chess record sharansky 311.
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Israeli grandmaster Alik Gershon attempted to break the world record currently held by Iranian chess champ Morteza Mahjoob for playing the largest number of opponents simultaneously, taking on 525 chess enthusiasts at Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin.
Gershon’s gambit to bring chess glory to Israel began at 11:30 am and is expected to end in the early hours of Friday morning, as he plays each of his opponents consecutively.
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Most of Gershon's opponents are schoolchildren, some as young as seven years old. All had to pre-qualify through the Israel Chess Federation.
Mahjoob currently holds the record by taking on 500 challengers and scoring 397 wins, 90 draws and 13 losses. 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 Israel Chess Federation, as per the Guinness requirements.
An observer from the Guinness World Records is expected to visit the site on Thursday afternoon.
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 tournament in 1994. In
2000, he won the Israeli chess championship.
Sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Israel Chess Federation, the
challenge is part of an event to celebrate the contributions of olim
from the former Soviet Union to Israel on the 20th anniversary of their
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who is himself a keen chess
player and once famously defeated the great Gary Kasparov, 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.”
Sharansky played a short game of chess with Gershon at the event's start.
The art of simultaneous chess is not merely a test of mental agility for
the champion, but also 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 covered a distance of 40 kilometers traversing between
chessboards. This is not a game for the faint of heart.
According to Yigal Lotam, managing director of the Israeli Chess
Federation, chess has been growing in popularity in Israel as 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.”Ben Spier, Deborah Heching, Yoni Cohen and Gil Shefler contributed to this report.