Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Credit: We[heart]

Well, another year, another 62 posts... I hope you are enjoying this blog and learning something about chess in the area! I hope to finally, finally, FINALLY finish the book my co-author and I are writing on the subject...

As for the image, I couldn't resist. Incidentally -- jokes aside, the problem of making the pawn "change" its "sex" to become a "female" chess queen upon promotion was a bit of a problem. The objection wasn't so much to the "sex change" but to allowing the promotion to an extra queen: the suspicion was that the king, in this case, would be committing bigamy.

At least that is what Davidson says in his Short History of Chess according to Wikipedia. Not having Davidson's book handy, I am not sure how well researched this issue is, and how much of it may be a chess fable. The problem did not exist in the Arabic game, where the equivalent piece is a vizier, a royal advisor, who is male -- and of whom the Shah (king) could have as many as he wishes.

Actually, in English, an non-gendered language, 'pawn' isn't male or female (unless one considers it "male" due to being part of the group of "chessmen" -- but "chessmen" include the queen...). Thus Lewis Carroll had no problem making Alice a pawn in Through the Looking Glass, so her eventual promotion to a queen was natural.

But the equivalent word for 'pawn' in French, German, Arabic, Hebrew, etc. is both grammatically masculine, and also means -- depending on the language -- a foot-soldier, peasant, farmer, etc.; i.e., a man of the lowest and most numerous rank in either the army, or society at large.

Solution -- Shlomo Seider

Credit: see yesterday's post, "Shlomo Seider"

The detailed solution to the three-mover from yesterday, from the same source as the problem itself, i.e, the article about Seider in Shachmat Be'Yisrael 

There is a possibility for a Novotny theme on c5, which suggests itself upon a cursory examination of the position. But immediate attempts fail:

1. Ndc5+? RxN
1. Nec5+? BxN
[While, in this position, 1. Rc5 threatens nothing -- A. P.]

The Key is 1. Be1!, adding protection to b4 and threatening 2. Bb3+ BxB 3. axB#

All defenses allow the Novotny theme on c5:

1. ... e6 (clears the 7th rank) 2. Ndc5+!
2. ... Bxc5 3. Nc3#
2. ... Rxc5 3. Qa7#

1. ... d2 (clears the b1-h7 diagonal) 2. Nec5+!
2. ... Bxc5 Qxc2#
2. ... Rxc5 Nb6#

And finally,

1. ... Rxg8 (gives up the possibility of Rxh7) 2. Rc5!
2. ... Bxc5 3. Nc3#
2. ... Rxc5 3. Nb6#

Tumurbator - Oren, 0:1

64 Mishbatzot [64 Squares], 7-9/1956, p. 125

Looking at old magazines is always instructive. 64 Mishbatzot had published the following nice combination from the 1954 Olympiad, a game between Tumurbator (Mongolia), White, and Oren, Black. The annotator is (presumably) the editor of 64 Mishbatzot, Czerniak. White had just played...
18. Ng5? With this move, attacking h7 and e6, White attempted to gain a positional advantage, and was shocked by 18. ... Bf5! and the loss of an exchange is inevitable (19. Bxf5 Rd1+ 20. Kh2  Bxg5). Oren's opponent gets confused and loses immediately: 19. Bb3? Nxb3 20. axb3 Rd1+ 21. Kh2 Bxg5 22. Rxa6 Be7 0-1 
Nice work by Oren. Why did White bother with 22. Rxa6 before resigning? Presumably White was hoping for 22. ... Bxc1?? 23. Ra8+ or 22. ... Rxc1?? 23. Ra8+.  Hardly likely to work against a player of Oren's calibre, of course, but 'good players hate to resign without setting one final trap' -- HowellEssential Chess Endings.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Graves of Chess Masters -- Shlomo Seider

Source: Shlomo Seider's memorial site

Edward Winter has given us information about the graves of chess masters, including problemists like Grimshaw. Above is the grave of Shlomo Seider. The headstone says 'Shaul Shlomo, son of Shmuel Seider', since (as his biography on the Hebrew-language memorial site explains), he became known as 'Shaul' to his family and friends since his childhood, though this was never his "official" name.

The headstone uses the "official" Hebrew term for an IM of Chess Compositions -- Aman Benleumi Le'Yetzira Shachmatit -- which literally means, justifiably perhaps, something like 'International master in chess creation'...

Shlomo Seider

Source: Shachmat Be'Yisrael Vol. 2 no. 4, p. 63
Shlomo Seider (1933-1991) was an Israeli problemist. He won numerous prizes. Above, a mate in three, illustrating the Novotny theme, which won first prize in The Problemist (UK) in 1974, according to the article from which this diagram is taken: Le'Zichro shel Aman - Shlomo Seider [To the Memory of a Master -- Sholo Seider], pp. 62-64 in the source given above (unsigned).

The article has a few more of his interesting problems. It turns out that there is a Hebrew-language memorial site which, however, has much "pure" chess material which requires no knowledge of Hebrew: i.e. the catalogue of his problems (623 all told, divided by type) and both Hebrew and English articles about composing. He was an International Judge for Chess Compositions and an International Master for Chess Compositions, as the official document, scanned on his memorial site, shows.

How a Chess Club was not Opened in... Heichal Shlomo

Source: Herut, 9/9/1960, p. 8

Moshe Roytman also adds, in his tour of the right-wing newspapers of the time, a note posted on Noah Zevuloni's web site [in Hebrew] -- covering the latter's 50 years in journalism, web site maintained by his son, Eli Zevuloni.

In this case the article is about the possibility of opening a chess club -- or rather, the advertisements published in Ha'Tzophe on 22/8/1960 that the Religious-National party, the Mafdal, which owned Heichal Shlomo, will open a chess club in the place, including a lecture by Landau, a simul by Yaakov Kortzag [ph. spelling], etc. 

Zevuloni reports that, while the decision to open the club was legitimately done in a meeting by Heichal Shlomo's management, the CEO of Heichal Shlomo (absent, presumably, from that particular meeting), who was also the minister of the interior at the time, Chaim Shapira (not to be confused with the Tel Aviv University professor of the same name), decided for political reasons explained in detail in the article to "defer" the opening of the club until "after the [Jewish] holidays" -- i.e., to some indefinite time after Rosh Ha'Sahana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. 

As very often is the case in Israel, 'after the holidays' served as a euphemism for 'never', the equivalent of the English expression 'to the Greek calends'. Another point raised in the article by Zevuloni is that the management of Heichal Shlomo was asked why they intended to call the club after Reshevsky, instead of the late Rabbi Citron from Petach Tikvah, mentioned before in this blog, who was also a member of the Mizrahi (the Mafdal's predecessor) and also a chess master. Zevuloni adds, incredulously, that the reply was that the management never heard of Citron... 

That Reshevsky was a world-famous chess player and Citron a local amateur master was, apparently, irrelevant to those who complained to Heichal Shlomo's management for preferring Reshevsky to Citron in naming the suggested club. This was typical of sports in general in Israel at the time; e.g., sports clubs were divided based on political affiliation, and so on.  

It should be noted that at the time Herut was the newspaper of the Herut party, then the most far-right nationalist party in the country. The Mafdal (and before that the Mizrahi) was the right-wing religious Zionist party, significantly to the right of the ruling secular-left Zionist parties, but not as extreme as Herut

Jews vs. Germans, 1954

Source: Ha'Tzophe, 20/9/1954, p. 2

Moshe Roytman notes that in Ha'Tzophe (The Observer), in 1954, there was a strong denunciation of Israel playing in the chess Olympiad with West Germany. 'Who allowed Israeli representatives to played chess against the representative of the Amalekite nation?' Asks the unsigned editorial. 'If it was done without permission, what action will be taken against those who dishonor Israel's honor by playing with Germans? Revently someone was prosecuted of playing cards with the exterminators [the Nazis - A. P.] during the holocaust. Perhaps we should prosecute those who represented Israel in chess?'

The editorial's extreme suggestion was not adopted. This is not surprising, not only because of its extremism (the players had not committed any crime, of course, and thus could not be prosecuted in court), but also because Ha'Tzophe was the newspaper of the religious party, the Mizrachi, and was in opposition at the time (in 1957, the Mizrachi and Ha'Poel Ha'Mizrachi parties united to form the Mafdal, and since then Ha'Tzophe until its closure was the Mafdal's mouthpiece). 

But the worry about playing against Germans was ever present. Y. Y. Kniazer, who was a member of the 1954 team to the chess olympiad, noted in his diary that 'there were unpleasant moments. We didn't shake hands with the [West] Germans before the match, despite them circling around us and trying to be friends.' (Ha'Derech Le'Nitzachon Be'Sachmat [The Way to Victory in Chess], by Raafi Persitz, Tel Aviv: Torat Ha'Sachmat, 1959, p. 95).

To avoid a misunderstanding, nobody, neither Kniazer, nor even the editor of Ha'Tzophe, is claiming any of the players on the West German team were Nazis (they weren't). At the time, it was the very fact that Jews will officially meet with Germans -- any Germans -- socially that was, not surprisingly, seen as almost an act of treason, emotionally speaking.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Politics and Chess -- an Expert's Opinion

In today's morning show on Israeli television, Ze'ev Elkin, an Israeli politician and chess fan, is quoted as telling Natan Sharansky, who is also both:
Politics is like chess -- only your opponent can rotate the board and switch sides at will; steal your pieces if he feels like it; and take the chessboard, beat you over the head with it, rearrange it, and continue playing as if nothing had happened.
Can't say I disagree.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Zvi Bar-Shira's Reporting on the 1964 Olympiad.

Credit: Ma'ariv, 12/11/1964, p. 3ff. See also below. 

On 12/11/1964, Ma'ariv's reporters Zvi Bar Shira (who had given me the right to photograph the newspaper articles in his collection) and Avner Bar-Nir reported a sensation: for the second time ever, an Israeli (or, for that matter, pre-state Palestinian) player had drawn (and as black, too!) with a reigning world champion.

In previous Olympiads the Israeli (or Palestinian) players had managed many "upsets", and Porat had drawn with Botvinnik in the Amsterdam, 1954, while Czerniak drew with Capablanca in the 1939 Olympiad and with Botvinnik in the 1956 one (as a commentor reminds me). But this is the first time any of the "youngsters" -- not of the group that came to Palestine in the 1930s or 40s --had managed the same.

The photo shows Zadok Dominitz (the caption mistakenly claims it is Kreidman) shaking Petrosian's hand after the draw; the headline, in large letters, notes: 'DOMINITZ - PETROSIAN: DRAW!'.

Politicians and Chess

Image Credit: Chessimo
We have often noted (see the "Political Leaders and Chess" label) that David Ben Gurion was a chess fan, despite being a weak player. The 'Chessimo' blog linked to above adds a whole slew of other politicians who were related to chess, although without sources.

One of the many newspaper articles linked to in the thread mentioned here (found by Moshe Roytman) notes that Ben Gurion gave his support to the 1964 Olympiad in a letter reported in Davar on Jan. 31st, 1963, p. 3 (link in Hebrew) in which he adds inter alia that he himself is a chess fan, and while he had to 'cease from chess activity' in recent years, it 'does not harm his love of the game'.    

Israeli-Made TV Broadcasts... before there was Television in Israel

Image Credit: Davar, Nov. 16th, 1964, p. 13

From the thread mentioned here, we have an image of one of the first uses of television in Israel -- let alone an Israeli-made TV. Eight such televisions were in the viewing room and showed what is happening in the playing area.

This can be seen as (in effect) a 'trial run' for Israeli television: it was not actually broadcast, but a Closed-Circuit TV. Israeli TV did not actually begin broadcasts until 1966.

What is a Combination?

Image credit: A. P.
Edward Winter had written a chessbase article about what is a combination, and also has on his web site ( a somewhat different article which concentrates more on early (as opposed to famous) definitions and uses of the term.

Winter, fair as always, does not lay down the law about what a combination is, or is not, but looks for what famous players, or early sources, or readers think a combination is. Most definitions, however, seem to concentrate either on (a) sacrifice of material; (b) forcing continuations to reach a winning (or drawing) position; and (c) the use of more than one piece. (c) would imply that every time someone wins a pawn by putting more pressure on it than the opponent can rebuff it is a combination, while (a)  and (b) would mean, for example, that exchanging a rook for a knight in order to simplify into a winning pawn ending is a combination. Of course, all of the above are good, even winning, moves (or plans) -- but are they really "combinations"?

I believe Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld had the best definition I've seen. In their view, it is not the power of pieces that is combined, but that of the tactical motifs (pins, skewer, overloading the defender, exploiting a weak back rank, etc.).

Indeed, the more such motifs are combined together, one after another, the deeper and more shocking and absurd the combination's moves seems at first glance -- and the more we understand and enjoy it once we analyze its motifs. In their words (from the book above, the 1988 reissue of the 1949 original by Faber & Faber):