Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chess and Stamps -- Ashdod 2006

Credit: from the collection of Moshe Slav.
Here are two segments of a envelope (limited to 1000 units) that was produced by the Israeli postal office to celebrate the 3rd International Chess Festival in Ashdod, 2006.

If one wonders about why so many strong tournaments happen to take places in Be'er Sheva (see previous post), Ashdod, and other cities in southern Israel, the explanation is interesting. Those cities, where rent and cost of living is relatively low, became the home to many Jewish emigrants from the former USSR in the 1990s, which led to a huge increase in chess quality, as Ha'aretz [link in Hebrew] explains. In fact, Be'er Sheva in 2005 had the highest concentration of chess grandmasters relative to the population in the world

True, such statistics are not particularly meaningful, since the addition or subtraction of a single GM changes the ranking, GMs being (despite their "inflation" in recent years) quite rare, and the "highest proportion" having more to do with the city's small population than the large number of grandmasters. There are many more grandmasters in total in, say, New York, to say nothing of Moscow or St. Petersburg... 

Still, it does mean something -- eight grandmasters (in 2005) in a town of about 200,000 is quite impressive, especially as it is, in this case, indicative of a high level of chess activity on all levels, as an article in chessbase web site about the Be'er Sheva Chess Club notes. The same article, incidentally, noted that currently Be'er Sheva had been passed by Reykjavik -- another small city with a well-known chess history, of course, as anybody who has heard of Fischer or Spassky knows... 

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