Matafia Šeinbergas (Scheinberg) was born in Jurbarkas, a small town in Raseiniai county, Lithuania. (1)
In 1926, the 17 year old Scheinberg moved to Kaunas, to study at the Health Sciences faculty of Kaunas University. In April 1926, he played on board 9 for Kaunas in the Klaipeda vs Kaunas double round match (nine boards, 9.5 : 8.5), winning two games. At the beginning of October 1926, he took 1st place in the Tombolo tournament in Kaunas. He entered his first major tournament shortly thereafter, in the spring of 1927. This was a 6-player double round robin held to select a challenger for Alexander Macht, the champion of Kaunas city. 10 rounds tournament was held in the office of Kaunas chess society starting March 25th until end of May. The winner was Marcos Luckis (7/10), followed by Z. Kolodnas (5.5/10), Scheinberg and Givovskis (=3rd, 5/10). In the summer of 1927, Scheinberg played on board 5 for Kaunas in the Kaunas vs Klaipeda double round match (eight boards, 12.5 : 3.5), winning two games. (2)
The Lithuanian Chess Federation was established in 1929, and in 1930 it joined the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Like most Lithuanian cafe players, Scheinberg was an amateur without deep theoretical knowledge. Together with Alexander Macht, Isakas Vistaneckis, Leonhard Abramavicius and Zelikas Kolodnas he was included in the Lithuanian team for its first Olympiad appearance. (3) He played for Lithuania in the 1930 Hamburg Olympiad on board 2, scoring +5 =2 -9. He also played on board 2 in the 1931 Prague Olympiad (+3 =4 -7). (4)
In 1930, Scheinberg graduated from the clinical medicine faculty of the prestigious Pisa University in Italy. After the Prague Olympiad, he stopped playing in tournaments. During the Spanish Civil War, Scheinberg joined the Internationalist Brigades, believing that the Spanish Republic was a front line in the war against fascism. From 1937 to 1939, he was a fighter in Spain. (1) After the disintegration of the Republican army in the beginning of 1939, Scheinberg, together with military personnel and political refugees, was interned in camps for defeated Spanish Republicans in France. From the camp he returned to Kaunas, where he married Fania Katz, and where their child Modesto was born. Another son, Isai, was born in 1946. (5)
From 1941, Scheinberg served in the Red Army. From 1942-1945, he was a medical battalion doctor in the 16th Lithuanian Division. When WWII ended, Scheinberg was in Berlin, and held the rank of Colonel. In 1945, he settled in Vilnius. Scheinberg dedicated most of his time to professional activity as a medical doctor. He went on from 1946-1958 to work as a chief physician in a Vilnius infant home. In 1957, he published a book, For Spanish Freedom. From 1958-1984, Scheinberg worked as a researcher at the Epidemiology, Microbiology and Hygiene Institute in Vilnius. At the same time, he was writing health education brochures. He also continued his education, successfully defending his Doctor of Sciences thesis, on the role of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus in prenatal human pathology, in 1980, at the age of 71(!). (1, 5)
In 1993, Scheinberg moved to Canada. He was already retired, did not play chess, but played tennis and spent time with his family. On 21 September 2002, he passed away at the age of 92. He was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. (5)
(1) "Žydai Lietuvos šachmatų istorijoje" ("Jews in Lithuania chess history"), Eugenijus Paleckis, Boris Rositsan, Vilnius, 2015, pages 117-121. Before World War I, Jurbarkas was part of the Russian Empire. During most of the 19th Century, the greater proportion of the town's population was Jewish, and it was a center of the Jewish Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement (Wikipedia article: Jurbarkas).
(2) Article by the Lithuanian sports historian Algimantas Bertasius: "Žinios apie šachmatus Lietuvos periodikoje" ("Chess information from Lithuanian periodicals"), at http://www.butnoriuschess.lt/1921-2... and newspapers "Lietuvis" ("Lithuanian") March 21, 1927 page3 and "Lietuvos žinios" ("Lithuanian news") June 2nd, 1927, page 3. The "tombolo", single-elimination tournament, played at weekend.
(3) Article by Henrikas Puskungis: "Lietuviai pirmosiose šachmatų olimpiadose" ("Lithuanias first Chess Olympiads"), "Kulturos barai" (culture bars) magazine, 2012, number 6, page 85.
(4) Chess Olympiads 1927-1968, by Arpad Vajda. Dover Publications, New York, pages 51 and 73.
(5) Memories of Modesto Sheinberg and Isai Scheinberg, sons of Matafija Scheinberg.
We thank Modesto Sheinberg and Isai Scheinberg, sons of Matafija Scheinberg, for private communications concerning their father.