Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The first Israeli(?) World Chess Championship Candidate

Photo from: edochess., not Boris Gelfand. Rather, Mona Ray Karff, known as the queen of American chess in the 1940s and 50s (winning the US women's chess championship seven times, inter alia), and, perhaps even more, as Edward Lasker's long-time partner. What is the relationship to chess in Israel and Palestine? Born in Basserabia, she and her family fled to Palestine after the revolution. In 1937, she took a very respectable joint 6th place in the women's world championship which took place in Stockholm, representing Palestine. From there she moved, apparently, directly to the USA. The next time a Palestinian, or Israeli, player of either sex took part in the world chess championship, it was in the 21st century.

It is surprising that she was, to the best of my knowledge, not mentioned in either contemporary or in later accounts about Israeli or Palestinian chess history she was -- see post from June 7th, 2014 on this blog -- despite the fact that at the time any sort of achievement in the international scene of someone representing Palestine was usually shouted from the rooftops (such as, for instance, the participation of the Palestinian team in the 1935 Olympics). Perhaps she had no connections with the Israeli/Palestinian chess "scene", seeing Palestine as a mere stop on the road to the USA.

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