Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Something Like this Probably Happened to all Players

Today, I was reading a chess book in the street. A woman I know passed by.

She: What are you reading?
Me: This [shows book].
She: Oh--a chess book?
Me: Yes.
She [looking surprised]: But I've seen you read a chess book two years ago... you mean you aren't perfect at it yet?
Me [in a sad tone]: Unfortunately, not yet.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Oh, You Mean THAT Fischer

We have just noted in the previous post Mordechai Bronstein's somewhat sarcastic writing style. Two posts before that, we've noted that Ernst Fischer was a chess player who lived in Haifa.

In the same article noted in the previous post about chess analysis, Bronstein writes, tongue-in-cheek, about the game Robert James "Bobby" Fischer - J. Bolbochan, Stockholm, 1962:

"In this position, Fischer (not the one from Haifa) played 21. f4..."

Rude Book Reviews

The above is Edward Winter's (wordless) book review of Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence's Chess Rules of Thumb. Other famous short dismissals include Stephan Bueker's review of Svetozar Gligoric Shall We Play Fisherandom Chess? ("No.") and Tony Miles' comment on Eric Schiller's Unorthodox Chess Openings ("Utter Crap.")

Israeli chess had its own version of rude--yet justified--reviews. Mordechai Bronstein (no relation of David Bronstein, the world championship challenger, to the best of my knowledge...) dismissed Mordechai Rosenfeld's Amanut Ha'Shachmat ("The Art of Chess") in the June/July 1967 Shachmat (p. 165). The dismissal was part of Bronstein's article about chess analysis:

"Due to the many problems with chess analysis, I like Rosenfeld's note in his book (?) 'The Art of Chess' that he 'deliberately (of course! -- 'Shachmat''s Editor) refrained from giving any analysis', but it is really difficult to demand any analysis from that book, whose absurd claims can be the basis for an entire humor column, and whose most original part is... the introduction."

Rosenfeld wrote to Shachmat to complain about Bronstein's unkind words. In reply, Bronstein added a few examples of the book's, er, interesting claims (Shachmat, Nov. 1966, p. 237):

"1. [Rosenfeld's] biographical notes about the great Russian endgame composers are so good, the editors of the [Russian-language] Chess Dictionary and The Soviet School of Endgame Composition both decided to translate and reprint them word for word.

"2. Some parts of the book are written with a rare sense of humor, not to be found in other chess books. For example: 'In the same year, Alekhine played Mr. 'Consultants' and defeated him [my emphasis--A.P.] after a short and beautiful game.' "

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Before & After

Above is the cover of a 1947 issue of The Bulletin of the Palestinian Problemists' Association. Below is a problem (a mate in three by Y. Ashkenazi) from the same issue. The text was typewritten, but the diagrams and cover were drawn by hand. Apparently, the entire "print run" was a few mimeographed copies--making the early issues of the Bulletin, essentially, manuscripts.

Out of the blue, later that year, the Bulletin went through a face-lift. It began to be published, not in Tel Aviv, Palestine, but in Whitburn, Scotland. It was not longer hand-written and mimeographed, but printed with a real printing press.

What caused this extreme change in printing location and quality? And why would a Scot be interested in printing the Palestinian Problemists' Association's bulletin? Simple: a Scottish Jew had agreed to let them use the printing press he owned. I guess we now know why Scots and Jews are such misers: they're saving all their money to publish chess problems.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


The other day, I took out a chess book from Haifa's public library--Gerald Abrahams' book Not only Chess: A Selection of Chessays. Only when I got home I realized that one of the people who took out this very book was Ernst Fischer, (the first name on the loan card, above), the Haifa-based chess coach and player, who was the trainer of most of Haifa's chess players for a generation, including Itzhak Bar-Ziv.

Not only that, but I have in my library a book Fischer owned--in this case, Tarrasch's Das Schachspiel:

(The stamp says, "donated by the late Ernst Fischer to the Israeli Chess Association".)

Speaking of Abrahams, he has a rather odd connection to chess in Israel: he is probably one of the few, if not the only, person to write both books about chess and a book about Israel, as can be seen on the fly-leaf of Not Only Chess:

So, to sum up:

By sheer coincidence, I take out a chess book from the library... which was taken out by a local Israeli chess master... who trained other Israeli chess players I know... and another one of whose books I happen to own. In addition, the book itself was written by a chess writer who also wrote a book about Israel.

Serendipity does happen.