Saturday, September 25, 2010

Siegfried Reginald Wolf, 1867-1951

Image credit: Shaul Hon's chess column, Davar, 19.1.1951, p. 23
One of the forgotten players of the past was the strong player Siegfried Wolf (historical Elo rating 2330 according to Jeremy Gaige's indispensable Chess Personalia: a Biobibliography). He was an Austrian who represented his country in three Olympiads, getting decent results (see link for details). His best result is probably the (shared) championship of Austria, 1925. He emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s following Hitler's rise to power and later Anschluss of Austria, living the rest of his life in Haifa.

Despite never playing in any serious Israeli or Palestinian tournament, unsurprising considering the harrowing experience of escaping to Palestine by the skin of his teeth in his old age as the Nazis closed in, edited 9/10/2010: apparently he did participate in some tournaments after all -- see the 9/10/2010 post about Wolf. he was recognized as the "grand old man" of Palestinian (later Israeli) chess. For his "80th birthday", says Hon (actually Wolf was already in his 82nd year) a four-player tournament with Porat (then Foerder), Aloni, Glass and Feyer (phonetic spelling) was arranged by the Haifa club, with the result of... a four-way draw with 1.5 points each. (Source: Davar's chess column, ed. Shaul Hon, 17.6.49).

Below is a higher-quality image of Wolf, taken at the Leopold Trebitsch Memorial tournament of 1935.  Standing: Immo Fuss, Erno Gereben, Lajos Steiner, Esra Glass, Albert Becker, Erich Eliskases, Max Gratzinger (committee). Sitting: Josef Kolnhofer, Hans Müller, Ernst Grünfeld, Rudolf Spielmann, Siegfried Wolf, Baldur Hönlinger (arbiter). The photo (and identification) is taken from a website dedicated to the tournament, and is there credited to the Schachklub Hietzing Wien.

Image credit: Jan van Reek's chess web site's Leopold Trebitsch Memorial section.

Tough Crowd

Image Credit:
From Davar's chess column, Friday, 18.11.1949 (Ed. Shaul Hon), phonetic spelling of names: 
Comrade [haver -- equivalent of "Mr." in then-socialist Israel, A.P.] Yosef Haytung (Haytenberg) from Rishon Le'tziyon gave a simultaneous exhibition Saturday night (12.11.1949) in the Hadera Chess Club against 27 opponents. The games were played quickly and took 2 hours and 35 minutes. The players showed very strong opposition and Haytung managed to win only 14, lost 11(!) and drew 2. Among the winners two youngsters of 15-16. The game aroused great interest in the town and drew a crowd of onlookers. Haytung's time record is worth mentioning, compared to Foerder (later Porat) and Aloni that took 5-6 hours. 
I'll bet it drew a crowd. Then again, so did the Christians in the coliseum...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More on Czerniak and Endgame Studies

A previous post about Moshe Czerniak's study prompted the following email from Yochanan Afek:
This is undoubtedly the only study Czerniak ever composed. He himself showed it to me once and noted it is his only composition. In Harold van der Hiejden's database of over 70,000 studies, there are both the original and the corrected versions. You gave the corrected version. Both appeared the same year [1932] in the same Polish magazine [Swiat Szachowy]. ... Czerniak composed only one study but was a enthusiastic fan of the art [an impression easily confirmed by others who were "Czerniak's boys" -- A.P.]. Not only would he would routinely include studies in his lectures in Bikurey Ha'itim chess club, but also publish them (mostly miniatures) every week in his chess column in Ha'aretz
Afek adds an interesting observation:
Van der Heijden's database includes another item by Czerniak. It might be thought to be a study jointly composed by him and Mijo Udovcic [Afek adds in another email that Udovcic was the fist Croatian to win the GM title, in 1962 according to Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia: a Biobibliography - A.P.]. But in reality the position is exactly the same as the final position in the 1969 Zagreb international tournament and the 'study' is probably the result of the post-mortem analysis. 
Actually the final position of the (drawn) game is subtly, but importantly, different than the study's initial position (Afek was using the term "exactly" slightly loosely...), but Afek is surely correct that it is a post-mortem analysis, considering "what would have been" had Black played differently and his king had been farther away from the g-file.

Czeriak, Moshe -- Udovcic, Mijo
Zagreb International Tournament, Zagreb, Yugoslavia , 9.18.1969 (Round 10), B70

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g3 Bd7 7.Bg2 g6 8.b3 Bg7 9.Bb2 0–0 10.0–0 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Qa5 12.Nd1 Rac8 13.Qd3 Qh5 14.f3 Rfd8 15.Ne3 Qc5 16.Bd4 Qa5 17.Rf2 b5 18.f4 Bc6 19.Nd5 Bxd5 20.exd5 Ng4 21.Re2 Qb4 22.Rd1 Bxd4+ 23.Qxd4 Qxd4+ 24.Rxd4 Rc3 25.Rxe7 Rxc2 26.h3 Kf8 27.Rde4 Nf6 28.Re2 Rxe2 29.Rxe2 Rc8 30.Kf2 Rc5 31.Rd2 Rc3 32.Bf3 Nd7 33.Ke2 Nc5 34.g4 a5 35.g5 Kg7 36.Bg4 h6 37.h4 f6 38.Bf3 b4 39.Rd4 Rc2+ 40.Rd2 Rc1 41.Kf2 fxg5 42.fxg5 hxg5 43.hxg5 Nd7 44.Ke3 Ne5 45.Be4 Nf7 46.Rg2 Rh1 47.Kf4 Rh3 48.Bf3 Ne5 49.Be4 Rh4+ 50.Ke3 Nf7 51.Bf3 Ne5 52.Be4 Rg4 53.Rxg4 Nxg4+ 54.Kd4 Ne5 55.Ke3 Kf7 56.Kf4 Ke7 Drawn.

The final position:  

And now, the study's initial position:

Could White win with a piece sacrifice, trying to queen an advanced pawn against a lone knight, taking advantage of the Black king's "offside" position (in the study)? It turns out that Black has an amazing "knight-tour"-like defense. 

Solution (highlight to view):

1.Bxg6 Nxg6+ 2.Kf5 Nh4+ 3.Kg4 Ng2 4.Kf3 Ne1+ 5.Ke2 Nc2 6.Kd3 Ne1+ 7.Ke2 Ng2 8.Kf3 Nh4+ 9.Kg4 Ng6 10.Kf5 ½–½

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Doing their Bit

Itzhak Aloni (with black hat) giving a simultaneous display to soldiers, 1948. To his left Shaul Hon. Source: Davar's chess column, Sept. 10th, 1948. Photo: P. Cheznik [phonetic spelling]

During the war of independence of 1948, Israeli chess players also did their bit. Itzhak Aloni and other players gave simultaneous exhibitions for soldiers (see picture above), and Shaul Hon arranged, reported, and even was supposed to give some displays himself (though his own display was canceled). Apparently, reports Hon (Sept.10th, 1948), this came as a request to the Emmanuel Lasker chess club in Tel Aviv from the Army's education department.

Some results were:

Israel Rabinovich-Barav gave the first army simul, in a military base 'somewhere in Tel Aviv'.  +16 -1 (playing in 'two batches'). Date not given, but presumably ca. Aug. 1948.

Itzhack Aloni, 'Tevat Noah' [Noah's Ark] cafe in Tel Aviv, +35 -5 =1, 4/9/1948.

Jehuda Gruengard, Culture House, Tel Aviv, +15 -1, 27/11/1948.

Yoseph Herman, Culture House, Tel Aviv, +18 -4, 4/12/1948.

Dov Wulfinger, Culture House, Tel Aviv, +16 -4, 11/12/1948.

Israel Rabinovich-Barav, Lasker Club, Tel Aviv, +18 -1 =3, 18/12/1948. 'The entire game took only two hours and a few minutes'.

A. Mendelbaum, Culture House, Tel Aviv, +20 -2, 25/12/1948. 'An excellent time: two and a quarter hours'.

Sources: Shaul Hon's Davar's chess column, 10/9/48, 24/9/48, 2/12/48, 10/12/48, 31/12/48.

Paul Keres Photograph

Photo Credit: Davar chess column (editor: Shaul Hon), p. 26, 16 4 1948.
The above picture of Paul Keres seems surprisingly little known. I stumbled upon it by chance, looking in the old Hebrew-language chess press. (Yes, I know Keres wasn't Jewish...)

Friday, September 10, 2010


Looking at old newspapers for my chess research, I have discovered Shaul Hon had been, not only the editor of Davar's chess column (published in its weekly supplement, Ha'shavua, every Friday starting in the late 40s), but -- occassionally -- also one of the writers of its weekly crossword puzzle.

Given Hon's wide education and his being a student of the Hebrew language in particular, as can be seen in his biography, this is not surprising...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chess, Art, and Peace

Invitation to the "64" exhibition by the "Tramway" Group. See below for details. Image Credit: Dr. Fisher Corp.

There is a very interesting chess art exhibition in the zionists of America House (link in Hebrew) in Tel Aviv. It is part of the "art for peace collection" by Dr. Eli Fischer, the founder of the company that bears his name, and is shown in the gallery in the ZOA House named after his late wife, Deborah Fischer.

The exhibition is named "64", and the curator is Doron Polak. It is by artists of the Tramway Art Group: Lana Gerhstein, Sergey Sichenko, Igor Kaplunovich, Pavel Zehnbacht, and Nikolae Kavod. (Click on the links to get to their homepage and/or email them). Below are two examples of the art involved, used with Doron Polak's permission.

Photo: A.P.

Photo: A.P.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Study by Czerniak(?)

To my surprise, a recent Chess Cafe's endgame studies column [opens as pdf file] happened to show an ending by "M. Czerniak" (Ending #709 they published, reproduced below with their information about the source). Note that the pdf file includes the long and interesting solution to the study, as well.

Presumably this is the same Moshe Czerniak who later became Israel's "Mr. Chess"; but nowhere have I heard of him ever composing studies or problems. Of course I may be wrong and it's a different Czerniak, but that seems unlikely.

Is anything else known about Czerniak as a composer?

M. Czerniak, Swiat Szachowy, 1932 (+)