Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chess Femme News!

The number 3 rated female player in the world, GM Hou Yifan of China, will play a match against former world chess champion GM Anatoly Karpov in China beginning November 6-11, 2010.  News from Susan Polgar's chess blog.  This will be interesting, but I'd rather see Hou mixing it up with bigger fish in open tournaments.  She is not living up to her potential by playing in women-only events and glamour events like this one.  I don't know if that is by choice or if the Chinese government wishes to keep her out of competition with the male stars it has been grooming.  Whatever the case, it's too bad to see such talent wasted.  She's not a prodigy any longer, now she's just another 2500-something rated female who can't hold her own against 2700 rated male players because she's not getting proper training and experience.

Kudos for the Jamaican Women's Chess Olympiad Team in The Jamaica Observer
Category honours for Ja's female chess team
Thursday, November 04, 2010
JAMAICA etched another fantastic chapter in its illustrious sporting history when the curtains came down on the 39th World Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, Russia, on October 3, 2010.

The Jamaican women crowned their country and region in glory by becoming the first team from the English-speaking Caribbean to win a category in the 80-plus year history of the World Chess Olympiad.

Although largely inexperienced, with only captain, WFM Deborah Richards, having played at a Chess Olympiad before, the Jamaicans fought with pride and determination and improved with each round.

In the process, they recorded a Jamaican record 19 points and won category "E" (with approximately 20 countries) with some sterling performances, including victories against countries such as Nigeria, Yemen and Qatar.

In addition to the landmark victory, Jamaica had the added bonuses of earning two new individual international chess titles when Ariel Barrett and Margoe Williams were each awarded the Woman Candidate Master title for their performances.

With the squad of players growing stronger with coaching and participation in local and international events, even greater things should be in store for the future, especially at the 40th World Chess Olympiad scheduled for Istanbul, Turkey in 2012.

WFM Deborah Richards made the news again after top female finish in an open tournament in Jamaica, saw this at Susan Polgar's chess blog:
Super Rowe reclaims Jamaica Chess Open title

Saturday, November 06, 2010
Playing "chess" with wild African elephants --
By Kyle VanHemert on November 6, 2010 at 6:20 AM
Photographer Bob Poole talks about filming wild elephants as part of the "Great Migrations" series for National Geographic. 

Elephant in carved black stone, about 7th c, Persia,
which might be a Chess piece. Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York. Jean-Louis Cazeaux's chess history website
See also First Persian and Arab chessmen, same site.
Elephants were originally part of chess as far as we can determine from written history, which doesn't take us back farther than the mid-500s CE in ancient Persian (Iran).  The Persians said they got chess (chatrang) from the Indians of Hind (today, southwest Pakistan region) but they also wrote that they invented Nard (backgammon) in response to chess and that their Nard was a superior game (ahem).  This is clearly wrong since there are historical records that Nard was being played in the 200s CE in China, where it had been introduced by Persian merchants traveling along the Silk Road. 

Some scholars argue that the name for Chinese chess - Xiang qi - is "elephant game" -- not only because original game pieces may have been carved from ivory but also because the "xiang" -- elephant, is also a phonome for general, one of the pieces in the game  Whatever the case, elephants herds are led by the oldest female and are definitely a matriarchal society; so, in a way, elephants could be considered honorary chess femmes from olden times :) 

“The reason why we’re working on foot with those elephants is because they don’t tolerate vehicles. They’re very wild elephants; they’re not like the elephants you’d see on safari to Kenya or Tanzania or South Africa or wherever. These elephants really aren’t visited by tourists and they don’t tolerate cars whatsoever. That means that you have to film without the elephants ever knowing you’re there. But because we wanted to tell these intimate stories I had to get really close, and you need a lot of experience to be able to do that. You need to understand elephant behavior; you need to understand what their intentions are.”

“You anticipate where elephants are going, you wait for them to show up, then you position yourself long before they can have a chance of seeing you using the wind in your favour, and then as they come closer you sort of do play that chess game where you think, “alright, I still have time to move without them seeing me, but if I wait any longer it might be too late.”

So depending on what the shot is, you always have this decision to make which is kind of critical. But the scary thing is that often you’re in the middle of something really, really good and you don’t want to move; you don’t want to break the shot. And the elephants can move very fast, and suddenly you’re at this point of no return. You’re at this point now where if you move they’re gonna see you.

There’s a lot of times when you’re not really touching the camera anymore because you’re trembling, your heart is pounding so hard. They’re incredibly dangerous.”

If it's January a chess fans thinks of Wijk aan Zee. This year, January 14-30, 2011.  In the depths of winter, to me this chess tournament is a harbinger of spring, and looking forward to it every year gets me through the worst part of winter, when the days are shortest and the coldest weather is yet to come!   It used to be called Corus, now it's owned by Tata (of the great Tata family from India, they seem to own a piece of everything these days) and new money is funding this venerable tournament.  No chess femmes will be playing in the A or B Groups, but two will be playing in Group C:  GM Katerina Lahno (UKR 2539) and IM Tania Sachdev (IND 2382).  Further information available at The Week in Chess.

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