Chess is one of the most prevalent games in the world. It is thought to have been invented in India in the 6th century CE and was popular among the Arab nations and in Persia. The game reached Europe around the 10th century, and the modern rules of the game were established there in the 15th century. Since then, this version of the game has spread throughout the world.
Chess is mentioned in the Kuzari, written by medieval Spanish philosopher and poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, as well as in writings by Rashi and Maimonides, and Abraham ibn Ezra even dedicated one of his poems to the game. Chess was mentioned many times in our literary sources for a good reason: this game has been extremely popular among Jews, who have also had significant achievements in this field. Four of the 16 World Champions were Jewish and three others were half-Jewish. Many other Jewish players were (and still are) at the international pinnacle of the game. Jewish excellence in chess is so prominent that the game has been called "the national Jewish game".
This tradition has continued in Israel, and Israeli chess masters have achieved more than sportsmen in any other field: the Israeli national team is among the top-ranked in the world, with its highest achievements being second place at the Chess Olympic Games in Dresden in 2008 and third place at the Khanty-Mansiysk Games in Russia in 2010. The national team won second place at the European Championships in 2003 and 2005.
Israeli chess grandmaster Boris Gelfand challenged then World Champion Viswanathan Anand for the World Chess Championship in 2012. Although the match ended in a draw, Gelfand lost by a minimal margin in the rapid tiebreaker games and had to settle for the title of World Championship runner-up.
Israeli women have also recorded a number of substantial achievements, among them winning the Women's Chess Olympic Games in Haifa 1976 (which was boycotted by the strong Eastern-European countries). In 1978, Grandmaster Alla
Kushnir-Stein fell just short of competing for the world title when she was beaten in the final round of the contenders' competition by Maia Chiburdanidze of the USSR.
Thanks to these achievements and many more, Israel was granted the opportunity to host a number of important events: the Chess Olympic Games in 1964 (Tel-Aviv) and 1976 (Haifa), the European National Championship (Haifa, 1989), the World Youth Chess Championship (Jerusalem, 1967), [he Team World Cup (Beer Sheva, 2005) and more.
Israel's integration into the international chess arena began even before the establishment of the State. In fact, the first sports delegation to participate in an international competition under the flag of Eretz Israel was the delegation to the Warsaw Chess Olympic Games in 1935, which was comprised solely of members of the Jewish Yishuv. The first official sports meeting between Israel and any of the Arab countries took place at the Chess Olympic Games in Varna (1962), when Israel's national chess team beat the Tunisian team with the score of 3:1.
This stamp is being issued to mark the European Individual Chess Championship 2015 which will be held in Jerusalem. The design reflects the connection between chess and Judaism and Israel, as well as chess' status as Israel's national sport and its number one representative sport.