Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quick Update

Image Credit: this youtube channel
Dear all: happy to announce the memorial web site for Israel Barav (Rabinovich) had undergone a major cosmetic and content update in the last few days. Not only is the web site now better looking but many more games were added. Barav, known as an excellent tactician, won many games with beautiful combinations. Here is one, from his match against Churgin (ph. spelling), Tel Aviv, 1926, game 3, with Barav's annotations.

Barav, Israel -- Churgin

King's Indian [E62]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.c4 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0–0 0–0 7.Bg5 e5 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nc3 Bf5 10.Qd2 Re8 11.Rfe1 Nd7 12.e4 Bg4 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Bxf3 f5 15.h4 Nf6 16.Kg2 Qd7 17.Rh1 Rf8 18.h5 Rf7 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Rh2 fxe4 21.Nxe4 Now, according to Fritz, White is winning.

21... Ng4 22.Bxg4 Qxg4 23.Qd3 Raf8 24.Rh4 Qd7 25.Rah1 Rf3 26.Qxf3 Rxf3 27.Kxf3 Nf5 28.Rh7 Nd4+ 29.Ke3 Qg4? 

This mistake allows White to finish the game with a nice combination -- sarcificing both rooks!

30.Rxg7+! Kxg7 31.Rh7+! and Black resigns (1-0) due to 31... Kxh7 32.Nf6+.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

No 'Protektziya', God Forbid

Source: Davar, Feb/ 9th, 1951, p. 22

An interesting overview of the opening ceremony of the 1st Israeli championship, 1951, was brought to our attention by Ami Barav, whose father, Israel Rabinovich-Barav, was one of those involved in organizing it.

There were three speakers: Pinchas Rosen, minister of Justice, who noted that the reason there was no Israeli team sent to the 1950 Olympiad in Yugoslavia (in Dubrovnik) was that the requested funding - 100 Israeli pounds was not approved. (This comes out to roughly $350 in today's USD, which seems very little, but such historical comparisons are problematic.)

He noted 'humorously' (says Davar) that he was happy to hear of the treasury's rejection of the requested funding, since it was 'proof' there is no protekziya (favoritism, nepotism) in the government decisions: even his own attempt to influence the treasury to fund it was to no avail. He also noted he always had a 'unrquited love affair' with chess -- he loved chess ,but chess did not love him, to judge by his playing level.

Then spoke prof. Tur-Sinai about 'the character and essence of the game of chess', adding that he brought with him a special prize -- a book of short brilliancies -- to the winner of the shortest game.

Finally spoke the minister of education and culture, David Remez, also a chess player. He (inevitably) noted that Jewish chess players are 'equal in importance to all non-Jewish players together', and added that the Israeli Chess Federation will 'concentrate on Israel's part in the field of chess' -- which, adds Davar, was a very diplomatic way of speaking, as he didn't promise anything concrete...

Finally a game from the tournament was given on the same page, as  'a serious contender' to Tur-Sinai's prize:

Braun - Glass,
Israeli Championship, 3rd rd. Feb. 1951.
Two Knight's Defense [C56]
Annotations: Davar unless otherwise noted.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 Each side threatens the others' weakness, f7 and e4, respectively. 4. d4 exd4 5. O-O For a pawn, White gets good chances for a strong attack. Nxe4 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Botvinnik played here 8. Nc3 immediately. Qxd5 8. Nc3 Qh5 More aggressive than the usual 8... Qa5. 9. Nxe4 Be6 10. Neg5? Rushing to regain the pawn. 10. Bg5! is more aggressive. 10... O-O-O! 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Rxe6 Bd6 Black overtook White in development. 13. Qe2? 13. h3 is necessary. 13... d3! 14. Qe4 14. Qxd3? Bxh2+ winning the queen; 14. cxd3? Nd4 threatening h2. 14... Nd4! 15. Rxd6 Forced; the bishop is too dangerous. 15... Rxd6 16. Be3 [Of course not 16. NxN? Qd1+ with mate next move - A. P.] 

16... Nxf3+ 17. gxf3 Re8 18. Qf4 Rg6+ 19. Kh1 Qh3 20. Rg1 dxc2 Threatening 21.... RxR+ 22. KxR cq=Q+ 23. BxQ Re1# 21. Rxg6 hxg6 Repeating the same threat. 22. Qc4 b5! Now White cannot defend both c1 and f1; he resigned (0-1).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Losing to the Smoking Idiot

Aaron Nimzowitsch. Credit: Wilfried Krebbers 

There are many tales about Aaron (or AronNimzowitsch. One is that he, a non-smoker, complained to an arbiter about his opponent taking out a cigar -- not because he was smoking, but because he was threatening to smoke, 'and the threat is stronger than the execution'. Another is that, after losing a game to Saemisch in a tournament in Berlin, which cost him the first prize, he angrily exclaimed, 'why must I lose to this idiot?'.

The first story, as Edward Winter and others had consistently pointed out, is almost certainly an invention. But the second story is probably true... and there is also both a smoking and an Israeli / Palestinian connection!

The story, first of all, was told to Hans Kmoch by the 'idiot' himself, as Kmoch retells in Grandmasters I have Known -- so we have an actual, indeed the best possible, witness to the event, and it is not one of the infamous 'once' tall tales, indeed often libels, that so disfigure chess history, about how player X 'once' did or said something outrageous.

But what was the occasion? Kmoch does not say. Wilfried Krebbers, the author (or creator) of the excellent site, points out that was a likely a Blitz tournament by the Berlin Chess Association, which took place on Aug. 9th, 1928, in the Koening Chess Cafe, as reported in the Schachwart, Sept. 1928, pp. 168-169.

The Schachwart report adds that the tournament was divided into a smokers' and non-smokers' section. Nimzowitsch, a non-smoker, won his section, and Saemisch, a heavy smoker, won his. Saemisch then went on to defeat Nimzowitsch in the play-off. While the report does not explicitly note any outburst from Nimzowitsch, the facts agree: the tournament did take place in Berlin, and losing to Saemisch did cost Nimzowitsch first place.

The Israeli/Palestinian connection? Israel Barav, the Israeli player and organizer, then Rabinovich ('Rabinowitsch' in the German spelling) and a student in Berlin, played in the same tournament!

He played in the smoking section -- coming in a very respectable 4th place, after three well-known players: Saemisch himself, Ahues, and Kagan. We thank Ami Barav, his son, for bringing this tournament, as well as its connection to both Barav and the 'losing to the idiot' incident, to our attention. For more on Israel Barav's chess achievements, see his memorial web site.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Penrose Fainting and Gereben Swindled

Source: Davar, Sept. 25th 1970, p. 16
A frequent correspondent to this blog notified us of an interesting article by the late Zvi Bar-Shira about the Siegen (1970) Olympiad. Bar-Shira notes, among other things (we have only used a small cutting of the entire article) that Penrose had blundered a piece to an opponent from Andorra (Olaf Ulvestad according to the databases), fainting at the board, and being sent back to England.

Bar-Shira also adds that Arno (Aharon) Gereben -- 'an Hungarian Jew who didn't manage to find himself in Israel and emigrated to Switzerland' -- was a victim of 'an unpleasant event. His Indonesian opponent, Haji Ardiansyah (full name from Chessbase's 2005 'Big Database'), had 'smugly declared a stalemate', and both signed the scoresheet. Only after the game both saw it was not a stalemate, but Gereben's appeal of the score was rejected.

The databases bear this story out. Acording to Chessbase's database, they reached the following position:

Ardiansyah (Black) played 71... Qg6+, obviously believing that after the (forced) 72. KxQ Black is stalemated. In fact Black is not (72... Kc6), but the game is recorded in the databases as a draw after Black's 71st move, meaning White indeed accepted Black's claim.

This is somewhat comforting to players on my level. If this sort of fire can consume, as the Talmud says, the Cedars of the Lebanon (or of Siegen, at any rate), the moss on the wall, like ourselves, can feel better about our own lapses.

Graves of Chessmasters -- Moshe Blass

Credit: See Below
A frequent corespondent to this blog has found a picture of the grave, in the Holon cemetary, of Moshe Blass -- or, as is written on the tombstone, 'Moshe Abba Blass, son of Itzhak Meir'.

Chess and Terrorism

Source: Shachmat, vol. 11 no. 10 (Oct. 1972), p. 2 (back side of front cover). 
This is not a political blog, and we make it an explicit point not to go into political issues as such. We note that terrorism, now constantly in the news, is not a new concern -- nor is its connection to chess.

In the above article, by Israeli Eshel, the head of the Israeli Chess Federation, justifies the ICF's decision to send men and women's teams to Skopje, since there were serious concerns about terrorism, in the wake of the attack in the Munich Olympics which killed eleven Israeli athletes.

Eshel notes that the decision was made to participate, but only after serious discussion, an 'clear-cut promise' from the Yugoslav organizers to protect the participants, which included also making special arrangements for the Israeli team (Olimpbase too notes there were, in general, 'extraordinary security arrangements' made due to Munich's shadow). He also notes that the ICF as well as the participants cooperated fully with the Israeli security authorities.

The Olympiad, we now know, passed without any (security) incidents, but it was not an easy decision to make.

In the Beginning: "Al Ha'Mishmar"

Source: Al Ha'Mishmar, Sept. 6th, 1945, p. 3.
Chess columns usually start with games and problems together -- usually, 'game 1' and 'problem 1' (or else, "[endgame] study 1"). In Al Ha'Mishmar, the chess column was different: it started in that newspaper, in effect, as a problemist's column, with two problems, on Aug. 23rd, 1945 (p. 3). The first game (from the Moscow championship, 1945) was published only two weeks later, as seen above.

The  Sept. 6th column (below) is also interesting for explaining the history of the column, noting it is in effect a problemist's column, which "migrated" to Al Ha'Mishmar from the Palestine Post, where it was established five months previously, and had found an audience of 'close to sixty solvers'.

As was typical at the time, the tone was explicitly Zionist: 'this is a number no large publication abroad would have been ashamed of... an international [composing] tournament was announced, which will no doubt help publicize our nation in the world'.

In addition, it also notes founding of the Palestinian Problemists' Association, in the Emanuel Lasker club, Tel Aviv, on Sept. 15th.

Source: See above

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Barav - Koch, 1947

The following game was played in Feb. 1947 by Barav against B. Koch in the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv. It is from Ami Barav's collection of his father's games, the annotations being both by Barav (Sr.) and by Shahar GindiOnce more, Barav is out for tactics, looking for the mating attack -- and finding it:

"Lakser Club", Tel Aviv
Date "1947.02.??"
Israel Barav – B. Koch
Irregular Opening (A00)
Annotations: Barav & Shahar Gindi

1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 e6 3. Bd3 b6 4. Ne2 Bb7 5. O-O c5 6. c3 cxd4 7. exd4 Be7 8. Nd2 O-O 9. f4 Nc6 10. Nf3 Rc8 11. Ng3 h6 12. Ne5 Bd6 (?! -- White has been building up without interference for several moves, this move further hinders Black's ability to prepare for an attack -- S. G.) 13. Qe2 Qc7 14. Bd2 g6 15.ae1 Kg716. f5 (! White's army is fully targeted toward Black's king and the f5 break decides - S.G.) Ne7 17. fxe6 fxe6 (17…dxe6 18.Rxf6! Kxf6 19.Bxh6 and the king is helpless -- S.G. )18. Nxg6 (18.Bxg6 is better-- Barav. Indeed, 18.Bxg6 Nxg6 19.Nh5+ Nxh5 20.Qxh5 +- the knight on e5 prevents the Bxh2+ resource that Black had in the game -- S.G.)18… Bxg3 (? 18…Nxg6! 19.Nh5+ Nxh5 20.Qxh5 Bxh2+! 21.Kh1?! Bxg2+! 22.Kxg2 Qg3+ 24. Kh1 Qxd3= -- S.G.) 19. Nxe7 Bxe1

20.Bxh6+ ! Kf7 ( 20…Kxh6 21. Qe3+ Kg7 21.Qg5+ Kh8 22.Qh6 mate; 20…Kh8 21. Bxf8+- -- S.G.) 21. Nx8 Rxc8 22. Bg5 Rh8 23. Rxf6+ Black Resigns (1-0).

The game is also available in the "games" section of Barav's memorial web site. (Note: one might have to "reload" or "refresh" the pages on the web site to see the latest update). 

Chess on the Front Page

Source: Ha'Olam Ha'ze ["This World"], Year 16 no. 820 (July 9th, 1953), front cover.
We already noted in the blog that Moshe Czerniak was mentioned on the cover of Ha'Olam Ha'Ze in 1952. That, however, was the back cover. About a year and a half later, he was there again -- on the front cover, with the title "Chess Master Czerniak -- in the game of kings, the little pawn decides".

The article itself, on pp. 13-14, gives a "standard" outline of chess history -- from the famous legend about its invention in India by a priest to teach the king a lesson about the limits of his power, to the fact that many Jews were champions, to Czerniak's biography. It notes how he studies chess in Paris, where he went to study chemistry, from Alekhine, noting his devotion to spreading and teaching chess in Israel, and his tournament successes.

One point of detail: it notes that Czerniak drew his first game with Capablanca in the 1939 Olympiad. The paper claims that, while Czerniak was a pawn ahead when the game was adjurned, Capablanca analyzed with Alekhine and found a 16-move drawing combination.

In fact, the game only lasted 42 moves so there was no question of a '16 move drawing combination' (as the game score itself makes clear). It was Capablanca who was a pawn ahead, after winning Czerniak's isolated e-pawn in the middle game (17... Nxe4). In any case, it would be extremely unlikely Capablanca would analyze with Alekhine, of all people, given their mutual enmity.

An interesting linguistic point addressed in the article is how to spell 'chess' in Hebrew. This article, and Ha'Olam Ha'Ze's articles about chess in general, deliberately  use the spelling שחמת, claiming the more common spelling שחמט is wrong, since שחמת, means 'the shah [שח, king] is dead [מת]', which is the correct description of the game's purpose, to "kill" the king, as the author explains in a footnote on p. 13.The author is probably wrong on this point. שחמט is preferred today not 'by mistake' but because it means literally 'the king is captured (or more literally, toppled, or defeated - מט).

The article also has (p. 13) a nice photograph of Keres playing Czerniak in the 1952 Helsinki Olympiad, a game eventually drawn in 90 moves after tenacious defense from Keres, a pawn down in a knights' ending: