Sunday, August 17, 2008

Playing Conditions

Porat in 1926. Photo Credit: Yosef Porat, Aman ha'Sachmat [Yosef Porat, the Chess Master] by Eliyahu Fasher and Porat.

For those players who complain about how they lost games due to stress, poor playing conditions, being distracted by other concerns, etc. - a lesson from Yosef Porat, in a letter to Shachmat, (May 1983, vol. 22 no. 5, issue 240:155):

"In my hometown of Breslau in lower Silesia there were two large chess clubs: the Anderssen, which had only a few Jewish members, and the Morphy, which most local Jewish players joined and had a few prominent Jewish members among its officials. A few weeks after Hitler came to power the city championship began in the Morphy’s rooms (as is known Hitler originally was the head of a coalition government and only a few weeks later became a dictator [sic] and then the “illegal” attacks against Jews and other increased.) [Porat presumably means the great increase in Hitler’s power after the passing of the so-called “Enabling Act” of March 23, 1933-A.P.]

"The championship began in the middle of March 1933 and lasted about two months. There were a few rounds left when rumors began to circulate that the Nazis might invade the club at any minute (the anti-democratic and anti-Semitic forces then becoming stronger by the day). In all of the later rounds I came to play with a feeling of great mental stress: will the round end peacefully? It is very possible this stress affected my play, in any rate I didn’t win first place as previously but only second place. [after the non-Jewish master Gottlieb Machate, who also led the tournament most of the time—A.P.]

"Indeed, until the end of the championship nothing happened, but a few days later a group of SA men entered the club, expelled the Jews present, dismissed the management, and made the club into a 'National-Socialist chess club'. Some thought the Nazis would have done this sooner if I were leading the tournament!"

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