Saturday, June 9, 2007

Blast from the Past - Krush, Shahade, Tsai, J. Polgar

From: The Salt Lake Tribune Sept. 13, 1998 When Miguel Nadjorf gave his legendary blindfold exhibition of 45 games in Sao Paolo in 1947, he lost twice, drew four games and won the remaining 39. Three of the four draws were granted to women. The courtesy draws were conceded according to the canons of gallantry prevailing at the time. Today, Nadjorf's gesture would be embarrassingly sexist. It would also be unrealistic in light of the increasing prowess of women players. A few recent events illustrate the point. The first was a match between 14-year-old Irina Krush and 68 year old Arthur Bisguier who wondered beforehand whether "experience, trickery, and guile would prevail over youth and talent.'' The contest between teen-age girl and veteran grandmaster ended in a 2-2 standoff. The second was a first-place finish in the 1998 U.S Junior Championship by 18-year-old Jennifer Shahade in a field that was largely male. And most recently, 22-year-old Judit Polgar of Hungary tied for first in the U.S. Open Championship with American grandmaster Boris Gulko. Only a decade ago, the achievement of the American teen-agers Krush and Shahade was inconceivable. But a groundswell of scholastic chess programs for both boys and girls, the emigration of talented Soviet women players and the appearance of outstanding role models like Polgar have created a new era in women's chess. Below is a win by the under-14 girl's champion -- Cindy Tsai of the United States -- from the 1998 Pan-American Youth Championships. Nadia Escheveste Tsai 1. e4 c52. Nf3 d63. d4 cxd44. Nxd4 Nf65. Nc3 a66. Be3 e57. Nb3 Be68. f3 Be79. Qd2 N (b)d710. g4 O-O11. O-O-O b512. h4 Nb613. g5 Nh514. Qg2 Qc715. Rg1 R (f)c816. Qd2 b417. Nd5 Nxd518. exd5 Bxd5!19. Be2 (a) Be620. Bd3 d521. Kb1 a522. R(d)f1 a423. Nc1 d424. Bf2 b325. cxb3 axb3 26. Bg3 bxa2ch27. Ka1 Nxg328. Rxg3 e4!White resigns(a) Not 19. Qxd5 allowing . . . Qxc2 mate.Solution to Beginner's Corner: 1. g4 Rf6 2, pinning and winning the bishop. © Copyright, 1998, The Salt Lake Tribune

Brilliancy Prize for 2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Goddesschess is pleased to announce that it is sponsoring a $300 brilliancy prize for the 2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship to be held in July, 2007. The prize will be awarded at the conclusion of the competition to the game judged the best. We are big fans of women's chess and this year we decided to - as the saying goes - "put our money where our mouth is." We hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Chess Scholarships Announced

Hola everyone! It's a gorgeous day here today - about time! I need to get outside and start the clean-up after the latest storm that blasted through here Thursday night - I think the branches from my mini-forest are finally done raining down! Then it's cut the grass time and after that, I'll put my feet up on the deck and drink a large glass of wine and read some more of David Shenk's book about this history of chess. Susan Polgar announced some scholarships at her chess blog and I think it's great news, so I'm publishing it here too, just in case someone out there doesn't read her blog but does read here (lol! - as if)
  • Full scholarship to the winner of the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls (2007)
  • Full scholarship to the winner of the Denker Tournament of HS Champions (2007)
  • Scholarship (not designated as a "full" scholarship) to the winner of the 2nd annual Susan Polgar World Open Championship for Girls (2007)
  • Scholarship (not designated as a "full" scholarship) to the winner of the 1st annual Susan Polgar World Chess Challenge for Boys in Las Vegas (2007)

In addition, SP announced that starting in 2008: "The University has also agreed to host the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. Besides having a permanent home for the prestigious Polgar event at a magnificent university setting, players and their parents will have a chance to save up to $50,000 or more each year in lodging and meal expenses!"

I take this to mean that Texas Tech will make dorm space available to the participants of this event and their parents, etc. and provide meal service.

Friday, June 8, 2007

What's the Oldest Evidence of Chess? - Part 2

The archaeologists' conclusion that the Butrint artifact was a chess piece drew gasps of horror from most traditionalist chess historians. The Butrint artifact cannot be chess, they say, because chess may not have even been invented at the time; furthermore, they say, since there is only one such piece, it could be anything - it is probably a "finial."

It's doubtful that anyone will ever be able to pinpoint an exact date when chess was invented. However, that hasn't stopped people from trying! In the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, it was practically stated as fact that chess was invented in what is now part of Pakistan (pre-partition historians refer to this area as "northern India"), sometime during the 6th century CE. This date is used in H.J.R. Murray's work "A History of Chess," which is basically a chess historian's bible, and has been repeated ad nauseum on the internet. Since Murray's time, though, the possible date of the invention of chess has been pushed back a bit and most chess historians now accept a date somewhere in the middle to late 5th century CE. Well, guess where that puts the invention of chess - between 450 to 500 CE. According to news reports at the time of the discovery, the Butrint king is securely dated to 465 CE because of a distinctive type of Roman pottery found in the same level of ruins and some recovered coins.

What does current published archaeological and literary evidence reveal as to how old chess is?

The earliest "unambiguous" written reference to chess is, according to the traditionalists, in the Pahlavi (middle Persian) work Wizârišn î chatrang ud nihišm î nêw-ardaxšîr (The explanation of Chess and the invention of Nard), also called "Mâdayân î chatrang" or simply named "Chatrang nâmag" (The Book of Chess, per Murray), dating to about 600-620 CE.

Other than the Butrint piece, currently the earliest known chesspieces (chatrang pieces) were found at Afrasiab, near Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Those pieces are a king, chariot, vizier, horse (knight-image above), elephant, and two soldiers, all made of ivory. The Afrasiab discovery is significant because the number of pieces found and their configuration allowed chess historians to unequivocally declare that they were, indeed, chess pieces, albeit of the "figural" kind. That the pieces were figural and not abstract could reasonably suggest that the pieces are pre-Islamic, because of Islam's emphasis on not making "images" of living things.

The Afrasiab pieces are dated to about 760 AD because a coin, dated to 761 CE, was found with the chesspieces. The chess pieces could not, therefore, be any younger than the coin, but they could be older than the coin. This assumes that the excavated layer had not previously been disturbed, so that there is no possibility that the coin could have been introduced into a much earlier (or later, for that matter), layer of archaeological deposit.

H.J.R. Murray said that northwest India (ancient "Hind") was where chess originated, and for the better part of the 20th century, most agreed with him. However, there are other possibilities. A strong case can be made that proto-chess first arose in ancient China. There are literary references to such a game that predate the "Chatrang namag" by a couple hundred years. The great scholar Joseph Needham was of the opinion that chess was a Chinese invention. See his comments at Goddesschess (a large PDF file, will be slow-loading for dial-up users).

And our Chief, the late Ricardo Calvo, suggested that Persia itself might be the home of chess. See his comments at Goddesschess. I have been researching rather obscure and esoteric matters Persian that might support this hypothesis for the past several years. A woman's work is never done...
THE WEAVE A DIALOGUE ON CHESS AND CHESS HIS/HERSTORY, FROM THE ART BELL WEB-SITE. Mark Borcherding - 04:31am Apr 6, 1999 MST (#503 of 505) dare to dream upon your own star Leonardo & Chess, If you take Leonardo's diagram of a person the popular one with arms & legs in positions. The outer arms and legs touch a circle and the inner arms and legs touch a square. If you turn the square unto a chess board then the center four squares of the chessboard (a,b,c,d) (2nd pyramid giza) go from stomach area to right above the knee. The very center of the chessgrid would be directly on penis or vagina. The center of the circle would be around the belly-button "navel" about where E&F meet A&B. "ABCDEFGHIJLK" = 51 + 12 letters + 1 = 64 What happens when we mirror our numbers: 15 + 21 + 1 = 37 37 + 27 = 64 Jan Newton - 10:47am Apr 6, 1999 MST (#504 of 505) Mark, was there a particular reason why you put the letters into the chess grid in the way you did? Mark Borcherding - 01:13pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#505 of 505) dare to dream upon your own star Ref 504 ... Jan, I placed the letters in that order because that is how they were in the digram in a "Flower of Life" book I just recently got. It did not mention a chess board but I counted the squares in their grid and it was 8x8. Did the order have any significance to you? Notice the pattern forms a Celtic cross or mandala and there are two sets of 8 squares one set top to bottome and the other set left to right and this means the 4 center squares are used twice. This would be where the 2nd pyramid is on the chessboard that Philip pointed out. Vickie Ramirez - 03:26pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#506 of 517) O Music! In your depths we deposit our hearts and souls. Thou hast taught us to see with our ears, and hear with our hearts. Hi Jan, RE post 498: I am a Gemini. I am curious to see how we balance out, too. Neat info about the other chess history group you have contacted. Synchronistic! Just finished reading both of Katherine Nevils Books; The Eight and The Magic Circle. Just could not put them down. Ilumani Mark Borcherding - 06:08pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#507 of 517) dare to dream upon your own star Ref 506 Ilumani & Jan "Katherine" = 46 "The Eight" = 46 [mirrored] = 64 = 8x8 "The Magic Circle" = 71 [mirrored] = 17 and 71+17=88 Guess I have a couple more books I need to read :) Jan Newton - 08:30pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#508 of 517) Mark, until I read Neville, other than learning the fundamentals of the game, that was the only contact I'd had with The Game and its Herstory. I recently re-read "The Eight", and had even more appreciation for the depth of Neville's research than before, when I was a "Chess Ignoramus"! Vickie, thanks for the info. I left the little chart I was making up with our "match-ups" at the office; I will post on it tomorrow, I think. Mark, when I looked at the chess grid/letter post, I got a "funny" feeling about it, but I can't explain what it is or what it means; only that I tried to figure out a different way to put the letters into the grid that makes sense to me, but I haven't been able to do it yet. The letters aren't "comfortable" with where I'm putting them, or something like that. I was doing it at the office to boot, not conducive to "mental" endeavors (this is not a joke!). By the way, what is the story involving a horse and Set and Horus? I don't think I'm familiar with that one. One last thing, this may not mean anything, but then again, you never know. While I was researching the Mittani, the Hurrians, and Urartu, I came across an entry in a encyclopedia about the Hyksos. I vaguely remember learning about them eons ago in high school sophomore Ancient History. According to this entry, the Hyksos, whose origins are apparently yet unknown with any precision but suspected to be "from Palestine and Syria, ... were a Semitic people with a nomadic life style", had a temporary but lasting influence in Egypt in founding the 15th dynasty (1674-1567 BCE). They were later overthrown by a revolution of native Egyptians. The entry goes on to say that the Hyksos "came to have lasting influence on Egyptian military technique, as horse and chariot were introduced". Well, knock me over with a feather. This is a much later date than what was put forth in the 1990 Scientific American article I sited a few posts ago, which set forth the domestication of the horse and use of the horse in wheeled vehicles for agricultural purposes as early as around 4000 BCE!!! I can't imagine that it would have taken over 2000 years before the "jump" was made from using horses for agricultural purposes to using them for warfare purposes. So, somebody is wrong on their dates. However, that's not the primary reason why I mentioned the Hyksos. It's the similarity in the name "Hyksos" and "erkhos" that struck me right off the bat, especially because one of the few things I did remember about the Hyksos was their association with horses and chariots. I wonder if the Hyksos were actually peoples from the region (or descendants of people from the region) that encompasses modern-day Armenia, and not a Semitic people at all? Anyone an historian on ancient peoples out there? Jan Newton - 08:56pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#509 of 517) Sorry folks, very tired tonight. I misspelled the proto Indo-European word for horse. It should be "ekhos", not "erkhos". Looked up "horse" in the venerable Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary circa 1977, and this is what it says: [ME] hors, fr. OE; akin to OHG hros horse]... and then it goes on to explain what a horse is and different usages of the word. ME means Middle English; OE means Old English, and OGH means Old High German. I found it interesting in light of the 1990 article I'd read. However, I also checked the definition of chess, which referred me to "check", and under check it says: [ME chek, fr. OF eschec, fr. Ar shah, fr. Per. lit., king; akin to Gk ktasthai to acquire]. I found that entry interesting too, because I thought the ancient Greek name for chess was zatrikion, played on a round board, but I could be wrong about that. Philip Mistlberger - 11:41pm Apr 6, 1999 MST (#510 of 517) Mark, re 503, the link between the 2nd pyramid and that part of the grid is interesting as this hits exactly on the location of the kundalini (serpent) base in the Indian yogic system. And, since the 2nd pyramid has been linked to both Isis and the planet Venus, its tie in with the Skakti/kundalini serpent force is natural, as Shakti is a form of Isis/Venus. Thus, the 64 grid plotted on Leonardo's "man" verifies one of the symbolic meanings of the 2nd pyramid. I don't know if this has been mentioned here, but both Georgia and I were born on the same day (both Pisces). A couple of fishes for the chess BBQ. Jan, tell me the truth. You must be hiring someone to do all this research. You seem to have enough material for a trilogy, never mind one book. Mark Borcherding - 06:03am Apr 7, 1999 MST (#511 of 517) dare to dream upon your own star Philip and Georgia that is neat, Pisces the fish. I was reading last night that the symbol for Christ was the Dolphin and was changed to the Fish by the Greek Orthodox Church. On the chess - giza grid: 1 Great Pyramid Earth orbit 3 Balance (Male+Female) 2 2nd Pyramid Venus orbit 2 Female 3 3rd Pyramid Mars orbit 4 Male "earth venus mars" = 58 58 + 1+2+3 = 64 = 8x8 Chess connection Interesting that Venus is called the "Morning Star" and people feel this relates to Christ as well. "Christ" = 32 so if we have a male and female then: "Christ Christ" = 64 "Chess", "Love", "Venus" all equal 18 5 + 18 + 18 + 18 + 5 = 64 Notice we have three 18's one for each pyramid and two 5's one 5 for male and one 5 for female. The 5 symbolizes the pyramid 4 base points + 1 capstone and it also symbolizes the 4 directions (east,north,west,south) and 1 center (balance). Note as well 18 = 9+9 so there is a male and female 9 and look what happens when we add the 5+9 = 14 which refers to 1 center/capstone & 4 directions/base points again. 9 = 4 + 1 + 4 (144) Jan Newton - 10:03am Apr 7, 1999 MST (#512 of 517) Pisces!?! I thought you were both Aquarians!!! Are you sure you're Pisces? I know, you're both cuspers! You realize, of course, that that screws up my entire estoric theory about our "signs". Oh well, back to the drawing board. Philip, I have been obsessed. I have been a researching maniac. I have been everywhere. Wait until I post about the Indus Valley connection I found, it will knock your socks off! Got to run but while I have it right in front of me I wanted to post the following information from Gerhard Josten: The next meeting of the IGK will be held in Hamburg, Germany during November 99. If you want more information and about membership e-mail me and I will give you the particulars. (I don't know if it would be against the rules to post that info here, and I don't want to get into trouble - that's a switch, hey?) Going off to the bookstore to see if I can hunt down a copy of "The White Goddess" by R. Graves, which R. Calvo was kind enough to turn me on to... "The Weave" has an enormous wealth of research from scholars from all over the world. The Weave is a journey guided by the words of many fasinating and intelligent people. This is also a fun journey. The humorous, and often cleaver, play between friends makes it a pleasure to read. Wonder through the labyrinth of The Weave and enjoy. Isis
Goddesschess' Showgirls wisdom: Brain Teasers, puzzles, inigmas, end-game chess problems, and play-time, are good for your mental health. The Mutilated Chess Board We have a chessboard with the two opposing corners removed,so that there are only 62 squares remaining. Now we take 31 dominoes shaped such that each domino covers exactly two squares. The question is: is it possible to arrange the 31 dominoes so that they cover all 62 squares on the chessboard? There are two approaches to the problem: To find the answer to this puzzle go to: FORTUNE CITY

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What's the Oldest Evidence of Chess?

There’s an old saying "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it is probably a duck."

That’s why some of us Goddesschess folks believe that this little piece (approximately 1.5 inches tall) is a chess piece, probably a king. It was identified as a chess piece (a king or queen) by the archaeologists who excavated it in July, 2002 during an ongoing dig at the cultural heritage site of Butrint, Albania, and dates to approximately 465 CE.

The assertion that this piece was a chess piece caused quite an uproar within the insular and sedate world of chess historians. More about this tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Desperately Needed - Just For Men...

Oh, I know I shouldn't do this, I know I shouldn't. I'll probably be really sorry for this tomorrow morning.

Time and chess wait for no man - well, something like that. I know only too well the sad truth of that maxim whenever I accidentally look in the mirror at myself these days - of course, I'm not a man, but the sentiment is the same, alas... My goddess, to see super hunk GM Vladimir Akopian reduced to such straits - well, perhaps it's time I hung up my chess pieces, darlings.
(Photo upper left: VA at the 5th Gib-tel Masters, January, 2007; photo upper right: VA circa 1998)

It seems just a few years ago, back in August, 1999 when VA was one of the hottest properties in Las Vegas during the 1999 FIDE World Chess Championship at Caesar's Palace. I was there, panting after him - discreetly, of course. He was SO gorgeous - thick black hair, flashing dark eyes, slim, lithe, powerful, dangerous - and those fingers - oh my, those fingers when he picked up a pawn and moved it forward ever so gently yet firmly, just still my heart.

Perhaps we could take up a collection and buy VA a year's supply of "Just for Men," the hair coloring agent that pretends not to be a hair coloring agent - oh, and a year's supply of Gillette razors - whatever the latest whiz-bang model is (I think it has five blades now, it shaves you all at once...)

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2

Okay, here is the June, 2007 top 20 women in the USA. The top 10 women (who, I assume, accept an invitation to play) will play in the 2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship: 1 Polgar, Susan Zsuzsa NY USA 2597 2 Zatonskih, Anna NY USA 2491 3 Krush, Irina NY USA 2488 4 Goletiani, Rusudan NY USA 2392 5 Baginskaite, Camilla CA USA 2361 6 Rohonyan, Katerine MD USA 2304 7 Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg CA USA 2275 8 Abrahamyan, Tatev CA USA 2265 9 Battsetseg, Tsagaan MD USA 2234 10 Marinello, Beatriz NY USA 2211 11 Zenyuk, Iryna NY USA 2204 12 Airapetian, Chouchanik WA USA 2188 13 Epstein, Esther MA USA 2165 14 Melekhina, Alisa PA USA 2163 15 Eynullayeva, Roza MA USA 2138 16 Groberman, Elina NY USA 2137 17 Vicary, Elizabeth NY USA 2127 18 Kitagami, Show CA USA 2124 19 Sagalchik, Olga NY USA 2121 20 Shiber, Julia NY USA 2098 We know Susan Polgar won't be playing, so out of the remaining 19 women, who will play?

Chess Life to Female Chessplayers – You’re Invisible

The June, 2007 Chess Life has a nicely-written article by Macauley Peterson about up and coming young chessplayers, among whom Nakamura (born 1987, ELO 2663), Robson (born 1994, ELO 2293), Carlsen (born 1990, ELO 2693) and others are profiled – all males. Now I realize that females make up only a small percentage of chessplayers in this country, but really - are you actually implying (by omission) that there wasn’t one – NOT ONE? – female chessplayer good enough to consider profiling as the "next generation?" I have a few candidates – (hint: I looked up the "Girls Top 20" List at the FIDE website): 1 Koneru, Humpy g IND 2575 8 1987 2 Hou, Yifan wg CHN 2513 22 1994 3 Harika, Dronavalli wg IND 2476 42 1991 Koneru is 20; Hou just turned 13; Harika is 16. I’d say these girls qualify as up and coming young chessplayers, irrespective of their gender. Hey, Chess Life, way to go to appeal to the female chessplayers out here - highlighting ONLY male players. Geez! Female chessplayers DO exist, even if our numbers are small relative to male chessplayers. Can’t you be just a little more aware of us, too? We play in tournaments and support chessclubs and institutions just like you do with our entry fees and dues. We volunteer at local events to do whatever needs to be done and teach kids how to play chess just like you do. Some of us are (and have been) great players, and can kick male chess butt OTB just about any time. Are you just totally oblivious to the fact that there ARE up and coming female chessplayers, or are you deliberately blind to their existence out of sexism - or chicken-heartedness? Who runs the marketing department at USCF? Ha, what am I saying? USCF doesn’t HAVE a marketing department listed in Chess Life! Geez!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It’s USCF Election Time!

Today I received my June edition of Chess Life in the mail – wrapped in a ballot on which, as a member, I can vote for up to four members of the United States Chess Federation Executive Board. The ballot will be mailed to Taylor, Bilyeu and Company and I sincerely hope it is never shown that this company, which I assume is a firm of accountants, has any connection whatsoever in any way, shape or form to any member of the USCF Executive Board or any of its officers, past and present. I’ve previously reported that I had let my USCF membership lapse in, I think, 2004. I renewed my membership around the end of March this year after I started regularly reading Susan Polgar’s chess blog and a few other blogs and chess news sources, and re-acquainted myself with some of the issues affecting USCF and, in particular, this election for EB members. I renewed my USCF membership specifically for the purpose of voting in this election. I would have been inclined in any event to vote for Susan Polgar because she is an icon of chess for all women and is a tireless ambassador the game and promoter of the game among our young people, girls and boys. She is honest, sincere and gutsy and it is because of her fighting the fine fight that today women and girls can play chess in all open tournaments and participate in championship events without regard to their gender. Not so long ago it wasn’t so. All women owe her a debt of gratitude for being one of the trailblazers that has made it easier for the rest of us in so many ways today. Normally chess politics gag me – but I became actively engaged and enraged by the absolute BS I was reading on the internet about SP and the other candidates she supports that was spewed out by gutless wonders hiding behind anonymous identities and the openness of the internet to protect them. I would not have necessarily voted for any of the other candidate SP supports – but after having read so much sexist and racist garbage and trash aimed at SP, Truong and Korenman, I determined to also vote for the three other candidates SP recommends: Paul Truong, Randy Bauer and Mikhail Korenman. So much venom, filth and hatred by those anonymous posters could only be triggered by immense fear that SP and her slate will be elected by ordinary chess people like me who are fed up with the bumbling incompetency and never-ending back-biting politics of the people who have run the USCF for the past several years. And, true to their cowardly hearts, the spineless anonymous jerks have resorted to the lowest of tactics to support their vested interests in seeing that SP and her slate are NOT elected to the Executive Board. When SP and her slate are elected, I do not expect them to work miracles – the USCF is sunk too deeply in debt and has burned so many bridges with potential sponsors that it may take years of concentrated effort and hard work by EVERYONE on the EB and ALL officers of USCF to repair the damage. I do believe that SP, Truong, Bauer and Korenman and other honest-hearted members already sitting on the EB who will support them will stop the slide of our federation which, after all, was founded to promote chess in the United States, and begin the turn-around to a sounder future. I believe that SP and her newly formed association with Texas Tech can only bode well for the future of scholastic and college chess under the auspices of USCF; and, speaking pragmatically, I believe that SP and Paul Truong can attract the kind of big corporate and individual sponsorship for adult and professional level that we desperately need. I ask you to please for Susan Polgar, Paul Truong, Randy Bauer, and Mikhail Korenman to the Executive Board of the USCF.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Want to Buy an Ancient Chess Piece?

I envy collectors who have the funds to buy the things they want. Sigh. There are beautiful chess sets available at auction. I look through the catalogs and see things I’d love to buy for $1,000 to $2,000. If only! Then, of course, there are the rare pieces that fetch $60,000 USD. You can find these at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. For great lot sales, though, check out Bloomsbury.

The question is why I feel drawn to these antique pieces? Part of it is because of my great love for history, especially ancient history. I’ve been fascinated by ancient cultures since I first learned to read. Part of it is the "story" I imagine behind each and every piece I see. Well, that’s always been the tension – tell stories and starve, or work for a living. I should have gone for a Ph.D in history and become a professor. Oh well.

One of my favorite places to visit from time to time is BC Galleries in Australia. I haven’t purchased anything from them but – maybe some day.

These are two lovely affordable pieces circa 1000 year old pieces, described as:
Two early Islamic bone game pieces, most probably chess pieces, each with concentric circle designs.
Origin: Circa 10th-12th century CE Afghanistan.
Dimensions: Height of each 3.7 cm
Price: AUD $575 USD $479

Maybe someday.

Chess and Squirrels 2


Psst, don't tell the boss, but I took a sick day today and it was glorious to get the front yard grass cut first thing this morning, before the rain came, and take that looonnnngggg nap from 10:30 to 1:30. Now I feel fresh as a daisy and ready to go; it's a wonder what getting enough sleep can do for a gal.
We added a new link to Goddesschess - it's "Chess Boss" and among other things you can do there is play chess for money. Well, I'm not sure how that's going to work out, but there could be a market for such a service. The site is crisply designed and they can't be all bad - I clicked on the "blog" page to see what was there and lo and behold, there's a picture of a squirrel on a tree trunk, just like I see from my kitchen window every morning! Anyone who puts a picture of a squirrel up at a chess website is all right with me :)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Vietnamese Redux

It seems the Vietnamese chess community has something of a battle going on regarding state funding of promising (versus "already there") chessplayers. What is it to be? Funding many promising young players at a low rate of support every month, or funding fewer, more mature players with higher ELOs at a higher rate of support every month? Is the immediate controversy at all related to the relatively poor showing of the Vietnamese Women in the recently concluded First World Women’s Team Chess Championship? Unfortunately, no. That event wasn’t mentioned in the article – and perhaps the author doesn’t give a rap about women’s chess in Vietnam. All the players the article mentions are males: GM Le Quang Liem: 2541 (born 1991) GM Dao Thien Hai: 2543 (born 1978) GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son: 2542 (born 1990) GM Nguyen Ahn Dung: 2528 (born 1976) GM Tu Hoang Thong: 2472 (born 1972) Tran Duc Hoa Khanh: 2183 (born 1974) Here is the article: Investing in sports talents needs thorough change 14:21' 03/06/2007 (GMT+7) VietNamNet Bridge – Chess player Le Quang Liem is a rare talent but the total State investment in this great master is only VND43 million ($3,000) a year or only VND3.5 million ($215) a month – too little for a great talent. Le Quang Liem is the first player who has held all three national championships for traditional, rapid and blitz chess tournaments within a given year, according to Vice Chairman of the HCM City Chess Federation Nguyen Phuoc Trung. Mr Trung also said that in early July, when the World Chess Confederation (FIDE) announced the Elo and the new rankings for chess players worldwide, Liem had passed Thien Hai and Truong Son to become the top chess player of Vietnam. At the age of 16, Liem has proven his talent in overcoming great masters like Thien Hai, Anh Dung, Hoang Thong and Truong Son. Is there any special investment for Liem to develop his talent? “Liem currently ranks 372nd in FIDE’s ratings and if he is invested in properly, Liem can enter the top 50 of the world,” Mr Trung said. What is proper investment? It is participating in around ten international contests and being trained by a good coach who is paid US$5,000 a month. That’s an unreachable dream for a Vietnamese chess player, even a rare talent like Liem. It is sad to know that the above investment level is a dream but it is much sadder to know the current investment in Liem, because it is too low. Each year Liem receives VND21 million of salary from the HCM City Department of Sports and Physical Training, VND2.5 million for being a national sports great master and around VND20 million for being a member of the national chess team, totaling VND43.5 million (less than $3,000). Changes are needed Hoa Khanh, a former member of the national chess team, said: “Irrational investment mechanism has held back the development of sports in general and chess in particular. It’s absurd when a pupil who has just played chess for a short period of time and shows a little talent is immediately selected for the team of key chess talents and enjoys State support of several hundreds of thousands dong a month.” This amount of money is small but it becomes a big number when the payment for hundreds of players of this kind is added up. In addition, there are many other kinds of talented players who also receive State money. If this whole sum of money is invested in a small number of big talents the results would be much better. The viewpoint of Hoa Khanh is the way that developed countries perform. An overseas Vietnamese in Australia said that his family must pay everything for their 7-year-old daughter who has won a gold medal at a state swimming contest for students. If this girl becomes a member of the state team she will receive huge investment from the state and her future will be very bright. Irrational investment has hindered the development of many talents of Vietnamese sports, for example chess players Dao Thien Hai, Truong Son or Anh Dung, who have shown signs of stagnation since they lack opportunities to play in international contests. Le Quang Liem’s future will be the same when he can’t devote his mind and life to chess but has to study at school to prepare for his future life. “People like Quang Liem, Truong Son and Thien Hai are rare in Vietnam. We now have only five great masters of chess. Those transcendent heads, if they focus on studying at school only, will easily find a good job to earn a high salary. If they pursue the career of a chess player, after they stop playing chess, they can only work as a chess coach and earn a low salary. So who dares to let their children pursue such a sports career?” Khanh asked. So, a thorough change for investment in sports is a must. (Source: Tuoi Tre) Here are prior related posts: A Different Perspective Dragon Capital – Trying a Queen’s Gambit? It seems to me we have our own "war" going on right now in the USCF, between the supporters of "adult" and the supporters of "scholastic" levels of membership. That chess wag Sam Sloan recently "made a motion" (not, of course, to the actual Executive Board of the USCF, but as a post on an online message board that he can always disclaim as "not serious") to fund increased prizes in USCF-sponsored adult championships by increasing the membership fees of scholastic members by $3 per member per year. Basically, SS wants to stick it to the kids (who now are a majority of USCF paying membership) to benefit a relatively small number of above 2600-rated U.S. players who play the rather anemic tournament circuit in the US every year rather than travelling overseas where the events are more numerous but the competition is also more fierce (and they would probably, but for Nakamura, Onischuk, Krush, and a few others) lose their butts. Hint: The way to improve chess in the USA isn't by sticking it to the scholastic players.

Polgar at the Candidates' Matches 2

Hmmm, I think I'm over the worst part of my disappointment that Judit Polgar didn't make it into the second round of the Matches. But if I start sobbing uncontrollably while I'm writing this post I promise not to spot up your screen with my tears.

Oh darlings! Things seemed to start out so promising yesterday morning. Not only was the weather here great (although with the constant threat of thunderstorms because we are centered under an unstable air mass), I was able to watch Judit's game taking place on my computer screen with virtually no problems - although sometimes a bunch of moves would suddenly show up all at once. Fortunately, I figured out how to back-click on a move to figure out what had happened. I'm not a college graduate for nothing, heh heh. Well, to tell the absolute truth - since I don't have any deep understanding of the kind of chess that people like Polgar and Bareev play, I often had no idea why they moved the pieces where they did. But - see below...

I was also trying to follow along with Susan Polgar's annotations of the game, and her comments gave me the necessary background to appreciate what was taking place on the screen.

Amazingly, I actually guessed a few of Judit's moves correctly - that is - I screwed on my thinking hat and stared hard at the screen, and said, okay, this is where I would move, generally without being able to come up with a good reason for doing so, other than to take a piece or move into what seemed a better position (of course, isn't that what all the really good players say? LOL!) And - lo and behold - sometimes she would move her piece there. This only happened a few times, and it was scary, man! The implications could be staggering for the future of my non-existent chess-playing career.

Oh no! Maybe Judit lost because I was filling the ether with my crappy chess moves and somehow, some way, she picked up on my brain waves out of the millions that were bombarding her from all over the world. Oh goddess! I sure hope that's not true!

Oh, Judit. How sorry I am that you did not advance. You would have had hundreds of thousands of women and even men chess fans rooting for you from all over the world. As it is, you get $40,000 less what I assume is FIDE's customary 20% off the top "take," and you go home to Gustav and the kids. Somehow, that doesn't seem right. But you'll be happy to see them, and happy to let your hair back down, until your event, whatever it is.

Shirov, who used to be so cute but who has let himself go terribly the past few years (weight and looks wise), made it through! Somehow, it seems like a "sign" to me - if you know what I mean (well, you probably don't; actually, not many people do, and most think I'm just a nut case). How well I remember that 1998 match in Germany between you and Shirov. You were both so cute back then - it was a sort of "battle of the sexes." If Shirov makes it through to the final four of the Candidates' to play in Mexico in the fall, I perceive that as a good sign for you. Yes, I know, it doesn't make much sense. But the Goddess works in very mysterious ways.

I guess all I want to really say is please don't retire any time soon, Judit. I love Humpy, but she's not ready to step into your shoes yet, and there doesn't seem to be any other woman behind her who can meet and beat the chess hommes on a regular basis. Not like you.

Wow, talk about pressure...

Senet and the Promoted Pawn

Here is an example of a senet board, this one from the tomb of Amenhotep III (c. 1386 – 1349 BCE). Senet was a game of 30 squares, and although the rules of the games are not precisely known, intact games recovered from tombs consisted of either five or seven pieces of the "spool" and "reel" type, as in the photograph, and several squares on the board were marked with either hazards or blessings. Some of the marked squares can be observed in this example and notice the checkered pattern on the drawer end. The game dates back possibly to c. 3500 BCE, and in later years during the long Egyptian civilization it took on religious and mystical significance. Some tomb paintings depict the senet board as a red and black checkered board. One of the most famous depictions of this type of board is from the Theban tomb of Nebenma'at (c. 1250 – 1100 BCE), where he plays Senet with his wife, Meretseger, on just such a board (click on view 9). Another view here.

As shown by the ancient Egyptians' use, the two-colored checkered gameboard goes way back in history. During the Egyptian ceremony of the judgment of the dead, the gods stood on a checkered floor, thus associating it with Egyptian religious ritual. In senet, which developed mystical and religious associations connected with the journey of the deceased through the underworld, the game was won by a player successfully moving all of his pieces off the board. At that point, the literature says, the pawn (decedent) becomes an imperishable star. In the latter years of Egyptian religious practice, this transformation was not restricted only to Pharoah, but could be achieved by anyone. Could this tradition, perhaps, be the ancient root of the concept of "pawn promotion?"
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