Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Untimely Death Notices

Photo Credit: Quotespedia

Edward Winter notes in his article Chess and Untimely Death Notices that 'a surprising number of publications had misguidedly shovelled into the grave various chess figures who were, to a greater or lesser degree, still alive.' The (currently) last item on that list (also found in C. N. 8682) concerns Sammy Greenberg, whom Marmorosh had mistakenly killed off, as we had noticed while reviewing Marmorosh's chess columns from the 1930s. Full details found at the links provided. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Uri Avner, 1941-2014

Uri Avner. Credit: wfcc.

We are sad to report that the Israeli player and composer, Uri Avner, had passed away this Thursday. A brief biography of his problemistic achievements is found here. The same site also has a notice of his passing.

He was a strong OTB player (e.g., IDF champion 1961, member of the Israeli Students' Olympiad team a few times, etc.), with a FIDE rating of about 2250. But he was best known for his problemistic achievements, having left competitive chess for problem composing ca. 1970.

There, he made Israel a powerhouse in the field (organizing three PCCC congresses in Israel for example), and reached the very top of the organization -- the head of the FIDE Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions. He was also a GM for chess composition.

There is a lengthy, and very good, obituary in Hebrew here  by Ram Soffer, from which the above summary is taken. It is at the Israeli Chess Federation's web site. 

There is also one of his last -- and very entertaining -- lectures online, at this link, and one can see a few of his games here.

On a personal note, Avner, a psychologist by training, had a very acid and funny sense of humor. Three examples from my personal experience:

(After he got off the phone with a certain chess organizer who was, and still is, very good as an organizer, but only a mediocre player): "Ever since he broke 1750 in the rating list, he demands the honor such an achievement entails."

(Discussing with me whom to invite to an ICF meeting): "The only two people I know who would draw a crowd are myself and Adrian Schwartz ... [a chess playing serial rapist who just got paroled - A. P.]"

(About his composing style): "I compose anti-Merediths. That's the number of pieces left off the board when I'm done."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mona Karff -- Update

Source: Davar, 27/5/1938, p. 4

We have previously posted that Mona May Karff had been the first Palestinian World Chess Champion. Originally we noted that there was no notice of her achievements in the Jewish press, perhaps because she saw Palestine as a "stepping stone" to the USA and never was a "real" zionist.

It turns out this is not quite true: as noted above, when she won the USA women's championship (9.5/10!) this was noted in the Jewish press, which notes her play was praised, and her photo given, 'in all the American papers' (presumably, this last claim was not intended literally).

What is interesting is that the Palestinian part of her career and life is emphasized and all else is not. Her success in the 'Stockholm Olympiad' (actually the women's world championship held concurrently with the Olympiad) is mentioned, presumably because she represented Palestine (that time the Palestinian team did not participate), and spends considerable space on the Palestinian part of her biography.

For example, her birthplace (Bessarabia) isn't mentioned, but only that 'She emigrated to Palestine with her parents when very young'. It is also mention that 'after learning Hebrew [she] joined the Kfar Giladi kibbutz.' She is also describe in the first sentence of the article as being 'from Tel Aviv', and only in the very last as now being 'a resident of Boston'.

It is not wise to hang too much on the wording of a newspaper paragraph, but it is typical, in our view, of the explicitly zionist bent of the newspaper reporting in Palestine at the time, in particular Marmorosh's column.

Books and Magazines

Above we see two ways in which Marmorosh's chess column in Davar became a de facto clearing house for all matters concerning chess in Palestine. In the mid to late 30s, apparently a drip of foreign chess publications began to reach Palestine, and Marmorosh was the go-between. In both the above, typical, extracts from his column from the late 30s, we see this.

The first -- brought to our attention by our correspondent Moshe Roytman -- is from April 15th, 1938. It advertises two books (Championship Chess by P. J. Sergeant and Max Euwe by Hans Kmoch), and adds (the last paragraph) that 'large publishers now often send their books to the chess department's management [i.e., Marmorosh himself -- A. P.] for it to advertise. Some publishers noted their willingness to give a discount to those who order from Palestine'. This surely make economic sense -- publishers giving discounts to enter a new market, once they discovered it exists.

We note that the same occurred with magazines. The bottom selection, from Nov. 26th, 1937, notes that one can buy copies of the British magazine Chess at the 'newspaper kiosk next to Davar, and that those who wish to buy a subscription to 'immediatelly contact the chess department's management'.

Book Covers Redux

Photo by A. P. Book available here
Chess book covers are very common in books dealing with strategy, diplomacy, and the like. Here is one example.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sicilian Defense, Bus Driver Variation

A Sicilian Bus. Image credit here.

This sort of thing can happen only in Israel. I was on a bus and -- all of a sudden -- the bus takes an unexpected turn, goes to a distant roundabout, and comes back to the main road. The following conversation ensued:

Me: Why did you do that for?
Driver: Do you play chess?
Me (puzzled): Er, yes...
Driver: Do you know the Sicilian?
Me (?!?!): Why, yes...
Driver: I did the same thing!
Me: What do you mean?
Driver: Remember the long line in front of the red light in the intersection? I attacked it from the side and outflanked it!
Me: Er... OK...