Wednesday, February 21, 2024

More Memorial Problems


Source: Davar Ha'shavua, 3 February 1950, p. 20

A frequent correspondent points out another example of what, in Israel, is often the case: memorial problems which were composed in order to commemorate those who fell in war. Here is one example: a problem by Yosef Goldschmidt (a mate in three) in memory of Abraham Feldklein, who fell in the war of independence. 

Meir Shatil Caricature


Source: Al Ha'mishmar, 2 December 1977, p. 10

Above, from a frequent correspondent, is a caricature of Meir Shatil, a player from the Gal On kibbutz, playing in the inter-kibbutz championship. The artist is Atalia Helman, the wife of the player Amir Helman

Chess for the People


source: see below

A frequent correspondent notes the above long article from Al Ha'mishmar. It starts with quoting a letter by Ya'akov Gavish, from Haderah, writing to Al Ha'mishmar, and published by Eliahu Shahaf on 27 October, 1950, p. 4. Gavish notes that much activity had been done by individuals in the country, while the center - the Emanuel Lasker club in Tel Aviv - had been rather inactive. Gavish also adds that this is done mostly by worker's unions and the Histadrut as a whole. 

Shahaf agrees, and notes that only by such government or public action can chess be improved in Israel, in particular by the creation (or rather revival) of a national sports organization, as it was in the USSR, under the motto: "chess - for the people!" It adds that the Lasker club always saw all criticism as a personal attack and only did internal reforms, which amounted to nothing. 

In fact, just what Shahaf says was done. Chess in the early state was taken over, in effect, by the Histadrut (through its sports section, Ha'poel) all over the country, leading to a great rise in the quality and quantity of chess in the country. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Computer Chess


Chess, a timeless game that transcends borders and cultures, has found a significant place within the Jewish community. Beyond being a strategic pastime, chess has woven itself into the rich tapestry of Jewish history, culture, and intellect. In this blog post, we'll explore the enduring legacy of Jews and chess, tracing its roots, examining notable figures, and contemplating the symbolic resonance that the game holds within this community.

The history of Jews and chess is a tale of intellectual resilience and cultural prominence. Chess, often referred to as the "game of kings," found itself embraced by a community known for its commitment to education and intellectual pursuits. From the streets of medieval Jewish quarters to the salons of contemporary Jewish intellectuals, chess has been a cultural beacon, reflecting the strategic acumen and love for intellectual challenges within the Jewish tradition.

Chess is a game of tactics, strategy, and foresight. In many ways, the chessboard becomes a metaphor for the challenges and triumphs of Jewish history. Whether navigating the complexities of diaspora life, facing adversity, or contributing to the fields of science and the arts, Jews have often drawn parallels between their experiences and the moves on a chessboard. The game becomes a symbolic reflection of the intricate dance between tradition and adaptation.

Throughout history, Jews have made significant contributions to the world of chess. Akiba Rubinstein, one of the strongest chess players of the early 20th century, left an indelible mark on the game. His strategic brilliance and innovative playstyle have inspired generations of chess enthusiasts.

Another prominent figure is Grandmaster Bobby Fischer, whose Jewish heritage became a notable aspect of his identity. Fischer's prodigious talent and eventual rise to become World Chess Champion in 1972 captured the imagination of the world and further cemented the connection between Jews and chess on the global stage.

Jewish literature and art have also embraced the symbolism and narrative potential of chess. From Isaac Bashevis Singer's stories to the works of Jewish artists, the chessboard often appears as a backdrop for exploring themes of strategy, intellect, and the unfolding drama of life. It becomes a metaphorical stage where characters grapple with their destinies, much like the moves of a carefully orchestrated chess game. 

Chess education has become an integral part of many Jewish communities. Schools and organizations recognize the cognitive benefits of chess, promoting it as a tool for intellectual development. The game fosters critical thinking, patience, and discipline—all values that resonate deeply within the Jewish cultural ethos.

The relationship between Jews and chess is a compelling narrative of intellectual prowess, cultural resonance, and the enduring spirit of a community. As the chess pieces move across the board, so too does the rich history of Jewish contributions to this game. Whether seen as a metaphor, a source of inspiration, or a tool for education, the enduring legacy of Jews and chess continues to shape the narrative of both the game and the community that has embraced it throughout the ages.

(I hope you forgive my little joke. This is indeed computer chess -- that is, computer writing about chess. This is ChatGPT's reply to a request to write a blog post about Jewish Chess History.)

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Chess in Airplanes, 1937

Source: The Sunday Star, 17 January 1937, p. B-7

A frequent correspondent notes a chess item not related to Jews: that of airplanes, in 1937, having special magnetic chess sets for passengers. Of course, in those days, air travel was a real luxury, costing in real terms almost ten times as much as it does today. 

Grave of Max Weiss


Source: Wikipedia (in German)

Mr. Halsegger further informs us of the grave of Max Weiss, the Hungarian-Austrian master, 1857-1927. It is in the New Jewish cemetery in Vienna, is given in the German-language wikipedia entry for him, under his birth name of Miksa Weiß.

Alekhine's Speech


Source: Der Tag, 3 August 1945, p. 1 of English Section

In the above letter, brought to our attention by Herbert Halsegger, a letter by Jacob Bernstein (ex-NY champion), Alekhine is criticized among other things for giving a speech after his 1936 match with Bogoljubow in which he praised the Nazi system. Is this speech available in magazines from the time? One wonders to what degree this praise shows real enthusiasm for Nazism and to what degree it's a polite thank to the hosts, in this case the Germans.