Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I have a Secret Admirer...

Credit: Calvin & Hobbes, 7 Nov. 1992

The memorial event for Yaakov "Yashek" Bleiman passed with great success, if I say so myself. Two "surprise guests" were videos by his daughter (and his grandchildren), as well as an interview with various VIPs (top engineers in Rafael, high-ranking officers who knew him, etc.), both live and on video. We are considering how. and whether, to put the event online.

The next day I received a delivery of flowers. I would have liked to thank the sender, of course, but there was no return address for the sender... so in case you are reading this, thank you! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chess and Politics, Continued

Eliezer Zurabin (l.) playing with Yitzhak Modai. Photo credit: A.P.

The above photo was taken 23/3/1979 on Menachem Begin's plane, as he was travelling in 1979. The two were close associates: Zurabin was the head of Begin's 1977 election campaign, and Modai one of the ministers (minister of energy and also minister of communications) in Begin's government.

It is interesting to note that the two, despite being VIPs, are playing with a cheap plastic (the pieces) and paper (the board) set, the kind of beginners' set Israeli children used to buy for pocket money. As for the game itself, White seems to have just queened, but Black is still a rook and knight for a couple of pawns ahead. The two seem to be taking this rather absurd position quite seriously.

The photograph is hanging in El Al's building in the Ben Gurion airport, together with many other candid photographs of Israeli PMs on El Al's flight. Begin and Ben Gurion themselves, as we have seen, occassionaly played chess, although neither were particularly good at the game (nor claimed to be).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bleiman's Event -- 25 10 2012 (Hebrew)

For Hebrew reading folks: attached is the invitation's to Bleiman's event.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Image credit: St. Paul's Anglican Church

The Israeli Chess Federation is preparing a memorial event for Ya'akov Bleiman (1947-2004), a chess player, chess child prodigy, engineer, and winner of many awards for his contribution to Israel's security managing projects in Rafael. The event will take place on Oct. 25th, ca. 5 PM, in Beit Ha'Sachmat in Tagore St., Ramat Aviv. More details will be given soon.

Bleiman was nicknamed the "Vilna Gaon", for good reason, as can be seen from my previous post about him. He lived a fascinating life, and played superb games. The public is invited -- more details will be given later.

Answer to Quiz: Chess and Zionism

A Zionist postcard, with Herzel in the center, ca. 1900. from  The Jerusalem Connection.

The notation is reversed. Doar Hayom uses a notation where the files are signified from left to right -- the h-file is the Aleph (א, first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) file, the g-file the Beyt file (ב, the second letter), and so on. In particular it means the kings are on the d (ד, Daleth, the fourth letter) file and the queens on the e (ה,  Hey, the fifth letter) file. Thus the game notation is "mirror imaged" from the usual current Hebrew notation, where the a-file is signified with an א, the b-file with a ב, etc.

The game given in the previous post actually started 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e4 (the Scotch gambit), etc. By the way, the term used for the queen -- the Hebrew letter ג, for גבירה (Gvira, Dame, as in the French) was later replace by מה, for מלכה (Malca, Queen, as in English).

Why the weird notation? The reason is Zionism. The Lasker chess club members which ran the Doar Ha'Yom chess column were ardent Zionists, and they wanted to revive Hebrew in all fields -- including chess. This meant, inter alia, translating all chess notation. Since the "gentile" chess notation in the European languages goes from left to right, this was ruled out. Instead, a "Jewish" chess notation -- from right to left, as in Hebrew -- was instituted.

This notation did not last long, as it made comparing or translating games from foreign sources unnecessarily difficult and even more prone to error than  chess notation usually is. In every move the translator had to remember to "translate" the first English letter into the eight Hebrew letter, the second into the seventh, etc., and vise-versa. By the 1930s at the latest the notation reversed back to what it is to this day, namely, the a-file is the Aleph file, the b-file the Beyt file, etc.