Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chess in the 1935 Maccabiah -- two "Mystery Players"?

Credit: wikipedia 
The 1935 Maccabiah's chess tournament was, in fact, finished, giving the winner -- Moshe Blass -- the first prize. Davar reported on the tournament on 4/4 and 12/4/35. Perhaps surprisingly, no other paper from Palestine seems have noticed the Maccabiah's chess contest, despite many papers (e.g., the Palestine Post) devoting a lot of space to detailed examination of all other events in the Maccabiah. This report combines both sources.

Blass got 7.5 points (out of 10, since there were 11 participants altogehter). After him came David Enoch and Yosef Porat (then Foerder) with 7 pts., Yosef Dobkin and Esra Glass (Jeremy Gaige's spelling from Chess Personalia: a Biobibliography) 6.5, Victor Winz, Moshe Czerniak, and Sigmund Beutum (Gaige's spelling) with 5, and Weil (no first name given) with 4.5.

From the 4/4 and 12/4 reports all that can be concluded about the crosstable is that in the first round (colors not given; first player might have been Black) were:

Beutum - A. Wilberseitz 1-0
Blass - Enoch 1-0
Glass - Czerniak 1-0
Dobkin - Weil 1-0
Porat - Winz 1-0

Also, we are told on 12/4 that in the last round Blass defeated Glass, 'his most dangerous opponent': both had 6.5 points after nine rounds, in that case, and the game decided the winner. We are also told Czerniak 'lost many games where he had the advantage' and that Winz was the only player to defeat Blass.

The Jewish writer, Akim Lewit, from the Weiner Schach-Zeitung, came to cover the tournament; perhaps more information about it can be found in that periodical. 

It is interesting that there were two players, presumably brothers -- Aryeh and Yaakov Zilbershats (preferred English spelling of Yaakov's grandson, Boaz Zilbershats, from the original Polish name Zylberszac) from the Luxemburg team. Their participation is noted on 4/4, but their scores are not given on 12/4. If the scores of the other participants are correct, it is easy to show that they lost all their games to all the other players: In a round robin tournament of 10 rounds (11 players), there are 55 points (11*10 / 2) to be divided among all the players. All the other players together gained 54 points. Which leaves the brothers a single, solitary point between them -- which is the absolute minimum they could have gotten, since they had to play one game between themselves!

As there is no mention of them as chess players anywhere else to my knowledge, perhaps these "players" -- a modern version of were in fact amateurs who, fearing Hitler's growing power, used the Maccabiah as a "cover" to gain entry to Palestine. With their scores, it is not surprising Davar and others kept silent about them, and their defeat could only be detected "between the lines"; but perhaps Davar was trying to save them from a fate far worse than mere embarrassment, as Hitler's plans towards the Jews and towards Europe in general, though nobody could have yet imagined the nadir they will eventually reach, were already very ominous.

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