Israeli champ takes chess Guinness record from Iran

Alik Gershon, 30, plays against 525 opponents simultaneously in Tel Aviv to honor the 20th anniversary of FSU aliyah, wins 454 of games played.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 22, 2010 13:19
2 minute read.
Chess champ Alik Gershon and Natan Sharansky

chess record sharansky 311. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)

 
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Israeli chess grandmaster Alik Gershon has taken the Guinness world record for most simultaneous chess games, stripping  arch-rival Iran's current record-holder, Morteza Mahjoob, of the honor.

Gershon, 30, played 19-hours against over 520 players at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square finishing his games on Friday. Gershon won 454 (86 percent) of the games played, tied in 58 and suffered only 11 defeats as he topped the previous world record of 500 simultaneous games played at once.

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Gershon’s gambit to bring chess glory to Israel began at 11:30 am as he played each of his opponents consecutively.

Most of Gershon's opponents were schoolchildren, some as young as seven years old. All had to pre-qualify through the Israel Chess Federation.

Mahjoob held 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 defeated 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 confirmed Gershon's record-breaking attempt.

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 aliyah.

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.

Ben Spier, Deborah Heching, Yoni Cohen and Gil Shefler contributed to this report.

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