Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Draw with Death

A Draw with Death, by Isaac Mares. Tarmil: Tel Aviv, 1983.
In this book, the holocaust survivor Isaac Mares tells us of a diabolical deal made by a young ghetto inmate with a sadistic SS officer. If he wins a chess game with him, all the ghetto will be spared -- except him. If he loses, the entire ghetto will be killed -- except him. Only if he draws, will both survive.

This, more or less, happened in reality. Efraim Kishon had his life saved in a camp by becoming the camp's commandant's chess coach. As he said in an interview many years later, he had to play well enough to remain coach, but on the other hand not too well so that the commandant won't "fire", and probably simply liquidate, him at a moment of anger. (Can anybody refer me to the source for this interview?)

Update, 30 5 2012: the original interview, which is often re-quoted (i.e., in is from -- of all places -- the interview, "What Pains Efraim Kishon?" (מה כואב לאפרים קישון) from Monitin [in Hebrew], Feb. 1983 (no. 54). 

For those who think they know what playing under severe mental pressure is.


Even here, the illustrator had been a victim of the evil "black square on lower right corner" mafia (see Item #30 in the link). Tim Krabbe says, 'people think it looks better that way'. I believe the reason is that when the h1 corner is shown in illustrations (as it usually is, since it's closest to the white king, the piece non-chessplayers think all the game constantly revolved around), the illustrator -- or the person who sets up the board -- thinks it's wrong to leave this "important" square blank; so naturally he colors it black, for emphasis.

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