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Israel to Try to Checkmate Iran

It's all a game as Israel attempts to break Iranian world record for simultaneous chess games.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/20/2010, 1:20 AM / Last Update: 10/20/2010, 1:14 AM

This coming Thursday, Israel will try to set a Guinness World Record for simultaneous chess games.

The special event will take place at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and will begin with a special opening ceremony at 10:45am with the participation of Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Israel Chess Federation Aviv Bushinsky, Grandmaster Alik Gershon and hundreds of chess players.

During the one-day event, sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Israel Chess Federation, hundreds of chess players, many of them new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, will participate in the attempt to break the Guinness Simultaneous Chess (one player playing simultaneously against a number of players) world record. The current world record is 500 games played simultaneously, and is held by Iran. It was set on August 14, 2009 by the Iranian chess grandmaster Morteza Mahjoub, who has been playing chess professionally since the age of 13 and has been a member of the Iranian National Chess Team for over 12 years.

The Israeli who hopes to top Mahjoub is grandmaster Alik Gershon, a former Israeli champion and European youth champion. 30 year-old Gershon was born in Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine. He began to learn chess at age 2 and by 5 was already competing. In 1990, upon the opening of the gates of the Former Soviet Union, he immigrated to Israel and became Israeli youth champion. In 1994 he won first place in the world championship for youth up to age 14, and in 2000 became Israeli champion.

During Thursday’s event, Gershon will play against more than 500 chess players who are registered and ranked in the Israel Chess Federation. Gershon will need to win at least 80 per cent of the games in order to set the world record.

Many olim [immigrants, ed.] from the Former Soviet Union will take part in the tournament, which will also celebrate the significant contribution of olim from the FSU to all walks of life in Israel. The games will be attended by public figures and will be under the close scrutiny of a judge representing the Guinness Book of Records. Since the beginning of the aliyah wave from the FSU in 1989, approximately a million new immigrants came to Israel and now make up 19% of Israel’s Jewish population.

Simultaneously, the Jewish Agency will be sponsoring an evening event of culture and entertainment, to mark the contribution of FSU olim to Israeli culture. This event will include chess games open to the public, for adults, youth and children. Even Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky will play a game against well known Israeli chess players.

Sharansky noted in a statement: “The Aliyah from the FSU has significantly contributed to the strength of Israeli society and to the country’s development in the spheres of the economy, higher education, science, culture and, of course, sport. There is no better expression of this contribution than Israel’s recent achievements in the world of chess, having won third place in the Chess Olympics. There is no doubt that Israel needs the human resources that aliyah brings. The Jewish Agency will continue to help build Israeli society by bringing new immigrants from all around the world.”

Chairman of the Israel Chess Federation, Aviv Bushinsky, added: “This is a special opportunity to give chess more exposure among the public and to prove that chess is a national sport in Israel. It will also prove that Israel is a superpower, at least in chess.”