Saturday, September 15, 2007

What A Difference A Day Makes....

Twenty-four little hours....

Ah, that's a great song (one of several) by one of the steamiest chantreuses of the 1950's - Miss Etta James - who is still out there doing appearances, still in fine voice at __. No, darlings, that's not Etta James in the photo - that's Alexander Morozevich.

After three rounds, Moro has 1.5 points, after defeating Peter Svidler. Amazingly, this game got no coverage at The Week in Chess when I checked just a few minutes ago (about 10:00 p.m. Milwaukee time), the only decisive game of the day (the rest were draws)! Susan Polgar's blog had it covered:

Morozevich, Alexander - Svidler, Peter 1-0 37 C45 Scotch Game
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.Bc4 0–0 8.0–0 Ne5 9.Bb3 d6 10.f3 Be6 11.Kh1 Bc4 12.Rf2 d5 13.Bc2 dxe4 14.Nd2 Bd3 15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.fxe4 Qg6 17.Rf4 Nc4 18.Bg1 Qh6 19.Rf3 Qd2 20.Qb1 Bb6 21.Bb3 Bxd4 22.cxd4 Na5 23.Bc2 Rad8 24.Rc3 Nac6 25.d5 Nb4 26.Bb3 Na6 27.Be3 Qe2 28.Bc4 Qg4 29.h3 Qh4 30.Bxa6 bxa6 31.Rxc7 f5 32.Bc5 Rfe8 33.d6 Ng6 34.exf5 Nf4 35.Qc2 Re2 36.Qb3+ Kh8 37.Rg1 White wins 1–0
Where Moro is at in the standings at the moment - I can't figure out this stuff, darlings! I couldn't find a definitive table online tonight so I'll wait 24 hours - that seems to be the lead time to reporting on this event (except for SP getting us the moves of the game so quickly. How DOES she do that???) There's a lot of chess left to be played, however, and much mojo to be worked in Moro's behalf. Wel'll see what we can do at Goddesschess (ahem)...

Tania Talks

Championship luck clinched it for me’ From The Hindu online, September 15, 2007 NEW DELHI: Tania Sachdev is almost tired of silencing her critics. Even after 13 years of competitive chess and winning National, British, Commonwealth, Asian and World championship medals, she remains one of the players whose efforts continued to be discounted by the cynics in the country’s chess circles. But Tania’s triumph in the Asian women’s championship earlier this week in Teheran to go with the National title she claimed in Chennai last December, should add some new names to her list of admirers. Apart from her exploits in chess, Tania also gets noticed for being articulate unlike most of her peers. She is never shy of speaking her mind on subjects that most Indian champions dread to discuss before the media. On Friday, Tania met and charmed the capital’s mediapersons with her replies. She was quizzed about everything from her chess, to her wardrobe, to her “best friend” P. Hari Krishna and her personal life among other things. Tania’s character came out stronger as she handled the volley of questions with ease and élan. Good show “Honestly, I was only aiming to qualify for the World Cup by finishing in the top three of the Asian championship,” said the 21-year-old about her campaign in Teheran and continued, “call it the ‘Championship luck’ that came by way in the eighth and penultimate round against China’s Huang Qian. It was a dead drawn position when Qian overlooked a check, lost her bishop and eventually the game. The victory left me with needing a draw in the final round for the title.” The Iranian Capital is very dear to Tania since she has always returned with a medal on every appearance in the Asian age-groups championships. “The organisers jokingly offered me citizenship and wanted me to settle down in Teheran since I have done so well there,” said Tania referring to her gold medals in the Asian under-14 (in 2000), the Asian under-16 (2001) and the bronze medal in the Asian junior (in 2002). “This sure is the biggest triumph of my career. The field was very tough with the Chinese and the Vietnamese girls threatening to fill the top three places. Since I had not done so well in the Asian Zonals (in Dhaka last month), I was keen to make amends,” was her candid remark. Thanks her coaches She thanked her coaches Israel’s Lev Psakhis, Poland’s Michal Krasenkow and local International Master Vishal Sareen for guiding her in the past year. “These men helped me gain a lot on the psychological front. But I need to work a lot harder on my opening repertoire before I go for the Asian Indoor Games in Macau and the World Cup,” said Tania whose rating is set to cross the 2400-mark on October 1. When quizzed about the contribution of Grandmaster Hari Krishna to her chess, Tania laughed loudly and said, “Hari and I have been friends since we were nine years old. He is my best pal and we discuss all the chess gossip, but not chess, when we meet. But during tournaments I stay in touch with him and discus my game. I know he is there to help.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

In Memory of All Our Beloved Pets

Saying goodbye to the smartest bird in the world: He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in television shows, scientific reports and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird. But last week Alex, an African gray parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of his life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31. Read the rest of the story at the New York Times here. *************************************************************************************** Losing a beloved "pet" companion - for those who have gone through this, you don't need my words. I've been through it - with Spencer (1999), Jocques (2001) and Tasha (2004). Reading this story about Alex reminded me of something that happened a long time ago - back in the early '70s. I got a phone call from Barb, a friend of mine, and she was crying, upset. It seems her pet parakeet had died; she found him dead at the bottom of his cage that morning - a Saturday morning - and we were both hung-over. In those days, we were the ultimate party animals (you'd never know it by looking at me now, butter wouldn't melt in my mouth, darlings) and we'd been out until the wee hours of the morning the night before. But she needed me. She couldn't bring herself to open up the cage and take him out and bury him. And so I got dressed and jumped on the bus and about an hour later, I arrived at her doorstep. She'd been hoping that perhaps he was just "asleep" at the bottom of the cage, but alas, that wasn't the case. He was gone. And so I gently removed him with a couple of tissues around my hand, placed him into a shoe box lined with more tissues, and we buried him - well, actually, I buried him, because Barb was too distraught to do more than sob - in the backyard of the flat where she was living at the time. We had a wake later that night and soon the house was filled with people dancing to the sounds of Sly and the Family Stone - it lasted until Monday morning and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. underneath a table, with a throbbing head, in need of a massive infusion of protein and an hour to get home, changed and then get into the office. Ahhhhh, those were the days... Barb returned the favor some years later when it was time for me to bury my dog Spencer's ashes. Since I don't drive (never have, never will), she picked me up, took me to a local garden center, and shopped with me for just the right concrete bird bath that I wanted to mark Spencer's last resting place in my backyard. We spotted a beautifully ornate one on clearance at the same time as an older grey-haired couple - there was a race to the spot where it stood and we grabbed it first - literally! The thing seemed to weigh a ton but it was probably just 150 pounds or so. At the garden center the helpful young men trucked it out to the car and loaded it into the trunk. After that, we were on our own. What a fiasco it was unloading the base and the basin from the trunk of Barb's car - just the two of us lightweights (at the time) to do it. We were laughing - and crying - at the same time. When we'd finally maneuvered the bird bath into place (sort of) in my backyard amidst a small grove of young trees, I was covered in grass stains and sweat. I got the shovel out of the garage and dug a hole in the spot I'd picked for Spencer's last resting place. Of course it was filled with tree roots - but I managed to dig a hole large and deep enough in which to place the container of Spencer's ashes. After it was covered, Barb and I rolled the birdbath base over to the spot and then, together, we heaved it up from the ground into place and leveled it as best we could. And then we both heaved the basin up on to the base. Barb solemnly watched as I filled the basin with water. It's 18 years since Spencer died, and that concrete bird bath is still there - centered over Spencer's grave. Still standing, the base is still crooked. I never have been able to get the thing leveled out. Despite my best efforts of "mudjacking," it seems to lean a bit more every year - rather like the leaning Tower of Pisa. The birds love that birdbath; it has seen many generations come and go through the past 19 years of seasons. The small trees that were in the grove at the time the monument was placed have now grown up - some long since removed because of storm damage or removed because there just wasn't room in the grove for them anymore, and the dirt is even more root-locked than ever. I'd never be able to dig out the container of Spencer's ashes now, but it's probably long-since disintegrated and Spencer is back into the earth from which we, all living creatures, originate. Every time I look at that birdbath, I remember Spencer. And think about true friends.

Friday Night - Thank Goddess - Miscellany

Ohmygoddess, what a fricking stressful week! I am soooo glad it's finally over. The weather has turned here - it's going into the 40's tonight and may freeze elsewhere, eek! Less than a week ago I had the central air on, it was in the 90's, hot as hell and so humid the mosquitoes could walk across the air to land on you instead of flying. Enough of that. Here's some chess stuff for you. I read over at Susan Polgar's blog that she has started her own message board. While I'm an admirer of the GM, one thing we don't need is yet another message/discussion board! I expect that after awhile her blog will settle down mostly to folks interested in scholastic chess matters. If you want to write about chess politics, try Groups, chess/rec/politics at Google - but be warned - Sam Sloan hangs out there. If you want depth and range of discussion over a wide range of chess-related subject, IMHO, the Chessville discussion board, which is almost as old as Methuselah, darlings, is simply the best. (The older posts are a source of treasure in and of themselves). The group of "regulars" is friendly and - best of all - generally well-behaved. Check it out. I've been avoiding the subject for the most part, but there is a world championship going on - sort of. I still don't think I have this figured out - but since I don't care much who the heck the man's chess champion is anyway, this is all more or less a gigantic yawn for me, except for Alexander Morozevich. I just think he's so cool - cute too, in a sort of aestete sort of way (he's let himself get way too thin, darlings). I like how he plays chess - a throwback - so some would have it - to the "romantic" tradition of the 19th century, when masters played chess without aid of computers and books of prior games to pour over and study and memorize. Right now Moro is in 8th (last) place (sigh), with 0.5 points after 2 rounds. Since he's the only player I really care about, he's the only one about whom I'll report :) I have found over the years that TWIC is invariably the best source for all chess news. I recommend that if you want to follow the Championship, you do so there. And, for interesting blog discussion on the Championship, follow the action at Mig's "Daily Dirt" at Chess Ninja. I'll post more later - right now I'm taking a break for a late supper!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Islamist Regime in Iran Continues Cultural Genocide

From CAIS: UPDATE: Train Vibrations Threaten Tomb of King Xerxes LONDON, (CAIS) -- Vibrations caused by passing trains are likely to broaden existing cracks in the tomb of Xerxes I and result in its collapse if a nearby railway route becomes operational, archaeologist Mohammad-Taqi Ataii said during a seminar at the University Of Tehran (UT) on September 11. Entitled “Naqsh-e Rustam in Danger”, the one-day colloquium was held to survey the threats from the railway route to the tomb of Xerxes I at the Naqsh-e Rustam site in southern Iran’s Fars Province. “The [Achaemenid] builders of the tomb were aware of the natural cracks in the mountainside and built a canal to divert rainwater to a large pool thus preventing it from flowing into the gaps,” Ataii explained. “The cracks in the rock are already widening as the pool has become full. “This is happening as the result of a natural process and so far people have not made any effort to preserve the massive cliff. The situation will worsen if the railway route becomes operational.” Attaii’s remarks met with protest from an unidentified individual defending the railway project. The man, who must an Islamic regime’s agent who declined to introduce himself, said that according to seismographic studies, vibrations from trains using the railway route would not cause damage to the monuments in the Naqsh-e Rustam region. It has been rumoured that a number of the regime’s officials attending the ceremony denied that the man had any relationship with the railway project. The Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Roads and Transportation has not published the results of the seismographic studies. Experts have previously said that if the railroad, the embankment of which has been constructed at a distance of about 350 meters from Naqsh-e Rustam, were to become operational, train vibrations would eventually damage the monument and cause the destruction of Kaba of Zoroaster less than ten years. In December 2006, the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) and cultural heritage enthusiasts finally convinced the Ministry of Road and Transportation to alter the railway route. However the extent of the modification has not satisfied the CHTHO or the cultural heritage enthusiasts. The modification would place the route at a distance of 500 meters from the Naqsh-e Rustam site. Naqsh-e Rustam is an extremely important historical site since holds four Achaemenid burials including Darius the Great and Xerxes I, which have been carved into the solid rock. The site also contains remnants dating back to the Elamite period as well as the Parthian (248 BCE-224 CE) and Sasanian (224-651 CE) dynastic eras. In recent years the Islamic republic has stepped up its' cultural-cleansing of Iran’s pre-Islamic heritage under the guise of development projects. The regime has undermined and destroyed a number of major cultural landmarks associated with the ancient Iranian history in particularly the Achaemenid and Sasanian dynasties. Since the coming of theocratic regime to power in Iran in 1979, the regime leaders have dedicated significant resources to restructuring Iranian culture and values. Iranians are now vigorously-encouraged to choose Arabic/Islamic names for their children, and a large number of Iranian names have been outlawed. Many pre-Islamic historical and archaeological sites have been devastated under the cover of development projects: destroyed as part of highway and railway track construction; contaminated irreparably by chemical factories; undermined by nearby hotels; obliterated as part of mining; or submerged beneath dam reservoirs. There have even been threats to bulldoze Persepolis. In general, pre-Islamic Iranian heritage has been downplayed and undermined in favour of the promotion of Islamic culture, the Islamic way of life, and above all the Arabic language.

May Matsu Be With You

All healthy cultures have a "goddess" aspect to their existence, even if they don't acknowledge Her as such. Sick cultures (some in the Middle East, for instance) that deny and suppress the divine feminine suffer accordingly, and the longer they try to suppress the other half of the creative force of the universe (the feminine half), the more disfunctional, vicious, warped and perverted they become. What a refreshing change to read about a culture that openly embraces the Goddess concept: Taiwan sends sea goddess to New York to promote UN bid Wed, 12 Sep 2007 15:58:04 GMT Taipei - After sending politicians, scholars, singers and dancers to the United States to support its bid to join the United Nations, Taiwan on Wednesday sent Matsu, the sea goddess, to evoke divine power to help the island have its prayers answered. Matsu, who is revered by Taoists and the Chinese as the protector of seafarers, is worshipped in a sacred and noisy parade with 13 messengers dressed in 2-metre tall colourful costumes. The messengers lead the parade amid exploding firecrackers and the beating of gongs and drums, while Matsu's statue sits in a covered armchair carried by four disciples. This is the spectacle that Taiwan will take to the doors of the UN in New York. Although the Mastsu troupe has officially been invited by a US- based Taiwanese group for performances and cultural exchange, its main purpose is to call attention to Taiwan's fight to join the UN. Taiwan's campaign to join the UN began in 1993, but it has failed each year due to opposition from China which sees self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province. Taipei has no right to join the UN whose membership is open only to sovereign countries, Beijing says. While waiting for its application to be discussed at the UN General Assembly opening on September 18, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry decided to make a noisy push for its UN bid this year with the Matsu ceremony. "Taiwan is a sovereign nation and has the right to join the UN. Our main purpose is to convey this message to the whole world," Lu Ming-sen, board chairman of Fengtien Temple, whose Matsu statue is joining the tour, said before departing from Taoyuan International Airport. Taiwan has hundreds of Matsu temples, and each temple has a Matsu statue. The Mastu tour will last for six days. Its highlight is on September 15 when the troupe will perform the Matsu ceremony in front of the UN headquarters. US-based Taiwanese will line Second Avenue holding burning joss sticks as the Matsu statue, escorted by the 13 sword-waving messengers and musicians, proceeds from 52nd to 42nd Street. [New York City] "This will be a historical moment because the Matsu of the East will meet the Statue of Liberty of the West. Taiwan is determined to become an independent nation and to join the UN. Matsu will lend us (her) power to realize our goal," Lu said. ************************************************************************************** For more information on Matsu (pronounced something like "Ma cho," "macho, macho man, I want to be a macho man... - gives new meaning to the word, don't it...) see Wikipedia.
This is a collection of Chess Checkmate Puzzles that are designed to try and improve your game.
Chess Players like to solve puzzles and mysteries...Here is one that will intrigue a few. Shrinking kilogram bewilders physicists By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press WriterWed Sep 12, 9:06 PM ET A kilogram just isn't what it used to be. The 118-year-old cylinder that is the international prototype for the metric mass, kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing weight — if ever so slightly. Physicist Richard Davis of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, southwest of Paris, says the reference kilo appears to have lost 50 micrograms compared with the average of dozens of copies. "The mystery is that they were all made of the same material, and many were made at the same time and kept under the same conditions, and yet the masses among them are slowly drifting apart," he said. "We don't really have a good hypothesis for it." The kilogram's uncertainty could affect even countries that don't use the metric system — it is the ultimate weight standard for the U.S. customary system, where it equals 2.2 pounds. For scientists, the inconstant metric constant is a nuisance, threatening calculation of things like electricity generation. "They depend on a mass measurement and it's inconvenient for them to have a definition of the kilogram which is based on some artifact," said Davis, who is American. But don't expect the slimmed-down kilo to have any effect, other than possibly envy, on wary waistline-watchers: 50 micrograms is roughly equivalent to the weight of a fingerprint. "For the lay person, it won't mean anything," said Davis. "The kilogram will stay the kilogram, and the weights you have in a weight set will all still be correct." Of all the world's kilograms, only the one in Sevres really counts. It is kept in a triple-locked safe at a chateau and rarely sees the light of day — mostly for comparison with other cylinders shipped in periodically from around the world. "It's not clear whether the original has become lighter, or the national prototypes have become heavier," said Michael Borys, a senior researcher with Germany's national measures institute in Braunschweig. "But by definition, only the original represents exactly a kilogram." The kilogram's fluctuation shows how technological progress is leaving science's most basic measurements in its dust. The cylinder was high-tech for its day in 1889 when cast from a platinum and iridium alloy, measuring 1.54 inches in diameter and height. At a November meeting of

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost AARP

Too funny! From the Wednesday, September 12, 2007; Page C01 We couldn't help feeling deflated after hearing the title of the forever-planned Indiana Jones film: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Huh? The what of the what? It's so graceless, so baffling, so . . . Harry Potter. There are other reasons to beware this fourth exploit of the swashbuckling archaeologist. For example: The Jones saga began more than a quarter-century ago, and its star, Harrison Ford, will soon be eligible for full Social Security payments. Still, there's got to be a more suitable title for a 2008 Indy installment. A few suggestions: • "Indiana Jones and the Pending Hip Replacement" • "Indiana Jones and the Pyramid of Nutrition" • "Indiana Jones and . . . the . . . Hey, You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!" • "Indiana Jones and What Is Cate Blanchett Doing in This Movie?" • "Indiana Jones Poisons the Prune Juice of the Oldest Living Officer of the Third Reich" • "Indiana Jones and Absolutely the Very Last Crusade (Part I)" ************************************************************************************** Yeah, what is Cate Blanchett doing in the movie? This is Karen Allen's movie! Go Marion! By the way, I think she looks absolutely fab in this photo - and Indiana needs some "Just for Men" - but a lighter color than Osama used.

Attack on Giant Pakistan Buddha

Barbaric schmucks - that's what these idiot Taleban are. From BBC News 12 September 2007 Suspected pro-Taleban militants have tried to blow up an ancient carving of Buddha in north-west Pakistan. The statue, thought to date from the second century BC, sustained only minimal damage in the attack near Manglore in remote Swat district. The area has seen a rise in attacks on "un-Islamic" targets in recent months. This is the first such attack in Pakistan and is reminiscent of the Taleban's 2001 destruction of the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. Dynamite Officials and witnesses in Swat said armed men arrived in the area on Monday night. "Militants drilled holes in the rock and filled them with dynamite and blew it up," provincial archaeology department official Aqleem Khan told Reuters news agency. "The explosion damaged the upper part of the rock but there was no damage to the image itself." An eyewitness, Shahid Khan, told the BBC that because of its location on a steep ridge the statue had been only slightly damaged. It is carved into a 40m (130-foot) high rock. Local archaeology expert Professor Pervaiz Shaheen told the BBC that the Buddha statue in Swat valley was considered the largest in Asia, after the two Bamiyan Buddhas. He said it was 2,200 years old. Swat valley is a centre of the ancient Gandhara civilization. "They constructed similar smaller statues and figurines, dozens of which are still present in the area," Prof Shaheen said. Swat has seen increased pro-Taleban activity in recent months, with the re-emergence of militant group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) under new leader, Maulana Fazlullah. Last week, militants blew up about 60 music, video and cosmetics stalls at a market in the valley after stall owners ignored warnings to close businesses deemed un-Islamic. The world watched in shock in March 2001 as Afghanistan's then rulers destroyed the 6th-Century Bamiyan Buddhas. The Taleban said they were offensive to Islam.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Queens - of Egypt

The incredibly regal, beautiful carved chess pieces that stood next to the King from the earliest times weren't originally inspired by a male "vizier" you know, darlings (although a few of them were women, too). It was the King's consort - the Queen - who inspired the highest form of the divine art. Historian Marilyn Yalom hinted at this in her fine book "The Birth of the Chess Queen." But she was - okay, I won't call Yalom chicken, because I respect her too much - I'll call her "circumspect" instead :) She didn't say what needed to be said - that the Queen was ALWAYS present in the earliest forms of chess, and even though not necessarily physically present on the gameboard in the form of a piece, her presence was nonetheless always implicit. It's not your run-of-the-mill chess historian who will say such a thing, though - poor darlings - so many, so suppressed! Yes, I'm in your face about it - but really, even if it doesn't seem so, I am much kinder and gentler about ramming my beliefs down your throat than I used to be when I first started on this quest more than seven years ago... And so, the kinder and gentler Jan (ahem) starts out with an interesting lesson from ancient history. Learn about the real women who were queens in the game of life, not just a carved figure on a chessboard. Joyce Tyldesley's Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt (Thames & Hudson) covers from Early Dynastic times to the death of Cleopatra, a span of some 3000 years of royal ladies. Some of the queens, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Nefertari, and Cleopatra are household names. But here, in splendid detail, and extremely well illustrated, are the other royal ladies. The presentation follows the style of the reviewer's own earlier book on the pharaohs and is a very welcome pair to it - too often the royal ladies of ancient Egypt are sidelined to the greater glory of their husbands, the pharaohs, but here Dr. Tyldesley into the light, where their standing and often remarkable achievements are emphasised. When you learn about the roles of these women - not just the ancient Egyptian queens - and their connection to every aspect of ancient civilization, both religious and secular - and how integrated into the life of every person they were, it is then you will begin to suspect that they had a presence in every board game, despite having been boycotted by history for several thousand years.

2007 Asian Women's Championship

Just concluded, held in Tehran, Iran. I copied out this part of the FIDE rules from the Championship website:

8.1. Cups and Medals will be awarded to the top 3 players in each category.

8.2. According to FIDE regulation $10000 in prize money will be awarded to the top ten players as follows:

1st Place = $1600
6th Place = $ 900
2nd Place = $1400
7th Place = $ 800
3rd Place = $1300
8th Place = $ 700
4th Place = $1200
9th Place = $ 600
5th Place = $1000
10th Place = $ 500

8.3. According to FIDE World Championship Regulation the top three players of the competition will qualify for the next stage.

8.4. The total prize fund will be deducted by 20% to FIDE.

So, FIDE, the cheap bastards, take their 20% cut from the miniscule prize money. Even USCF isn't ballsy enough to do that!

The good news is that the championship has concluded and the ladies get to leave Tehran. Now I've nothing against Tehran, I'm sure it has it's excellent points as far as middle eastern cities go. But just being in that atmosphere as a non-Muslim female - oh my - how depressing!

Here's a news report on the top three finishers - and kudos to Sachdev and to India!

Tania Sachdev wins Asian chess
Tuesday, 11 September , 2007, 21:01

Tehran: Grandmaster norm holder Tania Sachdev won the Asian Women chess championship after drawing with Chinese Ju Wenjun in the ninth and final round of the championship here.

Tania, who turned 21 just a few weeks ago, tallied 6.5 points in all and won the gold medal since she had a better tie-break score than top seed Lufei Ruan of China, who also earned the same number of points but had to be content with the silver.

It turned out to first title victory for Tania apart from those she had secured in age-group tournaments.

The Delhi-based girl did not have to do much in the final-round game with black as Wenjun also played it safe and once the game between Nguyen Thi Thanh An of Vietnam and her compatriot Le Thanh Tu ended in a draw Tania had no doubt about winning the championship. For the record, Nguyen won the Bronze medal with the best tiebreak score.

"I think this is my best result till date, I would even say this overshadows my GM norm a bit as this was a qualification event for the World championship with only three seats amongst so many strong players", Tania said after her title victory was confirmed.

(The rest of the story is from another source):

The national champion, in fact, had a forgettable outing in the just concluded Asian zonals in Bangladesh where she finished third in a field of five players.

“I guess I took my lessons well from the zonal disaster… I guess I was just trying too hard for no apparent reasons there, here was a different story. I just took one game at a time without bothering much about the result, and luckily for me, the right approach clicked”, Tania said.

Women Grandmaster Nisha Mohota finished fourth after a fine last round victory over Tan Zhongyi of China. Nisha finished with six points. In the penultimate round, Tania had defeated second seed Huang Qian of China.

Putting continuous pressure, Tania made her opponent crumble as Huang blundered a piece.

“I don’t think I was too much better but her blunder came as a welcome relief for me,” Tania had said after the game.

In round eight, Nisha had failed to break the ice against Nguyen and signed peace to earn five points. This effectively ended her fight for a berth in the next world championship.

Women GM Eesha Karavade and Aarthie Ramaswamy tasted defeat at the hands of Atousa Pourkashiyan of Iran and Tan Zhongyi of China, respectively, while Swati Ghate recovered a bit following a draw with Navabi Shirin of Iran. Amrutha Mokal also signed peace with Wang Xiaohui of China.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Viking Queen Exhumed

Viking queen exhumed to solve mystery By Alister Doyle Mon Sep 10, 10:00 AM ET SLAGEN, Norway (Reuters) - Archaeologists exhumed the body of a Viking queen on Monday, hoping to solve a riddle about whether a woman buried with her 1,200 years ago was a servant killed to be a companion into the afterlife. As a less gruesome alternative, the two women in the grass-covered Oseberg mound in south Norway might be a royal mother and daughter who died of the same disease and were buried together in 834. "We will do DNA tests to try to find out. I don't know of any Viking skeletons that have been analyzed as we plan to do," Egil Mikkelsen, director of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History, told Reuters at the graveside. As rain pelted down, four men lifted an aluminum coffin containing the bones of two women after digging a 1.5 meter (5 ft) deep hole in the mound where the women were originally buried in a spectacular Viking longboat. The women and the 22-metre (70 ft) longboat, with its curling oak prow still intact, were unearthed in 1904 in the 5-metre high mound, surrounded by cornfields, in one of the archaeological sensations of the 20th century. The longboat, known as the Oseberg ship, is in a museum in Oslo but the bones were reburied in 1948 and have since lain undisturbed. About 200 people, including schoolchildren, watched the exhumation. "We don't know who the women were," Mikkelsen said, adding that DNA tests could tell if they were related. "DNA analysis could prove if they were mother and daughter," he said. "But I have always thought of them as the queen and her maid," he added. If the two women had widely differing DNA it could be a sign that the second woman was a servant. DECAPITATED A servant might have been the victim of a ritual killing, perhaps her throat slit to accompany her queen to an afterlife in Valhalla. In one Danish Viking grave, for instance, an old man lying by a younger man had been decapitated. And new chemical analysis of bones can also tell what people ate. In Viking times meat, such as elk, was prized while poorer people ate fish. "If they were mother and daughter they would probably have had the same food. If one woman was a maid they would have had different diets," Mikkelsen said. The aluminum coffin will be driven to Oslo and opened for analyses, likely to last a year. The archaeologists placed a Norwegian 20 crown coin -- dated 2007 and with a picture of the prow of the Oseberg ship on one side -- in the sarcophagus to show any future generations when the grave had been disturbed. Among those at the graveside was a man dressed as a Viking with a sword hanging from his belt. "This is an experience you get once in a lifetime," said Leszek Gardela, 23, a Polish student of archaeology. Mikkelsen said he saw no ethical objections to opening the grave, partly because the two were buried so long ago and no one even knew their names.

Scary Global Warming Story

Scientists fear ice caps melting faster than predicted Paul Brown in Ilulissat Friday September 7, 2007 Guardian Unlimited The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off. Scientists monitoring events this summer say the acceleration could be catastrophic in terms of sea-level rise and make predictions this February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change far too low. The glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago. Robert Correll, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat today: "We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at two metres an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 metres deep. That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year." Prof Correll is visiting Greenland as part of a symposium of religious, scientific, and political leaders to look at the problems of the island, which has an ice cap 3km thick containing enough water to raise worldwide sea levels by seven metres. Today leaders of Christian, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and Jewish religions took a boat to the tongue of the glacier for a silent prayer for the planet. They were invited by Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Prof Correll, director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington, said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report were conservative and based on data two years old. The predicted rise this century was 20cm to 60cm, but it would be at the upper end of this range at least, he said, and some believed it could be two metres. This would be catastrophic for European coastlines. He had flown over the Ilulissat glacier and "seen gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them." He said ice-penetrating radar showed that this melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a lake 500 metres deep which was causing the glacier "to float on land. These melt-water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic." The glacier is now moving at 15km a year into the sea although in surges it moves even faster. He measured one surge at 5km in 90 minutes - an extraordinary event. Veli Kallio, a Finnish scientist, said the quakes were triggered because ice had broken away after being fused to the rock for hundreds of years. The quakes were not vast - on a magnitude of 1 to 3 - but had never happened before in north-west Greenland and showed the potential for the entire ice sheet to collapse. Prof Correll said: "These earthquakes are not dangerous in themselves but the fact that they are happening shows that events are happening far faster than we ever anticipated."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Code Breakers of the Past History to Be Erased

Here Sat a Ghost of Code-Breakers Past By BOB DRIEHAUS Published: September 10, 2007 CINCINNATI, Sept. 9 — Efforts by preservationists and history enthusiasts to save an Art Deco building in Dayton where a secret program broke Nazi codes have failed to stop plans to relocate some architectural flourishes and raze the rest. Contractors are scheduled to begin removing the building’s crown molding, limestone window sills, stone lintels and bricks on Monday. What is left will be demolished next year to make way for a 50-acre redevelopment on land bought in 2005 by the University of Dayton. University officials ruled that a steel skin that was wrapped around the original 1938 brick and sandstone structure has stripped it of its historic value and made it too expensive to renovate. A study conducted by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office did not find the building to be eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. All sides agree that what occurred inside the building was groundbreaking. In 1942, the National Cash Register Company, working with naval engineers, began work on an advanced version of Polish and British code-breaking machines that unscrambled the German Enigma codes but that became obsolete after German technological advances. A team led by Joseph Desch, an NCR engineer, developed the new code-breakers by early 1943, enabling American forces to decode messages nearly as fast as the Germans who received them and to reroute ships imperiled by German submarines. After D-Day, the machines helped track German troop movements. The university said there would be a permanent exhibit about the code-breakers in Carillon Historic Park, where other Dayton feats are commemorated, including the Wright brothers’ development of the first successful airplane. Salvaged pieces of the NCR building will be incorporated in the exhibit, which will be created by Dayton History, a collaboration of area historic societies and preservationists. Loss of the building was a disappointment to some. “I’d rather walk through Independence Hall than read a plaque that tells us what our Founding Fathers did there,” said Jeff Wray, a Dayton architectural firm owner. Mr. Wray, who specializes in renovating historical buildings, said that peeling away the steel facade could show that the building was worthy of designation on the National Registry of Historic Places. The designation would qualify the project for tax credits that could reduce renovation costs to 40 percent of new construction. Deborah Anderson, a daughter of Mr. Desch, said, “I will be happy to support that exhibit, but I don’t really believe in my heart of hearts that U.D. ever seriously considered keeping the building.” Once the building’s fate was cast, Mrs. Anderson joined a committee to create the exhibit. Brady Kress, president of Dayton History, said his organization had pressed the university as recently as last week to save the building but will now support the exhibit. “At least we want to work with them to save the story,” Mr. Kress said.

Machine Reads Thoughts to Navigate Wheelchair

A fascinating article, amply demonstrating the frontiers of technology. My thought - if we can "send" out thoughts to a machine interphase which can "understand" and carry out the thought/command, why is it so hard to believe that we can also send out thoughts to others' brains directly? Thinking of words can guide your wheelchair 13:02 06 September 2007 news service Tom Simonite A motorised wheelchair that moves when the operator thinks of particular words has been demonstrated by a US company (see video, right). The wheelchair works by intercepting signals sent from their brain to their voice box, even when no sound is actually produced. The company behind the chair, Ambient, is developing the technology with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, in the US. The wheelchair could help people with spinal injuries, or neurological problems like cerebral palsy or motor neurone disease, operate computers and other equipment despite serious problems with muscle control. The system will work providing a person can still control their larynx, or "voice box", which may be the case even if the lack the muscle coordination necessary to produce coherent speech. The larynx control system, called Audeo, was developed by researchers Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain, US, who together also founded Ambient. Restored speech The system works via a sensor-laden neckband which eavesdrops on electrical impulses sent to larynx muscles. It then relays the signals, via an encrypted wireless link, to a nearby computer. The computer decodes these signals and matches them to a series of pre-recorded "words" determined during training exercises. These "words" can then be used to direct the motorised wheelchair. Callahan and Coleman say they can also be sent to a speech synthesiser, allowing a paralysed person to "speak" out loud. Recent refinements to the algorithms used may make it possible to interpret whole sentences thought out by the user. This could potentially restore near-normal speech to people who have not spoken for years, the researchers say. "Everyone working on brain-computer interfaces wants to be able to identify words," says Niels Birbaumer from Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany, who is developing similar systems for use by stroke victims. "If this works reliably I would be very impressed, it is very hard to record signals from nerves through the skin." Space suit applications Birbaumer adds that measuring brain waves using an electrode cap or implants placed directly in the brain has been used to control computers and wheelchairs before, but so far there is little evidence that either method can reproduce either single words or continuous speech. "Recording from outside the brain like this may the only way to do it," he says. On the other hand, reading information directly from the brain is the only way to help people with very severe spinal injuries. "I have some patients not even able to send nerve signals to the muscles in their face," he told New Scientist. "In those cases you have to try and interface with the brain." Ramaswamy Palaniappan, who works on EEG-based brain computer interfaces at Essex University, agrees this is a limitation. "The main advantages of their device are that that it is very portable, not cumbersome to set-up, and the ease of use," he told New Scientist. NASA produced a similar system to Audeo system in 2004. This can recognise a handful of short words and numbers, and the individual letters of the alphabet. The agency hopes to eventually integrate the technology into spacesuits.

Blast Victim's Kin Seeks Goddess' Help

Radhika Iyer Sunday, September 9, 2007 (Hyderabad) It's been more than two weeks since the twin blasts in Hyderabad changed the lives of the victims forever. Forensic experts say the bomb at Gokul Chaat was placed on top of an ice-cream machine that was five feet high. Which is why, many have suffered injuries on the face, chest and head, and 35-year-old Lakshmi is one of them. Her husband Ramachander has been visiting a temple inside a hospital in Hyderabad ever since she was brought in there two weeks ago. He hopes Goddess Lakshmi will send his wife Lakshmi home soon. She slipped into a coma since the night of the bomb blasts.' 'I pray that my wife returns home. We never fought madam. We were always cordial,'' said P Ramachander, Lakshmi's husband. Lakshmi was shopping at Koti that rainy Saturday with her two sisters whom she had met after many months. They decided to have ice cream at Gokul Chaat without realizing that a bomb was placed right on top of the ice-cream machine. ''Just kill them. Why interrogate? Even the Mecca Masjid bomb should not have happened. Whatever may be the religion of those who die, they are after all humans,'' said P Ramachander, Lakshmi's husband. Lakshmi's three children aged between 12 and 16 have not gone to school the last two weeks. Moving on is not easy when your world has come crashing down.

More Than a Mere Game

Chess with Errol Tiwari More than a mere game Sunday, September 9th 2007 In an age dominated by religious zeal and ideological fanaticism, the development and promotion of chess is crucial. Chess is a sobering philosophical pastime that transports you away from the exhausting world of violence, confusion and uncertainty. When you face an opponent over the board, you distance yourself in mind from the ugly travails of international conflicts and the extreme difficulties which confront you every day on the home front. The game has a soothing effect on its devotees. It is little wonder, therefore, that it is so meaningful to the powerful, such as CEOs, chairmen, managing directors, ministers of government, prime ministers and presidents, who will keep a chess board and pieces routinely at hand always, to be used when required to assuage the tension caused by belligerents scattered across the globe. For the modern state and its rulers, chess is more than a mere game. It is a weapon that is used by nations to make a statement. If ideology necessarily determines foreign policy, then the Fischer-Spassky World Championship chess match of 1972 was no sunny afternoon tea-party encounter. It was a metaphor for the Cold War. It was the clash of two completely different cultures: one American, and the other Soviet. It was a battle of ideas, political systems and ideologies in the form of an actual chess match waged with great skill, tension and tenacity across a wooden board of 64 squares. We see clearly the interconnection between chess and the conduct of international relations. One news item described Fischer's refusal to play for the championship as "the greatest American disaster since Pearl Harbour." The championship was never about two grandmasters moving pieces and pawns around a chess board. It was about an intellectual engagement, perhaps a confrontation, between the two most powerful nation states in the universe. It was a tactical and strategic mind game between two countries at the height of tensions during the Cold War in which the winner put a stamp on his country's claim to intellectual superiority. Two weeks ago, China stunned the world by defeating Russia in a chess match in Russia. Each country fielded a team of 10 players, male and female, and China prevailed by the handsome margin of 52 ½-47 ½points. Of course, Russia did not field its strongest grandmasters who are preparing to play in the World Championship tournament in Mexico City, but China also did not commit at least one of its biggest names in the game. At the moment, China is engaging England in a similar match with a team of ten also, but this time the Chinese have introduced Hou Yifan, a 13-year-old prodigy who is ranked No 4 in the world among women. Hou, however, will play as a male member of her team and will oppose only male members of the English team. She is being fed a steady diet of tough competition, training perhaps, for full participation among males in a fashion similar to Judit Polgar. In Mexico City, a third world country, India, has the highest ranking among chess-playing nations. Viswanathan Anand has a FIDE rating of 2792, way ahead of the world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Russia, India, Armenia, Hungary and Israel are represented at the tournament which begins on Wednesday. On the local chess scene, the Steering Committee for the Development of Chess has begun preparations for hosting of the country's National Chess Championship. A seven-round swiss system qualification tournament will begin next Sunday to determine 10 players for participation in a double round-robin championship tournament later in the year. This tournament will be played on two successive Sundays at the time control of one hour and fifteen minutes per player per game, and is open to all chess players in Guyana. The committee is currently engaged in a drive to obtain members for the new Guyana Chess Federation. Persons wishing to become members can contact Mr Irshad Mohamed on Tel. 664-1650 and Mr Shiv Nandalall on Tel. 623-7723. Karjakin v Yusupov Sergey Karjakin is a teenage grandmaster who has already defeated world champion Vladimir Kramnik . He is respected for his prowess in sharp positions. In the following game he outplays the renowned Artur Yusupov, a former world title contender, celebrated chess trainer and author. Karjakin plays the endgame flawlessly and forces his opponent into a Zugzwang situation in the end. [Diagram at top] A Yusupov (2583) - S Karjakin (2678) NH Tournament Amsterdam, 2007 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 cxd4 6.exd4 Bf5! The move is routine but has a tactical point.7.Nh4 Bg4 8.Be2 Allowing the exchange of Black's problem piece, but if 8.Qb3 Qd6 9.Qxb7 Qe6+) 8...Bxe2 9.Qxe2 e6 Black is very comfortable with his bad bishop exchanged and a slight lead in development.10.Nb3 Qc7 11.g3 0-0-0 12.Bf4 Bd6 13.Bxd6 Qxd6 14.0-0-0 Qc7 15.Nf3 Ne4 16.Kb1 Rhe8 17.Nfd2 Nd6 18.Rhe1 f6! 19.Qh5 g6 20.Qf3 Qf7 21.Nf1 g5 22.Ne3 h5 23.Nc5 b6 24.Nd3 Kb7 25.Ka1 a5 26.Rc1 e5! 27.dxe5 (27.Qxd5 e4 traps the knight) 27...fxe5 28.Qxf7+ Nxf7 29.Rcd1 g4! (Securing an outpost on f3 for knight) 30.Nc1 d4 31.cxd4 exd4 32.Nc2 Nfe5 33.Re4 Nf3 34.Rxe8 Rxe8 35.Kb1 Re4 36.Nd3 Nce5 37.Nxe5 Rxe5 38.Kc1 Re4! 39.Rd3 Kc6 40.Kd1 b5 41.b3 b4 42.Kc1 Kc5 43.Kd1 Re5 White Resigns! 0-1. Final position after 43...Re5. The knight and rook are trapped and 44.Kc1 Re2 wins.

Divination by Reading a Liver

It was the ancient Sumerians and later, the Babylonians, who first tried to determine the answers to specific questions by reading the liver of a sacrificed animal. The graphic is a model of a liver marked with "points" that was used to train student specialists in liver-reading. The practice spread to other areas of the Middle East. The clay model is rather suggestive of a board game, isn't it.

This article about excavation of Hatzor in northern Israel mentions the discovery of some tablets about liver-reading:

A city of stature in days of old
By Ran Shapira

About two weeks before the end of the last excavation season at Tel Hatzor, in July, a clay tablet with hieroglyphic was found. The tablet teaches how to forecast the future with an animal liver, a practice common in the ancient East.

The priests would examine the liver of an animal that had been sacrificed to the gods and use it to predict the future. The tablet found at Hatzor has not yet been deciphered, but its hieroglyphics are reminiscent of the style of early documents from the ancient kingdom of Mari on the Euphrates, in what is today Syria. Mari was an important political center during the Middle Bronze Age, in the years 2000-1500 B.C.E., and Hatzor was the only city in the Land of Israel that had connections with it at that time.

The ties between the two cities were described in 20 documents found in an archive in Mari. The documents from Mari address the importance of Hatzor, the commercial caravans that passed through it, the emissaries sent there and the musicians and singers who lived there. In the 18th century B.C.E., Hatzor underwent a process of expansion and growth. The city was apparently founded at the end of the Early Bronze Age, in the third millenium B.C.E., on the upper part of what is now the tel.

Read rest of article here (a history of Hatzor).
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