Saturday, March 26, 2011

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk Appearance in Detroit Today

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk
R3, 2010 Women's World Chess Championship
I'm sorry I missed the notices about this earlier - it's already past 7:00 p.m. today so GM Kosteniuk will  probably be on her way back home.  But what a thrill for local chess fans in Detroit --

Thinkers Chess Challenge Final
The event will feature an appearance by Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk, the 2008 Women's World Chess Champion.  The event will take place 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the UAW-Ford Building, 151 W. Jefferson (Detroit, Michigan, USA).

Kindergartners through 12th-graders, from beginner to advanced levels, can register to compete. Advance registration is $15 online or $20 at the door. For information on the Detroit City Chess Club, go to .

2011 European Individual Chess Championship

Unlike the European Individual Women's Championship, which had more than it's share of troubles before finally being scheduled - again - to take place in Turkey later this year (I'm not holding my breath, darlings), the 2011 EICC is taking place as originally scheduled. 

There are some chess femmes participating in the 2011 EICC - a relative handfull compared to the great number of chess dudes - and they will have their hands full trying to make decent scores against the tough competition.  I've tried to pick them out of the line-up of several hundred players, but no guarantee I've got them all:

12th European Individual 2011 (Aix-les-Bains FRA) Mon 21st Mar 2011 - Sun 3rd Apr 2011
Official Website (for English, click on the combined Stars and Stripes/Union Jack flag in the upper right). Photos below all from the official website.

Standings after R5 (393 players):
Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 GM Potkin Vladimir RUS 2653 5.0 3367 9.5 15.5 (not a femme - I put him here for comparison)
18 GM Polgar Judit HUN 2686 4.0 2794 9.0 14.5 (highest rated female player in the world)
44 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2437 3.5 2728 10.0 15.0
91 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 3.5 2323 5.5 9.0
100 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2528 3.0 2654 7.5 12.5
147 IM Houska Jovanka ENG 2419 3.0 2477 7.5 13.0
160 IM Melia Salome GEO 2462 3.0 2379 7.5 13.0 (Go, Melia, Go!)
182 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2386 2.5 2488 7.5 12.5
184 IM Milliet Sophie FRA 2369 2.5 2469 7.5 12.5
185 WIM Pavlidou Ekaterini GRE 2204 2.5 2468 8.5 12.0
202 GM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2526 2.5 2402 8.0 12.5
207 WGM L'ami Alina ROU 2297 2.5 2383 7.5 12.5
228 GM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2443 2.5 2344 9.0 12.5
256 WIM Dolzhykova Kateryna UKR 2265 2.0 2352 8.5 13.5
292 Klek Hanna-Marie GER 2149 2.0 2144 6.5 10.5
300 WIM Makka Ioulia GRE 2119 2.0 2088 6.5 10.5
301 WIM Boric Elena BIH 2292 2.0 2086 6.5 11.0
307 Vrhovnik Damir CRO 2063 2.0 2040 5.5 9.0
308 WFM Osmanodja Filiz GER 2055 2.0 2028 6.0 9.5
309 WGM Ptacnikova Lenka ISL 2307 2.0 2027 6.0 10.5
313 WGM Cherednichenko Svetlana UKR 2278 1.5 2359 7.5 12.0
314 WIM Steil-Antoni Fiona LUX 2117 1.5 2289 6.0 10.5
326 WFM Cherednichenko Elena UKR 2141 1.5 2131 8.0 13.0
337 De Seroux Camille SUI 2055 1.5 1841 5.5 8.5
349 Bismuth Lea FRA 1946 1.0 1906 6.5 9.5
359 Boyard Marie LUX 1976 1.0 1483 6.0 9.0
373 Minot Barbara FRA 1430 1.0 1024 6.0 9.5
374 Karsenty Madeleine FRA 1415 1.0 1015 5.5 8.5
377 Lucheva Velislava FRA 0 1.0 800 5.5 8.0
378 Mutzel Annabelle FRA 0 1.0 800 4.5 7.5
393 Vitasse Marie-Francoise FRA 0 0.0 792 4.0 7.5

GM Judit Polgar, R4
Don't be fooled by the relative scores of the ladies. All of the ladies other than Marie-Francoise Vitasse have higher-rated male players below them in the standings who have not done as well as they :) 
Marie-Francoise Vitasse is currently in last place.  Don't feel bad, Marie-Francoise, I'm rooting for you - I know how it feels! You've got guts playing in this event, and I salute you.

Highly-regarded male players such as GM Ivan Cheparinov of Bulgaria (2664) is in 26th place with 4.0; GM Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway (2606) is in 32nd place with 4.0; highly touted GM Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia (2729) is in 36th place with 3.5 (he came in as the #2 seed); GM David Navarra (CZE 2722) is in 48th place, with 3.5 (he came in as the #3 seed); GM Aleksey Dreev (RUS 2697) is in 57th place with 3.5; Russian GM Nikita Vitiugov is in 70th place with 3.5  Well, you get the picture.  It's a tough competition, heh.  From my perspective, all the more applause due to the ladies who are up against these dudes. 

Full standings at

IM Lela Javakhishvili
IM Anna Muzychuk

The Peopling of America: Let's Take Another Look

Reported at BBC Online

24 March 2011 Last updated at 18:58 ET
Stone tools 'demand new American story'
By Paul Rincon and Jonathan Amos, Science reporters, BBC News

The long-held theory of how humans first populated the Americas may have been well and truly broken.

Photo by Michael Walters, Texas A & M
Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone tools that predate the technology widely assumed to have been carried by the first settlers.

The discoveries in Texas are seen as compelling evidence that the so-called Clovis culture does not represent America's original immigrants.

Details of the 15,500-year-old finds are reported in Science magazine.

A number of digs across the Americas in recent decades had already hinted that the "Clovis first" model was in serious trouble.

But the huge collection of well-dated tools excavated from a creek bed 60km (40 miles) northwest of Austin mean the theory is now dead, argue the Science authors.

"This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, 'hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas'," Michael Waters, a Texas A&M University anthropologist, told reporters.

For 80 years, it has been argued that the Clovis culture was the first to sweep into the New World.

These people were defined by their highly efficient stone-tool technology. Their arrow heads and spear points were formidable hunting weapons and were used to bring down the massive beasts of the Ice Age, such as mammoth, mastodon and bison.

Clovis first?

The hunter gatherers associated with this technology were thought to have crossed from Siberia into Alaska via a land bridge that became exposed when sea levels dropped. Evidence indicates this occurred as far back as about 13,500 years.

But an increasing number of archaeologists have argued there was likely to have been an earlier occupation based on the stone tools that began turning up at dig sites with claimed dates of more than 15,000 years.

Dr Waters and colleagues say this position is now undeniable in the light of the new artefacts to emerge from the Debra L Friedkin excavation.

These objects comprise 15,528 items in total - a variety of chert blades, bladelets, chisels, and abundant flakes produced when making or repairing stone tools.

The collection was found directly below sediment containing classic Clovis implements. The dating - which relied on a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) that can tell how long minerals have been buried - is robust, says the team. And, they add, the observed sequence is also reliable; the sediments have not been mixed up after the tools were dropped.

"The sediments were very rigid in the fact that they were clay, which worked to our advantage," explained Lee Nordt from Baylor University. "If you go to many other sites, they are loamy or sandy in texture, and they are mixed very rapidly by burrowing from animals or maybe from plant roots, etc."

Getting around

The newly discovered tools are small, and the researchers propose that they were designed for a mobile toolkit - something that could be easily packed up and moved to a new location. Although clearly different from Clovis tools, they share some similarities and the researchers suggest Clovis technology may even have been derived from the capabilities displayed in the earlier objects.

"The Debra L Friedkin site demonstrates that people were in the Americas at least 2,500 years before Clovis," said Dr Waters.

"The discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop. People could experiment with stone and invent the weapons and tools that would potentially become recognizable as Clovis. In other words, [these tools represent] the type of assemblage from which Clovis could emerge."

But anthropologist Tom Dillehay, who was not involved with the latest study, commented: "The 'Clovis first' paradigm died years ago. There are many other accepted pre-Clovis candidates throughout the Americas now."

Professor Dillehay, from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told BBC News: "If you look at the prose of this paper, it bothers me a little bit because it's as if they are reconstituting the Clovis-Pre-Clovis debate and saying, 'Here's the site that kills it'."

He commended the researchers on their well-presented data and "tight discussion". But he said that the OSL technique was less reliable than radiocarbon dating, which has been applied to other early American sites.

And assigning the artefacts to Clovis and pre-Clovis technologies was not straightforward because the site lacked the projectile points required to reliably distinguish between the two. Clovis projectile points are unmistakeable.

In addition, said the Vanderbilt anthropology professor, the tools come from a floodplain deposit that is just 6-7cm thick. This, he said, was "potentially problematic" because of the possibility that artefacts were transported around by water.

Professor Gary Haynes, from the University of Nevada in Reno, US, praised the "good work" by the research team.

But he said it was plausible that natural processes could have caused some stone tools to migrate downwards in the clay - giving the impression of a pre-Clovis layer.

Woman Who Says She Was Raped Hauled Away by Security Forces in Tripoli

Reuters, as reported at Yahoo News
Woman says raped by Gaddafi's men, pleads with media
By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy – 1 hr 4 mins ago
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A weeping Libyan woman made a desperate plea for help on Saturday, slipping into a Tripoli hotel full of foreign media to accuse pro-government militiamen of gang-raping her and covering her in bruises and scars.

"Look at what Gaddafi's militias did to me," Eman al-Obaidi screamed with tears in her eyes, pulling up her coat to show blood on her upper leg.

After being intimidated by security men and hotel staff, who also beat journalists trying to interview her in the restaurant of the hotel, she was bundled into a car and driven away.

Obaidi said she had been arrested at a checkpoint in Tripoli because she was from the city of Benghazi, bastion of the insurgency against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

Obaidi, who appeared to be in her 30s and was wearing a loose black coat, slippers and a scarf, said she had been raped by 15 men and held for two days. Her face was badly bruised.

"They swore at me and they filmed me. I was alone. There was whisky. I was tied up," she said, weeping and stretching out her arms to show the scars.

"They peed [urinated] on me. They violated my honor."

Her story could not be independently verified. It was unclear whether she had escaped or had been released.

The government said it was treating her case as a criminal one.

"I assure you she is secure. All legal help is being offered to her," said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim. "So far, nothing of what she says is political. It's a criminal case. It's being investigated to the full course of the law."

Earlier, officials had suggested they thought she was either drunk or mentally ill.


As Obaidi spoke to reporters, sobbing and shaking, hotel staff and plainclothes security men tried to push and intimidate her as she ran from one table to another, crying.

"I am not scared of anything. I will be locked up immediately after this," Obaidi shouted through her tears. "Look at my face. Look at my back. All of my body is bruised."

In the ensuing scuffle, one member of the hotel staff grabbed a knife from a table and yelled: "You traitor! How dare you say that?"

A man in civilian clothes took out a gun.

Several journalists tried to protect Obaidi, but a foreign journalist who was trying to get away from the scene with a camera on which he had recorded the scuffle was thrown to the ground and kicked.

One Western television crew had their camera smashed.

Obaidi was eventually forced into a garden outside the hotel. Journalists trying to get to her were pushed away.

"Leave me alone," she shouted at security men. One man tried to cover her mouth with his hand.

She was then dragged to a parking lot and bundled into a white car. Security men said they were taking her to hospital.

"They are taking me to jail," she yelled, struggling with the security guards. "They are taking me to jail."

Tripoli is Gaddafi's biggest stronghold, full of loyal militiamen who crack down on any form of dissent as his troops battle rebel forces in other parts of the country.

International human rights groups say Gaddafi loyalists have been arresting thousands of people. Libyan officials say they only arrest people linked to armed gangs or al Qaeda militants.

But as Western powers press on with air raids which they say are designed to protect civilians against Gaddafi's forces, people in the capital have become more outspoken in their criticism of the state.

Foreign journalists in Tripoli are unable to report freely and not allowed to leave the hotel without government escorts.

(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Oh My! Family Tree Stuff

Greetings!  It's cold and crappy here today - lake effect snow since I got up which, for the most part is melting, but it's like 20 degrees below normal temperature wise and there's a windchill, although those weather people are NOT talking about it on TV or radio - subversives, the whole lot of 'em!  It's a whopping 28 degrees F out there right now and the wind is blustering off the lake from the northeast, it's COLD. 

Here is is nearly the end of March and I'm back to running around in my Land's End down coat! 

It's not fit to be outdoors so I've been pounding away today on the Family Tree and already have discovered lots of new interesting things.  For one thing, Granddad Frank Newton's sister, Phoebe, had not one illegitimate children - she had two!  Unfortunately, the first one, born when she was about 20 years old, a boy, was stillborn and was named on the birth/death record I found.  How sad. So sad - not even to have a name.  It was about 14 years later that Geneva Newton, another child of Phoebe, was born.  I had imagined some grand romance built around her lover going off to fight in WWI and Phoebe and the unknown young man consummating their love (yes, I am a hopeless romantic) - and then he didn't return ...

Well, maybe that did happen, but that doesn't explain who she was fooling around with when she was 20!  Now I know people don't make a big deal out of this sort of thing today, but back then (the turn of the 20th century) - and she was born into a very strictly observant Roman Catholic Family - it must have been quite a scandal.

I want to know what Phoebe's story is.  What happened, Phoebe?  What was your life?  Who were you, really?  What did you feel?  What did you think?  Were you a rebel - a free spirit who was the first to throw off the corset and bob her hair, or were you simple-minded (as they called it back in those days) and easily led astray? 

I can piece together some facts from birth and census records, but there is so much missing - so much!  And unfortunately, everyone who might have been able to actually give me some facts and fill in some details are all dead.  I can't trace Geneva Newton after the 1930 Census, nor Phoebe either.  They were going under the name of Mineau at that time.  Did Phoebe marry?  I don't know - and Wisconsin records aren't available covering the time period in question.  I've searched and searched using wide parameters and narrow parameters at both and family and can't find anything.  There were some Mineaus living in the same town that Phoebe grew up in, but I can't pin-point which Mineau (if any), she might have married.  What I know for sure is that she was the "informant" on great-grandfather David Antoine Newton (Villeneuve)'s death record in 1925 as "Phoebe Mineau." 

I've written about Phoebe before, and may well do so again.  I see how this hunting down one's ancestry is absolutely addicting.  And with the hit television show "Who Do You Think You Are?" on NBC on Friday nights - this is the second season and it's been fabulous! - I've no doubt that millions more people are now feverishly hunting for their ancestors by taking advantage of the 2-week free sign-up at  That's how I got started (and sucked in...) LOL!

It's now been a year of searching my own family's origins.  In the meantime, I've also done trees for Mr. Don's family, my friend Ann's family, another friend's family, and my friend Isis' family - that's almost ready to go and will be a surprise gift for her when I visit next month - she doesn't read here so I'm safe mentioning it!  See- addicting!  Finally, those skills I learned in law school are being put to good use.  I am a relentless hunter and searcher.  No detail is too small or too obscure, and my memory has gotten much better because I'm remembering stuff that means something to me! 

Just today I learned that I may be shirt-tail related to both Mr. Don's mother's family (the Bouthilliers) and Isis' father's family (the Moshers) - and it's like - my head is spinning around and around!  Now I'm imagining I'm related to Queen Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great of Russia as well :)  I'm pretty sure I've got some Native American and Jewish genes floating around, too. 

The Mosher connection comes - somehow - through Isaac Michael Belanger (Balanger), born in December, 1861 in Scott, Bay Settlement, Brown County, Wisconsin, to Aurelia Marie Francoise Brunette (10 Oct 1831 - 30 Aug 1907) and Edward Belanger (Balanger).  My line of descent is through Isaac Michael's older brother, Edward Belanger, Jr., born in about 1853.  A photograph of Isaac Michael Belanger was posted at by the owner of the Mosher Family Tree.  When I looked at it earlier today, curious, I lost my breath for a second - it was like looking at my grandmother, Ida Belanger Newton - I believe Isaac Michael Belanger would be her great-grand uncle.  Wow! 

The Boutilier family connection also comes through Isaac Michael Belanger!  I wonder - does it come through Isaac Michael's wife, Melanise (Minnie) Hebert?  Or through a marriage of one of their children to a Boutilier?  I have to explore further, but that will have to be saved for another time. Boutilier is a variant of Bouthillier and just about all of the French Canadian Bouthilliers are related, just as most of the French Canadian Seguins are related, and just as most of the French Canadian Villeneuves are related (on my father's side, I am descended from the original line of French Canadian Seguins through Adele Marie Louise Seguin dite Laderoute, who married Antoine Anthyme Villeneuve, another old French family).

Interestingly, the Canadian Moshers, who trace their roots to the North American Moshers, who all seem to trace through roots through one particular Mosher who came from England, are probably originally French, maybe Norman French - Mosier! 

Here is that photo of Isaac Michael Belanger that so struck me with a family resemblance to my own grandma Newton.  Isaac Michael would have been about 67 years old in this photo. The family resemblance to my grandmother, Ida Belanger, that struck me most was the eyes first of all, then the nose and cheekbones.  This Mr. Belanger/Balenger was certainly a handsome man. According to its provenance, it was taken in June, 1928, at Skelton Road in Gladstone, Michigan.  He is holding two of his grandchildren:  granddaugher Eleanor Balenger (see how the name changed from Belanger to Balanger), daughter of Adelore Balenger (one of Isaac Michael's sons), and grandson Wally Jr., son of Walter Balenger and his wife, Bertha. 

I'm wondering now - what are the odds that I would be related to my spiritual sister (Isis a/k/a Georgia) - who is from the Moshers, and my - er - good friend, Mr. Don, who is from the Bouthilliers.  Rather spooky, actually! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Two-Time U.S. Women's Champion Jen Shahade Upcoming Simul/Lecture

To promote her new book "Play Like a Girl!Tactics by 9 Queens," all proceeds of sale which will go to fund 9 Queens.  9 Queens believes in the empowerment of the individual through learning to play chess and all that it teaches -- it reaches out especially to children and women of all ages.

Excerpted from the - San Francisco

U.S. champion Shahade visiting San Francisco for chess exhibition and signing

    Jennifer Shahade, from Mechanics
    Institute website
  • March 23rd, 2011 7:30 pm PT
Jennifer Shahade, a two-time U.S. women's chess champion, appears March 29 at the Mechanics Institute Chess Club. Shahade will give a talk, and sign her new book Play Like a Girl! Tactics by 9 Queens.

Play Like a Girl! is an anthology of combinations played by female masters, going back to the first women's world champions Menchik and Rudenko, and including the current and youngest champion Hou Yifan.

The royalties from Play Like a Girl! will go to the non-profit organization 9 Queens. According to its website, 9 Queens is dedicated to extending the benefits of chess to those who need it most, especially girls at at-risk youth.

After her evening at Mechanics on March 29, Shahade will perform a simultaneous exhibition at the NorCal House of Chess on April 3. Then she'll head to Arizona for the Tucson Chess Fest, a 9 Queens event. "A mini West Coast book tour!" she said.

Review: "Queen to Play"

I had sooo been looking forward to this movie coming out on DVD so I could see it at last - but the producers decided to release it to theatres in the USA instead!  Good for them, I hope they get good play, but bad for me, as I don't have a way to get to the few surviving movie theatres in the Milwaukee County (and further) area as I don't drive, and all of the theatres that used to be accessible to us "inner city" folk by bus have long gone out of business.  How sad. 

One thing to keep in mind when you read the review below - which I think underrates the film - it is a lot of things, but it is definitely not a "comedy."

From (Arizona Reporter)
Harvey Critic 23-03
Review: Queen to Play, Grade B

Zeitgeist Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter
by Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Directed By: Caroline Bottaro
Written By: Caroline Bottaro, from Bertina Henrichs' novel "The Chess Player"
Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud, Jennifer Beals, Valérie Lagrange, Alexandra Gentil
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 3/22/11
Opens: April 1, 2011

Chess has been around for a while, so we can safely assume it's a great game. But is chess better than sex? Bobby Fischer might have thought so and so do some folks in "Queen to Play," Caroline Bottaro's freshman feature-length entry, one that finds Kevin Kline as we have never before seen him. Based on Bertina Henrichs' novel, "The Chess Player" and adapted for the screen by the director, "Joueuse" (French for "player") takes place on the beautiful island of Corsica, a location that its principal character had never thought of leaving (and for which a lot of people would have been better off if Napoleon thought the same way).

This feel-good, oddball comedy which involves largely good talk and only the modest physical action involved in playing chess and cleaning rooms, finds Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire), a middle-aged maid in a small but elegant hotel, reinventing a life that she thought would never change-making beds, fixing food for her dock-working husband, Ange (Francis Renaud), and a target of insults from her teen daughter who insists that she will "never be like" her prole parents. While cleaning a room in the hotel, she sneaks some looks at an American woman (Jennifer Beals) and her lover, (Dominic Gould). The Americans lean their heads into each other, holding hands, and treating the checkerboard as though it were a variety of sex illustrated in the Kama Sutra. Turned on by their excitement, she uses her free time to study the game of chess, gets tutored by Dr. Kroger (Kevin Kline), a reclusive American expatriate, fending off the envious criticism of her husband-who has followed her to the doctor's house and spies on the two so engrossed in the game that her husband considers the activity a form of infidelity.

Though director Bottaro has stated that she does not consider this a feminist movie, we see considerable evidence that the message of women power is clear. The Queen on the chessboard is the most powerful figure, a fact that Helene notes with pride. The two women, mother and daughter, appear determined to change their status as Corsican drudges. Helene is so wrapped up in the game that she evens dreams chess, finding herself on a giant, checkerboard floor thinking of her moves, watching the squares turn black one by one.

"Queen to Play" is restrained despite the erotic excitement that chess has provided for Helene, a thrill that urges her to try to seduce her hard-working husband. For his part, Ange is fond of his wife, holding back from any punishment save verbal criticism of her coming home late, even deciding that the electronic board, a gift from Helene, is not something to be dismissed. Though not the sorts of shots to lead to an "R" rating, the sexiest scene finds Helene engaging in a game of chess with Kröger without a board, sitting close to each other, each stating a move not so much as foreplay as for a virtual sexual consummation. The principal characters all win. Helene revives her marriage, the reclusive doctor enjoys a few months of the human companionship he has tried to avoid, and Ange gains new pride in his wife's accomplishments.

Unrated. 101 minutes. © 2011 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

Young Chess Players Raises ELO from 1000 to 1700 in About Six Months!

What a fantastic story!

10-year-old Dublin girl among nation's top chess players
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:21 PM EDT

Maggie Feng (in white sweater, left), at the 2010 Susan
Polgar Girls Invitational, Blitz Championship.
Ten-year-old Maggie Feng is shy by nature, but place a chessboard in front of the precocious girl, and she will open up as swiftly as finding a checkmate.

Feng, a fourth-grade student at Deer Run Elementary School, holds several past and current national titles in her age group for her chess acumen.

She is the second-highest ranked player in Ohio for girls in kindergarten through the 12th grade, having only recently yielded the top ranking, and is the No. 3 ranked 10-year-old girl in the United States.

Feng is the defending national champion for girls ages 10 and younger, a title she will have the opportunity to defend for a final time at the 2011 National All-Girls Tournament, April 8-10 in Chicago.

Feng appears to be a natural at the game and has been a quick-learner.

"She began playing chess when she was in the second grade," said her father, Lei Feng.

Maggie began playing chess after discovering her older brother's chessboard. "We had this chessboard her brother used and she asked me to play with her," Mr. Feng said.

"Then, she asked to go to a chess camp and fell in love with the game," he said.

Two years later, Maggie is traveling throughout the United States for tournaments and schools of instruction.

Feng competed March 19 at the Ohio Elementary Championship in Cuyahoga Falls and April 2 will compete in the championship division of the Ohio All Girls Tournament at the Columbus Schools for Girls.

Last year, she attended the World Chess Tournament, sponsored by Susan Polgar, held in Las Vegas.

"She has a very good memory," Mr. Feng said.

"She can remember a whole game and memorize all the moves," he said.

Memory is a crucial component of the game, said Alan Casden, one of two coaches with who Maggie trains. Casden is a coach for Columbus Chess Lessons and meets personally with Maggie for 90-minute sessions twice a month.

Maggie also meets with another coach for 60-minute on-line sessions twice a month.

"She came to us about 18 months ago," said Casden, adding Maggie was rated at a little more than 1,000 then, and has since rose to a rating in excess of 1,700.

Ratings, unlike rankings, use higher numbers to illustrate improvement or excellence.

"Chess is a complex science," Casden said. "We study the past games she has played and analyze her strengths and weaknesses," he said.

Using both live games, computer games, and games against virtual opponents Maggie can continually learn how to improve her game, Casden said.

But for Maggie, it's a blend of work and pleasure.

"It's fun for me to play," Maggie said.

I: What Will the Future Be for Women in Egypt?

BBC News
24 March 2011 Last updated at 14:14 ET
Egypt women protesters forced to take 'virginity tests'

A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take "virginity tests" during protests earlier this month.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate.  It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March.

It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched.

The army denies the allegations.

'Utterly unacceptable'

A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.

She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked.

The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a 'virginity check' on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges.

"Forcing women to have 'virginity tests' is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women," a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement.

"Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment."

Egypt's military has been criticised by activists for detaining people involved in the mass protests and abusing them.

The military denies using torture against civilians.

Last week, the head of the military police told an Egyptian newspaper that video footage had been fabricated by individuals wanting to create divisions between the people and the armed forces.

Human rights groups have also criticised Egypt's new rulers for continuing to put civilians on trial before military courts. They say these have a track record of unfair trials and severely restrict the right to appeal.

Reporting on the military in Egypt is difficult. A law passed in 1956 prevents writing about the army.

II: What Will the Future Be for the Women of Egypt?

23 March 2011 Last updated at 05:26 ET
A woman's place in the new Egypt
By Leana Hosea
BBC News, Cairo

Women were out in force during the popular uprisings that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but their future in post-revolutionary Egypt is not so certain.

The role of women in the Egyptian revolution was vital to its success - from smuggling food and medical supplies into the square under their clothing, to ripping up the pavement for rocks and facing a barrage of Molotov cocktails.

Egyptian women proved to the world that they were not voiceless and oppressed. Many Egyptians saw Tahrir Square, the focus of the revolution, as a microcosm of the perfect Egyptian society. Strict Muslim Salafis shared stories and food with girls wearing tight jeans and smoking cigarettes.

Up until the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down, there were no reported cases of sexual harassment - a big problem in Egypt - and women slept safely next to men in makeshift tents.

Fresh violence

But the shine was tarnished with the shocking sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan during the celebrations in Tahrir Square.

Any hopes there may have been that this was an anomaly were dashed when a protest by hundreds of women demanding equal rights and an end to sexual harassment turned violent last week. A group of men attacked the demonstrators, telling them to go home where they belong.

So how much have things changed for women and what are their demands in the new Egypt?

Women's rights activist Engy Ghozlan says that what happened on International Women's Day shows that the revolution has not changed any of Egypt's social problems.

"We were faced by abusive men making fun of our demands, saying that a woman should never run for president," she said.

With no police present and the army initially keeping their distance, the women were sexually harassed, beaten and even threatened with knives.

"Around 100 religious extremists were screaming at us to get out of Tahrir and started to chase us out. It was really chaotic," says Ms Ghozlan. "In the revolution we were all united and we all wanted the system to go, but our social behaviour hasn't changed."

But Fatma Adel, a 22-year-old singer and Tahrir revolutionary, says she does see some changes in social attitudes.  In a recent incident, a group of men intervened to protect her from being harassed.

"This would never happen before, but now people have lost their fear and regained their dignity. Before the revolution, men didn't have their rights and would take out the injustice they felt on women. If all Egyptians have their human rights, women's rights will be achieved."

New confidence

Even if many men haven't yet changed their attitude towards women since the revolution, journalist Shaimaa Abul Kheir believes women's self worth has increased.

"As a result of taking part in the revolution, Egyptian women now see themselves as equal to men and have the confidence to demand their rights. We've proved that we can organise and effect change and the challenge for us and all Egyptians is to make sure extremists don't take control."

This is a challenge Engy Ghozlan believes will be difficult unless there is more female inclusion in the political process.

"There are no women in the transition government and not many are represented in the opposition parties, so I don't see how we can move towards a real democracy."

Last year, parliament passed a law mandating the creation of 64 new seats in the house that must go to women.

But journalist Shaimaa Abul Kheir wants this quota to be cancelled.

"This takes away our dignity. We don't need to be forced anywhere, we can make it on our own merit."

But singer Fatma is more hopeful.

"Women will play a bigger role in parliament and the cabinet now. Perhaps we can't have a female president yet, but as our education and awareness improves, so do the chances."

All this means nothing, however, to 25-year-old Hemmat Ahmed, who sells vegetables on a wooden cart at the side of a busy Cairo road.

"I stand here from 0600 every day to feed my children and I earn more money than my husband, who doesn't have a regular job. I left school and went to work when I was eight years old, but I'll make sure my children get an education, even if I have to beg for it."

She has no faith in the political system and thinks that the new president, whoever it may be, will continue to steal the country's riches.

"At least Hosni Mubarak was full from 30 years of robbery.

"People will soon be back in Tahrir because nothing will change. There are no jobs, no good salaries, I can't even afford oil and sugar anymore.

"All I dream of is to have a home and some new clothes for my children."

Squirrel Snatches Life from the Jaws of Death!

VIDEO: Zoo tigers chase squirrel
Updated: Thursday, 13 Jan 2011, 8:41 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 13 Jan 2011, 6:41 AM EST

BUFFALO, NY (WOFL FOX 35) - Caught on tape a squirrel enters the danger zone.

Anna Haumesser recorded this video on her cell phone during a visit to the Buffalo Zoo last week.

A squirrel got inside the tiger exhibit there and the two tigers then started chasing the squirrel around the structure. During the chase, one of them even climbed a tree to try to shake the rodent from the top. Zoo officials got the tigers back inside and the squirrel got out of the cage and was not harmed.

The squirrel (either very crazy or very brave) played dead - several times! - and fooled the big cats!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is It Real - Is It Fake?

Millions are riding on the question...

23 March 2011 Last updated at 11:47 ET
Mayan statue sold at Paris auction for $4m is 'fake'

A Mayan sculpture that fetched 2.9m euros ($4.2m, £2.5m) at a Paris auction is a fake, Mexican officials believe.

The sculpture is 5'4" tall!

The French auction house Drouot maintains that the statue, of a masked figure carrying a shield, is genuine and more than 1,000 years old.

But Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History says it does not match the style of the period it was supposedly from.

Another 66 pieces at Monday's auction were also fakes, the institute said.

The Mexican foreign ministry has informed French authorities.

"The figure tries to recreate the Pre-Columbian features of the Maya region in southeastern Mexico, but the height, the posture and the flexed legs and the boot straps are not characteristic of this culture," the institute said.

The institute suggested that it had been carefully carved to give an ancient appearance

But the expert in Pre-Columbian art at Drouot, Jacques Blazy, told AFP news agency: "Mexico's accusations are totally ridiculous. They are completely baseless. It is a well-known artefact that has been thoroughly analysed."

The 1.65m (5ft 4in) statue, sold by a private collector to an anonymous European buyer, was the most expensive item at the sale.

100 Years Ago: 146 Women Killed in Triangle Fire in New York

The year was 1911.

Story from AP
100 years after Triangle fire, horror resonates
By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Karen Matthews, Associated Press – Tue Mar 22, 5:36 am ET
NEW YORK – It was a warm spring Saturday when dozens of immigrant girls and women leapt to their deaths — some with their clothes on fire, some holding hands — as horrified onlookers watched the Triangle Shirtwaist factory burn.

The March 25, 1911, fire that killed 146 workers became a touchstone for the organized labor movement, spurred laws that required fire drills and shed light on the lives of young immigrant workers near the turn of the century.

The 100th anniversary comes as public workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere protest efforts to limit collective bargaining rights in response to state budget woes. Labor leaders and others say one need only look to the Triangle fire to see why unions are crucial.

"This is a story that needs to be told and retold," said Cecilia Rubino, the writer-director of "From the Fire," an oratorio inspired by the Triangle fire. "We don't have that many moments in our history where you see so clearly the gears of history shift."

To mark the centennial, hundreds of theatrical performances, museum exhibits, lectures, poetry readings, rallies and panel discussions are taking place nationwide. Two documentaries have aired on TV; PBS' "Triangle Fire" premiered Feb. 28 and HBO's "Triangle: Remembering the Fire" on Monday.

Descendants of victims and survivors of the fire will gather Friday for a procession to the site in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The building now houses New York University classrooms and labs.

Suzanne Pred Bass, a Manhattan psychotherapist and theater producer, is the great-niece of Katie Weiner, who survived the Triangle fire, and of Rose Weiner, who did not.

Bass ticked off the reasons why people remain fascinated by the Triangle fire after 100 years.

"It's the youth of these women," she said. "It's the tragedy, it's the changes it spawned and it's the immigrant experience."

The fire started at end of the workday and raced from the eighth floor to the ninth and 10th. As hundreds of workers — mainly Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls, the youngest 14 — tried to escape, they found a crucial door apparently locked.

"They were panic-stricken," said Eileen Nevitt, whose grandmother Annie Sprinsock survived. "It was hellacious, and they ran for their lives the best they could."

Firefighters rushed to the scene and raised their ladders, which reached only to the sixth floor. The fire was under control in 18 minutes — too late.

At the trial later that year of Triangle owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris on manslaughter charges, survivors testified that their escape had been blocked by a locked door on the ninth floor. Some said the door was kept locked to prevent theft.

Katie Weiner said she felt for the door, which she could not see in the smoke, and turned the knob.

"I pushed it toward myself and I couldn't open it and then I pushed it inward and it wouldn't go and I then cried out, 'The door is locked!'" she testified.

Meanwhile, the elevator shuttled up and down carrying as many workers as could cram into it. Weiner joined the crush for the last elevator but was pushed back. She testified that she grabbed the elevator cable and threw herself in, landing on girls' heads. She was the last person out of the burning building.

The jury heard from 155 witnesses before returning a verdict of not guilty.

"I believed that the door was locked at the time of the fire," one juror said. "But we couldn't find them guilty unless we believed they knew the door was locked."

Workers' advocates continued to blame Blanck and Harris, who had resisted a union drive in 1909.

Blanck's granddaughter Susan Harris said she is saddened when people demonize her grandfather, who died before she was born

"It's really important for them, I think, to have a villain," she said.

Blanck and Harris were on the 10th floor when the fire started and were able to escape to the roof. But several of Susan Harris' relatives died in the fire, including Jacob, Essie and Morris Bernstein, members of Blanck's wife's family who worked at Triangle.

Harris lives in Los Angeles but is spending March in New York to take part in Triangle commemorations. An artwork she created to honor the fire victims — made of antique shirtwaists and handkerchiefs — will be displayed at the New York City Fire Museum for a month.

One witness to the Triangle workers' death plunges was Frances Perkins, who later became the first female Cabinet member when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her secretary of labor. Perkins was having tea nearby and heard the commotion. She ran to the scene as the first body hit the ground.

"That fire is the event that changed her life and that really changed the course of American history," said Kirsten Downey, author of a book about Perkins, "The Woman Behind the New Deal."

Perkins was appointed to the Factory Investigating Commission, convened in response to the Triangle fire, and the panel held hearings all over New York state before drafting 20 laws aimed at improving workplace safety. Some of the new laws required fire drills, set occupancy limits in buildings and required exit signs to be clearly posted.

"Policies that were enacted because of that fire permeate American workplaces now," Downey said.

Days after the Triangle fire, 100,000 mourners marched in a funeral procession through the streets of New York, while another 250,000 lined the route. Their grief built support for the right of garment workers to unionize.

"It created a strong garment workers union," said Bruce Raynor, president of Workers United, the 21st-century heir to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. "It helped to really start the modern labor movement."

He said the Triangle fire commemoration resonates strongly today, given the labor struggles across the country and in Wisconsin, where a law passed this month limits public workers' collective bargaining rights.

"One hundred years later, 150,000 people are protesting in Madison, Wis., over the same issue," he said: "the right of working people to organize."

My grandfather, Frank C. Newton, was one of the workers who participated in the 1934 strike against J.I. Case Co. in Racine, Wisconsin. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chess Princess: Mahalakshmi

She is ten years old and rising in the Indian ranks of chess players.  Meet Mahalakshmi:

From the
Making the right moves
March 21, 2011

Her interest in chess has not only won her many prizes but also helped her travel to many lands.

She became interested in playing chess while watching her sister play. Since then Mahalakshmi has come a long way.

A Std VII student of Velammal School, she has been playing chess from the age of five. Professionally trained for five years now, Mahalakshmi has won several championships.

She won the gold at the state level in 2004 in the 17th Tamil Nadu State Under-7 Chess Championship.

In the 24th Tamil Nadu State Under-13 Chess Championship in 2010 once again she walked off with the gold. Both these tournaments were held in Chennai.

“Hard work pays” and this is what Mahalakshmi believes in. “I juggled between studies and chess,” she says.

Mahalakshmi came first in the National Under-7 tournament held at Aurangabad in 2005.

In 2008, all her hard work paid off when she was place first in the Asian Youth Chess Championship U-10 held in Iran.

The International Championships held in 2006 — World Youth Chess Championship U-8 held in Georgia and the most recent one — World Youth Chess Championship U-12, 2010 held in Greece have placed her in the third position both times.

She has ambitions of becoming a Grand Master. She trains at the Chess Gurukul in T Nagar. Besides chess, Mahalakshmi also loves reading. When asked about how the school helps her, she says her school occasionally sponsors her tournaments and her teachers help her with the lessons she has missed out on.

However the one thing she wishes for is a full time sponsor who will help her in her coaching and her competitions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award

For the 2011 U.S. Women's Chess Championship that will be held once again in St. Louis, Missouri at the beautiful complex of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis April 15 - 29, 2011, Goddesschess is sponsoring a Fighting Chess Award.  We are pleased to carry on the tradition established in 2007!

The 2007 prize of $300 was a "brilliancy prize" and was ultimately awarded to Elizabeth Vicary for her win against Camille Baginskaite. 

2008 saw the name of the prize changed to the Fighting Chess Award, in honor of the kind of chess exemplified by the play of the Polgar sisters.  We increased the prize fund to $350 but not known to us at the time (but suspected), another $150 was contributed to the prize money, for a total of  $500.  Turns out those chess dudes over at threw in the extra money, which was a very nice gesture as I was working as a columnist for them at the time, writing on women's chess events and female chess players.  Thanks, guys!  Tatev Abrahamyan won the award that year for her performance of 6 wins and 3 losses - no draws!

In 2009, Anna Zatonskih not only swept away the entire field of players and finished the Championship with an oustanding 8.5/9, she also won the Fighting Chess Award.  She did not sit back in the later stages of play and coast to victory, even after it was clear that no one would be able to catch her. 

In 2010, Goddesschess teamed with 9 Queens and offered a Fighting Spirit Award (which I kept calling a Fighting Chess Award) of $1,000!  The winner was Tatev Abrahamyan for her uncompromising play: she finished in 3rd place, although tied with Anna Zatonskih (who finished in 2nd place overall) with an incredible 7.5/9.  Tatev had 7 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss.

Our judges have been GM Susan Polgar (Women's World Champion 1996-1999) and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (Women's World Champion 2008-2010). We are so grateful to have obtained the judgment of these outstanding chessplayers in awarding the Goddesschess prize!

GM Kosteniuk has agreed to be our judge again this year. The Fighting Chess Award is back for 2011, this year $600. 

Who will win it this year?

Pointing Queen Chess Pieces

From Marilyn Yalom's Birth of the Chess Queen: A History

The image quality is not the best - the image in the book that I took the scan from was not the best and my scanner is just a work-a-day one, not top notch professional, but you can see that the queen is pointing her right index toward her shoulder area.  Her left hands rests on her lap.  This is how Yalom describes her:

An ivory chess queen carved in Italy during the early twelfth century makes me think of Matilda [Matilda of Tuscany].  This imposing figure sits openly on a massive arch-backed throne that still bears traces of the original red paint.  She wears huge disks on her ears and a hoop crown on her head.  Her right hand is raised to her breast with its index finger extending upward, and her left hand falls downward into her lap.  When I was lucky enough to have had a private audience with this queen in Berlin, I realiced (once again) the collosal difference between seeing a phot of a work of art and the original of that same work.  In her presenced, this amazing figure exudes an air of regla self-assurance, almost as palpable as the throne she sits on

Compare this 12th century chess piece to the de Cessolis image of the 14th century "chess queen" and I think you will see many similarities. 

You will probably recognize this queen - she is one of the queens from the cache of Walrus-ivory carved chess pieces discovered on the Isle of Lewis that date to about the 11th century, probably carved in Norway.  She is one of my favorite pieces - I call her the "OY VEY" queen.  The question is - is her left hand doing something more than supporting her right arm? Is that index finger coyly pointed? 

The Book of Chess - King Alfonso X

You can find text and illustrations from the folios Alphonso X Book of Games, A Game Researcher's Resource. 

Here are a small number of illustrations from the work in which you can clearly see the pointing fingers and particular position of hands appearing in the illustrations.  I'm sure it's not just coincidence but that they way the fingers and hands of the characters are positioned mean something.

Here are six ladies, two of whom are playing.  As you can see, each of the ladies has her hands and in some cases her fingers in a certain position.  The lady on the far left gives away the least - she has her hands one on top of the other, in lap! 

In this two game, two ladies are again playing each other.  Notice the positions of each players' hands and fingers!  It's almost as if the ladies are playing two separate games - the one on the board and the one with their hand signals.

Here, two nuns are giving instruction in the finer points of the game to two girls.  The nun on the right has her left hand on the shoulder of the girl who is playing the game.  I was struck by how much the arrangement of these two figures reminded me of Northcote's painting "The Chessplayers" that I posted about a few days ago.

A game of the ladies against the gentlemen.  You can see in this image that the "language of the hands" was not restricted to women!  Am I wrong, or do the black pieces (the ladies) have the white king in checkmate?

A New Award for Promising Female Chess Players in Canada

I don't often visit what's going on in the chess world of our great neighbor to the north, but invariably I find something interesting there when I to take the time to vist.  It was through visiting ChessTalk, a popular chess bulletin board in Canada, that Goddesschess first found out about the City of Montreal Chess Championships - and decided to offer a modest amount of money for separate prizes for the chess femmes playing in that event.  That was in 2009.  The rest, as the saying goes, is herstory :)

On this cold and rainy morning (my rain gutters are clogged with branches and twigs from my mini-forest in the backyard and are currently overflowing with the downpour - my own view of Niagra Falls outside my patio door.  Ahh, yes, spring in Wisconsin...) I checked in at ChessTalk and came across some very interesting news:

On March 17th (St. Paddy's Day and an excuse for all Wisconsinites but especially Milwaukeeans, who do love their beer and booze, to party hearty) it was reported by Hazel Smith that an anonymous donor has undertaken a five-year commitment to fund a $100 a year "Youth Girls Award" for a promising female junior chessplayer.  The first player selected for the Youth Girls Award is Nicole Birarov (currently 68th rated female player in Canada with an ELO of 1050). I want to make special note that as a result of winning this award, Nicole will also receive free entry to the Ontario Girls' Chess Championship, if she enters to play. 

Congratulations to Ms. Birarov! 

Every dollar received to assist with training and expenses, every entry fee that does not have to be paid, is a boon to chessplayers (female and male) in a sport/art/craft where money is always short and recognition is scant unless you're in the ranks of the elite 20 or so players in the world (and even many of them struggle to make a decent living).   

After Hazel Smith made the announcement, some interesting discussion ensued - you can check it out if you're interested.  Overall response has been positive. 

For myself, I think it's a great idea. Nope, it's not Goddesschess who is the anonymous donor - we've got our hands full funding our commitments here in the states and in Canada to give support to female chessplayers - and in most cases we want it known that we're out there funding prizes and other initiatives for chess femmes!  Yes, it's true, we're just a bunch of hopeless egomaniacs!

So, to whoever the Anonymous was who decided to fund the "Youth Girls Award" - kudos to you.  Until there is parity in the world of chess between male and female players, both in terms of numbers and relative performance, well, our audience knows how Goddesschess feels - chess femmes need what help we can give to achieve those goals!

About Hazel Smith (if you read the message board entries you will see that she is the person who first posted the news of the "Youth Girls Award" at ChessTalk on March 17) - I was not familiar with her but she posted a link to her blog so I checked it out. (You can check out a small number of Hazel Smith's chess games at
Hazel Smith earned a WFM title and my Goddess, she looks very young!   I checked at the FIDE website and learned that Ms. Smith was born in 1991 (so she's 19 or 20 years old) and has a current FIDE rating of 2037.  Ms. Smith has not played any FIDE rated games since January 2009 - has she given up active play?  Ms. Smith does not presently appear on the top Canadian female players, which I belive is restricted to "active" players.

Ms. Smith is administrator of the Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors, which she established privately in honor of her aunt, Elaine Howie.  It is a new endeavor that I believe was established in late 2010.  From what I've read, I understand the Elaine Howie Fund will make annual monetary grants to promising junior chess players in Canada, not gender specific.  The separately funded "Youth Girls Award" is being administered under the auspices of the Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors, but is limited to female chess players. 

I'm so happy to see these exciting private chess initiatives in Canada.  It's very inspiring!

WIM Yuanling Yuan Promotes Chess in the Library!

WIM Yuan Yuanling
She is one of the top female chessplayers in Canada and I followed her performances at the 2010 City of Montreal Chess Championships and the 2010 Chess Olympiad, where she was a member of the Canadian Women's Team, with keen interest.  Yuanling is a junior in high school, so she and a few friends are working on CITL (Chess in the Library)  in their "spare" time.

Yuanling's chess in libraries idea is a great one and we're glad to see it getting some promotion in the press - in this case, the Italian press.  Thanks to Bob Armstrong of the Canadian Chess Federation for posting these items on the Federation's message board.  Links are below - unfortunately an English translation is available only for the second article - an interview of Yuanling, posted below.

02-11-2011, 12:30 AM
Bob Armstrong
CFC Governor Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,687

Follow-up Interview with Yuanling ( English Translation )


English Translation:

Giovanni Ornaghi (questions) – Yuanling Yuan (answers) :

1) Hello Yuanling! Could you tell us how did you become interested in chess?
- my dad was a chess coach at a summer camp when I was 7
- I took dance classes at the camp so it was convenient for me to try my dad's chess class as well
- I enjoyed the classes and since I was improving quickly, I decided to continue

2) How popular is chess in Canada? Looking at the CFC's website I'd say: not so much. But then it seems there are a lot of people interested in it, donating money and chess material for both projects and outstanding players...
- HAHA, I laughed at your first sentence (the CFC website sucks and all the chess players here know it
- the main reason to why I started CITL was because of the lack of popularity of chess in Canada; it really can't compare with the European countries
- no, you're wrong, the donations for the Olympiad teams gets less and less each year and all the donations come from the chess players
- we SO DON'T have lots of donations for projects and outstanding players
- CITL gets a modest amount of donations because chess players here know that it is pretty much the only positive chess related thing around here
- we have no government support, no corporate support (excluding a few for large tournaments like the Canadian Open) and the CFC has about 3000 active members? haha, it's quite sad...

3) A lot of people, and FIDE itself actually, are very focused in getting chess into schools. In a recent post we've read how Justin Bieber used to be in the Chess Team of his middle school! Is chess well spread in canadian schools?
- I'm actually surprised to hear that Justin Bieber used to play chess!
- um, I would say that some schools have chess clubs, but definitely less than 50% of all schools (in Toronto that is)
- I believe that in Quebec, the Chess 'N Math Association has spread to many schools, especially primary school
- not sure if it's in a form of a club or actually a part of the curriculum

4) Let's get to the point, the "Chess in the Library" started about a year ago. How did you get this great idea?
- I've always wanted to give back to the Canadian chess community for always supporting and encouraging me to continue to improve my game
- considering that chess is not very popular here, I wanted to help promote chess
- I feel that as the top female player in Canada, it is a part of my duties to help promote chess here
- libraries have very quiet environments, surrounded by books of knowledge - perfect for playing chess
- so yeah, I just went and talked to my local librarian about starting up such a program and that's how it started

5) Now "Chess in the Library" (CITL) is a national program and it seems you've already achieved your 2010 objectives. However your new goal is to have at least a library in every province with a chess program available. Any progress so far? How much time do you think this would take?
- unfortunately, no progress so far
- we plan to begin with Quebec & Alberta, the provinces that are slightly more popular in chess
- the new goal it's not only just the spread of the program to other provinces but also in new cities in Ontario; we already have made some progress in Hamilton (a small city in Ontario), however, nothing has been finalized
- I'm in grade 11 right now so I have 1.5 years left before I'm off to university
- the plan is to have this goal achieved by the time I graduate

6) Do you have a marketing plan to help the CITL spread? How you get the word out there?
- posting on chesstalk is a very efficient marketing strategy - pretty much all Canadian chess players read it
- I'll also be emailing all the CFC governors that represent each province
- if that doesn't work, then we'll google the websites of the public libraries in every province and contact them directly
- once CITL has been firmly established in one city (with at least 2 -3 locations like in Toronto & Ottawa), it spreads by itself because the librarians talk to each other and they help us spread the word; by then, the libraries will contact us, instead of the other way around

7) After only one year from its start, you had a big tournament which turns out to be an Annual Festival. Considering the spread of your program since June, the second Festival would promise to be even more successful. Are you already planning it? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
- yes, we are currently planning the location, deciding whether to stick to last year's location (which had a lot of limitations) or to spend some money and rent a larger space
- also, the annual trophy that will be given to the winning library team at this festival has already been settled - one of our donors agreed to fund the trophy and we'll purchase it when it gets closer to the date

8) It looks to me that CITL is appealing to a lot of young chess enthusiasts in Canada. Was that your age-target from the beginning or it just happened to turn out this way?
- the program was intended to target people of all ages because the purpose was to promote chess, not promote chess to JUST kids
- library programs attract more kids with ages 7-12 and that is a general trend, not just with CITL

9) You mentioned once on your blog that kids in the CITL program started to borrow chess books from the library and then engaged in other kind of readings. On this blog we often talk about the benefits, often academic, that chess can bring. Did you see this happen? Is it something you tell parents interested in the program?
- oh yeah, the reason why the librarians love this program so much is because it brings a lot of traffic to the libraries, especially the small local ones that usually don't have a lot of patrons
- the kids will often borrow books after the program, which means that they will read more books and increase their knowledge
- chess itself is very beneficial to people who engage in the game
- academic wise, it is directly connected with math & science (subjects that requires logical thinking), philosophy (obviously!) and language courses as well (when you're playing chess you have to think ahead and thus visualize the position - that helps ameliorate your memory) since language is a lot about memorizing vocabulary
- also, it helps build a great personality (patience, good sportsmanship, persistence, etc)
- I saw this happen on myself but it takes time to realize the benefits as the kids themselves
- parents who want their kids to join the program already know all of these benefits so we don't really have to explain

10) I imagine a lot of people asking themselves "how can she find the time?!". How can a high school student manage to find the time for school, her own chess career, some well deserved leisure and something like the CITL?
- yeah, not only am I in high school but also in a very tough program called the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. I'm sure that Italy has this program too - it's an international one.
- if you don't know much about it, I'll give you a sense of what it's like to be in this program:
* for my school, 200 kids are granted admission in grade 9 through an interview and by grade 12, there are about 65 kids left - drop out rates are 60-70% each year
* comparing to the Ontario curriculum, we are compile 5 years of academic study (from grade 9 - first year university) into 4 years
* the workload is a lot more compared to the normal curriculum and we have IB exams at the end & 2 mandatory essays to write (one of them is like 5000 words)
- well, basically I try to manage my time well - I focus more in class so I don't have to study as much for tests and I put enough time into school so that I get decent marks but not the best in the grade. I value being a well rounded student over one that gets 100% on everything (although I really wish I could do both!).

11) Thank you so much for your time and dedication to chess! Do you have anything you would like to add? A word to your readers: If you've been wondering how you could help promote chess in your country, whether you're in Italy, USA or even El Salvador, please don't hesitate to contact me (! We could definitely work together to get the Chess in the Library program started in your local library and expose more more people to this wonderful game!

Thanks Bob Armstrong, CFC Public Relations Coordinator P.S,

Thanks to Scarborough CC member Pino Verde, who drew these articles to my attention.
Last edited by Bob Armstrong; 02-12-2011 at 12:06 AM.
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