Saturday, January 15, 2011


WE WON!!!!!!!!!

Ohmygoddess, calm down my thumping heart!  I must have died 10 times during the first quarter - Atlanta scored first - booooooo hissssssssss booooooooo; then we scored!!!! YEEEEEEAAAAAAAYYYYYY!; then the enemy scored again - booooooo hissssssssss booooooooo, and then we scored again!!!!!!!  But then the enemy scored again!  FOUR TDS by the Packers in second quarter, could not believe our incredible comeback!

2nd quarter Tramon Williams returns an interception 70 yards for TD against Atlanta.
Final Score: 48-21 Packers.

P.S. The Falcons were the #1 seed.

Michelle says the Packers are going all the way to the Super Bowl. I never take a prediction from the Albert family lightly ('Sis called Khalifman the winner of the world chess championship way back in 1999 when FIDE held it in Las Vegas - and she was right). So, we may be making a side-trip to the Super Bowl this year - Dallas? Where the hell is Dallas???

Whoa! World female chess players shame Turkey

January 15, 2011 | 12:22

Participants of the recent 2010 Women’s World Chess Championship in Turkey, including Armenian chess players Elina Danielyan and Lilit Mkrtchyan, wrote an open letter to FIDE complaining about poor level of organization of the tournament.

They also ask FIDE to take steps to improve the situation before the next Women’s World Chess Championship. The letter is posted on chessblog of Alexandra Kosteniuk.

It is signed by Elina Danielian, Nana Dzagnidze, Jovanka Houska, Tatiana Kosintseva, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Maia Lomineishvili, Evgenia Ovod, Amina Mezioud, Lilit Mkrtchian, Elisabeth Paehtz, Anna Muzychuk, Maria Muzhychuk, Natalia Pogonina, Marina Romanko, Irina Slavina, Soumya Swaminathan, Anna Zatonskih and Natalia Zhukova.
This letter should not be taken lightly.  It it signed by some of the top female chessplayers in the world, including the 12th Women's World Chess Championship, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who plays under the Russian flag but lives in the U.S.  IM Anna Zatonskih, one of the highest-rated female players in the U.S. and a multi-times U.S. Women's Chess Champion, also signed the letter.  Well, FIDE, what are you going to do about this, heh?  By the way, GM Kosteniuk is co-Chairperson with GM Susan Polgar of the Women's Chess Committee of FIDE. 

The letter and comments can be found at GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog.  Kudos to Kosteniuk for posting this letter.  The situation as described in the letter is absolutely disgusting.  FIDE, when are you going to get honest, and prevent these kinds of abuses from happening, just for the sake of some $$$ in kick-backs?

A South African Chess Princess

From the
Little chess miss becomes a master
Jan 15, 2011 11:11 PM | By SANTHAM PILLAY

Outwitting her fellow chess competitors for the past four years has paved the way for a Durban teenager to participate in an international tournament.

Tasnim Amra, 2008 Commonwealth
Chess Championship (India).
Tasnim Amra, 14, took top honours in the under-16 South African girls' chess champion category at the SA nationals in Johannesburg last month.

Winning in the group means Tasnim automatically qualifies to represent the country at the World Youth Championships in Rio De Janeiro,Brazil, in November this year.

Despite having competed in tournaments throughout the world since she was eight, Tasnim said she was still thrilled by her win last year and the pending trip to Brazil.

"I am very excited. I enjoy playing the game because I love going overseas and meeting new people."

Reg Hoddinott, president of Chess KZN, said Tasnim was one of the most dedicated players. "I have no doubt she will continue going from strength to strength. She is dedicated but also humble. She hasn't let her many achievements go to her head and we are extremely proud of her."

For Tasnim, who will enter grade 9 at the start of the new school year, chess began as a simple after-school activity.

"We were being offered extracurricular activities and it was computers or chess. The computer class was full so I had to join the chess club."

Tasnim's mother, Amina, said aside from the travelling opportunities that chess provided, it had also made a difference academically. "Her maths marks are excellent. Overall, her marks are very good and I'm positive chess had a lot to do with that."

The Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation, awarded the Northlands Girls' High pupil the title of Women's FIDE Master in 2009. The title is a prestigious ranking.

"Sometimes I still don't believe that I have that ranking; it's unbelievable," she said.

Though she possesses the ranking and an impressive resumé, which includes her three previous national wins and representing South Africa at the 2008 Commonwealth Games in Nagpur, India, Tasnim says it's doubtful she will make chess a full-time job once she's completed school.

"I want to get a degree in actuarial science or become an engineer. I'm not sure where I'll go with chess. I'll always play but I think it will be a hobby. Unless I can become a Grandmaster - that might change my mind."

I checked Tasnim's FIDE rating:  1571.  By way of comparison, this is approximately 1,000 ELO points lower that the higher-rated female players in the world.  The top three female players in the world all have ELOs above 2600, with GM Judit Polgar at 2686.  I wish this young lady much luck in her career as an actuary or engineer -- she said as much herself.  So, you see what happens to our most promising young female chessplayers. They are very practical and move on to careers that they are more confident will yield them a living than professional chess. 

2011 Wijk aan Zee (Tata Steel)

The men's play usually doesn't interest me, but I have to toot the horn for this win by GM Nakamura (a resident GM at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, in Missouri, USA, who has this month broken into the Top 10 players of the world for the first time) in R1 againt GM Alexander Grischuk:

The 500-euro “Piet Zwart Prize” for the best game of the day – named after a popular tournament director from the years before Corus, when the event was known as the Hoogovens Tournament – was awarded to Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S. for his victory with white in 42 moves from a Nimzo-Indian Defence against Russia’s Alexander Grishuk.

“It was a beautiful game, conducted with a steady hand by Nakamura,” said grandmaster Ivan Sokolov, who commented on the day’s games for an audience of several hundreds of chess fans in a marquee on the village commons. “Grishuk was cramped for space and saw no other way out than to sac a piece for two pawns after only 18 moves. It was an effort to obtain active play but he never got a chance. It isn’t often that Grishuk gets clobbered in such a way.”

[Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"]
[Date "2011.01.15"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Nakamura,Hi"]
[Black "Grischuk,A"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2751"]
[BlackElo "2773"]
[EventDate "2011.01.14"]
[ECO "D38"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. e3 c5
8. dxc5 Qa5 9. Rc1 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 O-O 11. Nd4 Qxc5 12. Bd3 Ne4 13. Bf4 Nb6
14. Qc2 h6 15. f3 Nf6 16. g4 Re8 17. Kf2 Nc4 18. h4 Bxg4 19. Bxc4 dxc4 20.
fxg4 Nxg4+ 21. Kf3 Ne5+ 22. Bxe5 Rxe5 23. Kf2 Rae8 24. Rh3 b5 25. Rg1 Re4
26. Qd1 b4 27. Qf3 Rxe3 28. Rxg7+ Kxg7 29. Qg4+ Kf8 30. Rxe3 Rxe3 31. Kxe3
bxc3 32. Ke2 Qe5+ 33. Kd1 Qh2 34. Ne2 Qd6+ 35. Qd4 Qxd4+ 36. Nxd4 Kg7 37.
Nc6 a6 38. Nb8 a5 39. a4 Kf6 40. Nc6 Ke6 41. Nxa5 Kd5 42. Kc2 1-0

2011 Wijk aan Zee (Tata Steel)

It's the chess femmes playing that I care about, and there are two playing in the "C" Group.  Here is the cross-table showing their results after R1:

I. Ivanisevic - T. Sachdev 0-1

K. Lahno - M. Bluvshtein ½-½

In R2, the two chess femme play each other:  T. Sachdev - K. Lahno.

Bible from 1670 Found in Old School in Wisconsin

This is an exciting discovery - the religious stuff I don't give a hoot about, but the fact that this old book in wonderful condition was found and its importance within the context of the times in which it was printed - outstanding! And in its own right, it is a work of art.

Fri Jan 14, 10:01 am ET
Teacher stumbles upon 340-year-old Bible
By Liz Goodwin

Photo from the article.
A sixth-grade teacher in Bonduel, Wis., discovered a 340-year-old German Bible in an old safe in a small Lutheran church school where she works.

The 1,500-page Bible, a copy of Martin Luther's translation, was printed in Germany in 1670, researchers told WLUK-TV, the local Fox affiliate.

Debra Court found it while searching for old baptism records to show her students, but she thought it was just an old book. That was two years ago.

Eventually the church's pastor, Timothy Shoup, sent images of it to researchers at Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis, who have now identified it. The library's Lyle Buettner said only about 40 copies are known, though it's likely many more are undocumented.

Describing the hand-illustrated text, Buettner told WLUK-TV: "Each time I see an illustration like this, I just think of how beautiful it looks and how much of a labor of love it must have been for the person who actually drew it."

Shoup told the Associated Press that the church has no idea how it came to possess the Bible. "We don't know how it got into the safe. We've been asking some of our elderly folks and people in the nursing home and nobody seems to remember." The church will be 150 years old in 2013.

Dogs Love Chess

Some breeds of dog are smarter than others.  My long-departed Spencer (he died in 1999, and there is hardly a day that goes by without me thinking of him), who was a peekapoo, was very smart, and temperamental to match.  He loved sitting on my lap while I played chess, and he would intently watch the board.  I wonder what he was thinking???  Oh no, mommy just made a really stupid move...

I stumbled across this photo at Facebook, which I visited today after several weeks' absence.  It is absolutely adorable!  It is from the home page of Chess Videos, which I thought was a service but is actually the profile name of a person.  Thank you so much for this great photo Mr. Chess Videos, whoever you are! I hope you do not mind my borrowing the photo to post here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Goddesschess Scholarship

We are very pleased to announce that Goddesschess has entered into a five-year agreement to fund a scholarship for a female chessplayer or chessplayers enrolled at Texas Tech University, under the auspices of the Susan Polgar Foundation.

The first Goddesschess Scholarship was awarded for the academic year Fall 2010 - Spring 2011. 

The recipient of the very first Goddesschess Scholarship is Maraani Kamphorst. In her own words:

Maraani Kamphorst

I am Maraani Kamphorst, born on October 30, 1990, in Sao Carlos - SC, Brazil. I lived in a small town called Santo Antonio do Sudoeste until I was 16.

I started to play chess at the age of 10. My first tournament was in 6th grade at school when I won my school’s tournament as well as the city championship of my grade. I scored as best 6th grade female in the regional championship.

After that, I played in numerous statewide scholastic tournaments. In 2003 at the U14, I finished in 6th place. In 2004, I was playing board one for my school when we won the City, Regional and State championships. At the State Championship I scored 20 points out of 21 games. It was a big success for our small town (of only about 15,000 people) to represent our city at the Brazilian School Championship. In the same year, I won the Blitz and Rapid individual Middle School championship.

At State championships in 2004, I finished 2nd place in the Girls’ U-14 division, in 2005 and 2006, I won 2nd prize at the Girls’ U-16. In 2006, at the Parana State Women’s championship I finished 3rd.

In 2007, I won the PanAmerican Girls’ U-17 championship, which was held in Rio de Janeiro.

I played many open chess tournaments, getting good results. I represented Hebraica (C team) at the Sao Paulo 2007 team championship, on board one I scored 5 out of 5.

In the 2009 Women’s Championship of Brazil, I finished in the middle of the field.

Playing chess I met my husband, Andre Diamant. He is a Grandmaster and has won the Brazilian Championship in 2008. He also has represented Brazil in the past two Chess Olympiads. We are married and we have a two year old boy, Isaac. Having a baby didn’t stop us from playing and competing. In fact, it motivates us even more.

Now we are studying at Texas Tech, playing for the Knight Raiders. I'm studying physics, planning to finish my degree and then start graduate school. My husband and I are still both working on improving our chess skills while trying to do our best to combine it with our studies and with all the responsibilities of having a family.

Thank you so much for the help from GoddessChess!


Maraani Kamphorst Diamant at the 2010 Pan American Collegiate
Team Chess Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA
The Knight Raiders' most recent team event was at the 2010 Pan American Collegiate Team Chess Championships.  Texas Tech's three teams did very well (see below), and Kamphorst Diamant, playing on the "C" Team, helped bring home a title to Texas Tech:

2010 PanAm Intercollegiate Chess Championships (Milwaukee, WI)

Division II team champion (Watters, Flores, Lelko, Cassidy, Osbourn)
Division IV team champion (Haskin, Kamphorst, James, Roy)
GM Andre Diamant – Top board 2
GM Anatoly Bykhovsky – Top board 3
Texas Tech qualified for College Chess Final Four (Kuljasevic, Diamant, Bykhovsky, Sipos)

Congratulations to Mara.  Here's to good chess!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sam Sloan Was Right...and it's the end of the world as we know it...

Ohmygoddess.  I remember reading umpteen years ago an April 1st article by Sam Sloan about a chess game between a young, attractive young lady in a sleeveless, scooped neck blouse (think: tank top) and an older grumpy butt dude who complained, after he lost the game, that the young lady in question had distracted him with her overly-sexy dress.  Mind you, as far as I could tell, she only played chess and ignored the older grumpty butt dude during the entire course of the game.  She did not smile; she did not flirt; she probably did not even blink. Her focus was on the game only --

Could such a thing possible be true, I - chess novice then (and now) - asked myself?  Over the years, there seemed to be scant evidence to support this premise in written accounts of chess events and, believe me, I scoured them for any hint of such evidence.  I found nothing, other than Mankova's mink-draped photographs in a Russian magazine (read article below) and some drooling commentary thereon to suggest that chess dudes even noticed the actual gender of their opponent  -- but then, there was a fist fight between two grandmasters at a certain Chess Olympiad over certain lovely female chessplayer who shall remain nameless.  An outlyer?  Perhaps.

In any event, scientific research continues apace and - ah ha!, it appears that Mr. Sloan was correct in the premise underlying his April Fool's Day article which was (I think) that attractive female chessplayers can be a distraction to male chessplayers. 

Honestly, I'm not making this stuff up.  It was reported tonight in no less an authoritative source than Duncan Loeb McClain's chess blog (yes, I do mean that tongue in cheek) at the venerable New York Times.  Read for yourself:

January 12, 2011, 4:43 pm
To Play Better Against Attractive Women, Men Need to Avert Their Eyes

Do men get distracted by and play differently against attractive women than against other opponents? Yes, according to a study by Swedish researchers.

Called “Beauty Queens and Battling Knights: Risk Taking and Attractiveness in Chess,” the study used a large data set of results from international chess tournaments and cross-referenced them with photographs of 626 of the players — almost half of them women — whose attractiveness was rated by at least 50 independent observers.

The study concluded, “Our results suggest that male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, even though this does not improve their performance. Women’s strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.”

Rest of article. 

Ahhhhh, romance, romance.  All those medieval accounts of romantic chessgames and murders by stone boards smashed over the head of an opponent must be true...

From Goddesschess:

On the topic of gender stereotypes in chess, see generally Gender and Chess
The Tussle in Turin

The Janus of Chess Faces This Way ... And That Way...

I'm so happy the Huffington Post picked up this great column by a great Grandmaster:

Lubomir Kavalek.International Chess Grandmaster
Posted: January 12, 2011 03:50 PM
New and Old Chess Champions

As we enter the new decade, the chess world is ruled by a middle-aged man and a teenage girl.
A twenty-something phenom presides over the world's ratings and a new book recalling one of the greatest chess magicians has been published recently.

The Champions

Vishy Anand steps into the year 2011 as the world chess champion. At 41, the Indian grandmaster can look back on his career contentedly. In 1991 in Brussels, he almost eliminated Anatoly Karpov from the world championship cycle. In the next 20 years, Anand won many major tournaments and world championships under different formats and time controls. How long can Anand keep the world title is not clear, but I can't imagine him free-falling from the chess Olympus any time soon.

Hou Yifan is the current women's world champion and at age 16, the youngest in chess history.
Discovered by the chess world at the age of 11, she was predicted to win the world title one day. Her confidence grew and at the age 12 the Chinese girl stated her plans as follows: buy real estate in Paris and overtake Judit Polgar, the all-time best woman. It may happen, but not yet. Polgar, who was rated among the world's top 10 in her prime, is rated 184 points above Hou - a steep mountain to climb.

Rest of article.

Woof, Woof! New Evidence of Earliest Domesticated "American" Dog

In case you haven't guessed during the past three plus years I've been blogging, I am a dog lover.  Dogs hold a special place in my heart as great pets, and also as the companion/harbinger of the Goddess.  As my readers also know (from reading this brilliant blog, ahem, if they didn't know it before), in the Middle East in ancient times some gaming pieces were called "dogs" - and I'm not just talking about Hounds and Jackals. 

Now, some games historians might argue that the pieces were called "dogs" because of a hunting connection or even, possibly, a racing connection (you know the drill - "there were three different types of early 'board' games:  hunting games, race games, and games of skill," blah blah blah. Dogs were used in hunting, and dogs were also raced - although I'm not certain they were necessarily raced in ancient times.

But we all know that the real reason the early game pieces were called dogs was because of the canine's close connection to the Goddess and because the games were often used as oracles/fortune telling/divination devices to make inquiries of the Goddess.  In that role, the "dog" pieces took on the role of the Goddess' harbingers. 

Here is the article, it made me sick to my stomach to think my canine friends were eaten like a - a - COW. Oh, ick! And, of course, there are still cultures today that eat dogs. To keep a proper perspective, however, there are cultures who think of anyone who eats beef as a barbarian. So, there you go. Pick your cultural poison and - chomp, chomp... okay, that was in poor taste. But funny, damn!

Researcher finds oldest known domesticated dog in Americas
January 11, 2011 ( -- A University of Maine graduate student has discovered evidence of the oldest identifiable domestic dog in the Americas.

Samuel Belknap III, a graduate research assistant working under the direction of Kristin Sobolik in UMaine’s Department of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute, found a 9,400-year-old skull fragment of a domestic dog during analysis of an intact human paleofecal sample.

The fact that the bone was found in human waste provides the earliest proof that humans in the New World used domesticated dogs as food sources.

“This is an important scientific discovery that can tell us not only a lot about the genetic history of dogs but of the interactions between humans and dogs in the past,” said Belknap. “Not only were they most likely companions as they are today, they served as protection, hunting assistants, and also as a food source.”

Belknap’s discovery will first be documented in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology as well as other scientific journals.

At the time Belknap found the bone, he had not set out to discover anything new about ancient animals, but was instead conducting his thesis research on ancient diet and nutrition of humans during the Holocene Era in the Lower Pecos Region of Texas.

“I didn’t start out looking for the oldest dog in the New World,” Belknap said. “I started out trying to understand human diet in southwest Texas. It so happens that this person who lived 9,400 years ago was eating dog. It just goes to show that sometimes, great scientific discoveries come not when we are looking for specific answers but when we are thorough we are in our examination of the evidence and open to what data it provides.”

He discovered the bone, known as BE-20, during the 2009-2010 academic school year while examining a paleofecal sample recovered in the 1970s from Hinds Cave, a major archeological site in southwest Texas near the Mexico border.

Belknap and fellow UMaine graduate student Robert Ingraham first visually identified the bone as a fragment of the right occipital condyle, the place where the skull articulates with the atlas vertebra of the spine. Ingraham also visually identified the bone at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which indicated that the fragment closely matched that of a short-nosed Indian Dog from New Mexico.
Okay, I have an immediate problem with this article. Someone ate a dog. But, someone not only ate a dog, he (or she) ate a piece of bone large enough to be readily identifiable as a part of a dog's skull - in fact as part of a dog's right occipital condyle, the place where the skull articulates with the atlas vertebra of the spine, as well? Now this I find hard to believe. The conclusion that a HUMAN ate a dog is based on the fact that the dog bone fragment was found in some petrified human poop recovered (I hesitate to use the word "excavated" in this particular circumstance) from a Texas cave in the 1970's and laying around all these years. Er, well, okay....

How do they know a HUMAN ate a dog, and that the dog's bone wasn't deposited in some other manner on top of the human poop? Just saying. I know people ate and do continue to eat dogs - but I am not convinced that this particular doggy was eaten and its remains pooped out by a HUMAN. Has a DNA study been conducted to attempt to identify the CONTENTS of the petrified poop?  I mean, if the doggy's bone fragment was preserved, surely DNA of the digested content remains was preserved as well?

If that doggy was eaten by a HUMAN, I sure as hell hope that HUMAN suffered agonies and died an excruciating death as the doggy's bone fragment passed through his (or her) intestines and then through the bowel to be pooped out into that cave.

And that's another thing - why would anyone poop inside a cave in which one lived? I mean, people didn't say, oh excuse me, I have to go poop in the cave now and leave the camp site outside. You don't poop in your living room, and I'm pretty sure humans back then didn't do that either. Hmmmm...

Edited on January 21, 2011 to add the following link - for further information.  To summarize, the piece of dog bone found in the petrified of human poop was, according to this article, stained a color that indicates that it was, indeed, ingested by a human and expelled in the, er, usual way (not via vomiting, in other words). 

Old dog, new tricks: Study IDs 9,400-year-old mutt
By CLARKE CANFIELD, Associated Press Clarke Canfield, Associated Press – Wed Jan 19, 8:58 am ET

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And...More Evidence of the Spread of Ancient Agriculture

(See prior posts - I seem to be on a "theme" tonight :))

Ancient farmers swiftly spread westward
Agricultural villages appeared in Croatia nearly 8,000 years ago
By Bruce Bower
Web edition : Friday, January 7th, 2011

Discoveries at two prehistoric farming villages in southern
Croatia, including ceramic bowls and a partial female statuette,
 shown above, reflect a sophisticated culture of plant
 cultivation and animal herding much like that still practiced
 in the region today.  Credit:  A. Moore.
Croatia does not have a reputation as a hotbed of ancient agriculture. But new excavations, described January 7 in San Antonio at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, unveil a Mediterranean Sea–hugging strip of southern Croatia as a hub for early farmers who spread their sedentary lifestyle from the Middle East into Europe.

Farming villages sprouted swiftly in this coastal region, called Dalmatia, nearly 8,000 years ago, apparently with the arrival of Middle Easterners already adept at growing crops and herding animals, says archaeologist Andrew Moore of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Moore codirects an international research team, with archaeologist Marko Mendušic of Croatia’s Ministry of Culture in Šibenik, that has uncovered evidence of intensive farming at Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj, two Neolithic settlements in Dalmatia. Plant cultivation and animal raising started almost 8,000 years ago at Pokrovnik and lasted for close to a millennium, according to radiocarbon dating of charred seeds and bones from a series of occupation layers. Comparable practices at Danilo Bitinj lasted from about 7,300 to 6,800 years ago.

“Farming came to Dalmatia abruptly, spread rapidly and took hold immediately,” Moore says.

Other evidence supports a fast spread of sophisticated farming methods from the Middle East into Europe (SN: 2/5/05, p. 88), remarks Harvard University archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef. Farming villages in western Greece date to about 9,000 years ago, he notes. Middle Eastern farmers exploited a wide array of domesticated plants and animals by 10,500 years ago, setting the stage for a westward migration, Bar-Yosef says.

Other researchers began excavating Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj more than 40 years ago. Only Moore and his colleagues dug deep enough to uncover signs of intensive farming.

Their discoveries support the idea that agricultural newcomers to southern Europe built villages without encountering local nomadic groups, Moore asserts. Earlier excavations at Neolithic sites in Germany and France raise the possibility that hunter-gatherers clashed with incoming villagers in northern Europe, he notes.

Surprisingly, Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj residents grew the same plants and raised the same animals, in the same proportions, as today’s Dalmatian farmers do, Moore says. Excavated seeds and plant parts show that ancient villagers grew nine different domestic plants — including emmer, oats and lentils — and gathered blackberries and other wild fruits.

Animal bones found at the two villages indicate that residents primarily herded sheep and goats, along with some cattle and a small number of pigs.

Diverse food sources provided a hedge against regional fluctuations in rainfall and growing seasons, according to Moore. “This is an astonishing demonstration of agricultural continuity from the Neolithic to present times,” he says.

Aside from farming, Neolithic villagers in Dalmatia were “oriented toward the sea, and enjoyed extensive long-distance contacts,” Moore adds. Chemical analyses of obsidian chunks found at Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj, directed by archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa, trace most of them to Lipari, an island off Sicily’s north coast.

Shapes and styles of pottery from the ancient Dalmatian villages changed dramatically several times during the Neolithic. Moore’s team can’t explain why these shifts occurred while the farming economy remained the same.

Other than three children found in separate graves, the researchers have unearthed no human skeletons at Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj.

Jiangxi Province (southern China) Yields Ancient Artifacts 6,000 to 2,000 Years Old

From Archaeo News
8 January 2011

6000-year-old findings discovered in southern China
During excavations of the Laohudun Site in Gaohu, Jing'an of Jiangxi Province (southern China) archaeologists have discovered the Terracotta and Painted Pottery Culture, which flourished around 4000 BCE. An important collection of late Neolithic remains and items were discovered in the dig, located in the middle of a rice paddy field.

Xu Changqing, the excavation team leader, stated that in the lower layer of the site - where the Terracotta Pottery Culture relics were found - they unearthed some stoneware, including hatchets, adze, stone ploughs and stone walls as well as some pottery ware. The items have been preliminarily estimated to be 6,000 years old.

Moreover, archaeologists unearthed a large table dated between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, 114 tombs and an architectural ruin made from red scorched earth. Mounded by yellow clay of high purity, the table of sacrifice has an area of 3,000 square meters, with its thickness in some parts reaching 80 centimeters.

Edited from People's Daily Online (7 January 2011)

Six Pieces of 18th Dynasty Double Statue Discovered

This is wonderful news!  The newly-discovered pieces can, one hopes, eventually be inserted into the statues and the "filler" parts removed. I count this a significant discovery for preserving our ever-increasingly fragile link to our collective past.  More people today seem intent on destroying it (all over the world) than in preserving it.  This makes me sad - frustrated and bitterly angry at such short-sighted stupidity, too - but mostly, just very sad.

New Discovery in Egypt
Missing Egyptian artifacts found
By Hazel Heyer, eTN | Jan 09, 2011
(eTN) - Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny announced today that six missing pieces from the colossal double statue of the 18th Dynasty King Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye, have been discovered at the king’s mortuary temple on Luxor’s west bank. The double statue is currently a centerpiece of the main hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The missing pieces were uncovered 130 years after Mariette discovered the double statue in 1889 at Medinet Habu. The fragments were found during excavation work by an Egyptian team under the direction of Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Hawass said that when the statue was first discovered an Italian team restored the statue and filled in the missing pieces with modern stonework. The pieces from Amenhotep III that were recovered come from the right side of his chest, nemes headdress, and leg. The pieces of Queen Tiye that were uncovered include a section of her wig, and pieces from her left arm, fingers and foot. A small section of the base of the double statue was also found. The measurements of the six missing fragments range from 47cm to 103cm. These pieces are currently being held at the site of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple on the west bank, but will soon be relocated to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for restoration and placement into the colossal statue.

Archaeologist, Abdul Ghafar Wagdy, the supervisor of the excavation at the site in Luxor, said that the pieces of statuary were found as part of a project to lower the ground water on the west bank of Luxor. These six pieces are only a few of nearly 1,000 statuary fragments that have been found dating from the Pharonic to the Coptic era. All the pieces that have been found to date are being stored in the west bank magazines for documentation and restoration.

Confirmed Evidence of Oldest Yet Evidence of Wine Making

Very interesting.  The article is long so I will not put it here entirely, only some excerpts:

Chemical analysis confirms discovery of oldest wine-making equipment ever found
UCLA scientists use new scientific method to verify vintage 4100 B.C. wine
By Meg Sullivan January 10, 2011 Category: Research

Analysis by a UCLA-led team of scientists has confirmed the discovery of the oldest complete wine production facility ever found, including grape seeds, withered grape vines, remains of pressed grapes, a rudimentary wine press, a clay vat apparently used for fermentation, wine-soaked potsherds, and even a cup and drinking bowl.

The facility, which dates back to roughly 4100 B.C. — 1,000 years before the earliest comparable find — was unearthed by a team of archaeologists from Armenia, the United States and Ireland in the same mysterious Armenian cave complex where an ancient leather shoe was found, a discovery that was announced last summer.

Cave outside Armenian village

The discovery in 2007 of what appeared to be ancient grape seeds inspired the team to begin excavating Areni-1, a cave complex located in a canyon where the Little Caucasus mountains approach the northern end of the Zagros mountain range, near Armenia's southern border with Iran. The cave is outside a tiny Armenian village still known for its wine-making activities.

Radiocarbon analysis by researchers at UC Irvine and Oxford University has dated the installation and associated artifacts to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C., or the Late Chalcolithic Period, also known as the Copper Age in recognition of the technological advances that paved the way for metal to replace stone tools.

Archaeologists found one shallow basin made of pressed clay measuring about 3 feet by 3-and-a-half feet. Surrounded by a thick rim that would have contained juices, and positioned so as to drain into the deep vat, the basin appears to have served as a wine press. Similarly structured wine-pressing devices were in use as recently as the 19th century throughout the Mediterranean and the Caucasus, Areshian said. No evidence was found of an apparatus to smash the grapes against the wine press, but the absence does not trouble the archaeologists.

"People obviously were stomping the grapes with their feet, just the way it was done all over the Mediterranean and the way it was originally done in California," Areshian said.

All around and on top of the wine press archaeologists found handfuls of grape seeds, remains of pressed grapes and grape must, and dozens of desiccated vines. After examining the seeds, paleobotanists from three separate institutions determined the species to be Vitis vinifera vinifera, the domesticated variety of grape still used to make wine.

The team also unearthed one cylindrical cup made of some kind of animal horn and one complete drinking bowl of clay, as well as many bowl fragments.

The closest comparable collection of remains was found in the late 1980s by German archaeologists in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Scorpion I, the researchers said. Dating to around 3150 B.C., that find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine.

After the Areni-1 discovery, the next earliest example of an actual wine press is two and a half millennia younger: Two plaster basins that appear to have been used to press grapes between 1650 B.C. and 1550 B.C. were excavated in what is now Israel's West Bank in 1963.

Over the years, archaeologists have claimed to find evidence of wine dating as far back as 6000 B.C.–5500 B.C. And references to the art and craft of wringing an inebriant from grapes appear in all kinds of ancient settings. After Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat, for instance, the Bible says he planted a vineyard, harvested grapes, produced wine and got drunk. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making. Whatever form it takes, early evidence of wine production provides a window into a key transition in human development, scientists say.

"Deliberate fermentation of carbohydrates into alcohol has been suggested as a possible factor that prompted the domestication of wild plants and the development of ceramic technology," said Barnard, who teaches in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Ahem (cough cough) - please notice the location of Areni on the map.  It is in the region anciently known as Urartu and the land of the "mountains of Ararat" as referred to in the Bible. You will be familiar with the old fable (so we're told) from the Bible about Noah's ark landing "on the mountains of Ararat" and he, his family, and the animals he saved on the ark with him disembarked.  As the article goes on to explain, Noah planted a vineyard, in due time made some wine, and got drunk.  After living through an experience like the great flood, hell yes I'd get drunk, too! 

Perhaps continued investigations in the area will uncover even older evidence of wine production.  As I understand it, evidence of "agriculture" - that is, evidence of use of domesticated crops, dates back about 9,000 years ago (to c. 7,000 BCE) and not too far away from those "mountains of Ararat."  Hmmm....  just saying.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chess Femme News!

Tatev Abrahamyhan is mentioned in Dylan Loeb McClain's chess blog at The New York Times

January 9, 2011, 9:32 pm
America Has a New Chess Grandmaster and Three New International Masters

United States chess has rarely, if ever, had a week like the one that ended Saturday. On Saturday, four Americans earned titles at the Berkeley International tournament.

The 66th Armenian Women's Chess Championship is scheduled to begin on January 11, and will run through January 20, featuring ten of Armenian's female chessplayers.  They are not the best Armenian female players, which is a shame, but one of them will carry the honor of a national title:

No. Name FED Rtg
5 WIM Andriasian Siranush ARM 2217
6 WIM Gasparyan Narine ARM 2125
1 WGM Movsisian Naira ARM 2100
10 WFM Martirosyan Lia ARM 2082
8 Gevorgyan Maria ARM 2064
4 Babayan Armine ARM 2053
2 WFM Kharatyan Anahit ARM 2047
7 Kalashyan Varduhi ARM 2017
9 Sargsyan Shushanna ARM 2000
3 Meseljyan Astghik ARM 1892

The 68th Georgian Women's Chess Championship has just started and, unlike the Armenian Women's Championship, does feature some of the country's strongest female chessplayers, including our friend, IM Salome Melia (go, Salome!)  There are 13 players, so this is a 12-round event which began - on January 11th (tomorrow, according to my time zone, LOL!)  Here are the standings after R1:

Rk.NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
1WIMDanelia MariamGEO22481.00.0010.0
IMPurtseladze MakaGEO23231.00.0010.0
IMMelia SalomeGEO24491.00.0010.0
WIMMikadze MirandaGEO23621.00.0010.0
IMKhurtsidze NinoGEO24361.00.0010.0
6IMJavakhishvili LelaGEO24380.50.2500.5
IMKhotenashvili BelaGEO24400.50.2500.5
8IMLomineishvili MaiaGEO23450.00.0000.0
IMKhukhashvili SopikoGEO24370.00.0000.0
WGMPaikidze NaziGEO24550.00.0000.0
WGMBatsiashvili NinoGEO23960.00.0000.0
WIMNikoladze SopioGEO22540.00.0000.0
WIMArabidze MeriGEO23150.00.0000.0

Texas Tech Leaps to Top Chess Schools

This is cool - really cool.  Congratulations to Texas Tech, SPICE, Susan Polgar, and Paul Truong, for putting this great program together.

From The New York TimesChess
A Dallas University Finishes on Top in a ShowdownBy DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN
Published: January 9, 2011

A couple of years ago, college chess could be divided into two tiers. The elite included the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Texas, Dallas. The second tier was made up of everyone else.

No more. With aggressive campaigns to recruit top players, the University of Texas, Brownsville, and Texas Tech University have joined the top tier.

Haraldur Karlsson, who is the faculty liaison for the chess team at Texas Tech, explained in an interview four years ago why the university had begun recruiting top talent.

“To be quite frank, Tech is not Harvard,” said Dr. Karlsson, who is an associate professor of geosciences. “And we have to compete really hard for the best students. And there tends to be a link between good chess skills and good academic skills.”

That also meant attracting grandmasters to mold the up-and-coming teams. Texas Tech, which is in Lubbock, hired Susan Polgar, a grandmaster and former women’s world champion, to run its program. In Brownsville, the university’s latest coach is Ronen Har-Zvi, an Israeli grandmaster.

Rest of article.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

PACKERS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What a sweet interception in the end zone to clinch a Packers victory - first post-season victory for Quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

Now perhaps our Man will begin to get the respect he deserves.  Brett who???

Ten Great British Women

Not THE Top Ten - which would be arguable in any event - but certainly a list of ten "British" women who each, in their own way, left an enduring mark upon the landscape of herstory.  Queens and commoners, you may recognize some of the names, and scratch your head over others. Very nicely illustrated too, with images of the various ladies.

From the
From Elizabeth I to Jane Austen: Ten of the greatest British women
By Bettany Hughes and York Membery
Last updated at 12:49 PM on 5th January 2011

Queen Elizabeth I, the "Rainbow Portrait"
attributed to Isaac Oliver.  Check out the cleavage,
the jewels, and that glorious gown topped
by an appropriately outragegous cloak!  This
portrait shows Elizabeth as the perfect
embodiment of power, wealth and feminine mystique.
2. ELIZABETH (1533-1603)
3. OCTAVIA HILL (1838-1912)
6. GRACE DARLING (1815-42)
7. JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817)
8. FRANCES BUSS (1827-94)
9. VICTORIA (1819-1901)
10. ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE (1122-1204)

Chess Femme News

GM Hou Yifan
I'm glad to see she ditched the
hair-clips and her soft, slightly
shy smile hits the perfect note!
Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times wrote an opinion piece a few days ago about the so-called rise of China and it's superpower status, using the analogy of newly-crowned women's world chess champion GM Hou Yifan, the youngest champion yet at age 16.  While Mr. Kristoff may know how to play chess, it was obvious from what he wrote that he does not know anything about the microcosm of the "world of chess" and particularly now the State Organ of China uses chess as an instrment to tout it's "superiority" on the international stage.  I found the article rather silly, but below is the link to the opinion piece and the comments that followed separately, for anyone who may be interested.  My comment regarding the chess aspect is thus:  "western chess" in China is promoted the same way the Soviets promoted chess during the days of the old USSR - as a national tool to prove the "superiority" of its repressive, monolithic political system.  The same can be said for sports that have international audiences, particularly Olympic sports, such as gymnastics, where the Chinese routinely cheat just as the Soviets did, and figure skating - ditto. Well, we know what happened to the USSR, don't we.  My comment regarding some of the ridiculous misrepresentations in the article:  (1) There is no such thing as a decent education in China without paying for it - at all levels; the pressure to "do well" in school is such that students pay to have others take their exams for them and pay others to do their papers; plagerism is rampant and accepted as a practical way to get ahead.  (2) As a consequence of its defective educational system, very little original research and practically no true innovation is coming out of China -- it is all copycat from what has been produced in other countries.  (3) Female infanticide and abortion of female fetuses is still rampant throughout China, particularly in the rural areas, despite what Mr. Kristoff wrote.  Try doing a google search under the subject - but be warned - it is not for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart.  The consequence in practical terms is that in approximately 10 years, perhaps even less, China is going to run smack into a gigantic demographic shortage of women of child-bearing age because of the practice of killing female infants and fetuses.  I wonder how a government that emphasizes "social harmony" over the rights of individuals will deal with that one?
Op-Ed Columnist
China Rises, and Checkmates
Published: January 8, 2011

January 8, 2011, 7:43 pm
Your Comments on China and Chess

10th Berkeley International
January 2- 8, 2010
Berkeley, California

WFM Tatev Abrahamyan finished in 15th place overall, tied with several players with 6.5/10, earned $250 for her efforts and a WGM norm.  She doesn't care about "female" norms, though. She was shooting for an IM norm and didn't make it.  Too bad.  Abrahamyan was one of two women playing in this event of 58 players, specially designed to provide players with norm opportunities.  The other chess femme playing was WIM Lorena Zepada, who finished in 43rd place overall with 4.0/10.  My apologies if I missed any other chess femmes playing in this event.  On a separate note, it was good to see "I'm never going to play chess again" Sam Shankland in action - and he earned his final GM norm for his efforts, too.  Perhaps young Sam has learned that it is best not to make dramatic pronouncements while in the throes of intense emotions, because one may often find that one has to eat those words later on...

Chess Queens Plot Their Plans...
From the Deccan Chronicle Online
January 6, 2011 - I found this by visiting our friends at - thanks!

Chess queens Dronavalli Harika and Koneru Humpy may not have had a great year in 2010 as they failed to bag gold in the tournaments but the new year is enough motivation to start afresh. Harika had to settle for bronze in the Asian Games at Guangzhou. World No.2 Humpy too crashed out of the World Women’s chess championship in the semifinal stage. Her ELO rating too took a dip as Humpy, rated 2614 in January last, ended the year on 2607. Humpy is keen to turn her ratings around in 2011.

“Frankly speaking, the last year had not been a good one for me. I started off well finishing second in Gibraltar and fourth in the Fide Grand Prix in Doha. Thereafter, I participated in the Nalchik Women’s Grand Prix where I was fifth, followed by the Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow in September,” said Humpy.

“I would have loved to represent my country in the Asian Games, but the on-going differences with the All-India Chess Association prevented me from doing so,” she said, adding, “Reaching the semifinals of the World Women’s Championship and then not making it to the final was quite disheartening.”
“I am just praying for a better year ahead where I can win more titles and perform better,” said the Grandmaster.

“I am planning to take it one tournament at a time. But my main focus is the Women’s Fide Grand Prix Series which has its first Championship in Doha in January,” she added. World junior champion in 2008, Harika, is content with her show last year despite the shortcomings in events such as the Women’s World Championship.

“Winning bronze in the Asian Games individual event was great but I am disappointed about having missed a medal in the team event,” said the 19-year-old, adding, “In the Women’s World Championship too, I missed the semifinal berth after losing in the tie-breaker round.” The International Master also gained two norms after a stupendous show at International open tournaments in Reykjavik (Iceland) and Greece.

“I will work towards getting my third norm which will make me a Grandmaster,” said Harika, who is rated 2520.

I will cheer for Dronavalli to earn that final GM norm and join the growing ranks of female chessplayers who hold the GM title - over 20 now.  When I started following chess in 2001, there were fewer than 10.

"Prehistoric" Finds in Northwestern Sudan

Polish archaeologists score another success

Rock engravings, ancient burial sites and several dozen terracotta figurines were discovered by a group of Polish archaeologists in the north-eastern part of Sudan by the Red Sea, “Rzeczpospolita” reports.

The research was carried out by scientists from the Archaeology and Ethnology Institute of the Polish Academy of Science, Poznan branch.

Prehistoric settlement has never been researched in north-western Sudan, “Rzeczpospolita” notes. The first rock engravings were accidentally discovered by Krzysztof Pluskota in 1999. An expedition led by Doctor Przemysław Bobrowski has been researching the area. “During the December expedition we discovered lots of rock engravings. Most of them depict cattle but there are also portraits of people and African animals” says Prof. Michal Kobusiewicz, member of the team. “The engravings were concentrated around a solitary phallus-shaped mountain, which suggests that they were connected with fertility rites” Kobusiewicz adds.

According to archaeologists, the mountain was a symbol of fertility cult, which is supposedly proved by its miniature copies made in sandstone found near the engravings. The theory about the cult character of the site may be proved by the discovery of several dozen terracotta figurines of people and the miniature sandstone phallus-shaped mountains. Numerous traces of prehistoric settlement were also discovered near the engravings.

Archaeologists say that the age of the engravings is likely to be determined by radiocarbon dating method and geomorphic research. Research will be continued in 2011, “Rzeczpospolita” reports.
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