Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Brain Drain

Credit: Haproblemai, Jan. 1980, p. 1.

We have, so far, talked about Israeli chess and orthodox Israeli problemists. What was the situation of unorthodox chess in Israel (or Palestine) in the past?

It seems -- this conclusion being rather tentative! -- that the fairy chess folks had suffered from, alas, the same problem many other areas in Israel suffer: to wit, the 'brain drain'. Talented Israelies preferred to publish their problems abroad, where recognition and awards were higher, than to publish them in Israeli magazines.

A typical example is given in Ha'Problemai [The Problemist], the Israeli Problemists' Association's bulletin, of January 1980. On the first page (above) we see a very interesting and original fairy problem -- using no less than 12(!) "orphans" (sideway pawns in the diagram) -- by Zvi Roth, I. Raz, and Shlomo Seider (the first names of the first and last composer I got, as so often, from Jeremy Gaige's indispensible Chess Personalia: A Biobibliograpy [1987]). This problem was good enough to win the third prize in the [Giuseppe] Brogi (1900-1976) memorial tournament (1976-1978) in Italy. (See solution below, adapted from pp. 1-2 of Haproblemai, January 1980).

But what happens in Israel, in the meantime -- in fact, in the exact same period? In the same issue of Haproblemai (pp. 22-23), in 'Fairy Problem Report, 1976-1978', the very same Zvi Roth notes that fairy problems in Israel historically include only (a) Maxinummer selfmates, (b) retrograde analysis problem, and (c) series-movers, and that since, for historical reasons, the first type is lumped together with "regular" selfmates and the second (in which, I -- A.P. -- must add, Israeli problemists reached a very high degree, as can be seen from this blog) is considered separately from "real" fairy chess, the problems he had left to judge were only series-movers. What's more, those were of 'very poor quality'. He adds:
Where are the fairy pieces like the grasshopper, the nightrider, the neutral pieces, and so on -- which are well known in the entire world for decades? Where are the special boards? The special condition problems, such as "circe" problems? And, in general, where is the Israeli problemists' wild, creative imagination?
The brain drain, it seems, is not limited to the high-tech world.

Solution to the problem (highlight the text below):

1. Ng8!

Threat: 2. e8=N# (a triple check).

1... Ke3 2. e8=R#
1... Kf3 2. e8=B#
1... c6 2. e8=Q#

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