Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Draw with Death

A Draw with Death, by Isaac Mares. Tarmil: Tel Aviv, 1983.
In this book, the holocaust survivor Isaac Mares tells us of a diabolical deal made by a young ghetto inmate with a sadistic SS officer. If he wins a chess game with him, all the ghetto will be spared -- except him. If he loses, the entire ghetto will be killed -- except him. Only if he draws, will both survive.

This, more or less, happened in reality. Efraim Kishon had his life saved in a camp by becoming the camp's commandant's chess coach. As he said in an interview many years later, he had to play well enough to remain coach, but on the other hand not too well so that the commandant won't "fire", and probably simply liquidate, him at a moment of anger. (Can anybody refer me to the source for this interview?)

Update, 30 5 2012: the original interview, which is often re-quoted (i.e., in is from -- of all places -- the interview, "What Pains Efraim Kishon?" (מה כואב לאפרים קישון) from Monitin [in Hebrew], Feb. 1983 (no. 54). 

For those who think they know what playing under severe mental pressure is.


Even here, the illustrator had been a victim of the evil "black square on lower right corner" mafia (see Item #30 in the link). Tim Krabbe says, 'people think it looks better that way'. I believe the reason is that when the h1 corner is shown in illustrations (as it usually is, since it's closest to the white king, the piece non-chessplayers think all the game constantly revolved around), the illustrator -- or the person who sets up the board -- thinks it's wrong to leave this "important" square blank; so naturally he colors it black, for emphasis.

50 Years to Eichmann's Trial -- and Chess

Fifty years have now passed since the opening of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel. It had been mention before in this blog. Only in Israel, however, is it possible to see in the blog of the Tel Aviv Chess club [in Hebrew] that one of the upcoming events will be 'a meeting on holocaust memorial day with ex-minister Rafi Eitan, one of the squad which abducted Eichmann'.

Smyslov Singing and Najdorf Speaking

Hebert Pérez García, from the Netherlands, had put online another excellent video of the 1996 reunification tournament, held 50 years after the 1946 Groningen tournament, with all surviving contestants. This video has Najdorf giving a moving speech, in particular giving a tribute to Euwe; and Smyslov doing what he did best (after chess) -- operatic singing

The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper and Whyld (2nd Ed., 1992) notes in their entry for Smyslov that he 'narrowly missed' a place in the Bolshoi Opera in 1950. This would not be the first time Smyslov sang at a chess event: the same source notes he 'sang operatric extracts on Swiss radio' in the 1953 Neuhausen-Zurich tournament, and sang to the audience in the interval during a game of living chess with Botvinnik