Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Quantum Leap

We have already seen the rather low quality of chess problems by Israeli (or Palestinian) composers from the 1920s until the 1940s. By the 1950s, however, things have changed. Perhaps it was precisely the lack of "regular" chess activity in that time of war and scarcity in Palestine and Israel that made chess problems so popular: one can compose on one's own, and there is no need to travel to tournaments (let alone organize them).

In any case, by the mid-1950s Israeli problemists were among the best in the world. Above are two problems, which, in Eliyahu Fasher's words:

"...demonstrate the high level of the Israeli problemists. The old-timer Itzhak Neuman was already known in Hungary, but reached his peak only in Israel. His two-mover won the first prize in a tourney arranged by the British Chess Association, one of the strongest in the world, in which the greatest problemists compete.

"The British judge Matthews [my transliteration from the Hebrew -- presumably R. C. Matthews who was an IM of chess compositions, see Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia: a Biobibliography, Jefferson: McFarland, 1987] added: 'The Rukhlis theme is performed here in a most original way. The economy of white pieces is maximal. The key move passes over four critical squares, over which each of whom the thematic try can occur.'

"The second problem won the first prize in our own chess association's yearly composition tourney. The author [Uri Gruenblatt - A. P.] is a member of Ma'abrot kibbutz [agricultural commune] and an 'alumnus' of Al ha'Mishmar's chess column [which dealt at the time mostly with problems - A. P.]. It is a pity he had temporarily deserted chess composition for his work as a teacher in the kibbutz. We are sure his four children will, in the near future, allow him to return to the field."

Source: Eliyahu Fasher's Ha'Problemai ha'Israeli: Yesodot ha'Kompositziya ha'Sachmetait [The Israeli Problemist: the Fundamentals of Chess Composition] (Tel Aviv: Mofet, 1964), p. 58.

(Highlight below):

1. Bg7!

1. Qb1!
1... e3 2. Sf5!
1... f5 2. Se3!

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