Saturday, May 5, 2007

Goddesschess in Amsterdam 2001

Ricardo Calvo was instrumental in getting us invitations to the IGK Symposium that took place in Amsterdam at the end of November, 2001 at the Max Euwe Centrum. Because he could not attend, I read a paper prepared by Dr. Louis Cazaux to the assembled group.

Goddesschess did a big production - a 200 page spiral bound booklet containing original research by Don, Isis and I. We brought 30 copies with us, ran out and had 30 more made, and still there weren't enough! We spent six days in Amsterdam and had plenty of time for sight-seeing. This is a shot of Don with Michelle (Isis' daughter), taken outside Madame Taussaud's Wax Museum. Michelle (aged 12 in this photo) is now a lovely young lady who will graduate from high school in June, going on to college in the fall. How quickly time passes.
If you'd like to read my paper on Goddess Iconography in Ancient Board Games, you can read it here.

You can read more about the 2001 IGK symposium in Amsterdam here (scroll down to IGK 2001 Amsterdam for a Table of Contents).

How You Ask the Question May Determine the Answer

Hola darlings! It's Saturday evening and I've been working on an article about the Nishapur chess pieces most of the day - time to take a break!

When I first read this article in Newsweek Magazine in 1999, I was so struck by it that I saved it. The principles it teaches continue to speak to me today: (1) The socialization associated with being a male or female colors our assumptions; (2) those underlying assumptions color our perceptions; (3) those perceptions govern how we interact with others and function in larger society.

The thing is, assumptions can be changed - and once these are changed, our perceptions change too. These principles are key to re-defining the perceptions that males and females have about each other and how we interact with each other - and also key to how females can release themselves from the "trap" of inferior expectations when it comes to chess (and every other area of life).

Newsweek June 28, 1999
From Both Sides Now
Women do research the same way men do, but the questions they ask nature may be different. Has feminism changed science?
Author: Sharon Begley With Thomas Hayden Edition:
Section: SocietyPage: 64

One story from the annals of science seems destined to become a minor classic among certain biologists, and it is no coincidence that it concerns sex. Out on the Western plains, biologists were studying herds of mustangs, in which the reigning stallion was believed to have the sole right to procreate. Then a researcher got the bright idea of running DNA tests on the horses. As paternity tests often do, these proved embarrassing: fewer than one third of the herd's foals had been sired by the resident stallions. Instead, mares had snuck over to other herds, mating with males there. Blinded by the "harem" metaphor of mustang social structure, researchers had not even looked for such female behavior.

As such examples accumulate, more and more scholars are wondering whether cultural forces such as feminism affect the direction and results of research. In her new book, "Has Feminism Changed Science?" Penn State historian Londa Schiebinger answers with a definite yes.

"Science is not value-neutral," she argues. "Getting the right answers--turning the crank--may be gender-free. But it is often in setting priorities about what will and what will not be known that gender has an impact."

The claim is inflaming the "science wars," with their battles over whether science is as isolated and objective as partisans claim.

That's the key: it is not that men and women do science differently, but that they choose different questions to pursue, says biologist Patricia Adair Gowaty of the University of Georgia. "The women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s had a huge effect on me," she recalls. "Ideas I was exposed to I have since erected as testable, scientific hypotheses."

One hypothesis involves asking under what circumstances female bluebirds have... well, extramarital affairs. "This is how feminism has changed science," says Gowaty. "I'm not doing the science any differently, but I'm asking a question that has not been asked before."

Gowaty suspects that a female bluebird risks "extra-pair copulations" if she is healthy and a good forager, which would allow her to support her offspring even if her cuckolded mate left. "By answering this question," says Gowaty, "we'll know more about female biology."

And maybe not only the avian kind. Although most scientists dismiss the idea that there is a female "way of knowing"--holistic, nondominating and cooperative--many recognize that the different experiences men and women bring to the lab lead them to scrutinize different aspects of nature.

Marine biologist Mary Beth Saffo of the University of Arizona was startled when she looked around a 1989 conference on symbiosis--often beneficial relationships between living things, like the little fish that clean parasites off sharks in return for table scraps. "The majority were women," she says. Was it a coincidence? In the '50s and '60s, says Saffo, biologists tried to understand ecosystems "through a framework of antagonism and competition." "There's more interest in and recognition of mutualism now," or cooperative relationships between species.

Although Saffo doesn't go so far as to attribute the shift to feminism, it did coincide with the flood of women into ecology. Something similar happened in the study of humans' primate relatives. From the 1950s to the 1970s primatologists studied savanna baboons. This species is more aggressive, male-dominated and competitive than any other nonhuman primate. "Most of these scientists were men," says primatologist Linda Fedigan of the University of Alberta. The species they chose, she says, reinforced the notion that male dominance and aggression are the norms of primate behavior, including ours, and that it is the males who bring social cohesion to the troop.

When feminism and women entered the field, in the 1970s, they upended the stereotype of the passive, dependent female, and questioned the idea that male aggression and alliances are the most powerful shapers of primate society. Instead, it turns out that elderly female baboons determine where the troop will forage each day, and a male's reproductive success depends less on his place in the dominance hierarchy than it does on his relationships with the troop's females. And when women began studying primates other than baboons, they found that females actively pursue males and have loads of extramarital affairs--apparently to get more males to provide and care for the babies. Now females are no longer considered peripheral to primate evolution.

Feminism has also changed ideas about how humans evolved from quadrupedal apes to toolmakers, thinkers and talkers. In the 1960s the answer was unquestioned: hunting. The story was that men who learned to cooperate, communicate and make weapons in order to hunt stimulated their brains and drove evolution. Women tagged along and pushed out babies every few years. But female anthropologists now have other ideas. In "Lucy's Legacy," to be published in November, Alison Jolly of Princeton University argues that behavior where females excel (language and forming social bonds) or roles that fall to females (forging links between generations) played the key role in human evolution.

But would these insights have come even if feminism never existed? "Because the changes came so quickly after the feminist critique, they must be at least a bit in response," says Linda Fedigan. But have feminists exaggerated their effect? Schiebinger and others claim that it took feminists to overthrow the dogma about active, heroic sperm pursuing the fat, passive egg, and substituting the now standard view that the egg plays an active role in conception by sending out fingerlike microvilli to reel in a sperm.

Biologist Paul Gross isn't buying it. "The argument about feminism focusing attention upon the egg is absurd and dishonest," he says, because the egg's active role was noted in textbooks even in the 1960s. "If that's all 'feminist science' can claim as an achievement, then it's a joke."

But it does make other claims, in fields from mustang matings to human evolution. If it turns out that the questions science poses, and the answers it seeks, are not walled off from society, maybe that's as it should be. Remember - the assumptions underlying the question are just as important as the question itself.

Friday, May 4, 2007

2007 U. S. Championship-3

For anyone interesting in reading some more about the withdrawal of AF4C’s sponsorship from the 2007 U.S. Chess Championships and the pornographic post, I suggest: Mig’s Daily Dirt: Susan Polgar’s Chess Blog:

2007 U.S. Championship-2

I am beginning to think I have magical powers :) Within about 48 hours of my post about no updated information being available about players, etc. at the USCF website, this morning Susan Polgar’s blog posted an updated list of participants - the "final field." I’d checked the USCF website last night and there was no updated information but I see today that the information was posted this morning. In all honesty, I cannot take the credit for this information appearing - it’s the Chess Goddess working her mojo. There is still no news, though, about the women’s championship. Oh, Great Chess Goddess, do you think you could work that mojo a little more and shake some information lose about that event? Please? Today Mig also had an interesting post at his Daily Dirt blog about the upcoming championship. He reiterated the buzz from a few months back that AF4C had withdrawn sponsorship from the championship due to a certain person accusing AF4C of publishing pornography on the internet. What evidently happened was that a domain name AF4C once used had lapsed, and that domain was taken over by someone who published pornography under that domain name. A certain person did a post at a certain discussion forum that included a link to that pornographic website masquerading under AF4C’s prior domain name. To say that a lot of people were extremely upset by this is possibly the understatement of the year. There are questions about the timing of all of these events – was the post done before – or after – AF4C withdrew sponsorship? Did the presence of a certain person on the Executive Board of the USCF cause one or more persons and/or sponsors associated with AF4C to recoil in horror, leading to the withdrawal of much $$$ support? What caused what and when? At the time these events were "breaking" there was a lot of discussion going on at various forums. If you’re interested in reading more, see my post 2007 U.S. Chess Championship – 3. Regardless of the reason(s) for AF4C’s withdrawal from the sponsorship deal, the people who have been hurt the most in the fall-out are the players. Only consider: The prize fund for the combined 2006 U.S. Chess Championship (men’s and women’s titles) under the auspices of AF4C was $254,200. The prize fund for the 2007 Men’s U.S. Chess Championship currently stands at $65,000, thanks primarily to Frank K. Berry stepping forward with $50,000 for the championship and USCF "pledging" $15,000 in additional prizes – out of the $25,000 that Eric Anderson of UF4C "donated" to USCF for prize money for the 2007 Championship. (What about the other $10,000? That is another issue in and of itself). The prize for the outright winner of the 2007 Men’s championship will be $12,000 (possibly more, if more sponsors can be found, or "patrons" step forward to purchase playing spots in the championship); the 2006 women’s champion took home $12,500, and the 2006 men’s champion took home $25,000. Mig pointed out that the majority of players who participate in this event will lose money because of their expenses for travel, hotel and meals. That is really a terrible shame. What incentive does any player have to participate in such an event if he or she doesn’t hope to finish at or near the top ("in the money")? Frankly, I’m amazed that so many players are participating! At least one, however, has withdrawn, evidently in disgust of the whole mess: Mig reported that for the first time in 23 years, GM Joel Benjamin will not participate in this year’s championship. Out of the 36-player field, 3 women are named: IM Irina Krush 2480; WFM Chouchanik Airapetian 2188; and WFM Irina Zenyuk 2186. Krush, who had some fine wins at Gibraltar in January and has been in good form of late (despite three losses in her last event, she still finished on 50%), is capable of adding some GM scalps to her belt and I would not be surprised that she finishes better than 50% - but she won’t win any $$$ for that unless some more $$$ is added to the prize fund. Airapetian and Zenyuk are probably too inexperienced to end up anywhere but near the bottom against so many GMs rated over 2600 – there won’t be any $$$ down there. But if nothing else, they will gain valuable experience playing against so many highly rated players and - as the old saying goes - "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Meaning they’re not going to wait around to see if a separate women’s U.S. championship will be held, they’ll take their chances in the "Men’s" event. What a sad commentary this is on the state of professional-level chess in the United States.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Polgar "Experiment" and Me

My goodness - here it is Thursday already. Just one more day to make it through at the office and once again I'll be having my lovely weekend. I don't care if the forecast is for cold and rain; I don't care if my grass is now a foot high (the weather and/or time constraints haven't permitted me to pull out the power mower, but it is ready to go; I changed the oil, put in a new spark plug and had the blade sharpened 2 weekends ago); I don't care that the dust is now half an inch thick and there's moldy food in the fridge. My weekends - ahhhhhh.... I have to tell you (whoever may read this), it is really liberating to be able to just come here, by myself, at the end of the day, and post my thoughts. There's no traffic counter here, so I can imagine that millions are going to - soon - be awed by the eruditeness (is that a word?) of my posts or, conversely, that only a select few who manage to follow carefully placed clues here and there - succeed in finding this secret treasure trove of chess profundity. Ha! Because I've had David Shenk's project on my mind, and the Polgar sisters and other chess "prodigies" naturally figure into that, and given the recent bent of my entries here, today I did a little internet searching under "the Polgar experiment." That led to a lot of interesting articles, and those led to a few other searches, that also led to interesting articles. The upshot of what I've found, thus far, in conjunction with what I've read at David Shenk's blog, is that I too could - if I had the will (desire), persistence, patience, and time - develop a certain level of expertise in chess, perhaps even become a GM. If I wanted to give it 10 years of full-time activity :) I'm not kidding about that 10 year figure. According to Herbert A. Simon who has been researching the subject since the 1960's, he says it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. "Even child prodigies, such as Gauss in mathematics, Mozart in music and Bobby Fischer in chess, must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others." No wonder the great chessplayers seem to be made these days at such early ages; if they wait until they're out of college to learn the game, they have to "make a living" and can't devote the time/effort/will necessary to mastering the game - that - what was it called? - "effortful study." It's a tantalizing thought, let me tell you. Me - Jan Newton - a GM. Hell - I'd settle for beating Licenser and Kreider soundly in 10 moves or less :) Could six months of concentrated study do it, do you think? Hmmm... Here are some of the articles: Scientific American "The Expert Mind," by Phillip E. Ross, July 24, 2006 Psychology Today "The Grandmaster Experiment," by Carlin Flora, July-August, 2005 issue

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Vote the Polgar Slate in June, 2007

On December 7, 2006 (interesting date choice, don't you think - Pearl Harbor Day) - GM Susan Polgar officially announced at her blog that she would be running for the Executive Board of the USCF. But prior to that date fans of her blog had been encouraging her to run in the upcoming election (June, 2007), I'd say, going back at least to October, 2006.

So, when I read this last night in the May, 2007 issue of Chess Life magazine (official magazine of the USCF), I had a good laugh:

"Across the Board" page 9:

by Bill Goichberg, USCF President

USCF Membership Surges...
The seven months since my last report in the October 2006 Chess Life have seen an almost unprecendeted gain in USCF membership. Total members for the period 9/1/06 through 3/31/07 are up by 6,016, the second largest gain for any seven-month period in the history of the federation. Our current membership total of 84,495 is also the highest in almost three years.

The "due sales" offering adult membership...

During the seven months 9/06 through 3/07, USCF gained 494 adult members, the largest increase for any period of seven consecutive months in 12 years. ..."

Bill Goichberg, bless his heart, attributes the increase in adult memberships (they are the only ones who can vote, as I understand current USCF policy - all the rest of the membership increase is, I assume, from scholastic members and they can't vote and so, in the eyes of some chess politicans, they really "don't count") - to a "dues sale!" That increase couldn't possibly have - nah - it couldn't possibly have anything to do with Susan Polgar and her slate of candidates running for the USCF Executive Board and the fact that in order to vote in the election next month, you have to be a member in good standing - nah. LOL!

Mr. Goichberg goes on to say that he is aware that "one of the factors that has held back USCF growth in recent years is unwarranted negativism, especially popular on Internet discussion groups." Yeah, all right. So in the face of all this negativism, why the sudden surge in membership - voting membership? Wouldn't all the unwarranted and (it is implied, unrelenting and continuing) negativism lead, instead, to a further decline in membership?

As much as Mr. Goichberg tries to put a positive spin on the things that he cites as improvements since the near bankruptcy of the USCF in 2003, the USCF is actually just recently slowly and painfully attempting to rectify a gross decline in service that used to be provided to paying (and voting) members - adult members. I do not fault Mr. Goichberg for the prior failings of the USCF - he wasn't an officer or Executive Board member when so many of the really bad decisions were made. Since he has come on board as President things have improved - but not enough. Certainly not enough for the long-suffering members of USCF.

My bet is that Mr. Goichberg has already read the handwriting on the proverbial wall and he's now being the consummate chess politician that he has always been - and because he's the President of USCF he gets a free in-print forum to do it. But no matter what spin Mr. Goichberg puts on it, there is only one reason for the increase of adult, i.e., voting membership in the USCF - Susan Polgar and her slate of candidates. People have joined (or rejoined) the USCF with the sole intent of voting in Susan Polgar and her slate of candidates to the USCF Executive Board next month.

Mr. Goichberg, will you embrace the four new Board members - Polgar, Bauer, Truong and Korenman - when they are elected in June?

Mind Boggling Numbers

I've been doing Yahoo and Google searches since - just about forever, it seems. I do them daily to check up on the latest chess news, archaeology news, news about board games, news about anthropology and on occasion to just "surf" to see what's new out there in chessland on the internet. I've never really paid attention to the sheer numbers, but today I did a Google search under "chess" and it says there are 35,400,000 entries that took 0.04 seconds to retrieve. Curious, I did a Yahoo search under "chess" and got 36,900,000 entries that took 0.18 seconds to retrieve. I cannot wrap my mind around such numbers. Who are the people who have made all of these entries - are they websites, chess hobby homepages and/or pages created by writers of books, essays, blogs? How does Wikipedia manage to always come out near the top - are they paying for placement? I thought Wiki was a "voluntary" project, so where would the money come from to pay for such a service? Seems pretty darn strange to me. If your website, or blog, or essay or whatever "chess" you published on the internet is number 25 on the search list, what are the chances of anyone ever seeing it? Most people stop looking at sites after the first 10 or so, unless they're searching for something specific and they haven't figured out how to narrow their search parameters. And if your webpage is number 35 million, what are the odds that anyone will ever see it? Just how long would it take, anyway, to get to that final website, assuming you could do so just by clicking??? The mind boggles... So what's the point of even having a website or a blog or whatever out there in nether-never land? Ohmygoddess! If Tim Krabbe's "Chess Curiosities" doesn't show up in the Yahoo search until #91, what chance does Goddesschess have (we're a niche within a niche) - or this blog? LOL! I leave it to better minds than mind to figure that out!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Chess Life May, 2007 & 2007 U.S. Chess Championship

Hola darlings! I got the May, 2007 issue of Chess Life in the mail yesterday. It is a "benefit" of my membership in the United States Chess Federation (USCF). I recently rejoined the USCF after having let my membership lapse in 2003. The main reason I rejoined is to be able to vote in the upcoming USCF elections in June, 2007. I'm no expert on magazines but, frankly, the latest design of Chess Life is even more dismal than it was when I quit in 2003 - back then it still had some color pictures... If I understand correctly all the political stuff that I'm reading on various mesage boards, etc. these days, the USCF is in a bad way financially. However, a magazine that is primarily done in black, white and blue (to save costs or just bad design???) is not exactly eye-catching :) And the contents - well - that's another story although it is a bit more current now on reporting recent tournaments in which American players participated. Okay, maybe I'm being a little severe (a really little itty bitty bit) - but - did you know that the U.S. Chess Championship will take place later this month? Yes - that is news to a lot of people - still! It's not exactly prominently advertised on the USCF website. Since the initial announcement was made, in fact (sometime back in March, 2007), there has been NO update to the news about the championship. So, for instance, we have no idea if anyone has paid a "patron" fee for the privilege of being able to say "I lost all my games when I played in the 2007 U.S. Chess Championship." Further, as far as I an aware, not a single newspaper in the United States has published the news! (I sure hope I'm wrong about that.) The championship will be held in a place called Stillwater, Oklahoma. Where? That was my first reaction, too. I still haven't quite figured out where it is on the map, although I have located Oklahoma. Only joking, darlings (sort of). And - get this - it is not going to be a combined men's and women's championship like the events held the past several years when America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C) was doing such a good job managing the championships. Supposedly, sometime in July, a separate women's championship will be held, instead. As far as I'm aware, though, the women's championship is another event about which there has not been a single press release published - and the USCF website doesn't even have a PAGE on the upcoming event. I have no idea, for instance, who has been invited to participate in the Women's championship, who has accepted, what the prizes will be, where it will be, and NO DATES HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED FOR THIS EVENT. Hmmmmm, does this sound to you like this event is really going to take place??? As far as the May championship, a whopping three women qualified for the event: GM Susan Polgar (by virtue of her ELO), who has declined to play; IM Irina Krush (also by virtue of her ELO) - I have no idea if she will be playing or not because there have been no announcements about accepted invitations at the USCF website; and the 2006 Women's champion, WGM Anna Zatonskih - she gave birth to her first child on March 16th. I have no idea if she'll be playing either. By virtue of Mr. Frank Berry putting up $50,000 (euphemistically called a "bid" by the USCF), the 2007 - may as well say it - MEN'S championship is called "The 2007 Frank K. Berry U.S. Championship." Total prizes for the MEN's championship will be at least $65,000, because the USCF has pledged to kick-in $15,000. I wonder if Mr. Berry (or someone else) will be equally generous in funding prizes for the scheduled July, 2007 Women's championship? Assuming one or more "patrons" purchases a spot to play in the MEN'S championship, there may be a larger prize fund - but only after the USCF reimburses itself for the $15,000 it is contributing. Yeah, it doesn't make any sense, does it? I was so upset by all of this, through an intermediary it was arranged that - should the Women's championship take place - there will be a Janet Newton Brilliancy Prize of $250 awarded to the woman's game judged the best by her peers. I'm putting my money where my mouth (some would say my BIG mouth) is. I hope I see the Women's championship takes place!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Typical Research Project Part 2 - Goddess Synchronicity

Ohmygoddess! I didn't think this would happen HERE - I mean, whoever is going to read this blog - but I guess I should know by now that one can always expect the unexpected when dealing with the Goddess of Chess. Synchronicity has been the sounding bell in my relationship with chess and my research since I and my chessly cohorts first embarked upon this path way back in December, 1998. Why should I be surprised when it shows up here? I shouldn't be - but I was! I must be getting old, sigh. After I wrote my prior post "Typical Research Project" this afternoon, I visited David Shenk's blog and wrote a post about a few examples of chessplayers that I thought fit the profile of his research. I'd been meaning to do that for some time but did not get around to it until earlier this afternoon. Mind, I've not yet finished David's book "A History of Chess" - I'm not quite to the half-way point. I then settled down to a couple of hours of reading on my deck, and then a 2 hour nap on my recliner. Ahhhh, I love my weekends! This evening, I visited Chessville and made a few posts there under my favorite topic, about women in chess/women and chess. Some people at Chessville evidently don't think much of me, comparing me to Sam Sloan (seriously!) But that's been done in private email - the people who (so I've been told) don't like me don't post such stuff at the Chessville forum, where folks could then debate the merits of whether I am, actually, a female Sam Sloan. Like the title of Jen Shahade's first book (that I didn't like at first because I thought it was denigrating to women, but after past and recent experiences, I have a better understanding about why Ms. Shahade titled her book that way), once a chess bitch, always a chess bitch. And proud of it. I just wish I could play chess as well as I think I can write... (Har!) Anyway, one of the posts awaiting me at Chessville was about the performance of the Kosintseva sisters in the recently concluded 2007 European Individual Chess Championships. I'd done a few posts there on the progress of that event, including the high drama of the sister versus sister game (it ended in a draw). Tatiana Kosintseva took first place with an impressive 10/11 score and had an even more impressive performance rating of 2774 - which puts her right up there with the elite chessplayers of the world. Her ELO is 2459 so her performance rating is STAGGERING. TN is 21 years old. Her older sister (by a year), Nadezhda Kosintseva, finished in 3rd place with 8/11; NK also had a fine performance rating of 2568, almost 100 points above her current ELO rating of 2475, but not staggering. GM Antoaneta Stefanova, no slouch when it comes to bringing the goods, finished in second place after a strong second-half performance, with 8/11 and a performance rating of 2572, also nearly 100 points above her current ELO of 2496. You can read more about all of this stuff here at my Chess Femme News report. All in all, it was a really impressive event. Lo and behold, while I was perusing through GM Susan Polgar's chess blog tonight, I discovered this article posted there, from that new chess guy over at the New York Times (McClain) - all about the Kosintseva sisters! Knock me over with a feather! The article also mentioned David Shenk's book "A History of Chess" - I haven't yet got to the part in his book where he talks about the Polgar sisters - and now I feel rather silly for having done that post at his blog - of course David Shenk would have known about the Polgars and their training, duh. What was I thinking??? I will keep following the Kosintseva sisters' chess careers with interest. Will they continue to improve and work their way up the ELO ladder? Or will they, like so many chess femmes before them and around them, seem to plateau and, eventually, drop out of the game altogether? It's a tough way of life, professional chess. There are so many other easier ways to make a living.

Typical Research Project

Before I run to the supermarket and then cut the grass (it's overdue for a trim), I thought I'd share a bit about one of my current "research projects." I've just finished reading Cathy Forbes' 1992 book "The Polgar Sisters - Training or Genius?" (I highly recommend it - I believe she was unfairly vilified for writing this book, and I find that many of her insights into the Polgar sisters have proven to be true) and later this afternoon I'll settle down on the deck, a tall ice-filled glass of cheap vino at hand under the shade of a 7 foot umbrella (it's supposed to get up to 80 and I don't want to get sunburnt) and start reading Susan Polgar's latest book "Breaking Through," which will, presumably, cover much of the same territory that Forbes covered in her 1992 book. Of course, though, from an entirely different perspective. After that, "Chess Bitch" by IM Jennifer Shahade is on the list. The object of this burst of reading about female chessplayers is to fill in background information for two articles I'm working on for Goddesschess - one inspired by David Shenk's latest research project into whether geniuses are born or created - well, that's not an exact description of what he's working on, that's my paraphrase of how I understand his research at the present time. Shenk wrote a book last year that I'm also reading (in between all the other reading projects I'm juggling) - "The Immortal Game - A History of Chess" and I think he did an excellent job of capturing the mystique and allure of chess. Oh yes - he also provided a ton of fascinating information about the game I love - and hate. Chess is a black hole that sucks you in - whether as a player or as an historian, which, I guess, is my avocation - chess historian. But not your average historian, because for the most part I could care less about who played who with what opening when; nope, I and my cohorts in chess history apostacy are interested in the really ancient stuff, the stuff that lead to the invention of such games as senet, twenty squares (the Royal Game of Ur), mehen, backgammon, chess, liubo, xiang qi, etc. And I've gotten totally off subject, lol! Once my research is done, one article will be about sexual discrimination in chess; the second article will be an examination of Shenk's intriguing research, but only in connection with chessplayers (i.e., are they "born" or "made?") I hope to have them both written soon; I've got bits and pieces saved on the computer already, but it's always a struggle to pull everything together and try to make a cohesive, understandable whole. I enjoy writing; I consider myself rather good at it (ahem). Still, it's MUCH easier to just continue to do research - one then never has to commit anything into final form for death by a thousand pinpricks and slurs of the critics...

Elderly Scam Artists

This is an "Everything" post. I've been coming across lots of articles recently that discuss fraud in the antiquities market - New York, for instance, is a big market for both illegally excavated (or otherwise illegally acquired) antiquities and outright fraudulent "antiquities." We've been posting links to recent articles and even a website devoted to the subject at Goddesschess' Random Roundup. This one, though, takes the cake! Elderly pair face art scam charges Martin Wainwright Friday April 27, 2007 The Guardian A couple in their 80s and their sons were charged yesterday with conning a council into buying a fake ancient Egyptian statue that was supposed to put the Louvre's similiar piece of art in the shade. Embarrassed town hall staff in Bolton were allegedly hoodwinked by George Greenhalgh, 83, and his wife Olive, 82, into paying nearly £440,000 for the 50cm (20in) image of the Amarna princess, said to represent Tutankhamun's sister. The statue was later found by experts to be many centuries short of its supposed age of 3,367 years. The couple appeared before Greater Manchester magistrates yesterday with their sons, George Junior, 52, and Shaun, 46, who are jointly accused of using their home in Bolton as a base for selling bogus antiques. The parents and Shaun are accused of conspiring to defraud the arts and antique world by selling fake and forged work as genuine between 1989 and 2006. They are also charged with knowingly handling fake art and antiques and the money made from selling such items. Mr Greenhalgh and his sons are charged with involvement in handling the cash transfer from Bolton council for the statue, whose purchase the council said at the time was a "bargain". It was really worth £1m, the council said in 2003. The statue represented a daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. The council paid for it by securing a grant of £360,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as £75,000 from the National Art Collections Fund, and £2,500 from the Friends of Bolton Museum and Art Gallery. The allegedly bargain price had been attributed to the wish of the Bolton seller that the Amarna statue should stay in his native town. The relic occupied pride of place at Bolton Museum until a Metropolitan police inquiry in March last year. The inquiry followed suspicions raised by the appearance of a supposedly ancient Syrian sculpture sent to the British Museum some months earlier. No pleas were entered. A further hearing will take place at the end of July. The four defendants were given unconditional bail.
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