Friday, December 31, 2021

Mistaken Identity


Herbert Halsegger notes that the Judische Rundschau of 13.8.37, p.11, has a collection of photos from Palestine. One of them is supposed to show two men playing chess. But the players are likely Arab (the fez and clothes suggest) and the board seems to have no chess pieces and a heightened border. This means they are probably playing, not chess, but the popular oriental game of backgammon. 

Yehudi Menuchin and Chess


Yehudi Menuchin, the famous violinist, was a chess fan. Naturally interested in Jewish chess in general, the Palestine Post published a friendly game he played on 14.9.45, p. 6. Menuchin lost this game (against Cpl. Aird Thomas) and the final note adds: "every chess player will agree Menuchin is a great violinist."

There's no arguing with that. 

Chess in the Crossword Section


Having chess terms, or chess personalities, as items in crosswords isn't rare. But here is something much more unusual. As our frequent correspondent Moshe Roytman notes, in La'merchav, 21.9.60, p. 17, there is an entire crossword made only of chess hints. 

The clues range from the "one of the world's chess greats who died young" and "a famous studies composer" to "the first name of the ex-Jerusalem champion" - and even clues such as "owner of a chocolate factory and a great chess fan" and "the first and last name of a shepherd in the lower Galilee, one of the best Israeli problemists." The latter, by the way, is Yechezkel Hillel.

Mr. Lasker in Trouble with the Authorities


We keep forgetting that not everybody plays chess. Moshe Roytman notes that in 1975, Tel Aviv's municipal government sent a letter to "Mr. Emmanuel Lasker" in Ha'yarkon St. 54, warning him that he must repair his dilapidated house. The address, of course, was that of the Emmanuel Lasker club, not that of "Mr. Lasker," who died in 1941. (In any case, it should be Dr. Lasker.) 

The report adds - on what authority we do not know - that Lasker "planned to settle in the country" (i.e., Israel / Palestine) despite the (correct) fact that he never managed to even visit it. It also adds, less accurately, that Lasker died "more than 40 years ago," which would mean before 1935. 

Source: Ma'ariv, 2.9.75, p. 17.


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Chess, Poverty, and Antisemitism

Chess is a notoriously unremunerative occupation, even on the highest levels, and many chess players were poor all their lives. Two lesser-known examples of attempts to help masters are given here, courtesy of Herbert Halsegger

In Die Stimme, 22.6.33, p. 6, It is noted that the "top player in Palestine," M. Marmorosh, is putting together a collection for Rubinstein in his difficulties. We note that this might have to do with Marmorosh trying to make amends for the Palestinian chess world's failure to pay Rubinstein his agreed fee when he visited, as previously noted in this blog.  

In the Tagesbote of 30.4.29, p. 8, notes Halsegger, it says that the Viennese master Mueller, Spielmann, and Hoenlinger [English spelling] wished to arranged a simultaneous display to help the poor and old author Franz Gutmayer. They failed because only two persons had been interested. This is interesting, adds Halsegger, since Gutmayer was a notorious anti-Semite. I add that this is seen for example in Jeremy Spinrad's research.  

A Fischer Interview, 1968


Moshe Roytman notifies us that Al Ha'mishmar, 1.7.68, p. 2, has an interesting interview with Robert "Bobby" Fischer by Uri Tzahor [ph. spelling]. 

Some interesting notes is that Fischer claim to make his living from the royalties from his books and his chess column in Boys' Life (see the link for Edward Winter's article on the subject). Fischer notes in particular that he does not give chess lessons or play simultaneous games, which "did not help" those masters who gave them. Fischer "forgot," notes Tzahor, his tournament appearance fees or winnings. 

Fischer arrived two an a half hours late to the interview, and to the first question, "Who is Bobby Fischer?" he replied, "the world's best chess player." Given Fischer's later well-known antisemitism (or perhaps paranoia), it is noted that not only did Fischer agree to play in Netanya, but also was satisfied with the conditions and was willing to come again.

He explicitly declines to discuss anything except chess, in particular refusing to answer Tzahor's incautious question about "how a Jew like you can join the Adventists sect?" He blames the Soviets for collaborating against him out of fear. He ended the interview when Tzahor asked what he no doubt considered an intrusive question, "what are you interested in except for chess?" 

In a coda to the interview, Tzahor adds his own thoughts. He notes that Fischer likes Fidel Castro and the Cuban people in general - not for political reasons, but due to the warm reception he received there and the legal loophole which allowed him to legally play in Havana, 1965, through telex, despite the American embargo. 

Tzahor also adds one of the stories about Fischer's alleged ignorance anything except chess. He claims that "soviet players like to tell" that when Vasco da Gama was mentioned in his presence, Fischer asked "what team does he play on?" Whether this story is factual or not, I make no judgment. 

Lasker Stranded on the Ice


In Ha'olam, 13.1.44, p. 4, the bulletin of the World Zionist Organization, a note by Dr. Helpmann [ph. spelling] who recollects his world tour for Zionism in Jewish communities from South America to Finland. Near Finland, his ship was hit by an iceberg and damaged. The captain disembarked all the passengers on the North Sea's ice, walking them to a small nearby island off the Finnish shore, until their evacuation could be arranged. One of the passengers with Dr. Helpmann in the journey and adventure was no less than Emmanuel Lasker, who was traveling from Moscow through Finland. 

"In those endlessly long days, Emmanuel Lasker tried to teach me some chess, and I taught him about Zionism and told him about the new Palestine. The philosopher's sharp wit allowed him to learn more about Zionism from me than I learn chess from him. I was happy to later hear Dr. Emanuel Lasker always remained one of Zionism's friends." 

Marmorosh's 70th Simultaneous Display


Marmorosh was, as we often stated in this blog, a very active simultaneous performer, but how many games did he actually play? A rough idea can be seen in the following note, from Davar, 1.4.42, p. 5. During the war years chess activity in Palestine was limited, both by the war conditions and the fact that some of the best players were left stranded in Buenos Aires after the 1939 Olympiad. But Marmorosh still did what he could. In this case, it is announced that an upcoming simultaneous display will be his 70th display. 

Nazi Chess Books


Edward Winter's feature article about chess in Nazi Germany contains, inter alia, a BCM report about the "Aryanization" of chess books (from January 1942). Davar (18.1.42, p. 4) also reported on the matter, crediting the Daily Telegraph

"London received chess textbooks recently published in Germany. The Daily Telegraph reports, that the names of the chess geniuses Lakser and Steinitz were erased - except when it was stated they were beaten by Aryan opponents." 

Stalin and Chess


An interesting report by Nathan Gordose [ph. spelling] about the Kremlin is found in Ha'aretz, 22.8.41, p. 3. Among many other "insider" reports, it is state that "Stalin, when not working, is a chess fan. There are ten chess clubs in the Kremlin, and Stalin is the best player in the place." 

I can certainly see that nobody would dare to beat Stalin in chess, but so far as I know there is no record of Stalin being a chess player at all, let alone a strong one. The number of chess clubs in the Kremlin seems excessive as well, to put things no stronger than that. Can any reader add anything to the matter? 

Hans Frank and Chess


In Ha'Tzophe, 18.3.41, p. 2, we read the following curious item: 

"An Ukrainian delegation, wearing the special uniform of an Ukrainian unit set up by the Germans, headed by Ossip Boydunyk, met the general-governor of the German-occupied areas in Poland, Dr. Frank, and gave him a present - chess boards in an original Ukrainian design. They also gave him the Ukrainian people's wishes for a quick German victory and a new order in Europe."

Bad Jokes


Bad chess jokes are eternal, it seems. Here are two from Omer (Tel Aviv), 15.9.40, p. 2: 

A man came to Alekhine in the Warsaw chess Olympiad and - not recognizing him - asked him to play. "I am sorry, but I'm not a amateur," said Alekhine. "That's all right" - said the visitor - "I'm not one of the best players myself!"

"My son wants to be a chess master." "Does he have the talent?" "Yes, he can fast for three days!"