Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Establishment of the Israeli League


The above three-line note from Ha'aretz's chess column of Aug. 14th, 1953 (p. 4) may not look not much. It merely says "in its meeting the ICF decided to arrange a national team championship soon." But as a frequent correspondent points out, this is the first public notice on the ICF's decision to establish league play - which still is going on, 70 years later. 

Judaism and Chess on Postcards

Our correspondent Terje Christiansen send us three chess related postcards found in the Blatatnik Archive Jewish Postcards collection. The first is an antisemitic caricature describing chess as the "Cohen of Games" (a German pun on the chess being the "king of Games"), but the other two are rather romantic pictures of, well, Jews playing chess, with no antisemitic overtones. The details of all the postcards are found by clicking on the images of the postcards in the link above. 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Doulingo and Chess


Credit: see below

The above picture, from my own cellphone, is this month's challenge on the popular language-learning application, Doulingo. There is a one-month chess.com membership. Duolingo also has an interesting language-centered blog, which has an interesting post about chess-related words: chess, check, checkmate, etc. As is typical of Douligo's posts, the language is informal and intended to be humorous and fun, but, so far as I can tell, the facts are quite accurate. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

ICF Partiorism

Credit: see below

The Israel Chess Federation had posted a series of photos of Israeli players and teams, mostly in international events such as the 2022 Olympiad. The photos are by Dr. Mark Liebschitz [ph. spelling]. Of particular interest is the above image - what seems to be a (small) double blindfold simul (3 boards each) in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament. 

Chess on Reserve Duty


Source: see below

I am now on reserve duty. I serve, unsurprisingly perhaps, as a history officer in the IDF's history department. My commanding officer sent me and others this photo of two IDF soldiers playing chess in a military base somewhere. Of course, the faces of the soldiers were hidden in the original image as well and it is an unclassified one. White (left) seems to be winning. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Alekhine's World Trip Discrepancy


Credit: here.

Our correspondent, Herbert Halsegger, pointed out to us that the Neues Preßburger Tagblatt of 7 February 1932, p. 6, has an interview with Alekhine where he discusses his planned world trip. Alekhine explicitly mentions that he will also visit Palestine as well as many other countries and locations. Interestingly, Davar, on 31 December 1931, p. 3, mentions Alekhine's world trip and does not mention him visiting Palestine. Only later - 21 January 1932, p. 3 - does Davar mention that a "reliable source" notes that Alekhine will visit Palestine as well. 

What is the reason for this discrepancy? Had Alekhine changed his mind about the trip's locations in January 1932? This seems unlikely since many of the countries mentioned in both articles are the same. In particular, the starting point (Marseilles) and the location Alekhine will visit just after Palestine according to the February interview (Port Said) are mentioned. 

Another mystery is why, if Alekhine's trip was already publicly known in December 1931 and an interview about it was given in February 1932, did Davar need to use an anonymous "reliable source" instead of simply noting where the details of the trip were given. 

Finally, that Alekhine had no problem planning a trip to Palestine doesn't prove Alekhine was not an antisemite. He also planned to visit India and Japan, and it would be no libel on his character if it turned out he happened to share the beliefs about the inferiority of Indians or Japanese which were almost universal for Europeans of his generation. Alekhine may have been prejudiced against Jews while still visiting Palestine.

But there is a big moral difference between Alekhine possibly sharing prejudices against Jews common to his place and time and Alekhine being a Nazi. If Alekhine were a true believer in Nazi ideology, it is highly unlikely he would have publicly declared his intention to visit Palestine in particular. 

The Start of the Israel Chess Federation


Credit: Davar Ha'shavuah, 7 October 1949, p. 18.

A frequent correspondent notes that one of the first mentions of the relaunched chess federation in the new state - the Israel Chess Federation - is in the above 1949 note. As La'merhav notes (3 May 1968, p. 8) the Israel Chess Federation was in fact established that year. 

The above note informs that the suggestion came originally from the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv, which contacted the clubs in Haifa and Jerusalem to come to a general meeting to establish the new national federation. In particular, Israel Barav (here mentioned under his old name, Rabinovich) is mentioned in asking the Haifa club to join, and that the constitution of the federation was ratified. 

Chess in the Newsreels, Part II


Credit: see below

We have already noted in the past that chess was occasionally featured in newsreels in Israel (and Mandatory Palestine) in pre-television days, but some of the links in posts about "movies" or "newsreels" are no longer active. Above is a screenshot from the Israeli film archive search for "chess" (in English) which features all such newsreel items, with the titles in English. The newsreels themselves are in Hebrew but there are English subtitles. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Porat - Larsen, anti-Turton

Edward Winter notes that Yosef Porat was the victim of an anti-Turton move (or combination) by Bent Larsen in the 1956 Olympiad. What is an anti-Turton? As Heidenfeld notes (see Winter's article for details):

It consists in forcing the attacker who wishes to double two pieces on the same gait in such a way as to have the stronger piece in front and the weaker behind (called the Turton in the jargon of problemists) into playing the weaker piece across the so-called “critical square”... and thus into reversing the planned line-up.

The game is: 

Porat, Yosef - Larsen, Bent

12th Chess Olympiad, Moscow, 1956, 6th round (preliminaries) 

Source: Olimpbase

1.Nf3 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.b3 Bg7 5.Bb2 d6 6.d4 c6 7.e3 Qa5 8.a3 O-O 9.Be2 e5 10.b4 Qc7 11.d5 h6 12.c5 e4 13.Nd4 dxc5 14.Qb3 cxd4 15.d6+


Anti-Turton. 15...Qf7 (the other possible move) allows 16.Bc4, to be followed by 16...dxc3 17.Bxf7+ Rxf7 18.Bxc3, when Black has three pieces for the queen. 


The point behind 15...Be6: the white queen was forced to move beyond the critical square (c4), so Bc4 will no longer pin the black queen to the king after Black plays Qf7.

16...Qf7 17 Qxf7+ Rxf7 18 exd4 Rd7 19 d5 Nxd5 20 Bc4 Kh7 21 Bxd5 Bxc3+ 22 Bxc3 cxd5 23 g4 Rxd6 24 gxf5 gxf5 25 Rd1 Nc6 26 b5 Nd8 27 f3 Ne6 28 fxe4 fxe4 29 Rf1 Ng5 30 Rf5 d4 31 h4 Nf3+ 32 Ke2 Rc8 33 Bb4 Rg6 White resigns (0-1).

Jeremy Silman, 1954-2023

Source: amazon.com

Jeremy Silman had just passed away at the age of 69. We have many of his books, from How to Reassess Your Chess and The Amateur's Mind to his co-authored (auto)biography of Pal Benko, which is an excellent book. Always original in his thinking, Silman never wrote a meretricious book. Some of his books are better than others, but he always did his best - some of his books are very good, like Benko's biography. 

Edward Winter's obituary adds that Silman was interested in chess history, and - like Winter himself - had great admiration for the games of the old masters, such as Gioacchino Greco, who was in Silman's estimation, "centuries ahead of his time" in chess understanding, more so than any other player in history. Curiously, he thinks Greco would have easily defeated Philidor

One thing I noted about Silman's work is that when a new edition of his books came out, it was really new. It wasn't just the same book with minor changes. Silman always put a lot of work into improving the new edition over the older one. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

More on Walter Tevis and Chess

Credit: see below

Before The Queen's Gambit (1983) Walter Tevis had published a collection of short stories, Far from Home (Doubleday, 1981). It is - presumably due to The Queen's Gambit - now sold second hand in amazon at absurd prices. One copy in "new" condition is priced at over $1000!

It is noteworthy that Tevis was interested in chess in other stories he wrote. In this collection, the short story "Echo" has an interesting chess connection. The hero used to play chess in school; the fact that another character also recognizes the "Morphy attack in the King's Gambit" is a key point for discovering the other character's identity. 

It is not clear which variation Tevis has in mind. There is a Morphy variation in the King's Gambit (C33) but Morphy often played the King's Gambit in many other variations, too, with excellent results. Like in The Queen's Gambit, then, the chess description in "Echo" is, therefore, somewhat vague and not fully accurate. Edward Winter points out the same is true about The Queen's Gambit, as previously noted on this blog. But in both cases, the description of chess play makes sense in a general way. 

Tevis was a mediocre player and never claimed any special chess, or chess history, expertise. But at least was not an ignoramus about chess or its history. His use of chess in fiction, while not fully accurate, is at least much better than the low standards so often seen. He never described chess as, on the one hand, an incredibly difficult mind challenge only geniuses can play well, and, at the same time, as a trivial game that always ends in a few moves, with one side threatening check and the other replying with a cross-checkmate.  

A New Translation of a Classic Rubinstein Book


Credit: see below

The above book, Akiba Rubinstein, by Yuri Razuvaev and Valery Murakhveri, originally published in 1980, has just (2023) been translated into English and published by Verendel PublishingPhilip Jurgens, who was involved in the translation project, had generously sent me a complimentary copy. The book is a classic of chess history and it is good to finally have an English version. 

Alekhine and Opportunism - II


Credit: see above

By chance, reading an old copy of the Salisbury Review, I found the above article (pp. 34-38, September 1988) with the quote above on p. 36-37. It is a review of Victor Farias (au.), Myriam Benarroch and J. B. Granet (trans). Heidegger et le nazisme (Paris: Verdier, 1987). 

I suggest that what is said in the review of Heidegger is equally true for Alekhine. He wasn't a hard-core Nazi, but he ingratiated himself with the powers that be and refused to own up to his behavior after the war. Then again, that was true for most Germans during the time. This doesn't make either of them blameless, but being guilty of opportunism is not the same thing as being a believer in Nazism. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Alekhine and Opportunism


Credit: see below

A frequent correspondent notes that Alekhine's attempt to ingratiate himself with the new Soviet government after leaving the USSR had not been successful. In the above, Nikolai Krylenko writes to  Stalin and Molotov in that Alekhine sending a congratulatory telegram to the USSR was not sufficient to clear him of his support of the "Whites" (the anti-Bolshevik republicans) during the Russian civil war. On the other hand, adds our correspondent, sending the telegram caused a rift between him and the exiled "Whites" in Europe, which previously supported him as one of them. 

The letter was published in the June 1997 bulletin, p. 141, of Russian chess researcher Sergey Voronkov and is also included in his book based on his Alekhine research project, in Russian, The Russian Sphynx. More details can be found here (in Russian). 

P. S.

For some reasoning the blogger web site misformats the first paragraph in this post. Sorry! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Chess and Science Fiction - in Romania


Credit: Fantasia 2000 no. 23 (1981) p. 24

The above cutting is from an article, "On Science Fiction Literature in Romania," by Menachem Falk. From an Israeli science fiction magazine, it notes (also higlighted) "also appearing is a biweekly which is dedicated to original and translated science fiction, and also to chess." This, presumably, is a unique combination in the history of journalism. Does anybody know the name of the magazine in question - or better yet, has a copy? 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Meetings in Buenos Aires, 1939


Albert Becker (left) vs. Paul Keres, 1936. Credit: Wikipedia.

We have noted in this blog before how the Palestinian (Jewish) team in 1939 naturally refused to play with the German team, and that this cause a serious problem until Grau "saved the day." Porat's eyewitness account was reported here.

Porat said that the Palestine team was "not invited to the negotiations" and that "the organizers notified us that the German team objected with the claim that Palestine, as a Mandate, is not in a state of war with Germany, so they see no reason to cancel the match!" 

The master's thesis noted in the previous post (see there for credits) sheds more light on the matter. It refers to a letter from the captain of the German team, Becker, to Max Bluemich, originally posted online by Chessbase in 2008. In it, Becker does indeed inform Blumlich that the German team claimed Palestine "is not a British colony, but a League of Nations mandate" and therefore formally not in war with Germany. 

It is clear from Becker's letter that the real reason for his objection is that a 2:2 draw without play with Palestine would benefit other teams (esp. Argentina) which could expect a better result by playing the relatively weak Palestinian team. What is also clear, and more surprising, is that Becker notes "The Jews [i.e., Palestinian team] came with the Argentinians to our apartment to appeal to our sense of sportsmanship" to convince Becker to agree to the 2:2 draw! 

Porat does not mention any such meeting in his recollections. It may be that he was not part of it, or that he wished to hide any such informal connection with the German team. It is clear, from Becker's letter, that the Palestinian team would not have played the German team under any circumstances. 

Another interesting point, also mentioned in the letter and pointed out in the master's thesis, is that Becker complained that Alekhine, the French team's captain (and of course world champion) was very much against the German team, and forbade "his people" from any contact with them - with the absurd result that the Palestinian Jews came to talk with Becker while Alekhine and the French did not. 

Does this prove Alekhine was not an antisemite? It depends on his motives. He could have been opportunistically trying to harm Germany for the benefit of France's chess team. He could have been angry at Germany's aggression and boycotted the Germans out of principle. Or he could have done so out of protest at the German treatment of the Jews. 

The latter two motives, given Alekhine's later behavior, seem unlikely. But this behavior does support the claim that Alekhine, while an opportunist, was not actually devoted to Nazism - or for any other ideology for that matter - but rather would do whatever he thought would benefit him at the time. 

But how could the Jewish team come to meet a man who ended his letter with "Heil Hitler"? It seems that Becker was no fanatical Nazi. Like all of the rest of the German team, he remained in Argentina during the war. Nothing in his biography suggests particular Nazi sympathies. But he was writing in 1939 to a man who was an ideological Nazi, and the "Heil Hitler" signature was more or less compulsory in such situations. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

More on Antisemitism in Chess

Alexander Alekhine. Credit: Wikipedia.

Mr. Herbert Halsegger had brought to our attention a master's work about Antisemitism in chess by Gregor Gottfried Wolfsberger. The work in full is found here (in German). It especially deals with the antisemitism of Franz Gutmayer and Alexander Alekhine, but also with that of Emil Josef Diemer (of Blackmar-Diemer gambit fame). Theodor Gerbec, and others. As we noted elsewhere in this blog, Gutmayer was not especially popular: when a charity attempt to collect money for him by means of a simul was arranged, only two people showed up.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Another "Training Tournament"


Credits: see below

A frequent correspondent points out that a 1949 master's tournament in Tel Aviv was named (by Jozsef Hajtun, the column editor) as a "training tournament" before the first championship of Israel. The note about it, above, appeared in Kol Ha'am, 4 March 1949, p. 3. 

This relates to Keniazer's claim, or excuse, that the 1952 "master's tournament" (Taharut Amanim) was really a "training tournament" (Taharut Immunim), which are similar in Hebrew. We related this claim before in this blog with significant skepticism, but the naming of the 1949 tournament as a "training tournament" is interesting, and lends some weight to Keniazer's claim. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

From the 8th IDF Championship, February 1959

A frequent commentator notes the following game, played in the 8th IDF championship in 1959. The annotator's slightly dismissive remarks are below.

Richter  - Warshevsky (ph. spelling for both players)

Semi-Slav [D46]

8th IDF championship, February 1959

Source: Kol Ha'am, 6 March 1959, p. 6

Annotations: Amos Sa'ar

"This game was played by two of the players whose final ranking were in the middle of the ladder, which gives an idea of the level of this championship." 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 0–0 6.Bd3 c6 7.0–0 Nbd7 8.Ne2 Re8 9.Qc2 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 Rxe5 12.c5 Ne4 13.a3 Ba5 14.b4 Bc7 15.Bb2 Rh5

 16.Ng3 Qh4 17.h3 Bxh3 18.Nxh5 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Qh2+ White resigns (0-1). 

Avraham Labounsky and Yosef Hermann


Credit: see below

In the above photo, given to us by Ami Barav (Israel Rabinovich-Barav's son) we see Avraham Labounsky (left) playing with Yosef Hermann, probably in a cafe in Tel Aviv in the 1940s. Hermann came to Palestine in 1937 and played in Tel Aviv's Lasker and Reti clubs. Barav, in turn, received the photo from Hermann's daughter, Aliza Distnik (ph. spelling). 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

More on Science Fiction and Chess


Source: here.

Another science fiction book with some - Okay, only the title - relation to chess is Lester Del Rey's Pstalemate - about a man who suspects, and then proves, that he indeed has secret psi (psionic) powers of extra-sensory perception. 

It seems that writers of both fiction and non-fiction, when they use "stalemate," imagine it as some sort of high-tension balance between still-hidden or precariously balanced forces, which are about to burst out and wreck havoc. Here are another two examples: 

Source: here.

Source: here.

This is, of course, the precise opposite of what a stalemate in chess signifies. But I supposed "stalemate" is easier for the general public to understand than "a position of unbalanced dynamic equality with chances for both sides..." 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Avraham Labounsky


Credit: Prof. Ami Barav

Prof. Ami Barav (Israel Rabinovich-Barav's son) sends us the following high-quality photo of Avraham Labounsky (left) playing against an unnamed opponent in 1938.  Also, found in Avraham Labounsky's apartment after his death, was the following caricature, passed to me by Prof. Barav:

S. R. Wolf and the Trebitsch Memorial Tournament

Credit: see below

We have often mentioned in this blog the chess player S. R. Wolf. We pointed out that he was one of the "old timers" in the Vienna Chess Club. Here is the report of his performance - found by our frequent correspondent, Herbert Halsegger - of Wolf's performance in the Trebitsch memorial tournament, 1926. It was reported in the Wiener Schach-Zeitung in March 1926 (no. 5, p. 69). Wolf came in sixth, with 6/11, quite a credible score. Spielmann was the winner. 

P. S. 

The journal is of course the same journal as the Wiener Schachzeitung. The spelling was changed from one word to two in 1908. 

The Vienna Chess Club in "Die Buhne"

Credit: see below

Our frequent correspondent Mr. Herbert Halsegger points out that Die Buhne ("The Stage,") a weekly magazine for the arts, society, and sports from Vienna, had in its 17th issue (March 5th, 1925, pp. 13-14) an illustrated feature about the Vienna Chess Club. From the 13th page we selected this photograph. 

Dr. Eduard Stiassny

Our correspondent Herbert Halsseger draws our attention to an article in KARL magazine (January 2023, pp. 33-39) about Vienna, 1921. The article mentions the Jewish sponsor of the tournament, Dr. Eduard Stiassny, a noted chemist and industrialist. Stiassny tragically committed suicide in 1938. Mr. Halsseger also notes his grave, and points us to a simultaneous game he played in October 1900, to Emanuel Lasker (Lasker playing Black and blindfolded).

Credit: here.

Stiassny, Eduard - Lasker, Emanuel 

King's Knight Opening [C40]

Blindfold Simul, Vienna chess club, October 1900

Source: Wiener Schachzeitung, October 1900, pp. 212-3.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Ng1 Nf6 5.d3 Qxd5 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Bd2 Qe6 8.Qe2 Nc6 9.Nxe4 0–0 10.c3 Nd5 11.0–0–0 Re8 12.Ng5 Qd7 13.Qh5 h6 14.cxb4 hxg5 15.Qxg5 Nd4 16.Bc3 Qc6 17.Kb1 Nxc3+ 18.bxc3 Nb5 19.c4 Nc3+ 20.Kc1 Qa4 21.Qd2 Nxd1 22.Qxd1 Qa3+ 23.Kc2 Bd7 24.b5 a6 25.Qb1 axb5 26.Nf3 bxc4 27.Nd4 Ba4+ 28.Kd2 c3#

A pure mate, too! 

Beer Chess


Credit: A. P.

In another attempt to make chess popular after the success of The Queen's Gambit movie, (see Walter Tevis' previous mentions in this blog), the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa is offering beer chess: a nine-round Swiss blitz tournament at 4+2 time control (4 minutes + 2 seconds per move). It is done in the IIT's bar, and the requirement is two liters of beer ordered per person. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Walter Tevis

Credit: see link below

The same publication, The Nation, sometimes writes about chess - although usually in a metaphor for politics. On the other hand, one example of actually writing about chess is in its investigation of the Walter Tevis revival due to the Netflix adaptation of The Queen's Gambit. The article argues that "the problems with Tevis' books is the problems with addiction." One is reminded of Edward Winter's review of the book, which noted it "traces the elevation of Beth Harmon, a prodigy in chess, drink and drugs, to the loftiest heights of the first-named vice."

Canetti - A Tribute


Elias Canetti. Credit: see link below

We have just mentioned in this blog Elias Canetti's chess-related work. By sheer chance, The Nation had just published an appreciation of him, "Elias Canetti: The Last Cosmopolitan." While chess is not mentioned in the article (unsurprisingly), it is well worth reading. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Chess and the Rosenbergs' Trial

Credit: see below

In Ilene Philipson's Ethel Rosenberg: Beyond the Myths, (New York/Toronto: Franklin Watts, 1988), there is a curious reference to Chess. On page 301, Ethel Rosenberg and her husband, Julius Rosenberg, have just been convicted of espionage, as was Morton Sobell. They were joined by Morton's wife, Helen Sobell, and their legal teams. 

Morton Sobell's recollection is that one of his attorneys "passed around a recent newspaper clipping which referred to his chess triumphs at the turn of the century." Does anyone know who this chess-playing attorney might have been?

Chess and the Nobel Prize for Literature

Credit: see below

There is, of course, no Nobel prize for chess. But chess appears in the work of Nobel prize winning authors. The most famous example is, of course, Stefan Zweig's The Royal Game. But a lesser-known example is Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fe, which features the chess-playing dwarf Fischerle as a major character. By the way, there is no relationship to Robert "Bobby" Fischer -- the novel was published in 1935. 

Above is the cover page of the Hebrew edition (1979: Zmora-Bitan), which has an obvious chess motif. It is named Sanverim [The Blinding], a literal translation of the original German title, Die Blendung

P. S.

Nabokov's The Defense is perhaps better known, but Nabokov never won the Nobel prize... 


Sunday, April 30, 2023

Snapshot, 1955


Source: see below

A frequent correspondent points out that in Ha'aretz, 25 March 1955 (p. 5) it is noted that a new chess club will is to be opened 91 Hayarkon St., Tel Aviv. There will be an 8-game match between two of the IDF's champions - the previous, Bernstein, and the current one, Shiyovich. It also notes that for the upcoming Independence Day, there will a tournament dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the IDF. Finally, there is going to be a blitz championship on 2 April "open to all soldiers." Does anyone have more information about this club? 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Rubinstein - Rotlewi, 1910

The following game, brought to our attention by Tomasz Lissowski, was played between Akiba Rubinstein and Georg Rotlewi. Apart from being the same players as in Rubinstein's "immortal" game (Rotlwei - Rubinstein, 1907), it is interesting since it was published in a column in a Yiddish newspaper, Der Moment (9 December 1910, p. 5) - with annotations, in Yiddish, by Rubinstein himself, the editor of the newspaper's column. 

Especially interesting from a linguistic point of view is that the names of the pieces were in Hebrew letters but were transliteration of the German, or continental, system. E.g., the knight is ש - S - for "Springer," the bishop ל - L - for "laufer," etc. 

Rubinstein, Akiba – Rotlewi, Georg

Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch [D34]

Warsaw chess club championship, 1910

Source: see above

Annotations: Akiba Rubinstein

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0–0 Be6 9.Bg5 0–0 10.Rc1 c4 11.Ne5 Qb6 The queen attacks d4 and b2, changing places with the c6 knight to sufficiently protect the weak point d5. 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.Bxd5 Bxe5 If 14...Nxe5 15.dxe5 Bxe5 16.Rxc4 Bxb2 17.Qc2 with the threat of 18.Rb1. 15.dxe5 Nxe5 

16.b3! cxb3 17.Qxb3 Nc6 18.Qxb6 axb6 19.Rb1 Ra5 20.Rfd1 b5 21.Bb3 Ra7 22.Rd7 Ne5 23.Rc7 Stronger than 23. Rd5 - Rubinstein. 23...Rd8 24.Bd5 Black resigns (1-0).

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Chess - the Activity for Old, Sick People! Join Today!

The above is an advertisement for the Maccabi health insurance, asking for volunteers to help with old people who need friends and help in their home. Why is it that chess is rarely seen as played among younger people in ads? The top players, if nothing else, are all young. 

Two Cartoons

The above two cartoons are from the New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2015, pp. 84 and 86, respectively. The latter is rather subtle: note the road to the altar is a series of knight moves, and that there is the correct number of pieces on both sides of the isle - taking into consideration the "missing" black and white knights (who are getting married) and the white bishop (who is, naturally, officiating). 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Chess Longevity, Again


A frequent correspondent points out that, a few days ago, Uri Tzahor announced his retirement from chess journalism, after editing Yediot Aharonot's chess column for 63 years. This is not a record, surprisingly - Mohilever's publishing career was even longer. But nevertheless it is more than respectable, another example of chess players' and writers' curious publication longevity. Above, notes our correspondent, is an article for him (in another newspaper, La'merhav, May 7 1961, pp. 4-5) about "four chess heroes," a pen-portrait of four international players who came to play in an international tournament in Israel in 1961. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Nimzowitsch and Science Fiction


In the famous science fiction story, "Catch that Zeppelin!" Fritz Leiber describes an alternate history where WWI ended differently, WWII never happened, electric cars and Zeppelins come instead of gasoline-based cars and planes, etc. The protagonist, Adolf Hitler, is a famous Zeppelin designer in that world, although some of his bigotry against Blacks and Jews remains even in this nearly-ideal world. 

The chess connection? Aaron Nimzowitsch, the "world chess champion" in this world, is the resident master in the chess rooms aboard one of the luxury Zeppelin, the Ostwald, named after the Nobel-prize winning physical chemist. 

The story's point is that there are "inflection points" in history, where a minor change in the past makes significant changes in the future. Did Leiber hear the story that Nimzowitsch considered himself the "crown prince of chess," and saw changing him to world champion such a minor change? It should be noted here that, as Edward Winter points out, the evidence for Nimzowitsch ever making such a claim is at best sketchy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Chess Hatred


A frequent correspondent points out that the following, about Giora Pilshchik (later Peli) winning the youth tournament in 1953. It is noted that the tournament took place in Petah Tikva over 16 days, including 42 youths from 26 different locations in the country. They point out that not only is the 17 years old Giora "very humble" but also that his father... "hates chess with a venegance." (Source: Ha'boker, 12 August 1953, p. 3).