Saturday, June 18, 2016

Chess and Stamps: First-Day Envelope

Credit: see below; click on image for large picture.

FM Allan Savage (the link is to his chess homepage) shares with us a first-day envelope from the Third International (Preolympic) Tournament, Nethanya (נתניה - also spelled Natanya, Netanya, etc.), June 1964.

It was one of three international tournaments in Israel that year -- the other two being the Tel Aviv Olympiad, and a small tournament in Jerusalem which "recruited" some of the Olympiad's players. All were mentioned in this blog (look under the "tournament" label).

To avoid a possible misunderstanding, 'preolympic' does not refer to any official FIDE designation of the tournament, but simply to the fact that this (individual, not team) event took place before the Olympiad, which, as the link (to Olimpbase) notes, took place later in the year than usual -- in November -- due to the climate.

USSR - Israel, Sept. 14th 1954


Credit: See below.

Ami Barav had generously sent us the following two informal photographs, taken by his father, Israel Barav (ne Rabinovich) in the 1954 Olympiad (Amsterdam), of the match between the USSR and Israel in the third round, Sept. 14th 1954 according to Olimpbase. The meeting caused a sensation in Israeli chess circles: while Oren lost to Keres, Porat and Czerniak drew with Botvinnik and Smyslov, respectively, and Oren beat Kotov.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"The Half Dozen Defeats of Grandmaster Savielly Tartakover"


This is a video (in Hebrew) of an Israeli group, "Gute Gute", send to me by a colleague (link in Hebrew as well).

The song tells of Savielly Tartakover (also spelled Tartakower), who, having lost six games in a row, gave outlandish excuses for each of first five losses: he forgot who is black and who is white, arrived a day late to the game, fell asleep in the comfortable player's chair, etc. As for the sixth, he notes: 'do I have to win them all'?

This old story about Tartakover (with someone less outlandish excuses in the "original" version) is, no doubt, a tall tale, but how the story originated -- and what possessed the group to write a song about it -- is beyond me. I would not be surprised if it was told about other players as well.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tartakower & His Parents' Death

Tartakover's Parents. Credit: See Below

It is often stated that Savielly Tartakover (or Tartakower)'s parents were killed in a pogrom. A frequent correspondent to this blog notes that an excellent article about his early days, recently published online (in Russian), found the exact details: they were in fact killed in a robbery gone bad by one of their shop's workers. The article has numerous rare photographs, including those of his parents (above), their shop, and much much more. The article is by Sergey Voronchov (thanks to readers who pointed it out!).

More on Rivka Lichtenfeld

A regular correspondent with this blog notes that Rivka Lichtenfeld was born Rivka Chwoles, to Chava-Leah and Moshe Chwoles. According to her testimony in Yad Va'Shem, her entire family -- both her parents and her three sisters -- were all murdered in 1942 near Vilno, Poland (both links partially in English and Partially in Hebrew). Such a life story was by no means unusual for holocaust survivors who arrived in Israel -- or anywhere else -- after the war; they were often the only remnant of their entire family.

In addition, Lichtenfeld (who is still alive, at 92) had recently been -- finally -- awarded her fair share of her late husband's property; i.e., the entire apartment she lives in now belongs officially to her, and not half to her and half to the state's general trustee. The mix-up was due to the fact that the Israeli ministry of the Interior decided she was divorced, when in fact she was not, as the link (from the Ynet web site, Feb. 2nd 2012, in Hebrew, by Yair Harush) notes.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another Chess Stamp -- and Three First-Day Covers

Image Credit: Israel Post

A new(ish) chess stamp, to mark the European Individual Chess Championship of 2015 which took place in Jerusalem. The Israeli Philatelic Society also has the first-day cover:

Image Credit: Israeli Philatelic Foundation

As well as the first-day cover (from the same web site) of the 1964 and 1976 Chess Olympiad stamps:



It seems, based both from philatelic sources and on the opinion of various chess players / fans I've talked to about the issue, that this is the first chess stamp Israel had issued since 1976 -- i.e., a gap of 39 years! One possible exception is a single stamp from 1990, showing a chess board on a computer screen. But it is dedicated not to chess or to any particular chess event, but to 'computer games'.

From Harvard University

Image Credit: See Below
Edward Winter, in Chess Notes 9850 (link here, scroll down for the relevant C. N. Item) that Harvard Library has a collection of chess photos from Palestine / Israel, and gives a link to the relevant Harvard web site. The above is the simultaneous display of Rubinstein vs. Marmorosh, which we often mentioned in this blog. The Harvard web site has a much higher resolution picture.

To the best of my knowledge this is the only surviving picture of the display in question. The note (in Hebrew script) at the bottom right says Plastica / Tel Aviv. "Plastica" was, presumably, the name of the shop which developed the prints.

In addition, notes Winter, it has a link to numerous photographs of the 1964 Olympiad taken by the photographer Ya'akov Agor, (יעקב אגור -- his name, the Hebrew, or original, version of 'Jacob', is also sometimes spelled Yakov, Ya'acov, etc.). He was a photographer for various Israeli newspapers, especially of cultural figures, as this link for example notes. One good example is an informal photograph of Aloni (obviously in a private home, not in the tournament hall):

Details: see above.
Or, obviously from the same roll of film, those who wish to know how Haifa looked at the time, on a "regular" street, not in or near the tournament hall:

Details: see above.
But these are two of literally hundreds of such photos, arrange on Harvard's site in a few groups of ca. 150 photographs each. It has numerous photographs of chess personalities, better and lesser known.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bad Simultaneous Display Results

Source: The Atlantic
When one plays simultaneous displays as often as Moshe Czerniak did, it is of no surprised that sometimes one slips up. Davar notes (Jan. 12th, 1951, p. 23) that Czerniak had 'struggled in Hadera', giving a simultaneous display at that town the previous Saturday (i.e. Jan. 6th, 1951) that ended + 18 =1 -10 (!). Do the readers know of any worse results in simultaneous disaplys by leading masters?

In reply to my question, Tomasz Lissowski adds that Rudolf Spielmann gave a simul in Lwow ca. 20 January 1934, with the city's "field" being strong (lacking only Henryk Friedman), the grandmaster losing +6, -7, =27; he adds some games and notes the source: Szachista  no. 1-2, 1934, pp. 20-21.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Steinitz, Insanity, and Jews

Chess Notes 9830, by Edward Winter, has long quotes from the Pall Mall Gazette, of which Isidor Gunsberg was chess editor, concerning Wilhelm Steinitz's incarceration in an insane asylum in Moscow. Of particular interest to this blog is the following quote (see Winter's post for full details):

Source: Pall Mall Gazette, April 5th 1897, p. 10.
Steinitz's decision to write a book about Judaism in chess to combat antisemitism is remarkable. In fact, this report shows that Steinitz had, at least, began writing the book (hiring a typist to do so). Previous reports about it in the Gazette's chess column (see the link to Winter's C.N. 9830 above for details) call it a 'philosophical' book which Steinitz had contemplated writing for years, and that he 'raved' about it in Moscow. It seems -- unsurprisingly under the circumstances -- that the book was never finished.

It should be noted, in fairness, that while Steinitz's behavior was seen, from the reports quoted by Winter, as odd enough to require hospitalization, the belief in astral communication (with others distant, or with the dead) or attempting to employ it was, during the turn of the century, by no means an unusual idea. It was the heyday of numerous psychics and seers, and many people from W. B. Yeats to T. A. Edison to A. C. Doyle were either believers or at least considered trying to make such communications worth the effort. Perhaps they were naive or even foolish in this, but not insane.