Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Rafee Persitz "Swindle"

In the following game (Rafee Persitz [Israel] - Julio Salas Romo, [Chile], Leipzig Olympiad, 1960, 2nd final), Rafee Persitz, who had recently passed away, showed his natural talent for endgames. This version of the game (slightly different from the game given in Chessbase 9's databases, incidentally) is given in Moshe Czerniak's book, Israel be'Olympiadot ha'Sachmat ['Israel in the Chess Olympiads'] (Tel Aviv: Rotem Press, 1979), p. 68. The annotations are Czerniak's.

On the previous page of that book Czerniak notes that it's a pity Persitz doesn't spend more time on chess -- he could have become 'a strong international master'. Like others, Czerniak was very impressed, not only with Persitz's play, but with the fact that it was a natural talent. For Persitz, chess was always a hobby, something he did in his spare time. To play this well when spending so little on the game is surely a sign of genius.

White is in a difficult position. He has no sufficient defense against Rd6-h6 or Bh6-e3.

30. f4 Rd6

Here Black missed an interesting possibility: 30. ... exf4 31. gxf4 Rxf4! 32. Qxf4 Bh5 33. Qf5 Qh2+ 34. Kf2 Bg3+ (or 34. ... Rf8) 35. Ke2 Qxg2+ 36. Rf2 Qxf2+ and Black has a superior rook ending. [I'd say. Black is a piece up for nothing -- A.P.]

31. f5

Coming to terms with the loss of the exchange (31. ...Bh6 32. Rfe1).

31. ... Rh6 32. Qc2?

Better is 32. Qe2, to keep the black queen defending g4.

32. ... Qh2+ 33. Kf2 Rh3 34. Rd3 Bh6! 35. Qe2 Be3+ 36. Rxe3 dxe3+ 37. Qxe3 Rc8!

38. d6?!

Both players are very short of time. White, having no sufficient defense to Black's threats (38. Qd3 Rxg3+! or 38. Qg5+ Kf7) decides to pose a problem to his opponent.

38. ... Rxg3?

A natural move, but at the same time a decisive mistake. Correct was 38. ... Rc2+ 39. Ke1 Qxe3+ (39. ... Qxg2? 40. Qg5+) and Black wins.

39. Qg5+ Kh8 40. Qf6+ Kg8 41. Qe6+ Kg7 42. f6+ Kh6 43. f7+ Kg7

43. ... Kh5 44. Qf5+ Kh6 45. f8=Q also loses.

44. Qxe5+ Kg6 45. Qf5+ Kg7 46. Qg5+! Kxf7 47. Ke1+

And White wins. [According to Chessbase 9's database, Black resigned a few moves -- A.P.]

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Keniazer about Amsterdam, 1954

Israel Yosef Keniazer was one of the stronger players in Palestine and Israel, strong enough to play on the Israeli (or Palestinian) team in the Amsterdam Olympiad (1954) and in other top events, such as the 1952 Israel Masters' tourament.

His poor showing in that tournament (2.5/9) was the reason he was not chosen for the 1952 Olympiad team. Zvi Bar-Shira had told me that that Keniazer claimed he was misled into thinking it was a training tournament (tacharut imunim) and not a masters' tournament (i.e., informal qualifying event -- tacharut amanim). If he had known, he would not have played experimental opening lines!

(How seriously to take this story, I do not know. Bar-Shira is a witness, but another interviewee who knew Keniazer well and wishes to remain anonymous told me that Keniazer was a very gentle man -- this story doesn't seem to fit with his character.)

Keniazer was older than even the "old guard" -- he was born in 1895 or 1896: Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia gives no birth date, but Raafi Persitz's book about Keniazer (see the post about Persitz for details) mentions (p. 9) that he was "a youth of 15" in 1911.

In any case, Keniazer's diary -- quoted (pp. 94-96) in the same book -- gives a fascinating picture about what it was like, to be a Jew from Israel in Europe so soon after the end of the second world war -- and the beginning of the cold war. After much praise of the event, its organizers, and the general positive attitude of the press and the populace, he adds:

'There were unpleasant moments. We didn't shake the Germans' hands, despite the fact that they kept wanting to make friends. There was one player, an assimilated Jew, who explicitly asked us not to get close to him, lest his Jewishness -- which everybody actually knew about -- be emphasized; a tragi-comic situation. I had a conversation with a Dutch lady who could did not believe I have a daughter and granddaughters, because she was under the impression "Israel is one large kibbutz [agricultural commune--A.P.] where children are kept separated from their parents. I told her that in Holland, too, not everybody walks in wooden shoes, nor do windmills take up all the space. We felt the Russian Jews are dying to speak with us, but self-preservation stopped them.'

"Plays Like Morphy"

Yosef Dobkin playing Moshe Czerniak, probably in the first round of the 1952 Masters' tournament. Photo credit: Yochanan Afek.

Shaul Hon's opening manual (mentioned in the previous post), while not as good in analysis as Raafi Persitz's work, certainly has its strengths. Its most important role, for the historian, is saving many obscure -- but interesting -- games played in Israel (or mandatory Palestine), which do not appear in most databases or other sources.

One example is the following beautiful game, which (says Hon) Irving Chernev had said has White "playing like Morphy".

Dobkin,Yosef - Greenberg,M. [B18]
Taharut Hayovel ("Lasker" club anniversary tournament), Tel Aviv, British Mandate of Palestine, 1944
[Annotations (including comments after the game): Shaul Hon]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 [4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 (analysis by Flohr)] 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.Bd3 [It is better to first play 7.h4 to cause a weakness on Black's kingside (7...h6 )] 7...Qc7 8.0–0 Ngf6 9.Re1 e6 10.Ng5 Bxd3? 11.Qxd3 h6?

A bolt from the blue! 12...Be7 [12...fxe6 13.Qg6+ Ke7 (13...Kd8 14.Nxe6+) 14.Qf7+ wins the queen or mates on e6.] 13.Nf5! hxg5 [The rook is still immune due to 13...fxe6 14.Nxg7+, winning the queen.] 14.Rxe7+ Kf8 15.g3 Nd5 [15...g6 16.Bxg5] 16.Bxg5 Rh5 [The rook is yet again untouchable, since 16...Nxe7 17.Bxe7+ Kg8 18.Bd6 Qd8 (for example) 19.Ne7+ Kf8 20.Nxc6+ (or a different discovered check depending on Black's 18th move) wins the queen.] 17.Qa3! Kg8 18.h4 Nxe7 19.Nxe7+ Kh8 20.Qf3

White does not give Black a moment's rest. 20...Nf6 [20...Rh7 is answered by 21.Qxf7 with the threat of 22. Ng6# or else 22. Qg8+ Rxg8 23. Ng6#] 21.Bxf6 Rh7 22.Bg5 f6 23.Re1! Rd8 [If 23...fxg5 24.Qf7!] 24.Qb3!

Forcing Black to sacrifice his queen, due to White's threat of sacrificing his own queen. 24...Qxe7 25.Rxe7 fxg5 26.Qf7 Forcing mate in two. Black resigns (1-0).

This games reminds us of Cherniak's saying: 'Dubkin doesn't know the source of his own strength'. Chernev the famous American analyst, was correct when he said about this game: 'Dubkin plays in Morphy's style.'

Raphael Joseph Arie "Rafee" Persitz, 26.5.1934 - 5.2.2009

Rafee Persitz, who died last Thursday, was perhaps the greatest natural chess talent in Israel. As a 20-year-old, he made an excellent 7.5/9 score in the 1954 students' Olympaid (playing second board) and made a very respectable show in the famous Hastings tournament in the mid-1950s. He was also Israel's first blitz champion. From 1958 to 1962, as the obituary (by Israel Gelfer, in Hebrew) on the Israeli Chess Association's web site says, he was probably the strongest Israeli player -- defeating, to name a few, Czerniak, Porat, Aloni, and others, and representing Israel in the Leipzig (1960) Olympiad, making a very respectable 60% score, the second-best on the team. As a student in Oxford, he defeated C. H. O'D. Alexander, the former British champion, as the chessbase obituary (with a photo) notes.

What's more, he did all this when an amateur who only spent a little time on chess. As Moshe Czerniak noted in his book Israel be'Olympiadot ha'Shachmat [Israel in the Chess Olympiads] (Tel Aviv: Rotem Press, 1979), p. 67: 'It's a pity Rafee Persitz doesn't devote more time to chess. He should have been an excellent International Master by now.' Persitz probably never considered making chess a serious career -- he studied economics and became a well-known financial analyst. Perhaps his fights with the Israeli Chess Association's administration had something to do with it. As is well known in Israeli chess circles, he once sent a letter to the ICA which began, "Dear honorable gangsters, ...".

His over-the-board achievements notwithstanding, he would probably be remembered not only for his natural talent, but for his for his excellent written analysis. As the chessbase obituary (with a photo) notes, he contributed for a long time to the British Chess Magazine's 'The Student Corner'. Yochanan Afek adds in this obituary that Persitz wrote 'a couple of Hebrew chess books'. That is slightly inaccurate -- there were three, in fact:

1. Tacharut Amanim Be'Sachmat: Yerushalaim - Tel Aviv - Heyfa 1952 [Masters' Chess Tournament: Jerusalem - Tel Aviv - Haifa 1952] (Tel Aviv: Amanut Press, 1953).

2. Israel ba'Olympiadot: Helsinki - Amsterdam - Moskva: Skirat ha'Pticot u'Mivchar Siyumim [Israel in the Chess Olmypiades [sic] Helsinki - Amsterdam - Moscow : A Review of the Openings and Selected Endings] (Tel Aviv: Mofet Press, 1958).

- both with co-author E. A. Mandelbaum; and

3. Ha'Derech ke'Nitzachon be'Shachmat: Mivchar Kravotav shel I. Y. Keniazer [The Way to Victory in Chess: Selected Games of I. Y. Keniazer] (Tel Aviv: Torat ha'Sachmat Press, 1959).

All these books show deep analysis -- especially opening theory -- that is not only objectively very good, but, more importantly, far above what was then common in the Hebrew chess literature. For example, the last book typically has three or four pages of analysis concerning the first ten moves. Compare to a typical Hebrew-language book from that period -- Shaul Hon's Petichot be'Shachmat [Chess Openings] (Tel Aviv: Magen Press, 1957, 1958, 1964). Hon's book -- despite being an opening manual and popular enough to be reprinted twice -- usually only gives a page, or half a page, to the same number of moves.

Requiscat in Pace.