Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Jerusalem 1964 International Tournament

Source Davar, 15/10/1964, p. 4
The international tournament that took place after the 1964 Tel Aviv Olympiad was planned at that date to take advantage of the fact that the world's strongest players are all going to be in the country in any case. But it was, of course, planned in advance with the usual invitations extended to specific players. The following article notes that 'excellent players were invited to the international tournament that will take place in Jerusalem after the Olympiad'. The fit between the players in the tournament and those of the Olympiad was naturally, not 100%: as we noted in the blog before, Abrahams, who didn't play in the Olympiad, played in the tournament. 

A frequent correspondent notes that Davar reported, above, that the organizers wished to invite women's world champion Nona Gaprindashvili , a (somewhat) unusual case of a woman - if a world champion - being invited to an international "men's" tournament.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Uri Avneri Playing Chess

 Source: Dan Ha'Dani collection
Finally, from the same Dan Ha'Dani news photographs' collection search for "chess", a candid photo of Uri Avneri, a well-known Israeli journalist and political activist, playing chess in 1969. 

Czerniak vs. Liberzon

Source: Dan Ha'Dani Collection
Another photo found in the Dan Ha'Dani collection (see link in previous post) is the following candid photo of Liberzon playing Czerniak. Judging from the position on the board this is probably the game they played in the Be'er Sheva tournament, 1976.

Just search for "chess" in the Dan Ha'Dani collection!

Judith Polgar, 1989

Source: Dan Ha'Dani Collection
The Dan Ha'Dani collection, which we have mentioned before, has many chess photos. Here is an informal, but flattering, photo of Judith Polgar, playing in the European Team Chess Championship in Haifa, 1989; photograph by Vered Peer

Another Photo Collection

Source: see below
A frequent correspondent notes that another photo archive, Bitmuna (in the picture) has some Israeli chess pics. There are many photos of the (same) Spassky simul noted in this blog a few days ago, as well as photos of a Czerniak simul (one of which is above) and other chess-related material.


If you see a box with text at the bottom of the page it means you can press on it to load more pictures. 

Chess in Zichron Ya'akov, 1923

 Source: Doar Ha'Yom, Nov. 15, 1923, p. 4
As we noted, chess in the early 20s in Palestine concentrated in the large cities -- i.e., Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and (a little bit) in Haifa, but that nevertheless there were exceptions. Here is one: a tournament that took place in Zichron Ya'akov. The paper reports that 'the tournament that took place between the local players before the Sukkot holiday' could not be completed due to the fact that some of the participants 'are travelling'. It notes, however, that Ksuhnir is the undoubted winner, with a current record of 10.5 our of 11 points. 

Sigmund Zehavi

Source: Doar Ha'Yom, Aug. 21st, 1927, p. 4
Chess simuls did not necessarily take place in chess clubs. One example is this simultaneous event, advertised by Daor Ha'Yom, which will take place in the 'Eastern Pioneers' Workers' Association club. The latter association was an organization of socialist oriental Jews (link in Hebrew). 

The performer is 'the famous chess-player Mr. Sigmund Zehavi' (ph. spelling). I have not been able to find any information about this person. Does anybody know? 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Jerusalem vs. Tel Aviv, 1924

Source: Doar Ha'Yom, March 30th, 1924, p. 3
One of the first matches - probably the first match - between two chess clubs in Palestine took place in 1924, when the newly-establishes clubs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv played a match. Here, with local patritoism, Jerusalem's Doar Ha'Yom notes the 'total victory' of Jerusalem's Gordon, Pappo, Mohilever and Korn over Tel Aviv's Labounsky, Polano (ph. spelling), Weisel and Steinberg.  One wonders whether Tel Aviv's "Polano" is actually Polani, a member of the Jerusalem club in 1923, as players moved about quite a bit at the time. 


Source: Davar , Jan. 24th, 1928 p. 3
We noted in the past that in the 1920s and later, the "official" number of chess clubs was very small, and most chess activity was in less formal settings. One of the most important was Ha'Poel sport clubs. In this report, it is noted that Ha'Poel has branches in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Binyamina, Hadera, Zichron Ya'akov, Atlit, Afula, Nesher, Tiberias, Yavniel, Rehovot, Petah Tikvah, Magdiel, Kfar Saba, Kineret, 'and more'. It is added that 'apart from soccer', they are also involved with teaching first aid and 'various sports' - including chess. 

This does not imply every branch of Ha'Poel had a chess club, but probably most did, chess not requiring much investment on the branches' part. We note that during the 1920s in particular, occasional notes in the press would point out the Ha'Poel club in a certain city is open to the public for, among other activities, chess. 

Official Announcement of the Opening of the "Lasker" Club, Jerusalem

Source: Ha'Aretz, Aug. 7th, 1923, p. 4
The announcement of the opening of the "Lasker" chess club in Jerusalem, 1923, is quite interesting. The secretary of the club, E. Gottlieb (ph. spelling) notes the opening will be in the 'Beit Ha'am' building 'next week', with the following program: an opening speech by 'the pharmacist Y. Michlin (ph. spelling), the head of the club's committee' - followed by a simultaneous game by  [Shaul] Gordon -- one of the club's stronger players -- against 20 people. 

The financial arrangements are of some interest: the free is three Egyptian pennies (1/100th of the Egyptian pound, commonly used in Palestine at the time). If the player wins, Gordon will pay him 'of his own money' three times as much, in the form of 'Shachmat journal for three months'. If he loses the three pennies go to 'the club's kitty'. This leads one to believe this simul was a fund-raiser for the club, not a way for Gordon to gain any money.

We note that a simul with the same prize -- three journals of the Lasker club's Ha'Sachmat -- and the same player -- Gordon -- was also advertised in Ha'Aretz a year later, on Aug. 22nd, 1924, p. 5.

A Live Chess Game in Haifa, 1927

Source: Doar Ha'yom, Aug. 30th, 1927, p. 4
We noted before in this blog that there were, in the 1920s and 30s, examples of live chess -- often with a Zionist theme. Here is another one: a game which took place 'last Saturday [i.e. Aug. 27th] at 5:30 PM on the "Maccabi the Hero" playing field' in Haifa. The exhibition had 'drawn a small crowd of about 1000'. We add that the game was advertised (one line) in Davar, Friday, Aug. 26th, 1927, p. 1.

The report adds the costumes - Jews vs. Romans - were very good, and the 'game manager' (i.e., player), Ben Hanoch, playing the Jewish side, had (unsurprisingly for such displays) defeated Harrari, playing the Roman side. The report adds, however, that for most of the spectators the game 'remained unclear, unfortunately'.

A Kniazer Simul

Source: Ha'Tazphon, March 26, 1926, p. 7

How strong -- or weak -- the players in the Jerusalem "Lasker" club were in the 1920s can be seen by the fact that when Kniazer from Haifa gave a simultaneous display in 1926, he defeated most of the club's top players such as Mohilever, Vogel, and Polani and only Pappo managed to draw. This note was brought to our attention by a frequent correspondent. 

A Spassky Simul

Spassky playing in Ein Harod. Source: see below

We have sent information to Edward Winter about a Boris Spassky simultaneous display in Israel, 1964, and he had graciously published it in his well-known Chess Notes (#11513). All details about the photographs and credits for finding them is to be found in the link. 

We add that the Spassky simultaneous display was in Ein Harod on Saturday, Nov. 28th, 1964, according to an article in Kol Ha'am (Nov. 23rd, 1964, p. 3), which lists all of the simultaneous displays the USSR team was planning to give while in Israel. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

La'Merchav Readers vs. Euwe, Telegraph Match, 1961-1962

Source: La'Merchav, June 7th, 1962, p. 8

The game, a Sicilian defense, was: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 c:d4 4.N:d4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0-0 N:d4 9.Q:d4 Bc5 10.Bf4 B:d4 11.B:c7 B:c3 12.b:c3 d5 13.e:d5 N:d5 14.Be5 f6 15/Bd4 Kf7 16.c4 Ne7 17.Rab1 Rd8 18.Bc5 Rd7 19.Bb6 Rc7 20.Bd6 R:c4 21.B:b7 Ra7 22.Rfb1 Nf5 23.Bb8 R:b7 24.R:b7+ B:b7 25.R:b7+ Kg6 Draw (0.5-0.5).

The game given above was played La'Merchav readers (White) and Euwe (Black). It was played by  telegraph at the rate of a move a week, between Nov. 10th, 1961 and June 7th, 1962. It was published in La'Merchav's chess column. La'Merchav's readers chose White's move by vote, with the editor (van Amerongen and Z. Shomron) allowing himself to intervene in case the readers recommended a obvious blunder, but there was no such case. 

The game was brought to our attention by a frequent correspondent, who notes that he himself played as a reader of a youth's magazine in a similar game ageist Tal

An Euwe Game Quiz

Source: TBA later
In this position, Euwe (playing Black) offered a draw, which was accepted by White. What was the occasion and what's the relationship to Israeli chess? 

Rubinstein and Hebrew

Source: Davar, Dec. 11th, 1930, p. 3
In reviewing the chess life in Palestine in 1930, Davar notes that there is 'little to be done at once' with the 'limited' chess life in the country. The article - 'The Akiba Rubinstein Chess Club in Tel Aviv' notes, however, that Marmorosh founded the club with in order to revive chess in Palestine. The article notes that the club now had over 100 members, and that Rubinstein himself sent a polite letter to Wilson, the secretary of the club, agreeing to naming the club after him. It is quoted above. 

The especially interesting point is that the letter was written originally in old-style, turn-of-the-century Hebrew, the Hebrew Rubinstein learn in his youth. Rubinstein notes he got Wilson's letter from '4th of Tishrey' [The Hebrew date] and that he is willing to have the 'Ishkoki' [chess] club named after him. Rubinstein also notes he wrote previous articles for Ha'Sachmat in Hebrew but that the magazine did not survive. He politely refuses to send articles, citing lack of time, but promises to send 'interesting games' if he happens to play any, and to come visit to give simultaneous displays. Indeed, he did just that a few years later. 

Chess on Israeli TV -- with Gil Hovav

Gil Hovav, an Israeli presenter and chef, gave a short feature about chess in Israeli TV, on his show 'Game Theory' [Torat Ha'Mishakim, תורת המשחקים] in 2017. The video (mostly in Hebrew) includes an interiew with Kramnik, Gelfand, and also mentions chess boxing and has Hovav losing with a fool's mate (presumably deliberately) to a chess player in Union Square.

"Another 100,000 Israeli Pounds"

Source: La'Merchav,  Oct. 8th, 1964, p. 3
The same frequent correspondent notes that Eliyahu Fasher reports in a long article in La'Merchav on the government's agreement, due to the great success of the Olympiad's preparation, to donate another 100,000 Israeli pounds to the proejct. Fasher notes that chess is Israel's 'top sports export'. The article also has a good quality photo of  Zadok Domnitz

Chess on the Radio

Source: Ha'Boker, May 8th, 1965 p. 8
A frequent correspondent notes that Yosef Porat was on Israeli radio in 1964 -- 'with his return as a winner from an international chess tournament that took place in Mongolia'. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Source: see below
The photos above is that of a very young Mikhail Tal, from Kol Ha'Am, February 28th, 1958, p. 6. The paper, a communist one, was especially concerned with informing its readers of chess in the USSR and other communist countries. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

New Candidate for 'Earliest Mention of Chess in the Hebrew Press'

Source: Ha'Zfira (Warsaw), 27/4/1880, p. 7
We hare already mentioned that Ha'Zfira might have had the first mention of chess in the Hebrew press in the world. We now add an earlier occurrence -- because the newspaper used the older term nardshir (see previous post for more details on the term) instead of schachmat, (or schach-mat) as the Hebrew term for 'chess'. 

It is an article about the game and its history. Written long before modern chess sholarship, the author  - signed 'Z. Scherschewski', presumably the Hebrew writer Zebi Hirsch Scherschewski -- assumes nardshir is chess, and even claims it is named thus 'after its inventor, Nassir Daher'  - but the editor adds on the same page a skeptical footnote, given below, that 'in context, it does not seem nardschir is the game of chess', nardshir in the Talmud being mention in context as 'an easy game that only women play'...  

Source: see above

Earliest Mention of Chess in Palestinian Press?

Source: Ha'Zvi, 29/4/1898, p. 5

We believe the above is the earliest mention of chess in the Palestinian press, courtesy of the Historical Jewish Press site, found above. It is a translation of Israel Zangwill's short story (1895), 'Maimon the Fool and Nathan the Wise' (first photo). In this dialogue between the two Nathan notes that he met prof. Gotold (ph. spelling) for the first time 'in the game of nardshir' - the translator's word for Zangwill's 'chess'. It was published in Ha'Zvi, an early Hebrew-language newspaper in Palestine, edited by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

We note that 'nardshir' appears in the Talmud (Ketuboth 61:2). Rashi, the famous medieval Talmudic commentator, translates 'nardshir' mistakenly as 'Ishkashish' (אישקשיש) -- from the medieval French eschecs. Thus both 'Ishkashis' (or variants such as 'Ishkoki' or 'Ashkaoki') and 'nardshir' are sometimes used for 'chess' in Hebrew literature, before the term 'schachmat' (שחמט) -- also mentioned by the translator -- became by far the most popular term.

There are earlier mentions of chess in the Hebrew press -- e.g., in the Ha'Zfira (Warsaw), noted in this blog here and here. But Ha'Zfira and other papers which a propos mention chess I have found from this time have been published outside Palestine. 



Source: Ha'Boker, Dec. 1st, 1950, p. 7
For a quick snapshot of chess politics in the very early state of Israel, we can note Ha'Boker from 1950: it notes that OrenRabinovich-Barav, Gruengard, Amihud Weinstein, Yochanan Ya'akovi, and Israel Rosenfeld were elected to the management of the ICF, and notes that soon the (first) Israeli championship would take place, including (oddly) 'strong players from abroad' as well as 'the master Czerniak which had just returned from Argentina'. No 'strong players from abroad' played in the Israeli championship, needless to say, nor would they have been eligible to play. But Czerniak did indeed play, scoring a disappointing 5/13 , for 12th place out of of 14. (Source: e.g., Hon's Ptichot Be'Sachmat [Chess Openings], 3rd ed., Tel Aviv: 'Schach' publishers, p. 91). 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Chess and Movies -- with a Twist

Source: see below
Chess in the movies is hardly a new thing, as the Chessbase article from which this photo is taken shows, for example. But the same Ha'Boker article we noted in the previous post, reporting on the international tournament of 1958, above has a twist on the usual connection. The article complains about the short draw S. BursteinDunkelblum, noting that Dunkelblum 'is not eager to make an effort' in the tournament's games', and that Burstein 'was seen in the late evening standing in line for a movie in the Mugrhabi movie theatre', at the time one of the busiest theatres in Tel Aviv... 

Dunkelblum did indeed 'not make an effort', ending the tournament with a "perfect" 50% - 6.5 / 13 -- with 11(!) draws, according to Chessbase 14. 

Chess on the Radio (and on the Front Page)

Source: Ha'Boker, 11/11/1958, p. 1
A frequent correspondent notes that another instance of chess on the radio can be seen in Ha'Boker reporting (on the front page) about the international tournament in 1958. It notes that tonight (11/11) at 19:35 there will be a radio report in Kol Israel ['Voice of Israel'] about the tournament, by Shmuel Rosen and David Klein

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Weiz Cup, 1939

Source: Ha'Aretz, 28/5/1939
We already noted in this blog the start of what is above called the 'cities chapionship' between Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and 'the settlements' in 1939, i.e., the Weiz cup. A frequent contributors notes that in 1939, Ha'Aretz reports, the championship (again) took place in the Lasker club, Haifa didn't play, and Tel Aviv won the championship. Individual results were given as well. 

The 1939 'Lasker' Club Passover Tournaments

Source: Davar, 21/4/1939, p. 8
Marmorosh had promised, in the April 14th column, to give a detailed report of the tournament the next week. This he did. Below the photo -- showing, right to left (seated) Mrs. Schwarzman, Zelmenitzka, Nachmani (both ph. spelling), Dr. Labounsky, Porat, Marmorosh, Zerodinzki (ph. spelling; club manager), Winz, Blass, Kniazer, Mrs. Binfeld (ph. spelling) and Ya'akov

Highlights from Marmorosh's report are that Rabinovich-Barav (then in Haifa) and Porat (then in a Kibbutz in the north) were elected 'honorary members' of the Lasker Tel Aviv Club. Other highlights note there are now 130 members in the club, that there were more than 1000 visitors during the tournament, and that 'interest in the women's tournament did not flag, despite the amazons' flagging game'. 

Like many of his generation, Marmorosh just counldn't take women's chess seriously, Graf and Menchik's achievement notwithstanding. 

First Women's Tournament, 1939

Source: Davar, 31/3/1939, p. 8.
A frequent correspondent notes the announcement of the 1939 Passover activities in the Lasker club in Tel Aviv, 1939. Not only did it include a master's tournament (won, eventually, by Porat -- see, for a crosstable, e.g., Hon's Ptichot Be'Sachmat, [Chess Openings], 3rd ed. (1965), p. 89) but also, for the first time, a women's tournament. This was not the same as a women's championship (which had not occurred until the 1950s) but this is still a first. The results were reported two weeks later, on 14/4/1939 (p. 3):

Source: Davar, 14/4/1939, p. 3
The winner of the women's tournament was Mrs. Schwatzman [ph. spelling] followed by Ms. Zemlenitzka [ph. spelling] and Nachmani. The secondary tournament was won by Ben Artzi, followed by Susna [ph. spelling] and Weisboard. Hon won the junior section, together with Carmon

Czerniak - Winz, 1939

Source: Davar, 14/4/1939, p. 3
The famous game Czerniak - Winz (Lasker club championship, 1939) had been reprinted often. A frequent correspondent now found the original publication -- in Marmorosh's Davar column. The column, with Marmorosh's annotations, end with the exclamation -- 'one of the most brilliant games ever played in the country!'. 

A New Chess App

Source: Decodechess
Above is (part of) a window from a new online chess analysis, from an Israeli start-up called "Decode Chess". As the name implies, the idea is to "decode" chess games into human language, looking at threats, good moves, plans, concepts, etc. Give it a look! 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Chess at the Jewish Museum, Vienna, Austria

Source: see below 
A quick note: chessbase, from whose web page I took this clip, has a long and interesting article on Chess at the Jewish Museum of Vienna. Did you know Simon Wiesenthal was an arthitect and designed a coffee house with a chess room?

Chess for the Immigrants

Source: Davar 4/2/1940, p. 5
Our frequent correspondent notifies us that Davar published an appeal for those (then) illegal immigrants to Palestine who were caught by the British and put in the Atlit camp required books and games: 'books of all kinds, especially Hebrew primers, and games of all kinds, especially chess and domino'. 

Game Theory

From posters of a conference on game theory in Bar Ilan University. Chess is as always fascinating to game theorists:

The "Old Timers' Club"

Source: Shachmat vol. 17 no. 6-7 (June-July 1978), no p. #
A frequent correspondent noted that in 1978, there was an 'Old Timer's Get Together' with the following photo. It is one of the photos which has the most of the Israeli players and organizers in one photo. Included are among those who were active in the 60s or before: 

Standing: 1st from right: Yosha; 2nd: Wolfinger; 3rd: Itzchak Aloni ('previous champion'); 4th: Rabinovich-Barav ('previous secretary');6th: Smiltiner; 10th: Mohilever ('previous secretary'); 14th: Rauch; 17th: van Amerongen; 19th: Porat ('champion'); 21st: Gelfer; 23rd: Kagan ('champion'); 24th: Luba Kristol ('hidden'); 25th: Rivka Lichtenfeld ('championess'); 26th: Avner; 30th: Czerniak.

Sitting: 1st from right: Dyner; 6th: Peretz; 7th: Levant; 9th: Bleiman.

Weiz Cup: first League Championship in Palestine

Source: see below

A frequent correspondent notified us of the Weiz cup, which took place in 1938. This was, in effect, the first league championship in Israel. Our correspondent gives us Marmosoh's contemporary report in Davar, 29/4/1938, p. 3 (top cutting). We note Fascher notes the exact details 20 year later, in La'merchav,  29/4/59, p/ 6 (bottom cutting).

Marmorosh notes this was a four-team event (Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and 'the settlements', i.e., the agricultural smaller communities). Each team had 8 players ; Haifa won. Fascher add the name is because the prize -- a silver cup -- was donated by Menachem Weiz

Almost "anybody who was anybody" in Palestinian chess played -- with some exceptions. Marmorosh notes that, in Haifa, the 'top players' Rabinovich-Barav and Enoch didn't play, but the team still 'surprised everybody' and (eventually) won. Fascher adds that, in Tel Aviv, Blass and Rauch didn't play, either, and in Jerusalem, Burnstein was missing. 

Fashcer also notes this was the third major achievement of the Palestine Chess Federation (est. 1934), after the individual Palestine championships and the Warsaw Olympiad. 

Chess Humor

Source: Al Ha'mishmar 13/6/1963 p.2
A frequent correspondent notifies us of an interesting contest which took place during the 1963 Natanya tournament: a chess humor context, 'on the initiative of Geffen Public Relations Ltd., responsible this year for promoting vacation tournaments to the general public'. The winners were B. Ben-Menachem, 'the oldest contestant', with (of all people) Itzchhak Aloni, the Israeli champion, second, and V. Kahana third. 

Czeniak - Mecking in a Report about Hastings 1966/67

Above is film by British Movietone of Hastings, 1966/1967. There is a short view (about 15 seconds) of Czerniak playing Mecking. Czerniak ended last, with 3/9, in that event. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Reti's Cancelled visit

Source: Ha'aretz 20/12/1923 page number missing
In 1923, there was much excitement in Palestinian chess circles due to the expected Jan. 1924 visit of 'Ha'Koach Vienna', and especially of the Jewish star of the team, Richard Reti.As Ha'aretz notes, the plan included for him to play a 60-man simul and a blindfold 15-game one. Many people - 'Jews and non-Jews' - are asking the Lasker club in Jerusalem to register as players. The paper adds these include 'high government officials' (of the British Mandate of Palestine's government).

Eearliest (?) Live Chess Display in Palestine?

Source: Ha'aretz, 21/3/1924. See also below/
A frequent corespondent had brought to our attention the following note in Ha'aretz, March 21st, 1924. It shows the first live chess game in Palestine took place, not in April 1924, as previously stated in this blog, but about a month earlier, on March 20th, in Tel Aviv, as part of the Purim celebrations in Tel Aviv. The report adds that the live chess show was seen by 'about 10,000 spectators' - among them 'a few thousand Arabs, who came from Jaffa and the nearby villages, and filled the streets'. 

This, if accurate, is significant considering, first, the entire population of Tel Aviv at the time was only a little more than 20,000 (according to Dalia Manor's article, 'Art the the City', in Azaryahu & Troen (eds.).  Tel Aviv: the First Century : Visions, Designs, Actualities) and Jaffa at the time was about 30,000 (according to Wikipedia's Hebrew-language page. This means that about 1 of 5 of the population came out to see the game! 

It is also an early example of chess being used for joint Jewish-Arab entertainment, if, in this case, the occasion was actually "Jewish" (Purim). 

A Winz Simultaneous Display

Source: Ha'artez, 12/12/1926 (page?) , see also below
A frequent correspondent notes that Victor Winz had played a simultaneous display on Dec. 12th, 1926. The literal translation from the Hebrew notes that the game, at 19:30 in the Zionist Club on Rothschild avenue in Tel Aviv. It is called a 'one-time' game (i.e., Winz playing many at once) against 25 opponents. It also notes that Winz will then play 'with his eyes closed' (i.e., a blindfold game) against the 'most strong player' among the 25.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rare Photos

Source: See Below
Dan Ha'Dani (דן הדני) is a retired news photographer who had documented, in his IPPA news photo agency (IPPA stands for 'Israeli Press and Photo Agency', active 1965-2000) had donated his collection of over 1,000,000 photographs and other items to the National Library of Israel. 

A quick search of 'דן הדני שחמט' (Dan Hadani chess) finds 411 results of various Israeli players from various times, mostly the 60s and 70s, while checking in particular for the ID # of 'אולימפיאדת השחמט סרט' ('chess Olympiad reel') finds numerous photos, in particular, of the Haifa chess Olympiad of 1976, with many interesting photographs, such as the above one. 

The links are in (mostly) in Hebrew, but the navigation is standard and the photos need no particular explanation. 


Source: O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings, p. 19 of the 1920 Doubleday & Page (NY) edition. 
References to the game of chess in general are very common in literature -- often using terms like 'check', 'checkmate' or 'stalemate' to illustrate dramatic points in the plot, reference to chess problems is not common. So it is interesting to note in O. Henry's (William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910) early novel, Cabbages and Kings

The fact that Henry uses the exact terminology found at the time in most chess columns seems to show that he was, at least, acquainted with chess. A quick online search found various e-book publishers offering collections of O. Henry's works (since they're in the public domain). At least two have the same biography of O. Henry -- claiming he could 'hold his own against the best players of [his] town' (Greensboro, North Carolina) as a teenager. 

This is likely, but these e-books are obviously hack works. As they both have the exact same biography, it is very likely this biography is itself cut-and-pasted a previous (and naturally uncredited) biographer's work. I would therefore not consider their say-so as reliable evidence, without first finding the original work.

Incidentally, since copying and incompetence usually go hand in hand (as Edward Winter notes), it is not surprising a brief overview of these e-books finds howlers. One  book claims in the biography O. Henry was born in 1802. This is surely the plagiarist's -- or his scanner's -- mistake, not that of the original biographer. The other claims that Cabbages and Kings is a 'collection of short stories'.  That one of the publishers finds it necessary to praise itself for its 'High-Quality eBook Formatting' (capitals are sic) is also a big warning sign. 

Who do these "ePublishers" think they are -- Ray Keene

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Grau "Saves the Day"

Source: Shaul Hon's Shachmat, April 1946, p. 14
As is well known, in the 1939 the second world war broke out in the middle of the Olympiad. Matches between enemy countries were declared drawn (2:2) without play. But so was the match between Argentina and Palestine. Why? 

Yosef Porat gives his reminisces of how this came about in Shaul Hon's chess magazine (which, we believe, lasted only one issue). The magazine was generously given to us by Ami Barav, Israel Barav's son. 

Says Porat (my translation): 

Our team was not invited to the negotiations [in which the matches between warring countries were decided as drawn] for reasons we didn't understand. It was clear to us in advance we shall not play against the Germans. A few days before the round when we were supposed to meet we notified the organizers and received a reply that we would be treated similarly. 

The next day we were surprised by a second letter: the organizers notified us that the German team objected with the claim that Palestine, as a Mandate, is not in a state of war with Germany, so they see no reason to cancel the match! An absurd situation arose -- the representatives of the Nazis' land demanded to play with the those of Jewish Palestine! 

We all agreed we will not play with them no matter what, and informed the management that we will not come to play against them. It was a crucial situation; if we were scheduled to play with the Germans, they will get 4 points without a fight, which would give them first place! 

The Argentine team complained about the harm we do to [their chances for first place]. We offered to them to not appear in our match with them, but other teams then objected that would hurt their chances. The press had a field day... 

...[E]ventually [Roberto] Grau, the head of the Argentine team, found a solution by chance: he noted that since, by sheer chance, we had a 2:2 result against all other teams with chances for a prize that we have already met. So if we agree to a 2:2 draw with both Germany and Argentina, no country with a chance for a prize would either gain or lose by our hand.... even the Germans found no way to object to this. 

First Specially-Composed Soviet Problem in a Palestinian Newspaper

Source: Al Ha'Mishmar, 19/6/1947, p. 3
A frequent correspondent notes that this problem, by Alexander Baturin (Gaige's spelling in Chess Personalia -- some sources prefer 'Alexandr') is special. As the editor, Eliyahu Feigin, notes, it is the first Soviet problem especially composed for Al Ha'Mishmar. He adds he would be glad to continue the cooperation with this 'chess Eldorado'. 

We add that, to our knowledge, it is also the first Soviet problem that was ever specifically composed for any Israeli or Palestinian chess column or magazine, although there were problems by international composers specifically composed for Palestinian chess journals already in the 1920s. 

About the Lasker Club

Souce: ynet
In a new feature (for subscribers only, alas), ynet, the web site of Israel's most common paper, Yediot Aharonot, just published an article about the Lasker club in Tel Aviv. Titled: 'The Most Romantic Club in Israel', It notes:

With black coffee, biscuits, and peculiar humor, the Lasker club gives its members a refuge from the daily grind for 83 years, for a camaraderie of chess. They survive financial difficulties and even shady gamblers, who tries to take over the club - only don't ask them to play backgammon.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Hayim Segel's Private Olympiad

Source Ha'Tzophe, 4/12/1964, p. 6 of the weekend supplement
A frequent correspondent sends us the story of the "private olympiad" of Hayim Segel (sitting on the right in the photo) a 28-year-old amateur player, who - in the 1964 Tel Aviv olympiad -- somehow managed to get the greats of the chess world to play many friendly games with him. These included Efim Geller (sitting on the left), Boris Spassky (whom he beat 2:1), and many others. 

The whole thing started, according to the report, when Segel - waiting, with others, for Reshevsky whose plane was late -- passed the time playing Darga. He beat him in two blitz games, raising the interest of Unziker. Unziker beat him 3:1 in a blitz match, but praised his play. He thus got to play - apart from those mention above -- also Kotov, Boleslavsky, Gligoric, Ivkov, Najdorf, and many others. He often drew or won, including (in the case of Spassky) in "regular" friendly games (i.e., without clocks). Reshevsky - an orthodox Jew -- was also his guest for a shabbath. 

When asked why he doesn't, in fact, play on the Israeli team - his reply was that, as a yeshiva students studying for the rabbinate, he has no time to play. 

The same correspondent adds that, later in his career, Segel was jailed for "white collar" offences when he served as a senior rabbi in the Israeli rabbinate. He was considered by the other prisoners as an expert in three things: religious law, investment advice, and chess. The paper says, with unnecessary understatement, that the man who bear Spassky 2:1 in a friendly match was "one of the best players" in the prison. 

Source: Ma'ariv, 25/2/1977, p. 56 of the weekend supplement

It is surely Segel who is described, unnamed, as the 'yeshiva student' who 'challanged' the best players in the world to a game in the 1964 olympiad, in a book of essays by a Jewish author whose title I undfortunately forgot (can any reader add the details?). That book gives a partial explanation of Spassky's performance: after starting with 1.a3, which is playable (the Anderssen opening), Spassky continued 2.h3, which 'showed he had something else than chess on his mind' (quoting from memory). Spassky was surprised that his opponent was too strong for what is, in effect, two-move odds.