Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chess, Beer, and "In Memoriam" Walls

Image credit: Gdali Roizman

This photo of the memorial wall in Rishon Le'Tziyon Chess Club (link in Hebrew, with -- incidentally -- much history under the "history" tab on the web site) is interesting for many reasons. First, it has some of the historical figures we have met before, such as the problem composer Yosef Goldschmidt (bottom row, second from right) and the player Israel Dyner (top row, right), as well as two young men, Shlomo Zlil and Erez Levanon (bottom row, extreme left and second from left, respectively) in uniform, who were killed in their army service.

Mr. Roizman, who sent us this photo, points our another curiosity: Yitzhak Schwartz (second row, second from left), a founding member, was the head of the workers' union in a large local brewery. and that the club's first location was the workers' cafeteria on the brewery's grounds.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sending Newspapers to Tel Aviv

Unser Express, 22/8/1935, p. 7

Moshe Roytman informs us that the same Unser Express had also published a list of amusing anecdotes from the 1935 Olympiad. Above is one of them (part of a longer article), relating to the Palestinian team.

A Jew came to the Olympiad to see the Palestinian players. Why? Asks another. He explained: 'my daughter sent me a letter from Tel Aviv, asking me to send her some newspapers; surely I can send them to her with the Palestinian players, don't you think?'.

Chess and Antisemitism in Russia

Illustration of the famous "lost son who became Pope" medieval legend. Source: Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919), by Gertrude Landa ('Aunt Naomi'). Available online here

Tomasz Lissowski notifies us that, in his research for his book on Winawer, he discovered that in April 1914, an 'All-Russian Chess Society' was founded in St. Petersburg by P. P. Sosnitsky, who was elected president and '1st honorary member'. The other two honorary members were the Jewish players Winawer and Rubinstein, quite a surprising fact considering the well-known antisemitism in Russia at the time.

Of course, antisemitism being common in Russia at the time did not mean every Russian was antisemitic. We already noted Chigorin had openly and warmly praised Winawer, which he considered his 'master and guide', in an official reception in the St. Petersburg's chess club. 

The members of the newly-founded chess society apparently had nothing against Jewish players. Alas, adds Mr. Lissowski, the first world war, which broke out a few months later, put an end to all those plans. 

Porat in the "Unser Express"

Source: Unser Express [Yiddish], Sept. 1st, 1935, p. 4

Our frequent correspondent Moshe Roytman notes that the Yiddish-language Unser Express (עונזער עקספרעס) had published an article, 'The Chess Olmypiad', about the 1935 Warsaw Olympiad which included a pen-portrait of some of the players.

Interestingly, they chose to portray William Winter, Tartakover, NajdorfFine, and Porat (then, of course, Foerder) -- no doubt due to him being 'Palestine's strongest player'. He is described as a talented young player which 'even the world masters, like Vidmar, Tartakover, and Flohr, could achieve nothing against him'.

A quick search found no games in the databases of Porat playing Vidmar (which is not to say it didn't happen) but certainly he could hold his own -- drawing and winning -- against Tartakover and Flohr.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Powerful Piece Play"

This is the headline given to Barav’s victory against the 2nd place finisher in the Verbandsmeisterschaft in Berlin, Waechter (to use the English transliteration). Barav himself was then Rabinovitch, or 'Rabinowitsch' in the German spelling above -- 'Barav' is a Hebrew translation of the name, which means 'the Rabbi's son'. 

We see, as the annotator notes, Barav's favorite weapon -- a kingside sacrificial attack -- at work once more. The tournament crosstable, and the newspaper cutting, were sent to me by his son, A. Barav

Barav, Israel - Waechter

(Souce & Annotations: Vossische Zeitung, 26/5/1929, p. 12)
Queen’s Pawn Game (D00)

"Powerful Piece-Play" [V.Z.]

1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 d5 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 e6 5.Nd2 Nc6 6.f4 cxd4

Now Black has an inferior center. 7.exd4 Bd6 8.Nh3 Qc7 9.0–0 a6 10.Qe2 0–0 11.Nf3 b5 12.Ne5 Bb7 13.Bd2 Rfe8

Black should not have given up the defense of f7 with the rook. Now both White knights join the attack on it. 13...Ne4 Is no good: 14.Bxe4 dxe4 15.Ng5 (not 15.Qxe4? Nxe5); but 13...g6 should have been considered, with the idea of Kg7 and Rh8, parrying Ng5 with h6.

14.Ng5! Nd8 One should not that the Bb7 and Ra8 should have been freed. 15.Ng4 The Nf6 defender must be eliminated. 15...Nxg4

If  15...h6 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Nh7 Be7 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Qh5 and wins. 16.Bxh7+ Kf8 17.Qxg4 g6 18.Qh4

Threatens 19. Bxg6 fxg6 20. Qh8+. 18...Kg7 18...Ke7 19.Ne4+ Kf8 20.Nf6 19.Rf3 Rh8 20.Rh3 Bc6 21.f5! exf5 22.Ne4 Kf8  22...dxe4 23.Bh6+ Kxh7 24.Bf8+ (Or  24.Bg5+ ) 24...Kg8 25.Qxh8# 23.Bh6+

Black Resigns 1–0

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Another Nice Barav Victory

As promised, I am occasionally publishing on this blog games by Israel Barav (orig. Rabinovich), who was especially known for his tactical brilliance. Here is one such nice game, against one of Palestine's stronger players, Shlomo Smiltiner, who had passed away recently at the age of 100:

Lasker Club, Tel Aviv
June 7th, 1945
Israel Barav – Shlomo Smiltiner
Source: A. Barav’s collection.
[Annotations adapted from Deep Fritz 8's]
Caro-Kann (B10)

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Ng3 Bg4 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nbd7 8. d4 Bd6  (8...h5 9. h3 Bxf3 10. Qxf3 =) 9. h3 Bxf3 10. Qxf3 Qc7 11. c3 Nb6 12. Bb3 h6  13. a4 Rd8 (13... Nbd7 14. Bc2 is better) 14. Re1± Kf8 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Rxe4 Kg8 17. Bd2 Nd5 18. Rae1 Qe7 19. c4 Nf6 20. R4e2 Bb8 (20... Bb4?! 21. Bc3 Bxc3 22. bxc3 Qc7±) 21. Bc3 h5? (21... Qd6 22. g3 Bc7 +-)

22. d5! (Clearance to allow c3-e5) cxd5 (22... exd5 23. Rxe7) 23. cxd5 Nxd5? (better is 23... e5 24. Bxe5 Bxe5 25. Rxe5 Qd6, but Black is still lost) 24. Bxd5 Qd6 25. Re5 (Fritz prefers 25. Rxe6!? due to 25… Qxd5 26. Qxd5 Rxd5 27. Re8+ Kh7 28. Rxh8+ Kxh8 29. Re8+ Kh7 30. Rxb8 Rd7 +-) 25... exd5 26. Re8+ Kh7 27. Qxh5+ Qh6 28. Rxh8+ Rxh8 29. Qxf7 Qg5 (if 29... d4 30. Bxd4 Rd8 +-)

30. Bxg7! Rg8 (if 30... Qxg7 31. Qh5+ with mate) 31.Bf6+ Rg7 and Black resigned without waiting for the opponent’s reply (1-0)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A "Life Chase" Match

Credit: The National Library of Israel "Time Travel" web site
A contributor to this blog had reminded me that Israel's national library, apart from a large physical collection of chess materials in rare magazines, etc., also has them on their web site. Entering 'שחמט' (Sachmat, chess) or 'chess' (in English) does indeed find quite a few items -- although, for this particular item, one needs to look for 'chase', not 'chess', for obvious reasons. Here, we have an advertisement for the live chess game between Marmorosh and Rubinstein.

One wonders whether more people came to 'Hapoel graund' to watch the chess game or the 'foot-ball' (i.e., soccer) game. One may also wonder about the number of typos and factual mistakes (Rubinstein was not, of course, the 'world chase [chess] champion'). This is especially surprising since, according to the item's description, it was printed in Ha'aretz press -- that of the most important newspaper at the time in Mandatory Palestine -- and is also of exceptional quality in terms of color and technical printing quality for the time.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Nimzowitsch Obituary

Aron Nimzowitsch. Credit: Wikipedia
Moshe Roytman informs us that a large, full-page-headline (though on p. 6) obituary of Aron Nomzowitsch in the Yiddish-language Unser Express [אונזאר אקספרעס], 'After the Death of a Great Chess Genius', on April 9th, 1935.


Credit: Chesscraft blog
A reader of this blog noted that, contrary to what I was writing for years, the English transliteration of the Israeli journal שחמט is actually Shahmat, not Shachmat. Thank you, anonymous poster -- and it goes to show that, once more, errare humanum est. Now I only have a few thousands of typos to correct...

Vera Menchik Jewish?!

Source: See Below

Moshe Roytman, a frequent correspondent, sent me the following headline, from Unser Express (in Yiddish), Sept. 20th, 1929, p. 15, about 'The Jewish Maiden Vera Menchik, which had Defeated the Greatest Chess-Players in the World'. 

What evidence is there that Menchik was Jewish? Technically it is possible that her father was since Menchik is indeed sometimes a Jewish name: a diminution of "Mann", i.e., "little man", as Jewish Family Names and Their Origins (Guggenheimer & Guggenheimer, Ktav Press 1992, p. 507) notes. But that hardly means all those with that name are Jewish -- any more than all those named, say, Rosenberg are Jewish (Alfred Rosenberg, to name one, was one of the major Nazi war criminals tried in Nuremberg, for example). 

Also, it is possible (technically) that her mother, Olga Illingworth was Jewish -- Illingworth is certainly a British name, from her father, but her personal name is Russian, so it is possible her mother was Jewish despite her father's name. But this seems unlikely as her (Olga's mother) first name was Mary Illingworth.

The most likely explanation seems to be that Unser Express was, simply, misled by Menchik's last name into assuming that she is Jewish, but is it possible that she was in fact Jewish, or "half Jewish" (i.e., on her father's side, which would not make her Jewish by Jewish law)? 

Chess in the Newspapers

The following photo -- given to me by Mr. Gdali Roysman (my spelling trasliteraiton from the Hebrew, I hope I am not misspelling it...) -- shows Davar Le'Yeladim ["Davar for Children"] of Dec. 8th, 1954. It shows yet another early attempt to make chess popular among the young in the mainstream press in Israel:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

An interesting Marmorosh Game

Source: Shachmat No. 5 / 29 (Dec. 1964), p. 15
In the following simultaneous game by Marmorosh, an interesting event happened. This game, says the (unsigned) article in Shachmat, was from a simultaneous display in Holon (Israel), 1956. Annotations by Shachmat:

1. Qb3!! Q:f7 2. d:c6!

'An extremely interesting position! Both queens are undefended and threaten each other. The black queen cannot move, due to immediate mate.'

2... Rgf8 3. c:b7+ Q:b7 4. Qe6+ Qd7 5. Qa6+ Qb7 6. Ne6+ 'and wins'.

More on the "Mystery" Tournament...

Source: Shachmat, June-July 1964, Vol. 2 no. 11-12 (23-24), back cover
Having procured, with Alon Gruenfeld's generous help, the 1964 issues of Shachmat, all I can say is -- so much for the "mystery". As I already noted, the games were published in Shachmat in 1964. Above is the back-cover report in Shachmat, and all the games of the international section appeared in full in that and the next three (August - October) issues of Shachmat. There was also a complete crosstable, and that of the Israeli masters' "B Tournament").

I should have known better; I fell into the trap of believing Chessbase and similar online / computer sources are reliable. They are indeed, when it comes to recent (ca. 1990-) tournaments and international events, but not at all when it comes to smaller, historical events that were mostly reported in non-European (or American) sources. This is why Jeremy Gaige's and other archivists' work, such as the multi-volume Chess Tournaments Crosstable (which, alas, I do not have access to) and Chess Personalia are indispensable.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Getting into Trouble

We noted that Adrian (or, in the source quoted, Avraham) Schwarz had played in a tournament when he was a deserter from the IDF, and MPs came to catch him at the tournament; it turns out that the exact tournament was the youth test tournament of July 1963. Schwarz 'registered to the tournament despite the fact that his legal standing vis-a-vis the army's command does not allow him to play or to guarantee his attendance' -- that is, he might be thrown in jail for desertion if caught -- and that 'he is responsible for the disruptions caused when the police terminated his participation', which 'brought chess into disrepute'.

Quite apart from being pursued by MPs, then, Schwatrz had to deal with him severely: a one-year suspension from chess tournaments. That, hoped the ethics committee of the ICF, will 'keep him from loving chess to a degree that causes dereliction of his national duty' [to serve in the IDF].

The sordid details are found on p. 9 of Shachmat, vol. 2 no. 9 (21), April 1964. We are not clear why he is named 'Avraham' (i.e., Abraham) here -- is this due to the common (at the time) practice of changing names to "pure" Hebrew ones, or are we in fact (which seems unlikely given my sources) dealing with two different people?

Chess and Politics, 1964 Olympiad

Credit: Shachmat, vol. 3 no. 4 (28), November 1964
In the "Chess and Politics" file, we add the following photo, on the cover of Shachmat from November 1964, with the self-explanatory title, 'World Champion Petrosian is welcomed by president [of Israel] [Zalman] Shazar'.


Shachmat mistakenly put 'October 1964' on the front cover of the issue, despite the fact that it was in fact the November issue; this may well be due to the magazine switching back and forth at the time between "real" print and multi-lite print, and encountered various other technical problems. The new editor (Eliyahu Fasher) warned the readers in advance, in the "real" October 1964 issue (p. 3) to expect such issues.

Chess and Science Fiction

Credit: the Science Fiction Encyclopedia Gallery

We have occasionally noted the connection between art and chess on this blog (see "art" in the labels), and sometimes, note issues not dealing with Israeli or Palestinian chess, but with chess in general.

Here is one common example: chess used as a motif for book covers, in this case, a science fiction anthology, by (according to the SFE) Amabel William-Ellis and Michael Pearson. Indeed, there is even an anthology, Pawn to Infinity (eds. Fred and Joan Saberhagen) about chess and science fiction:

Credit: See link above

The book is a collection of science-fiction related chess stories, and indeed, these stories go back a long way, all the way to Gargantua and Pantagruel, as the SFE entry for 'chess' shows.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Young Problemist

Source: Shachmat, March 1964 (Vol. 2 no. 8), p/ 16

The following problem is not particularly good, admits the editor (Hillel Aloni) of Shachmat's problems & studies section. But -- he adds -- it has a saving grace. The composer, Ron Eisenstein, was... seven years old!

Shachmat adds, on the next page, a letter (written by his father in Ron's name) that he started learning chess in Kiryat Ono at the age of six and a half, with the instructor Itzchak Aloni; won a prize as a solver in Davar's chess column, and continues to solve problems in the newspapers. 

Edward Winter, in C. N. 2184 (also in King, Commoners, and Knaves p. 234) gives a younger problemist -- Elliot Franklin Eichholz, age five (source: American Chess Bulletin, May-June 1917, p. 132), also -- unsurprisingly -- a simple mate in two.

Do the readers know of any other very young composers?

(Highlight below for the solution)

1. Kh6

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shlomo Smiltiner, 1915-2015

Smiltiner (l.) playing Keller, Moscow Olympiad, 1956. Source: 64 Msihbatzot [64 Squares], no. 10-11 (Nov. / Dec/ 1956), p. 161. 

Shlomo Smiltiner (27/11/1915-13/8/2015), who had been mentioned here before, had recently died in his 100th year. He was, as noted in the link, one of those who played Jaque Mieses in a simultaneous display when Mieses visited Palestine in 1936 (and won), played in three Olympiads, was one of the major figures in the 'Reti' club in Tel Aviv in the 50s and 60s (he played in the very first Israeli championship, in 1951), and had good results in many tournaments.

As this link [Hebrew] notes, the poster 'Super Pat Sir' gives a whole list of his achievements in various (mostly local) tournaments, upon Smiltiner's arrival at age 95. Here [Hebrew] the same poster adds more information upon his passing, and, inter alia, adds that he kept the chess set given to him by Fidel Castro in the Havana Olympiad.

He indeed proudly showed me this set when I visited his home a few years ago, and also showed me his collection of trophies, of which a selection is in the photo below:

The cups in the middle (and the one on the left) are for winning, in different years, the 'Reti' club championship, of which, as said above, he was a leading member in the 50s and 60s.

Czerniak - Zakon, 0:1

Moshe Roytman informs us about Eliyahu Shahaf's chess column of Dec. 2nd, 1955, in Davar (p. 2). It includes, inter alia, the interesting note that both the a women's national championship and a youth section in the 'Lasker' Chess Club, which they hope would become the core of a youth's national championship, were established. This is indeed what happened, as Wikipedia (for example) notes.

What's more, the same article notes that Moshe Czerniak is establishing a new chess journal, 'a necessity'. This, too, had indeed occurred, the journal in question, 64 Mishbatzot (64 squares) lasting a respectable (by Israeli / Palestinian chess journal standards of the time...) two years and being quite informative.

The article also notes Czerniak's sole loss in the Israeli 1955 championship (which he won), to Zakon. As usual, Czerniak goes for an all-out attack, but an oversight of a Zwischenzug costs him a pawn and, eventually, the game. Even so, he does not give up, but Zakon is not to be denied victory.

Israeli Championship, 1955.
Czerniak - Zakon
Queen's Indian Defense (E14)
Annotator: Eliyahu Shahaf

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Bd3 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Ne5 c5 10. f4 Nc6 11. Rf3 cxd4 12. Rh3 g6 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. exd4 Ne4 15. f5 Bf6 16. Be3 Re8 17. Qf3 Ng5 18. Bxg5?

18...  Bxd4+ 19. Kh1 Qxg5 20. fxg6 fxg6! 21. Rg3 Qf6 22. Qh5 Re5 23. Qg4 Rae8 24. Ne2 Bxb2 25. Rb1 Ba3 26. Ng1 Re1 27. Rf3 Qd6 28. Qh4 Qe7 29. Qxe7 R8xe7 30. Bxg6 Bc5 31. Bf7+ Kg7
32. Rxe1 Rxe1 33. h4 Bxg1 White resigns (0-1).

Chess In the Cyprus DP Camp

Photo Credit: see below
Our frequent correspondent Moshe Roytman notifies us that the Yad Va'Shem collection includes a machine for making chess pieces and a set of pieces made by it (above) that belonged to Holocaust survivors who donated it to the museum.

The web page tells (in Hebrew) the story of Isaac and Israel Rot and their cousin Aryeh Klein, holocaust survivors who were caught as illegal emigrants to Palestine by the British in 1946, and sent to a Cyprus holding camp until 1948.

They were bored, and a 'chess master' who was another inmate offered to teach them the game if they will get him a set. They started by carving stones from an abandoned cemetery, but then hit upon the idea for "industrial production". They made the lathe from a pair of skates (!) bought from one of the other inmates, and started producing chess sets and selling them to British soldiers as souvenirs.

The web page is in Hebrew, but has many photos of the three at work. Israel made the pieces on the lathe, Aryeh carved their features, and Isaac made the boxes. The identity of the chess master is not given

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Was it Truly a "Mystery" Tournament? Netanya 1964 (and Stahlberg - Blumenfeld 0:1: Complete Game Found)

Several readers notified me that the tournament in question was not at all a "mysterious" tournament. Moshe Roytman for example notified me of other mentions of it in Davar at the time and in Kandelshine's book about Aloni. Amatzia Avni, Alon Greenefeld and others notified me that the games appear (as I suspected) in Shachmat of 1964. Avni already kindly sent me two sample pages from the report. inally Malkiel Peretz sent me a database of the tournament.

Indeed, it was in fact the top, international, tournament in the traditional Shach Kayit ('Chess Vacation') event in Netanya as (for example) Ma'ariv, 9/6/1964 p. 10, reports, as Mr. Roytman informs me. The two others, incidentally, were a closed tournament for strong Israeli players and an open tournament for amateur players.

So, one may ask indeed: where is the big mystery?

In my defense I merely meant to say that the tournament is a "mysterious" one for the non-Israeli public, not appearing in Chessbase or other sources despite having famous players like Filip and Stahlberg. Indeed this seems to be the case: not only does it not appear in those databases, but I got a request from two different European chess historians for games: one of them (which prompted my original post) heard of the tournament but could find no games, another had noted that the tournament's existence was unknown to him!

All this goes to show what should be an obvious point. Databases and the Internet are all well and good -- but to really understand what happened,  one must go back to the original sources. This is especially true when one investigates the history of chess in Israel or in another country whose language is not a major European language, and thus often has material not known to most other chess historians. Indeed, the whole point of this blog is to familiarize the non-Hebrew-speaking public in general, and chess historians in particular, of information that the language barrier (not to mention availability of material) makes hard to find.

In any case, here is the corrected Stahlberg  - Blumenfeld game, which Schachmat reported was played in the 9th round:

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 Qa5 8. Qd2 a6
9. f3 e6 10. g4 exd5 11. cxd5 Re8 12. Nh3 h5 13. Nf2 hxg4 14. fxg4 b5 15. O-O
b4 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. Ncd1 Qd8 18. Ne3 Nd7 19. Nc4 Ne5 20. Rab1 Nxc4 21. Bxc4
Bd4 22. Qf4

22... Qh4 23. Qg3 Qxg3+ 24. hxg3 Rxe4 25. b3 Bxg4 26. Rbe1 Rxe1 27. Rxe1
Bf3 28. Kf1 Kg7 White resigns (0-1).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Champions of Hebrew

Source: see below. 

We have often noted in this blog the close relationship between education in general, and the teaching or evolution of the Hebrew language in particular, and chess. Our frequent correspondent, Mr. Roytman, notes that Davar reported (Feb. 9th, 1951, p. 9) that when Pinchas Rosen had given the opening speech in the first Israeli championship, he said he "feared" not the chess champions, but the "Hebrew champions" -- prof. Tur-Sinai and minister of education and culture David Remez, both known for their almost-fanatical passion for correct Hebrew.

Good thing he Amounted to Something in the Chess World

Without comment, here is a scan of a document found in the collection of one of Yoram Lubiainker's friends (or, rather, that of a friend of a friend, as he notifies me):

I hardly think FIDE should have denied "T. Petrosian" his participation certificate in the 1964 Olympiad, just because he was world champion at the time, but still, are Lubialinker and myself the only ones who find this amusing?

Stahlberg - Blumenfeld, 0-1

In 1964, a tournament in Netanya took place with Gideon Stahlberg, Miroslav Filip, and others, with the young Yair Kraidman winning (7.5 / 11), ahead of Yidael Stepak and Filip (7), Stahlberg and Guti (6.5), etc. This was one of Kraidman's first significant victories.

Surprisingly the tournament does not appear in the "usual" sources (i.e., Chessbase's databases, chessgames.com, etc.) Davar reported on the tournament, by its chess column editor, G. Palai. The game Stalhberg - Rudy Blumenfeld reached this position:

Source: Davar, 25/6/1964, p. 9 (originally printed w/rook on f8, not e8)
And continued (Palai's annotations):

21... Qh4 practically the winning move, threatening not only g4 but mainly Be5. White must exchange queens and lose two pawns. 22. Qg3 QxQ+ 23. hxQ Rxe4 threatening BxN+ winning the bishop. 24. b3 Bxg4 25. Rbe1 RxR 26. RxR Bf3! Not content with a two pawn advantage, Black weaves a mating net. 27. Kf1 Kg7 White resigns (0-1) due to the unstoppable R-h8-h2 etc. One of the shortest and most decisive games in the tournament.

Unfortunately the score up to this point is corrupted. As printed, it is the impossible:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 c5 6. d5 Qa5 7. Qd2 a6 8. f3 e6 9. g4 exd5 10. cxd5 Re8 11. Nh3 h5 12. Nf2 hxg3 13. fxg4 b5 14. 0-0 b4 15. BxN BxB 16. Nd1 Qd8 17. Ne3 Nd7 18. Nc4 Ne5 19. Rab1 NxN 20. BxN Bd4 21. Qf4.

Can anybody reconstruct the actual game -- or find more games? (I do not currently have at hand Shachmat from 1964, for example, which would be the obvious place to check).

Edited 25/8/2015: Amatzia Avni informs us that, as suspected, the games (or at least most of them) were in fact printed in Shachmat in 1964. 

Edited 30/8/2015: Moshe Roytman informs us that more information is found, for example, in Shlomo Kandelshein's book about Aloni

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Yiddish Descriptive Notation

Credit: California Jewish Voice, Dec. 16, 1932.

Mr. Bruce Monson, who is researching Jewish life in California, found in the Jewish press of the 1930s -- more specifically, in the Yiddish-language California Jewish Voice -- a short-lived chess column edited by Noam Light. It covered, in particular, some games from the Pasadena, 1932 tournament won by Alekhine.

Unusually for Yiddish or Hebrew chess columns, the column used the descriptive notation -- in fact, the "long" descriptive notation popular ca. 1900: E.g., using, 'B. takes P.' insead of 'BxP', 'Castles' insread of '0-0', 'K-B' insread of 'K-B1', etc. This seems to imply Light was an "old timer", using the notation he was used to from ca. 1900. But this is speculation.

Above, is how the beginning of Borochov (or Borochow) - Araiza (Caro-Kann, 0-1, 23 moves) was printed, "translating" the initials from the Hebrew / Yiddish to English:

1. P-K4                        P-QB3
2. P-Q4                        P-Q4
3. QN-B3 (sic)            P. takes P.
4. N. takes P.              N-B3
5. N. takes N. check  K. P. T[akes]. N.
6. P-QB3                     B-Q3

It seems a small wonder that algebraic notation eventually won the day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Romrandom Chess

Credit: see below

Gdali Roisman brings to our attention the following suggestion 'for a new array'. It was published in Shachmat vol. 6 no. 3 (March 1967), p. 102. It was the suggestion of Meir Rom, and given the same reasons as other such suggestions, to wit, the "theory death" of chess.

Rom offers the new array tentatively, and suggests that players 'who are sick of playing by the book until the 20th move' will benefit from it. He notes the array doesn't change the rules (apart from the abolition of castling) or pieces, thus not requiring a change in middlegame or endgame strategies, or the production of new sets. The castling move is, of course, canceled in this array, but there are no other changes to the rules.

The array is interesting, being deliberately asymmetrical. presumably, to give play a more tactical, castling-on-opposite-sides character right from the start. The rooks and bishops, too, seem to start in a prima facie better, more active, position than in the orthodox game. This is unlike most suggestions for unorthodox starting positions, such as Fischer's "random chess" suggestion.

By the way, Tim Krabbe and others noted (though I cannot locate the exact place right now) that Fischer was hardly the first to suggest such a new array. Bronstein, Gulko, and others did, as well as Maarten van 't Kruijs in the 19th century, and the idea (as the article in the link notes) goes back further, to the 18th century. Van 't Kruijs was unorthodox in more ways than one: the "reverse French" (1. e3) is called the van 't Kruijs opening.

Such randomization comes readily to mind for those who wish to create a chess variant, as it requires no new rules, pieces, or boards, and is very easy to set up once the idea occurs to one. I won't be all surprised if Arabic (Shatranj) or even Indian chess was occasionally played in such a randomized fashion, for variety's sake.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

1935 Maccabiah Chess Medal

Credit: See Below
Prof. Shaul Ladany (whose life story, in the linked Wikipedia page, is well worth reading) had sent me a photographs of this medal from the 2nd Maccabiah. 

The top side has the logo of the Palestine Chess Federation, and the bottom side the Maccabiah's logo. The text reads, top, 'The Palestine Chess Federation', and bottom, 'The 2nd Maccabiah, Palestine'. (As usual, we translate the Hebrew term Eretz Israel -- 'Land of Israel' -- into 'Palestine', the equivalent English term used at the time). 

As instances of public use of the Palestine Chess Federation's logo seem to be rather rare (see, for one such use, this post), this is certainly a significant find. Also, this medal, as well as the Zilbershats case noted in this previous post, strongly suggest that chess was an official field of competition in the Maccabiah. This was certainly what all chess books which mention the subject, as well as contemporary newspaper reports, say or imply. 

However, prof. Ladany believes that this was never officially the case, and that his research has no mention of chess as officially being part of the 1935 Maccabiah. He believes "annexing" chess to the Maccabiah was one of the many cases (then as in the 1932 Maccabiah) of using the event as a formal excuse for immigration purposes, to allow as many Jews as possible to enter the country in the teeth of British restrictions on Jewish immigration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Fischer Letter

Credit: see below.

Above is a scan (both sides) of a letter sent by Bobby Fischer to the Israel Chess Federation, provided to us by Yoram Lubianiker. He adds that, while the date of the cancellation stamp is not clear, the stamp on the bottom right was issued in Nov. 3rd, 1970, which means that is the earliest date the letter could have been sent.

Fischer (after his participation in Netanya 1968) was invited to participate in a tournament in Israel by the ICF again, but politely declined, noting he is devoting all his energies to the conquest of the world championship. This, Lubianiker learned from person conversation from a source in the ICF which I also know, and who I know from personal experience wishes not to be named on the Internet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Escape Route

Source: See Below
In a previous post, we have speculated that two players, Yaakov and Aryeh Zilbershats, had used the Maccabiah merely as a way to get out of Europe in 1935, while being no more than amateur players. Yaakov's grandson, Boaz Zilbershats (his preferred English spelling of the original Polish Zylberszac) had confirmed that this was in fact the case -- and that, in fact, the 1st and 2nd Maccabiahs were notorious for such "cheating". He provided us with much information; inter alia his grandfather's membership in the Maccabi World Union (above), his visa certificate to Palestine, etc.

The Wikipedia article, in Hebrew, notes that those who remained in Palestine as illegal emigrants after the 1935 Maccabiah included, inter alia, the entire Bulgarian brass band, which played in the opening and closing ceremonies... Mr. Zilbershats adds that, while never claiming to be more than amateurs, the two brothers were long-time chess fans, and that there is even a chess team in the Israeli league named after Yaakov Zilbershats, where he (Boaz), as well as his father (Yaakov's son), and two of his own children play.

We are in the process of compiling information on Jewish players who used chess to escape Europe to Palestine in the 1930s. Many have tried, and some failed, as can be seen here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sac, Sac, Sac, Mate

We have mentioned in the previous post that Shaul Hon had claimed Barav was an exemplary Blitz player. Here is a game by him -- against Aloni -- where the final combination is very beautiful: it  involves three sacrifices (almost) in a row, each one for a particular tactical reason, and ends with a "quiet" move. The source is Barav's scoresheet, generously given to us by his son, Ami Barav.

Barav, Israel -- Aloni, Itzchak 

French Tarrasch (C05)

Blitz game, Lasker Chess Club, Tel Aviv (Date?)

Annotations: Based on Fritz 5.32's analysis.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Be7 8.Nf3 0–0 9.h4 f6 10.Nf4 Nb6?

11.Ng5! the first sacrifice. 

11... fxg5 Black is still lost after 11... f5 12.Ngxe6 or 11... g6 12.Nxh7, but now there is a forced mate. 

12.Bxh7+ the second sacrifice. 

12... Kxh7  12... Kf7 13.Qh5+; 12... Kh8 13. Qh5. 

13.hxg5+ Kg8 14.Rh8+ the third sacrifice. 

14... Kxh8 15.Qh5+ Kg8 16.g6 Black resigned (1–0); it's mate in two. 

The final position deserves a diagram:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Barav - Vidor, 1944: A 12-move Combination

Barav was called by Shaul Hon (in Taharum Amanim Be'Sachmat [Master Chess Tournament], Tel Aviv: "Tel Aviv: "Omanuth", 1952, pp. 92-93) 'one of the greatest tacticians in our country' and a 'exemplary blitz player'.

He was also an organizer: he was one of those who established the Palestine Chess Federation, organized the sending of the Israeli teams to the Olympiads in the 1950s, headed the Israel Chess Federation for a while in the 50s, and so on.

His son, Ami Barav, apart from supplying me with the above information, also kindly gave me press clippings and score sheets of such games. One of them is between Barav and Vidor, the scoresheet given to me by his son:

Source: Ami Barav's collection.

The game was published, not only in Mendelbaum's and Persitz's ook (pp. 92-93), but, as part of Barav's obituary, in Shachmat vol. 11 no. 8 (Aug. 1979), p. 176. The obituary was written, and the game analyzed, by Avshalom Yosha. His is the analysis below, unless otherwise indicated. 

Barav, Israel - Vidor

Dutch Defense, Staunton Gambit (A82)

Lakser Club "Yovel" championship, 05.02.1944

1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 e6 5.Bxf6 Qxf6 6.Nxe4 Qg6 (Better is 6...Qh6) 7.Ng3 Be7 8.Bd3 Qf7 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.c3 b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.0–0 0–0–0 13.a4! Bf6? (13...g5  required) 14.b4 h5 15.a5 h4? (better is 15...g5) 16.Ne4 h3 17.g3 Qh5 18.axb6 axb6? (The file should not have been opened, but even after  18...cxb6 19.Ba6 white is Much better.) 19.Ba6 Nb8 20.Bxb7+ Kxb7 21.Qc4! 

'The beginning of a majestic combination' (Yosha). 'It too me 45 minutes, then I calculated a 12-move combination. Persitz would come to me to show me another variation every time, but I showed him I calculated it all.' (Israel Barav, from his son's recollection). 

21...Qd5 (21...Qxf3 22.Ra7+! Kxa7 23.Qxc7+ Ka6 24.Ra1+ Kb5 25.Nd6#) 22.Ra7+ Kxa7 23.Qxc7+ Qb7 (23...Ka6 24.Ra1+ Kb5 25.c4+  etc.) 24.Ra1+ Na6 25.Rxa6+ Kxa6 26.Nc5+ Kb5 (26...bxc5 27.Qa5#) 27.Nxb7 Ra8 28.Nd6+ Ka4 29.Qc4 Ka3 30.Nd2 Kb2 31.Qb3+ and Black resigned (1-0), due to 31...Kc1 32.N2c4 Bg5 33.Kf1 with unavoidable mate:  

'One of the most brilliant combinations even made in the country' -- Mohilever (quoted in Yosha's article). Mohilever also remind the reader in Yosha's piece that that Barav was one of the founders of the Palestine Chess Association, with Mohilever himself, Nachum Lebounsky, Haim Reid, and others. 

A search of secondary sources (books in Hebrew from the 1950s, chessbase's database, chessgames.com , etc.) find no games by Barav online, and only this specific game appeared once or twice in Hebrew-language sources. Ami Barav had done a significant service in saving some of his fathers games, which I plan to publish here periodically. Let us say now only that they justify Hon's statement about Barav's talent. 

Edited to add: Barav notes that the correct spelling is 'Labounsky', not 'Levonsky'.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

First Israeli Championship -- 1951

Credits: see below

Ami Barav, the son of Israel Rabinovich-Barav, who was the chairman of the Israeli Chess Federation in the early 50s, and who inter alia was present as one of the organizers in the 1951 Israeli championship and was with the Israeli team in the 1954 chess Olympiad. Similar photographs from the tournament, esp. showing Oren, the winner, were already posted in this blog (see here, for example), but Barav kindly gives us more. According to him (correctly, it seems to me) the people in the photographs are, from top to bottom, left to right:

1). Gruengard (speaking), Barav, speaking to David Ben Gurion.
2). Barav, Ben Gurion, Pinchas Rosen (minister of Justice and honorary chairman of the Israel Chess Federation), and David Shimoni (the poet).
3). Gruengard, Barav, Ben Gurion, Rosen.

Chess by Phone

Source: Davar, Jan. 4th, 1952, p. 22

We have previously noted in this blog that chess was occasionally on the radio in Palestine (possibly) and (the early years of) the state of Israel. As the article in Davar notes (in Hebrew), another version of "distance" chess was a match by telephone, which took place on Dec. 27th, 1951, and arranged by Kol Israel, where, as we saw before, Hon was employed at the time.

The games are reported (verbally) in the article. The summary is (from first to fourth board):

Jerusalem                      Tel Aviv
Czerniak        0            Aloni                1
Dyner                           Kniazer            'Adjourned with Kniazer a piece up'
Porat             0.5          Mandelbaum   0.5
Glass                            Hon                   'Adjourned in a drawn position'

Hon, who wrote the article, adds that the success of the telephone match means also that one should arrange "pure" radio matches between Israeli and other teams abroad. He adds the interesting point that such matches are difficult for the players since they cannot see the opponent's expression, which is often very important.

Another interesting point is that the photographs of the players are arranged by board and team as in the list -- i.e., Czerniak's photo is at the top left, Kniazer's second from the top on the right, etc. The two bottom photographs show Yochanan Maroz (l.) and Y. Ish-Horowitz (ph. spelling), who were the communication men in Tel Aviv, and David Carmeli (ph. spelling) who received and sent moves in Jerusalem.

Finally, these photographs were taken (notes the article) in Tel Aviv by S. Frank (ph. spelling) and in Jerusalem by W. Brown (ph. spelling). It is of some importance that these very same photographs were often re-printed in numerous Israeli-printed articles and books for years afterwards.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hon, Underground Radio, and Chess

Source: Davar, Jan. 7th, 1949, p. 16

Our correspondent Moshe Roytman notifies us of an article by Shaul Hon from early 1949 about the Kol Israel [Voice of Israel] radio station, which to this day is the (semi-) "official" Israeli station, more or less the equivalent of the BBC.

Hon adds (in the clip posted above) that, among more serious subjects, the station finds time to broadcast 'sport, chess... Talmudic lessons, theater and literature section' -- even as a war for independence, to say nothing of survival, was raging, and the radio was 'working in emergency conditions', notes Hon. This is remarkable, even if it probably isn't the first chess broadcast in Mandatory Palestine or Israel.

Another interesting point is that Hon, in this article, notes that he was one of the broadcasters in Kol Israel when it was still an underground, illegal Haganah - operated station. He also notes that it was known in Mandatory Palestine in the 1940s as Telem Sade Boaz, the Hebrew phonetic alphabet of the initials TSB, Tahanat Shidur Ba'Machteret -- 'underground radio station'.

The Haganah's Kol Israel was an illegal "competitor" of the official Kol Yerushalayim [Voice of Jerusalem] and other official Mandatory stations. One wonders: did Hon ever broadcast chess in the underground radio station? As Roytman notes, this isn't likely, or we would have heard about it from Hon (and, in general, the underground Kol Israel didn't have much time for arts but dealt, of course, with politics, reporting censored information, and the like).

But still, that Hon was a bona fide member of the underground is in itself newsworthy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Chess on the "Zeppelin", Palestine, 1929

Reuven Rubin, The Zeppelin in Tel Aviv, Purim 1929. Source: Ilan Schori, 'When the Zeppelin Arrived in Tel Aviv' [in Hebrew]
Our frequent corespondent Moshe Roytman notifies us that, when the Zeppelin flew to Palestine in 1929 (it did it again in 1931), one of the passengers, von Weisl, there as the special correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse, organized an "international chess club" on the flight -- and the "first chess tournament in the air", as the source (above, in Hebrew) notes, quoting from his article to the newspaper (published on the first page, March 26th, 1929) . Of particular interest is that one of the members was an Egyptian, Al-Fath [ph. spelling]. Two games are mentioned: Bate having defeated Kaye [ph. spelling in both cases], and playing with Al-Fath. Von Weisel adds that Mrs. Tony Zander [ph. spelling] demanded to be a "kibitzer" in the four-board "club", but was denied because she doesn't know to play chess.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Unusual Book Title

Photo Credit: goodreads.com
In my occasional forays into non-Jewish areas of chess on this blog, I discuss various matters. Today, I note that fiction titles with chess-related terms, from 'chess' itself to 'stalemate', 'checkmate', etc., are quite common, especially in (it seems) political thrillers and similar-themed works. But 'castling' seems rare. Here is one example, of a book written by a major Swedish writer, Lars Gustafsson.