Maccabiah Games: New medals in the old city

by Assi Philosoph
7/30/2022 – The Maccabiah Games have been held every four years in Israel since 1932, with the participation of many Jewish athletes from around the world. Chess is one of the many sports featured at the games. The 21st edition was played from 13 – 22 July 2022 in Jerusalem. The atmosphere of the Maccabiah Games was palpable in the historical city, with a huge number of sportspeople from different countries speaking different languages and waiting to compete in a range of sports. | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

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A traditional event in a historic city

The Maccabiah Games have been held every four years in Israel since 1932, with the participation of many Jewish athletes from around the world. Chess is one of the many sports featured at the games.

The chess competitions come in different categories: closed tournaments, open tournaments, blitz tournaments and junior sections. It is a versatile format which enables the “big names” in the sport to appear in closed tournaments, while offering an opportunity for every player to compete in the open tournament. This means that any player can join the Maccabiah Games and fight for a medal.

Some of the players who have played in past Maccabiahs include: Yuri Averbakh, Boris Gelfand, Judit Polgar, Ian Nepomniachi, Alexander Khalifman, Evgeniy Najer, Pavel Eljanov, Ilya Smirin, Boris Avrukh, Emil Sutovsky, Daniel Fridman, Konstantin Lerner, and more.

The 21st edition was played from 13 – 22 July 2022 in Jerusalem. The atmosphere of the Maccabiah Games was palpable in the historical city, with a huge number of sportspeople from different countries speaking different languages and waiting to compete in a range of sports. For us, it is a great pleasure to have the game of chess included in these extraordinary celebrations.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

The playing hall waiting for the players. Great feeling | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

The venue for the tournament was Hotel Ramada, located a 5-minute walk from Heikhal HaSefer (Shrine of the Book) which houses the Dead

Sea Scrolls and the “Knesset”, the Israeli Parliament with its 120 members.

Moshe Slav, the director of the chess event since 1978, noted in the chess opening ceremony: “This is the second biggest sports event in the world, and we are happy to provide the best for our athletes from all the participating countries”

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Moshe Slav (right) and IA Alon Cohen (tournament director) in the opening ceremony | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

After the round started, many of the “Maccabim” from international delegations became captivated by the chess games, reluctant to leave the hall.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

The reluctant kibitzers | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

A total of 107 players played in the event: 10 in the invitational GM tournament, 67 in the open section, and 30 in the junior event which was held in Haifa. The players showed that they didn’t just come to celebrate, and in the closed tournament more than half of the games ended with a win.

The composition of the closed tournament:

Name Rtg
Alekseev Evgeny 2601
Smirin Ilia 2601
Postny Evgeny 2564
Kobo Ori 2534
Parkhov Yair 2468
Dvoirys Semen I. 2439
Tzidkiya Yeshaayahu 2419
Gruenfeld Yehuda 2418
Ginsburg Gennadi 2400
Yarmonov Igor 2372

The first part of the tournament was tough, with no player gaining more than 2.5 out of 4 points, but in the second part Kobo, Postny and Smirin started to accumulate wins, securing themselves a place on the podium. GM Ori Kobo, despite losing in the first round to Smirin, showed a great fighting spirit and finished first with 4 wins and 6 points – gaining the gold medal.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Kobo — a well-deserved gold | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Right away after his loss, Kobo took some chances that worked out well for him:

Dvoirys, Semen I (2439) – Kobo, Ori (2534)
GM Maccabiah 2022 Jerusalem, Israel – Round 2, 14.07.2022
 

The position on the board after 21… Rc8 promises some opportunities for attack, despite the bishop on e7 being restricted.

22.Rhf1 The start of a misguided defensive plan (an interesting alternative would be to play 22.Qe6 Rcc7 23.Nc1 a5 24.Rhe1 a4 25.Rd3 with good control over the position).

22…a5 23.a4? Instead of solving his problems, White just opened up his king. bxa3 24.b3 a4 25.Rf3 a2+ and White resigned. For instance: 25…a2+ 26.Kxa2 (26.Ka1 Na3) 26…Rc5 27.Qd3 axb3+ 28.Qxb3 Ra7+ with a winning attack 0-1

Ginsburg, Gennadi (2400) – Kobo, Ori (2534)
GM Maccabiah 2022 Jerusalem, Israel – Round 6, 18.07.2022
 

The position below is after 32.Bh3

 

32..Nf2! Allowing to take on e6 with check and self-pinning the knight 33.Bxe6+ Kh8 34.Rf1 Bxg3 The idea 35.Qg4 This move doesn’t save the day 35…Bxh2+! 36.Kg2 forced

[36.Kxh2 Nxg4+]

36…Qd2 Now it’s impossible to save the king 37.Qd4 Nd3+ and White resigned 0-1

Kobo, Ori (2534) – Postny, Evgeny (2564)
GM Maccabiah 2022 Jerusalem, Israel Round 5 – 17.07.2022
 

In his win against Postny in the 5th round, Kobo played 39.Re1 setting up a trap for Black who was in time trouble. Black replayed 39…Rxe5 and lost on time. Can you figure out what Ori’s idea was?

 

The game would have continued 40.Qf8+ Kh7 and 41.Rb1! The hidden move 1-0

It is curious that the gold medal, which theoretically could be flying now to any part of the world, stayed a few minutes’ walk from the hall, in Kobo’s apartment.

Kobo, who is having a fruitful year after qualifying in April for the Fide World Cup by finishing 14th in the European Chess Championship 2022 (Slovenia), said after the final ceremony: “For me, it was special to play here, since I achieved my second IM norm in this same hotel in 2015 (European Chess Championship). I’m happy.”

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

A good year | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Postny, a member of the Israeli National team, ended the tournament with an impressive 3 consecutive wins, overtaking Smirin in the photo finish and finishing second with an equal number of points to Kobo (6 points), but with a worse tiebreak (Berger).

An interesting fact is that Postny played his previous and first Maccabiah in 1997. It was the junior tournament held in Zikhron Ya’acov where he also won the silver medal:

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Final standings of Junior Maccabiah 1997

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

 

GM Evgeny Postny — a second silver medal after 25 years | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

In round 1, Postny, playing with black pieces, managed to convert a dry position into a win.

Yarmonov, Igor (2372) – Postny, Evgeny (2564)
GM Maccabiah Jerusalem, Israel Round 1 – 13.07.2022
 

32.bxc5 Not forced, but still OK Qh4+ Black is trying to mix things up 33.Ke3 Probably an unnecessary risk [33.Kg1 Qxf4 34.cxd6 =] 33…dxc5

34.Qf5? [34.Bf3 Bxf3 35.Kxf3 Qxh2 36.Qf5 is a draw] 34…Bxg2 35.Qd7 [35.Qc8+? Kf7 36.Qc7+ Qe7+ is a worse version compared to the game] 35…Qh3+ 36.Qxh3 Bxh3 and Black won the endgame after 22 moves.

Ilia Smirin, also a veteran member of the Israeli National team, finished in third place with 5.5 points and several exciting games throughout the tournament which, again, proved him to be a great attacker. Below we present the conclusion of Smirin’s win from round 7.

Smirin, Ilia (2601) – Parkhov, Yair (2468)
GM Maccabiah 2022 Jerusalem, Israel – Round 7, 19.07.2022
 

Black pieces are quite restricted so White finds a simple and effective way to attack:

 

25.g4! With the “simple” idea to open the h-file.

25…Rfe8 26.g5 hxg5 27.Bxg5 Qd6 28.Qh3 Nb7 29.Qh4 White is preparing the rook lift and Black struggles to find a way to stop it or to counterplay. The game concluded:

29…Na5 30.Rf3 Bxh2+ 31.Kh1 Re2 32.Rh3 Kf8 33.Rxh2 Nb3 34.Bxf6 Qxf6 35.Qxf6 gxf6 36.Rh8+ Kg7 37.Rxe8 Rxe8 38.Re1 Rh8+ 39.Kg1 Rh5 40.Be4 Nd2 41.Kg2 1-0

This is Ilia’s third Maccabiah medal. The first was silver in 2005, and the second was gold in Saturday’s blitz tournament which he won convincingly with 8.5 out of 9. The guest IM Alon Mindlin finished second with 8 points, losing only to the winner. In third place was GM Evgeny Alekseev with 7 points.

Maccabiah Blitz 2022 - Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Smirin Ilia 8,5 0
2 Mindlin Alon 8,0 0
3 Alekseev Evgeny 7,0 0
4 Lukin Elisha 5,5 0
5 Yarmonov Igor 5,5 0
6 Lysenko Albina 5,0 0
7 Vazana Yochay 5,0 0
8 Kirsch Yahel David 5,0 0
9 Zisman Philip 5,0 0
10 Levin Natan 5,0 0

...27 players

The joint-top ranked Evgeny Alekseev finished in 6th place. After losing his first game to the young and talented Yeshaayahu, Evgeny made 5 consecutive draws and won the 7th and 8th round which generated an interesting rook endgame:

Yarmonov, Igor (2372) – Alekseev, Evgeny (2601)
GM Maccabiah 2022 2022 Jerusalem, Israel Round 8 – 20.07.2022
 

Position after 66…Rxf3

67.Kd2 h3 68.Rh6 Rf2+ 69.Ke1 Rh2 70.Kf1 f3 Until here White played the correct defensive plan 71.Rf6 A mistake. It was necessary to wait on the h-file to avoid the following [71.Rh8 Kxb4 72.Rh7 Kc4 73.Rh8 Kd3 74.Rd8+ time to check (74.Rh7? Ra2 75.Rxh3 Ke3-+) 74...Ke3 75.Re8+ Kf4 76.Rf8+ and Black cannot make any progress]

71...Ra2! 72.Rxf3 Ra1+ 0-1

Maccabiah Closed GM Tournament - Final standings

k. SNo   Name FED Rtg  TB1   TB2 
1 6 GM Kobo Ori ISR 2534 6 24,00
2 9 GM Postny Evgeny ISR 2564 6 22,75
3 5 GM Smirin Ilia ISR 2601 5,5 22,75
4 3 IM Parkhov Yair ISR 2468 5 21,75
  4 FM Tzidkiya Yeshaayahu ISR 2419 5 21,75
6 7 GM Alekseev Evgeny FID 2601 5 19,50
7 10 GM Dvoirys Semen I. FID 2439 4,5 16,75
8 8 GM Gruenfeld Yehuda ISR 2418 4 16,00
9 1 GM Ginsburg Gennadi GER 2400 3 12,25
10 2 IM Yarmonov Igor UKR 2372 1 4,00

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

GM Ilia Smirin, receiving the gold of the blitz and bronze of the closed tournament | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

In the open section, Moskovich won with 7.5 points and finished the tournament with a smile. The picture below shows the position of the last round after 34…Bh6 – an already winning position:

Moskovich, Daniel (2210) – Fadida, Yehonatan (1822)
Maccabiah Open 2022 Jerusalem, Israel Round 9 – 21.07.2022
 

35.Rd8 Qb7 and now 36.Rh8+ [36.Rh8+ Kxh8 37.Qxh6+ Kg8 38.Rd8#] 1-0

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Daniel Moskovich — Israeli with Japanese roots | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Alexey Streltsov, who according to the tiebreaks finished second with 7.5 points as well, was the only undefeated player in the tournament, with a result and performance that definitely could have ended with the gold medal in a less competitive tournament.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Alexey Streltsov before receiving the medal from ICF General Manager Gil Boruhovski | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Moshe Gal, who joined the last “parking space” on the podium with his win, finished with 7 points. It was not his first medal, since he won the gold in 2017, also in the open category. Find Yochanan Afek’s report here.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Moshe Gal — from medal to medal. | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Maccabiah Open 2022 - Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Moskovich Daniel 7,5 0,5
2 Streltsov Alexey 7,5 0,5
3 Gal Moshe 7,0 0
4 Vazana Yochay 6,5 0
5 Shabtai Ran 6,5 0
6 Fadida Yehonatan 6,5 0
7 Berenboym Igor 6,0 0
8 Lubin Yosef 6,0 0
9 Kirsch Yahel David 6,0 0
10 Aflalo Sophie 6,0 0

...67 players

The junior section of the Maccabiah Games was played in Haifa – it is common during the Maccabiahs to host the junior category of all sports in one city, so that the junior players can enjoy the environment all together in one place. The host of the Junior Chess Championships was the Haifa-Nesher Chess Club, located in the city of Nesher in the Haifa District of Israel. Before the games, all the players assembled for a photograph:

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

A picture for posterity | Photo: Ritvo photography

It is always a pleasure to play at the Haifa-Nesher Chess Club, not only because of the great hosting but also for the beautiful view from its balcony that overlooks the Zvulun Valley in the north of Israel (see photo below). In addition, the small city of Nesher is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and there could be no better way to celebrate than by being part of the Maccabiah Games.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

A place to find inspiration between moves | Photo: Ritvo photography

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

The 17th piece — water is essential in the Israeli summer | Photo: Ritvo photography

The top-rated Kyle Lancman (USA) won the gold, Daniel Ser from Lithuania, the youngest player in the junior tournament (13), finished second and Ilya Zuev (ISR) gained bronze.

Maccabiah Youth 2022 - Final standings                    

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lancman Kyle 5,5 28
2 Ser Daniel 5,5 26,5
3 Zuev Ilya 5,0 27
4 Nord Gabriel 5,0 25
5 Gilad Tomer 4,5 28,5
6 Levin Eric 4,5 25,5
7 Scheimann Ori 4,5 25
8 Jacobson Gabriel Kenneth 4,5 24,5
9 Lieberman Jack 4,0 29
10 Lancman Kaleb 4,0 25,5

...30 players

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

The three medallists with Nesher municipality representatives: Mr. Georigi (first right) and Mr. Korem (first left) and Haifa-Nesher director Vladimir Veinshtein (second right) | Photo: Ritvo photography

It is also worth mentioning that on 17 July, after the end of the 4th round, Dr. Shlomo Kandelshein, the president of the Hertzliya Chess Club, volunteered to present a powerful lecture about Jewish chess players in the Holocaust, many of whom were murdered in the Valley of Death in Auschwitz. Among the millions killed at Auschwitz were outstanding

Jewish athletes in all sports playing at both national and Olympic level, who were unable to fulfil their dreams.

In addition, Shlomo presented The unbelievable story of a chess piece carved from the beating stick of a Nazi commander in Auschwitz. The full article can be found here.

We appreciate Dr. Kandelshein’s efforts and dedication to this important and painful subject and we are grateful for his article and willingness to present the lecture.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

Dr. Kandelshein’s lecture | Photo: Moshe Slav

To conclude, in Jerusalem’s closing ceremony, Moshe Slav, the organizer of the chess event, thanked the Maccabi World Union for their support of chess and expressed gratitude to the staff for the well-organized tournament: IA Alon Cohen (Director and Chief arbiter), NA Mark Flaum (Deputy arbiter) and the photographer of the main events in Jerusalem, Dr. Mark Livshitz.

The same appreciation goes for the Haifa organizers: FA Vladimir Veinshtein (Director and Chief arbiter), Natalia Vovinkina (Deputy arbiter), and Ritvo photography, covering the junior tournament in Haifa.

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

A final picture with the medallists | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

Maccabiah Games 2022, Israel

And then everybody joined | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

For all the articles and more photos, please visit the official Maccabiah website.

Links


Assi Philosoph has a Bachelor in Philosophy and a Master in Cinema from Tel Aviv University. He likes to explore chess from many different angles, such as writing, filming and of course playing. He is also a former deputy director of the Israeli Chess Federation. His favorite player is Tigran Petrosian.
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