If someone in Israel were to ask why this knight was not like all other knights last week, the answer was simple: the knights of Alik Gershon, a Ukrainian-born grandmaster chess player, were joined over 18 hours by hundreds of fellow chess pieces. Including 1,050 other knights, 525 kings and 4,200 pawns.
In a successful bid to break a Guinness-certified record held by Iran’s Morteza Mahjoob for the most opponents played at one time, Gershon competed against 525 chess enthusiasts of all ages, all of whom pre-qualified through the Israeli Chess Federation, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
Mahjoob’s old record: 500 simultaneous opponents.
Gershon, 30, started the chess marathon Thursday morning — it marked the 20th anniversary of his aliyah and saluted the contributions of émigrés from the former Soviet Union — and finished the next morning, moving from board to board set up in long rows. His final score: 454 wins, 11 losses and 58 draws.
“The aliyah from the former Soviet Union greatly contributed to the robustness of the State of Israel and the empowerment of Israeli society in the fields of finance, education, culture and, of course, sports,” said Natan Sharansky, avid chess player and chairman of the Jewish Agency, which co-sponsored the competition.
A former prodigy, Gershon won Israel’s youth championship in 1994, and became Israeli chess champion in 2000.
Many of the players he has beaten along the way, including last week, also came from the former Soviet Union.
Beating the record of a player from the land, now hostile to Israel, where chess originated was symbolic, Gershon said. “Hopefully, all our wars will be on the chess board,” he told the BBC.