The Toughest Record of Alik Gershon
By Yochanan Afek – with pictures by Shulamit Bushinsky
The Guinness record for simultaneous chess was shattered last Thursday in Tel
Aviv when GM Alik Gershon challenged a huge field of 523 players in Rabin square
at the very heart of the city. The magnificent exhibition lasted 18 hours and
30 minutes after which 454 wins, 58 draws and just 11 losses (86% in total)
secured the required 80% norm to make it the new official Guinness record by
the representatives of the international prestigious establishment who attended
and controlled the event. His remarkable achievement is an improvement on the
former record of the Iranian GM Morteza Mahjoob who played
last summer in Teheran against 500 opponents.
Israeli GM Alik Gershon taking on 523 players simultaneously
The temperature in Tel Aviv was 30°+ (85°+F)
Watch a video report on the event – there are many more on the Internet
Gershon (30), twice world junior champion at the time and once Israeli champion
trained for more than two months in order to be fit for the long journey around
the square in the never ending 30°+ highly humid summer of Tel Aviv. It
should be stressed that he had never had the slightest doubt that he would eventually
get into the Guinness Book “either as the record breaker or as the first
person to drop dead while giving a simul…” he said in an interview
just before the start.
Older participants may have had a rougher time with the temperature...
... while the youthful opponents can take this more easily
The level was quite high with representation of virtually all ages: The youngest
was 5, and the oldest 84, who held on until the last hour. No less than 300
out of the 523 opponents to start the great show last Thursday at 11.30 AM were
students of the Shevach-Mofet
Chess Academy, directed by GM Boris Alterman who also acted, together with
the renowned organizer Rami Tal as the director of the entire event.
A participant from the Arab sector – chess bridging conflicts
Palestinian players from a chess school in Tira and East Jerusalem participated
Amongst the other participants were also Israeli Arab chess players (from the
chess school in the town of Tira) as well as Palestinian enthusiasts from nearby
East Jerusalem. A special bus brought in a large group of former Russian veteran
players who proved a hard nut to crack. Jonathan Amir (15) was the first chess
academy student to beat the challenger and cash in the promised studies scholarship
of 10,000 Shekels (approx. 2,000 Euros). His school mate, 13 years old Darya
Tzubulski, was the last survivor on Friday at 6.00 a.m.!
Asleep or in deep thought? An Israeli opponent
What now? was the exhausted Alik asked by Arie Golan, a leading radio interviewer
right after the great show: “I am going to break another record”
he was quoted replying in all morning news editions “ the Guinness record
for…sleeping! – It was, in fact, a much more difficult effort than
I imagined, and I realized it when actually saw the 523 boards for
the first time. Even now, after some seven hours of sleep, I woke up to eat
something, and I am going back to catch some more rest, I am still pretty tired”.
Despite his immense tiredness the new record holder was gladly willing to share
What were the most difficult moments of the session?
I had two breaking moments, both psychological, rather than physical. The first
came after around eight and a half hours of play, when although the score was
about 190 to 1, all the remaining games were against tough opponents and in
complicated positions. At some point there I lost the pace of the simul, started
spending lots of time at each board, and making mistakes. I believe around that
time, although the games' number was cut in half, the time consumption per round
was at peak, at around 50 min/round (we started with ~30 min per circle). However,
after a timeout, and a few very useful pieces of advice from Boris Alterman
(who by the way, was of an immeasurable help throughout the preparations and
the event itself), and got back on track, resigning difficult positions, spending
less time per round and eventually getting the pace back to around 30min, and
The second shaky point was around the 13th hour, when I needed to score approx.
80 more wins (out of 180 or so games), but had only about 40 positions with
clear superiority and about as many where I was clearly in a bad shape. Here
again, a timely beak helped seal the deal: I regained composure ("seeing"
the finish line was clearly of huge energy booster at this point), quickly finished
the clear wins, resigned/drew some more of the difficult positions, and after
16 hours I officially reached the needed 420 wins.
So much for the mental process. How did you manage physically?
Physically, although very exhausting, I felt quite well – although judging
by the concerned looks of the family and organizers I must've not looked that
well. Now the legs hurt a bit, but that was never really a big issue during
How do you feel now about the entire affair?
The feeling is, of course, amazing – although don't really have enough
energy to feel much yet. The event being so widely politicized and covered by
the press of course added a great deal to an already huge challenge. The organization
was really fantastic, which was duly noted by the Guinness representative.
Here I must really note the incredible effort made by my sister, Ilona, who
was there for the entire time, basically walking the same distance as myself,
and taking care of whatever I needed most of the time even before I would realize
it myself. For me she's set the record for the most amazing sister, really!
Jack Brookbank, the Guinness representative, who was in Tel Aviv...
... to document the record attempt and certify its success
Here's video of Gershon receiving the Guinness certificate
The Guinness official was indeed impressed by the organization as well as the
accompanying cultural events. Elsewhere in the square the public could enjoy
the performance of opera singers in an improvised café. Another simul
was given to a group of celebrities by WGM (IM) Sofi Polgar and by the man behind
the event, the chairman of the Jewish agency Nathan Sharansky. A former minister,
he is a decent player of master candidate level. As a famous dissident in the
Soviet Union he spent years in isolation imprisonment and managed to keep sanity
by analyzing chess positions blindfold.
Natan Sheransky and Sofi Polgar, who gave a joint simul, joke with retired
Giora Romm, one of Israel most decorated air force pilots and a strong chess
This special event, an idea and initiative of the Israeli Chess Federation
(led by chairman Aviv Bushinsky and general manager Yigal Lothan) was organized
with the cooperation of the Tel Aviv municipality to celebrate 20 years of blessed
Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel) from the former Soviet Union, and its contribution
in all domains of life. Chess is obviously no exception.
"I will get into the Guinness Book, either as the record breaker
or as the first person to drop dead while giving a simul…” [Alik
It remains to be seen who will be next to challenge the fresh record and how
soon it is going to happen. Meanwhile the world of chess in Israel has enjoyed
an unprecedented attention of the local media, much more than earned it both
formidable silver and bronze medals in the last two Olympiads.
||New simultaneous world record attempt in Israel
15.10.2010 – Next Thursday (October 21st) the
Guinness record for simultaneous display will be challenged once again
in the heart of the city of Tel-Aviv. GM Alik Gershon is going to face
more than 500 opponents in Rabin Square, next to the town hall of the
Israeli cultural capital, trying to defeat the official record set just
14 months ago in Teheran. Details.
||Alik Gershon and Igor Nor on San Luis 2005
18.02.2008 – St Petersburg 1909, New York 1924,
New York 1927, Zurich 1953 – these tournaments are remembered not just
for the players and the games, but for the magnificent tournament books
that were written about them. Now two chess writers have set out to do
the same for the 2005 World Championship in San Luis. The genesis of such
a project is illustrated in our interview
with the authors.
||Iranian GM smashes Guinness simultaneous chess world
30.08.2009 – 29-year-old Iranian GM Morteza
Mahjoob spent months preparing for the record attempt, which until then
stood at 360 simultaneous games, set earlier this year by Bulgarian GM
Kiril Georgiev. Mahjoob broke it by taking on 500 opponents and scoring
397 wins, 90 draws, 13 loses (= 88.4%). The effort lasted over 18 hours
and was closely followed by the Iranian TV. Big
illustrated report with videos.
||Guinness Simultaneous Chess World Record attempt – in
10.08.2009 – The Swedish GM
Ulf Andersson played 310 opponents in 1996, then Andrew Martin took on
321 in 2004. His record was broken in 2005 by Susan Polgar (350 opponents).
Currently the record stands at 360, set earlier this year by Kiril Georgiev.
Now the 29-year-old Iranian GM Morteza Mahjoob intends to get his name
in the Guinness Book next Thursday by taking
on 500 opponents.
||Georgiev breaks Guinness Simul Record
25.02.2009 – After a month of training – mainly
walking and saunas – Kiril Georgiev was ready to take the challenge and
play a simultaneous exhibition against 360 opponents. For every move the
Bulgarian GM had to walk half a kilometer, and after six hours of play
had made only eight moves. After 14 hours it was over, he had scored 88%
with 284 wins, 70 draws and 6 losses. The
record was broken!
||Susan breaks all records
03.08.2005 – She strode 9.1 miles, in high-tech
sneakers, drinking orange juice. She faced 326 opponents simultaneously,
scoring an unprecedented 99.03%. After breaking the Guinness Book's simul
record Susan Polgar went on to break a few more, like 1,131 consecutive
games played in one session. Here's the full
||Susan Polgar world simultaneous chess record attempt
31.07.2005 – On August 1–2 there will be an
attempt to break the record for the greatest number of chess games played
simultaneously, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The simultaneous master is GM Susan Polgar, who will attempt to play 350
opponents at the same time, in a 24-hour period of time. Pictures
of the preparation.