Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Queen of Katwe" Movie Review in the New York Times

It was only a matter of time before this story was turned into a movie.  Some of you may remember some years back the big splash of publicity of young female chessplayer from Africa received - Phiona Mutesi.  I wrote about her in 2011.

She had her "15 minutes" of fame and was feasted and courted, and then it all faded away.  The movie should, however, renew interest in this young lady and the plight of other young women and girls just like her around the world.

Review: In 'Queen of Katwe,' a Pawn Finds Her Crown Through Chess

  •  NYT Critics’ Pick
  • Directed by Mira Nair
  • BiographyDramaSport
  • PG
  • 2h 4m

“Irresistible” is one of those adjectives that critics should handle with utmost care. No matter how universally charming or winning a movie or a performance might seem to be, there is always a chance that somebody, somewhere, will be able to resist it. For all I know that may be the case with “Queen of Katwe,” but if there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don’t think I want to meet that person. [Click the link to read the rest of the review.]

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Never-Ending Question About Female and Male Chessplayers

I think I missed this 2015 article, it's a good one.  It continues a discussion started at the Goddesschess website a long long time ago.

Where's Bobbi Fischer?
Hana Schank
July 13, 2015

Published online at Aeon

Little girls sign up to play chess in droves.
So why are so few of the world's top players women?

Here’s a story my father likes to tell. When I was five, my family spent several months living in Barbados. Since we were in a rental house, there weren’t many games or toys around, save for the beat-up travel checkers set we’d packed in our suitcase. The hours I didn’t spend in school learning to add a ‘u’ to the word color, or inspecting shells on the beach, I spent playing checkers, first with my family, and then, when they got sick of it, with the visitors who straggled through our cinderblock bungalow. One of them, a computer science professor, thought he’d humour my parents by playing with their sunburned kid. I destroyed him in two games. ‘I told you she was good,’ said my father. ‘Yes,’ said the professor, ‘but the second gameI was trying.’

I don’t remember this particular instance because it was unremarkable. I destroyed lots of people in checkers. The game turned out to be my gateway drug, and soon I began playing chess. Chess didn’t have the speed of checkers or the satisfying click the pieces made when you snapped one on top of the other and whispered: King me, but I liked that it had a story and characters and the ability to come back from near‑annihilation in a few swift moves. So when my school offered a chess club in fourth grade, I promptly signed up.

XXIV Hales Corners Chess Challenge!

Hola!  It's that time of year again, chess femmes, and I'm looking forward to the largest turn-out yet of female chess players at the October 15, 2016 Hales Corners Chess Challenge.  I hope you will come out and support this great Tournament.  Not to brag (ok, we're bragging), but the Challenges have a tremendous turn-out of female players.  Female chessplayers in the US and in the world are about 7.5% of all players.  The Challenges typically have a female turn-out about twice as large as that national/international average.  Now that's saying something.  Let's continue to break records, shall we, ladies!

As you know, Goddesschess has sponsored special prizes for female players since we first began supporting the Southwest Chess Club's wonderful Chess Challenge events, beginning with Challenge VIII way back before I started getting grey hair.  The prizes for female players are awarded IN ADDITION TO any other prizes which a player may win.  We have tweaked the prize structure a bit to try and entice more of  you to sign up to play in the Open section, instead of playing it safe in the Reserve :)  The prizes for female players in the Open are now more than 2x as large as in the Reserve.  Also continued are the recently introduced Perfect Score bonuses for the femmes playing in both Open and Reserve sections.  Come on, chess femmes, I know you can do it!

Gone but not forgotten is our former webmaster and the magician who regularly updated the old Goddesschess website on a weekly basis.  The website still exists, but has not been updated since Don McLean's untimely passing on October 12, 2012.  In Don's memory, Goddesschess provides special prizes in the October Challenges only for male players.  Yep, dudes, Goddesschess spreads the love once again in this October Challenge and gives you a chance to win a cool $100 in the Open or $50 in the reserve for the top-finishing male player.

PDF of the Tournament flyer and entry form.


Saturday, October 15, 2016
Two Sections – Open & Reserve (Under 1600)
FORMAT: Four Round Swiss System - Four Games in One Day - USCF Rated TIME CONTROL: Game in 60 Minutes; 6 second delay
ENTRY FEE: $40 – Open; $30 – Reserve (both sections $5 more after October 13, 2016) Comp Entry Fee for USCF 2200+: Entry fee subtracted from any prizes won
SITE REGISTRATION: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

ROUNDS: 10 am -- 1 pm -- 3:30 pm -- 6 pm Pairings by WinTD---No Computer Entries---No Smoking

 1st—$325                     1st—$100
 2nd—$175                    2nd—$75
 A—$100                       D—$50
 B & Below—$75          E & Below—$40

SITE: Olympia Resort Hotel---1350 Royale Mile Road---Oconomowoc, WI 53066—1-800-558-9573 (mention Southwest Chess Club for $99 room rate)

ENTRIES TO: Robin Grochowski – 3835 E Morris Avenue—Cudahy, WI 53110 --- QUESTIONS TO: Tom Fogec -- 414-405-4207 (cell)
USCF I.D. Required -- Bring your own clocks – Sets and Boards Provided

Good luck to all!  I'll be following the action via periodic reports from my chess buddy Ellen Wanek, who will be playing, and also following updates on the Southwest Chess Club blog.

Genetic Clues to What Happened in Australia About 4,000 Years Ago???

See the post (below) I just did a few minutes ago:

Linguistic and Genetic Mystery in Australia, discussing an article in today's news that was reported at PhysOrg, from an article in Science.

So after posting that article, I'm scratching my head thinking about what could have happened to initiate this cultural and linguistic change that evidently started in northeastern Aboriginal Australian culture around 4,000 years ago.  This change left its mark by introducing one or more new stone tool technologies and altered the language markedly.  So great were the impacts of these changes that a few intrepid someones from this first impacted group set off on a grand adventure for reasons unknown to us, and these intrepid someones eventually reach enough isolated outposts of Aboriginal Australians scattered across the length and breadth of the continent.  They stayed long enough to pass along trace DNA into the populations, as well as the new language and stone work technology or technologies.  They either then died off from old age or moved on to find a new group of people, but their genetic footprints remained among the isolated population groups they had visited.

At least, this is the premise presented in the September 22, 2016 article.

My first thought was that there had to be some kind of outside contact that acted as an explosive wake-up call to the Aboriginal Australians in the northeast.  But with whom?  Being an incurable romantic, I immediately was thinking about some culture from the Mediterranean - like a Phoenician ship blown off course!  But that didn't fit the DNA evidence which, the article states, shows that the agents of change were genetically Aboriginal Australians from the northeast, not folks from off-continent.

Then I happened to scroll down a little bit - still on the same page as the original article at PhysOrg, and saw this article:

Gene flow from India to Australia about 4,000 years ago

January 14, 2013
It is certainly food for thought -- but how to reconcile the genetic findings in the study reported in the September 22, 2016 PhysOrg article with the Max Planck study, which states, in part:

"A study led by researchers of the  Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, now finds evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4,000 years ago. In addition, the researchers found a common origin for Australian, New Guinean and the Philippine Mamanwa populations." [Emphasis added.]

So - you tell me, experts out there - what the hell is correct???

I'll tell you what I'm thinking right now.  I'm wondering if there is some kind of hocus-pocus going on with people tippy-toeing around genetic findings about Aboriginal Australian populations because of the current political explosiveness of what is being discovered as researchers continue to dig further into our pasts and genetic herstories.  And I'm wondering if the Max Planck genetic findings reported in the 2013 PhysOrg article are just full of shit and biased by a Germanic preference for the "Indo-European out of India" slant that the German school of scholars from the 19th century forward have traditionally applied to such things as the development of language and mathematics, etc. and even right down to asserting a northern Indian origin for the game of chess despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.  And I'm wondering what we will say about all of this ten years from now.  I hope to still be around in ten years, so I'll have to make a note to myself on one of my kitchen cabinets with a sticky to check back on this.

One rather, er, interesting explanation I came up with while further pondering this as I was typing away:  there was perhaps no genetic swap of DNA between visitors from India and the Aboriginal Australians in northeast Australia despite enough meetings for language communications to have developed and exchange of technologies and ideas because all the contacts/exchanges were solely between males.  Now, given the male penchant for discovering a skirt hiding 500 miles away from the nearest landing point, I find this somewhat unbelievable.  Another possibility is that the Aboriginal Australians killed any children born after such cultural exchanges that they believed might have been fathered by the "foreigners."  Hmmm...

Linguistic and Genetic Mystery in Australia

Hola darlings!  I'm back, at least for this post.  I'm still very busy doing "homey" things around Maison Newton and, frankly, have not felt much like posting.

I am still funding prizes, though, for the chess tournaments that Goddesschess helps to sponsor, rest assured.  The latest was the Montreal Open Championship, I'll write about that soon.  Upcoming is the - I lose count - the 20th-something Hales Corners Chess Challenge in October, going all the way back to Challenge VIII.  As this is the fall challenge and it is traditionally held around the anniversary of Don's death, in his memory we also fund prizes for the best male player in both the Open and Reserve sections.  More about this upcoming event later.

Okay - so this article jumped out at me this morning as I was doing my morning news check.  The wonderful thing about being retired is that I can take 2-3 hours every morning during coffee, breakfast, and feeding my various outdoor critters and other puttering about the house, to enjoy visiting multiple news sites to see what has happened while I was sleeping.  Is there anything more decadent than spending so much time just enjoying reading the news on my computer???  Okay, that was a rhetorical question...

The article is from PhysOrg.  I won't post the entire thing, it is lengthy, but worth the read.  The part I found most fascinating, however, was tucked away at the very end of the article in the last 4-5 paragraphs!

Unprecedented study of Aboriginal Australians points to one shared Out of Africa migration for modern humans

September 22, 2016 by Tom Kirk

I have questions about the methodology employed in this study but, of course, I'm by no means an expert and wouldn't ever claim to be!  From the article:

"...[Aboriginal] DNA extracted from saliva.

This was compared with existing genetic information about other populations. The researchers modelled the likely genetic impact of different human dispersals from Africa and towards Australia, looking for patterns that best matched the data they had acquired. Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr and Professor Robert Foley, both from the Leverhulme Centre, assisted in particular by analysing the likely correspondences between this newly-acquired genetic evidence and a wider framework of existing archaeological and anthropological evidence about early human population movements."
The "model" would only be as good as the information used to create it, of course, so that is a natural concern.  Interpretation of data is also subject to preconceived notions because, as we know, what we think we know about any given subject is not always correct, and an analysis based upon erroneous information is, itself, erroneous.

Map showing main findings from the paper. Credit: St John's College, Cambridge
So - the latest data and interpretation thereof point to NO multiple mass migrations out of Africa over time that led to the entire world being colonized by so-called "modern" man, and particularly, that Papuans and Aboriginal Australians were not descendants of a separate "out of Africa" event, but part of one event that occurred around 72,000 years ago, and THAT one event led to the populating of the entire globe with so-called "modern" man.

AND, another mysterious "hominin" has made a mysterious appearance, evidently somewhere in southeast Asia, that interbred with a portion of the "out of Africa modern humans" headed toward eventual settling in what was then an Australian supercontinent.  It was not specified in the article when this intermingling occurred, but it was evidently after 58,000 years ago, when ancestors of the Papuans and Aboriginal Australians split from the main "out of Africa" group.  The mysterious hominin DNA shows up in Aboriginal DNA, but researchers haven't found it anywhere else (yet).  It is not Denisovan, but it is somewhat like it?  Hmmm...  As this research is still in its early stages, it will be interesting to see how things develop as our understanding (and technology) continues to mature.

Now - here's the WILD CARD KICKER in the article:

[T]he research also offers an intriguing new perspective on how Aboriginal culture itself developed, raising the possibility of a mysterious, internal migration 4,000 years ago.
About 90% of Aboriginal communities today speak languages belonging to the "Pama-Nyungan" linguistic family. The study finds that all of these people are descendants of the founding population which diverged from the Papuans 37,000 years ago, then diverged further into genetically isolated communities.
This, however, throws up a long-established paradox. Language experts are adamant that Pama-Nyungan languages are much younger, dating back 4,000 years, and coinciding with the appearance of new stone technologies in the archaeological record.
Scientists have long puzzled over how – if these communities were completely isolated from each other and the rest of the world – they ended up sharing a language family that is much younger? The traditional answer has been that there was a second migration into Australia 4,000 years ago, by people speaking this language.
But the new research finds no evidence of this. Instead, the team uncovered signs of a tiny gene flow, indicating a small population movement from north-east Australia across the continent, potentially at the time the Pama-Nyungan language and new stone tool technologies appeared. [Emphasis added].
These intrepid travellers, who must have braved forbidding environmental barriers, were small in number, but had a significant, sweeping impact on the continent's culture. Mysteriously, however, the genetic evidence for them then disappears. In short, their influential language and culture survived – but they, as a distinctive group, did not.
"It's a really weird scenario," Willerslev said. "A few immigrants appear in different villages and communities around Australia. They change the way people speak and think; then they disappear, like ghosts. And people just carry on living in isolation the same way they always have. This may have happened for religious or cultural reasons that we can only speculate about. But in genetic terms, we have never seen anything like it before."
So what the hell happened here???  And no, darlings, I don't believe that it was "gods from outer-space," LOL!    But, clearly, SOMETHING happened that impacted a small group of genetically Aboriginal Australians in the northeast of the Australian continent around 2000 BCE that led to them developing a new language and a new technology and - not only that - but ALSO inspired them to undertake the daunting task of SPREADING WHAT THEY HAD LEARNED!

This is MASSIVE - EARTH-SHAKING LINGUISTIC AND CULTURE CHANGING EVENTS.  Bu we're only just NOW beginning tentative steps to unravelling the mystery, and it wasn't even planned -- the genetic "surprise" was entirely serendipitous.  Holy Hathor!

I wonder if Aboriginal legends would tell us anything about what might have happened.  Where to find Aboriginal Australian legends -- if any are even recorded???  Would Aboriginal Australians even consider revealing any information they might know to outsiders?  They have good reason not to!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Milwaukee Summer Challenge June 11 - 12, 2016

Hola everyone!

Milwaukee Summer Challenge V     
June 11-12, 2016, Pewaukee, WI
USCF Junior Grand Prix

5SS, G/120; d5 in top 3 sections: Master/Expert (closed section), U2000, U1500.
4SS, G/60; d6 in U1000 section.

Country Springs Hotel, 2810 Golf Road, Pewaukee, WI; 1-800-247-6640;
(Mention Southwest Chess Club for $139 room rate, including Waterpark access).

EF: $40 in top 3 sections, $25 in U1000. All $5 more after 6/10.

$$GTD: Master/Expert = 1st-$300, 2nd-$200, 3rd-$100.  U2000=1st-$150, U1500=1st-$80, U1000=1st-$50.
Plus Goddesschess Prizes for females in all sections*.

Schedule:  Reg: 8:30-9:30.
Top 3 sections-Saturday June 11: 10:00 am, 2:30 pm, 7:00 pm, Sunday June 12: 10:00 am-3:00 pm.  U1000 Saturday June 11 (only): 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:30 pm, 6:00 pm.

Entries to: Robin Grochowski, 3835 E Morris Avenue, Cudahy, WI 53110 or
Questions: TD Tom Fogec 414-405-4207.

*Goddess Chess Prizes for this event:
(1) in Master/Expert, $150 to top scoring female finisher provided at least 2 females play;
(2) in U2000, $100, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 2 females play;
(3) in U1500, $50, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 3 females play;
(4) in U1000, $25, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 3 females play;
There are no tie-breaks; if tie score the prize money is split; and
Must score a draw or win in any section to qualify for prize.

Jan Is Alive And Well And - Working Her Butt Off

Hola darlings!

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm still here.  Primarily one of my brothers and I have been working to get our mother's house ready for sale.  Our other four siblings have vanished into the ether, or so it seems.  I've been putting in 3 or 4 days a week of between 4 to 6 hours a day, not including a 2 hour bus round-trip when my brother isn't available to give me a ride (he is still working a full-time job).  This entire thing has been - overwhelming.

Today I started painting the plaster acanthus pattern crown molding in the living room and hallway from the living room leading to the bedrooms, bath, and kitchen.  I spent a couple hours yesterday going up and down a ladder taping off and I'm glad I did, because let me tell you, painting acanthus pattern crown molding is no easy task and I slopped paint all over the tape for the first 10 minutes or so of painting.  I worked on it off and on from 8:15 until 1 p.m. when I dashed out to catch a bus to start my journey home.  I was tired and my arms hurt from working "up" and "over" despite balancing precariously on the third rung of the step ladder to get me to eye level.  And, my left hand kept cramping from holding the brush for so long.  I do not believe I have dibbed and dabbed so much in my entire life.  So many nooks and crannies to get paint into!  And this is just the first coat (and may be the only coat, for I'll be damned if I get up on that ladder again to add a second coat of paint to molding in a house we're selling).  I managed to get two "lengths" of molding painted (one length and one width of the living room); one more each of length and width to go in the living room, and then the hallway area which, by the time I get there, I should be able to do with my eyes closed and paint with the brush between my toes.

I haven't forgotten chess, darlings.  I am sponsoring prizes for female participants in the Milwaukee Summer Chess Challenge hosted by the Southwest Chess Club.  I'll post more about that later - if I stay awake long enough and remember to do it; these days I'm running rather exhausted and decidedly distracted.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Well La Dee Da - Chess Makes the "Regular" News

Knock me off my bar stool with a feather, darlings.  Hola!  Got my coffee at 6 a.m. and sat down with my croissant to read the news and lo and behold - at Yahoo is a story about - gasp - chess!

Inside the Ultra-Competitive World of Professional Chess
Daniel Roberts, Yahoo Finance
Apr 29, 2016

I think you'll enjoy this video - it was included in the article.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Holy Hathor! Abrahamyan Blew It!

Final standings 2016 U.S. Women's Chess Championship:

Tatev Abrahamyan had the championship in her hand and she blew it.  All she had to do was control her nerves and win a game over a lower rated player.  But she lost.

Final standings:

1.  Paikidze, Nazi  8.5/11
2.  Abrahamyan, Tatev  8.0/11
3.  Zatonskih, Anna 7.0/11
4.  Mencova, Katerina  6.5/11
5.  Foisor, Sabina-Francesca  6.5/11
6.  Krush, Irina  6.0/11
7.  Eswaran, Ashritha  5.5/11
8.  Yu, Jennifer R.  5.0/11
9.  Yip, Carissa  4.5/11
10.  Gorti, Akshita  4.0/11
11.  Bykovtsev, Agata  3.0/11

Coverage a Chess Champs.

This is what I wrote today at Facebook to one of my chess buddies, Ellen Wanek, who does a lot for chess in the Sheboygan area:

The U.S. Women's Chess Championship is taking place in St. Louis right now, today is the final round and it will be an exciting one. Tatev Abrahamyan is poised to win her first ever U.S. title but Nazi Paikidze is within striking distance at 7.5; she will have the black pieces against Irina Krush, who is in the uncomfortable position of third place with 6.0, and right behind her is Anna Zatonskih also with 6.0, but she will have a much easier match against a lower rated player. It's possible Paikidze could win her game and in the unlikely event Abrahamyan loses her game, could take the title! Or, if Abrahamyan draws, she and Paikidze would go to a play-off. So - lots of drama in store. I will be glued to my computer listening to the live coverage on U.S. Chess Champs.

What a blow to Krush, wow, dropping all the way to 6th place. And Zatonskih proved yet again how tough she is, a remarkable performance when she needed to pull it through. And so, we have a brand new U.S. Women's Chess Champion.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

And now, dear fans, please give a moment to listen to one of my favorite songs ever, by the one, the only, the incredible vocalist Miss Etta James, AT LAST:

Oh my goodness, Tatev, have you ever listened to this song?  You're way too young, you probably have no idea who the hell Eta James is, let alone ever heard her sing.  But the words, oh yes, those words in this song - so apt, so apropos to your situation these many years in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship!

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who for the past several years has come so close - and yet been so far - from winning the title for herself, is now within reach of the PRIZE!  There is one more round to go - tomorrow, and it looks like Abrahamyan is on a MISSION FROM THE CHESS GODDESS to finally take that title for her own. At last - well, we'll see.  Can she do it?  Here are the standings after Round 10.


1WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev8.0M23422524+2.230.0135.7511½½½11½11
2IM Paikidze, Nazi7.5M23462452+½11½1½1½½1
3GM Krush, Irina6.0M24652331-1.54.-127.0½1½1½1½½½0
4IM Zatonskih, Anna6.0M24702349-1.39.-124.75½½½1½11100
5WGM Nemcova, Katerina5.5M23672319-½½0½½11½½½
6WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca5.5M22582329+½0½1½011½½
7WIM Eswaran, Ashritha4.5M22252248+0.23.-117.0½00½½1½0½1
8Yip, Carissa4.5M21642241+½00½00½1
9WFM Yu, Jennifer R4.5M21572270+½0½10001½1
10FM Gorti, Akshita3.5M21842196+0.05.-112.2500101001½0
11WIM Bykovtsev, Agata3.0M22192144-1.07.-111.001½01000½0
12FM Melekhina, Alisa1.5M22051987-2.53.-18.0½0½00000½0
Generated by Swiss Master for Windows on 24-04-2016 at 18:01

She's got a slim 0.5 lead over the next highest-point player, native Georgian player Nazi Paikidze, who moved to Baltimore to attend college at the University of Maryland-Baltimore and changed her chess federation from Georgia to the United States.  Paikidze finished second in the 2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championship.   

And the match-ups for tomorrow:

Pairings round 11 

1WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca5.52258WIM Bykovtsev, Agata3.02219
2FM Melekhina, Alisa1.52205WGM Nemcova, Katerina5.52367
3GM Krush, Irina6.02465IM Paikidze, Nazi7.52346
4IM Zatonskih, Anna6.02470Yip, Carissa4.52164
5FM Gorti, Akshita3.52184WFM Yu, Jennifer R4.52157
6WIM Eswaran, Ashritha4.52225WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev8.02342

Generated by Swiss Master for Windows on 24-04-2016 at 18:01

So, will we see something absolutely nutso happen like Abrahamyan losing to Eswaran Ashritha while Paikidze wins over Krush, thereby taking the title outright with 8.5/11 to Abrahamyan's 8.0/11?  I can't imagine Abrahamyan losing tomorrow's game but in this position, with that kind of pressure on, who the heck knows?  One might assume that Anna Zatonskih, currently in 4th place overall, will make it her business to defeat Carissa Yip, with the hope that Paikidze will either outright defeat Irina Krush (currently in 3rd place) or draw with her, thereby giving Zatonskih 3rd place, and it's money.  Both Krush and Zatonskih have something more than pride to play for in tomorrow's game.

Should be interesting.  You can watch the matches live at US Chess Champs online.  
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