Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Resolution

Source: here.
My news year resolution: to continue updating this blog more regularly, and finally -- finally -- finish the history work I have been doing for many years.

All I can say in my defense is quote Dr. Samuel Johnson, the author of the famous English dictionary, was praised for the immense amount of work that he put into it. He told Boswell, his biographer, that he was very lazy: he did his dictionary in ten years, while, if he had applied himself regularly, he could have done it in three.

If Sam Johnson could be lazy, I have at least some excuse...

Chess Posters

Source: The NLI
In Israel, it was common until the 1970s (at least) to advertise chess tournaments on posters which were posted on official notice boards in cities. Here is one for the 1969 (15th) Tel Aviv Championship, officially, the Abraham Labounsky memorial tournament. It includes both the "old guard" -- Czerniak, Aloni, Blass, Smiltiner -- and the "new blood", such as Bobis, Stepak, and 'ten talented youths'.

More Games and Updates

Source: Palestine Post, March 16th, 1945, p. 6

As the war was drawing to a close, the Palestine Post (later, the Jerusalem Post) started publishing the first English-language chess column in Palestine since 1918. It covered inter alia the Palestine Championship, then taking place in the "Lasker" club in Tel Aviv. Above is a nice victory by Barav (then Rabinovich, also spelled in English with slight variations) over Aloni. Incidentally, Barav's memorial site, was recently updated. Thanks to Ami Barav for supplying me with the information. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Chess with a Dragon

Source: here
For the "Chess in Art" file, we have the following book by David Gerrold. The book does not in fact feature chess, but uses "chess" as a metaphor for political intrigue between different races in a galaxy.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

IM Ernö Gereben - Emigrating to Israel?

Source: La'Merchav, Oct. 23rd, 1959, p. 2

We have already noted that Ernö (Aharon) Gereben had emigrated to Israel but had not managed to fit in. But when has he emigrated? The answer is given by Eliyahu Fasher above, in a report on the Israeli championship of 1959. Apparently he had emigrated to Israel 'a month before' the tournament, i.e., ca. Sept. 1959.He (playing white) defeated Guti in the position given in the newspaper (click for larger image) with a clever trap. Annotations & punctuations: Fasher.

8... Qa5? 9.Nd2 b5? 10.a4! Ba6 11.axb4! QxR 12.Nb3 QxB 13.QxQ and White has a queen and pawn for a rook and bishop!

Gereben finished second in the championship (after Porat). A year later, a frequent correspondent of ours notes, Gereben was 'not admitted' to the Israeli Olympic team (on which he was willing, 'not being in peak shape', to play 4th board) due to 'his appeal coming late, after the team had been selected.'

The report (below) notes that after the 1959 championship he had 'left the country, [although] appearing as an Israeli in various tournaments abroad'. This makes one suspect that Gereben had never actually intended to settle in Israel, only to play chess in its tournaments, especially as, at the time, he was already settled in Switzerland.

Added 24/6/2018: It should be added that, our correspondent notifies us, notes that Gereben apparently played in the Israei league during his tenure in Israel, La'Merhav notifies us on April 14th, 1959, that he had been placed on the first board ot the West Galilee team.

Source: Ha'Boker, Oct. 2nd, 1960, p. 4.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chess and Marie de France's 'Eliduc'

Marie de France (fl. 1160-1215). Credit: Wikipedia.

Chess had often, as the previous post noted, been used in literature. One of the early mentions of chess -- the old game, of course -- in European literature is in Marie de France's Eliduc, a poem about love and betrayal between the hero, Eliduc, his wife Gildeleuc, and his lover, Guilliadon.

The lai (medieval poem about love) includes a short reference to a king who lives in England (where Eliduc arrives) playing chess with his court. According to Eve M. Whittaker (no relation, of course, of the infamous Norman Tweed Whittaker), however, the entire poem is a chess metaphor -- and not only that, but one that connects the philosophical lessons the game teaches in Muslim works to a new Christian outlook,

Her thesis (see previous link) is titled 'Marie de France's Eliduc: The Play of Adventure', published in Medieval Encounters: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Cultures in Confluence and Dialogue 6 (2000), 3-57. The existence of this work was brought to my attention by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

For Eve Whittaker, in Muslim works where the game is a metaphor, it is seen as a metaphor on the correct philosophical way to live, but de France adds a new Christian message, where the game teaches one to reach eternal salvation. Interestingly, she thinks that the poem does not merely mix these two views, but that different parts of the poem are allegories of different parts of the game.

The first part of the poem is an analogy of the opening and middle game -- and that they use chess (as it was played in Europe at the time) to teach lessons about love and life (as in Muslim works). But the later part of the poem is an allegory of the end game -- and teaches how to reach salvation.

I am not sure what to think of Whittaker's conclusions, but it cannot be denied that she does a decent research job acquainting herself with both the rules of the game at the time. Her source is, naturally, Murray, no doubt the single best source for chess at the period.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Obscure Chess Article

Source: See Below

In the previous post, we mentioned 'The Toys' (הצעצועים - Ha'Tza'a'tzu'im) as an article mentioned in Marmorosh's chess column. Thanks to the Israeli National Library's online archive, the source was found. It is by Yehoshua Reichenzahn (phonetic translation from the Yiddish  יהושע רייצעםזאהן) and is found in the yearbook Knesset Israel, 2nd year (1887), columns 47-64 (each page has two columns) of the 'Useful Section' (Ha'Helek Ha'Shimushi, החלק השימושי) -- the sixth and last part of the yearbook, following the fifth part, the obituaries (p. 1340 on the online scanned version in the link).

The article starts with a very loose translation of chess terms from other languages into Hebrew, relying often on the sound of the word and not its meaning. While some translations make sense (e.g., 'horse' for the knight), he translates the German Bauer (lit. "farmer", i.e., the pawn) as Bor (בור) -- citing the source, the Avoth tractate, where the word (as in modern Hebrew) means 'a hole in the ground', esp. one for keeping water. He also translates Rook as Rach from another Talmudic tractate (Bava Batra) where the word, again as in modern Hebrew, means 'soft' or 'young'.

The main part of the article is a poem, Tachsisey Milchama (תכסיסי מלחמה, 'Strategy') of a battle between the Indian and Persian kings, who are doing battle against each other supported by a mercenary battalion of 'Germans' (the White pieces) or 'Africans' (the Black pieces), respectively. After each move by either side there is a four-line quatrain describing the move, its purpose, what it threatens, etc., ending with White checkmating the Persian king on, in modern notation, the 25th move (the 45th half-move). In this, the poem reminds one of Jacob Eichenbaum's Ha'Krav (הקרב, 'The Battle') (Odessa, 1839 -- see Keats' Chess in Jewish History and Hebrew Literature, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1995, pp. 232ff).

Apart from this, the article has chess problems ('The German [White] wins in one move', for example) and another game, this time between Zechariah, a Jewish merchant, and 'The Master', a gentile nobleman. who meet in a tavern. The game is given, as well as the conversation between the two. Zechariah, of course, wins, but The Master declares that he cheated and has his servants beat him. In a combination of remorse and shame, The Master ambushes Zechariah in the field as he leaves town, kills him, then shoots himself!

The article seems very obscure. It is not mentioned in Keats, nor have I found it anywhere else except for its mention in the introduction before the start of Marmorosh's first chess column (see previous post). As this introduction refers to Marmorosh in the third person as the 'player who will edit the column', it was probably not written by Marmorosh himself. One wonders who was the scholar who wrote the introduction, mentioning this obscure source as well as others.

Marmorosh's Very First Column

Source: Davar, Nov. 7th 1930, p. 5 (same w/following item in this post)

Moshe Marmorosh's very first column, in Davar, Nov. 7th 1930, starts with a general introduction by the editors. As so often in Israeli (or Palestinian) press, it starts with the famous 'Song of Chess' poem, and adds a brief history of the game among the Jews.

This time the introduction, probably written by the editor and not by Marmorosh himself, is rather good, with a detailed note both of important chess-related items written by Jews, both famous (like 'Song of chess') and rather obscure ones, like the article 'The Toys', article by Yehoshua Reichensahn (ph. translation -- the original Yiddish, see the next post, is רייצעםזאהן), in "SF"R's [Saul Pinchas Rabbinowicz - link in German, last name also spelled Rabinowitz] Knesst Israel", a Zionist yearbook edited by Rabbinowicz in 1885-1888 in Warsaw. The unsigned introduction was probably (see also the next post in the blog) not written by Marmorosh himself, as it refers to him in the third person.

We have already mentioned in this blog the first game published in it -- the famous 1907 Rubinstein win vs. Rotlewi. Here is the first problem, by L. Holzer:

'Chess' is spelled שחמת -- this was before the common spelling today, שחמט, became the standard ca. 1940. It is also interesting to note that, as usual for Hebrew chess works at the time, the pieces were given Hebrew names and initials (e.g. King = מלך [Melech] = מ, the initial letter, Hebrew being written from right to left), but the board's files used Latin letters.

Monday, October 9, 2017

More Chess Signatures

Source: ebay (click on image for larger picture)

The above is the program of the Israeli 1957 chess championship. The seller wants $350 for it, which seems a rather high price. But at least it does have the signature of most (not all) of the participants, including, e.g., on the right page of the last image, Czerniak (top right), Porat (top left), Itzchak Aloni (bottom right), and Dyner (bottom left).

Still, we are beginning to see here some challenges to the "old guard", e.g., Yair Kraidman (top right, second image), Rudy Blumfeld (to left, second image) and others. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Foy's Third Castling -- and Heidenfeld's Second

Bernard Foy's Third Castling, Hebrew edition (trans. Ruth Shapira), by Lars Gustafsson. Am Oved, 1989,
We had already noted this book and its unusual title, but I was not aware that a Hebrew edition existed. We add that Tim Krabbe found that there is at least one serious game, Heidenfeld - Kerins (Dublin, 1973) where there were in fact three castlings -- Heidenfeld castling twice, 10.O-O and 33.O-O-O.


Not chess related: there is at least one more 'Foy' in literature: 'Death of a Foy' by Isaac Asimov. It is a feghoot -- a joke short story ending in a pun. In this case, the alien Foy's "dramatic last words" are an (awful) pun on the popular song 'Give my Regards to Broadway'.

The Israeli science fiction magazine Fantasia 2000 reprinted this story in the 1980s, -- translated into Hebrew, so the pun was lost in translation, not that many of the magazines' readers would have heard of 'Give my Regards to Broadway' in any case. I recall reading the story as a teenager and scratching my head -- wondering what made Asimov write such a pointless story.

Keeping the Shabbath

'Sammy Reshevsky -- Three Meals and Dessert'. Ma'ariv, Nov. 9th, 1964, p. 4.
Moshe Roytman notifies us of an unsigned collection of short items from Ma'ariv on the date above, some of them related to the chess Olympiad then taking place in Tel Aviv. It has the following caricature of Reshevsky, by the Ma'ariv caricaturist "Ze'ev" [Ya'akov Farkash, 1928-2002]. 

Farkash was one of the four members of the affectionately called "Hungarian Mafia", a team of four staff members of Ma'ariv who had been in the paper for decades, from the 50s to the 90s. They include himself, the caricaturist "Dosh" (Kariel Gardosh), the journalist Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, and satirist Efraim Kishon. Of them, as we have noted in this blog before, Lapid was inter alia the head of the Israeli Chess Federation, Kishon saved his life during the war by playing chess, and Dosh illustrated covers for chess books; we now add a chess connection for Ze'ev. 

The story is that in the 1964 Olympiad in Tel Aviv, the Saturday round started at 5:30 instead of 4:00, to avoid desecrating the Shabbath (from sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday), but Reshevsky got special permission to start half an hour later than that. It is well known that Reshevsky would not play on the Shabbath and was usually given the option of starting to play after it ended when he played in tournaments. But here all the rounds began later for just this reason. So why would he need an extra half hour? 

The reason given -- how seriously, it is hard to tell -- is that Reshevsky, being a religious Jew, also observed the religious tradition (though not an absolute requirement) of having three holiday meals on the Shabbath, which means he would only be available, not just after the Shabbath had ended at 5:30, but only after he finished his third Shabbath meal. Perhaps; we note, however, that as the Shabbath ended during the time of the Olympiad only a few minutes before 5:30, and religious Jews are not allowed to drive or travel by car, carry money, etc., during the Shabbath, it is likely that it would take Reshevsky a few more minutes to get to the tournament hall from his hotel than a person who does not follow these rules in any case.

The article adds that he played against Ya'akov Mashian  (ne Hushang Mashian) as stated in Gaige's Chess Personalia) and 'of course' won quickly 'as a dessert'. Mashian, a Jew, was playing first board for Iran. He later emigrated to Israel and became an active player there. 

We add that the same issue of Reshevsky and the Shabbath -- including his interesting explanation as to why he does not play on the Shabbath, when playing chess is not in fact (by most authorities) forbidden on the Shabbath, as well as a somewhat similar illustration by Buchwald -- when he came to the 1958 tournament in Israel, as noted here

Czerniak, Havana 1966

Source: Ma'ariv, Oct. 24th, 1966, p. 13
Moshe Roytman notified us of a long article in Ma'ariv about the 1966 chess Olympiad. In it we find an interesting pen-portrait of Moshe Czerniak, by the paper's chess correspondent, Shaul Hon, describing him in the meeting place in Madrid, Spain, where the Middle Eastern, African, and Western European teams were housed before being flown to Havana:
[Czerniak] knows personally almost all the teams' members. On each he has a funny anecdote or story to tell. You pull his sleeve -- and dozens of stories fall out, like ripe pears... He became the [Israeli] team's unofficial translator, knowing no less than seven languages, Spanish included... without him the restaurant menus would not be more intelligible to us than if they were written in Chinese. 
But not only we make use of him -- the South African team seized him like a valuable prize, since without his help they would have to mumble and point their fingers, and the Spaniards would not understand anything they want... twelve teams are now in Madrid, including Morocco [i.e., an Arab state -- the point is that it did not boycott the olympiad due to Israel's presence]. 
Hon adds that the Israeli team is made of the "old timers": Smiltiner, Aloni, Porat and Czerniak himself; the two "youths" are Kagan and Kraidman. Indeed, this was the "last hurrah" of the old guard. In 1968 only Czerniak and Porat played, and -- in 1974 -- Czerniak, on the third board.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shlomo Seider -- Update

Credit: see below

We have already mentioned Shlomo Seider in this blog in previous posts, and we noted that there is a memorial site for him. The site in question had been taken offline, but Yochanan Afek pointed out to us it was replace by a Facebook memorial page. The page is in Hebrew, but there are many photos, including of family, personal effects, etc. It links inter alia to the Wikipedia page about him, and a lot more).

In particular, the memorial page has, not only problems and notes by him, but also interesting articles by him. In particular he argues in one article that, since chess composition is first of all an art and only secondarily chess, one should not be dogmatic about not allowing illegal positions (which cannot be reached from the array), or even positions that have no solution, so long as the thematic beauty of the idea is great.

The site, in particular, has numerous of his "original paintings" -- that is, the problems he sent to problem tournaments. Here is one, which won an honorable mention (as the Hebrew on it shows), which uses seven grasshoppers (the "upside down queens"):

More "In Memorium"

Credit: Ha'aretz weekend supplement, June 9th, 2017

As Yochanan Afek reminded us, when Hillel Aloni passed away, Ha'aretz chess editor, Israel Shrenzel (ph. English spelling) had written extensively about him, including a photo (above). The paper notes that Aloni was not only a talented composer -- the father of the Israeli endgame studies -- but also promoted and trained many younger composers, such as Afek himself, Amaztia Avni, Yehuda Hoch, Ofer Komai, and others. Afek adds the AVRES site has a memorial page as well with many studies.

He added one of Aloni's early compositions, from 1959 (annotations by Shrenzel):

White to move and draw
Solution: 1.Bf5+! Kxf5 2.Nh4+! (not 2.Nxe2 fxe2 3. Nh4+ Kxh5 4.Kxa2 e1=N!) Kxe5 3.Nxf3+ Kf4 4.Nxe2+ Kf3 5.Nd4+ Ke3 6.Nc2+ Kd2 7.Na1! (insufficient is 7.Kb2 c3+ 8.Kb3 Kb1 -+) Kc3 8.Kxa2 b4 9.Nb3! cxb3 10.Ka1 (10.Kb1 loses to 10...b2 11.ka2 b1=Q+ 12.Kxb1 Kb3) b2+ 11.Kb1 Drawn.

Chess in High Places

Photo credit: A. P.

Above is a photograph of the De Haar Castle in the Netherlands. On a recent tour there I have found out -- unsurprisingly -- that the owners had had, in (one of) their living rooms, a nice chess set:

Photo credit: A.P. 

The set is arrange in the array, and, for once, with the right bottom square being white.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

More on Chess and the Radio

Source: Davar, Jan 21st, 1949, p. 13 of the weekend supplement (Dvar Ha'Sahvuah).

Here we have a note by B. Ron, part of his regular 'A listener's notes' column of radio criticism, brought to my attention by a regular reader of this blog. In it Ron notes that there are now two chess radio columns -- one broadcast in the 'Voice of Jerusalem' station and a new one in the 'Voice of Israel' station.

The first, which started soon before, is edited by Eliezer Manor and concentrates on the historical figures of great players, while the second, by Shaul Hon, concentrates on the techniques of the opening. Ron adds that the two would find a way to coordinate the content of the two columns for the benefit of both, as well as helping with creating more working relations, i.e., inter-city matches (Hon was in Tel Aviv and Manor in Jerusalem).

Ron had a reason to be satisfied. As the same reader noted in a message to us, it was he who, in a previous issue of his Davar column (Oct. 10th, 1947, p. 13 of the supplement) was apparently the first to suggest the need for a radio chess column at all. Now he had -- for a while -- two.

As it happened, the 'Voice of Jerusalem' -- Kol Yerushalayim -- ceased broadcasting soon afterwards, since it was from the start the official radio organ of the British Mandate, which no longer existed, but it had continued to broadcast a year or two later due to (Wikipedia argues) the unclear status of Jerusalem after the War of Independence. Hon's column too did not last too long, but I am not certain about the date of its last broadcast. Does any reader have details?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chess in the Israeli Navy

Credit: The Last Battle of the Destroyer 'Eilat', between p. 160 & 161.

To add to the 'chess in the IDF' file, an example from chess in the Israeli navy (in Israel, the navy and air force are part of the IDF as a whole, not independent armed forces). Here is an interesting example from the book The Last Battle of the Destroyer 'Eilat' [הקרב האחרון של המשחתת אילת]. 

The INS Eilat was an Israeli destroyer sunk by Egypt in Oct. 1967, shortly after the Six Days' War. The last commander of the ship, Commander [Sgan AlufItzhak Shoshan, wrote a book about the event and the ship in general. 

In one of the photos in the book, dated 'winter 1966-1967', we see behind Shoshan, again using naval ranks, 'Lieutenant [seren] Mashiach and Lt.-commander [rav seren] Ginzburg playing chess'. 

P.S. it seems that the other three officers are playing an informal game of roulette! 

Chess on Stamps: Ourania(?) and Burundi(!)

Credit: micronation wiki

One side-issue of this blog is chess on stamps, as can be seen on the list of topics on the right. This time the stamps have nothing to do with Jews in particular, but they are a truly weird incident.

The "Kingdom of Ourania" issued a stamp celebrating the secret chess champion of the world, the man with the highest chess rating ever -- Stan Vaughan. This stamp is above.

Vaughan is, of course, no real chess champion. The above claims about his feats are true only according to himself; in reality, he is a crank who believes himself the "real" successor to Bobby Fischer, a claim accepted by nobody but himself, among other reasons because his actual chess level is at best that of a good amateur.

Nor is the kingdom of Ourania (which apparently claims for itself a sizable chunk of Antarctica, as per its web site) a real nation. If you haven't heard of this kingdom, it's because it's one of those fake nations created by cranks for various reasons - especially to avoid taxes, declare themselves "sovereign", make themselves kings and lords, demand diplomatic immunity, and so on (in fairness, sometimes the "declaration of nationhood" is tongue-in-cheek, as the link notes). Ourania is no more a nation than Vaughan is world champion.

Cranks giving each others fake honors, in this case a fake stamp of a fake nation honoring a fake chess master, would not merit a post about chess stamps all by itself, even if it surely is the weirdest chess stamp ever -- because it is not a genuine stamp. But the truly absurd thing here is that the Vaughan-featuring Ourania "stamp" is actually based on a real stamp.

Somehow, Stan Vaughan was chosen by Burundi to be featured as one of four 'chess masters' on a set of stamps it issued (picture from this link), together with those of the genuine chess champions Emanuel LaskerPaul Morphy, and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Credit: 'Chess for all Ages' blog

How this had happened, I cannot imagine. There are cases of relatively weak or unknown players, such as Willi Schlage, on stamps (in his case Mali). There are also cases of players, such as Ray Keene, accepting dubious or outright fake honors. But at least in those cases the players are or were genuine masters, if not necessarily world-championship class. Vaughan's Burundi stamp is surely the only case where a fake master is given a genuine chess honor of this sort.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Eliezer Pe'er, 1915-2017

Credit: Moshe Roytman
Israel's oldest player, Eliezer Pe'er, had just passed away at the age of 101. In the above picture, taken during an event held in his honor this passover, was sent to us by Moshe Roytman, we see him (seated in black) receiving a lifetime award. In the ceremony, adds Roytman, Pe'er officially declared his retirement from competitive chess (at the age of 101 and 7 months), ending at least eighty years of official chess activity

Depending on what "chess activity" means -- we start counting here (see the link) from his first public chess activity, a solver of a problem in Davar in 1937 -- at a relatively late age of 22. Assuming he had played in tournaments before that, perhaps as a child, this would add at least 5-10 years, making a record of ca. 85-90 years of competitive chess, surely close to a world record. 

Moshe Cna'an, a well-known chess enthusiast, noted that in one of his last two tournaments, Pe'er player a 9-year-old (age difference: 91 years). Nissan Levi organized the event. We note that Pe'er had very kindly given us much material for this blog -- such as the following item.

Hillel Aloni, 1937-2017

+; credit: see below
Hillel Aloni had recently passed away at the age of 80. As the Israeli Chess Federation notes, in an article by Yochanan Afek, he had been the composer of studies who had put Israel on the international "map" of studies composition, starting in the 1950s. Afek also adds much information about Aloni's work as a mentor, helping many talented Israeli composers, from their first steps to international recognition.

Afek chooses the above problem (Galitzki Memorial Tourney, 1964, 1st hon. mention) as illustrative of Aloni's talent. White to move and win. Solution in a coming post.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chess and the IDF -- Jerusalem, 1949

Source: The National Library of Israel
Moshe Roytman, mentioned in the previous post, adds another item: a poster published in 1949 by the IDF's 'city officer' (Ktzin ha'Ir).

It notes the cultural events in the city (Jerusalem) in the week starting April 3rd, 1949 -- only a few months after the official end of the war of independence. The events in question are either general ones or those the IDF has reduced-rate tickets available for soldiers.

The range of the events is very wide, including classical Italian music, public lectures and readings, the popular Israeli past time of 'public singing' (zimra ba'tzibur) of popular songs, and -- on Saturday, 9/4/1949 -- a simultaneous game by the master Yochanan Marcuze.

1959 Blitz Championship

Source: Ma'ariv, Nov. 2nd, 1959, p. 12
We have just mentioned the 1959 championship. The poster notes that, among other things, there will be a blitz championship. Moshe Roytman adds a link describing the results: the winner was Raafi Persitz, the youngest Israeli master at the time (7.5/8, drawing with Gereben) and that the 2nd and 3rd places were held by the two other young masters, Guti and Domnitz -- a full 2.5 points behind him.

Only Study - Wins First Prize?

Source: The National Library of Israel
The above poster (the top is cut off and has the logos of the Israeli Chess Federation and the City of Tel Aviv) is a poster for the Israeli championship of 1959, with the list of players, from Ernö Gereben to Rudi Blumenfeld. One of the players is Zvi Cahane. Yochanan Afek informs us he was a strong player and composer of problems, but that his only study won the first prize in the 1963 Israeli composition tournament (after corrections by Hillel Aloni). Is there any other case of a person's first -- or only -- study winning first prize in an important tournament? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

More on the Tel Aviv Championship Photo

Credit: see below
Readers had contacted me about the matter. One frequent correspondent noted that the person to the left of Blass in the photo from the 1945 championship is probably Alexander Macht (a caricature from here is reproduced above, and the Hebrew Wikipedia entry photo is here. The first link, incidentally, tells the story of Macht's entire career, including his important banking one and his life in Tel Aviv, He was one of the founders of Banking in Palestine.

Amatzia Avni suggests, tentatively, that the person on the far left in the front row is Reuven Mauer (ph. spelling of ראובן מאוער), 'the mythological secretary of the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv'.

If these two identifications are correct, they would be the two "extra" persons, apart from the 13 players, in the photograph.

ETA 31/4/2017: Yochanan Afek notes that it is not likely it is Mauer, due to the date of the photograph, taken when Mauer was much younger than the person in the photograph. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tel Aviv Championship, 1945 -- Help with Identifying Players

Source: See below

The above photograph, as is noted on the back, is that of the Tel Aviv Championship, 1945. It was forwarded to us by Ami Barav, the son of the late Israel Rabinovich-Barav. With Ami Barav's aid, as well as Hon's Ptichot Be'Sachmat and other sources, we have identified the persons in the photo as follows:

Standing, r. to l. : Rabinovich-Barav, Gruengard, Dobkin(?), Yosha, Smiltiner, Hon, unknown, Vogel(?), Wolfinger. Sitting, r. to l.: Aloni, Blass, Unknown, Mendelbaum(?), Porat, Unknown.

We are quite certain about the identity of some of the players. We are far less certain about three others, hence the question marks, and not sure at all about three of them, the 'unknowns'. The one participant not named here even tentatively is Gruenberg.

Note that Kniazer, one of the participants, is certainly not in the picture. As there are fifteen people in the picture and at most 13 of them are players, at least two others are non-participants, e.g., organizers.

Can any reader help with a more certain identification?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Staying Alive

Source: Davar, Feb 25th 1941, p. 3

A frequent correspondent (we apologize for the "backlog" in publishing his contributions, due to our vacation abroad and other personal issues) also sent us recently the sign of life found in the Palestinian Press about the Emmanuel Lasker Chess Club in Tel Aviv.

The note says in its entirety -- 'Emmanuel Lasker club, Alenby 2. The country's chess center. Chess school. Chess library. We buy books, clocks, etc. New members accepted'. It is one of the few signs of life from the club during this time (the early 40s), when due to the war, little room for chess was available in the papers, the chess column by Marmorosh ceased publication, and mentions of the club, or of chess, were very rare. But at least the club shows it still exists.

Ben Gurion as a Chess Player, and a Keres Caricature

Source: Maariv, Nov. 18th 1964, p. 4

A frequent correspondent had brought to our attention the following item. In it, it is noted that David Ben Gurion had been absent from the chess Olympiad of 1964 that was then taking place (he was later present, and even gave out the prizes, in the closing ceremony, as can be seen on this blog). It is noted that Ben Gurion is a member of the Sde Boker Kibbutz, where he was living at the time, and that he drew his game on the fourth board with Sodom's chess team, 'after a three hour battle'.

In another report from the Olympiad, on the same page, it adds a new record was set in the Olympiad the previous day: the USSR lost 3:1 to the West German team, the highest loss since it started participating in the Olympiads, in 1952, when Keres surrendered to Schmidt.The paper adds the following well-known caricature of the young Keres:

Touch Move

Credit: A.P

We are back from Passover vacation and a trip abroad. On the way back, in Israeli customs, there is the following sign: "Touch Move -- passport check by the touch of your hand", an advertisement for a new bio-metric database Israeli citizens are encouraged to join.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Learning Chess at Age Four

Jose Raul Capablanca. Credit:

The story of Capablanca learning to play chess at age four by watching his father play is well known and well documented. The story is related in Capablanca's own words (originally from an interview in 1916) in Edward Winter's book on the master (p. 1ff). 

By sheer chance, I have met today in a conference, a young woman who told me her father, Avraham Bar-El, who later was a young talent in Israeli chess (playing in the IDF championship for example), learned chess in exactly the same way and age. 

This may well be true, but surely the similarity between the two makes one ask whether Bar-El's case is genuine, or one of conflating his own history with the Cuban's. We asked his daughter for more details, hopefully TBA soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Capablanca's View of his Draw with Czerniak

Credit: Miguel Sanchez', Jose Raul Capablanca: A Chess Biography (McFarland: 2015), p. 453.
We already saw that Capablanca complained to Czerniak in 1939 that his powers are slipping due to his age. Czerniak adds in the same source given in the link (Toldot Ha'Sachmat -- quoted in Ad Ha'Ragli Ha'Acharon, by Afek and Volman, p. 33) that the draw 'annoyed [Capablanca] not a little: 'I can see the headlines: Capablanca is getting old!' he told me."

This certainly agrees with what Capablanca wrote here -- in an article for Critica, Aug. 25th, 1939 -- about this game. Obviously, he felt that he needed to justify his disappointing result in that game. As the olympiad started the day before, this article was published before he got his "revenge" -- a famous victory over Czerniak in the finals, which was widely published (it is given in Sanchez's biography here as 'one of his memorable productions'). Czerniak, in Toldot Ha'Shachmat, adds that Capablanca's combination 'fell on him like a blow on the head'.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yuri Averbakh's 95th Birthday

A frequent correspondent reminded us that Yuri Averbakh had just celebrated his 95th birthday, making him the oldest living Grandmaster. He also pointed out this interesting interview with Averbakh on YouTube (in Russian). Averbakh's father was Jewish, his mother Russian Orthodox.

Our correspondent adds (note also the YouTube interview):
Averbakh noted that he became a Russian officially since, as a son of a mixed marriage, he could choose his own nationality for official purposes at age 16. He first signed himself up as Jewish, but his mother forced him to go back and change his nationality to Russian: 'What have you done?'
Our correspondent adds also that Taimanov and Korchnoi also told similar stories about their own nationality. Finally, he notes that a report on Averbakh's birthday (link in Russian) includes, inter alia, the reading of a 'Happy Birthday' message to Averbakh from his 111 year old aunt!

From our collection, we add his dedication, in one of his endgame books, to Almog Burstein (link in Hebrew), for their 'joint work in Buenos Aires' - that is, the 1978 olympiad there. This is an interesting example of chess trumping politics, since Averbakh was the chairman of the USSR chess federation during 1973-1978 -- and, in 1976, the USSR boycotted the 1976 Haifa olympiad. In that olympiad, incidentally, Burstein was instrumental in using a computer (the Technion's) for the pairing, for the first time in Olympiad history.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chess in Israeli (or Palestinian) Newsreels

A frequent correspondent to this blog notified us that Herut (Feb. 19th, 1962, p. 3), the daily Israeli paper, noted that a weekly newsreel features, inter alia, the Israeli chess championship. Our correspondent asks when was the first time chess was filmed in Israel. The link is to Herut's article reporting on the content of the newsreel.

An internet search found that Yomaney Carmel -- 'Carmel Newsreels' in free translation -- has a large number of its newsreels online. Among them, from August 1953, is part of the Israeli 1953 youth championship (above), including a cameo by Czerniak as a kibitzer.

This is a bit odd since many sources say there was no youth championship in Israel that year, only in 1954, won by Giora Palai (later chess editor of Davar among other things). It could be that this a film of the Tel Aviv qualifying championship, which took place in March 1953 (link, in Hebrew, to a note to that effect in Herut, 18/3/1953, p. 4).

Also -- what is surely the first case of chess filmed in Israel or Palestine -- a newsreel from June/July 1935, featuring among other things a simultaneous display by (I think!) the young Marmorosh, including a close-up of him delivering a "standard" smothered mate:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jozsef Hajtun

Jozsef Hajtun. Credit: 's players' Encyclopedia.

Readers, even those who are knowledgeable about chess in Israel or the British Mandate of Palestine, may well wonder who is Jozsef Hajtun, who we mentioned in the previous item. 

Our frequent correspondent (also mentioned in the previous item...) adds that he was reported in the Israeli press as participating in the Hungarian championship of 1951 (11th place, 11/21 -- behind, we add, notables such as Barcza, Szabo, Gereben, Benko, and Florian), as well as editing Kol Ha'Am's chess column. 

A search of Chessbase's Players' Encyclopedia finds him participating in six Hungarian championships, usually ending in the middle of the crosstable, but also winning a small tournament, the Gecsei memorial, in Pecs, Hungary, in 1955.

We add that -- as checking the blog for their names shows -- Szabo played in Israel in the 1958 international tournament (coming second after Reshevsky) and Gereben even emigrated to Israel for a while, before moving to Switzerland. 

Kol Ha'Am and Chess

Source: Kol Ha'Am, Sept. 11th, 1950, p. 10

Our new year resolutions are to make contact with an alien civilization and be more proactive. We consider the former to be more realistic, in terms of its chances of success, but we'll start here by giving the latter a shot, too.

On our desk (OK, on our desktop) there are a bunch of interesting items from a frequent correspondent of ours. We thank him, and at long last will publish a selection of them which would be of special interest, we think, to readers of this blog.

The first on the list is the above item. Kol Ha'Am, lit. 'The People's Voice' (קול העם -- also written in English as Kol Ha'am, Kol HaAm, etc.) was the Israeli Communist Party's paper. It too had a chess column, edited by Jozsef Hajtun (Gaige's spelling in Chess Personalia).

It shows the growing interest in chess in the country that even a paper of a very small party had a chess column. This being a communist party organ, the chess reporting was politically influenced -- here, reporting on how the participants in the memorial tournament to Dawid Przepiórka had all publicly signed the Stockholm Appeal, and that a declaration to that effect was read by Bondarevsky at the tournament.

Whatever one thinks of the genuineness or lack thereof of this appeal, it has nothing to do with chess itself -- yet was the first item in the report on the tournament in Kol Ha'Am; then came the description fo the tournament, and finally a single game (Zita - Barcza, 0-1). The writing is indeed, as our correspondent notes, 'in communist style'.