Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Von Weisl and Chess

Binyamin Ze'ev von Weisl [credit: wikipedia]

Von Weisl was known as the "Jewish Lawrence of Arabia". His fascinating life included also a reference to chess. In an article in Doar Hayom on July 18th, 1927 -- long link in Hebrew is well worth reading -- he notes that he played chess with Abdullah of Jordan in 1924, and had also played chess in the "Sassinid  court in Mt. Assir [in Yemen]", through the invitation of no other than Jamal Pesha, then serving as a vizir [chief counsel, prime minister] in Yemen after leaving Amman. Pesha was taught chess by Abdullah and established, says Weisl, a small chess circle in the Yemenite court, where he taught a few ministers as well the crown prince.

After Weisl deliberately lost to the crown prince, the latter started telling Pesha how, despite being his student, he clearly is now a better player then him, and started kibitzing his game with Weisl. When alone, Pesha told Weisl sadly: "Poor Arabia, poor princes -- they never hear a word of criticism, being considered rules by the holy will of Allah, and thus their self-esteem and lack of judgment is like madness, making them unfit to rule."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Some People will Steal Anything.

Credit: [and yes, the board is reversed...]

A constant reader [to use Dorothy Parker's old moniker] of this blog and of the Hebrew Jewish press noted what is probably the first case of stolen chess property reported in Israel, and possibly including pre-state Mandatory Palestine. On 29/7/1949, Ha'Tzophe ["The Observer"] reported that a woman was arrested when in her possession was found a chess clock which was stolen from the Jerusalem chess club a year before.

To whom, exactly, did this woman plan to sell this stolen property -- considering it was highly unlikely anyone who knew what a chess clock was in Jerusalem at the time would probably have been affiliated with the Jerusalem chess club -- is not clear. Perhaps she didn't know what it was, and kept this strange, obviously broken double clock [only one of the clocks works at once, after all] as a novelty item.

This leads us to the question -- by the same reader -- of when, exactly, was the first chess clocks used in Palestine or Israel? Various chess clubs had such clocks by the 40s, but, for example, in photographs from the first Championship of Palestine in the mid-30s it seems most of the games seem to have taken place without clocks. We have already commented on how, in the 1920s and even later, various tools were used instead for speed chess or regular chess -- i.e., using a stick to beat on the floor every 10 seconds or using two wristwatches [see the tags" "clocks" for example in this blog].

Perhaps it should be added that the modern chess clock [with a flag] was already invented in 1899 but rigid insistence on using it for claiming a win on time was not consider sportsmanlike until about 20 years later, according to the Oxford Companion to Chess.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Marmorosh and Przepioka

Davar, 20  9 1935 p/ 4
The above article notes that Moshe Marmorosh returned from the 1935 chess Olympiad in Warsaw. It notes two interesting facts: first, that on his way back in Poland and Romania he played many simultaneous games "which were very successful" -- +70 -8 =4, and that he was praised for his "brilliant style and quick wit". In particular the Georg Marco club in Czernowitz arranged a successful simul, with many visitors.

What's more, the paper claims that Przepiorka, "the general secretary and organizer of the Olympiad", particularly praised the Palestinian team for sending a special correspondent [Marmorosh was not one of the players but came as a reporter] to the Olympiad despite this being their first appearance.