Saturday, March 20, 2010


Diagram and game credit: Tim Krabbe's Chess Curiosities web site, "Practical underpromotion" section.

In the above game, Stahlberg - Czerniak, Buenos Aires 1941, Black is clearly lost. However, he hopes for a trap: If 51. g8=Q, then 51. ... Re2+, etc. -- and White cannot take the marauding, checking rook without stalemating Black, at least for a while.

So Stahlberg played 51. g8=R and Czerniak resigned -- a rare case of real-life underpromotion in a masters' game.

It is no shame, of course, losing to the great Gideon Stahlberg. I am putting this game here not to show Czerniak lost games, too, but to show how much fighting spirit he had: two pawns down, against a great master at the height of his career, Czerniak will still not resign until he sets at least one last clever trap. But it also shows Czerniak's respect for his opponent: once his last chance was gone, he did, in fact, resign immediately.

In lost positions, Czerniak would play on -- as long as there was a chance of saving the game. He would not play on just for spite in hopeless positions, however, in a serious game, merely hoping for a blunder by the opponent.

To fear nobody, but respect everybody, was Czerniak's way of playing chess.

From the "King on its Own Color" Mafia

Yet another picture -- this time, from a doctor's office -- where the white king is on its own color. (At least the board itself is set up correctly, with a white square in the near right corner).

Non-players typically assume that the king, being the tallest and most important piece, should go on the same color square as it (he?) is.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prime Ministers and Chess, Once More

Left to right: Boris Gelfand, Nathan Sharansky, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

A new item, from Israel Ha'Yom [Israel Today], 10.3.2010, p. 5 (my translation from Hebrew):
A Draw for Netanyahu and Sharansky against the World Chess Champion [sic]

By Shlomo Chezna

The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a little time off and played chess with the new holder of the world chess champion title [sic, actually the winner of the chess world cup tournament -- A.P.] Boris Gelfand. Next to Netanyahu sat his helper, the head of the Jewish Agency Nathan Sharansky. The two could not defeat the champion but the game ended in a draw. Netanyahu said the previous game he played was against Sharansky himself, and was also a draw.
This is interesting since the photograph above (credit: Israel Hayom) clearly shows two boards, not one. It is not likely Gelfand played a "simul" against only two people, so perhaps Gelfand allowed them to move pieces on the second board? In any case, to draw against Sharansky (a serious player who, for example, defeated Kasparov twice in simultaneous exhibitions) or to draw against Gelfand, even in a consultation game, is an significant achievement for any chess player, let alone someone as busy as the Prime Minister.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The First (?) Mention of Fischer in the Israeli Chess Press

Robert "Bobby" Fischer in the 1957/8 US championship. La'Merhav, 1958.

The first mention of Robert "Bobby" Fischer is probably from La'Merhav, 2/5/1958, column no. 164, by Eliyahu Fascher. It mentions -- of course -- that Fischer is a 'young Jew', and that his 'sensational' victory in the 57/58 US championship gave him a right to join the candidates' tournament.

It also gives the conclusion of the famous game Fischer vs. Sherwin from the championship (Fischer's rook sacrifice, 30. Rxf7), and prints what is (again, probably) the first photograph of the then-unknown (in Israel) Fischer, given above.


In the 1958 Chess tournament in Israel, the caricaturist Buchwald drew caricatures of the foreing players -- as could have been expected, they raised great interest, this being the first international tournament in the young state's history.

We have already seen Samuel "Sammy" Reshevsky's caricature. Below are those of (in order) Arthur Dunkelblum, Robert Wade, Ignacy Branicki, Carel van der Berg, Silvan Burstein, and Laszlo Szabo. The originals are handing in Beit Ha'Sachmat in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Chess Federation's headquarters.