Thursday, May 8, 2014

Avraham Shlonsky and Chess

Wall mural at the Rabin Center. Original photograph by Boris Carmi. Source for original photograph data: 'Drinking Coffee In Hebrew: the Place of Cultural Coffee Houses in Tel Aviv's Cultural Scene.' Zohar Shavit, Ariel no. 189 (2011): 178-191.  
Shlonsky and Binyamin Galai (the author), in Kasit, 1950. Source: Yad Ben Zvi
In the "small Tel Aviv" from the 1920s to the 1960s, one of the most famous avid chess players was the poet Avraham Shlonsky. He is seen above playing with other notable artists in Kasit -- a famous Tel Aviv coffee house which was a second home to most artists in Israel / Mandatory Palestine up until the 1960s (or at least those who set the cultural tone). 

In the top picture, we see him playing in Kasit in 1947. l. to r.: Shlonsky, Shmuel Rodensky (actor, link in Hebrew), Avraham Naton (painter), Bezalel London (actor, link in Hebrew). In the bottom picture, as stated, we see him playing in the same coffee house with Binyamin Galai, the author. 

It is hard to tell from the position how strong, or weak, a player Shlonsky was; at any rate he was never a member of the Israeli Chess Federation (nor were any of the other artists pictured). This, of course, says little one way or another about his playing strength. 

But whether he was a strong or weak player, one of chess' attractions is that there is little correspondence between love of chess and playing strength, and a weak player can enjoy playing just as much as a strong one.   

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