Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Example

Credit: Victor A. Keats, Chess in Jewish History, p. 85

Just one example from Victor Keats' book will be seen in his article concerning the Alphonso manuscript, named after Alphonso X, 'the wise' -- that is, notes Keats, the relatively tolerant because he employed Jewish and Muslim scholars.

Not only does Keats give, of course, credit to previous scholars of history in general (Graetz's famous Popular History of the Jews, for example) and chess history in particular (Murray and others) but connected the creation of the manuscript to Alphonso's use of Jewish scholars in his court for other purposes, the relationship between chess as seen in the manuscript and its Arabic sources, and much more.

This is just one example. The book discusses dozens of manuscripts (if not more) with great rigor, but also with an engaging writing style. Keats notes, for instance, that Alphonso 'the wise' was the opposite of his father, Ferdinand 'the saint' -- which meant religious intolerance -- without trying to make him seem as a modern liberal. He notes he steered a fine line between prosecuting the Jews and others so as to not arouse Rome's ire, and being tolerant enough to exploit their talent.

A Superb Book

Credit: see below

This blog is not in the habit of recommending books (it is not a book review forum), but we have just received, as a gift, our own copy of Victor Keats' Chess in Jewish History and Hebrew Literature, a superb book, and -- as the screen capture from the publisher web site's makes clear -- is now offered in a significant sale. A good opportunity for those who wish to find what is surely the most detailed book on the subject.


Israel Barav. Credit: see link below

We note here that the memorial web site for Israel Barav (Rabinovich) had been updated again, esp. with his own account of his time in Germany (see the 'chess biography' section of the web site). The web site is regularly update with more material, esp. from his son, Ami Barav.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Women's Chess and Art

Credit: see below

The world of chess knows many chess players who were artists -- Marcel Duchamp being surely the best-known and, probably, also the best in both categories (see in the article the 'transition from art to chess' section in particular). But there is also the famous art forger Leonardus Nardus and many others. But how many female players were artists (or vice versa)?

One example from Israel, from p. 102 of the book about the Israeli 1961/62 championship mentioned in the previous post, is Anna Frank -- who is seen here, both as she is seen by the camera during play (right, of course) and in a self-portrait.

Israel's 4th Women's Championship, 1961

Source: see below

In Israel Chess Championship 1961/62, (Ed. Eliyahu Shahaf; Hebrew) there is a report on pp. 99-102 on the women's championship, as well as crosstables on p. 97 (above) and a progress table on p. 98.

The results were, in 13 rounds, the winners were Clara Friedman (10.5) and Miriam Haimovich (10.5), followed by the and Genia Gevenda (10). Liza Blumenkranz (ph.) (9), followed by Yehudit Akerman (Kahana), Tzvia Goldberg (ph.), Anna Frank, and -- two whole points and more below -- Ada Zakaria (ph.), Frida Kopperberg (ph.), Dr. Helena Landau (ph.), Naomi Peretz (ph.), Miriam Hofman, Nehama Margalit, and Hinda Shiloni (ph.).

The report notes that Gevenda, a previous Israeli champion (in 1959, according to Wikipedia), did especially well, and that Friedman was declare the champion after winning a playoff with Haimovich 3-0. It notes that if Gevenda had not 'written a faulty sealed move' in her game against Haimovich, the result may well have been different. The report shows some disappointment of the relative low quality of the games in the women's championship: 'if the women's championship is not to be a mere formality, we need to seriously develop this branch of chess'.

Note: the English spelling of all names followed by 'ph.' is phonetic: as Gaige seems not to have any of the players listed in his Chess Personalia, we have transliterated from the Hebrew. When the book does spell the names in English, we followed its spelling. The first names -- not appearing in this crosstable -- are also as listed in the book. Below, is a photo of the game Haimovich (right) - Margalit, from p. 102:

Chess in the Knesset

Credit: See Below
In the Israeli parliament, on 14/11/2016, there was a simultaneous display against GMs Sofia Polgar and Avital Borochovsky (Israel's youngest GM), reported Ynet; the picture is from the link, showing Uzi Dayan (right) and Ze'ev Elkin (left). In addition to the MPs and other VIPs, notes Ynet, there were 30 children that were invited by the Israeli Chess Federation.

Elkin said how he was a chess fan from childhood, and that this helped him all of his life, even when he studied mathematics; he added that the different between chess and politics is that in the latter, the opponent can steal your pieces or overturn the board... Dayan added that it is a matter of funding, and if there was more money for chess Israel's achievements would be higher.

Yair Kreidman -- 66 years of active high-level chess

Credit: see below.

As the Israeli Chess Federation's web site reports (Hebrew), GM Yair Kraidman (left in the photo) had just played and achieved a very respectable 9th place in a large international tournament in Malta.

This marks his 66th year playing in serious events, starting from the very first Israeli junior championship, 1950, where he shared 1st place with Raafi Persitz (3.5/6), Persitz being declared the winner on the tiebreak, as Kraidman himself notes in an interview on the ICF's web site (Hebrew).

What is more, It is easy to find in numerous online databases that Kraidman has been playing regularly in international events, and this is not a one-off return, but a continuation of a constantly active career. The article also notes, inter alia, that this year marks Kraidman's 40th years as a GM. While this is not a record of chess activity per se, of course, it is quite noteworthy. Congratulation to Kraidman for his longevity!

The interview, for Hebrew speakers, is worth reading in its entirety, especially in its comparisons of Israeli chess (and chess in general) today as opposed to in the past. For example, he notes that in the past chess - even in the highest levels - was much more "gentlemany". For example, when Kraidman was playing in Manila (Philippines) in an all-GM tournament right after getting the GM title, his opponent, Petrosian overslept, and came an hour late.

Kraidman could have demanded a technical victory, but he didn't want to miss the chance to play the (ex) world champion - so he played and lost. Today, he notes, this will simply not be done: players would just demand the technical victory without playing as a matter of course.

We add that losing is, of course, never fun - but it does not seem that Kraidman is too sorry for having actually played Petrosian in a serious tournament, not an opportunity that comes every day, even if he lost. By chance, a colleague of ours, a strong but not a top-flight player, had happened to play both Mangus Carlsen online in two games, and John Nunn in a tournament. He lost all three games, unsurprisingly - but is glad he had the experience.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Handwritten Crosstables

Credits: see below
It is not at all surprising that a qualifying tournament in a city's championship is handwritten and not published anywhere, but still the following case seems one where the players were strong, yet the crosstable was not known.

In the Winter of 1931/1932, the Berlin Chess Association (Schachgesellschaft) organized a winter tournament. Israel Barav (nee Rabinovich Rabinowitsch) did not play in the final -- and his son, Ami Barav, notified me he had always assumed his father did not qualify from the preliminary tournament.

Recently, however, chess researchers Alan McGowan had notified Ami Barav that his father had actually won his section -- as he, McGowan, found in Berthold Koch's notebooks -- in particular, drawing with Saemisch. winning against Helling, Moser, and Elstner. The real reason Barav did not play is simpler: McGowan found out (in the Deutsche Schachzeitung of March 1932, p. 68) that Barav had left the country by the finals' time.

Sometimes, it takes 80 years to set the historical record straight, even on such a matter. For more details on Barav's career, including many games, see Israel Barav's much-updated memorial web site.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shaul Hon Reporting -- II

Source: see below
From the same column mentioned in the previous post, we see an attempt by Shaul Hon to show chess in war. Taking his cue from a lecture by the IDF's chief of operations, Gen. Yadin, which described the attack on the enemy's left flank (towards Gaza) as a diversion, so as to switch to an attack on his right flank (towards Bir Alsuj and Ujah). He found a similar ending, by Safonov (1929), where "Israel" (White) wins by first attacking on "Egypt"'s (Black) kingside, and then switching to the queenside, with Hon's military-style annotations:

1. Bf3 we seem to wish to attack Gaza. Black repulses the attack: QxB. Here comes the sudden break towards the other flank, using an old Roman way, between the enemy's position: 2. Qf7+ Black runs for his life: Ke4. We entered enemy territory while pursuing him: 3. Qe8+ Kf5 4. Qf8+ Ke4. Now our army goes all the way to El Arish: 5. Qa8+ Black sends reinforcements: d5. Now we receive a withdrawal order from enemy territory: 6. Qe8+ (we are back in Abu Agila). Kf5. We now completely evacuate enemy territory: 7. Qf7+. Black, cut off from supplies and sources, encloses himself in the Gaza pocket: Ke4. And now just one step to victory: 8. Qh6 mate!

While chess is, of course, often compared to war, it is to be wondered how often chess actual games (or studies) were deliberately annotated to illustrate specific "real life" battles. 

Shaul Hon Reporting - I

Source: Davar, Jan. 21st, 1949,. p. 23
Moshe Roytman had also brought to our attention Shaul Hon's column from the above date. The first interesting report is that the weekly Parallel 50 (ph. spelling) writes on 31/12/1948 (no. 119) that 'despite the state of war, the young country pays much attention to chess', and mentions in particular that the master perform simuls for soldiers.  and that the national champion, Aloni, recently won a 41-soldier simul (+35 -5 =1). We mentioned such games often in this blog, in particular Aloni and Barav 'doing their part'. This is surely one of the first reports in the foreign press of chess in the (then new) state.

Strange Results in the Israeli 1971 Women's Championship

Source: Ma'ariv, Jan. 21st, 1972, p. 29
Our frequent correspondent Moshe Roytman notes what is probably a unique event in national championships. In the 1971 women's championship, Irene Cohen won first place, with 9/11 with no loss, followed by Lidiya Gal 8.5, Eda Sacharia 7, Miriam Bruckner and Frida Teitelbaum 6.5, Miriam Haimovich 5.5, Esther Samoshi 5, Tzvia Gigi 4.5, Anna Frank and Batya Juster 3, and Naomi Peretz 2 (all spellings -- except Roytman's.. -- phonetic).

What is so special about this? Roytman notes that the winner, as Ma'ariv notes on Jan. 16th p. 7, is a Romanian which 'intends to emigrate to Israel as soon as next month'. This eventually did not happen so the championship went to Lidiya Gal. Is there any other case of a player -- male or female -- being allowed to even participate in a national championship based on their promise to emigrate to the country, let alone winning the championship... and then not emigrating after all and forfeiting the title?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chess and Education

To the issue of 'chess in the schools', two contributions from a frequent correspondent to this blog. First, in the same Davar chess column of April 28th, 1950, p. 31, there is a photo of Itzchak Aloni giving a simultaneous display in the Shalva high school:

In addition, the contributor notes that chess began to be taught in a high school in Hadera in 1949, when Davar noted (Dec. 9th, 1949, p. 27), that a teacher 'agreed with the parents' demand' to 'give a chess lesson to all the students in his class' once a month, which was 'enthusiastically received':

Chess in the 1950s

A frequent correspondent notifies us of the following report in Davar, Oct. 20th, 1950, p. 24:

It is an official 'Independence Day' tournament. It notes that it was in the 'Swiss system' but in fact describes it as, first 20 people playing under the 'loser is out' principle and the remaining five 'played against each other' -- a mixed "playoff" / league system, in other words.

The same correspondent noted that the tournament was announced in the same paper on April 28th, 1950, p. 31, with the note, inter alia, that "the Hadera [Chess] club published nice posters to advertise the tournament'.

The prizes were (some information about the books added using interent search and not found in the original article):

First prize: 'In the Battle' by David Ben Gurion, in five volumes -- about the War of Independence (1947-1949).
Second: 'Secret Defenders' [Magen Ba'Seter] by Zerubavel Gilad [ph. spelling] about the actions of the Palestinian [Jewish] underground warriors in Europe during WWII.
Third: 'A Nation at War' by Imanuel Ha'Deni [ph. spelling] about Jewish until in battles from WWI to WWII.
Fourth prize: a chess set.

It is notable that, as befitting the times, just after the war of independence, and the occasion -- a tournament to commemorate Israel's second independence day, the books all dealt with Israeli, or Jewish, military events. Still, it is true that at the time there were very few chess books in Hebrew.

Israel Barav Playing vs. the Bar Kochba Team

Credit: Ami Barav's collection. See also below.
The following game is interesting both from an historical and chessic point of view. From the purely chess based point of view, it is an example of 'crime and punishment'. White did not play well and found himself a piece to the bad. Israel Barav (Black) could have won in many ways. But he chose the most elegant method: having both his bishops pointing at the enemy king and his rook on the same file as the opponent's queen, he launches a sacrificial attack ending in a nice mate.

From the Jewish chess history point of view, it is an interesting game due to it being played against the Bar Kochba team. 'Bar Kochba' - named after the leader of the 2nd century Jewish revolt against Rome -- was a Zionist sports organization, established in the late 19th century in Eastern Europe following the first Zionist congress, but by the 1930s (and earlier) having clubs in Germany and elsewhere as well.

Unfortunately the opponent's name is (to us) a bit unclear; it seems to say 'Abrahamson' but if any reader has a more accurate suggestion, please notify us.

Abrahamson(?), ? - Barav, Israel

Vienna Game [C27]

Bar Kochba -- SCC [Sports Club Charlotternburg] leauge game, 4/7/1928

Annotations: Fritz 8

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxe4 4.Nxe4 d5 5.Bxd5 Qxd5 6.Qf3 Be6 7.Ne2 Nc6 8.c3 0–0–0 9.0–0 Be7 10.Qe3 f5 11.N4g3 f4 12.Nxf4 exf4 13.Qxf4 Bd6 14.Qe3 Rde8 15.d4 

15... Bh3! 16.Ne4 Bxg2!

17.Kxg2 Rxe4 18.Qh3+ Rg4# (0-1):

Barav Game with Interesting Final Position

As we have seen in this blog already, Israel Barav was a very good attacking player, and had many interesting victories. Here is one, with a remarkable final position.

Barav, Israel - Unknown (name not on scoresheet)

Nimzo-Indian (E20)

SCC [Sports Club Chartlottenburg] -- Bewag, league match (2nd board) 

Annotations: Fritz 8

Source: Ami Barav's collection

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Bb4 5.Bd3 d6 6.Nge2 Nbd7 7.0–0 e5 8.d5 Bxc3 9.Nxc3 c5 10.Nb5 Nb6 11.f4 Bg4 12.Qe1 a6 13.Nc3 h5 14.fxe5 dxe5 15.Bg5 Qd6 16.Qf2 0–0–0?

17.b4 Nbd7 18.Na4 Kb8 19.bxc5 Qc7

20. c6! Qa5 21.Rab1 Kc7 22.Rxb7+ Kd6 23. Bxf6 Nxf6 24.c5+ Black Resigns (1-0). The final position deserves a diagram:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quick Update

Image Credit: this youtube channel
Dear all: happy to announce the memorial web site for Israel Barav (Rabinovich) had undergone a major cosmetic and content update in the last few days. Not only is the web site now better looking but many more games were added. Barav, known as an excellent tactician, won many games with beautiful combinations. Here is one, from his match against Churgin (ph. spelling), Tel Aviv, 1926, game 3, with Barav's annotations.

Barav, Israel -- Churgin

King's Indian [E62]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.c4 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0–0 0–0 7.Bg5 e5 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nc3 Bf5 10.Qd2 Re8 11.Rfe1 Nd7 12.e4 Bg4 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Bxf3 f5 15.h4 Nf6 16.Kg2 Qd7 17.Rh1 Rf8 18.h5 Rf7 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Rh2 fxe4 21.Nxe4 Now, according to Fritz, White is winning.

21... Ng4 22.Bxg4 Qxg4 23.Qd3 Raf8 24.Rh4 Qd7 25.Rah1 Rf3 26.Qxf3 Rxf3 27.Kxf3 Nf5 28.Rh7 Nd4+ 29.Ke3 Qg4? 

This mistake allows White to finish the game with a nice combination -- sarcificing both rooks!

30.Rxg7+! Kxg7 31.Rh7+! and Black resigns (1-0) due to 31... Kxh7 32.Nf6+.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

No 'Protektziya', God Forbid

Source: Davar, Feb/ 9th, 1951, p. 22

An interesting overview of the opening ceremony of the 1st Israeli championship, 1951, was brought to our attention by Ami Barav, whose father, Israel Rabinovich-Barav, was one of those involved in organizing it.

There were three speakers: Pinchas Rosen, minister of Justice, who noted that the reason there was no Israeli team sent to the 1950 Olympiad in Yugoslavia (in Dubrovnik) was that the requested funding - 100 Israeli pounds was not approved. (This comes out to roughly $350 in today's USD, which seems very little, but such historical comparisons are problematic.)

He noted 'humorously' (says Davar) that he was happy to hear of the treasury's rejection of the requested funding, since it was 'proof' there is no protekziya (favoritism, nepotism) in the government decisions: even his own attempt to influence the treasury to fund it was to no avail. He also noted he always had a 'unrquited love affair' with chess -- he loved chess ,but chess did not love him, to judge by his playing level.

Then spoke prof. Tur-Sinai about 'the character and essence of the game of chess', adding that he brought with him a special prize -- a book of short brilliancies -- to the winner of the shortest game.

Finally spoke the minister of education and culture, David Remez, also a chess player. He (inevitably) noted that Jewish chess players are 'equal in importance to all non-Jewish players together', and added that the Israeli Chess Federation will 'concentrate on Israel's part in the field of chess' -- which, adds Davar, was a very diplomatic way of speaking, as he didn't promise anything concrete...

Finally a game from the tournament was given on the same page, as  'a serious contender' to Tur-Sinai's prize:

Braun - Glass,
Israeli Championship, 3rd rd. Feb. 1951.
Two Knight's Defense [C56]
Annotations: Davar unless otherwise noted.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 Each side threatens the others' weakness, f7 and e4, respectively. 4. d4 exd4 5. O-O For a pawn, White gets good chances for a strong attack. Nxe4 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Botvinnik played here 8. Nc3 immediately. Qxd5 8. Nc3 Qh5 More aggressive than the usual 8... Qa5. 9. Nxe4 Be6 10. Neg5? Rushing to regain the pawn. 10. Bg5! is more aggressive. 10... O-O-O! 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Rxe6 Bd6 Black overtook White in development. 13. Qe2? 13. h3 is necessary. 13... d3! 14. Qe4 14. Qxd3? Bxh2+ winning the queen; 14. cxd3? Nd4 threatening h2. 14... Nd4! 15. Rxd6 Forced; the bishop is too dangerous. 15... Rxd6 16. Be3 [Of course not 16. NxN? Qd1+ with mate next move - A. P.] 

16... Nxf3+ 17. gxf3 Re8 18. Qf4 Rg6+ 19. Kh1 Qh3 20. Rg1 dxc2 Threatening 21.... RxR+ 22. KxR cq=Q+ 23. BxQ Re1# 21. Rxg6 hxg6 Repeating the same threat. 22. Qc4 b5! Now White cannot defend both c1 and f1; he resigned (0-1).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Losing to the Smoking Idiot

Aaron Nimzowitsch. Credit: Wilfried Krebbers 

There are many tales about Aaron (or AronNimzowitsch. One is that he, a non-smoker, complained to an arbiter about his opponent taking out a cigar -- not because he was smoking, but because he was threatening to smoke, 'and the threat is stronger than the execution'. Another is that, after losing a game to Saemisch in a tournament in Berlin, which cost him the first prize, he angrily exclaimed, 'why must I lose to this idiot?'.

The first story, as Edward Winter and others had consistently pointed out, is almost certainly an invention. But the second story is probably true... and there is also both a smoking and an Israeli / Palestinian connection!

The story, first of all, was told to Hans Kmoch by the 'idiot' himself, as Kmoch retells in Grandmasters I have Known -- so we have an actual, indeed the best possible, witness to the event, and it is not one of the infamous 'once' tall tales, indeed often libels, that so disfigure chess history, about how player X 'once' did or said something outrageous.

But what was the occasion? Kmoch does not say. Wilfried Krebbers, the author (or creator) of the excellent site, points out that was a likely a Blitz tournament by the Berlin Chess Association, which took place on Aug. 9th, 1928, in the Koening Chess Cafe, as reported in the Schachwart, Sept. 1928, pp. 168-169.

The Schachwart report adds that the tournament was divided into a smokers' and non-smokers' section. Nimzowitsch, a non-smoker, won his section, and Saemisch, a heavy smoker, won his. Saemisch then went on to defeat Nimzowitsch in the play-off. While the report does not explicitly note any outburst from Nimzowitsch, the facts agree: the tournament did take place in Berlin, and losing to Saemisch did cost Nimzowitsch first place.

The Israeli/Palestinian connection? Israel Barav, the Israeli player and organizer, then Rabinovich ('Rabinowitsch' in the German spelling) and a student in Berlin, played in the same tournament!

He played in the smoking section -- coming in a very respectable 4th place, after three well-known players: Saemisch himself, Ahues, and Kagan. We thank Ami Barav, his son, for bringing this tournament, as well as its connection to both Barav and the 'losing to the idiot' incident, to our attention. For more on Israel Barav's chess achievements, see his memorial web site.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Penrose Fainting and Gereben Swindled

Source: Davar, Sept. 25th 1970, p. 16
A frequent correspondent to this blog notified us of an interesting article by the late Zvi Bar-Shira about the Siegen (1970) Olympiad. Bar-Shira notes, among other things (we have only used a small cutting of the entire article) that Penrose had blundered a piece to an opponent from Andorra (Olaf Ulvestad according to the databases), fainting at the board, and being sent back to England.

Bar-Shira also adds that Arno (Aharon) Gereben -- 'an Hungarian Jew who didn't manage to find himself in Israel and emigrated to Switzerland' -- was a victim of 'an unpleasant event. His Indonesian opponent, Haji Ardiansyah (full name from Chessbase's 2005 'Big Database'), had 'smugly declared a stalemate', and both signed the scoresheet. Only after the game both saw it was not a stalemate, but Gereben's appeal of the score was rejected.

The databases bear this story out. Acording to Chessbase's database, they reached the following position:

Ardiansyah (Black) played 71... Qg6+, obviously believing that after the (forced) 72. KxQ Black is stalemated. In fact Black is not (72... Kc6), but the game is recorded in the databases as a draw after Black's 71st move, meaning White indeed accepted Black's claim.

This is somewhat comforting to players on my level. If this sort of fire can consume, as the Talmud says, the Cedars of the Lebanon (or of Siegen, at any rate), the moss on the wall, like ourselves, can feel better about our own lapses.

Graves of Chessmasters -- Moshe Blass

Credit: See Below
A frequent corespondent to this blog has found a picture of the grave, in the Holon cemetary, of Moshe Blass -- or, as is written on the tombstone, 'Moshe Abba Blass, son of Itzhak Meir'.

Chess and Terrorism

Source: Shachmat, vol. 11 no. 10 (Oct. 1972), p. 2 (back side of front cover). 
This is not a political blog, and we make it an explicit point not to go into political issues as such. We note that terrorism, now constantly in the news, is not a new concern -- nor is its connection to chess.

In the above article, by Israeli Eshel, the head of the Israeli Chess Federation, justifies the ICF's decision to send men and women's teams to Skopje, since there were serious concerns about terrorism, in the wake of the attack in the Munich Olympics which killed eleven Israeli athletes.

Eshel notes that the decision was made to participate, but only after serious discussion, an 'clear-cut promise' from the Yugoslav organizers to protect the participants, which included also making special arrangements for the Israeli team (Olimpbase too notes there were, in general, 'extraordinary security arrangements' made due to Munich's shadow). He also notes that the ICF as well as the participants cooperated fully with the Israeli security authorities.

The Olympiad, we now know, passed without any (security) incidents, but it was not an easy decision to make.

In the Beginning: "Al Ha'Mishmar"

Source: Al Ha'Mishmar, Sept. 6th, 1945, p. 3.
Chess columns usually start with games and problems together -- usually, 'game 1' and 'problem 1' (or else, "[endgame] study 1"). In Al Ha'Mishmar, the chess column was different: it started in that newspaper, in effect, as a problemist's column, with two problems, on Aug. 23rd, 1945 (p. 3). The first game (from the Moscow championship, 1945) was published only two weeks later, as seen above.

The  Sept. 6th column (below) is also interesting for explaining the history of the column, noting it is in effect a problemist's column, which "migrated" to Al Ha'Mishmar from the Palestine Post, where it was established five months previously, and had found an audience of 'close to sixty solvers'.

As was typical at the time, the tone was explicitly Zionist: 'this is a number no large publication abroad would have been ashamed of... an international [composing] tournament was announced, which will no doubt help publicize our nation in the world'.

In addition, it also notes founding of the Palestinian Problemists' Association, in the Emanuel Lasker club, Tel Aviv, on Sept. 15th.

Source: See above

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Barav - Koch, 1947

The following game was played in Feb. 1947 by Barav against B. Koch in the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv. It is from Ami Barav's collection of his father's games, the annotations being both by Barav (Sr.) and by Shahar GindiOnce more, Barav is out for tactics, looking for the mating attack -- and finding it:

"Lakser Club", Tel Aviv
Date "1947.02.??"
Israel Barav – B. Koch
Irregular Opening (A00)
Annotations: Barav & Shahar Gindi

1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 e6 3. Bd3 b6 4. Ne2 Bb7 5. O-O c5 6. c3 cxd4 7. exd4 Be7 8. Nd2 O-O 9. f4 Nc6 10. Nf3 Rc8 11. Ng3 h6 12. Ne5 Bd6 (?! -- White has been building up without interference for several moves, this move further hinders Black's ability to prepare for an attack -- S. G.) 13. Qe2 Qc7 14. Bd2 g6 15.ae1 Kg716. f5 (! White's army is fully targeted toward Black's king and the f5 break decides - S.G.) Ne7 17. fxe6 fxe6 (17…dxe6 18.Rxf6! Kxf6 19.Bxh6 and the king is helpless -- S.G. )18. Nxg6 (18.Bxg6 is better-- Barav. Indeed, 18.Bxg6 Nxg6 19.Nh5+ Nxh5 20.Qxh5 +- the knight on e5 prevents the Bxh2+ resource that Black had in the game -- S.G.)18… Bxg3 (? 18…Nxg6! 19.Nh5+ Nxh5 20.Qxh5 Bxh2+! 21.Kh1?! Bxg2+! 22.Kxg2 Qg3+ 24. Kh1 Qxd3= -- S.G.) 19. Nxe7 Bxe1

20.Bxh6+ ! Kf7 ( 20…Kxh6 21. Qe3+ Kg7 21.Qg5+ Kh8 22.Qh6 mate; 20…Kh8 21. Bxf8+- -- S.G.) 21. Nx8 Rxc8 22. Bg5 Rh8 23. Rxf6+ Black Resigns (1-0).

The game is also available in the "games" section of Barav's memorial web site. (Note: one might have to "reload" or "refresh" the pages on the web site to see the latest update). 

Chess on the Front Page

Source: Ha'Olam Ha'ze ["This World"], Year 16 no. 820 (July 9th, 1953), front cover.
We already noted in the blog that Moshe Czerniak was mentioned on the cover of Ha'Olam Ha'Ze in 1952. That, however, was the back cover. About a year and a half later, he was there again -- on the front cover, with the title "Chess Master Czerniak -- in the game of kings, the little pawn decides".

The article itself, on pp. 13-14, gives a "standard" outline of chess history -- from the famous legend about its invention in India by a priest to teach the king a lesson about the limits of his power, to the fact that many Jews were champions, to Czerniak's biography. It notes how he studies chess in Paris, where he went to study chemistry, from Alekhine, noting his devotion to spreading and teaching chess in Israel, and his tournament successes.

One point of detail: it notes that Czerniak drew his first game with Capablanca in the 1939 Olympiad. The paper claims that, while Czerniak was a pawn ahead when the game was adjurned, Capablanca analyzed with Alekhine and found a 16-move drawing combination.

In fact, the game only lasted 42 moves so there was no question of a '16 move drawing combination' (as the game score itself makes clear). It was Capablanca who was a pawn ahead, after winning Czerniak's isolated e-pawn in the middle game (17... Nxe4). In any case, it would be extremely unlikely Capablanca would analyze with Alekhine, of all people, given their mutual enmity.

An interesting linguistic point addressed in the article is how to spell 'chess' in Hebrew. This article, and Ha'Olam Ha'Ze's articles about chess in general, deliberately  use the spelling שחמת, claiming the more common spelling שחמט is wrong, since שחמת, means 'the shah [שח, king] is dead [מת]', which is the correct description of the game's purpose, to "kill" the king, as the author explains in a footnote on p. 13.The author is probably wrong on this point. שחמט is preferred today not 'by mistake' but because it means literally 'the king is captured (or more literally, toppled, or defeated - מט).

The article also has (p. 13) a nice photograph of Keres playing Czerniak in the 1952 Helsinki Olympiad, a game eventually drawn in 90 moves after tenacious defense from Keres, a pawn down in a knights' ending:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another Barav Victory

The masthead of Marmorosh's Ha'Sachmat (Tel Aviv), vol. 1 no. 1, March/April 1932.
Marmorosh had attempted to publish a chess magazine in 1932, named Ha'Shachmat -- literally 'The Chess', meaning, of course, simply 'Chess'. To the best of my knowledge this was the one and only issue.

However, it has some historical importance, in publishing games played in Palestine, or by Palestinian players, which would not have otherwise been known. One of these games -- published on p. 12 -- is by Israel Barav (Rabinovich). It was played against Braun [ph. spelling from the Hebrew], 'in a tournament in Berlin in 1931', as Marmorosh says.As usual for Barav, it was an enjoyable attacking game. The punctuation and annotation are Fritz 8's unless otherwise stated. We note that more about Barav can be found at this site.

Barav, Israel - Braun

​D00: 1. d4 d5: Unusual lines 

1. d4 d5 2. 3. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. f4 e6 6. Nd2 ('to prevent 6... Ne4' - Marmorosh) 6... Bd6 7. Nf3 a6 8. 0-0 b5 9. Ng5 Bd7 10. Kh1 h6 11. Nf3 b4 12. Ne5 Qa5 ​

​13. e4 dxe4? 

13... cxd4? 14. Nxc6! with 15. e5 -- Marmorosh; but Fritz thinks 13... bxc3! holds. 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Qc7 16. dxc5! (Marmorosh; but Fritz prefers 16. Nxd7) 16...Bxe5 17. fxe5 bxc3 18. bxc3 0-0?

'This loses immediately' - Marmorosh, and Fritz agrees, to a nice combination:  ​19. Bxh6! Qxe5 (19... gxh6 20. Qg4+ and wins [Fritz] due to 21. Rf6 [Marmorosh]). 20. Bxg7! Kxg7 (20... Qxg7 21. Rf3) 21 Qxg4+ Black resigns (1-0).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Zvi Bar-Shira, 1932 - 2016


We note sadly that our colleague in Israeli chess history, Zvi Bar-Shira, had passed away two days ago (Thursday). A reporter by profession, he was active in Israeli chess for over 60 years as a judge and organizer. For a Hebrew-language obituary by Sivan Hadad see here, from the ICF's web site.

Karff Visiting Israel

Image Credit: Chess Review, June/July 1942

We have occasionally mentioned Mona May Karff in this blog. Our correspondent, Moshe Roytman, notes that in the same article from Al Ha'Mishmar noted in the previous post (August 12th 1949, p. 8), Karff is mentioned -- in the language typical at the time for the Israeli press -- as the 'famous Israeli player', which apparently just happened to be 'USA [women's] champion for many years'. The article also adds that  and is 'currently in the country' (presumably on a family visit).

The implied, though not explicitly stated, reason for treating Karff as an Israeli "temporarily" in the USA despite the fact that she had left then-Palestine in the late 30s and settled in Boston for the rest of her life, is made clear by her obituary (see link above): she was the daughter of Aviv Ratner, a noted Zionist who later became one of Israel's richest citizens. It was at the time considered almost heretical to admit publicly that a person -- especially from a prominent Zionist family -- would prefer to live abroad.

'Meet our Masters': Moshe Blass, by H. Reed

Our frequent correspondent Moshe Roytman had sent us, a while ago, quite a few nice "finds" from the chess literature of the early state of Israel. A particularly interesting one is that Al Ha'Mishmar's chess column had run a 'meet our masters' series of pen portraits of Israeli masters. Here is their portrait of Moshe Blass -- From Al Ha'Mishmar, Aug. 12th, 1949, p. 8, by H. Reed [ph. spelling]. Below is our translation, and our comments in square brackets.

Meet Our Masters

We are beginning this week a series of articles about Israeli chess players. We wish to introduce the reader a series of players that are not known to the public and, especially, to the youth. This week we overview Moshe Blass.

Moshe Blass

Among the chess masters in the country there are players of international caliber, which have succeeded in many tournaments and matches.

One of them is Moshe Blass. Before arriving in the country, 17 years ago, he was one of the strongest players in Poland, often mentioned together with Rubinstein, Tartakover, FrydmanMakarczyk, Dr. Kohn, and the late Przepiorka. In 1927, when Najodrf and Czerniak were young beginners [in Warsaw], he already won the Warsaw championship, after a brilliancy against P[aulino] Frydman. He played in the Olympiad twice for the strong Polish team: in 1928 in the Hague and in 1938 [sic - 1930 is correct] in Hamburg.

From 1933 he is part of the chess life in our country and for many years he had no equal, until younger forces like Foerder [Porat], Czerniak, and Aloni dethroned him.

His greatest victory was in 1935, in the international tournament arranged with the Maccabiah, when he came first before Foerder, Enoch, and the Viennese Glass, who recently returned to the country after many troubles [a hint that Glass ran away from Vienna to Shanghai in 1938, thus surviving the war].

Blass' style is superb, pure and classical, without entering opening complications. He shows his talent in the middle game, and his desire for beauty and perfection is evident in all his games.

As a man, Blass is modest, which made him popular with chess players.

Despite his age removing him from the tournament hall, it is a pleasure to see him next to his regular table in one of the coffee houses, beating strong opponents in offhand games.

The game added is Blass - Dobkin, Tel Aviv Championship, 1945 (Slav defense). According to the computer (Fritz 6), the game was more or less equal until Dobkin blundered, allowing mate in two, but it is still an interesting example. The analysis is by the editor of the chess column or Fritz 6, as indicated.

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. d4 d5 4. e3 e6 5. Nc3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. a4 b4 10. Ne4 Bb7 11. b3 c5 12. Nxf6+ gxf6 13. Bb2 cxd4 14. Nxd4 Nc5 15. Bc4 Rg8 16. Rg1 Rxg2 17. Rxg2 Bxg2 18. Qh5 Bd5 19. Rd1 Bxc4 20. bxc4 Qa5 21. Qf3 Rc8 22. Nc6 Qxa4 23. Bxf6 b3 (23... Rxc6? 24. Qxc6! Qxc6 25. Rd8# - editor) 24. Na7

24...  Qxc4? (Fritz 6; it recommends 24... Rb8 or 24... Qb4+) 25. Qc6+ and Black resigned (1-0) due to 25... Rxc6 26. Rd8#.

Edited to add: we thank our correspondents for supplying the spelling of the names!

Kniazer in London, 1921

Eudardo Bauza had notified us that Kniazer had played in 1921 in England, in all places in a league game betweent Kent (Kniazer) and Surrey, played at Westminster, March 5th, 1921. 

The game was reported, adds Mr. Bauza, in the 1921 BCM 4/1921, pp. 136 and 152. He adds that the London Times noted, On March 21st, 1921, that Kniazer was the "champion of Egypt during the [First World] war". 

This is no doubt the same Kniazer we have encountered previously, here playing against H. C. Griffiths. This is especially interesting since Kniazer's early chess career -- though found in, for instance, Persitz's book -- is incomplete, and little seems to be known about his career in Egypt, let alone in England. 

Kniazer, J. -- Griffiths, H. C.

Old Indian Defense (A54) 

Annotations: A. P. noting Fritz 6's analysis. 

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. Bg5 Be7 6. Qc2 c6 7. O-O-O Qc7

 8. e3 a6 9. c5 exd4 10. cxd6 Bxd6 11. Rxd4 O-O 12. Bc4 b5

13. Rhd1  Fritz 6 prefers the quieter 13. Bd3 or 13. Be2. 13... Be5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. Bxf6 Nxc4 16. Rh4 h6 17. Qe2 Bf5 18. Rxh6

18... Bg6 19. Qg4 gxh6 Fritz 6 believes this is perfectly sound, and that in fact Black has a significant advantage. "Real life" is something else, however... 20.  Qh4 Kh7 21. Ne4 h5 22. g4 Ne5?

The losing move. 22... Rad8 is necessary. 23. gxh5 Bxe4 24. Qxe4+ Ng6 25. hxg6+ fxg6 26. Qh4+ Kg8 27. Qh8+ Kf7 28. Qg7+ Black resigns (1-0). 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

More Chess Ads -- a Double Issue

Credit: Shachmat, Oct. 1964 (exact page?)

We add here, to our chess advertisement page, the following from the Oct. 1964 Shachmat.

It has two chess-related advertisements: one for avocados, 'the delicacy of kings', and another for Amcor's televisions. The interesting point is that at the time -- 1964 -- there was no Israeli television broadcasting, although it was clear that they will begin in the near future (the first broadcasts were in 1966).

But Amcor's TV were chosen (as the ad notes) as the close-circuit TV used to broadcast the games in the Olympiad -- as noted before in this blog, see, e.g., the 'Television' tag.