Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Romrandom Chess

Credit: see below

Gdali Roisman brings to our attention the following suggestion 'for a new array'. It was published in Shachmat vol. 6 no. 3 (March 1967), p. 102. It was the suggestion of Meir Rom, and given the same reasons as other such suggestions, to wit, the "theory death" of chess.

Rom offers the new array tentatively, and suggests that players 'who are sick of playing by the book until the 20th move' will benefit from it. He notes the array doesn't change the rules (apart from the abolition of castling) or pieces, thus not requiring a change in middlegame or endgame strategies, or the production of new sets. The castling move is, of course, canceled in this array, but there are no other changes to the rules.

The array is interesting, being deliberately asymmetrical. presumably, to give play a more tactical, castling-on-opposite-sides character right from the start. The rooks and bishops, too, seem to start in a prima facie better, more active, position than in the orthodox game. This is unlike most suggestions for unorthodox starting positions, such as Fischer's "random chess" suggestion.

By the way, Tim Krabbe and others noted (though I cannot locate the exact place right now) that Fischer was hardly the first to suggest such a new array. Bronstein, Gulko, and others did, as well as Maarten van 't Kruijs in the 19th century, and the idea (as the article in the link notes) goes back further, to the 18th century. Van 't Kruijs was unorthodox in more ways than one: the "reverse French" (1. e3) is called the van 't Kruijs opening.

Such randomization comes readily to mind for those who wish to create a chess variant, as it requires no new rules, pieces, or boards, and is very easy to set up once the idea occurs to one. I won't be all surprised if Arabic (Shatranj) or even Indian chess was occasionally played in such a randomized fashion, for variety's sake.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

1935 Maccabiah Chess Medal

Credit: See Below
Prof. Shaul Ladany (whose life story, in the linked Wikipedia page, is well worth reading) had sent me a photographs of this medal from the 2nd Maccabiah. 

The top side has the logo of the Palestine Chess Federation, and the bottom side the Maccabiah's logo. The text reads, top, 'The Palestine Chess Federation', and bottom, 'The 2nd Maccabiah, Palestine'. (As usual, we translate the Hebrew term Eretz Israel -- 'Land of Israel' -- into 'Palestine', the equivalent English term used at the time). 

As instances of public use of the Palestine Chess Federation's logo seem to be rather rare (see, for one such use, this post), this is certainly a significant find. Also, this medal, as well as the Zilbershats case noted in this previous post, strongly suggest that chess was an official field of competition in the Maccabiah. This was certainly what all chess books which mention the subject, as well as contemporary newspaper reports, say or imply. 

However, prof. Ladany believes that this was never officially the case, and that his research has no mention of chess as officially being part of the 1935 Maccabiah. He believes "annexing" chess to the Maccabiah was one of the many cases (then as in the 1932 Maccabiah) of using the event as a formal excuse for immigration purposes, to allow as many Jews as possible to enter the country in the teeth of British restrictions on Jewish immigration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Fischer Letter

Credit: see below.

Above is a scan (both sides) of a letter sent by Bobby Fischer to the Israel Chess Federation, provided to us by Yoram Lubianiker. He adds that, while the date of the cancellation stamp is not clear, the stamp on the bottom right was issued in Nov. 3rd, 1970, which means that is the earliest date the letter could have been sent.

Fischer (after his participation in Netanya 1968) was invited to participate in a tournament in Israel by the ICF again, but politely declined, noting he is devoting all his energies to the conquest of the world championship. This, Lubianiker learned from person conversation from a source in the ICF which I also know, and who I know from personal experience wishes not to be named on the Internet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Escape Route

Source: See Below
In a previous post, we have speculated that two players, Yaakov and Aryeh Zilberhats, had used the Maccabiah merely as a way to get out of Europe in 1935, while being no more than amateur players. Yaakov's grandson, Boaz Zilbershats (his preferred English spelling of the original Polish Zylberszac) had confirmed that this was in fact the case -- and that, in fact, the 1st and 2nd Maccabiahs were notorious for such "cheating". He provided us with much information; inter alia his grandfather's membership in the Maccabi World Union (above), his visa certificate to Palestine, etc.

The Wikipedia article, in Hebrew, notes that those who remained in Palestine as illegal emigrants after the 1935 Maccabiah included, inter alia, the entire Bulgarian brass band, which played in the opening and closing ceremonies... Mr. Zilbershats adds that, while never claiming to be more than amateurs, the two brothers were long-time chess fans, and that there is even a chess team in the Israeli league named after Yaakov Zilbershats, where he (Boaz), as well as his father (Yaakov's son), and two of his own children play.

We are in the process of compiling information on Jewish players who used chess to escape Europe to Palestine in the 1930s. Many have tried, and some failed, as can be seen here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sac, Sac, Sac, Mate

We have mentioned in the previous post that Shaul Hon had claimed Barav was an exemplary Blitz player. Here is a game by him -- against Aloni -- where the final combination is very beautiful: it  involves three sacrifices (almost) in a row, each one for a particular tactical reason, and ends with a "quiet" move. The source is Barav's scoresheet, generously given to us by his son, Ami Barav.

Barav, Israel -- Aloni, Itzchak 

French Tarrasch (C05)

Blitz game, Lasker Chess Club, Tel Aviv (Date?)

Annotations: Based on Fritz 5.32's analysis.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Be7 8.Nf3 0–0 9.h4 f6 10.Nf4 Nb6?

11.Ng5! the first sacrifice. 

11... fxg5 Black is still lost after 11... f5 12.Ngxe6 or 11... g6 12.Nxh7, but now there is a forced mate. 

12.Bxh7+ the second sacrifice. 

12... Kxh7  12... Kf7 13.Qh5+; 12... Kh8 13. Qh5. 

13.hxg5+ Kg8 14.Rh8+ the third sacrifice. 

14... Kxh8 15.Qh5+ Kg8 16.g6 Black resigned (1–0); it's mate in two. 

The final position deserves a diagram:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Barav - Vidor, 1944: A 12-move Combination

Barav was called by Shaul Hon (in Ptichot Be'Sachmat [Chess Openings], 3rd ed., Tel Aviv: Shach press, 1965, p. 92) 'one of the greatest tacticians in our country' and a 'exemplary blitz player'.

He was also an organizer: he was one of those who established the Palestine Chess Federation, organized the sending of the Israeli teams to the Olympiads in the 1950s, headed the Israel Chess Federation for a while in the 50s, and so on.

His son, Ami Barav, apart from supplying me with the above information, also kindly gave me press clippings and score sheets of such games. One of them is between Barav and Vidor, the scoresheet given to me by his son:

Source: Ami Barav's collection.

The game was published, not only in Hon's book (pp. 92-93), but, as part of Barav's obituary, in Shachmat vol. 11 no. 8 (Aug. 1979). The obituary was written, and the game analyzed, by Avshalom Yosha. His is the analysis below, unless otherwise indicated. 

Barav, Israel - Vidor

Dutch Defense, Staunton Gambit (A82)

Lakser Club "Yovel" championship, 05.02.1944

1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 e6 5.Bxf6 Qxf6 6.Nxe4 Qg6 (Better is 6...Qh6) 7.Ng3 Be7 8.Bd3 Qf7 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.c3 b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.0–0 0–0–0 13.a4! Bf6? (13...g5  required) 14.b4 h5 15.a5 h4? (better is 15...g5) 16.Ne4 h3 17.g3 Qh5 18.axb6 axb6? (The file should not have been opened, but even after  18...cxb6 19.Ba6 white is Much better.) 19.Ba6 Nb8 20.Bxb7+ Kxb7 21.Qc4! 

'The beginning of a majestic combination' (Yosha). 'It too me 45 minutes, then I calculated a 12-move combination. Persitz would come to me to show me another variation every time, but I showed him I calculated it all.' (Israel Barav, from his son's recollection). 

21...Qd5 (21...Qxf3 22.Ra7+! Kxa7 23.Qxc7+ Ka6 24.Ra1+ Kb5 25.Nd6#) 22.Ra7+ Kxa7 23.Qxc7+ Qb7 (23...Ka6 24.Ra1+ Kb5 25.c4+  etc.) 24.Ra1+ Na6 25.Rxa6+ Kxa6 26.Nc5+ Kb5 (26...bxc5 27.Qa5#) 27.Nxb7 Ra8 28.Nd6+ Ka4 29.Qc4 Ka3 30.Nd2 Kb2 31.Qb3+ and Black resigned (1-0), due to 31...Kc1 32.N2c4 Bg5 33.Kf1 with unavoidable mate:  

'One of the most brilliant combinations even made in the country' -- Mohilever (quoted in Yosha's article). Mohilever also remind the reader in Yosha's piece that that Barav was one of the founders of the Palestine Chess Association, with Mohilever himself, Nachum Levonsky, Haim Reid, and others. 

A search of secondary sources (books in Hebrew from the 1950s, chessbase's database, chessgames.com , etc.) find no games by Barav online, and only this specific game appeared once or twice in Hebrew-language sources. Ami Barav had done a significant service in saving some of his fathers games, which I plan to publish here periodically. Let us say now only that they justify Hon's statement about Barav's talent. 

Barav and Leah Goldberg

Credit: Wikipedia

The famous Israeli poet, Leah Goldberg, has an unusual chess connection: she knew, in Berlin, the player and organizer Israel Barav (then Rabinovich).

They -- as the article in Ha'aretz notes [link in Hebrew] -- met in Berlin, and when Barav left for Lithuania, she wrote him a farewell poem on the back of a visiting card as they waited together in the station for his train:

Credit: Ha'aretz, see link above.

Barav added on the other side of the card the exact date and time: 'February 28th, 1932, 4:45 AM'. His son also notes that there is a misprint in the 3rd from last line in the poem: it should say 'alone in the railway car' (לבדו בתוך הקרון) and not 'not in the railway car' (לא בתוך הקרון). Readers of Hebrew can note that the error is due to Goldberg's 'לבדו' (alone) looking like 'לא' (no / not) in her handwriting.


Barav, like many of his generation, chose a Hebrew name to replace his original one. 'Barav' means 'Rabinovich' (i.e., the son of the Rabbi) in Hebrew. Other chess figures we have met who changed their name include inter alia Aloni (ne Schaechter), Porat (ne Foerder), Dagan (ne Kornfeld), etc.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

First Israeli Championship -- 1951

Credits: see below

Ami Barav, the son of Israel Rabinovich-Barav, who was the chairman of the Israeli Chess Federation in the early 50s, and who inter alia was present as one of the organizers in the 1951 Israeli championship and was with the Israeli team in the 1954 chess Olympiad. Similar photographs from the tournament, esp. showing Oren, the winner, were already posted in this blog (see here, for example), but Barav kindly gives us more. According to him (correctly, it seems to me) the people in the photographs are, from top to bottom, left to right:

1). Gruengard (speaking), Barav, speaking to David Ben Gurion.
2). Barav, Ben Gurion, Pinchas Rosen (minister of Justice and honorary chairman of the Israel Chess Federation), and David Shimoni (the poet).
3). Gruengard, Barav, Ben Gurion, Rosen.

Chess by Phone

Source: Davar, Jan. 4th, 1952, p. 22

We have previously noted in this blog that chess was occasionally on the radio in Palestine (possibly) and (the early years of) the state of Israel. As the article in Davar notes (in Hebrew), another version of "distance" chess was a match by telephone, which took place on Dec. 27th, 1951, and arranged by Kol Israel, where, as we saw before, Hon was employed at the time.

The games are reported (verbally) in the article. The summary is (from first to fourth board):

Jerusalem                      Tel Aviv
Czerniak        0            Aloni                1
Dyner                           Kniazer            'Adjourned with Kniazer a piece up'
Porat             0.5          Mandelbaum   0.5
Glass                            Hon                   'Adjourned in a drawn position'

Hon, who wrote the article, adds that the success of the telephone match means also that one should arrange "pure" radio matches between Israeli and other teams abroad. He adds the interesting point that such matches are difficult for the players since they cannot see the opponent's expression, which is often very important.

Another interesting point is that the photographs of the players are arranged by board and team as in the list -- i.e., Czerniak's photo is at the top left, Kniazer's second from the top on the right, etc. The two bottom photographs show Yochanan Maroz (l.) and Y. Ish-Horowitz (ph. spelling), who were the communication men in Tel Aviv, and David Carmeli (ph. spelling) who received and sent moves in Jerusalem.

Finally, these photographs were taken (notes the article) in Tel Aviv by S. Frank (ph. spelling) and in Jerusalem by W. Brown (ph. spelling). It is of some importance that these very same photographs were often re-printed in numerous Israeli-printed articles and books for years afterwards.