The first-ever international Maccabiah chess tournament took place already in 1935, the same year in which “The Chess Society of Eretz-Israel” was founded.
There followed a break for several decades. The man who renewed the tradition during the 1980s was Moshe Slav, currently chairman of the Israel Chess Federation. Under his leadership, Maccabiah chess events became regular. There is a variety of tournaments for players of all levels, from juniors with little experience to grandmasters who belong to the chess elite.
The most glorious chess festival took place during the 18th Maccabiah, with the participation of Judit Polgar, all-time female #1 and Boris Gelfand, World Championship contender in 2012. Let us hope that the 19th Maccabiah chess tournaments will be of high quality and attractive.
There follows a short review of the Maccabiah chess tournaments during the 2000s.
16th Maccabiah, Netanya 2001
The 16th Maccabiah Games featured two invitational tournaments, plus an open tournament and a youth tournament.
The co-winners of the GM event were Evgeny Alekseev (Russia), then an IM and now a 2700+ GM, and the late Konstantin Lerner (Israel). Third place was shared by Michael Roiz and Vitali Golod. Roman Bar won the IM event.
17th Maccabiah, Jerusalem 2005
The 17th Maccabiah featured for the first time a “Super-Tournament” won by Ilia Smirin (Israel) and Evgeny Najer (Russia). Konstantin Lerner (Israel) took the bronze.
Other winners were Yaacov Zilberman (GM tournament) and Alex Kaspi (IM tournament), both from Israel.
18th Maccabiah, Netanya 2009
The chess events of the 18th Maccabiah were of unprecedented quality. This time the very best Jewish players from all over the world played in the super-tournament, including the legendary Judit Polgar, best-ever female chess player and Israel’s top player Boris Gelfand, a few months before he won the World Cup in Khanty Mansyisk.
The Super-Tournament was played with rapid and blitz time controls. The winner of the main event (rapid) was Evgeny Najer (Russia). Ian Nepomniashchi (Russia) took the silver and Alexander Beliavsky (Slovenia) took the bronze.
Between rounds there were other important event such as a festive simultaneous display by Boris Gelfand in Jerusalem and a rare simultaneous display in a military base by Judit Polgar.
The traditional Maccabiah events took place as usual. Andre Diamant (Brazil) and Tamir Nabaty (Israel’s current champion) shared first place in the GM group, Boris Kantsler (Israel) won one IM group (in the other one four players shared first place), and Yosef Rozhanski (Israel) won the open event.