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Political pawns: Iran loses chess record to Israel

Israeli chess Grandmaster Alik Gershon, right, makes a move during an attempt to break the Guinness world record of simultaneous chess play in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. The Jewish Agency and the Israel Chess Federation invited hundreds of chess players, many of them new immigrants from the former Soviet Union to break the Guinness world record for simultaneous chess play against Israeli Grandmaster Alik Gershon. The world record of 500 games played simultaneously is now held by Iran. Israeli chess Grandmaster Alik Gershon, right, makes a move during an attempt to break the Guinness world record of simultaneous chess play in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. The Jewish Agency and the Israel Chess Federation invited hundreds of chess players, many of them new immigrants from the former Soviet Union to break the Guinness world record for simultaneous chess play against Israeli Grandmaster Alik Gershon. The world record of 500 games played simultaneously is now held by Iran. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
By Matti Friedman
Associated Press Writer / October 22, 2010

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JERUSALEM—An Israeli broke the record for most simultaneous games of chess played by an individual on Friday, seizing the title from a chess master from his country's archenemy, Iran.

Israeli chess champ Alik Gershon played 523 people, moving from board to board in a Tel Aviv plaza. He started Thursday and finished overnight, winning 454 of the matches, losing 11 and drawing in 58.

In London, Guinness World Records confirmed that the Israeli was the new world record holder.

The previous record was set last year by Iranian champ Morteza Mahjoob, who played 500 opponents at the same time in a Tehran arena.

The new record holder acknowledged the tensions between the countries. "Hopefully this is the only war we are going to have with this enemy, ever," Gershon said.

He also noted the game's ancient origins in Persia -- now Iran.

"Taking the record from an Iranian in a game that was invented by Iran -- it's going to be even sweeter," he said as his record attempt was getting under way Thursday.

Israel believes Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons despite its denials and sees that as an existential threat. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has questioned the veracity of the Holocaust and suggested Israel should be "wiped off the map."

This is not the only Guinness title to be drawn into Mideast politics.

Israel has a long-running competition with Lebanon over who can make the world's biggest plate of hummus, which is seen as a national dish in both countries.

The record has changed hands several times. Lebanon is the current holder, after making a 10-metric-ton plate of the chickpea dip earlier this year.

Palestinians have also tried to set Guinness records, partly in an attempt to draw international attention to their conflict with Israel. Children in the Gaza Strip now hold records for the most people simultaneously flying kites and dribbling basketballs: 3,000 and 7,000, respectively.

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