Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chess and S-_-X

Credit: Sodahead.com

I noticed a "spike" of interest in my blog lately. I asked some people why and it turns out I have been noticed by a certain well-known chess blogger and GM who had linked to my post about chess in music.

I thank the man for the attention, but I cannot link "back" there since his chess blog, to my great surprise, is full of nude pictures! (No, not those chess players...). Why would someone feel the need to "spice up" a chess blog, of all web sites, with nude pictures? What is the motivation?

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only well-known chess site that does anything like this. Occasionally some web sites like "chess base" may "spice up" things a bit by, for example, posting photographs of chess players participating in a tournament (especially attractive female ones) in "glamour shots", but certainly will not post nudity or sex.

Let me emphasize that it is certainly not the case that the author of the blog is using chess as an excuse to run a "porn" blog. First of all he is a GM, and, second, the chess context of the blog is certainly the main point of his blog. The "nudies" are an afterthought. For that matter, he doesn't seem to be making some sort of political point against censorship laws, either.

It seems that his motivation is different -- the same as that of John Speelman or the late Larry Evans, as Edward Winter noted in a review of one of Speelman's books (C. N. 332; scroll down from the top of the web page to find it). Winter writes that some authors are so fearful of making chess seem dull, that they must "spice things up": in Speelman's case with over-the-top prose ('the game looks like a blue-print for a cosmic junkyard!', for example), here with nude pictures.

Matters of taste aside, does this really work? I doubt it. I find it unlikely that anybody who is looking for chess on the Internet would be more likely to visit a chess blog because it has nude pictures. Like the overheated prose in certain chess books, it seems to me that it's more likely to achieve the opposite of the intended effect. Besides, unlike heated prose, nude pictures make the blog inappropriate for children, who are a major target audience for chess, and are distasteful for many men and (especially) women.

Finally, a point of fairness: shouldn't such a blog include a warning that it is inappropriate for children?

Lasker Club Symbol

Credit: Davar, Nov. 4th, 1941
Above is the logo, taken from an advertisement announcing the movement of the club to a new address, of the Emanuel Lasker Chess Club in Tel Aviv. It should not be confused with the club of the same name that operated in Jerusalem. The banner in the middle of the board says קלוב שחמטי -- chess club -- while the motto on the bottom says  עמנואל לאסקר -- Emanuel Lasker. On the right the writing says, 'THE CHESS CLUB "Emanuel Lasker"'.

 P.S. In Hebrew, unlike in English, the noun tends to come first and the adjective or possessive later, e.g., 'house red' (bayit adom) or 'club Lasker' (moadon Lasker) instead of 'red house' or 'Lasker's club'. Also, surprisingly, the official logo of the club had not often been seen in print.

Note 21/4/2015: Typing Error Corrected.


G. K. Chesterton, from wikipedia.

"I have nothing to write except an apology for not writing..."  -- G. K. Chesterton, Government and the Rights of Man.

Having been more or less criminally negligent (for personal reasons) in updating this blog, it is interesting to note that I have partners in crime. In the 1940s Mandatory Palestine, there also was a long interregnum where there was little, if any, chess content published. When it came to magazines, apart from a few false starts and some books, there had been no national magazine from the 1930s (Ha'Sachmat, 1935/6, 2 issues) to the 1950s (64 Mishbatzot, 1956/7, 13 issues) : in both cases, started and edited by Moshe Czerniak.

Newspapers had the same problem. In the 1930s, as we noticed, it was Moshe Marmorosh who was the #1 reporter, producing weekly, or at least bi-weekly, columns for the two most important newspapers in the country, Ha'aretz and Davar. Yet his literary contributions to both papers had tapered off in the early 40s; the latest column edited by Marmorosh I could find in Davar was from June 8th, 1940, and in Haaretz from July 25th, 1941, and the column in Ha'aretz was only published very occasionally for about a year before that.

While there was occasional chess content in both papers later on, especially reports on tournaments' results and the occasional game, a regular column was only re-established in Davar on Nov. 22th, 1946 (i.e., after the war), as part of their sports page in the new weekly supplement, Davar Ha'Sahvua ('Davar this Week', published on Fridays). It was edited (as is explicitly first stated on Feb 7th, 1947, column) by Shaul Hon. An even longer interregnum -- more than a decade! -- occurred in Ha'aretz, where the new column, edited by Czerniak, appeared on June 5th, 1953. Here, it was not only that (two) wars had to end -- WWII and Israel's war of independence -- but also Czerniak had to return to Israel from South America, where he had been living since the 1939 Olympiad. He did so in the early 50s.

More on Erez Biton

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

As we noticed in the previous post, Erez Biton was mentioned as a blind player in his youth. He had just won the the Israel Prize for Literature -- not for his chess, but for his poetry. He is the first Mizrahi (Levant) Jew to win the prize.

Biton, of Moroccan descent (though born in Algeria), emigrated to Israel at age 6 in 1948. He was blinded and lost his right arm in an accident at age 11 -- which didn't stop him from becoming (as Wikipedia [link in Hebrew] notes, as well as the above link about the Israel Prize) a strong chess player, an important poet, and -- in his "day job" -- a social worker and rehabilitative psychologist. His poetry concentrates on the struggles of the Levant Jews in Israel.

Our frequent correspondent, Moshe Roytman, gave us a plethora of links (in Hebrew) from the Israeli press about Biton's chess exploits. For example, Davar notes that he was selected as a member of the committee of the world organization of chess for the blind (18/4/1968 p. 10), took second place in the Israeli championship for the blind (Jan. 8th 1971, p. 7), etc., as well as supplying us with some of his games. Chessbase and similar databases have more games, and Olimpbase has his complete olympiad record.