Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Von Weisl and Chess

Binyamin Ze'ev von Weisl [credit: wikipedia]

Von Weisl was known as the "Jewish Lawrence of Arabia". His fascinating life included also a reference to chess. In an article in Doar Hayom on July 18th, 1927 -- long link in Hebrew is well worth reading -- he notes that he played chess with Abdullah of Jordan in 1924, and had also played chess in the "Sassinid  court in Mt. Assir [in Yemen]", through the invitation of no other than Jamal Pesha, then serving as a vizir [chief counsel, prime minister] in Yemen after leaving Amman. Pesha was taught chess by Abdullah and established, says Weisl, a small chess circle in the Yemenite court, where he taught a few ministers as well the crown prince.

After Weisl deliberately lost to the crown prince, the latter started telling Pesha how, despite being his student, he clearly is now a better player then him, and started kibitzing his game with Weisl. When alone, Pesha told Weisl sadly: "Poor Arabia, poor princes -- they never hear a word of criticism, being considered rules by the holy will of Allah, and thus their self-esteem and lack of judgment is like madness, making them unfit to rule."

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