Sunday, June 4, 2017

Eliezer Pe'er, 1915-2017

Credit: Moshe Roytman
Israel's oldest player, Eliezer Pe'er, had just passed away at the age of 101. In the above picture, taken during an event held in his honor this passover, was sent to us by Moshe Roytman, we see him (seated in black) receiving a lifetime award. In the ceremony, adds Roytman, Pe'er officially declared his retirement from competitive chess (at the age of 101 and 7 months), ending at least eighty years of official chess activity

Depending on what "chess activity" means -- we start counting here (see the link) from his first public chess activity, a solver of a problem in Davar in 1937 -- at a relatively late age of 22. Assuming he had played in tournaments before that, perhaps as a child, this would add at least 5-10 years, making a record of ca. 85-90 years of competitive chess, surely close to a world record. 

Moshe Cna'an, a well-known chess enthusiast, noted that in one of his last two tournaments, Pe'er player a 9-year-old (age difference: 91 years). Nissan Levi organized the event. We note that Pe'er had very kindly given us much material for this blog -- such as the following item.

Hillel Aloni, 1937-2017

+; credit: see below
Hillel Aloni had recently passed away at the age of 80. As the Israeli Chess Federation notes, in an article by Yochanan Afek, he had been the composer of studies who had put Israel on the international "map" of studies composition, starting in the 1950s. Afek also adds much information about Aloni's work as a mentor, helping many talented Israeli composers, from their first steps to international recognition.

Afek chooses the above problem (Galitzki Memorial Tourney, 1964, 1st hon. mention) as illustrative of Aloni's talent. White to move and win. Solution in a coming post.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chess and the IDF -- Jerusalem, 1949

Source: The National Library of Israel
Moshe Roytman, mentioned in the previous post, adds another item: a poster published in 1949 by the IDF's 'city officer' (Ktzin ha'Ir).

It notes the cultural events in the city (Jerusalem) in the week starting April 3rd, 1949 -- only a few months after the official end of the war of independence. The events in question are either general ones or those the IDF has reduced-rate tickets available for soldiers.

The range of the events is very wide, including classical Italian music, public lectures and readings, the popular Israeli past time of 'public singing' (zimra ba'tzibur) of popular songs, and -- on Saturday, 9/4/1949 -- a simultaneous game by the master Yochanan Marcuze.

1959 Blitz Championship

Source: Ma'ariv, Nov. 2nd, 1959, p. 12
We have just mentioned the 1959 championship. The poster notes that, among other things, there will be a blitz championship. Moshe Roytman adds a link describing the results: the winner was Raafi Persitz, the youngest Israeli master at the time (7.5/8, drawing with Greben) and that the 2nd and 3rd places were held by the two other young masters, Guti and Domnitz -- a full 2.5 points behind him.

Only Study - Wins First Prize?

Source: The National Library of Israel
The above poster (the top is cut off and has the logos of the Israeli Chess Federation and the City of Tel Aviv) is a poster for the Israeli championship of 1959, with the list of players, from Erno Greben to Rudi Blumenfeld. One of the players is Zvi Cahane. Yochanan Afek informs us he was a strong player and composer of problems, but that his only study won the first prize in the 1963 Israeli composition tournament (after corrections by Hillel Aloni). Is there any other case of a person's first -- or only -- study winning first prize in an important tournament? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

More on the Tel Aviv Championship Photo

Credit: see below
Readers had contacted me about the matter. One frequent correspondent noted that the person to the left of Blass in the photo from the 1945 championship is probably Alexander Macht (a caricature from here is reproduced above, and the Hebrew Wikipedia entry photo is here. The first link, incidentally, tells the story of Macht's entire career, including his important banking one and his life in Tel Aviv, He was one of the founders of Banking in Palestine.

Amatzia Avni suggests, tentatively, that the person on the far left in the front row is Reuven Mauer (ph. spelling of ראובן מאוער), 'the mythological secretary of the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv'.

If these two identifications are correct, they would be the two "extra" persons, apart from the 13 players, in the photograph.

ETA 31/4/2017: Yochanan Afek notes that it is not likely it is Mauer, due to the date of the photograph, taken when Mauer was much younger than the person in the photograph. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tel Aviv Championship, 1945 -- Help with Identifying Players

Source: See below

The above photograph, as is noted on the back, is that of the Tel Aviv Championship, 1945. It was forwarded to us by Ami Barav, the son of the late Israel Rabinovich-Barav. With Ami Barav's aid, as well as Hon's Ptichot Be'Sachmat and other sources, we have identified the persons in the photo as follows:

Standing, r. to l. : Rabinovich-Barav, Gruengard, Dobkin(?), Yosha, Smiltiner, Hon, unknown, Vogel(?), Wolfinger. Sitting, r. to l.: Aloni, Blass, Unknown, Mendelbaum(?), Porat, Unknown.

We are quite certain about the identity of some of the players. We are far less certain about three others, hence the question marks, and not sure at all about three of them, the 'unknowns'. The one participant not named here even tentatively is Gruenberg.

Note that Kniazer, one of the participants, is certainly not in the picture. As there are fifteen people in the picture and at most 13 of them are players, at least two others are non-participants, e.g., organizers.

Can any reader help with a more certain identification?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Staying Alive

Source: Davar, Feb 25th 1941, p. 3

A frequent correspondent (we apologize for the "backlog" in publishing his contributions, due to our vacation abroad and other personal issues) also sent us recently the sign of life found in the Palestinian Press about the Emmanuel Lasker Chess Club in Tel Aviv.

The note says in its entirety -- 'Emmanuel Lasker club, Alenby 2. The country's chess center. Chess school. Chess library. We buy books, clocks, etc. New members accepted'. It is one of the few signs of life from the club during this time (the early 40s), when due to the war, little room for chess was available in the papers, the chess column by Marmorosh ceased publication, and mentions of the club, or of chess, were very rare. But at least the club shows it still exists.

Ben Gurion as a Chess Player, and a Keres Caricature

Source: Maariv, Nov. 18th 1964, p. 4

A frequent correspondent had brought to our attention the following item. In it, it is noted that David Ben Gurion had been absent from the chess Olympiad of 1964 that was then taking place (he was later present, and even gave out the prizes, in the closing ceremony, as can be seen on this blog). It is noted that Ben Gurion is a member of the Sde Boker Kibbutz, where he was living at the time, and that he drew his game on the fourth board with Sodom's chess team, 'after a three hour battle'.

In another report from the Olympiad, on the same page, it adds a new record was set in the Olympiad the previous day: the USSR lost 3:1 to the West German team, the highest loss since it started participating in the Olympiads, in 1952, when Keres surrendered to Schmidt.The paper adds the following well-known caricature of the young Keres:



Touch Move

Credit: A.P

We are back from Passover vacation and a trip abroad. On the way back, in Israeli customs, there is the following sign: "Touch Move -- passport check by the touch of your hand", an advertisement for a new bio-metric database Israeli citizens are encouraged to join.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Learning Chess at Age Four

Jose Raul Capablanca. Credit: www.chessbase.com

The story of Capablanca learning to play chess at age four by watching his father play is well known and well documented. The story is related in Capablanca's own words (originally from an interview in 1916) in Edward Winter's book on the master (p. 1ff).

By sheer chance, I have met today in a conference, a young woman who told me her father, Avraham Bar-El, who later was a young talent in Israeli chess (playing in the IDF championship for example), learned chess in exactly the same way and age.

This may well be true, but surely the similarity between the two makes one ask whether Bar-El's case is genuine, or one of conflating his own history with the Cuban's. We asked his daughter for more details, hopefully TBA soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Capablanca's View of his Draw with Czerniak

Credit: Miguel Sanchez', Jose Raul Capablanca: A Chess Biography (McFarland: 2015), p. 453.
We already saw that Capablanca complained to Czerniak in 1939 that his powers are slipping due to his age. Czerniak adds in the same source given in the link (Toldot Ha'Sachmat -- quoted in Ad Ha'Ragli Ha'Acharon, by Afek and Volman, p. 33) that the draw 'annoyed [Capablanca] not a little: 'I can see the headlines: Capablanca is getting old!' he told me."

This certainly agrees with what Capablanca wrote here -- in an article for Critica, Aug. 25th, 1939 -- about this game. Obviously, he felt that he needed to justify his disappointing result in that game. As the olympiad started the day before, this article was published before he got his "revenge" -- a famous victory over Czerniak in the finals, which was widely published (it is given in Sanchez's biography here as 'one of his memorable productions'). Czerniak, in Toldot Ha'Shachmat, adds that Capablanca's combination 'fell on him like a blow on the head'.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yuri Averbakh's 95th Birthday


A frequent correspondent reminded us that Yuri Averbakh had just celebrated his 95th birthday, making him the oldest living Grandmaster. He also pointed out this interesting interview with Averbakh on YouTube (in Russian). Averbakh's father was Jewish, his mother Russian Orthodox.

Our correspondent adds (note also the YouTube interview):
Averbakh noted that he became a Russian officially since, as a son of a mixed marriage, he could choose his own nationality for official purposes at age 16. He first signed himself up as Jewish, but his mother forced him to go back and change his nationality to Russian: 'What have you done?'
Our correspondent adds also that Taimanov and Korchnoi also told similar stories about their own nationality. Finally, he notes that a report on Averbakh's birthday (link in Russian) includes, inter alia, the reading of a 'Happy Birthday' message to Averbakh from his 111 year old aunt!

From our collection, we add his dedication, in one of his endgame books, to Almog Burstein (link in Hebrew), for their 'joint work in Buenos Aires' - that is, the 1978 olympiad there. This is an interesting example of chess trumping politics, since Averbakh was the chairman of the USSR chess federation during 1973-1978 -- and, in 1976, the USSR boycotted the 1976 Haifa olympiad. In that olympiad, incidentally, Burstein was instrumental in using a computer (the Technion's) for the pairing, for the first time in Olympiad history.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chess in Israeli (or Palestinian) Newsreels


A frequent correspondent to this blog notified us that Herut (Feb. 19th, 1962, p. 3), the daily Israeli paper, noted that a weekly newsreel features, inter alia, the Israeli chess championship. Our correspondent asks when was the first time chess was filmed in Israel. The link is to Herut's article reporting on the content of the newsreel.

An internet search found that Yomaney Carmel -- 'Carmel Newsreels' in free translation -- has a large number of its newsreels online. Among them, from August 1953, is part of the Israeli 1953 youth championship (above), including a cameo by Czerniak as a kibitzer.

This is a bit odd since many sources say there was no youth championship in Israel that year, only in 1954, won by Giora Palai (later chess editor of Davar among other things). It could be that this a film of the Tel Aviv qualifying championship, which took place in March 1953 (link, in Hebrew, to a note to that effect in Herut, 18/3/1953, p. 4).

Also -- what is surely the first case of chess filmed in Israel or Palestine -- a newsreel from June/July 1935, featuring among other things a simultaneous display by (I think!) the young Marmorosh, including a close-up of him delivering a "standard" smothered mate:


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jozsef Hajtun

Jozsef Hajtun. Credit: www.chessbase.com 's players' Encyclopedia.

Readers, even those who are knowledgeable about chess in Israel or the British Mandate of Palestine, may well wonder who is Jozsef Hajtun, who we mentioned in the previous item. 

Our frequent correspondent (also mentioned in the previous item...) adds that he was reported in the Israeli press as participating in the Hungarian championship of 1951 (11th place, 11/21 -- behind, we add, notables such as Barcza, Szabo, Gereben, Benko, and Florian), as well as editing Kol Ha'Am's chess column. 

A search of Chessbase's Players' Encyclopedia finds him participating in six Hungarian championships, usually ending in the middle of the crosstable, but also winning a small tournament, the Gecsei memorial, in Pecs, Hungary, in 1955.

We add that -- as checking the blog for their names shows -- Szabo played in Israel in the 1958 international tournament (coming second after Reshevsky) and Gereben even emigrated to Israel for a while, before moving to Switzerland. 

Kol Ha'Am and Chess

Source: Kol Ha'Am, Sept. 11th, 1950, p. 10

Our new year resolutions are to make contact with an alien civilization and be more proactive. We consider the former to be more realistic, in terms of its chances of success, but we'll start here by giving the latter a shot, too.

On our desk (OK, on our desktop) there are a bunch of interesting items from a frequent correspondent of ours. We thank him, and at long last will publish a selection of them which would be of special interest, we think, to readers of this blog.

The first on the list is the above item. Kol Ha'Am, lit. 'The People's Voice' (קול העם -- also written in English as Kol Ha'am, Kol HaAm, etc.) was the Israeli Communist Party's paper. It too had a chess column, edited by Jozsef Hajtun (Gaige's spelling in Chess Personalia).

It shows the growing interest in chess in the country that even a paper of a very small party had a chess column. This being a communist party organ, the chess reporting was politically influenced -- here, reporting on how the participants in the memorial tournament to Dawid Przepiórka had all publicly signed the Stockholm Appeal, and that a declaration to that effect was read by Bondarevsky at the tournament.

Whatever one thinks of the genuineness or lack thereof of this appeal, it has nothing to do with chess itself -- yet was the first item in the report on the tournament in Kol Ha'Am; then came the description fo the tournament, and finally a single game (Zita - Barcza, 0-1). The writing is indeed, as our correspondent notes, 'in communist style'.