Monday, November 20, 2017

Paul Morphy: Honored in Louisiana

It's not often I write about a male chessplayer, but it's also not often an American newspaper writes an article about a chessplayer, especially one who has been dead for over 100 years, so kudos to The New Orleans Advocate for honoring Paul Morphy, one of the early American stars of international chess in the 1800s and a true master at the open game.

300 unique New Orleans moments: Legendary chess player Paul Morphy born in French Quarter in 1837

Engraving of Paul Morphy by Winslow Homer appearing in Ballou's Pictorial (1859)
from Wikipedia 
“Genius is a starry word; but if there ever was a chess player to whom that attribute applied, it was Paul Morphy,” according to American chess Grandmaster Andrew Soltis.
Morphy was a child chess prodigy who grew up in New Orleans, the son of a Louisiana Supreme Court justice who learned chess simply by watching the game. At the age of 12, he won two games and had one draw against a famous Hungarian chess player.
The next year, Morphy went to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and then attended law school at the University of Louisiana, which later became Tulane University. He finished his law degree when he was 20, one year shy of being able to practice law. While he waited to practice law, he became determined to beat all the great chess players in the United States and Europe.
He won the first American Chess Congress in New York in 1857 and received a prize from Oliver Wen-dell Homes. He traveled to England to play Howard Staunton, considered the best player in Europe. Staunton, however, refused to meet Morphy. Morphy defeated every other comer who would play him, including in a blindfold tournament in which he defeated eight opponents in another room. Morphy returned to New Orleans a celebrity.
He attempted to start a law practice, but it was said he was un-able to get his clients to talk about anything but chess. He died of a stroke in 1884. In 1964, Chess great Bobby Fischer said of Morphy: “In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today ... Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived."
Editor's note: This article was changed Nov. 20 to correct where Morphy attended law school.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Oops! Archeologists Were Wrong - There ARE Women in Cahokia Burial Mount 72!

Here is another story that I emailed to myself in August, 2016 that I didn't get around to posting - until here and now.  It's IMPORTANT, too. 

This story is by Live Science, but I found it at CBS News:

Ancient burial mound reveals role of women in "America's 1st city"

An important burial mound belonging to the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia, near present-day St. Louis, contains both men and women, not just men as previous studies had suggested.

The remains of women and a child have been discovered at a burial mound at Cahokia, considered North America's first city, which previously was thought to hold only men, researchers say.
A closer look at a grave at Cahokia, located in Illinois near St. Louis, Missouri, has revealed that a blanket of beads is intertwined around a man and a woman of high status.
"In re-examining the beaded burial, we discovered that the central burial included females," study co-author Kristin Hedman, a physical anthropologist with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), said in a statement. "This was unexpected." [Cahokia to Area 51: The 10 Strangest Places on Earth]
Archaeologist Melvin Fowler, who died in 2008, discovered the enormous burial ground in 1967 during the excavation of an unusual mound with a ridgetop. The site, now called Mound 72, contained five mass graves, each holding 20 to more than 50 bodies. There were dozens of other bodies buried by themselves or in groups at the site, bringing the total count to 270, Fowler found.
Scientists dated the burials to between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1200, during the rise and peak of Cahokia's power and influence, the researchers said. Some of the bodies were placed on cedar piles, indicating that they were high-status individuals, according to the researchers.
"Mound 72 burials are some of the most significant burials ever excavated in North America from this time period," said study co-author and ISAS Director Thomas Emerson.
Grave problems
Several analyses of the burials haven't held up, however. Mound 72 holds two central bodies that are placed top of each other. These bodies are separated and surrounded by a blanket of beads, and several other bodies from the same time period surround them.
Fowler and other archaeologists thought that these bodies were two high-status men who were surrounded by servants. Moreover, the beads look like a beaded cape or blanket that was originally shaped like a bird, they said.
The bird motif is usually related to warriors and supernatural beings in Native American cultures, so Fowler suggested that the two central males represented mythical warrior chiefs, the researchers said.
Once this interpretation was made public, many experts viewed Cahokia as "a male-dominated hierarchy," Emerson said.
A fresh look
When Emerson and his colleagues re-examined the evidence -- including the archaeologists' maps, notes and reports -- they came to a conclusion different from Fowler's. For instance, the early archaeologists said there were only six bodies associated with the beaded burial, but the new team found 12.
Moreover, a skeletal analysis revealed that the high-status pair weren't two men, but a man and a woman. The bodies near the power couple are also male-female pairs, and one individual was a child, the researchers said.
"The fact that these high-status burials included women changes the meaning of the beaded burial feature," Emerson said. "Now, we realize we don't have a system in which males are these dominant figures and females are playing bit parts. And so, what we have at Cahokia is very much a nobility. It's not a male nobility. It's males and females, and their relationships are very important." [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

Stunning Jewelry Discovered in Tomb of Northern Wei Dynasty Female from 1,500 Years Ago

I am cleaning out my old email today.  I often email myself links to stories to post here, and sometimes they fall between the cracks.  This one is one of those stories, from August of - 2016!  A wonderful discovery, though.  What is disappointing is that the tomb was excavated in 2011 and the story didn't come out until some five years later.  And now here I am, publishing it more than a year after it first hit the main stream media.

By the way - this isn't an original report on modern-day archaeological by Fox News (that would be a unique event in the annals of history if it ever happens).  The article is from Live Science, LOL!

Ancient bling: Exquisite jewelry found in tomb of Chinese woman

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

Two gold earrings were found beside Farong's skull in Datong City, China.
Two gold earrings were found beside Farong's skull.  Photo courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics.
Around 1,500 years ago, at a time when China was divided, a woman named Farong was laid to rest wearing fantastic jewelry, which included a necklace of 5,000 beads and "exquisite" earrings, archaeologists report.
Her tomb was discovered in 2011 in Datong City, China, by a team of archaeologists with the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology who were surveying the area before a construction project. The researchers excavated the tomb, conserved the artifacts and reconstructed the necklace.
Farong's tomb was dug into the ground, and her skeleton (which is now in poor condition) was found lying in a coffin archaeologists said. [See Photos of Farong's Burial and Exquisite Jewelry]
"The skull rests on a pillow of lime, and inside the pillow are two bricks with rope patterns," the archaeologists wrote recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. Her age at death is unknown.
Her epitaph, found by the tomb entrance, reads simply, "Han Farong, the wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen" (as translated in the journal article). In China, the surname is traditionally written first and the given name second.
While no other burials were found in Farong's tomb, the archaeologists did discover two other tombs nearby that are in the process of being studied.
Based on the design of Farong's tomb, and the artifacts found inside it, the archaeologists determined she lived around 1,500 years ago, a few decades before the collapse of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), which controlled part of northern China. According to historical records, Datong City, where the woman was buried, was the dynasty's capital until 494.

"Exquisite" earrings

The two earrings the archaeologists found are difficult to describe in words. Made of gold, the earrings contain images of dragons and a human face.
"The human figure has curly hair, deep-set eyes and a high nose; wears a pendant with a sequin-bead pattern on its neck; and has inverted lotus flowers carved under its shoulders," wrote archaeologists in the journal article. The earrings are also decorated with gold, teardrop-shaped designs inlaid with gemstones, as well as gold chains and amethysts that would have hung down the sides of Farong's face.

"In recent years, many gold earrings have been unearthed from Northern Wei dynasty tombs, but the earrings unearthed from this tomb are surely some of the most exquisite," the archaeologists wrote.
Earrings with similar designs were found in 1978 in northern Afghanistan, a sign that the Northern Wei dynasty had strong cultural ties with people in central Asia, the archaeologists said.

Lots of beads

Farong was laid to rest wearing a necklace made of about 5,000 beads. The thread that held the necklace together had decomposed; however, "since the distribution [of the beads] was very concentrated, it was possible to reconstruct it based upon the position of the pieces at the time of excavation," the archaeologists wrote.
The necklace "consists of 10 large and small gold beads, nine flat gold pieces, two crystals, 42 pearls, and more than 4,800 small glass beads," the archaeologists wrote. "The small beads are the size of millet grains, some black and some green, and all are oblate, each with a perforation in the middle."
An article reporting the discovery of Farong's tomb was published in 2015, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu. This article was translated into English in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Original Goddesschess Website: Status Update II

Hola, darlings!

I am happy to report that according to my new webhost, all of the Goddesschess files that create the gigantic original website have been transferred from my old webhost to the new one.  Giant sigh of relief.  However, they won't handle transferring files from the Internet Archive that actually captured a more current version of the Goddesschess website from May 2012 (five months before Don McLean's death in October of that year) as part of the "one free move" deal they offer to new sites.  So, I will have to attempt to tackle that myself.  Please pray to Caissa to grant me success!

Yesterday, I "believe" I managed to give the Goddesschess domain registrar online instructions to "repoint the DNS" to the new host's servers.  Fingers crossed it works - it might take up until tomorrow for it to go through.  I've no idea how that works.  Anyway, once that is done, I will officially "FIRE" my former webhost and then move on to Phase II - getting the updated Goddesschess files imported into the existing website files.

That's where I'm at right now.  After all this work, aggravation and frustration, I am feeling I should write at least one epic piece about - something - on chess (I've no idea what) that will live in the annals of chess herstory forever and ever!  For the time being, at least, the site that shows the evolution of the small band of dedicated folks known as Goddesschess who came together originally in December of 1998, reduced these days to, essentially, moi, will keep the site online. 

Man Deutch (WHO???) Versus World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen

This is very entertaining - and actually true.  Deutch is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the video comes straight from its own website:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Original Goddesschess Website: Status Update

Hola darlings!

As many of you may know, our dear webmaster and one of the founding partners of the Goddesschess Partnership, Don McLean, passed away unexpectedly on October 12, 2012. He had taken over the webmaster duties for the Goddesschess website in 2004.  I continued to research and write occasional articles through the ensuing years, as did Isis/Georgia (she would email text to me), and I would format things in an ancient edition of Microsoft's Front Page 2000 used to create "what you see is what you get" web pages (no html coding knowledge required), and then - in a way I no longer remember - would somehow get the material "published" to an unpublished page on the web host and give the file name to Don to go in and "fix it up" with his own webpage creator, Dream Weaver.  Somehow, it all worked.  LOL.

By 2012, however, while I was still managing to use my old Front Page program on a very old Windows XP desktop, I had pretty much forgotten how to use the program to do much of anything else.  To make a long story short, after Don's death, the website sat for two years, essentially, untouched.  Don had all of the Goddesschess site files on one of his Mac computers, and I did not have access to any of those computers, nor did I know passwords, etc. to either access his computer(s) to try and find the correct files if I'd arranged with Don's sister to get access to them, or know what to do with the files if I had them!  Our Goddesschess website seemed - doomed.

I'd always intended to do new stuff for the G-chess website, but somehow, it just didn't happen.  I'd lost a lot of heart after Don's death, and concentrated on this blog and a new one I'd started up that was totally unrelated to chess. We'd both suffered through a lot during that Summer of Hell in 2012, health wise, and I'd received a dooming prognosis of death within 3 years while Don was ultimately given a relatively clean bill of health after a procedure to correct diagnosed atrial fibrilation.  Sadly, Don did not live out 2012.  I did, although at the time all I wanted to do after his death was die, too. 

I survived.  Guess I'm just too damn stubborn to die. My own heart condition is stable, my lungs are good.  My health is much better now than it was that horrid summer of 2012.

Then, in the spring of 2014, Mircrosoft stop updating their venerable XP OS and users were warned NOT to use it.  My old Front Page program ONLY worked on my XP system, although I did try it on my Windows 7 laptop at the time (reading elsewhere that it should work) I could not get it to work.  Frustration, all around.  Even if I had wanted to use XP at that point to post new material to Goddesschess, I was AFRAID that something dreadful would happen if I used an unprotected OS to try and add that material to our website.  Prior to the loss of security support updates in 2014, however, I posted a note on the website I had downloaded indicating what the problems were and why we were having them.  That was the last time anything was added to the Goddesschess website.

I ended up using my old Front Page program prior to the expiration of Microsoft's XP service pack and security updates to download an older version of the entire Goddesschess website from the Internet Archive, and then uploaded it all via Front Page's FTP function to a new web host.  Goddesschess reappeared back online!

What I did not realize at the time was that the site I had downloaded was only current at that time through April, 2011. The note I did in 2014 is there - on the April, 2011 opening page for Goddesschess that showcases Don's "Random Round-up," that he created on a monthly basis to keep Goddesschess "fresh."  The website prior to Don experiencing technical issues with our then current web host and then his health problems had been updated monthly between April, 2011 through May, 2012, so a year's worth of Don's wonderful monthly "Random Round-up" work had been left off of 

I didn't realize this until - get ready for it - YESTERDAY!

How could this have happened, you say.  Well - I would not have even realized it, except that at SOME point in time, I added a link to what I called the "original Goddesschess website" at this blog.  And guess what - that link takes me to a website that is updated through May, 2012!  The reason I even clicked on that old link yesterday is because ----

---- (does this remind you of Donald J. Trump's "....." lead-ins in his tweets at Twitter as read by Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show"?) after discovering several days ago that I was being charged more than TWICE the price for the identical service that my then web host was charging others, and spending hours on the telephone with them, they refused to reduce the price to less than around $35 more than what they were offering the same service for to other websites!  So I decided the only smart thing to do was (1) move the Goddesschess website to a new and far less expensive web host and (2) file a complaint against the former web host with the Better Business Bureau.  For the time being, I am not mentioning the rip-off artist web host.  The worst of it is, last year I paid the same amount that was more than twice as much as advertised and didn't question it, I just paid it, DUH. (The bill comes due around this time, yearly.)

You do NOT advertise a service for about $80 a year and then turn around and charge your customer $179.40 for the SAME SERVICE and then ARGUE ABOUT IT ON THE TELEPHONE.  Do you see the steam coming out of my ears?

I have a new web host, and the web host offers a free migration of files service which was ideal for me, since I had no clue how I would do it all, otherwise!  And thus, today, when I was notified that the files from the "old" host had been moved to the new host, and I was asked to look things over (it took me a couple of hours to figure out how to do THAT - please, do not get me started...) to see if everything was okay, I realized that a year's worth of more current files were missing from the Goddesschess website.


So, I emailed the new host and explained the problem as best I could in non-technical language, because I have no idea how to explain it in technical language, LOL.  For instance, I think it's silly to call moving a file or an entire website "migration" instead of just calling it "moving a file or an entire website." 

So - this isn't over yet, but I am hoping for as happy an ending as I can get at this stage in my non-website creating "career."  Hopefully, soon there will be a available online containing Don McLean's final year of work.  I'll figure out SOME way to get it done, one way or another.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Nishapur Chess Set Offered for Sale by Sotheby's


I receive advertisements from Sotheby's regarding various auctions they are hosting all around the globe.  To make a long story short, here is an offering from a recent auction held in London on October 25, 2017, Arts of the Islamic World.

Chess Collectors International members may most likely recognize the name of the owner:  Lothar Schmid (1928 - 2013), from his collection:

Image from Sotheby's auction website.

Sixteen (16) pieces of ivory described as "a rare Saminid part chess set, Nishapur, 10th/11th century, or earlier."  Estimated auction value was between 15,000 and 20,000 GBP (roughly $19,600 - $26,200 USD).

The pieces were evidently not sold (auction lot 138).  [Two rock crystal "Fatimid chess pieces" from the Lothar Schmid collection were also offered at this sale and also did not sell, Lots 136 and l37.]

I am having a few problems with asserting the age and authenticity of these pieces.  The catalog claims that these pieces are of a "set"  - nearly a complete set - and are as old as the dating range suggests:  " almost complete chess set of this early period."  Sixteen pieces, some from "each" side (I am assuming the somewhat darker colored ivory pieces are the "black" pieces and the lighter pieces are the "white" pieces, or the colored equivalents of what was prevalent in use back in that time period), are not a complete chess set of 32 pieces.

Setting aside one's reliance upon Grandmaster Schmid's collecting expertise (despite the fact that we know experts can be and have been fooled by clever forgeries of nearly everything in the world of art and collecting in the past and present), I have some qualms about assuming these pieces are authentic:

(1)  We have only one source cited for reference, a 1987 article in German from a publication that, you can be sure, is most likely not available online and would need to be translated by anyone who does not read/speak German.

(2)  We know nothing about how the pieces were acquired, when, where, or the circumstances surrounding their discovery/excavation.  Were the pieces individually carbon date tested to confirm age?  What were the circumstances of their discovery?  Who, what, when and where were the pieces discovered or excavated?  How did they come into the possession of Grandmaster Schmid?

(3)  Were the pieces purchased at the auction and, if so, by a museum?  My first assumption is that, given the rarity of such pieces, many museums would have been vying for ownership of the pieces to add to a collection of Islamic art and history -- IF (and that's a big IF) the curator(s) trusted their authenticity.

The pieces certainly LOOK authenticate; but then, remember what happened with the allegedly ancient gameboards supposedly excavated at Jiroft - and how they were exposed as frauds by a (now retired) research fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Oscar White Muscarella.

Most Scientists Now Reject Idea That First Americans Came By Land

Great synopsis of research that has led scientists to conclude that man first travelled here by water, not overland (or over ice) routes.


Most scientists now reject the idea that the first Americans came by land

Researchers embrace the kelp highway hypothesis in “a dramatic intellectual turnabout.”

It's been one of the most contentious debates in anthropology, and now scientists are saying it's pretty much over. A group of prominent anthropologists have done an overview of the scientific literature and declare in Science magazine that the "Clovis first" hypothesis of the peopling of the Americas is dead.
For decades, students were taught that the first people in the Americas were a group called the Clovis who walked over the Bering land bridge about 13,500 years ago. They arrived (so the narrative goes) via an ice-free corridor between glaciers in North America. But evidence has been piling up since the 1980s of human campsites in North and South America that date back much earlier than 13,500 years. At sites ranging from Oregon in the US to Monte Verde in Chile, evidence of human habitation goes back as far as 18,000 years.

In the 2000s, overwhelming evidence suggested that a pre-Clovis group had come to the Americans before there was an ice-free passage connecting Beringia to the Americas. As Smithsonian anthropologist Torben C. Rick and his colleagues put it, "In a dramatic intellectual turnabout, most archaeologists and other scholars now believe that the earliest Americans followed Pacific Rim shorelines from northeast Asia to Beringia and the Americas."

Now scholars are supporting the "kelp highway hypothesis," which holds that people reached the Americas when glaciers withdrew from the coasts of the Pacific Northwest 17,000 years ago, creating "a possible dispersal corridor rich in aquatic and terrestrial resources." Humans were able to boat and hike into the Americas along the coast due to the food-rich ecosystem provided by coastal kelp forests, which attracted fish, crustaceans, and more.
No one disputes that the Clovis peoples came through Beringia and the ice free corridor. But the Clovis would have formed a second wave of immigrants to the continent.
Despite all the evidence for human habitation, ranging from tools and butchered animal bones to the remains of campfires, scientists are still uncertain who the pre-Clovis peoples were. We have many examples of Clovis technology, with characteristic shapes for projectile points made from bone and stone. But we have no recognizable pre-Clovis toolkit.

That may be about to change, however. The pre-Clovis people traveled along a now-drowned coastline, submerged after the last of the ice-age glaciers melted. New techniques in marine archaeology, ranging from ROVs to underwater lasers, are helping scientists explore ancient submerged villages. A team even turned up a 14,500-year-old campsite in Florida in a blackwater sinkhole last year. [Would these "campers" have travelled from Europe?]

Rick and his colleagues write that the big question now is when pre-Clovis people actually arrived in the Americas. They suggest the arrival could be as early as 20,000 years ago on the verdant kelp highway. Other researchers, however, say people could have arrived during a temperate period about 130,000 years ago. A recent paper in Naturedescribes what appear to be the 130,000-year-old butchered remains of mastodons in California, along with sharp stones used to deflesh the animals. There is plenty of skepticism in the scientific community about this discovery, but the evidence can't be ignored.
To the best of our knowledge, the kelp highway brought humans to the Americas. Using boats and fishing tools, humans made it all the way from Asia to the Americas, founding many coastal communities along the way. And now for the next debate: who were they, and when exactly did they arrive?
Science, 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5473 (About DOIs).

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

St. Louis Chess and Scholastic Center: Champions Showdown November 9 - 14, 2017

A big line-up but, sadly, ALL males.  I won't be paying attention, except to mention in passing that I'm glad to see the names of some veterans like Grischuk and Topalov.  You can find more information at the Club website

It will be a nice pay-off for all players, with $60,000 going to the winner of each of four pairings and $40,000 going to the "second place" finisher of each of the four pairings, for a total prize package of $400,000. 

There will also be a grand opening reception at the World Chess Hall of Fame "Global Moves: Americans in Chess Olympiads."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Final Results for the Chess Femmes, Hales Corners Chess Challenge XXVI

[I updated the post at 8:31 AM on October 16th to reflect ALL of the female players in the Open Section (I had somehow managed to leave Megan Chen off the list yesterday, sorry Megan) and to update the percentage calculations for female participation.]

Hola everyone!

It seems the bad weather may have greatly depressed turn-out this year for HCCCXXVI overall, but we had a great turn-out of chess femmes yesterday and I'm thrilled to report their results here.  The Sun is back today (after much needed rain that pleased this gardener), hooray!

FIRST TIME EVER (if my failing memory serves me correctly) - A HALES CORNERS CHESS CHALLENGE HAS BEEN WON BY A CHESS FEMME!!!!!!!  Okay, so I'm over the Moon, LOL.  Anupama Rajendra (2105) won straight up with 4.0 outright, so she took home the HCCC first place prize money as well as an additional $200 of Goddesschess prize money for 4 Ws AND an extra $80 for the Goddesschess perfect score prize in the Open (awarded only to chess femmes).

My chess buddy and a great chess mentor in Sheboygan, WI, Ellen Wanek, who has played in the past several Spring and Fall HCC Challenges, sent me two photos of the chess femmes and there were 12.  Me bad, ladies, sorry - I only know who a few of you are with any certainty so I've left names off:

What a gorgeous group of chess femmes!

A total of 51 players registered (31 in the Open, 20 in the Reserve).  A ratio of 14 chess femmes to 51 total players yields a female player participation rate of 27.45%  Holy Cassia!  That's the best yet, ever ever EVER!

So, without further ado, here is how the chess femmes did (Goddesschess prizes):

OPEN 6/31 = 19.35% chess femme participation rate:

Anupama Rajendra (2105), 4.0.  $280 total - $200 ($50 x 4 Ws) plus $80 for perfect score prize.  She also will receive Goddesschess paid entry fee should she choose to play in HCCC XXVII in Spring, 2018.

Rachel Ulrich (2196), 3.0.  $100.

Susanna Ulrich (1851), 1.5.  $75.

Gauri Menon (1666), 2.0.  $100.

Madeline Weber (1569), 2.0.  $100.

Megan Chen (1673), 2.0.  $100.

RESERVE 8/20 = a whopping 40% chess femme participation rate:

Simran Bhatia (1554), 3.0.  $60.  Also will receive Goddesschess paid entry fee should she choose to play in HCCC XXVII in Spring, 2018. 

Aradh Kaur (1436), 3.0.  $60.

Sandra Hoffman (1428), 2.0.  $40.

Ellen Wanek (1273), 1.0.  $20.

Mansha Ghai (1220), 2.0.  $40.

Radhika Gupta (1100), 2.0.  $40.

Olivia Schaenzer (1164), 2.0. $40.

Runxin He (UNR), 1.0.  $10.

There are photographs from Round 3 at the Southwest Chess Club blog, many showing the chess femmes in action.  Full cross-tables at USCF.

The Don McLean Awards (for male players only in the October Challenges) were won by Anthony Parker (2225, 3.5) in the Open ($100) and Alexander Jentsch (1473, 3.5) in the Reserve ($50).
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