shahr Banoo, the Islamic female saint, near the old town of Rey (South of Tehran). Town of Rey is thought to be 5000 years old, the site of this shrine with its waterfall is believed by some to have been an Anahita shrine at one time. It is also close to the Cheshmeh Ali Hill (the spring of Ali Hill), which is dated to 5000 years ago. Perhaps this is an echo of Mithra-Anahita shrines being close to each other and then becoming linked to later Islamic saints, a process seen frequently in Christianized Europe too; for example, sites sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigit became sites dedicated to Saint Brigit. Furthermore, according to Susan Gaviri in Anahita in Iranian Mythology (1993): “. . . it must not be forgotten that many of the famous fire temples in Iran were, in the beginning, Anahita temples. Examples of these fire temples are seen in some parts of Iran, especially in Yazad, where we find that after the Muslim victory these were converted to Mosques.”8 Time passes.... history takes place.... Pilgrims continue to visit the Pre-Islamic Zoroastrian shrine of Pir e Sabz, or Chek Chek (“drip drip,” the sound of water dripping), in the mountains of Yazd. This is still a functional temple and the holiest site for present-day Zoroastrians living in Iran, who take their annual pilgrimage to Pir e Sabz Banu, "the old woman in the mountain,” also called Pir e Sabz, “the green saint,” at the beginning of summer. Pir means “elder,” and it can also mean “fire.” The title of Pir also connotes a Sufi master. Sabz means green.9 Pilgrims also continue to visit Pir e Banoo Pars (Elder Lady of Persia) and Pir e Naraki are located near Yazd. (The dates are unclear.) The Pir Banoo temple is in an area that has a number of valleys; the name of the place is Hapt Ador, which means Seven Fires.10 Time passes.... history take place..... yet she is still remembered.... “Tomorrow (21.8.03), I (Jalil Nozari) will take part in a ceremony to commemorate a very poor, old woman, a relative of mine, who died recently. Her name was Kaneez. The name in modern Farsi has negative connotations, meaning a “female servant.” But, in Pahlavi, the language spoken in central Iran before the coming of Islam, it meant “a maiden,” a virgin, unmarried girl. Indeed, it has both meanings of the English “maid.” Anahita, too, means virgin, literally not defiled. But this is not the end of story. When I was a child, there was a place in Ramhormoz, my hometown, that now is under a city road. In it, there was a small, single-room building with a small drain pipe hanging from it. Women in their ninth month and close to delivery time stood under this pipe and someone poured water through it. There was the belief that getting wet under the drain would assure a safe delivery of the baby. The building was devoted to Khezer (the green one).* Yet, the cult is very old and clearly one of Anahita’s. The role of water and safe child delivery are both parts of the Anahita cult. My deceased aunt, our Kaneez, was a servant of this building. The building was demolished years ago to build a road, and Kaneez is no more. I wonder how will we reconstruct those eras, so close to us in time yet so far from our present conditions. It is also of interest that there exist remains of a castle, or better to say a fort, in Ramhormoz, that is called “Mother and Daughter.” It belongs to the Sasanides era. “Daughter,” signifying virginity, directs the mind toward Anahita. There are other shrines named after sacred women, mostly located beside springs of water. These all make the grounds for believing that Ramhormoz was one of the oldest places for Anahita worshippers.”12 Full article. We have seen the Goddess on a throne flanked by felines in may other cultures - the oldest to my knowledge is from Catalhoyuk (Chatalhoyuk), located in modern-day Turkey. The association of the Goddess with "wild beasts" is age-old, as indicated by one of her myriad titles "Mistress of Beasts"; in the Greek tradition she was embodied as Artemis. The crown with "eight rays" is an obvious reference to Venus, revered by the Sumerians and associated with the Goddess Inanna and immortalized on some of the 20-squares game boards excavated from the graves of Ur by Woolley. The association of the Goddess with a water shrine, often in a cave or outcropping of rock, is also extremely ancient. Ancient sacred places, sometimes built upon over and over and over through the millenia (such as Chatres Cathedral built upon the site of ancient goddess worship in France), were usually built upon or near water - a spring, a stream, a river, or upon a sacred island, and also associated with outcroppings of rock, sacred mountains and plateaus (the Acropolis in Athens, for instance). A modern example is the shrine at Lourdes, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Birds (dove, peacock, owl) are likewise associated with the earliest renderings of the Goddess. There are "bird goddess" drawings that are as old (maybe older) as the drawings in the caves as Lascaux, for instance. The use of the double-entendre pir ("old, elder;" "fire") is reminiscent of how both the ancient Egyptians and the Chinese love to use "pun" words with double meanings. What I find particularly interesting about this article - and what I didn't know before - is the term "chek chek" -- "drip drip" -- a sound uniquely associated with water! Also learned the word "chemesh" meaning "spring" (of water). This will add to my "well" of research (pun!) about the true meaning of the name of the game we call "chess" today. And what is that sacred plant that Zoroaster saw the Goddess holding in her hand in that awe-inspiring vision that night on the shores of the Caspian Sea? Might it have been a mandrake plant (chatrang in Pahlavi)? Chatrang - the Persian name for chess...

Part of Ancient Bible Discovered at Egyptian Monastery

Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery Academic stumbles upon previously unseen section of Codex Sinaiticus dating back to 4th century By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent Wednesday, 2 September 2009 A British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world's oldest Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book. Nikolas Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of manuscripts in the library of St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. The Codex, handwritten in Greek on animal skin, is the earliest known version of the Bible. Leaves from the priceless tome are divided between four institutions, including St Catherine's Monastery and the British Library, which has held the largest section of the ancient Bible since the Soviet Union sold its collection to Britain in 1933. Academics from Britain, America, Egypt and Russia collaborated to put the entire Codex online this year but new fragments of the book are occasionally rediscovered. Mr Sarris, 30, chanced upon the fragment as he inspected photographs of a series of book bindings that had been compiled by two monks at the monastery during the 18th century. Over the centuries, antique parchment was often re-used by St Catherine's monks in book bindings because of its strength and the relative difficulty of finding fresh parchment in such a remote corner of the world. A Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr Sarris had been involved in the British Library's project to digitise the Codex and quickly recognised the distinct Greek lettering when he saw it poking through a section of the book binding. Speaking from the Greek island of Patmos yesterday, Mr Sarris said: "It was a really exciting moment. Although it is not my area of expertise, I had helped with the online project so the Codex had been heavily imprinted in my memory. I began checking the height of the letters and the columns and quickly realised we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex." Mr Sarris later emailed Father Justin, the monastery's librarian, to suggest he take a closer look at the book binding. "Even if there is a one-in-a-million possibility that it could be a Sinaiticus fragment that has escaped our attention, I thought it would be best to say it rather than dismiss it." Only a quarter of the fragment is visible through the book binding but after closer inspection, Father Justin was able to confirm that a previously unseen section of the Codex had indeed been found. The fragment is believed to be the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10, in which Joshua admonishes the children of Israel as they enter the promised land. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Father Justin said the monastery would use scanners to look more closely at how much of the fragment existed under the newer book binding. "Modern technology should allow us to examine the binding in a non-invasive manner," he said. Mr Sarris said his find was particularly significant because there were at least 18 other book bindings in the monastery's library that were compiled by the same two monks that had re-used the Codex. "We don't know whether we will find more of the Codex in those books but it would definitely be worth looking," he said. The library in St Catherine's does not have the laboratory conditions needed to carefully peel away the binding without damaging the parchment underneath but the library is undergoing renovations that might lead to the construction of a lab with the correct equipment to do so. The Bible: A brief history Although earlier fragments of the Bible have survived the passage of time, the Codex Sinaiticus is so significant because it is by far the most complete. The full text that has been discovered so far contains virtually all of the New Testament and about half of the Old Testament. But whenever an ancient version of the holy book is found, it often raises questions about the evolution of the Bible and how close what we read today is to the original words of Christ and his early followers. The Old Testament was written largely in Hebrew (with the odd Aramaic exception) but it is by no means a homogenous entity. Protestant and more recent Catholic versions of the Bible tend to use the Masoretic Text, a variation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was copied, edited and distributed by Jewish Masorete scholars between the 7th and 11th centuries. Earlier Catholic translations and the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches use the Septuagint, an ancient Greek version of the Hebrew text that was translated between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC. In studying the early history of the New Testament, historians have about 5,650 handwritten copies in Greek on which they can draw, many of which are distinctly different. As Christianity consolidated its power through the first millennia, the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John came to form the key elements of the New Testament. But other apocryphal writings were discarded along the way. The Shepherd of Hermas, for instance, is a Christian literary work of the 2nd century which appears in the Codex Sinaiticus and was considered part of the Bible by some early Christians but was later expunged. The most well-known apocryphal gospel is that of Thomas, a collection of 114 numbered sayings attributed to Jesus that was discovered in 1945. As it never refers to Jesus as "Christ", "Lord" or the "Son of Man" (and lacks any mention of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the other gospels) it is perhaps not surprising that it never made it into later versions of the Bible.

Egyptian First Dynasty Contacts Further Than Thought

Concrete evidence dating to the First Dynasty (c. 3000 BCE according to the article) of Egypt's contacts with and possible spread into the Middle East, in the form of a partial archaic hieroglyphic inscription discovered in Israel on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. New Evidence for Relations with Egypt’s First Dynasty at Tel Bet Yerah Monday, 31 August 2009 09:53 A fragment of a carved stone plaque bearing archaic Egyptian signs was the highlight of the second season of excavations at Tel Bet Yerah (Khirbet el-Kerak). The site lies in northern Israel, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, along an ancient highway which connected Egypt to the wider world of the ancient Near East. Work was completed there last week by a joint team from Tel Aviv University and University College London. Excavation director Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv and David Wengrow, who headed the UCL contingent, noted that the four cm long fragment was the first artifact of its type ever found in an archaeological context outside Egypt. It depicts an arm and hand grasping a scepter and an early form of the ‘ankh sign, and can be attributed to the period of Egypt’s First Dynasty, at around 3000 BCE or shortly after. Finds of this nature are rare even within Egypt itself. The signs are executed to a high quality, and bear comparison with those on royal cosmetic palettes and other monuments dating to the origins of Egyptian kingship. Earlier discoveries, both in Egypt and at Bet Yerah, have indicated that there was direct interaction between the Early Bronze Age site, then one of the largest in the Jordan Valley, and the Egyptian court. The new discovery suggests that these contacts were of far greater local significance than had been suspected. This year’s excavations also provided new insights into contacts between the early town and the distant north when large quantities of “Khirbet Kerak Ware” (a distinctive kind of red/black burnished pottery first found at Tel Bet Yerah) were found in association with portable ceramic hearths, some of them bearing decorations in the form of human features. “The hearths are very similar to objects found in Anatolia and the southern Caucasus”, noted Greenberg, “and most were found in open spaces where there was other evidence for fire-related activities. The people using this pottery appear to have been migrants or descendants of migrants, and its distribution on the site, as well as the study of other cultural aspects such as what they ate and the way they organized their households could tell us about their interaction with local people and their adaptation to new surroundings.” A special focus of this year’s excavations was the large fortified structure that has been identified by experts in early Islamic history as the Umayyad palace of al-Sinnabra. Its colorful mosaic floors, discovered decades ago but long concealed from view, were revealed and properly recorded for the first time. Deep and massive foundations showed that the structure had at least two major phases of use, and that it must have been an impressive monument before it was razed and its stones carted away for re-use outside the site. Some of these foundation walls showed severe cracking, perhaps related to the massive earthquake of 749 CE that destroyed many sites along the Jordan Valley. The structures excavated in 2009 are all within the area designated as the Bet Yerah National Park, in the northern part of the ancient mound.

Latest on DNA Research and Human Migration

Detailed world map showing directions and times of major migration of modern humans. New research shows they spread out of Africa 20,000 years later than previously thought at around 55-60,000 years ago. © Trends in Ecology Well, frankly, I don't buy this. Too many gaps in populations, for one thing. And a 20,000 year spread between this research and prior recent research - all supposedly the latest? I think we need to refine our DNA analysis a WHOLE LOT MORE before we go re-writing history. Hell, I'm still not sure I BUY the postulated "truth" that genetic diversity is greatest at the source and thins down (gets less diverse) as it spreads out. Totally counter-intuitive! Wouldn't diversity grow greater as it spreads from the source and comes into contact and interbreeds with others of its kind? Well, what do I know about DNA? Nada! So let the experts continue their studies, and I'll continue to watch and see what develops. Here's the story: Humans spread out of Africa later September 4, 2009 Scientists, including the Natural History Museum’s origins expert Professor Chris Stringer, re-examined how scientists get dates for key events in human evolutionary history. They did this by finding new ways to analyse the data obtained from mitochondrial (mtDNA). Mitochondria are the tiny structures in each human cell that produce the cell’s power. They contain their own DNA and this is inherited through the mother. ‘We tried alternative ways to date recent episodes in human evolution, such as our split from Neanderthals, and we found these events occurred more recently in time,’ says Prof Stringer. The new analysis revealed modern humans separated from Neanderthals around 300-400,000 years ago rather than previous estimates of 500-600,000 years. The research suggested that modern humans migrated out of Africa between 55-60,000 years ago rather than the previous dates of 70-80,000 years. They also got more recent dates for other crucial events such as the age of our African ancestral mother, known as mitochondrial Eve, from who all recent humans (Homo sapiens) descended. She was found to have lived around 110-130,000 years ago, rather than previous estimates of 150,000-200,000 years ago. ‘The new dates are consistent with the most recent fossil and archaeological data for Neanderthal evolution, our exit from Africa and our arrival in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas,’ says Prof Stringer. ‘And they also cast doubt on ideas of an early exit from Africa towards China and Australia.’ More information: Chris Stringer, Phillip Endicott, Simon Y.W. Ho, and Mait Metspalu's Evaluating the Mitochondrial Timescale of Human Evolution paper is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Source: American Museum of Natural History (news : web)

2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship

a/k/a Championnat de Montreal (2009) Prior post Next weekend! September 11 - 13, 2009. This year the organizers have made a special effort to reach out to the chess femmes in the community and abroad, and have had good success! First, efforts to attract a WGM to play in the Open were successful! WGM Salome Melia (GEO 2441), ranked 44th in the world of active female players, is coming all the way from Europe to participate in the Open. Goddesschess was pleased to provide financial support for this endeavor. At this moment, Melia is the 2nd ranked player in the Open. Second, the Open has lured Zahira El Ghaby (2050 - I do not know under which flag she will be playing) out of inactivity! Now living in Beaumont, Quebec, Canada, she is a two-time Female Champion of Morocco (2002, 2003), Arabian Champion U-18 (2001), and a Chess Olympiad gold medalist (Instanbul, 2000), scoring 6.5/7 and a 92.9% win ratio to earn her Gold. She represents a dangerous unknown! Third, Kelly Wang (CAN 1580), who is 9 years old and entering Grade 4 this year in school, is playing. Thus far, she is the highest-rated chess femme in the B Group and has a good shot at winning the Goddesschess prize for chess femmes in that group. Also playing in the B Group is 12th-grader Marguerite Yang (CAN 1317). In the C Group, Mei Chen Lei (CAN 1516) is coming from Toronto to play. She is friends with WGM Meenakshi Subarraman who had planned to play in the Championship, but lost employer financial support due to global economic conditions and, therefore, will not be appearing in 2009. But both players are scheduled for the 2010 Championship! These are some of chess femmes who will be competing for the title "Female Champion of Montreal" this year! Stay tuned! We are still hoping for more chess femmes. The organizers have reduced registration fees for all chess femmes by $10 as an inducement for more chess femmes to come out and play. The organizers have also waived registration fees for all Chess 'n Math players as long as they don't have a long game rating with FQE or other Federations. Goddesschess' own Don McLean will be on-site throughout the Tournament taking photos, video, and interviews with as many chess femmes who will talk to him! We will publish everything at the Goddesschess blog and/or website. At the conclusion of the Tournament, Monsieur McLean (a Montreal native) will hand out the monetary prizes and certificates to the chess femmes who have won the Goddesschess class prizes. Please come out and support this historical Montreal Tournament. We hope to see you there!

Shira Chess Challenge for Charity: Game 2

Hola darlings! Well - I had Shira on the run for awhile, sort of. LOL! I resigned at the end while both of us still had quite a bit of material on the board - my head aches something fierce. I don't know if it's tension - or too much attempted use of atrophied parts of my brain - or staring so intently at the computer screen for an hour and a half. Or all three! My attacking plan didn't work, alas. I struggled along for a bit after losing my queen without being able to take Shira's in exchange - I overlooked her knight and perhaps there was a move in there that could have still salvaged something but I didn't see it. The story of my chessplaying! I hope I get props for giving it the old college try! I don't have patience when it comes to playing gradual kill-my-pieces-off-one-by-one-defense and lose the game anyway. Shira makes mistakes in her play, but I haven't been able to capitalize on them while I always get punished for mine. NOT FAIR! Boo hoo hoo. For what seemed like such a long involved smash-mouth type of game, though, I was shocked that we only played 25 moves! Wow! I feel like it was at least 100! Or maybe it's that I feel 100... Now I've got to go cut the grass in the other part of the yard and I've already got the sprinkler going. I'm going to nurse my bruised chess ego and aching head out on the deck this afternoon and enjoy this beautiful weather with my feet up, a BIG glass of cheap wine and listen to smooth jazz on the radio until I fall asleep and get a sunburnt face. There's more laundry to do but that can wait! Here is the PGN from Game 2: Event "Online Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2009.09.06"] [Round "1"] [White "JanXena"] [Black "shirae"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "979"] [BlackElo "1421"] (No time control - we played in real time but without clocks - game lasted about 1.5 hours] [Termination "shirae won by resignation"] 1.d4 d6 2.e4 e5 3.Be3 Be7 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 f5 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 f4 8.Bd2 Nf6 9.Bd3 Nbd7 10.Nc3 O-O 11.O-O-O c6 12.Bc4 b5 13.dxc6+ bxc4 14.cxd7 Qxd7 15.g3 fxg3 16.Qxg3 Nh5 17.Qg2 Rab8 18.Rdg1 Bh4 19.Bh6 Rxf2 20.Qxg7+ Nxg7 21.Be3 Rf7 22.Rg2 Rbf8 23.Rhh2 Kh8 24.Kb1 Rf1+ 25.Bc1 Re1 0-1 Let me tell you, I'll be SO glad when this is over tomorrow. Playing competitive chess is draining. Right now, in addition to my aching head, I feel chewed up and spit out - I think I need a ham sandwich. Shira sent along a photo of a screen shot of this game in progress from Starbucks, where she settled into play once again. Same time, same place, tomorrow! Tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always tomorrow...
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