Saturday, May 21, 2022

Yuri Averbach, 1922-2022

The legendary grandmaster, Yuri Averbakh, had recently died in Moscow, at the age of 100. We note here the post we made on his 95th birthday, and add above, again, from our collection a book signed by him to Almog Burstein. We also note Chessbase's obituary and Edward Winter's feature article about him. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

We often noted the way chess was seen as patriotic in Palestine and Israel. Here is another example: As a frequent correspondent notes, Davar, on February 4th, 1949, p. 22, notes both the editor, Shaul Hon, will be giving a lecture about the king's gambit on the radio - and that Dov Wolfinger had been "invited by the sailors in Haifa to join them in the establish of a  new soldiers' club" and also gave a simultaneous display (+11 -1).

From the language used - Wolfinger being invited to the soldiers' club's establishment and "used the opportunity" to give a simultaneous display - it seems Wolfinger was invited there for unrelated reasons, and used the opportunity to do his bit to help soldiers and sailors with the impromptu display.

A frequent correspondent noted an interview with Miriam Aloni, Itzhak Aloni's wife, in Ha'boker, 2nd Nov. 1964, p. 4. In poor Israel of that time, among other problems, the article notes: "a bad apartment in an abandoned Jaffa house, rather low wages (Aloni is a clerk in Tel Aviv's municipal government)... the husband had a chance to get packages from the USA. He asked for a chess clock." 

Does she help her husband? Play chess with him? "Isn't one chess player in the family enough?... I help him draw diagrams for publication, but most of my help is - not bothering him."  

Monday, May 2, 2022

A Woman Expert - Jerusalem, 1920s

The above image, brought to our attention by a frequent correspondent, is found here (link in Hebrew). It is of Aaron Abraham Kabak (1880-1944), one of the group of Odessa-based Jewish writers, and his wife Sarah Feiga Kabak, nee Czernovitch. They emigrated to Palestine in 1911 and settled in Jerusalem. 

His wife, notes their nephew Yaakov Zur, was rather frustrated of being a housewife, and declared that, if she were only a man, she would be better in everything than men. In his recollections of Jerusalem, published in Ma'ariv (Oct. 6th, 1961, p. 6), also provided by our frequent correspondent. 

Zur adds that she was also an expert chess players, a game in which "she would beat all comers - to show that in this, too, she is superior to men. And indeed she had special talent for this game, and was one of the few women who reached expert level in it. One year she was one of the Jerusalem champions [sic]."

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Caricature for a Single Move


The above cartoon, by "Meir," from Davar, 30 April 1951, p. 24, is unusual. It comes to illustrated, not chess in general, nor even a particular player or game, but a specific move - 21. c6! - by Ernst Fischer in his 2nd round victory against Oren in the 1951 Israeli championship. 

The game is: 

Fischer, Ernst - Oren, Menachem

Gruenfeld Defense [D96]

Israeli Championship, 1951, rd. 2.
Source: see above

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. g3 O-O 6. Qb3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 Be6 8.Qa4 c5 9. dxc5 Nbd7 10. Be3 Nd5 11. Nxd5 Bxd5 12. Rd1 Bc6 13. Qa3 Qc7 14. Bg2 Ne5 15. Bf4 Rfc8 16. Bxe5 Bxe5 17. O-O Bf6 18. Rd2 e6 19. Qe3 Bd5 20. Rc1 b6 

21. c6 Bxc6 22. Nd4 Bxd4 23. Qxd4 Qb7 24. Rxc6 Rxc6 25. Rc2 Rac8 26. Qe4 Rxc2 27. Qxb7 Rc1+ 28. Bf1 Rd8 29. Qxa7 Rdd1 30. Qxb6 Rxf1+ 31. Kg2 Rfd1 32. a4 Rd2 33. a5 Rb1 34. b4 Rdb2 35. a6 Rxb4 36. Qd8+ Kg7 37. a7 1-0

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Saved by Chess


And from Nazi propaganda - to those who used chess to save themselves from the Nazis. From Herbet Halsegger comes this photo and story from the New York Aufbau, 6th August 1948, p. 32, about Eric Hassberg
At 10th of November 1938, some Nazis came in his house in Vienna, as he played chess with his brother. The leader of the Nazi-gang was also a chessplayer - a bad one - he wanted tob e part of the game. Eric let him win of course: Eric Hassberg and his brother were the only Jewish boys from the whole area, not to go to (concentration) camp.
This reminds one of Ephraim Kishon, who was also saved by being the chess coach of a concentration camp guard

Chess and Nazi Propaganda


Our frequent contributor, Herbert Halsegger, just notified us that looking for "Schach" in the Bundesarchiv gives many interesting pictures, among whom we also have Nazi propaganda posters, such as the one above. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Ezra Glass, from China to Israel


A frequent correspondent asks us how reliable are the stories of Ezra Glass being in Shanghai an d becoming the local chess champion there during the second world war. Another correspondent, Herbert Halsegger, supplied us with the following cutting, from the Washington (D.C.) Evening Star, March 17th, 1949, p. A-6. 

In it we learn the Glass was travelling to Israel from China, with a group of another 191 Jewish DPs ("Displaced Persons," i.e., refugees) from China, en route to Israel. The article notes Glass taught them to play chess during the long journey. It is noted he was champion of Austria "and of the far east" before the war. 

Chess in Schools


There had been many efforts to promote chess in schools in Israel. Shaul Hon, the editor of Davar's chess column in the 1940s, had occasionally promoted such efforts. Here is one such example, from Davar's  9 December 1949, p. 17 of the weekend supplement. We than Moshe Roytman for bringing this example to our attention. 

A teacher in a Hedera school accepted the parents' requests in a class meeting and agreed to give a chess lesson to all the pupils in the class. For now, the class is one hour a month during school time. It caused  much excitement and interest among the pupils. 

Not exactly a mass movement, but it's a start! 

Chess Problemist Rescued

Even at the height of the second world war, some Jewish players were rescued. In the following note, by the Aufbau (an German and English language Jewish weekly from New York) reports on New Year's day, 1943 (p. 24) that the "famous chess problemist Otto Gross," formerly from the Chess Club Anderssen, Frankfurt, is in New York, and promised his "lively participation" in chess activities. We thank Mr. Herbert Halsegger for bringing this report to our attention.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Stalin and Chess II

Joseph Stalin, 1937 propaganda photo. Credit: wikipdeia.

A previous post noted that Stalin was reputed to be a strong chess player, and doubted this is accurate. A correspondent notes Stalin did play chess. He notes the evidence is in Stephen Kotkin's biography of Stalin:

[Kotkin] is an outstanding scholar who specializes in Stalin. You can find an [English]  translation  in the first volume of his Stalin trilogy of a letter written by Yakov Sverdlov on 12th March 1914, in which Sverdlov, who had an elephantine memory, boasted of beating the future despot...

Our correspondent found the Russian text here, and provides the English translation, in p. 154 of (one of) the English editions of Kotkin's Stalin trilogy: 

My friend [Stalin] and I differ in many ways, " Sverdlov wrote in a letter postmarked for Paris on March 12th, 1914. "He is a very lively person and despite his forty years has preserved the ability to react vivaciously to the most varied phenomena. In many cases, he poses fresh questions where for me there are none any more. In that sense he is fresher than me. Do not think that I put him above myself. No, I'm superior [krupnee], and he himself realizes this... We wagered and played a game of chess, I checkmated him, then we parted late at night. In the morning, we met again, and so it is every day, we are our only two in Kureika.

The incident occurred, notes our correspondent, when Stalin and Sverdlov were exiled together to the very small village of Kureika before the first world war. He adds that Sverdlov is a partial source, as he quickly fell out with Stalin, but nevertheless there are two reasons to believe Stalin was indeed a weak player. 

First, if Stalin were any good, good players among the bolshevists, e.g., Ilyin-Zhenevsky or Krylenko would have noticed. Second, Sverdlov boast that he checkmated Stalin (as opposed to have won) is typical of beginners, suggesting Sverdlov himself was a weak player, and yet he beat Stalin.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia's entry about Joseph Stalin.)


Czerniak in Hoogoven, 1966


Herbert Halsegger notifies us of this very nice photographs of Czerniak, playing in Hoogoven, 1966. The photo is available on the Wikimedia Commons web site.