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).