JEWS IN CHESS
In his 1978 book, The Rating of Chess Players, Past and Present, Professor Arpad Elo numerically rated some 476 major tournament players from the nineteenth century onward. Of the fifty-one highest ranked players, approximately one-half were Jewish, or of Jewish descent.1 Similar results hold for the 1951 ranking of the fifty-five greatest players of all time arrived at by Professor Adriaan de Groot in his study Thought and Choice in Chess2 and for the 1989 ranking of the sixty-four strongest players of all time contained in the study Warriors of the Mind: A Quest for the Supreme Genius of the Chess Board, by the Grandmaster Raymond Keene and Professor Nathan Divinsky.3 In 1998, Bobby Fischer took time out from his anti-Semitic tirades to inform Chess Life of his assessment of the five strongest world champion players of all time.4 Of the five, three (including Fischer himself 5) were Jews and one was half-Jewish. The Hungarian-Jewish Grandmaster Judit Polgar is easily the strongest female player ever. Additional data is contained in the following links:
- Jewish Chess Players
- Jewish World Chess Champions (44% of world champions)
- Jewish Runners-Up to the World Chess Championship (47% of runners-up)
- Jews Ranked Among the 64 Strongest Chess Players of All Time (45% of total)
1. The Rating of Chess Players, Past and Present, by Arpad Elo (ARCO, New York, 1978). Elo was the inventor of the scientific rating system employed by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE). The twenty-five players of Jewish descent among the top fifty-one on his list are all included among the twenty-nine players of Jewish descent on Keene and Divinsky's 1989 list of the top sixty-four players of all time (the additional four listed by Keene and Divinsky are Garry Kasparov, Alexander Belyavsky, Rudolph Charousek, and David Janowski).
2. Thought and Choice in Chess, by Adriaan de Groot (Basic, New York, 1951).
3. Warriors of the Mind: A Quest for the Supreme Genius of the Chess Board, by Raymond Keene and Nathan Divinsky (Hardinge Simpole, Brighton, UK, 1989, p. 323). Additional statistics on Jews in chess can be found in Jewish Chess Masters on Stamps, by Felix Berkovich (McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2000, Chapter 5).
4. "Who Is the Best?" (letter to Chess Life from Robert J. Fischer, February 1998; see Berkovich, ibid., p. 124). Fischer states "that in contrasting Kasparov to other world champions, it seems to me that Lasker, Morphy, Fischer and possibly Steinitz, all have a much stronger claim to being the greatest players ever than Kasparov." (Morphy was not Jewish; Kasparov is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother.)
5. According to recently unsealed FBI files and other independent archival records, Bobby Fischer's biological father was not the German physicist Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, as previously supposed, but rather the Hungarian-Jewish engineer and fluid dynamicist Paul Nemenyi, making both of his parents Jewish. See "Life is not a Board Game," by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 February, 2003. Additional information can be found in Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow (HarperCollins, New York, 2004, pp. 313-321). This reference, incidentally, states (p. 39) that Boris Spassky told its authors that there is "no truth" to the widely reported claim that his mother was Jewish.
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