Thursday, November 20, 2008

Botvinnik vs. Petrosian... but not THOSE Botvinnik and Petrosian.

From an interview I had with Yochanan Afek in the 'Chess House' (the headquarters of the Israeli Chess Association in Ramat Aviv, Israel): 

[Young man passes us, waves to Afek; Afek exchanged a few polite words.]

Afek: You know who this was?

Me: No. 

Afek: It's Mikhail Botvinnik. No, not that one, of course; it's just his name.

Me: With a name like that, he must be a good player...

Afek: Pretty decent! He's a master who played in some international youth tournaments. By the way, in one of those, he played a young Armenian player with an interesting name...

Me: Armenian? Don't tell me... isn't there a young player called... 

Afek: ...yes, Tigran Petrosian

Petrosian vs. Najdorf (Blitz) Match

From Zvi bar Shira and Avner bar Nir's report on the 1964 Chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv, Israel (Ma'ariv, Nov 28th, 1964):
'While the Olympiad was going on in the playing and demonstration halls, Najdorf and Petrosian sat privately to play a match of blitz games. The few spectators heard, after every strong move, comments such as "My name is Najdorf!" or "I'm Petrosian!". During the match the world champion [Petrosian -- A.P.] came "out of his shell" and was seen as a humorous, witty man.'
While such offhand reports shouldn't be taken too seriously as character analysis, this certainly fits with Edward Winter's note (reviewing The Games of Tigran Petrosian) that Petrosian was well liked -- and his chess greatly appreciated -- by his colleagues. He was very far from the dour, humorless 'drawing master' he was supposed to be according to the popular chess press, merely for, in Winter's word, 'not playing like Tal'.
Is anything else known about these games? (Perhaps one of the spectators recorded the moves?) Unfortunately, even the match's result is unknown, since the very line where the reporters gave it was garbled by the printer.

Edited: while the facts are as written in the newspaper, most likely, the dates must be wrong: Nov. 28th 1964 was a Saturday, and newspapers in Israel do not come out on that day. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Problemists in the Desert

From the 1950s to the 1960s, the chess column in Al ha'Mishmar ("On the Guard", whose masthead is given above [photo credit: Wikipedia]), the organ of the socialist kibbutzim and moshavim (agricultural communes), dealt almost exclusively with chess studies and problems, demoting over the board games to second place.

I wonder what the reason was? Probably the fact that most of its readers were in small, more or less isolated communities, where finding opponents for over-the-board play was a serious challange, leading -- by default -- to the popularity of problems and studies.

If anybody has more concerete information on the reason, I'd appreciate it.