Saturday, January 22, 2011

Persitz Defeats Penrose and Alexander

Raphael Persitz, Davar, 16.4.1954
In Davar, April 16th, 1954, we read:
Shortly after the end of the international tournament in Hastings... the winner, C. H. O'D. Alexander, fell pray to the young Israeli master Raphael Persitz. Two weeks later Persitz defeated one of the top English masters, Jonathan Penrose, in the following game...
the interesting thing here is that neither of these games are mentioned in the "standard" databases (e.g., Chessbase 9, or the Interent database (Edited to add: the Persitz-Penrose game is found Chessbase's 11 Mega Database, see comments). This, of course, is no proof of these games being "unknown": all it means is that the games were played in smaller (non-international) events.

In Davar a week later (23.4.54) we read:
Persitz's victory over Alexander had, as expected, created a stir in the English press. Alexander's victory over Botvinnik in the 1946 radio match gave him a reputation of a great player, but his victory in Hastings, and especially his sensational defeat of Bronstein, were the apex of his career and got him worldwide press. No doubt Persitz chose the right moment. At the request of many of our readers we are publishing the game.
 It is, indeed, an intersting game -- a nice example of mutual "pawn storms".

Persitz, Raphael - Penrose, Jonathan [C29]
Source: Davar, 16.4.1954

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.d3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Be7 7.Nf3 0–0 8.d4 Bf5? The source of Black's future troubles. 9.Bd3! Bxd3 10.Qxd3 c5 11.0–0 Nc6 12.Rb1! The purpose of this move will be made clear in five more moves. 12...b6 13.Be3 cxd4 Looking for counterplay on the c-file 14.cxd4 Rc8 15.Qf5! Kh8 The "logical" 15...f6? is impossible because of 16.Qe6+ Kh8 17.Rb5 16.Rbd1 Nb4 17.Ng5! Every move counts here; no point protecting the "cannon fodder" pawns. 17...Bxg5 18.Bxg5 Qe8 19.Rf3! Rc6! 19...Qe6? 20.Qxe6 fxe6 21.Rxf8+ Rxf8 22.Be7 wins a piece. 20.c3 Na6 forced. 21.Rdf1! again preventing Qe6.

22.Bf6! The final blow. 22...Qc8 23.Qh5 gxf6 desperation in a desperate position. 24.Rh3 Qxh3 25.Qxh3 fxe5 26.dxe5 Re6 27.Rf5 h6 28.Rf6! Rxf6 Forced. 29.exf6 Kh7 30.Qf5+ Kh8 31.Qf4 1–0

Alexander, C. H. O'D - Persitz, Raphael
Glochestershire - Oxfordshire match (Scotch game)
Swindon, 27.3.54
Source: Davar 23.4.1954

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 Bb4 5.d5 Ne7 6.Nxe5 0–0 7.Qd4! Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Re8 9.Bg5 Nf5! 10.exf5 d6 11.f4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Qxd5 13.0–0–0! Qxd4 14.cxd4 Ne4 15.Bh4 Nc3 16.Rd3 Nxa2+ 17.Kb2 Nb4 18.Rf3 a5 19.c3 Nd5 20.Bc4 c6 21.g4 b5 22.Bd3 Bd7 23.g5 c5

24.Rhf1 a4 25.Be4 Bc6 26.g6 a3+

27.Ka1 cxd4 28.gxf7+ Kxf7 29.e6+ Kg8 30.cxd4 Ra4 31.Rg1 Rxd4 32.f6 Rxe4 33.f7+ Kf8 34.fxe8Q+ Kxe8 35.Bf2 b4 36.Bc5 Rxe6 37.Rf8+ Kd7 38.Rxg7+ Ne7 39.Bxb4 Bd5 40.Rff7 1–0

A Persitz Interview and a Bronstein Quip

David Bronstein (left) vs. C. H. O'D Alexander, Hastings 1954, as it appeared in Davar 29.1.1954. For a better quality photo see here.
In 1953/1954, Raphael "Raaphy" Persitz was in Hastings. Persitz himself played in Hastings' traditional Christmas / New Year festival two years later. He sent an article about the tournament to to Davar -- 'The Kings' Moves in the City of Tzrichim' (a pun in Hebrew: Tzrichim means both 'turrnets' or 'spires', as in church spires, and 'rooks') --  from which this photo is taken.

In the article, he interviewed David Bronstein, who showed his usual sense of humor. Example of Bronstein's quips from that interview:

- [On Horne]: I fear a man who opens with the king's gambit.
- Why do I spend ten minutes to 30 minutes on the first move? I must decide what opening to play.
- Can't I do it at home? No, the opening position is too complicated.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kasparov - Sharansky, 0-1 (Simultaneous Exhibition)

The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog, which is well-worth visiting in general, had just published a post, 'The Interesting French Exchange XIV' about that opening's theory (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5).
Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the games has an Israeli connection. It is a game where Kasparov, giving a simultaneous exhibition in Jerusalem in 1996, was defeated by Natan Sharansky, a well-known political activist in Israel and (previously) the USSR. The game is also found elsewhere, of course (e.g., but it's nice to have some attention drawn to it...

The result is not (that) surprising: Sharansky is quite a strong player, having taken up the game seriously when imprisoned for political activism in the USSR. Surely Sharansky is a serious candidate (if we exclude Kasparov himself) for 'strongest chess-playing politician', although admittedly the competition isn't much.

The game is worth looking at from the purely "chessic" point of view, too. Sharansky's sacrificial attack beginning with 15. Nxf2 is very nice.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 Be7 6.h3 Nc6 7.a3 Ne4 8.c4 Bf5 9.O-O dxc4 10.Bxc4 O-O 11.d5 Na5 12.Ba2 c5 13.Re1 c4 14.Nbd2

14. ... Nxf2! 15.Kxf2 Bc5+ 16.Re3 Bxe3+ 17.Kxe3 Re8+ 18.Kf2 Qxd5 19.Kg1 Rad8 20.Kh1 b5 21.Qf1 Bd3 22.Qg1 Nc6 23.Nb1 Nd4 24.Nxd4 Qxd4 25.Nc3 Qxg1+ 26.Kxg1 Re1+ 27.Kf2 Rde8 28.Nxb5 and White resigned without waiting for the opponent's move (0-1).

The final position:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Family Connections: Garry Kasparov Interviewed by Yosef Lapid's son, Yair

Kasparov gets top billing: a major interview in Israel's most popular news program, by the interviewer Yair Lapid, the son of the late Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, who was mentioned in this blog quite often. The elder Lapid was a good friend of Kasparov, as well as the head of the Israel Chess Federation (site in Hebrew).

To non-Hebrew speakers, Lapid's pre-interview introduction says, in part: 'The ability to play chess is often considered the most refined intellectual ability there is. If so, we have just interviewed the world's most intelligent man -- Garry Kasparov'. One wonders how much of this is Lapid fils' view and how much is Lapid pere's; in any case a very reliable source (who wishes to remain anonymous) told me that Yair Lapid was, as a young man at least, quite a talented amateur.

The interview itself is in English.

Akiba Rubinstein and Polish Chess (Hat Tip: Yochanan Afek)

The well-known Israeli / Dutch player, Yochanan Afek, had noted that YouTube has an excellent video about Akiba Rubinstein and, more generally, the history of Polish (and Jewish) chess. Here they are, in order:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jeremy Gaige and Jewish History

Jeremy Gaige's indispensible Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography is a wonderful research tool for chess historians, but one would not think it contains shocking data. But a careful reading shows that it does -- to those who know where to look and who can recognize what the birth and death dates and places really mean.

Below is how the entries of Abraham Ibn Ezra (who wrote the famous poem about chess), Salo Landau (who perished in Auschwitz) and David Przepiorka (who died -- probably -- in the Lodz ghetto) appear. Many death dates and locations in Gaige's Chess Personalia are, in reality, silent witnesses to the victims of the holocaust.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Problemists in Israel, the 1950s

As often noted on this blog before, in the 1950s the Israeli problemists were coming into their own. Here is one typical month's worth of work by such problemists -- all mates in two -- published in one of the smaller newspapers in the country at the time, Ha'Tzophe [The Observer], during one month.

While none of these problems are outstanding classics, they are all competently executed and quite good. This is the level achieved by composers in one small country, in one field (direct mate in two) of composing, during one month, in one newspaper. Some of the questions have many tries, changed mates, and other pleasing features; on the other hand we see once again the problemists' eternal nemesis, misprints, crop up again: the third problem is missing a black bishop on f2, as the paper made clear in a correction published three weeks later.

At the time Israeli newspapers were divided along political lines. Al Ha'Mishmar, for example, belonged to the left-wing "Mapam" party; Ha'Tzophe to the right-wing "Mizrachi" party. But when it came to chess, the left and the right both agreed.

Here is how the problem appeared in the paper. English spelling of names, as per usual, following Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia: a Biobibliography, except when indicated.

Yechezkel Hillel, 2X, 5/9/1958, Grimshaw theme.

Ze'ev Landau, 2X. 14/9/1958. Self-block theme.

Y. Isikovich (ph. spelling), 2X. 19/9/1958.

Aryeh Gruenblatt (ph. spelling), 2X. 26/9/1958. Zagoruiko theme.
 Solutions (highlight to view):

Hillel: 1). Qh2
Landau: 1). Qe8
Isikovich [add black bishop on f2]: 1). Qa5
Gruenblatt: 1). Sc3

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year's Resolutions, Chess Version

Credit: Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes
My resolutions for this new year, chess-wise, are two. First, to reach 'Expert' strength through constant improvement establish connection with an advanced civilization from another planet (I need to remain realistic, after all). Second, and more important, is to finish my long-overdue book about chess in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. This blog, after all, started as an attempt to help with that project.