Israel set to destroy Iran . . . on the chess board

Israeli Chess Champion Alik Gershon plans to break Guinness World Record for largest number of simultaneous games, currently held by Iran.

October 14, 2010 16:30
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

Chess general 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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After the humus wars in which Israeli and Lebanese groups tried to outdo the other by making the world's largest bowl of chickpea paste, now come the chess wars.

Israeli grandmaster Alick Gershon will try to take away the world record currently held by Iranian chess champ Morteza Mahjoob for playing the largest number of opponents simultaneously when he takes on hundreds of chess enthusiasts at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Thursday.

Israel wins silver at Chess Olympiad

Gershon's gambit to bring chess glory to Israel will start at 7:00 AM and is expected to end in the early morning hours of the following day.

Mahjoob currently holds the record by taking on 500 of the board game's aficionados and scoring 397 wins, 90 draws and 13 loses. To clench the title of world-record holder Gershon must defeat at least 80 percent of his opponents who are all veteran players ranked by the Israeli Chess Federation, as per the Guinness requirements.

The challenge is part of an event sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Chess Federation to celebrate the contribution of olim from the former Soviet Union to Israel.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who is himself a keen chess player who once famously defeated the great Gary Casparov, said the event was highly symbolic.

"The aliya from the former Soviet Union greatly contributed to the robustness of the State of Israel and the empowerment of Israeli society in the fields of finance, education, science, culture, and of course, sports," he said. "There's no better expression of that contribution than Israel winning the third place in the world chess championship."

Gershon, 30, was born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, to a Jewish family who immigrated to Israel in 1990. He was a young chess prodigy and took first prize in the international youth chess championships in 1994. In 2000 he won the Israeli chess champion title.  

The art of simultaneous chess is not merely a test of mental agility for the champion, but one of basic endurance. Current record holder, Mahjoob, underwent two weeks of rigorous physical training in order to compete effectively with 500 players. The Iranian’s match lasted 18 hours and the span of the chess boards he traversed covered a distance of 40 kilometers. This is not a game for the faint of heart.

According to Yigal Lotam, Managing Director of the Israeli Chess Foundation, chess has been growing in popularity in Israel of late. “Four times more children are playing chess, than the amount that was playing three, four years ago.” He hopes to bring knowledge about chess to every home in Israel through the upcoming tournament. Chairman Aviv Bushinsky added, "This is a special opportunity to give chess more exposure among the public and to prove that chess is a national sport in Israel. It will also prove that Israel is a superpower, at least in chess."

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