Friday, March 23, 2012

Reykjavik Open 2012

March 6 - 13, 2012
Official website

Final standings of the chess femmes (198 players):

Rk. NameTypsexFEDRtgIRtgNClub/CityPts. TB1 TB2 TB3 Rpnwwew-we
GMHou YifanwCHN263907.051.540.039.752677976.290.71
WGML'ami AlinawROU237206.049.037.530.002414965.290.711510.6
IMKrush IrinawUSA246106.047.035.528.502457965.790.21102.1
WGMCherednichenko SvetlanawUKR227905.549.038.527.75231784.53.301.201518.0
WGMPtacnikova LenkawISL22892239Hellir5.544.034.025.252243854.730.27154.1
WIMAndersson ChristinwSWE210205.036.526.517.501947845.86-1.8615-27.9
Hansen Erle Andrea MarkiU17wNOR17931811Kristiansand Sjakklubb4.536.529.015.75210194.51.423.081546.2
Thorsteinsdottir HallgerdurwISL19591930Hellir4.039.029.515.251916844.03-0.0315-0.4
WFMThorsteinsdottir GudlaugwISL20852053TG4.038.528.513.501960834.73-1.7315-26.0
WFMDave DhyaniwIND220504.035.527.511.751949946.31-2.3115-34.7
Forsa ElisewNOR17890Tromsø3.538.030.513.75196693.52.131.371520.5
Finnbogadottir Tinna KristinwISL18101846UMSB3.536.529.511.00190782.51.700.801512.0
Johannsdottir Johanna BjorgwISL18641842Hellir3.535.528.011.25186262.52.460.04150.6
Kristinardottir Elsa MariaISL17341755Hellir3.535.027.012.50176271.51.250.25153.8
Birgisdottir IngibjorgwISL01564Sson3.534.527.011.50185993.5
Roberts LyndawWLS19600Thornbury3.038.030.510.001833934.71-1.7115-25.6
Hauksdottir HrundU17wISL16271555Fjölnir3.
Fridthjofsdottir Sigurl ReginwISL17311696Taflfélag Reykjavíkur3.
Palsdottir Soley LindU17wISL13231338TG3.
Davidsdottir NansyU17wISL13791313Fjölnir3.031.524.58.501616720.961.043031.2
Edakina MariawNOR16570Oslo Sjakkselskap3.027.522.05.251578711.97-0.9730-29.1
Mass ElvirawGER20402021Godesberger SK2.531.522.56.50158682.56.34-3.8415-57.6
Rikhardsdottir Svandis RosU17wISL01150Fjölnir2.530.023.56.00153481.5
Kazmierczak EwawPOL14620UKSz Hetman Warszawa2.528.022.54.501551610.710.29154.3
Magnusdottir Veronika SteinunnU17wISL15801452TR2.024.519.02.001435600.86-0.8630-25.8

6th Grand Pacific Open!

Goddesschess provides sponsorship for this great event in British Columbia that takes place over Easter weekend, now in its 6th year.  Preregistered players up to 90 - hope they break a record!

April 6 - 9, 2012
Victoria, British Columbia
at the beautiful Grand Pacific Hotel

The latest news is that GM Hikaru Nakamura is registered and confirmed to play in the Grand Pacific Open.  Say what?  All I know is that HN is listed as a confirmed player and this has been confirmed by one of the organizers, Brian Raymer.  Soooo.....WOW.  Fricking WOW!
WGM Nino Maisuradze
WGM Nino Maisuradze, 2011 Champion with a perfect 6-0, is returning to defend her title!  Hooray!  Oh my, she's going to have to face Nakamura OTB.  Guess who I'll be rooting for - YOU GO GIRL! 

Games of Nino Maisuradze at

Register online for the Grand Pacific Open. 

We increased the prizes for the chess femmes a modest amount this year.  We hope to see a great chess femme turn-out - we were very pleased with last year's turn-out and hope to top it!  Goddesschess prizes are awarded in addition to any prizes a female player wins. 

So come on out and play, and who knows?  Maybe one of the rising young regional players in the GPO can humble the mighty GM.  Well, this is the stuff of which dreams are made...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ancient Anglo-Saxon Female Burial Uncovered

From National Geogrpahic Daily News:

Photos: Bejeweled Anglo-Saxon Found in Christian "Burial Bed"

Sleeping Beauty

Published March 21, 2012
Photographs courtesy University of Cambridge

The skeleton of a young Christian noblewoman, who was laid to rest on a "burial bed" some 1,400 years ago, is giving archaeologists precious clues to the earliest days of the English church.

Unearthed in 2011 in a village near Cambridge, the teenager wore the badge of her faith in the shape of an exquisite gold-and-garnet cross, found on her chest and just visible in the picture above. The ornate treasure marks the grave as one of the earliest known Christian burials in Anglo-Saxon England, researchers from the University of Cambridge announced last week.

Christians previously lived and died in Britain under Roman rule. But the newfound grave dates to the mid-seventh century, when Anglo-Saxons—the Germanic peoples who founded the English nation and language—were starting to convert to Christianity.

In addition, the wooden burial bed on which the 16-year-old was placed is one of only a handful of such finds discovered in Britain, the team says.

—James Owen
Published March 21, 201

Thirty Founding Mothers of Madagascar!

It's absolutely fascinating what we are learning these days through DNA analysis! 

I had NO idea that Madagascar was settled only about 1200 years ago!  If asked, I would have suggested that since it was so close to the east coast of Africa, and since we know that early man sailed all over the place 50,000 years ago (maybe even further back but 50,000 is the number that is lodged in my memory), that Madagascar had been settled by so-called "modern" humans about the same time they allegedly started trekking "out of Africa" (anywhere from 100,000 to 60,000 years ago).

I find this very interesting. What I would have expected given what is generally accepted as truth regarding evolution and the "out of Africa" thing, is that the "out of Africa" exodus people would have settled Madagascar early on.  It is closer to the eastern coast of Africa than Athens is to Crete, for instance.  So, what were all of those early ancestors of ours doing instead of casting eyes upon a large piece of land so close by (only about 225 miles away from the nearest point off the coast of Africa to Madascar)?  I don't get it. 

We know people were travelling from the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey), the Greek islands, and Egypt to Crete, thousands of years ago -- much earlier than circa 900 CE when the hypothesized shipwreck occurred!  Check out some of these distances between population hot spots back in the "olden days:"
  • Approximate distance as the crow flies in miles from Cairo Egypt to Nikolaos Crete Greece is 509 miles or 818.98 Kilometers
  • Distance between Athens (Greece) and Crete is 319.78 km.
    This distance is equal to 198.7 miles, and 172.55 nautical miles (island-hopping would make the relative distance longer but would make each individual journey from Athens to island, from island to island, etc., shorter than the shortest distance between two points: Athens to near Heraklion, Crete)
  • Approximate distance as the crow flies in miles from Nikolaos Crete Greece to Izmir Turkey is 230 miles or 370.07 Kilometers
So, I can't help but wonder what the full story is.  Is there a reason why humans never settled Madagascar until about 800 CE, evidently only because of a fricking shipwreck of a boatload of women with a few men from Indonesia?  Are you kidding me?  OHMYGODDESS!

Story from Discovery News

Madagascar Founded By Women
The discovery negates a prior theory about how the island was first found.
By Jennifer Viegas
Tue Mar 20, 2012 07:01 PM ET
Madagascar was first settled and founded by approximately 30 women, mostly of Indonesian descent, who may have sailed off course in a wayward vessel 1200 years ago.

The discovery negates a prior theory that a large, planned settlement process took place on the island of Madagascar, located off the east coast of Africa. Traditionally it was thought to have been settled by Indonesian traders moving along the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

Most native Madagascar people today, called Malagasy, can trace their ancestry back to the founding 30 mothers, according to an extensive new DNA study published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B,. Researchers focused on mitochondrial DNA, passed down from mothers to their offspring. Scientists assume some men were with the women.

“I’m afraid this wasn’t a settlement by Amazon seafarers!” lead author Murray Cox told Discovery News. “We propose settlement by a very small group of Indonesian women, around 30, but we also presume from the genetics that there were at least some Indonesian men with them. At this stage, we don’t know how many.”

Cox, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s Institute of Molecular BioSciences, and his colleagues analyzed genetic samples from 2745 individuals hailing from 12 Indonesian archipelago island groups. They then compared the results with genetic information from 266 individuals from three Malagasy ethnic groups: Mikea hunter-gatherers, semi-nomadic Vezo fishermen and the dominant Andriana Merina ethnic group.

Many Malagasy carry a gene tied to Indonesia. The DNA detective work indicates just 30 Indonesian women founded the Malagasy population, with a much smaller biological contribution from Africa. The women may have mated with their male Indonesian travel companions, or with men from Africa. [Well, duh!  Where else would the African DNA have come from?]

“The small number of Indonesian women is consistent with a single boatload of voyagers,” Cox said, adding that “typical Indonesian trading ships in the mid first millennium A.D. could hold around 500 people. “ [Compare the early Indonesian ships to the "high technology" of the day when Columbus set sail with his puny little ships the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, nearly 700 years later!]

The distance between Indonesia and Madagascar is close to 5000 miles, so the women and their travel mates must have had quite a journey, especially if it was unintended. 

“The small founder population of Indonesian women makes this scenario fairly unlikely,” Cox said. “Instead, our new evidence favors a small movement of people, and perhaps even an unplanned crossing of the Indian Ocean.” [Or, there is a whopping good story to be told that, unfortunately, we will never know. Perhaps they were a boatload of prostitutes shipped off from some city or other because they were considered "unclean."  The possibilities for dramatic story-telling is endless....]

Scant archaeological evidence, consisting of a few bones marked by stone tools and an increased rate of forest fires, suggests people may have first visited, but not settled, Madagascar around 2000 years ago. Even that is very recent in terms of overall human history.

Madagascar was one of the last places on earth to have been settled, with remote islands like New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island being in the short group of places that were settled later -- about 900 years ago.

“Our best argument is that these islands were just extremely difficult to get to,” Cox said.
Matthew Hurles, a senior group leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has also studied the genetic heritage of Madagascar’s native people. He and his team also noted the Indonesian connection.

"Malagasy peoples are a roughly 50:50 mix of two ancestral groups: Indonesians and East Africans,” Hurles said. “It is important to realize that these lineages have intermingled over intervening centuries since settlement, so modern Malagasy have ancestry in both Indonesia and Africa."
Cox concluded, “It is worth emphasizing that Madagascar wasn’t a ‘sealed box’ after its initial settlement. There are notable later contributions by Africans, Arabs and Europeans. All of these contributions show up in the DNA of Malagasy today.”
Come on!  The article comes right out and says that the admixtures of different DNA (Africans, Arabs and Europeans) can pretty much be pin-pointed generationally, so why even bring it up?  People of African, Arabic and European descent were showing up at Madagascar at some point AFTER these Indonesian women showed up - or they were there when the Indonesian women arrived.  So, at some point, travel to Madagascar was not impossible!

How difficult could it have been to get to Madagascar from the east coast of Africa, some 225 miles away?  I don't get it!  Is it a tidal thing?  A prevailing wind thing?  Horrible sea monsters devouring all floating vessels that set out toward Madagascar from the east coast of Africa for the past 50,000 years?  WHAT? 

In any event, Hail to the Founding Mothers of Madagascar!  I think someone should start a petition (maybe me) to change the national flag of Madagascar to two breasts and a "delta." 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Earliest Known Bit Associated with an...

ancient Canaanite donkey?  DONKEY?  Oh my!

But - we know that the earliest people living in ancient Egypt and the Near Middle East (including the Sumerians and Babylonians) did not have horses.  What they had were donkeys and onagers. It was the people known as the Hyksos (I think they may also have been called the Horse People) who invaded Lower Egypt (northern Egypt) and established their dynastic presence in that ancient land for about 100 years beginning in circa 1650 BCE that fueled the explosion of horses being brought into the ancient Near Middle East and Egypt in an explosion.  Before then, horses were a relatively rare and exotic commodity. The ancient Hurrians were "horse masters" and their claim to fame was sending trainers far away into foreign lands with the priceless horses, to teach the foreigners how to breed, raise and, most importantly, train these invaluable animals to pull chariots for the elite.  I believe that this was done at the time mostly through royal marriages, and Hurrian horse masters with the horses (originally brought in from the steppes and then tamed and bred) were part of precious royal doweries.

It was in about 1800 BCE, more or less, that the light-weight but extremely strong eight-spoked chariot wheel had been invented in the area of the world we now call Armenia, and this new invention spread like lightning through the known world at the time.  It was about 150 years later, more or less, that the Hyksos first roared into ancient Egypt to conquer Lower Egypt (north Egypt) and then spread their influence up the Nile River.  They were known as horse masters and has flash-fast war chariots driven by one or two expert charioteers in feather-weight and yet strong chariots with eight-spoked wheels...

They were the advanced war weapon of the day.

Without bits, of course, the ability to control a horse (or any equine), particularly at high speeds, would have been a hit-or-miss proposition...

Where's the bit?  Didn't see a photograph of it in the article.

Archaeologists discover earliest known metal bit

The earliest known metal equestrian bit has been unearthed by archaeologists in Israel. The bit was discovered in an equid burial site at Tel-Haror, and had probably been used on a donkey.

Archaeologists led by Professor Eliezer Oren, from Ben Gurion University, made the discovery in a layer of material dating from 1750 BC to 1650 BC, known as the Middle Bronze IIB Period. It is among a growing number of sites in the Near East yielding the remains of horses and donkeys.

Dr Joel Klenck, a Harvard University-educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, led analysis of the remains in the Tel-Haror site.  He said the burial site is at the base of a dome-shaped structure. The southeastern wall of the burial edifice was overlaid by a thick mudbrick partition that surrounded a nearby temple complex.

Klenck, an archaeologist specialising in the analysis of animal remains, noted the animal was a donkey, as evidenced by foot bone measurements and traits on the grinding surfaces of its teeth.
Klenck said the site yielded the earliest direct evidence of a metal equestrian bit.

“Until the excavation at Tel Haror, archaeologists had only indirect evidence for the use of bits,” he said. “An example of this indirect evidence is wear marks on equid teeth at the fortress of Buhen in contexts dating to the 20th century BC.  At Tel Haror, we retrieved the actual metal device.”

Round plates on either end of the ancient bit feature triangular spikes that pressured the lips of the equid if the reins were pulled from one direction.

He said the discovery provided important insights into ancient equestrian practices and methods of transportation in Near East.

Other discoveries in recent years in the Near East have painted a picture revealing the extensive use of donkeys and horses in ancient cultures.

The Vulture Stele, in Mesopotamia, dating to 2600BC to 2350BC, known as the Early Dynastic III period, portrays an equid pulling a chariot-like vehicle.  Various Mesopotamian manuscripts dating to this period mention the horse, donkey, hemione and hybrids such as the mule.

From Sumeria, terracotta reliefs from the early second millennium BC show equids pulling a chariot and a human riding horseback.

Hittite art from the 13th century BC, in modern Turkey, show a larger species of equid, perhaps a horse, pulling a chariot with three soldiers, in contrast to smaller equids in Egyptian murals pulling chariots with only two men.

Horse bones were found at Tell el-’Ajjul, in Israel, in contexts dated to around 3400BC and [WOW!], in Turkey, at Bogazkoy, from the 17th century BC.

Archaeologists excavated donkey remains at Tell Brak in Mesopotamia dating between 2580BC and 2455BC.

Egyptian donkey burials dating to 2000 BC to 1550 BC, known as the Middle Bronze II periods, include those found at Inshas, Tell el-Farasha, Tell el-Maskhuta, and Tell el-Dab’a.

From similar time periods in the Levant – the area including most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories – archaeologists have excavated donkeys at Tell el-’Ajjul and Jericho.

"Shardik" Come to Life?

Does anyone besides me remember this novel about a giant bear that people in the novel are convinced is either God or a very important messenger from God?  Shardik!

Without even finishing this article, that name instantly came to mind...

Article at Past Horizons
Sunday, March 18, 2012 

By: Hanne Jakobsen, ScienceNordic
Artefacts are usually displayed in museums but sometimes there are some that just can’t be put on exhibition – as is the case with one that is hidden deep in the Russian forests.

A partial shot of some of the 1,000 petroglyphs!
It was known that there were rock carvings on some islands in Lake Kanozero, and Jan Magne Gjerde, project manager at the Tromsø University Museum, went out there to document them as part of his doctoral work however, when he and his colleagues had completed their work, the number of known petroglyphs had risen from 200 to over 1,000.

“I still get chills up my spine when I talk about it because it was such an emotional experience finding these carvings,” says Gjerde. “No matter how much I explore over the next 50 years, chances are close to zero that I’ll ever find anything comparable.”

Join a 5,000-year-old bear hunt

In the summer of 2005, Gjerde drove more than 5,300 kilometres east to Lake Kanozero. Together with Russian colleagues he discovered what he calls some of the world’s oldest animated cartoons.
“Petroglyphs are found at four sites in the area − on three islands and on a stone block on the lakeshore. The oldest ones date to between 5,000 and 6,000 years old,” explains Gjerde. The main site is on the island of Kanozero.

According to Gjerde, these aren’t like the petroglyphs they are used to seeing, depicting one moose or one deer. These are fantastic cartoons presenting entire episodes. For example the one they found at the main site, which depicts a bear hunt.

He describes in detail a hunter who is heading uphill on skis and tracking a bear. The ski tracks are just as one would expect for someone going up a slope with a good distance between the strides. The hunter then gets his feet together, skis down a slope, stops, removes his skis, takes four steps – and plunges his spear into the bear.

This is the oldest example of a cartoon petroglyph we know of, at least in Northern Europe, so it was utterly thrilling to get the chance to be part of this discovery,” he says.

Testifying to a rich society

Gjerde and his colleagues camped in a tent on Kanozero for ten days while documenting the discoveries. Time flies when you suddenly have to make ten times as many drawings as you expected.

They marked off the figures in chalk and then traced this onto plastic sheets, which could be brought back home and properly photographed and documented.

Rest of article.

Chess Femme News From Around the Net

At Chessbase, the City of Montreal Open Chess Championships' newest sweetheart reports on the Reykjavik Open, in which reigning Women's World Chess Champion, GM Hou Yifan of China, played:
GM Hou Yifan, final round, 2012 Reykjavic Open
Alina L'Ami hears the Call of the North
20.03.2012– The Reykjavik Open 2012 took place from March 6–13, and our playing correspondent WGM Alina L'Ami sent us a number of beautiful reports from the Icelandic capital. She was obvious so enthralled by the Nordic country, its people and landscape, that she has written one more massively illustrated report. It is filled with a yearning to go back to Reykjavik next year.

Also at Chessbase, a report on the 2012 European Individual Women's Blitz Chess Championship, won by :

Gaziantep: Gunina overtakes Pähtz, wins European Women's Blitz
19.03.2012– She already won the title in the classical time controls, now Russian IM Valentina Gunina added the Blitz title to it. In the final round she was able to defeat former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanov 2-0 and overtake the leading Elisabeth Pähtz. The German IM will remain in Turkey, since she has signed a contract to train young talents. Big pictorial report.

At Chessdom:

Aleksandra Goryachkina becomes WGM at 13

Aleksandra Goryachkina, born in 1998, has just conquered her last norm for WGM title at the European Women Chess Championship. The young Russian girl finished at the amazing 40th place with 6,0/11, competing with a large number of GMs and IMs in what is considered to be the strongest EIWCC in history.

Elizabeth Vicary's blog is chock-full of chess news of "Her Kids" in NYC, and very promising news and reviews on "Brooklyn Castle," which could be a major game-changer for I.S. 318:

Monday, March 19, 2012 NPR review of Brooklyn Castle! also
SXSW Film: 'Brooklyn Castle' And The Looming Threat Of Commercial Success
If I could pick only one film from the South By Southwest film festival and bodily force everyone I know to see it, it would be Brooklyn Castle, a documentary directed by Katie Dellamaggiore that follows the chess team at I.S. 318, a New York junior high school that has become a superpower at national tournaments.

... I have a gnawing fear of seeing somebody like Charlize Theron (an actress I really like) as the woman who coaches the kids in chess. (!!!!)

read it all

GMSusan Polgar announced the 9th Annual Susan Polgar Foundation Girl's Invitational at her blog:

March 21, 2012
9th annual Susan Polgar Foundation Girl's Invitational

From GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chessqueen blog:

March 20th, 2012
May 5 Tucson Chess Fest invites Chess Queen Kosteniuk
Press Release: 9 Queens brings Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk to celebrate Tucson’s chess community. Alexandra will be honored at the 5th Annual Chess Fest and will receive the 9 Queens Award. The event is sponsored by the Soroptomist International of Desert Tucson and Chess King software. Read the full press release below and mark your calendars if you can make it to Tucson on May 5!

Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 European Individual Women's Blitz Chess Championship

Valentina Gunina won her second gold medal at this year's European Women's Chess Championships (regular, rapid, blitz) by taking the gold in the final round of the Blitz Championship.  Congratulations to IM Gunina and to all the ladies.  Here are the final Blitz standings:

RankSNo. NameRtgFEDPtsratPBH.-1BH.vict
17IMGUNINA Valentina2511RUS15260121321415
211IMPAEHTZ Elisabeth2459GER14½265223023713
32GMDZAGNIDZE Nana2559GEO13½261222823610
45GMSTEFANOVA Antoaneta2531BUL13½260722623311
51GMMUZYCHUK Anna2583SLO132586229½23810
620GMZHUKOVA Natalia2435UKR12½254022923911
76GMKOSINTSEVA Tatiana2513RUS12½2539221½23011
84GMKOSINTSEVA Nadezhda2535RUS12½2512213½22111
93GMLAHNO Kateryna2546UKR122512196½20411
1013IMUSHENINA Anna2458UKR1225022352459
1140WIMBEZGODOVA Svetlana2109RUS12243919520110
1215GMKOSTENIUK Alexandra2448RUS11½247921422110
138IMKHOTENASHVILI Bela2490GEO11½2468196½2058
1433IMGVETADZE Sofio2334GEO112473198½2068
1535WGMOZTURK Kubra2314TUR10½24471962039
1621IMBODNARUK Anastasia2412RUS10½24361861929
1723WGMGIRYA Olga2406RUS10½24121811879
1814WGMPOGONINA Natalija2449RUS10½24091841929
1918GMHOANG Than Trang2438HUN10½23971841908
2022IMPAIKIDZE Nazi2406GEO10½23952042139
2117IMKHURTSIDZE Nino2447GEO1024361962029
2226WGMKASHLINSKAYA Alina2377RUS10242921121210
2312IMMKRTCHIAN Lilit2458ARM1024101881949
2419WGMBATSIASHVILI Nino2438GEO10232917017610
2527WGMCHAROCHKINA Daria2371RUS24042032098
2616IMJAVAKHISHVILI Lela2448GEO23521801877
2734IMSAVINA Anastasia2325RUS23311911975
2828IMGALOJAN Lilit2364ARM23241831898
2925WGMKOVANOVA Baira2392RUS923412082166
3039WIMBEZGODOVA Maria2200RUS923321781797
3132WIMARABIDZE Meri2337GEO923241781846
3229WGMMOLCHANOVA Tatjana2346RUS922981651667
3330WGMYILDIZ Betul Cemre2342TUR922411621636
349IMMUZYCHUK Mariya2490UKR23742032108
3524WGMGURAMISHVILI Sopiko2395GEO22451741755
3610IMSKRIPCHENKO Almira2468FRA823511821887
3736WIMBULMAGA Irina2307ROU822961811886
3831WIMGORYACHKINA Aleksandra2341RUS822011781795
3938WIMBRONNIKOVA Elizaveta2252RUS721411631644
4037WGMVIDENOVA Iva2301BUL720971571585
4141 DURMUS Aslihan TUR215411561570

It was a hotly contested affair, but why would I expect anything else when the regular and rapid championships were just as fiercely contested? From the official website:

Russian player Valentina Gunina became the winner of the European blitz championship among women and got the second gold medal in Gazientep. In the last round she managed to win against Antoaneta Stefanova 2:0 and this victory placed her on the first rank. Elisabeth Paehtz, who was leading before the last round, lost to Nadezda Kosintseva 1,5:0,5 and got the silver medal. Nana Dzagnidze placed third.
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