Friday, July 10, 2009

Government Officials and Chess

David ben Gurion (r.) listening to Menachem Oren (standing) at the closing ceremony of the Israeli chess championship, 1951. Extreme left: the minister of education, David Remez. Middle: David Greengard, championship manager. Source: Shlomo Kandelshine, Oren Ba'Trasmeret -- Dr. Menachem Oren, Aluf Ha'Sachmat Ha'Rishon shel Israel [On the Top: Dr. Menachem Oren, the First Chess Champion of Israel], photo section. Tel Aviv: Reshafim Press, 1989.

While chess-playing government officials are not rare, it is perhaps not too common for the prime minister of a state dealing with so many other problems -- and, what's more, who can hardly play chess -- to take such an interest in the game, not only in international events, but in local ones. Ben Gurion, the prime minister, took such an interest -- perhaps at the request of Remez, the minister of education, who was the greatest fan of chess in the early years of the state.

Can you imagine, today, that the American president -- or the current PM of Israel -- would bother to come and visit, let alone show any interest, in a chess tournament?

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