Chess4Solidarity: The Missing Player

by Yochanan Afek
3/21/2024 – Judit and Sofia Polgar joined last Thursday (March 14) to play in a simultaneous exhibition in the German parliament (Bundestag) in a moving tribute to the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The aim of the initiative is to strengthen the ties between countries and to promote solidarity between people. The prestigious initiative has been recognized by UNESCO for promoting interracial dialogue through the game of chess. | Press Release by Yochanan Afek, photos: Judit Polgar/Chess 4 All

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The event was part of Chess4Solidarity worldwide initiative in which 15,000 players have already taken part, mainly in unique online events that were created since the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2021. 

Thursday’s event saw Judit Polgar, the all-time number one female chess player, alongside her sister Sofia, a well-respected chess master too, facing 40 German opponents on behalf of the 134 missing Israeli hostages. They have received huge support, and Judit expressed her feelings in the social media: "I attended one of the most moving and emotional events of my life, fighting back tears. It was unique in every way. I will never forget that." Family members of Gadi Moses and Carmel Gat told in moving words about their loved ones who had been held captive by Hamas for 160 days. German officials spoke out against antisemitism.

Marlene Schoenberg, a member of the German Parliament who hosted the event, noted in her opening remarks the importance of fighting antisemitism in these times, which is erupting globally and threatening Jews around the world, along with stating that Hamas should be prevented from carrying out further attacks against Israel in the future. Schoenberg thanked the Berlin Chess Federation for organizing the event that also featured a round-table discussion on antisemitism in sports.

Lior Aizenberg with Marlene Schoenberg, member of the Bundestag, the host of the event

Ingrid Lauterbach, the president of the German Chess Federation, stated that stronger action should be taken against Iran that prevents Iranian players from competing against Israelis. Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Germany Aharon Sagi noted that the relations between Israel and Germany were stronger than ever. Paul Meyer Dunker, president of the Berlin Chess Federation said: “I am glad that this event strengthens the ties between the Israeli and German chess communities. There is no place for anti-Semitism and our Jewish chess friends can be sure that we will always stand by their side”.

Additionally, Lior Aizenberg, the CEO and Founder of Chess4All and Chess4Solidarity Initiative, who organized the event from the Israeli side, spoke about Chess4Solidarity initiative that seeks to fight antisemitism and connect players from all around the world. Lior shared his experience of being offended in the past because of his nationality and his actions.

Here's a full video report (in German) on the event:

International Online Blitz Competition

In another signal of strong ties, an international online blitz competition in three categories was held on the Lichess platform, with 133 participants from Israel and Germany. Grandmaster Georg Meier (winner of the chess Maccabiah in Jerusalem 2019), won the crown group with a perfect score of 9 points from 9 games ahead of IMs David Gorodetzky and Yuri Zhizmer 6.5 points each. The online tournament directors were: Idan Lavi, Jonathan Born and Matias Petasny. Commentators were: German FM Christian Polster and Israeli FM Shachar Gindi. Following this successful event, it has been decided to strengthen the relationships between the two countries by having more such activities in future.  

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Yochanan was born (1952) and grew up in Tel-Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of chess, both as a professional and a volunteer, for the last 50 years, and remains an active player, composer, writer, organizer, trainer and commentator. He is an International Master and International Arbiter for chess as well as International Grandmaster for chess composition, and the author of Extreme Chess Tactics (Gambit 2017) and Practical Chess Beauty (Quality Chess 2018).