Saturday, July 26, 2008

Prizes and Poetry

On December 19th, 1930, Menachem Mendel Marmorosh, the editor of Davar's new chess column, announced prizes to those who solve the first 25 problems given in the column.

"The first prize is 10 books of Davar's publishing firm, which are:

1). Safiach ["Addendum"], poems by Rachel (that is, Rachel Bluwstein Sela, a Hebrew poet).
2). Dmuyot Melavot ["Minor Characters"], stories by Menachem Poznansky.
3). Ba'Gilgal ["In the Gilgal"], poems by Avraham Shlonsky.
4). Polzelina, an historical play by Sh. D. Goitin.
5). She'er Yeshuv ["The Settlements"], by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi [an historian, and, later, the second president of Israel]. Articles about the history of Jewish settlement in Palestine. "A map of Palestine is included".
6). Sofey Shvilim ["The Ends of the Roads"], poems by M. Z. Welfivsky.
7). The Collected Works of A. Sh. Liberman, first volume.
8). Anakreon al Kotev Ha'Itzavon, ["Anakreon (a Greek lyrical poet--A.P.) about the Extreme of Sadness"], poems by Uri Zvi Greenberg.
9). Al Gvul Ha'dmama ["On the Edge of Silence"], fiction by Zvi Shatz.
10). Bi'Yemei Masa ["At Times of Trouble"], articles by Moshe Beilinson (about the 1928-1929 anti-Jewish riots in Palestine), "in a beautiful cover".

The total cash value? "1.175 Palestinian Pounds"--roughly $110 U.S. Dollars in today's exchange rate (although such comparisons are necessarily crude.) I wonder if, in the list of prizes for chess competitions, was there ever another competition which offered as prizes neither cash, nor a single chess-related item?

(About unusual prizes, one incident immediately comes to mind: Mikhail Tal, in his wonderful autobiography The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, writes that in a playoff game to determine the winner of a special prize in a tournament, his opponent insisted before the game that, whatever the result, they would divide the prize. Tal had no objection, but reminded his opponent that the prize in question was a hunting rifle--"and it wasn't even of the double-barrel variety".)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ex Libris

The following bookplate belonged to Edward van Amerongen, the Dutch-Israeli chess player. The Hebrew is a quote from Zecharia 4:6, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit".

Quite a fitting quote for a chess player, especially in the original, where the word used for "spirit"--rua'h--also means "intellect" or "mind". We all feel like that if and when we win. Of course, when we lose, it's not because of the opponent's superior intellectual powers. Then, it's just a freak, momentary lapse from our usual-perfect play the opponent was lucky to exploit.

Photo credit: They, in turn, credit it to Jean Buchet, writing in L'Echiquier de Paris in a series of articles from 1947 to 1953.