Wednesday, October 20th 2021   |

Off the Pulpit: The True Story of a Record-breaking Feat

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

In 1943, chess grandmaster Miguel Najdorf played 40 opponents simultaneously – blindfolded. As interesting as the feat itself is why he chose to do it.

Najdorf grew up in Poland as Mojsze Mendel Najdorf and became one of the leading players in the world. In 1939, he was representing Poland in the chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires when WWII broke out. He stayed in Argentina and could not communicate with his family.

Najdorf wanted to let them know how he was, and perhaps establish contact. He decided that if he did something that would make the newspapers all over the world, his family might see it and know that he was alright. To keep all those games in memory without a board is phenomenally difficult and no one had managed more than 34. Najdorf decided to break the blindfold record.

Sadly, although covered by the press all over the world it did not bring him news of his family, who perished in the Holocaust. In 1947, seeking once again to find anyone who might have known him from his previous life, he increased the number to 45, a record that stood until 2011. A remarkable man who played blindfold to get the world to see.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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