Celebrating Russian Aliyah Through Chess

In an event that will celebrate the significant contribution of olim from the FSU, the Jewish Agency and the Israel Chess Federation are hosting a special one-day marathon tomorrow where hundreds of chess players, many of them new immigrants from the FSU, will participate in the attempt to break the Guinness Simultaneous Chess world record. The event will take place in Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, beginning at 10:45 am.

The present Guinness world record for simultaneous chess, where one player plays simultaneously against a number of players, was set on August 14 2009 by the Iranian chess grandmaster Morteza Mahjoub playing 500 games. Grandmaster Alik Gershon, former Israeli champion and European youth champion, is to play against more than 500 chess players – all of whom, as per Guinness’ requirements, are registered and ranked in the Israel Chess Federation. In order to set the world record, Grandmaster Gershon needs to win at least 80% of the games. Many FSU olim are to be among the chess players. The games will be attended by public figures and will be under the close scrutiny of a judge representing the Guinness Book of Records.

In parallel to the attempt to break the world record, the Jewish Agency is sponsoring an evening event of culture and entertainment marking the contribution of FSU olim to Israeli culture. This event will include chess games for all ages and will be open to the public. Jewish Agency Chairman, Natan Sharansky will compete against well known Israeli chess players along with other public figures.

Since the beginning of the wave of aliyah from the FSU in 1989, and with the assistance of the Jewish Agency, approximately one million new immigrants came to Israel from the FSU. This demographic now makes up 19% of Israel’s Jewish population. These new immigrants have become integrated in all fields of life and have significantly contributed to the spheres of science, medicine, security, sport and culture.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, Natan Sharansky, notes: “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.”

Grandmaster Alik Gershon, 30 years old, was born in Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine. He began to learn chess at age two and by five was already competing. In 1990, upon the opening of the gates of the FSU, Alik 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 the Israeli champion.