Friday, July 23, 2010

"A Dream Come True"

Garry Kasparov in the fundraiser. Photo Credit: Shahr Tzafrir.

Shahar Tzafrir, an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur, has helped launch the fundraiser for Anatoly Karpov's bid for the FIDE presidency, together with chess greats Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen. The story was featured on chessbase's web site, but -- by sheer chance -- Tzafrir is a friend of a friend.

So our mutual friend, who knows my interest in chess, sent me a link to Tzafrir's flickr photostream page -- which, naturally, features many unofficial (but interesting) pictures of the event.

Tzafrir describes it as "a dream come true".

Have a look!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You can now follow me on Facebook!

 Image credit: Lawrence Barnes Academy.

As you can see on my gadgets (right), I have registered with Networked Blogs on facebook. If you have a facebook account, you can follow my -- and many other -- blogs using it directly, without having to (yeeecch) have to visit each blog separately. You can even simply click on the "follow this blog" button in the "Networked Blogs" gadget itself.

Philosophy and Chess

 Image credit: Open Court Publishing Company.

As is well known, Jews, chess, and philosophy go together. The world champion Emanuel Lasker was a philosopher and mathematician by training.

Most famously chess is used as a setting for the greatest of all philosophical novels, Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and what Alice Found there. In "folk" philosophy, chess is often used as a philosophical metaphor for life's absurd rule-following, or for the belief that we are just pawns in the hand of fate or the gods (or God), as in FitzGerald's translation of Omar Khayyam's poetry: 
But helpless pieces in the game He plays
Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days
He hither and thither moves, and checks ... and slays
Then one by one, back in the Closet lays
(It should be noted that chess isn't mentioned in the original Persian, but added by the translator.)

There is an actual book about chess' uses in philosophy: meaning, here, professional philosophers' use of it, not the folk-philosophy above. For philosophers, chess is not a matter of human's lack of free will, but usually an illustration of rule-following, of a logical self-contained world, or artificial intelligence. Wittgenstein, in particular, used chess as a metaphor quite often; Rousseau confesses to have met the great players of the day, Philidor included, 'without making the least improvement in the game' -- a confession as damning, to a chess player, as his better-known confessions on other matters.

Prof. Hale, the author, certainly written an interesting work for both chess players and philosophers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chess in the IDF

Just finished a few days of Miluim (reserve duty): naturally, this post is about chess in the IDF.

In fact, as Zvi Bar-Shira told me and is easily checked, there had been surprisingly strong chess tournaments in the IDF -- starting in the 1951 IDF championship (Hebrew). For many more easily-accessible (Hebrew-language) links for information on IDF championships, based on Tel Aviv University's Jewish Press Archives, one can go here (Hebrew link) or search the archives oneself. Many strong players had their start there.

One of the sad effects of Israel's well-known security problems is that there are quite a few chess tournaments and clubs to commemorate chess players who fell in battle. Here is one example, the circular establishing a memorial tournament in the memory of 2nd Lt. Dov Porat (no relation to the Israeli IM Porat), from Bar-Shira's archives:

Of course, chess and war go together, so it's not surprising some people will have an IDF chess set -- in sterling silver, no less -- sold to, I presume, tourists (no Israeli would be caught dead playing on an IDF set; they have quite enough of the IDF in real life, thankyouverymuch):

This set  is offered by a company called Israeli Military Products (which doesn't actually have any relation to the IDF) and claims it's a "surplus" store. That's funny, I don't remember such a chess set being available at the quartermaster's store whenever I'm on reserve duty...