Home inContext Israel, Iran Face-Off on the Chess Board

Israel, Iran Face-Off on the Chess Board

Samara Greenberg

Israeli chess master Alik Gershon will attempt to break The Guinness World Record for the largest number of simultaneous chess games played in a single session next Thursday, October 21. The record is currently held by Iranian chess champ Morteza Mahjoob, who took on 500 challengers and scored 397 wins, 90 draws, and 13 losses. Gershon must defeat at least 80 percent of his more than 500 opponents, all veteran chess players, to win the title of world-record holder.

Before his match that beat the previous record, Morteza Mahjoob underwent two weeks of physical training in order to compete against 500 players. The Iranian’s match lasted 18 hours and covered a distance of 40 kilometers traversing between chessboards. Gershon’s match is expected to last over 24 hours.

Alik Gershon playing chess against Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Israel has challenged its enemies’ world records in the past. Last January, over 50 Israeli Arabs and Jews came together to whip up nearly 9,000 pounds of hummus, breaking the Guinness World Record for the biggest serving of the chickpea dip previously set by Lebanon. Lebanese chefs retaliated, however, and won the title back in May after creating over 22,000 pounds of hummus.

But it’s not all fun and games for the challengers. Lebanese businessmen accuse Israel of stealing dishes such as hummus, falafel, and tabbouleh from the country, and marketing them as Israeli. In 2008, Lebanon announced it will sue Israel for “premeditated exportation” of Lebanon’s traditional recipes.

These battles over the Guinness World Record for types of foods and sport illustrate that Israel and her neighbors share more in common than the countries might care to believe. As peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians falter, it would be beneficial if such commonalities were used to foster understanding and recognition in the Middle East rather than for the purpose of declaring victory over the other.