Saturday, June 19, 2010

First Chess Column in the Hebrew Press?

What was the first chess problem in the Hebrew-language press, as opposed to the first chess problem in a newspaper printed in Palestine?

I make a start with Ha'Zfira (phonetic spelling of the Hebrew הצפירה), the Warsaw-based Hebrew-language newspaper which was published 1862-1931. On January 15, 1888, it published the following problem, by ".ל. מ" ("L. M.") which is a mate in three:

The solution appeared on 10.2.1888:

It is interesting that the notation used is the Hebrew equivalent of the "old" English notation, e.g., the key move is written as "The A5 knight to B7", or (in the third variation) "The F3 queen to H5 and calls, 'check!'", etc.

Partial translation (into English and modern notation, omitting the names of the correct solvers and an unclear variation in the first solution):
1. Nb7

1. ... Kxd4
2. Nb4 Ke5
3. Nc6#

1. ... exd5
2. Rd5+ Ke6
3. Nd8#

1. ... Rxd4
2. Qh5+ Ke4
3. Nc5+

Many solvers suggested 1. Nc6 as the key, followed by 2. Nb6, not noting that Black can reply 2. ... Rxd4!. If they will check they will find there is no other solution except the one given.
Much of this newspaper -- as well as many other Hebrew-language newspapers -- was digitized on two excellent web sites: Tel Aviv University's Historical Jewish Press database -- which contains more newspapers and, in particular, some 20th-century ones -- and the Hebrew University's Early Hebrew Newspapers database.

The material for this post were all found using Tel Aviv University's database (using the Hebrew-language interface, which shows Ha'Zfira in its search options).

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