Thursday, March 15, 2012

The 1932 Championship of Palestine -- High Hopes, Zionism, and other things

Tel Aviv's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. Photo credit: Avy On Benefit  blog.

As we have seen before, there was no official chess tournament in the 1932 Maccabiah. However, there was supposed to be a championship of Palestine.

The indefatigable Moshe Roytman notes that on 24.2.1932, Doar Hayom published a note [link in Hebrew] similar to (but not the same as) the one later published in Davar on 31.3.1932 which we have already mentioned -- that promises the Levant Fair will include:

1). First of all (in the first paragraph), a tournament including 'ten of the best players in the country'.

2). Also, there will be a 'Palestine vs. foreign countries' match, (without naming who will be on the 'foreign countries' team); a blitz tournament; and finally (on the last day of the fair) simultaneous displays, promising in particular Marmorosh will play vs. 30.

Of all these high hopes, as we discussed before, it is not clear that anything, not even the "real" tournament, actually took place.

On the other hand, while these hopes were disappointed, at least those who came to see the first round of the championship on 9.4.1932 heard Tel Aviv's mayor, Meir Dizengoff, make an interesting speech, linking -- as was the custom of the time -- chess to Zionism. (reported in Davar 10.4.1932, again brought to my attention by Mr. Roytman). Dizengoff noted two similarities:

1). Chess is a symbol of free competition, and a place where every nation has the right to show its creativity and ability, which the Jewish nation is also demanding.

2). In chess, the simple pawn who goes up and climbs, with the goal of becoming a queen when he reaches 'the first rank' (sic). Thus, 'going up and climbing are the main thing' -- that is, emigrating to Palestine is the most important thing.

('Going up' [עליה] and 'climbing' [העפלה] are two Hebrew words for emigration of Jews in particular to Palestine or Israel, the latter usually signifying illegal emigration -- as opposed to emigration of people in general, which is 'hagira' [הגירה]).

This is, presumably, the first time -- and probably the last time -- anybody linked chess terms in particular to emigration.

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