Saturday, November 13, 2010

Problemists in the Jailhouse

Yehuda Weisberg
Source: Eliyahu Fasher's Ha'Problemai Ha'Israeli: Yesodot Ha'Kompositziya Ha'Sachmetait [The Israeli Problemist: the Basics of Chess Composition], Tel Aviv: Israeli Problemist Association, 1964, p. 47.
In Eliyahu Fasher's book we find the following letter from Weisberg, one of the earliest Israeli (or Palestinian) problemists, to Yechezkel Hillel, another problemist. Weisberg was arrested in 1946 by the British, who then ruled what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, presumably for being involved in actions having to do with the Jewish para-military groups at the time, such as the Haganah. (Weisberg was later killed in action in the 1948 war of independence in the battle in Ahsdot-Ya'akov). After his release he wrote (Fasher's book above, p. 48, my translation):
[T]he material sent to me by Yosef Goldschmidt [another Israeli problemist -- A.P.] and your notebooks arrived only in the last week of my arrest. The rest of the material I didn't receive yet. Your notebooks had nice problems and it's a pity it stayed "there"... I usually didn't use the time for composing and only composed two problems, one of them on the first day of my arrest in the car to the jailhouse... on the way back after my release we went through Rishon Le'tziyon and naturally I stopped and visited "Goldschmidt & co." [a group of problemists, headed by Goldschmidt, who lived in that town at the time, including Grisha Rivlin, Ben-tzion Handel, Meir Shatil and others -- Fasher.]
I doubt many other people would start their trip to a military prison composing a problem and end it with a visit to a problemists' hang-out... But this is not all. In the same letter Weisberg writes (Fasher, Ibid., p. 48):
I got a reply from Dawson (presumably Thomas Dawson, the British problemist and editor) and he will publish my problems.
Was there ever in history a case where a man received a note from a British editor that the editor would be glad to publish his problems... while sitting in jail as an enemy of the British Empire?

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