Celebrating the Legacy of Chess and Jews in Winnipeg

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Cecil Rosner wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press, February 22,2020″

Winnipeg’s Jewish community has played a critical role in the development of chess in this city, and that legacy will be celebrated next month at a special meeting organized by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

The centre is holding a meeting on March 15 at 2 p.m. to mark the occasion of the centenary of the Winnipeg Jewish Chess Club and 20 years since the death of Winnipeg grandmaster Abe Yanofsky.

Although organized chess activity in Manitoba dates back to the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1919 that the Jewish community created its own club to foster tournament play and encourage participation in the community. Over the next few decades the club produced many of the city’s strongest players.

Foremost among them was Yanofsky, who was born in 1925 and came to Manitoba when he was eight months old. Yanofsky learned the game at the age of eight, and it was quickly apparent he was a child prodigy. Before long he was the top player in the province and competing in national championships.

In fact, Yanofsky broke into the international arena at the age of 14 when he represented Canada at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires. Playing second board for the Canadian side, he amazed many of the world’s top players with his confident and impressive play.

All the while, the Jewish club carried on in different locations throughout the city’s north end. In later years, it effectively merged with the Winnipeg chess club to become the present-day Manitoba Chess Association.

My own first experiences with organized tournaments were at a clubhouse in the basement of the Hebrew Sick Benefit Association building on Selkirk Avenue near Main Street. Many of the old-time regulars of the Jewish club were mainstays there, and they preserved the unique character of the club.

Yanofsky went on to win the Canadian championship a record eight times, and he also continued to represent Canada every two years at Olympiads around the world. Even though his full-time career was as a lawyer and civic politician, his chess-playing abilities never radically diminished.

He was the first player in Canada, and indeed in the entire British Commonwealth, to earn the coveted international grandmaster title.

He retired from active play soon after taking a final crack at a Canadian championship in his early 60s. Yanofsky died in March, 2000 at the age of 74.

Next month’s meeting will be held in the multipurpose room of the Asper Centre at 123 Doncaster St. I will give a presentation about the history of the Jewish club, and longtime Winnipeg master Irwin Lipnowski will also be providing reflections on the club.

As well, Irwin will be conducting a simultaneous exhibition following the presentations. There will also be some memorabilia and artifacts on display from the Yanofsky collection at the City of Winnipeg archives.

For further information on the event, contact Stan Carbone (204) 477-7467 or scarbone@jhcwc.org.



002. Agnar Rae Magnusson

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MCA is naming the 2020 February TNT in honour of Agnar Rae Magnusson, a  former Manitoba Champion. He also had a remarkable record in simultaneous exhbitions against visiting masters. He was  a life-long educator.

 More on Mr. Magnusson here. https://mbchesshof.org/agnar-rae-magnusson/