Tuesday, August 8, 2017

More on Chess and the Radio

Source: Davar, Jan 21st, 1949, p. 13 of the weekend supplement (Dvar Ha'Sahvuah).

Here we have a note by B. Ron, part of his regular 'A listener's notes' column of radio criticism, brought to my attention by a regular reader of this blog. In it Ron notes that there are now two chess radio columns -- one broadcast in the 'Voice of Jerusalem' station and a new one in the 'Voice of Israel' station.

The first, which started soon before, is edited by Eliezer Manor and concentrates on the historical figures of great players, while the second, by Shaul Hon, concentrates on the techniques of the opening. Ron adds that the two would find a way to coordinate the content of the two columns for the benefit of both, as well as helping with creating more working relations, i.e., inter-city matches (Hon was in Tel Aviv and Manor in Jerusalem).

Ron had a reason to be satisfied. As the same reader noted in a message to us, it was he who, in a previous issue of his Davar column (Oct. 10th, 1947, p. 13 of the supplement) was apparently the first to suggest the need for a radio chess column at all. Now he had -- for a while -- two.

As it happened, the 'Voice of Jerusalem' -- Kol Yerushalayim -- ceased broadcasting soon afterwards, since it was from the start the official radio organ of the British Mandate, which no longer existed, but it had continued to broadcast a year or two later due to (Wikipedia argues) the unclear status of Jerusalem after the War of Independence. Hon's column too did not last too long, but I am not certain about the date of its last broadcast. Does any reader have details?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chess in the Israeli Navy

Credit: The Last Battle of the Destroyer 'Eilat', between p. 160 & 161.

To add to the 'chess in the IDF' file, an example from chess in the Israeli navy (in Israel, the navy and air force are part of the IDF as a whole, not independent armed forces). Here is an interesting example from the book The Last Battle of the Destroyer 'Eilat' [הקרב האחרון של המשחתת אילת]. 

The INS Eilat was an Israeli destroyer sunk by Egypt in Oct. 1967, shortly after the Six Days' War. The last commander of the ship, Commander [Sgan AlufItzhak Shoshan, wrote a book about the event and the ship in general. 

In one of the photos in the book, dated 'winter 1966-1967', we see behind Shoshan, again using naval ranks, 'Lieutenant [seren] Mashiach and Lt.-commander [rav seren] Ginzburg playing chess'. 

P.S. it seems that the other three officers are playing an informal game of roulette! 

Chess on Stamps: Ourania(?) and Burundi(!)

Credit: micronation wiki

One side-issue of this blog is chess on stamps, as can be seen on the list of topics on the right. This time the stamps have nothing to do with Jews in particular, but they are a truly weird incident.

The "Kingdom of Ourania" issued a stamp celebrating the secret chess champion of the world, the man with the highest chess rating ever -- Stan Vaughan. This stamp is above.

Vaughan is, of course, no real chess champion. The above claims about his feats are true only according to himself; in reality, he is a crank who believes himself the "real" successor to Bobby Fischer, a claim accepted by nobody but himself, among other reasons because his actual chess level is at best that of a good amateur.

Nor is the kingdom of Ourania (which apparently claims for itself a sizable chunk of Antarctica, as per its web site) a real nation. If you haven't heard of this kingdom, it's because it's one of those fake nations created by cranks for various reasons - especially to avoid taxes, declare themselves "sovereign", make themselves kings and lords, demand diplomatic immunity, and so on (in fairness, sometimes the "declaration of nationhood" is tongue-in-cheek, as the link notes). Ourania is no more a nation than Vaughan is world champion.

Cranks giving each others fake honors, in this case a fake stamp of a fake nation honoring a fake chess master, would not merit a post about chess stamps all by itself, even if it surely is the weirdest chess stamp ever -- because it is not a genuine stamp. But the truly absurd thing here is that the Vaughan-featuring Ourania "stamp" is actually based on a real stamp.

Somehow, Stan Vaughan was chosen by Burundi to be featured as one of four 'chess masters' on a set of stamps it issued (picture from this link), together with those of the genuine chess champions Emanuel LaskerPaul Morphy, and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Credit: 'Chess for all Ages' blog

How this had happened, I cannot imagine. There are cases of relatively weak or unknown players, such as Willi Schlage, on stamps (in his case Mali). There are also cases of players, such as Ray Keene, accepting dubious or outright fake honors. But at least in those cases the players are or were genuine masters, if not necessarily world-championship class. Vaughan's Burundi stamp is surely the only case where a fake master is given a genuine chess honor of this sort.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Eliezer Pe'er, 1915-2017

Credit: Moshe Roytman
Israel's oldest player, Eliezer Pe'er, had just passed away at the age of 101. In the above picture, taken during an event held in his honor this passover, was sent to us by Moshe Roytman, we see him (seated in black) receiving a lifetime award. In the ceremony, adds Roytman, Pe'er officially declared his retirement from competitive chess (at the age of 101 and 7 months), ending at least eighty years of official chess activity

Depending on what "chess activity" means -- we start counting here (see the link) from his first public chess activity, a solver of a problem in Davar in 1937 -- at a relatively late age of 22. Assuming he had played in tournaments before that, perhaps as a child, this would add at least 5-10 years, making a record of ca. 85-90 years of competitive chess, surely close to a world record. 

Moshe Cna'an, a well-known chess enthusiast, noted that in one of his last two tournaments, Pe'er player a 9-year-old (age difference: 91 years). Nissan Levi organized the event. We note that Pe'er had very kindly given us much material for this blog -- such as the following item.

Hillel Aloni, 1937-2017

+; credit: see below
Hillel Aloni had recently passed away at the age of 80. As the Israeli Chess Federation notes, in an article by Yochanan Afek, he had been the composer of studies who had put Israel on the international "map" of studies composition, starting in the 1950s. Afek also adds much information about Aloni's work as a mentor, helping many talented Israeli composers, from their first steps to international recognition.

Afek chooses the above problem (Galitzki Memorial Tourney, 1964, 1st hon. mention) as illustrative of Aloni's talent. White to move and win. Solution in a coming post.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chess and the IDF -- Jerusalem, 1949

Source: The National Library of Israel
Moshe Roytman, mentioned in the previous post, adds another item: a poster published in 1949 by the IDF's 'city officer' (Ktzin ha'Ir).

It notes the cultural events in the city (Jerusalem) in the week starting April 3rd, 1949 -- only a few months after the official end of the war of independence. The events in question are either general ones or those the IDF has reduced-rate tickets available for soldiers.

The range of the events is very wide, including classical Italian music, public lectures and readings, the popular Israeli past time of 'public singing' (zimra ba'tzibur) of popular songs, and -- on Saturday, 9/4/1949 -- a simultaneous game by the master Yochanan Marcuze.

1959 Blitz Championship

Source: Ma'ariv, Nov. 2nd, 1959, p. 12
We have just mentioned the 1959 championship. The poster notes that, among other things, there will be a blitz championship. Moshe Roytman adds a link describing the results: the winner was Raafi Persitz, the youngest Israeli master at the time (7.5/8, drawing with Greben) and that the 2nd and 3rd places were held by the two other young masters, Guti and Domnitz -- a full 2.5 points behind him.

Only Study - Wins First Prize?

Source: The National Library of Israel
The above poster (the top is cut off and has the logos of the Israeli Chess Federation and the City of Tel Aviv) is a poster for the Israeli championship of 1959, with the list of players, from Erno Greben to Rudi Blumenfeld. One of the players is Zvi Cahane. Yochanan Afek informs us he was a strong player and composer of problems, but that his only study won the first prize in the 1963 Israeli composition tournament (after corrections by Hillel Aloni). Is there any other case of a person's first -- or only -- study winning first prize in an important tournament? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

More on the Tel Aviv Championship Photo

Credit: see below
Readers had contacted me about the matter. One frequent correspondent noted that the person to the left of Blass in the photo from the 1945 championship is probably Alexander Macht (a caricature from here is reproduced above, and the Hebrew Wikipedia entry photo is here. The first link, incidentally, tells the story of Macht's entire career, including his important banking one and his life in Tel Aviv, He was one of the founders of Banking in Palestine.

Amatzia Avni suggests, tentatively, that the person on the far left in the front row is Reuven Mauer (ph. spelling of ראובן מאוער), 'the mythological secretary of the Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv'.

If these two identifications are correct, they would be the two "extra" persons, apart from the 13 players, in the photograph.

ETA 31/4/2017: Yochanan Afek notes that it is not likely it is Mauer, due to the date of the photograph, taken when Mauer was much younger than the person in the photograph.