Sunday, August 30, 2015

Was it Truly a "Mystery" Tournament? Netanya 1964 (and Stahlberg - Blumenfeld 0:1: Complete Game Found)

Several readers notified me that the tournament in question was not at all a "mysterious" tournament. Moshe Roytman for example notified me of other mentions of it in Davar at the time and in Kandelshine's book about Aloni. Amatzia Avni, Alon Greenefeld and others notified me that the games appear (as I suspected) in Shachmat of 1964. Avni already kindly sent me two sample pages from the report. inally Malkiel Peretz sent me a database of the tournament.

So, one may ask indeed: where is the big mystery?

In my defense I merely meant to say that the tournament is a "mysterious" one for the non-Israeli public, not appearing in Chessbase or other sources despite having famous players like Filip and Stahlberg. Indeed this seems to be the case: not only does it not appear in those databases, but I got a request from two different European chess historians for games: one of them (which prompted my original post) heard of the tournament but could find no games, another had noted that the tournament's existence was unknown to him!

All this goes to show what should be an obvious point. Databases and the Internet are all well and good -- but to really understand what happened,  one must go back to the original sources. This is especially true when one investigates the history of chess in Israel or in another country whose language is not a major European language, and thus often has material not known to most other chess historians. Indeed, the whole point of this blog is to familiarize the non-Hebrew-speaking public in general, and chess historians in particular, of information that the language barrier (not to mention availability of material) makes hard to find.

In any case, here is the corrected Stahlberg  - Blumenfeld game, which Schachmat reported was played in the 9th round:

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 Qa5 8. Qd2 a6
9. f3 e6 10. g4 exd5 11. cxd5 Re8 12. Nh3 h5 13. Nf2 hxg4 14. fxg4 b5 15. O-O
b4 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. Ncd1 Qd8 18. Ne3 Nd7 19. Nc4 Ne5 20. Rab1 Nxc4 21. Bxc4
Bd4 22. Qf4

22... Qh4 23. Qg3 Qxg3+ 24. hxg3 Rxe4 25. b3 Bxg4 26. Rbe1 Rxe1 27. Rxe1
Bf3 28. Kf1 Kg7 White resigns (0-1).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Champions of Hebrew

Source: see below. 

We have often noted in this blog the close relationship between education in general, and the teaching or evolution of the Hebrew language in particular, and chess. Our frequent correspondent, Mr. Roytman, notes that Davar reported (Feb. 9th, 1951, p. 9) that when Pinchas Rosen had given the opening speech in the first Israeli championship, he said he "feared" not the chess champions, but the "Hebrew champions" -- prof. Tur-Sinai and minister of education and culture David Remez, both known for their almost-fanatical passion for correct Hebrew.

Good thing he Amounted to Something in the Chess World

Without comment, here is a scan of a document found in the collection of one of Yoram Lubiainker's friends (or, rather, that of a friend of a friend, as he notifies me):

I hardly think FIDE should have denied "T. Petrosian" his participation certificate in the 1964 Olympiad, just because he was world champion at the time, but still, are Lubialinker and myself the only ones who find this amusing?

Stahlberg - Blumenfeld, 0-1

In 1964, a tournament in Netanya took place with Gideon Stahlberg, Miroslav Filip, and others, with the young Yair Kraidman winning (7.5 / 11), ahead of Yidael Stepak and Filip (7), Stahlberg and Guti (6.5), etc. This was one of Kraidman's first significant victories.

Surprisingly the tournament does not appear in the "usual" sources (i.e., Chessbase's databases,, etc.) Davar reported on the tournament, by its chess column editor, G. Palai. The game Stalhberg - Rudy Blumenfeld reached this position:

Source: Davar, 25/6/1964, p. 9 (originally printed w/rook on f8, not e8)
And continued (Palai's annotations):

21... Qh4 practically the winning move, threatening not only g4 but mainly Be5. White must exchange queens and lose two pawns. 22. Qg3 QxQ+ 23. hxQ Rxe4 threatening BxN+ winning the bishop. 24. b3 Bxg4 25. Rbe1 RxR 26. RxR Bf3! Not content with a two pawn advantage, Black weaves a mating net. 27. Kf1 Kg7 White resigns (0-1) due to the unstoppable R-h8-h2 etc. One of the shortest and most decisive games in the tournament.

Unfortunately the score up to this point is corrupted. As printed, it is the impossible:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 c5 6. d5 Qa5 7. Qd2 a6 8. f3 e6 9. g4 exd5 10. cxd5 Re8 11. Nh3 h5 12. Nf2 hxg3 13. fxg4 b5 14. 0-0 b4 15. BxN BxB 16. Nd1 Qd8 17. Ne3 Nd7 18. Nc4 Ne5 19. Rab1 NxN 20. BxN Bd4 21. Qf4.

Can anybody reconstruct the actual game -- or find more games? (I do not currently have at hand Shachmat from 1964, for example, which would be the obvious place to check).

Edited 25/8/2015: Amatzia Avni informs us that, as suspected, the games (or at least most of them) were in fact printed in Shachmat in 1964. 

Edited 30/8/2015: Moshe Roytman informs us that more information is found, for example, in Shlomo Kandelshein's book about Aloni

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Yiddish Descriptive Notation

Credit: California Jewish Voice, Dec. 16, 1932.

Mr. Bruce Monson, who is researching Jewish life in California, found in the Jewish press of the 1930s -- more specifically, in the Yiddish-language California Jewish Voice -- a short-lived chess column edited by Noam Light. It covered, in particular, some games from the Pasadena, 1932 tournament won by Alekhine.

Unusually for Yiddish or Hebrew chess columns, the column used the descriptive notation -- in fact, the "long" descriptive notation popular ca. 1900: E.g., using, 'B. takes P.' insead of 'BxP', 'Castles' insread of '0-0', 'K-B' insread of 'K-B1', etc. This seems to imply Light was an "old timer", using the notation he was used to from ca. 1900. But this is speculation.

Above, is how the beginning of Borochov (or Borochow) - Araiza (Caro-Kann, 0-1, 23 moves) was printed, "translating" the initials from the Hebrew / Yiddish to English:

1. P-K4                        P-QB3
2. P-Q4                        P-Q4
3. QN-B3 (sic)            P. takes P.
4. N. takes P.              N-B3
5. N. takes N. check  K. P. T[akes]. N.
6. P-QB3                     B-Q3

It seems a small wonder that algebraic notation eventually won the day.

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.