Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Fasher Victory

We have often mentioned Eliyahu Fasher in this blog, but we didn't often see games by him. Here is one such game, from 64 Mishbatzot no. 2 (March 1956), p. 32, played in the 1956 Western Galille section of the Kibbutzim (the "Histadrut Ha'Ovedet") championship:

Eliayahu Fasher -- A. Nahir
Annotator: Moshe Czerniak

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. Bc4 d6 Weak; the famous game Anderssen - Lange, 1859, continued: 5... Nf6 6. e5 d5 7. Bb3 Bg4! 8. f3 Ne4! 9. O-O d3!! 10. fxg4 Bc5+ 11. Kh1 Ng3+ 12. hxg3 Qg5 13. Rf5 h5!! 14. gxh5 Qxf5 15. g4 Rxh5+ 16. gxh5 Qe4 and white resigned due to a mate in five
starting with 17. Qf3 Qh4+ etc. 6. O-O Nf6 7. c3 dxc3 8. Qb3 d5

Even after 8... Qe7 White retains the initiative: 9. Nxc3, d4, etc. 9. exd5 Bd6 10. Re1+ Kf8 11. dxc3 a6? The well known combination 11... Bxh2+ 12. Kxh2 Ng4+ 13. Kg1 Qh4 fails here to 14. Bf4; but Black could have tried 11... Ng4! with chances of a draw. [Czerniak gives some possibilities here - A. P.]. In any case, due to the danger to [Black's] kingside, there is no justification for a passive move on the queenside. 12. Bg5 Bxh2+? now black falls in the trap, and instead of winning a pawn... gets mated:

13. Kxh2 Ng4+ 14. Kg1 Qxg5 15. Qb4+ 1-0

A Snapshot

Who, exactly, were the masters, or international masters, or gradnmasters, etc. in Israel in the 1950s? Wonder no more: the complete list was, helpfully, given by Moshe Czerniak in first issue of 64 Mishbatzot (Feb. 1956, p. 17):
Source: see above
It is noted how these include the "old guard" who was in Palestine before the war (Porat, Czerniak, Barav, Knaizer, Mandelbaum, Macht, FischerDobkin, Beutum, and Smiltiner and Blass-- we are using Gaige's spelling), but also the new arrivals, AloniDyner, and Oren, as well as new blood, in particular, Perstiz. This did not mean other talented players did not exist; only they didn't yet have time to gain titles.

This is listed in the same page has an article by a visitor, Saul Wachs (USA), who notes how chess advanced in Israel and, in particular, its popularity in the kibbutzim and other agricultural communes, not just in the large cities.

A Nice Lichtenfeld Victory

This time, from Moshe Czerniak's 64 Mishbatzot [64 Squares], No. 9-10 (Sept.-Oct.) 1957, p. 300, her victory over Nehama Margalit in the 1957 Israeli women's championship (Czerniak's annotations):

Margalit, Nehama - Lichtenfeld, Rivka

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Bg5 h6 4. Bd2 c5 5. Nf3 b6 6. e3 Bb7 7. Be2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Nc3 d5 10. Qb3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 Bxf3 12. gxf3 cxd4 13. exd4 

13... Nc6! 14. d5 Na5 15. Qa4 Nxc4 16. Qxc4 exd5 17. Qd3 Qd7 18. f4 Rad8 19. Qg3 d4 20. Ne2 Ne4 21. Qd3 Nxd2 22. Qxd2 Qg4+ 23. Kh1 Qf3+ 24. Kg1 Rd6 25. Rfe1 Rg6+ 26. Ng3 Bf6 27. Rac1 h5 28. Kf1 h4 29. f5 

29... hxg3 30. fxg6 gxh2! and mate next move (0-1).

40 Years Later

Shahmat No. 4 (Aug. 1998), p. 10
In 1958, the Israeli chess tradition of Shach-Kayit (roughly translated, 'chess vacation') in Netanya had began. A correspondent noted that the 40-year reunion, arranged by Zvi Bar-Shira, includes some known persons from the 1950s and later. They inlcude, sitting from right to left: Rivka Lichtenfeld, Zalman Gurevich (who was Ha'Poel's chess organizer [Rakaz -- רכז] for over 20 years, Avraham Dekel, and Bar Shira. Standing from right to left are Yosef Tamari (the youngest participant in 1958), GM Yair Kraidman, Yaakov Mogilveski (from the organizing committee), Ido Spector, Yosef Ziv, Avner Hadar (Ha'Poel's 1998 chess organizer), and Haim Borer (most names, except Gurevich and Kraidman's, phonetically spelled).

The article also notes the winners in the 1958 were Uzi Geller (Israeli champion, 1972), with 7.5 from 9, before William Postman, Immanuel Guti (member of the 1964 Olympic team) and Tibor Solomon with 6.5, etc.

Chess Instead of War

Source: Davar, nov. 7th, 1975, p. 18; photo credited to M. Kovich (ph. spelling) of Newsweek.
A frequent correspondent notified us of the above photograph, showing an Israeli officer (left) and an Egyptian one playing chess in UN position 512, one of the UN outposts charged with overseeing the demarcation between Israel and Egypt after the Yom Kippur War. The article notes that this shows the 'friendly relations' between the people on both sides at this location. They say chess is a substitute for war -- but rarely so literally. It should be noted that the photo was taken when Israel and Egypt were at least officially enemies, before the peace agreement of 1979.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chess Kitsch vs. Chess Art

Photo credit: A. P.
Kitsch is a universal phenomenon, and chess motifs are quite common in it: used to symbolize the "game" of life (or love, etc.), time's passing, and so on. Here we have a typical example (the criminal's details are safe with us), which we happened to notice hanging in a large public hall in Israel. The painting appears to represent the artist's feeling of angst in their fight against fate and time. Hence the hourglass, withered tree, and chess board (signifying time's passing), and the dark, stormy skies (signifying depression and anxiety). But there is hope: the sun is peeking from behind the clouds, and a homely, antique oil lamp, bravely lit against the elements. What the boiling tea kettle -- whose steam seems to mysteriously mix with the clouds in the background -- and finjan (brass Bedouin coffee pot) signify, is beyond me.

Of a totally different calibre is the art - real art, this time -- of Elke Rehder. The woodcut illustrations of Stephan Zweig's chess novel are particularly good. Here is the cover of her woodcut collection, but go to the link for numerous other examples:

Source: see above.

On the subject of chess kitsch, looking for 'folk chess art' on the Internet discovered that many sellers seem to have rather optimistic pricing policy. The Vaillancourt Folk Art company is selling a Christmas-themed chess set, 'limited edition of 25', for $7500. Another outfit is selling a 1910s chess board (sans pieces) for $1250, and a search for 'chess' on their web site finds similar prices for similar objects, including $595 for a 1950s plastic set. Even a quick eBay search found equivalent (and sometimes the very same) items for one-tenth the price, or less.

Chess and Stamps -- Quick Note

Credit: See Below
Looking around the Internet for information about chess in stamps, I have found the very detailed Chess on Stamps web site. From their catalogue, I found that the 1976 Haifa Olympiad was commemorated on stamps by, of all countries, Mali. Here is one of the three stamps they issued for the occasion; see the catalogue for the complete set.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

1964 International Jerusalem Tournament

Source: Herut, Dec 11th, 1964, p. 6
Several correspondents notes that Herut had a large, detailed feature of the 1964 Jerusalem international tournament - not to be confused with the Tel Aviv Olympiad or the Netanya 1964 tournament - by N. Uzi, with details about the performance of the players by Mohilever. The tournament was arranged, noted Uzi, by asking the participants of the 1964 Olympiad if they want to play in Jerusalem as well:

Source: see above.

As this cutting shows, while "brilliant stars" didn't participate, they did manage to get the two GMs (3rd and 4th board on the Yugoslav team in the Olympiad), Matanovic and Parma, as well as the IMs Doda (the Polish champion that year), LetelierScheweber and Czerniak, as well as Abrahams (England -- who did not in fact play in the Olympiad; perhaps he was the English team's captain or present in some other capacity?) and the Israeli players Blumenfeld, Bleiman, Dobkin, Plat (ph. spelling -- Jerusalem's champion) and Rosenberg (a candidate master).

Mohilever had, in particular, praised Bleiman, who got an IM norm in the tournament. Uzi gives a pen-portrait of the players, the tournament hall, the spectators -- which included everybody from students and soldiers to ultra-orthodox men, but no women for some reason. Uzi notes that the quiet and dignity of the tournament, which took place in the city council's hall, was a change to the better compared to the 'usual chatter' heard there.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rivka Lichtenfeld, 1957 Israeli Women's Champion

 Beginning in 1955, there was a championship for Israeli women. The first champions were Ora Nudel-Yaron (1955) and Rivka Lichtenfeld (1957). A frequent correspondent notified us of the latter's history, which appears in many sources at the time, again given to us by him:

Rivka Lichtenfeld, Davar, Oct. 14h, 1957, p. 1
A short biography of Lichtenfeld – she emigrated to Israel with her husband from Vilna (Lithuania) ‘a few months ago’, and that she also played in the all-Russian championship as Lithuania’s (women’s) champion, which she had won four times, meaning she is the only woman player in Israel ‘with international experience’ -- is given in Herut, Nov. 29th, 1957, p. 6:

 It includes a game where she defeated Yehudit Kahana who won second place, with Zviya Goldbred, Anna Frank (not that Anna Frank, obviously), Pua Ehrlich, Nehama Margalit, Rachel Atidi and Sara Sariel (all phonetic spellings) following in 3rd-8th place. It notes she won, inter alia, the Lithuanian championship (for women) four times. The game is (with the chess editor's light annotations):

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Bb4 5. Bd2 c5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 Black remains with a weak d-pawn. 8. Na4 Be7 9. Qc2 Nc6 10. e3 O-O 11. Be2 Be6 12. O-O Rc8 13. Qd3 Qd7 14. Rfc1 Bf5 15. Qb3 Ne4 16. Be1 Rc7 17. Rd1 Rd8 18. Bb5 Bf6 19. Rac1 Qd6 20. Bxc6 Rxc6

 21. Qxb7 Ra6 22. b3 Be6 23. Rc7 Rxa4? Weak! 24. bxa4 Qb6 25. Rb1 Qxb7 26. Rbxb7The young Kahana didn't want to resign until she exchanged queens, apparently. 1-0

Below is a photo of her husbad, Yosef Lichtenfeld, taken in 1957 at the door of his and his wife’s hairdressing saloon in Ashdod, at the time a farway, disconnected city in the south of the country; the source is (again given by ourv correspondent) Zman Hadarom (NRG’s Southern local magazine), 23/8/2011, in ‘Lichtenfeld’s Fryzjer [haircuts]: about the fist hairdresser in Ashdod’, by Moshe Admon,

The Lichtenfelds could not make a living from chess (nor did they try to, it seems) and lived, in great hardship, as hairdressers in Ashdod. Rivka adds in the interview that she hated the work, but she had no choice. ‘Women wanted a haircut like screen stars’, no matter how unfitting to them, and she did as they wanted. She notes that she was shocked by Tel Aviv’s ‘society’ women who came to have a haircut and would pay 10 Israeli pounds – 20 times the price paid in Ashdod, ‘without batting an eye’. The article also adds she is an accomplished painter. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Ha'Olam Ha'Ze" and Czerniak

Source: Back Cover, Ha'Olam Ha'Ze, vol. 15 no. 756 (24/4/1952)
One would not expect chess masters to be on the back cover of Ha'Olam Ha'Ze ['This World']: a far-left, muck-raking weekly scandal-sheet known for its lurid photographs, where the back cover is more notorious for featuring scantly-dressed models and actresses than chess masters. Yet Moshe Czerniak, Israel's "Mr. Chess", was featured on its back cover -- fully dressed, sans an accompanying model or actress -- twice.

Here, we have one back cover (we hope to give the other in a later post). It has Czerniak in the middle, surrounded with photos of his opponents. These are photos from a simultaneous display he gave in 'the new PICA high school in Petah Tikvah', as the report of the magazine (p. 12) notes. The report adds there were '25 boards' and '50 players' in the display, i.e., two players per board, a claim the the photos support. The report claims this is was the 'largest' simultaneous display to date in the country, a doubtful claim.

The light-hearted, slightly tongue-in-cheek report has some interesting tidbits. The pupils knew of the match a month in advance. Some created their own sets in the school's wood shop in preparation. Czerniak was for some reason 'not intimidated' by the fact that pupils had been studying chess 'for weeks' now, to the point that 'all the tactical highways and byways' of the game are clear to them.

He had grounds for his confidence: the display lasted from 5 to 9 PM (exact date not given), and ending +24 -0 =1. One pair of players, after losing a knight and two pawns in the first eight moves, was convinced that they are 'still holding on' -- and after they lost, vowed to practice and have their revenge next time. Another player was afraid to take Czerniak's queen, 'because it must be a trick'. The lucky pair to draw, Nachman Weinstein and Yehuda Shapira (both 17 years old), were playing chess for two years, 'from the time they won a chess set in a Purim party raffle'. The two consoled Czerniak, telling him the draw was surely 'because he was tired'.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How Strong of a Player was Freud?

Sigmund Freud, 1920. Credit & photo details: Wikipedia.
While this post has nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, I occasionally allow myself a detour into the subject of chess in the life of prominent Jewish players, or Jews in general.

Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (according to his birth certificate, as found, e.g. in the Library of Congress' manuscript division web site) wrote in On Beginning the Treatment (1913) (English translation by Ivan Smith, online):
Anyone who hopes to learn the noble game of from book[s] will soon discover that only the openings and the end-games admit of an exhaustive systematic presentation and that the infinite variety of move which develop after the opening defy any such description. This gap in instruction can only be filled by a diligent study of games fought by masters. The rules which can be laid down for the practice of psycho-analytic treatment are subject to similar limitations. 
He adds:
In what follows I shall endeavour to collect together for the use of the practising analysts some of the rules for the beginning of the treatment. Among them there are some which may seem to be petty details, as, indeed, they are. Their justification is that they are simply rules of the game which acquire their importance from their relation to the general plan of the game... [but] a course of of action that is as a rule justified may at times prove ineffective, whilst one that is usually mistaken may once in a while lead to the desired end. 
It seems that Freud's analogy between chess and psychoanalysis is quite significant, from only the opening and endgames being subject to exact rules, to the need to study masters' games (of chess or analysis), to the need of a general plan for both games. While nobody ever claimed that Freud was a chess master, least of all Freud himself, it is known from well known biographies that he played the game but gave it up since he found it too stressful (there are some examples online here). This points out to a man who knew something of chess.

It is interesting to note that the father of psychoanalysis uses chess as an insightful metaphor, but saw nothing particularly psychologically remarkable about chess players as such, unlike later analysts who claimed all kinds of deep subconscious, usually sexual, motives that allegedly underlie chess playing itself, the style of a particular player, or even specific moves in well-known games. Perhaps they should have heeded the advice found in Freud's own work, 'Wild' Psychoanalysis (1910).