Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quick Note About Akiba Rubinstein's D.O.B.

Akiba Rubinstein. Credit: web site. 
It is often reported, for example by the well-known (and highly reliable) Jeremy Gaige, that Rubinstein's date of birth was 1882 (Oct. 12th, 1882, to be exact, according to Gaige's Chess Personalia). Yet his tombstone says Dec. 1st, 1880, as noted for example in this blog. Which date is correct?

Turns out that the 1/12/1880 date it correct, as proven conclusively by the Ken Whyld Foundation and Association only last month. The entire story, with (of course) the appropriate credit to all involved in the research, is found at the link.

I am not certain where the origin of Rubinstein's alleged "1882" date came from. Michael Negele -- as the wonders if this was due to Rubinstein making himself younger than he was on official documents to escape, or defer, military service. Such "tricks" were quite common among Eastern European Jews at the time, but so far I am not aware of specific proof.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Avraham Shlonsky and Chess

Wall mural at the Rabin Center. Original photograph by Boris Carmi. Source for original photograph data: 'Drinking Coffee In Hebrew: the Place of Cultural Coffee Houses in Tel Aviv's Cultural Scene.' Zohar Shavit, Ariel no. 189 (2011): 178-191.  
Shlonsky and Binyamin Galai (the author), in Kasit, 1950. Source: Yad Ben Zvi
In the "small Tel Aviv" from the 1920s to the 1960s, one of the most famous avid chess players was the poet Avraham Shlonsky. He is seen above playing with other notable artists in Kasit -- a famous Tel Aviv coffee house which was a second home to most artists in Israel / Mandatory Palestine up until the 1960s (or at least those who set the cultural tone). 

In the top picture, we see him playing in Kasit in 1947. l. to r.: Shlonsky, Shmuel Rodensky (actor, link in Hebrew), Avraham Naton (painter), Bezalel London (actor, link in Hebrew). In the bottom picture, as stated, we see him playing in the same coffee house with Binyamin Galai, the author. 

It is hard to tell from the position how strong, or weak, a player Shlonsky was; at any rate he was never a member of the Israeli Chess Federation (nor were any of the other artists pictured). This, of course, says little one way or another about his playing strength. 

But whether he was a strong or weak player, one of chess' attractions is that there is little correspondence between love of chess and playing strength, and a weak player can enjoy playing just as much as a strong one.   

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Richard Selig Reti

Richard Reti. Credit: Wikipedia.
In a serendipitous find, an acquaintance, Alon Schab, researching his own ancestry, had stumbled upon Reti's birth record. The exact details are found in Edward Winter's Chess Notes no. 8629, with a complete photograph of the birth certificate and credits.

As noted there, it turns out that while his "gentile" name was Richard, his "Jewish" name was Selig (זעליק), as the birth certificate clearly shows. Incidentally, Schab, a musicologist, reminds us that Richard Reti's older brother, Rudolf Reti, was as talented in his field, music, as Richard was in chess.


Yes, Richard Reti's name (though not his brother's, according to Wikipedia at least) is spelled with an accent on the "e", but I have no idea how to make "Blogger" type such a character... or rather it requires, apparently, all kinds of html code tinkering which, from experience, I never manage to get quite right.

Who? (Solution)

Edward Lasker. Source: Shachmat 16(1) (Jan. 1977), back cover.

The man in this photograph is no less than Edward Lasker (1885-1981), who was photographed when he visited the Chess Olympiad in Haifa, 1976. It surely is one of the last photographs of this old master.