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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Chess Simuls of Iran and Israel

Apparently, as they often did during the "Cold War" between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., especially whenever Bobby Fischer was involved, the fierce hostilities between arch-enemies Iran and Israel have  even spread to the normally sedate world of the chessboard -- sedate when it comes to the decorum of the players, not on the board itself, unless two grandmasters are deliberately playing for the notorious "grandmaster draw."

I was surprised to see that, because though modern chess supposedly originated in Persia, until recently, I'm supposing, when I was no longer looking closely at such matters, prominent players from Iran have been close to non-existent, while not necessarily Israeli but definitely Jewish players have been big in chess for quite a long time.

An Iranian grandmaster named Mahjoob had recently set a world record for conducting a simultaneous exhibition in which he played upwards of 500 people at one time, with each having his or her own board, and he won the great majority of the games.  But just a few days ago an Israel grandmaster named Gershon exceeded that by playing 524 games, and winning 86  percent.

As achievements of chess skill, however, both events were on the bogus side, if you ask me, because too much depends on the strength of the master's opponents, and meanwhile what you are really doing is just playing a great number of really quickie games, where, if there are so many players, and that means that the level of chess is not very high.   True, the master has only seconds to think on each move, but that is not a great feat if you have quick sight of the board, and a player with some years experience easily acquires that.

       So, during a simultaneous, the person giving it, usually though not always a master, makes a move, then quickly has to go on to the next board, making one move there or occasionally a short series if the moves are forced beyond all question, and then to the next, and so on and so on, conducting games that will last an average of 40 moves each.  But we need not think that his opponents have a big advantage because they have so much more time to think before the master rolls around again.   Instead, what with all the gabbing between the players and so forth while they wait, that can be just enough time to get badly befuddled.  And also that advantage in time lessens considerably as the simul slowly wears on and the number of those opponents keeps dropping because of the numerous checkmates and resignations. .

Therefore any experienced player who is not even a master could play such numbers of people, if his feet and his sense of humor are in good shape.   I like to think that even I, at this advanced age, could do it, because I still have enough quick sight of the board.   Not nearly as much as 50 or 60  years ago but still some.    I'm not saying, however,  that I could do it with any large percentage of wins, but I could play several hundred in a simul if my physical being held up, and even win a respectable number if there was a high enough percentage of "turkeys" among the players.

It turned out that in the Israeli case, none other than a big Israeli newspaper suggested that just that happened during Gershon's exhibition, and that many of the players were from a local high school, and too large a number of them admitted that they knew little to nothing about chess.  But over against that, we can't forget that high schoolers can be an unusually tough bunch, because that is the very best age for getting into chess.   

I have not read if the same kind of thing happened in Iran.   I tend to believe that it did.   But still it's good that the two countries picked this arena to have their latest contest.  Maybe, as a consequence, they will end up bombing each other as little as the Americans and the Russians did in their time.   That is, if the Iranian versions of our Repubs and the Israeli rightwing war gamers don't get their way.


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