Jeruchess – the revival of chess in Israel

by Yochanan Afek
2/2/2015 – Following what seemed to signal a serious crisis in the Israeli capital’s chess scene, the last decade witnessed unexpectedly a new spring. A new star from France appeared in the sky of Jerusalem: Alon Cohen-Revivo, who migrated to Israel from the French city of Lyon in 1996 and now runs Jeruchess, which has become a leading chess force in the country. Yochanan Afek reports.

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Jeruchess – the revival!

By Yochanan Afek

Part one: There has been chess life in the Israeli capital for almost a whole century. In fact it was the cradle of chess in Israel (or Palestine-Eretz Israel before 1948) in the beginning of the 20th century. The country’s first chess club was the International Chess Club founded in Jerusalem in 1918 by Sir Ronald Storrs, the first military governor of Jerusalem and Judea following the conquest of Palestine by the British army under the command of General Allenby. Ever since this first initiative chess life in the city has not ceased for nearly 100 years. The last decade however has been its best period with the appearance of the growing Jeruchess club.

Following what seemed to signal a serious crisis in the capital’s chess scene, the last decade has witnessed unexpectedly a new spring. A new star from France appeared in the sky of Jerusalem: Alon Cohen-Revivo. He made Aliyah (the common term for immigration to Israel) in 1996 from the French city of Lyon and its famous chess club Lyon-Oyonnax Echecs, which still is a model for him. “Just to compare” he says, “the ‘Ligue du Lyonnais’ alone is bigger than the entire Israel Chess Federation!”

Mammilla Festival 2008, projection on the old city wall!

Beyond his passion and love for the game, there were other reasons behind the birth of Jeruchess. It should be said that as was already told here there had been rich chess life for almost a century in the Israeli capital, however there was still plenty of room for improvement and Alon, luckily not strong enough to become a professional player, picked up the gauntlet.

The driving force: Alon Cohen-Revivo

Jeruchess Club (pronounced in Hebrew Yerushachmat), founded in 2006, has become in just a few years the leading chess force in Jerusalem as well as one of the most active clubs in the entire country. It counts around 100 hardcore members and some 750 related players of all ages in the city and its suburbs. Nine adult and 15 youth (aged 6-18) teams represent the club in the national competitions. The club is happy with its growing youth section (with 12 trainers) that occasionally brings home various national titles and medals. The youth section is the pride and the flagship of the entire club. 95% of the club’s budget is based on auto-financing sources, mainly from group lessons all around the city. The sport department of Jerusalem municipality and Mr. Gilad Japhet has recently offered their assistance too, with new supporters expected to join in. Among the club’s key figures Alon wishes to credit especially such chess lovers as Dr Philip Zisman (chairman), Shaul Weinstein, Uri Zak, Pavel Aronin, Achi Klein, Moshe Dermer, Peter Gukhvat, Dror Aharoni, Igor Barenboim, Avi Amitzur and Gregory Levinski.

Prospects for the future? Alon has his own modest vision for his club: to turn it to an International chess centre of the Israeli capital. For himself he wishes an exciting and prosperous International career as a chess organizer. A big step in this direction would be the four IM/ GM closed tournaments that he plans already for this year. Choose your season:

  • Winter: 11-21/01/2015 (already played)
  • Spring: 26/4-6/5/2015
  • Summer: 12/7-21/7/2015
  • Fall: 7/10-16/2015

The club Address: JeruChess Club, Wizo Center Haberer, Yossi Ben Yoezer Str. 15, Katamonin, Jerusalem (open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings). E-mail: jeruchess@gmail.com and naturally on Facebook!

The crown event of the year 2014 in Israel was the 2nd Gideon Japheth Memorial chess festival organized by his son Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage.com, one of the most popular websites connecting people by using genealogy.

The crown event of the festival was a rapid match of eight games between
Israel No. 1 and world championship challenger Boris Gelfand ...

... and seven times Russian champion Peter Svidler. The match ended in a 5:3 victory of the Russian guest.

Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler receiving a special gift from the Japheth family: a relief of Jerusalem
plated silver and gold. On the left: Moshe Slav, chairman of the Israeli chess federation.

Jeruchess Club holds some 100 scheduled evenings and 20 special events per year including youth and International Tournaments as well as the city championship.

Regular tournaments in the club with three generations represented. The youngest player in the club is five years old while the oldest is 85. During the 18th Maccabiah Games, Boris Gelfand played in the city hall against 30 players simultaneously. He won 25 while 5 games were drawn.

The club initiates and organizes various special activities such as chess tuition in the kindergarten, youth chess & sport camps, blitz in the city’s biggest market, problem solving contests, etc. Different competitive formats are tried out: chess beer tournament, for example, is a tradition that brings chess to new parts of the city.

First Chess & Beer tournament in Jerusalem

GM Maxim Rodshtein: a simultaneous exhibition in Jerusalem city hall

Polgar Starchess event, Hungary-Israel

Among the club’s leading youth players:

FM Ori Kobo was brought up in the club (though currently plays for Petach Tikva club), twice under 16 champion and Israel Champion under 18, 4th in the last European Chess Championship in Batumi.

Elisha Lukin, three times Israel Champion, twice under six and once under eight

Among the leading girls is Noah Proccaccia, the Israeli Champion 2014 under eight

Home trainer: IM Gabriel Battaglini-Flom

The author is grateful to Jeruchess club for the material and photos


Topics Israel, Jerusalem

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 48 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.
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