Saturday, February 26, 2011

Catching Up! Taking the Christmas Tree Down - At Laaaaasssstttt...

Hola, darlings!

I am having guests for dinner at 4 p.m. and I've spent the morning in a frenzy of house cleaning - and I finally got the Christmas tree down, LOL!  Actually, I started the removal process on Wednesday night after I got home from the office by pulling out all of the boxes from the garage that hold the ornaments and decorations, and I proceeded to undress the tree.  It was rather sad, but a must faster process than decorating is!  Anyway, I got a long way before I called it a night.  I finished up removing the rest of the ornaments last night and put the boxes away until this coming Christmas.

I left the hard part until this morning - actually getting the tree from the front window into the garage.  In prior years I have attempted to tie it up to a more slender profile with string and then lug it, huffing and puffing all the way, across my 19' living room, down the hallway to the dinette, around the corner then across the dinette to the family room, another corner, and then wrestling the tree through the service door into the garage, where I then struggle to replace the stand pieces that always fall off, before I can actually stand the tree up again.  Then there is the complicated process of wrapping the tree in sheets to keep bugs, dust and spiders off.

I said to myself this year, "Self, there must be a better way to do this.  Let us think about this for a bit." 

My solution was to deconstruct the tree into its original three component parts.  Sounded easy enough.  When I first bought it, it came in three parts that went together easily enough.  So, bright and early this morning, I fumbled my way into the center of the three and first disconnected the three power cords that light the tree (it is one of the pre-lit kind).  Then I tugged around near the top of the tree and after some effort, voila!  The top third of the tree came off!  It actually would make a very nice little tree on its own - an idea for next year...  On to the sheet on the floor it went, and I tried to mush the branches down a little, without squishing them too much.  Then, onto the middle section.

The damnable middle section.  It would NOT separate from the bottom part of the tree!  I tugged and tugged, to no avail.  It almost all came out, but there was one section in particular that seemed to be stuck to the lower section.  I looked as best I could while balancing most of the section across my chest (it was HEAVY, let me tell you!) when, lo and behold, I spoted what looked like scotch tape!  Scotch tape?  Then I remembered.  When I put tree together this year there was a droopy branch.  No matter what I did the damn branch drooped and left a big gap between the bottom of the middle part and the top of the bottom part in that particular section of the tree, and no matter how I twisted and turned the branches, a big hole remained - much bigger than could reasonably be filled in with ornaments.  I could have parked a tank in that hole.  My eventual solution was to take a roll of scotch tape to the inner part of the offending branch where I taped it to a perfectly situated lower section branch.  I made a "rope" of scotch tape, in other words, since the string "sling" I made didn't work properly.  The scotch tape rope sling worked just fine!  Oh, and I just realized now, duh!  It was actually a drooping lower section branch that I rope-taped to a perfectly situated upper branch in the middle section.

By now, of course, I'm sweating like a stuck pig despite the 64 degree F temperature I keep my house at in the winter. I run upstairs and exchange my sweatshirt (har!) for a Goddesschess teeshirt that has seen better days.  I go back downstairs, grab scissors out of the junk drawer in the kitchen and attack the scotch tape rope.  Voila!  I can now remove the middle section of the tree!

It nearly knocked me over as I staggered backward toward the fireplace mantle under its weight (revenge???)  That section is the heaviest of the three sections by a long shot, and it was all I could do to wrestle it over to the sheet and thankfully let it drop!  KER-PLUNK.  After catching my breath, I tackled squishing it into a reasonably modest shape and I didn't care how squished the branches got, bugger tree!

Finally, only the bottom of the tree remained, the widest part, plus the collapsing stand that always falls apart at the most inconvenient moment.  I sucked in a large breath and attacked!  Two legs of the stand fell off but that was fine as I could maneuver the section onto the sheet with that part on the floor!  Success!

Well, sort of.  I had two legs on the tree stand that refused to come off.  Finally I got a hammer and attacked.  At last, they came off.  I sure hope I haven't damaged them beyond repair...  At any rate, now I had all three sections, plus the deconstructed stand on the sheet.  All I had to do was wrap it up, tie it up and drag it out to the garage.  So I thought.

Bwwwwwwwaaaaaahhhhhhhh!  I heard the Fates Evilly Laugh at me as I struggled, in vain.  The sheet was large enough to wrap around the three parts of the tree, but I lacked the rope I discovered I would have to use in order to close up the thing properly.  I briefly considered and then discarded the idea of trying to use scotch tape.  My plastic kitchen string was not up to the task - plus I would have needed an extra pair of hands in any event, which I could not manage to grow.  Damn.  Time to re-think...

After considering the problem for awhile I said to HELL WITH YOU, TREE, and grabbed two ends of the sheet and tied them together as tightly as I could.  I then grabbed the other two ends of the sheet and, tugging and pulling as hard as I could, I tied them together, too.  I then used safety pins to close up the gap in the middle.

I grabbed the "bows" at either end of the three and, to my surprise, although it was heavy I was able to actually lift the pack off the floor, flew into the dinette through the hall without banging any part of the tree into the walls (me, yeah, I banged into the walls but the tree was safe, that was the main thing), made the turn without scraping any paint off the walls or bending any branches, made it to the family room and made the turn toward the service door (I had shrewdly moved the wing chair out of the way and lifted up the area rug beforehand and opened the service door, plus cleared a path through the clutter in the garage to the target area)---success was nearly in sight!  And then -

TA DA!  I made it!  With the brilliant pre-planning for which I am justly famed (ahem), I had positioned a large box against the north wall of the garage and the sheeted three-parted tree went into it!  With some tugging and pulling I eventually got the thing to balance, leaning against the wall rather than into the garage space, threatening to tip over at any second.

I am certain that with practice, I will get much better at this.

I am sorry to see the tree go.  The living room looks very BARE now, devoid of all its holiday glitter and clutter. No more cards taped and dangling down across the top of the fireplace mantle; no more family favorite decorations scattered about the room.  This year I consolidated storage of the ornaments into what I thought was fewer boxes, but actually turned out to be more.  How could that possibly be?  Well, whatever.  The boxes are now stacked full up to the hanging rod of the closet in the guest bedroom, but there is still plent of room in the closet. 

The living room has been more or less cleaned, and I actually vacuumed AND dusted. All of the ornaments had been lovingly dusted before being wrapped in tissue and boxed.  There is now nothing left to remind me of a lovely holiday and play-off and Championship and Super Bowl season -- the tree was left up as long as the Packers were advancing through the rounds toward the Super Bowl.  Yeah, I know, silly superstition...

One of these years, I really ought to remove the lights that are draped around the round top window in my living room.  I framed and draped them up around the outer-most casing of the window with push-in pins in - 2005, maybe?  And they've been up ever since.  I've never taken them down. Well, I'd need a ladder to do it and I sure as hell don't feel like dragging the thing out of the basement, which is its lastest storage place. That window is probably 20 feet high. I remember how I teetered-and-tottered on the top rung (GULP!) a good six feet off the floor (DOUBLE GULP!) with my fear of heights kicking in (TRIPLE GULP!) as I methodically first pushed in the pins around the outer casing of the window, and then draped the extra-long string of lights. The thing is, the lights can't really be seen from the outside of the house (other than as a vague whitish glow in the vicinity of the window), so on occasion I plug them in and enjoy the white lights outlining the huge window, which frames a rather nice view of the trees and my neighbors' yards across the street, while from the outside it does not look like I've got Christmas lights on :)  I can actually do a smidgeon of "Christmas in July."  I can't quite see Russia from that window but I do see Moonrise coming up over Lake Michigan 6 or so miles to the east...  It is so beautiful. 

Now I've got to run - still much to do.

At least the tree is down for another year!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FIDE Women's Grand Prix - Doha

We've got results for Rs 2 and 3:

Round 2 on 2011/02/23 at 15:00
SNo. Name Rtg Res. Name Rtg SNo.
12 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2550 1 - 0 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2410 7
8 GM Danielian Elina 2454 1 - 0 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2502 6
9 GM Xu Yuhua 2484 0 - 1 GM Sebag Marie 2489 5
10 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2475 0 - 1 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2546 4
11 GM Zhu Chen 2495 ½ - ½ GM Cramling Pia 2516 3
1 GM Koneru Humpy 2607 1 - 0 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2363 2

Round 3 on 2011/02/24 at 15:00
SNo. Name Rtg Res. Name Rtg SNo.
2 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2363 1 - 0 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2550 12
3 GM Cramling Pia 2516 ½ - ½ GM Koneru Humpy 2607 1
4 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2546 0 - 1 GM Zhu Chen 2495 11
5 GM Sebag Marie 2489 ½ - ½ IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2475 10
6 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2502 1 - 0 GM Xu Yuhua 2484 9
7 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2410 0 - 1 GM Danielian Elina 2454 8

Rank after round 3

Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts Res. SB
1 8 GM Danielian Elina 2454 ARM * 1 1 1 3 0 3.50
2 2 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2363 ECU * 1 0 1 2 1 3.50
3 12 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2550 GEO 0 * 1 1 2 0 2.50
4 3 GM Cramling Pia 2516 SWE * ½ ½ ½ 1 2.00
5 1 GM Koneru Humpy 2607 IND 1 0 ½ * ½ 2.75
6 11 GM Zhu Chen 2495 QAT 0 ½ * 1 ½ 1.75
7 5 GM Sebag Marie 2489 FRA 0 * 1 ½ 0 1.50
8 4 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2546 BUL 0 * 0 1 1 1 1.00
6 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2502 GEO 0 * 0 1 1 1 1.00
7 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2410 MGL 0 0 1 * 1 1 1.00
9 GM Xu Yuhua 2484 CHN 0 1 0 * 1 1 1.00
12 10 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2475 ARM ½ ½ 0 * 1 0 1.50

Round 2 report from official website.

Sebag's victory (black pieces) over Yuhua in R2, from Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog.

Susan Polgar's coverage R3, Round 3 games

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Horse That Sweat "Blood"

From People's Daily Online
Discovery revives legend of 'blood-sweating' horse
08:25, February 22, 2011

Recently, bones of 80 horses were unearthed from two subordinate tomb pits of Emperor Wudi, who lived more than 2,000 years ago in the Han dynasty. The discovery may rekindle a legend about the "blood-sweating" horse in ancient China, Xinhua reported.

The story of Wudi, "Emperor of the Silk Road," and the "blood-sweating" horse has already become a legend of Chinese culture, and many people are interested in the legendary horse, which disappeared long ago.

Yang Wuzhan, an archaeologist who took part in the excavation of the mausoleum of Emperor Wudi, said they started excavating the two pits in September 2009 and unearthed 40 bones of horses from each pit.

Each of the two pits has a huge cavern containing 20 caves and each is guarded by two stallions and a terracotta warrior, Yang said.

He said archaeologists have conducted laboratory work on the skeletons and confirmed all were adult male horses. "Scientists will soon carry out DNA tests hoping to determine the genus of the horses."

The finding was likely to rekindle a centuries-old Chinese legend about the mysterious blood-sweating horse from Central Asia, Yang said.

"The legend goes that Emperor Wudi offered a hefty reward for anyone who could find him a mysterious 'blood-sweating' purebred horse that was said to have roamed Central Asia, but was rarely seen in China," he said.

Today, the horse is identified as the Akhal-Teke, one of the world's oldest and most unique breeds.

Wudi left China's earliest written record of the breed, in a poem he composed for his Akhal-Teke mount, describing it as a "heavenly horse."

The horse is known for its speed, endurance and perspiration of a blood-like fluid as it gallops along. It was also believed to be the horse ridden by Genghis Khan (1167-1227).

Wudi was best known for his opening of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route linking Asia and Europe.

Construction of his mausoleum began in 139 BC, a year after he was enthroned at 16 years of age. It took 53 years to build.

The mausoleum had more than 400 sacrificial pits, more than the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, the "first emperor" of a united China.

China Daily contributed to the story.
By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online
Here is some information abut the Akhal Teke horse breed from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Romanian Women's Chess Championship

February 12 - 20, 2011
Sarata Monteoru

Leading Final Round 9 Standings:

Rk Name Ti FED Rtg Pts TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Foisor Cristina-Adela WGM ROU 2405 7.5 39.5 42.50 39.0
2 Bulmaga Irina WIM ROU 2260 7.5 38.5 39.25 37.0
3 Peptan Corina-Isabela WGM ROU 2414 7.0 40.0 39.50 35.0
4 Sgircea Silvia-Raluca WFM ROU 2203 6.5 36.5 29.25 32.5
5 Sandu Mihaela WGM ROU 2213 6.0 36.0 29.25 31.5
6 Baciu Anca-Otilia WFM ROU 2123 6.0 31.0 24.50 27.0
7 Foisor Mihaela-Veronica WFM ROU 2193 5.5 39.0 26.25 29.5
8 Mathe Katalin WCM ROU 2033 5.5 33.0 22.00 26.5
9 Padurariu Ioana-Smaranda WIM ROU 2160 5.0 40.0 22.50 31.0
10 Paulet Iozefina WGM ROU 2264 5.0 38.0 25.00 28.5
11 Dragomirescu Angela WIM ROU 2174 5.0 36.0 23.25 28.0
12 L'ami Alina WGM ROU 2331 5.0 33.5 22.00 25.5
13 Visanescu Daria-Ioana WFM ROU 1929 5.0 33.0 20.50 23.0
14 Mosnegutu Mariana WIM ROU 2178 5.0 32.5 21.75 25.0
15 Gelip Ioana WCM ROU 1952 5.0 31.0 17.50 23.0
16 Vasile Teodora WCM ROU 1987 5.0 28.0 16.25 23.5
17 Anusca Madalina-Maria WCM ROU 2029 4.5 39.0 20.50 30.0
18 Uta Adeline-Ramona WNM ROU 2096 4.5 38.5 22.75 29.0
19 Lolici Iselin-Amanda WCM ROU 1988 4.5 32.5 15.00 24.5
20 Florea Dorina WNM ROU 1906 4.5 30.0 15.00 21.0
21 Bulmaga Elena I ROU 1825 4.5 24.5 12.50 19.5
22 Bogdan Elizaveta I ROU 1834 4.0 30.5 13.50 19.5
23 Anton Roxana-Ana WCM ROU 1854 4.0 29.5 12.00 19.0
24 Serbanescu Diana-Maria I ROU 1870 4.0 28.5 13.75 18.5
25 Bratu Andreea I ROU 1724 4.0 28.0 11.75 17.5
26 Vasilescu Maria WCM ROU 1784 4.0 27.5 15.25 18.0
27 Iftime Diana I ROU 1624 4.0 26.5 14.00 17.0
28 Cucu Teodora-Laura I ROU 1545 4.0 26.0 12.50 16.0
29 Cusmuliuc Diana-Elena I ROU 1693 3.5 31.5 12.50 19.0
30 Stanciu Ioana-Georgiana I ROU 1683 3.0 26.0 9.00 16.0
31 Porcoleanu Doina-Olga I ROU 1811 3.0 22.5 9.25 13.0
32 Moldovan Petruta-Alisia I ROU 1691 3.0 21.0 9.00 8.0
33 Copilu Codruta-Alexa I ROU 1535 2.5 26.0 9.25 15.0
34 Ciocan Maria-Alexandra I ROU 1476 2.5 23.0 8.00 12.0
35 Nastase Andreea-Cristina I ROU 1482 2.5 23.0 8.00 12.0

Bulgarian Women's Chess Championship

February 7 - 13, 2011

60th ch-BUL w Plovdiv BUL Mon 7th Feb 2011 - Sun 13th Feb 2011
Leading Final Round 7 Standings:
1Sirkova DarenaWFMBUL21025.5
2Krumova AniBUL18855.0
3Yordanova SvetlaWIMBUL21564.5
4Ivanova SimonetaBUL18384.5
5Todorova KalinaBUL18134.5
6Zlatanova EmiliaWIMBUL20494.0
7Nestorova LozankaBUL20514.0
8Savova StefkaWIMBUL21164.0
9Vasileva VeronikaBUL17054.0
10Galunova TsvetaBUL19984.0
11Vasileva CvetaBUL14713.5
12Atanasova ElitsaBUL17433.5
13Koleva DjulianaBUL17573.0
14Ivanova GerganaBUL17863.0
15Gancheva JulinaBUL16953.0
16Sergeeva Petrova BoryanaBUL17593.0
17Milanova MariaBUL19153.0
18Miteva SilvenaBUL16792.5
19Penkova MarianaBUL19041.5

Polish Women's Chess Championship

February 12 - 20, 2011

ch-POL w Warsaw POL Sat 12th Feb 2011 - Sun 20th Feb 2011. Category: 2. Ave: (2299)
1Zawadzka, JolantaWGMPOL2371#=111=1=1=72510
2Socko, MonikaGMPOL2489=#1110=1=16.52443
3Szczepkowska-Horowska, KarinaWGMPOL225400#1=110115.52383
4Jaracz, BarbaraWGMPOL2274000#=1=11152344
5Worek, JoannaWIMPOL227400==#1101=4.52301
6Toma, KatarzynaWIMPOL2238=1000#110=42262
7Dworakowska, JoannaIMPOL23340=0=00#11142252
8Kulon, KlaudiaWFMPOL2220=010100#013.52227
9Majdan-Gajewska, JoannaWGMPOL23590=000101#=32167
10Lach, AleksandraWFMPOL2172=000==00=#22093

Belarus Women's Chess Championship

January 16 - 24, 2011

Final Results:

ch-BLR Women 2011 Minsk BLR Sun 16th Jan 2011 - Mon 24th Jan 2011. Category: None. Ave: (2098)
1Sharevich, AnnaWGMBLR2332#=1==011116.52238
2Ziaziulkina, NastassiaWIMBLR2301=#101=1==162201
3Eidelson, RakhilWGMBLR224500#111==1162207
4Kusenkova, NatalliaBLR2026=10#=0=1115.52186
5Stetsko, LanitaFMBLR2142=00=#1=1115.52173
6Revo, TatianaBLR20311=010#0=1=4.52106
7Homiakova, ElenaWFMBLR215700===1#0114.52092
8Bogdan, EkaterinaBLR19910==00=1#1=42067
9Morgaenko, EkaterinaBLR18280=000000#11.51855
10Malatsilava, VolhaBLR193000000=0=0#11766

6th FIDE Women's Grand Prix

6th FIDE Women Grand Prix 2011 (Doha QAT)
Tue 22nd Feb 2011 - Sat 5th Mar 2011


From The Week in ChessThe first round of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix in Doha got off to a start with a bang with only one draw in the six games. It also saw a decisive battle between the only two players in the field that can win the Grand Prix as a whole. Nana Dzagnidze's win with black against Humpy Koneru, even at this early stage, pushes her closer to winning the whole event by damaging her rival and strengthening her quest for at least second place.

Rank after round 1

Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts Res. SB
1 2 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2363 ECU * 1 1 0 0.00
7 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2410 MGL * 1 1 0 0.00
8 GM Danielian Elina 2454 ARM * 1 1 0 0.00
9 GM Xu Yuhua 2484 CHN * 1 1 0 0.00
12 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2550 GEO * 1 1 0 0.00
6 3 GM Cramling Pia 2516 SWE * ½ ½ ½ 0.25
10 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2475 ARM ½ * ½ ½ 0.25
8 1 GM Koneru Humpy 2607 IND 0 * 0 0 0.00
4 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2546 BUL 0 * 0 0 0.00
5 GM Sebag Marie 2489 FRA 0 * 0 0 0.00
6 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2502 GEO 0 * 0 0 0.00
11 GM Zhu Chen 2495 QAT 0 * 0 0 0.00

SNo. Name Rtg Res. Name Rtg SNo.

1 GM Koneru Humpy 2607 0 - 1 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2550 12
2 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2363 1 - 0 GM Zhu Chen 2495 11
3 GM Cramling Pia 2516 ½ - ½ IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2475 10
4 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2546 0 - 1 GM Xu Yuhua 2484 9
5 GM Sebag Marie 2489 0 - 1 GM Danielian Elina 2454 8
6 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2502 0 - 1 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2410 7

Egypt, Egypt, Egypt!

[D]amage to Egypt's heritage may have been greater than previously thought, as officials reported new cases of break-ins at archaeological sites...

Well, I figured the archaeologists who were out in the field weren't lying about what was going on. Now we know.

February 17, 2011
King Tut's stolen dad found; Egypt sites to open  The good news is that the small (about a foot tall)  Akhenaten has been recovered!

From Science
Egypt's Hawass Fires Back at Critics
by Andrew Lawler on 22 February 2011, 12:02 PM

More on Akhenaten's statue recovered
Priceless Pharaoh Statue Found Near Garbage Can
February 17, 2011
Discovery News

Egyptians have launched a variety of "Come Back to Egypt" campaigns on the internet and social media, which is really cool! More power to them, but will tourists be so ready to come back so quickly?

'Come back to Egypt' campaigns aim to attract tourists, Egyptian expats
Thu, 17/02/2011 - 12:36
Heba Helmy
Almasryalyoum English Edition

A Little Squirrel Action

I have not posted anything about my furry little friends for awhile. A human friend sent this to me.

And a slightly more sophisticated version:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ice Storm

In vain did I try shoveling out a path from my front stoop to the road and mail-box this morning.  My shovel does not even penetrate the top layer of the ice-snow mixture.  Goddess - I don't even know whether to laugh or cry.  So I'm just trying to laugh about it as my crunch-crunch-crunch footsteps are left behind and the shovel makes no dent at all.

I took these photos of the barberry shrubs that are alongside my front stoop.  They, at least, were a little spot of beauty in this frigid wasteland.  Oy, and I hear the plowers/salters coming through again - not that it has made any difference on the slick roads in the subdivision in which I live; except for piling up more frozen non-penetrable ice chunks at the foot of my driveway.  You know what - I'm getting too old for this.  Damn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ruan Lufei to Appear at North American Chess Center, Skokie, IL

Great news!

The North Shore Chess Center's March Master Simul / Lecture will feature WGM Lufei Ruan. WGM Ruan was the runner up in the 2010 World Women's Chess Championship! She will provide us insights on her experiences of the championship tournament, review 2-3 games from the event and take questions and answers from the audience.

The lecture will begin at 4pm on March 12. The event is free to members of the North Shore Chess Center and $10 for non-members. You can join for membership up to the beginning of the event!

Space is limited to the first 50 registrants.
Members maintain priority registration over non-members.

North Shore Chess Center
5500 West Touhy Avenue Suite A | Skokie, IL 60077
(p) 847.423.8626 | (f) 847.779.0324


End Game: Bobby Fischer - from Salon

A review of Frank Brady's new book.

Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 16:01 ET
Laura Miller
"Endgame": The genius and madness of Bobby Fischer
How did one of the greatest chess players of all time end up a paranoid, hate-filled old man?

On the cover of Life, 12 Nov 1977.
Fischer, at the peak of his career.
The life of Bobby Fischer was a compendium of secrets and puzzles from the very beginning. Who was the biological father of the 11th World Chess Champion, possibly the greatest player of all time, and certainly among the top five? Why did he retire from the game after winning his historic match with Boris Spassky in 1972 and refrain from playing publicly for 20 years? What was he doing during those two decades? Why did he espouse a venomous anti-Semitism despite being Jewish himself as well as close to and reliant upon many Jewish friends? Why did those friends put up with him and why, over and over again, did they run to his aid, when his behavior toward them was often contemptuous? And, above all, was he insane and, if so, did his genius have some connection to his madness?

Frank Brady's "Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall -- From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness," cannot answer these questions conclusively, but it presents Fischer's story with an almost Olympian evenhandedness that ends up making it far more absorbing than any sensationalized account. Brady knew Fischer as a child, as Fischer was emerging as a chess prodigy in New York City, but the author renders himself almost invisible in this book. The cloud of chaos and ire that Fischer walked around in all his life doesn't seem to have infected his biographer at all.

It should be said upfront that "Endgame" contains no detailed accounts of chess games or moves, and can be read and understood even by those who don't play at all. (My most recent game was with a 6-year-old; we were evenly matched, given that he'd just learned the rules and I could barely remember them.) The book may, perhaps, leave chess aficionados unsatisfied on that account, but this decision makes "Endgame" intelligible to anyone interested in the human aspect of Fischer's life and career.

Among the misperceptions Brady aims to correct is the prevalent belief that Fischer was neglected or unloved by his mother, Regina, a brilliant, Swiss-born American who married a German biophysicist while studying medicine in Moscow. Bobby was born in Chicago, at a point after his mother had separated from his legal father, who was living in Latin America and unable to enter the U.S. due to his Communist ties. There are goods reasons to believe that Bobby's biological father was a Hungarian Jewish physicist (and refugee from Nazi Germany), Paul Nemenyi.

Brady offers many instances in which Regina supported and provided for her son throughout his life (including signing over her Social Security checks to him during his 20 years of reclusion), pointing out that most of the privations and loneliness of Bobby's childhood arose from the fact that the family was very poor and Regina a working single mother. She did allow Bobby to travel alone to chess matches when he was a young as 9, and when she moved overseas to resume her medical studies, she left the 16-year-old boy to live alone in the family's Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment. However, given her son's unquenchable obsession with the game and general disregard for adult authority, she probably felt she had little choice in such matters. As far as Brady is concerned, the relationship between mother and son was always loving.

However, if Bobby suffered from a genetically rooted mental disorder, chances are he got it from Regina. She went through a brief period of disorganization and near-vagrancy at the time he was born, an episode ominously echoed by the years Bobby spent living in flophouses and shambling around Pasadena, Calif., after the 1972 match with Spassky. Whoever his biological father was, Bobby also inherited a highly specialized and often volatile intelligence that would also make him the youngest American to attain the rank of chessmaster at 14 -- and at 15, the youngest international grandmaster to that date.

The qualities contributing to these triumphs were Fischer's ferocious capacity for total focus on chess, his highly competitive personality and his phenomenal memory. In his youth, he lived, breathed and ate chess -- literally: Brady recounts that the pieces of his personal set became encrusted with crumbs and other food, and Fischer jokingly complained when the admirer who bought the set as a keepsake cleaned them. His mother often worried that he was neglecting his schoolwork (not to mention his social life), and at one point insisted on conducting all their domestic conversations in Spanish until he improved enough to do well on a language exam.

Fischer's outside interests never did him much good, however. He seems to have had little use for romance and sex (until, late in life, he became preoccupied with the need to reproduce his own genius), and his more profound ruminations led him first to embrace an evangelical church run by a radio preacher, then to dabble in a series of faiths. His final spiritual flirtation before his death in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2008, was with Roman Catholicism, but he also considered the philosophy of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, always adopting a one-foot-in/one-foot-out stance toward the rules and proscriptions of any given creed.

One of the few constants in Fischer's life -- besides chess, that is -- was his anti-Semitism, a bizarrely capricious version of the prejudice that absolved anyone he considered a "good person" (whatever their faith or ethnic background) and labeled anyone he disliked or distrusted a "Jew," again without regard to their religion or background. He was also convinced, at various points in his life, that the USSR and the U.S. government were plotting to assassinate him.

Although many of Fischer's anxieties sound delusional, he was that rare paranoid whom many people are genuinely out to get. His complaints, early in his career, that Soviet chess players were colluding to maintain their nation's dominance of the world's championship turned out to be well-founded. At the height of his rivalry with the Soviet players, a secret chess lab was even set up in Russia to suss out his game and devise ways to thwart him. Due to his mother's leftist activism and his own visit to Moscow as a teenage prodigy, the family's phone was tapped, their associates questioned and their lives monitored by the FBI.

The U.S. government's animus toward Fischer began with his rematch with Spassky in 1992, an event sponsored by a Serbian propagandist. By participating, Fischer was in violation of American sanctions against Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia. He had been refusing to pay income taxes for years, in retaliation for a lawsuit that went against him in an American court. This hadn't been a problem during the 1980s, when he was mostly broke, and U.S. officials might even have been willing to shrug off the sanctions violations, but in the 2000s, Fischer made dozens of appalling anti-American and anti-Semitic broadcasts from a small radio station in Japan, where he was living. These got onto the Internet, and in particular the ones made directly after 9/11 may have provoked the U.S. to step up its efforts to chastise him.

Fischer became in effect a man without a country, living in Eastern Europe and Asia, until he was arrested for a passport violation while entering Japan and detained there for months as his fate was disputed. Finally, Iceland agreed to offer Fischer citizenship in 2005 and he spent the last three years of his life there. He died of kidney failure at 64, refusing dialysis because he mistrusted doctors and conventional medicine.

Just how crazy was Bobby Fischer? Those best qualified to judge, such as the psychiatrist friend who kept him company in his final days, insisted he was not schizophrenic or psychotic; he didn't hallucinate or lose touch with reality. However, he clearly wasn't mentally healthy. The intensity of his attention to chess was certainly compulsive, and it unbalanced his life in addition to making him one of the game's greatest players.

But Fischer's celebrity seems to have done him more damage than anything else. It fueled the grandiosity that lies at the heart of all paranoia and it turned him into an imperious diva who inflicted ridiculous demands -- that a hotel raise the level of his toilet seat by exactly 1 inch, for example, or that he be paid outlandish fees just to discuss the possibility of a high-profile match -- apparently for the sake of exercising arbitrary power. People tolerated treatment from him they would not have suffered from anyone else, which surely didn't help with his difficulty perceiving limits. The world loved Bobby Fischer for his genius and his charisma, and too much of it forgave him too easily for his hateful, crackpot diatribes. But for all that it adored him, it didn't do him any favors.

Buy it at Barnes and Noble.  I prefer to remember Fischer as that handsome young man at the top of his game.

A Beautiful Chess Chess at the Met

Chess set, late 18th century
Russian (Kholmogory)
Walrus ivory
Pfeiffer Fund, 1960 (60.146a-pp)

Source: Chess set [Russian (Kholmogory)] (60.146)
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Three of the pieces are modern replacements.

Chess was avidly played in Russia by czars, princes, and merchants. The design of this chess set reflects the Indian influence in the introduction of the game to Russia, probably during the eighth or ninth century. Initially, the moves were a bit different from the European version of the game.

Although the two sides of this set—Russian Christians versus Muslims—are not differentiated by color, it is easy to distinguish them and the type was a standard Russian design. As in Indian sets, there are ships for rooks and elephants for bishops. The king is seated on a throne. Also as in Indian sets, next to the king is his vizier, here represented as a Roman officer. The pawns are Roman and Muslim soldiers. The elephants of the Christian side have mahouts but there are none on the Muslim side. The pierced, ajouré bases of these pieces are attached with ivory pins. They are carved with Neoclassical acanthus-leaf tips, which helps to date this set.

The town of Kholmogory, roughly fifty miles up the river from Archangel, was famous for its carvers, who used bone and walrus tusk for their productions. The sea mammal was landed in Archangel and every part of the walrus—the meat, skin, feet, and ivory tusks—was valued, for food and other products.

Source: Chess set [Russian (Kholmogory)] (60.146)
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New Jen Shahade Book: Play Like a Girl: Tactics by 9Queens

From Jen Shahade (two-time winner of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship):

My latest book, Play Like a Girl!: Tactics by 9Queens  was just released from Mongoose Press. The book is filled with chess puzzles and combinations, all executed by female chess champions. A perfect prequel to my first book, Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport, I hope Play Like a Girl! will motivate girls and women to enter the male-dominated chess field. The book is available at, amazon, Mongoosepress or USCF Sales. All author royalties go to 9 Queens initiatives to bring chess to those most in need of its benefits.

 Daniel Meirom and I created the book trailer below, Lipstick Checkmate. It features me and Abby Marshall, the first woman to win the Denker tournament of high school champions, playing on a chess set, composed of items from long forgotten make-up bags, luxury brand promotions and drugstore bargain bins. If you like it, pass it along or tweet/facebook it! Also see some production stills on

Finally, if you would like to report on or write about Play Like a Girl, contact me for more information, the official press release or a review copy.

Thanks for all your support and have a great weekend, Jennifer 

Jennifer Shahade

Stormy Weather!

Ohmygoddess, Mother Nature is doing a number on Wisconsin today, geez!  Just barely had all the snow melted out of my driveway after a week-long thaw that was soooooo nice (except for the icy sidewalks in the morning caused by melting snow, before the temperatures rose above freezing on a couple of days) when today, ICE/SNOW/RAIN/ICE/SNOW/RAIN.  You get the idea.  I expect before this is over there will be hundreds of trees severely damaged, thousands of people without power because ice-coated power lines snap under the strain, and several people killed in car accidents because stupid people WILL drive in this weather and go too fast for conditions. 

We were supposed to have an investment club meeting this morning (we meet for breakfast at 9 a.m.) but we called the meeting off after consultations on the forecast yesterday afternoon.  However, by 8 a.m. this morning no sign of the storm.  I got dressed, had breakfast, read some of the newspaper, and headed out to the supermarket at 9 a.m.  It felt "wet" outside, that is, the air was heavy, but there was no precipitation.  That is, until I got half a block away from home, LOL!  I first heard (did not feel) little "pings" on what was left of the snow banks and, about a minute later, could feel "pings" on my now being pelted with ice pellets face. Thank goddess for a good hood!  That mostly sheltered my face as I continued my mile walk to pick up essential items: wine, bread, milk, eggs, birdfood.  I have a 2 week supply of squirrels' peanuts and almonds already in stock :)

By the time I made my way back home it was snowing in earnest, the roads and sidewalks were already coated over and the salt trucks were already out!  I was to the market and back in 55 minutes (I had a long wait in the check-out line, that slowed me down; evidently everyone else had the same idea I had - get to the store before the storm started.  Crap!) .  Ever since, it's been snow/ice/rain in repeating cycles.  I've got the t.v. on now and there is an unending scroll across the bottom with cancellations.

I just hope my power doesn't go out!

Tomorrow it looks like I'll be trying out my Yak Trax for the first time.  No more penguin-walking to the bus stop!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...