Friday, December 6, 2013

Hnefatafl In Action!

The following was sent to me for publication by Rene Gralla from Hamburg, Germany.  I think it's great!


By René Gralla, Hamburg (Germany)

The Chess of the Vikings is back with a Big Bang: The ancient strategic game "HNEFATAFL" that has been extremely popular throughout the north of Europe between the 11th and 13th century has now seen his Second Coming during an international tournament of standard chess conforming to the rules of FIDE. The Scandinavian brand of the Game of Games was part of the accompanying program of the "8th International Ladies Chess Gala" on November 28th, 2013, at Berlin, Germany.

Norway's WIM Silje Bjerke played a spectacular exhibition game of HNEFATAFL against Mr. Olaf Koppe, the managing director of the German daily "neues deutschland" (translation: "New Germany") that hosts the annual contest between four aspiring stars of women chess since 2006. The historic duel of HNEFATAFL that had been integrated into the timetable of the tournament because of the initiative of German journalist René Gralla took place during the break between the three preliminary rounds and the finals of that competition of rapid chess that has been won by reigning Russian Women Champion WGM Valentina Gunina after prevailing over Germany's WGM Elisabeth Paehtz whereas Norway's Silje Bjerke finally conquered the fourth rank.

But the real highlight of that very Thursday afternoon in late November at the German capital was the showdown of HNEFATAFL between 31-year-old Silje Bjerke who actually studies gender science at Oslo University and the CEO of "neues deutschland", Mr. Olaf Koppe. The trial of strength - with Silje Bjerke leading the defending white army with her King hurrying to reach one of four fortified refuges at the corners of the board whereas Mr. Olaf Koppe's black attackers tried to stop that - attracted many spectators. Some people even climbed chairs and tables in order to have a better look at the battle that saw the Norwegian Amazon smartly outmaneuvering her opponent and forcing her opponent to gracefully resign.

"Silje Bjerke has demonstrated great talent", said one of the bystanders approvingly, a young man with long hair who might just have ridden in on his own drake. The 19-year-old Arne Roland knew what he was talking about: the student of math is - by fighting under his dreaded nick "Nath" - the reigning World Champion of online-HNEFATAFL 2013 after having prevailed over twelve opponents on the Danish platform just some monthes ago.

The successful premiere of HNEFATAFL in the context of a well-established tournament of standard chess has extensively been covered by German media. Just have a look at the publications as follows:

And even the website of the German Chess Federation (!) has mentioned the event:

WIM Silje Bjerke's stunt in the Chess of The Vikings has been the test run for Tromsö 2014 where there will be staged a tournament of HNEFATAFL on the first day off during the Chess Olympiad in next year's August. And WIM Silje Bjerke already today is up for making a run at the noble title of becoming Admiral of the Drakes: "The game is fun!", said the Lady Viking redivivus after her first raid on Berlin.

A couple of photos:

Reigning Online-World Champion of HNEFATAFL Arne "Nath" Roland (left) plays a casual game against Norwegian Professor Kjetil Jakobsen (right) who actually lectures on Scandinavian Studies at Humboldt University Berlin.  Photo: Joachim Lissner
Norway's WIM Silje Bjerke faces the CEO of the German daily "neues deutschland", Mr. Olaf Koppe, during an exhibition game that was one if the highlights of the "8th International Ladies Chess Gala 2013" that has been organized by the Berlin-based paper "neues deutschland", translation: "New Germany".  Photo: Joachim Lissner
There are some more photos, I will download and publish them tomorrow. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gruesome Find in Shaanxi Province Suggests Foundations for Denigration of Chinese Females Today

We all know the grim statistics of the imbalance between males and females in China today.  For those who cannot afford to have an ultrasound (like they do in India) to determine the sex of a fetus and abort female fetuses before they're born, the parents have to wait until the child is born.  If it is a girl, particularly in rural areas, the child is often "stillborn" -- that is, she is suffocated at birth and declared "stillborn," or she is allowed to be born and then thrown outside to die of exposure or as food for wild animals.  A few, a very few, are sent to dismal government-run orphanages where they live, for awhile at least (many do not survive past age two) in abysmal conditions.

So, what can we expect from a country that treats females worse than animal dung (that, at least, can be burned for fuel). 

In China, perhaps the roots of this systemic denigration of females can be traced back some 4,000 years, based upon this archaeological discovery. 

From the South China Morning Post
December 2, 2013

Shaanxi skull find shows women were sacrificed in ancient China

Archaeologists find skulls of more than 80 young women in mass grave at Shimao Ruins

Archaeologists in China have unearthed the skulls of more than 80 young women who may have been sacrificed more than 4,000 years ago, state media reported on Monday.

The skulls were found in what appears to have been a mass grave at the Shimao Ruins, the site of a neolithic stone city in the northern province of Shaanxi.

The women’s bodies were not present, the official news agency Xinhua said, adding that archaeologists concluded that the skulls were “likely to be relatedchina to the construction of the city wall” in “ancient religious activities or foundation ceremonies” before construction began.

There may have been an outbreak of mass violence or ethnic conflict in the region at the time since “ancient people were prone to use their enemies or captives as sacrifices”, it added.

The discovery is not the first instance of researchers unearthing remains related to human sacrifice in early China. Kings and emperors were regularly buried along with their servants and concubines, who were sometimes killed first – and on other occasions buried alive.

The Shimao Ruins cover more than four square kilometres and were discovered in 1976.

The total includes 40 skulls that the Shaanxi provincial government said earlier had been discovered at the site last year.

Sun Zhouyong, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, told state broadcaster CCTV that the initial batch “show signs of being hit and burned”.

“This collective burial might also have something to do with the founding ceremony of the city,” he said.

Archaeologists have also found more than 100 remains of murals as well as large amounts of jade ware at the site of the ancient city, which sits in the Yellow River basin and is believed to date back to 2000 BC.

In 2005 archaeologists at Hongjiang in the central province of Hunan found an altar devoted to human sacrifice as well as the skeleton of one victim.

A separate altar was used for sacrificing animals at the 7,000-year-old site, which is believed to be the earliest human sacrificial site ever found in the country.

Well, how bogus is this?  The article continually mentions "human sacrifice" in various contexts but fails to discuss at all the 80 female skulls that were found at this particular site or what happened to captured males.  Surely some males were captured if this was a warfare scenario -- such as young male infants and male children.  What happened to THEM?
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