Jerusalem Chess Festival

by ChessBase
8/5/2008 – The Jerusalem Chess Festival was held from 29th to 31st July 2008, the first time such an event has occurred in Israel’s capital and a city holy to three religions. The venue was the spectacular open-air setting of Alrov Mamilla Avenue, a new shopping centre just outside the walls of the Old City by Jaffa Gate. Chess at midnight – Jerusalem style. We bring you a spectacular pictorial report.

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The Jerusalem Chess Festival

By Emmanuel Gandelman – Photographer: Ouria Tadmor

Jerusalem (Yerushaláyim, Arabic al-Quds, is the capital of Israel and its largest city, with 700,000 residents in an area of 50 square miles (including the disputed East Jerusalem). The city has a history that goes back to the 4th millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been the holiest city in Judaism and the spiritual center of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE, and at the same time it is considered the third-holiest city in Islam. The Old City is home to sites of key religious importance, among them the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Old City walls date back to Ottoman times

The Tower of David – an ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate

Built to strengthen a strategically weak point in the Old City's defenses, the citadel was constructed during the second century BCE and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt by, in succession, the Christian, Muslim, Mamluk, and Ottoman conquerors of Jerusalem. It contains important archeological finds dating back 2,700 years, and is a popular venue for benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances.

Jaffa Gate, a stone portal in the historic walls of Jerusalem's Old City, so named because it is the portal for Jaffa Road, the precursor to the modern highway to the ancient port of Jaffa and the Mediterranean coastal plain.

Santiago Calatrava’s new bridge, which serves the capital’s new light railway, was inaugurated this month

The Chess Festival

More than six hundred players participated for over the three days, and more than four thousand spectators watched the tournaments that included the Mayor’s Cup, the Israeli Blitz Championship and the Jerusalem Rapid Chess Championship, the IDF Championship, a problem solving championship, a blindfold simultaneous exhibition, and simultaneous games.

The Festival Poster was displayed on billboards across the City

Chess at midnight – Jerusalem style

Chess is popular in the yeshivas

As the tournaments were in progress, an array of actors performed as life-sized chess pieces, fighting one another amidst Punch-and-Judy style quips. Such raucous entertainment was appreciated by the numbers of spectators and tourists who thronged the festival, but perhaps a little less by the players themselves, as they struggled to concentrate in the outdoor arena. The top games were beamed live onto  the city walls, allowing passers-by to stop and follow the moves.

The top games were projected onto the Old City Walls

The organiser of the events was Alon Cohen-Revivo, himself  champion of Jerusalem 2008 and now the engine behind Jeru-Chess, a new initiative to promote chess in the city. As can be seen by the style of the Hebrew letters in the JeruChess logo, Cohen-Revivo is at pains to strive to bring together players of different backgrounds and religions within his club and events.

The Jeru-Chess logo integrates symbols from Judaism, Islam and Christianity into its Hebrew lettering

The man behind the festival Alon Cohen Revivo Founder and president of Jeru-Chess Club

The Chess Festival was supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, and Mayor Uri Lupoliansky and the Director of the Sports Department, Uri Menachem, were present at the Opening Ceremony and Prize-Giving. The Mayor’s Cup was won by Kfar Saba, ahead of Beer Sheva Levant’s Kids and Ashdod.

A young chess hopeful (Michael Kanon) in action

The Mayor of Jerusalem Uri Lupolianski inaugurating the festival in Town Hall

Peter Gukhvat, the man behind “Beer Chess” and collaborator of Alon Cohen Revivo, playing blindfold against Mayor Luplianski with the advice of Michael Kanon

Some players of the victorious team from Kfar Saba, including Amiram Kaplan, Kfar Saba's club President, and the captain GM Alik Gershon

The Beer Sheva team finished third, pictured here with Abba Levant

A beautiful win of GM Alon Greenfeld playing for Ashdod

GM Greenfeld Alon - GM Kantsler Boris [E68]
1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.0-0 0-0 6.c4 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 8.e4 exd4 9.Nxd4 Re8 10.h3 Nc5 11.Re1 Bd7 12.Rb1 Qc8 13.Kh2 Re5 14.f3 Rh5 15.h4 h6 16.b4 Ne6 17.Nxe6 Bxe6 18.Nd5 Qd8 19.Bb2 a5 20.b5 Bd7 21.Bd4 Nxd5 22.cxd5 Bxd4 23.Qxd4 g5 24.e5 gxh4 25.e6 hxg3+ 26.Kg1 Be8 27.e7 Qd7 28.Re4 Rg5 29.a4 Qf5 30.Rc1 Rc8 31.f4 Rg6 32.Rce1 h5 33.Qd3 h4 34.Qf1 Qxd5 35.f5 Qc5+ 36.Kh1 Rh6 37.Rg4+ Kh7 38.f6 Qf2 39.Qd3+ Kh8 40.Rf1 Qc5 41.Qd2 Rh7 42.Be4 h3 43.Rxg3 Qe5 44.Qf4 Qxf4 45.Rxf4 Rh6 46.Bf5 Rb8 47.Rfg4 Rg6 48.Rxg6 fxg6 49.Be6 1-0.

The common perception in Israel is that all of their chess players are “Russians”. Indeed it is true that many of the top grandmasters emigrated from countries in the Former Soviet Union, and the lingua franca during Israeli tournaments switches between Russian and Hebrew. Nevertheless there is a new wave of Israeli chess stars with a variety of different backgrounds.

The Jewish king, specially manufactured by JeruChess

WFM Marsel Efroimski, winner of the 2007 World U-12 Championship, playing at the Festival

Both the Israeli Blitz Championship and the Jerusalem Rapid Chess Championship were won by 19 year-old FM Anatoly Bykhovsky, a rising star who fended off several grandmasters in both events to capture the titles. In the last round he uncorked a novelty in the Slav Defence to crush top-seed Israeli Champion 2007-2008, GM Maxim Rodshtein. Despite the best efforts of the tournament organizer to share this game with the world, both victor preferred to keep this new move and novelty to himself! We are still in negotiation to show this brilliant game.

The surprise of the festival, Anatoly Bykhovsky, Winner of both the Rapid and Blitz

Prior to the Festival the Jerusalem International Tournament was held, a ten-player all-play-all event with the opportunity for IM norms. The tournament was won by GM Boris Kantsler with 7.5/9, followed by IM Tal Haimovich with 6.5/9. All the norm seekers fell short, including FM and Rabbi Nathan Alfred from England, FM Or Cohen and Uri Zak from Israel, and Joseph Shutzman from the USA, who all finished in third place with 5/9.

GM Boris Kantsler (ISR) and FM Rabbi Nathan Alfred (ENG) at the prize ceremony of Jerusalem International Tournament

In Israel, the strongest chess players mostly live in the cities of Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Ashdod. This Festival has helped put the Holy City firmly on the Israeli chess map, and the coverage on national television and French speaking television has raised the profile of the game throughout the country.

Prize winners from the Children's Mayor Cup 2008

The Israeli Defence Force Championship was also held at King's David Hotel  in Jerusalem during the Festival

GM Maxim Rodshtein, Jerusalem girls’ favourite, before giving his simultaneous display. In the same hall Kasparov once lost a simul game to refusenik Natan Sharansky.

Following the success of this inaugural Festival, the organizers hope that this will be the first of many such chess events in Jerusalem. The chess playing community of Jerusalem extend an open invitation to chess players from around the world to come and join them in 2009. Visiting Israel can be an amazing experience, and a Jerusalem is a fascinating city that combines both east and west, ancient and modern. Combining tourism and chess is always a good idea.

Che playing with God

Simhon Yanai and Alon Cohen Revivo, two generations of chess organizers in Jerusalem

Group photo of Jerusalem Chess Festival

Jeruchess web site
(illustration by Ana Netzer-Cohen and Haim Cohen)

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