Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unique Playing Conditions

The same frequent reader as in the last post had alerted me to the following item in Davar's chess column, March 23, 1956, p. 7 (found by the superb historical Jewish press database):

In the chess championship of the Kibbutzim Union (איחוד הקיבוצים), to take place in April 1956 in the Givat Haim Ihud kibbutz, there is a curious condition: every participant must work in Givat Haim Ihud's collective farm (משק) four hours every day, to cover the tournament's expenses.

Has there ever been a similar "entry fee" in any other chess tournament?


Source: Hapoel Ha'Tzair, March 15th 1910, p. 11

A frequent reader had sent me the following. It is a very early -- pre-WWI -- mention of chess in the Jewish press in Palestine. In the article, A Letter from Petah Tikva, the author, who signed with the pseudonym "Ben Sarah" ("Son of Sarah"), writes about the many problems and difficulties the town of Petah Tikva was facing at the time. It is an interesting historical document.

Near the end of the melancholy list of natural and man-made problems, the writer finds time to criticize the town's social scene (between red markers):
Social life among the workers is very lacking. We have virtually no public events to unify and improve their lives. The only institution where the workers get together every night is the club, but the club is no longer, currently, the spiritual center its founders envisioned. Poetry readings, balls, public meetings etc. are very few due to the lack of intellectuals, and for that reason the club is used only for chess games and drinking tea.
So much for the "chess players are intellectuals" myth.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My New Job

Image credit: Ecumenical Buddhism blog
Well, as I said in a previous post, some things are moving. I am now responsible for updating the history and "hall of fame" sections of the Israeli Chess Federation's web site. The plan is to make them more professional and informative, and, in particular, to add more people to the hall of fame (currently it includes only one person). Another plan is to add a "this day in history" section.

Currently, only a few "coming soon" changes were made in the Hebrew version of the web site (as well as adding a few links to the Hebrew section's "Israeli chess links" tab), so please be patient!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Update & Caricatures

"Really... you call this sport? Where's the violence? The stun grenades?!!"  The speaker is  the minister of sport, Limor Livnat. Caricature by Yonathan Wachsman, Calcalist, 22.5.2012.  
Anand and Gelfand have drawn the 9th and 10th games. In the meantime, the Israeli press is more or less daily reporting on the series. A selection of articles from the Israeli press -- most in Hebrew, one (from the Jerusalem Post) in English -- has been posted on the Israeli Chess Federation's web site by the site's manager, Avraham Kaldor. The press doesn't only report on the games, but also -- as in the caricature -- uses them to comment on more general social issues, such as the violence in soccer games. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gelfand Loses 8th Game

Anand - Gelfand after 17. Qf2 1-0. Credit: 17 moves. The match is now tied, 4-4. This was the shortest decisive game, so far as I know, in the world chess championship's history (not counting forfeited no-move "games", as in the second game of the Fischer-Spassky world championship match.)

Gelfand Wins in the 7th Game

Gelfand - Anand, Game 7, final position (38. Nxe6 1-0). Credit: 

Naturally, this was reported everywhere, in particular in the Israeli press. For an English-language example go here or here. Again, it's pointless for this history blog to comment further on these much-discussed games, but to note that this is, whatever the final result, a historical event for the Israeli chess world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quick Update

Gelfand - Anand (Game 4, WCN 2012). After 17. Nxd4

Currently, the world championship match is tied, 2:2 -- four draws. The third game, in particular, was quite dramatic. This is not the place for extensive commentary on the world championship, but just a note that this really is a "first" in Israeli chess history. Ha'aretz -- in a atypical move -- covers the match on its front cover (though at the bottom of the page). A curious position -- to non-players, at least -- occurred after the 17th move. The d-file is completely occupied.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Truly Historical Moment

Final position, Game 1, Anand-Gelfand: After 24. ...Bf5 0.5-0.5 

Today, for the first time, an Israeli -- Boris Gelfand -- is playing for the world chess championship against the holder, Viswanathan Anand. As both players are, simply put, gentlemen (in the best sense of the word), it is not likely that any shenanigans or walkouts will occur, no matter what the score. The game is very widely published, of course (official site is here) and was a draw in 24 moves, although by no means a "grandmaster's draw", according to the commentators.

The prize fund, at 2.55 million dollars, is quite respectable. For comparison, when Fischer won the world championship in 1972 he received $250,000 -- by the largest prize at the time. Spassky got about $1400 when he won the title (from Petrosian) in 1969.

Israel Hayom, a popular Israeli daily, had a two-page article about the subject, noting that -- as usual -- chess is underfunded, seen essentially as a charity, with little corporate interest, as Moshe Slav, the head of the Israeli Chess Federation, says. Let us hope this duel changes things, whatever the result.

"Two kings, one board" -- the headline in Israel Hayom's weekend magazine, 11.5.2012, p. 22. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Politics and Chess, Again

 Credit: Israel Hayom, 1.5.2012 (in Hebrew)

Two days ago, Benjamin Netanyahu's father, Benzion Netanyahu, died at age 102. In the obituary published in Israel Hayom (1.5.2012) there is a picture of him playing chess with his son: Can anybody figure out the position?