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Josif Israel Zilber
Number of games in database: 40
Years covered: 1949 to 1979
Last FIDE rating: 2400
Overall record: +10 -20 =10 (37.5%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.

With the White pieces:
 King's Indian (4) 
    E98 E95 E97 E69
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (5) 
    B40 B67 B62 B56 B93
 Caro-Kann (4) 
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   J I Zilber vs Tal, 1958 1-0
   Tal vs J I Zilber, 1952 0-1
   V Kirilov vs J I Zilber, 1957 1/2-1/2
   J I Zilber vs Seirawan, 1979 1/2-1/2

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FIDE player card for Josif Israel Zilber

(born Jun-25-1933, 82 years old) Latvia (federation/nationality United States of America)

[what is this?]
Josif Israel Zilber was born on the 25th of June 1933 in Riga, Latvia (formerly USSR). He was Latvian Champion in 1958 (after a play-off). His date of death is unknown.

Wikipedia article: Israel Zilber

 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 40  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-033 1949 RigaC07 French, Tarrasch
2. Tal vs J I Zilber 0-131 1952 URSB56 Sicilian
3. L Shamkovich vs J I Zilber 1-029 1953 TournamentD38 Queen's Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation
4. Tal vs J I Zilber  1-038 1953 Ch LatviaB93 Sicilian, Najdorf, 6.f4
5. Tal vs J I Zilber 1-032 1954 Ch LatviaC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
6. Nezhmetdinov vs J I Zilber  1-046 1955 USSR Team ChB62 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
7. J I Zilber vs V Osnos  1-045 1956 URS-ch sfD90 Grunfeld
8. Novotelnov vs J I Zilber 0-147 1956 URS-ch sfA56 Benoni Defense
9. J I Zilber vs K Klaman 1-044 1956 URS-ch sfA09 Reti Opening
10. Antoshin vs J I Zilber  1-035 1957 URS-ch sfA53 Old Indian
11. Spassky vs J I Zilber  ½-½22 1957 Leningrad ch-URS sfC10 French
12. K Klaman vs J I Zilber  1-044 1957 URS-ch sfA46 Queen's Pawn Game
13. J I Zilber vs Ragozin 1-049 1957 Leningrad ch-URS sfD13 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation
14. J I Zilber vs Suetin  0-156 1957 Ch URS (1/4 final)A33 English, Symmetrical
15. V Kirilov vs J I Zilber  ½-½42 1957 Ch URS (1/4 final)C57 Two Knights
16. J I Zilber vs Gipslis  ½-½14 1957 Ch URS (1/4 final)D30 Queen's Gambit Declined
17. J I Zilber vs Taimanov  0-151 1957 Leningrad ch-URS sfE97 King's Indian
18. J I Zilber vs Suetin 0-117 1957 LeningradA10 English
19. J I Zilber vs Boleslavsky  ½-½20 1957 Minsk ztE95 King's Indian, Orthodox, 7...Nbd7, 8.Re1
20. Korchnoi vs J I Zilber  1-025 1958 VilniusA54 Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3
21. J I Zilber vs Keres  ½-½42 1958 Vilnius USSR tm chA23 English, Bremen System, Keres Variation
22. J I Zilber vs Tal 1-054 1958 URSE69 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Main line
23. Kholmov vs J I Zilber  ½-½38 1961 URS-ch29 sfB67 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 8...Bd7
24. Savon vs J I Zilber  1-063 1961 URS-ch29 sfA07 King's Indian Attack
25. J I Zilber vs I Nei  0-147 1961 Palanga Baltic-chA09 Reti Opening
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 40  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Zilber wins | Zilber loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jun-25-08  brankat: Mr.Zilber, I believe, did have an IM title, and judging by his games, and some results, certainly could have become a GM.

He did beat Tal (twice), Vasiukov, Tukmakov. Had draws against Spassky, Gipslis, Boleslavsky, Christiansen, Seirawan.

Happy Birthday Mr.Zilber!

Jun-25-08  Karpova: Zilber doesn't have a FIDE title.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: Josif Israel Zilber is probably the same player.
Jun-25-08  Karpova: Yes, "Iosif" is his original first name.
Premium Chessgames Member
  samsloan: I just did a search and Zilber is not listed in the Social Security Death Index, unless you have his birth year of 1933 wrong. I think that it is quite likely that he is still alive, but just locked up in a lunatic asylum somewhere.

Sam Sloan

Jul-02-08  MichAdams: Maybe he's in Israel. He could be living on a decent pension as a Holocaust survivor.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gejewe: An Israeli player living in the Netherlands told me that Israel Zilber made it ( back ) to Israel after his hustling days in New York. But he also said that Zilber died a few years ago. I saw the man play in Biel 1980 when he won the open masters. Always impeccably dressed and accompanied by a tall and gorgeous lady. In the blitz tournament he destroyed the opposition in spite of the simple openings he played ( like Caro Kann with 5..exf6 ). Reading Waitzkin's book it was hard to imagine this was the guy who seemed to be doing so well just a few years earlier ...
Jul-02-08  Strongest Force: <Gejewe>, i heard that the "sane" Zilber always had a beautiful woman with him, even in his NYC days. The story goes that he went crazy when he lost her.

This reminds me of another (very young) IM who hasn't been heard from in a very long time by the name of: Larry Evans. The story goes, he opened a art shop and sold some bogus stuff for which he was sent to jail. This was confirmed to me by his lovely wife a few years later as she told me the whole sad story when i passed her on the street one day. Her amazing model-like visage haunts me many years later as i remember how sad she became when told me the whole story.

There are so many sad stories i remember about so many different people from so many walks of life whom i would like to be there forever just to make my own life seem more secure. Zilber was one of those and improved my chess greatly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gejewe: I just remembered an opening that I saw Zilber play, not only in his blitzgames but also in his serious games. The moves 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.0-0 0-0 5.d4 d6 6.c3 Nbd7 7.Nbd2 look quite harmless, but after 7..e5 8.dxe5 Nxe5 ( 8..dxe5 9.Nc4 Re8? 10.Nfxe5 was seen in Zilber's blitzgames in Biel 1980 ) 9.Nxe5 dxe5 10.Nc4! he was often able to develop some pressure, as in Zilber-P.Scheeren, Biel 1980, a game he won in quite impressive style. The more because Scheeren shared first place with him in that event so evidently was no walkover. I was able to use "Zilber's system" in quite a few of my own games, with succes. Unfortunately there is not a single gamescore left, and I also misplaced Zilber-Scheeren ...
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Check out this crazy game in which Zilber uses his aforementioned pet line against Seirawan: J I Zilber vs Seirawan, 1979
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: I also read about Zilber in Waitzkem's book "Searching..." - also in his book about Kasparov -

There are two photos of him playing in book I have. It is called "Play Better Chess" (1980) ed. by Leonard Barden

The caption under the second picture says: "Tension at Hastings as, left to right, Michael Stean and I. Zilber ponder while Nigel Short writes his move on the score sheet."

There is a larger picture of him earlier in the book. It says:

"Isaraeli Chess master Zilber, at the ICL Hastings Premier, ponders the aggressive white queen..."

It is a good introductory to middle level book - still very useful.

Jun-25-09  WhiteRook48: well it's spelled the same way
Premium Chessgames Member
  wordfunph: Israel Zilber was Latvian Chess Champion in 1958. He defeated Tal in 1952 and once made a living in a park with a sign, "For $5 a photo or a game with the man who beat Tal."

happy birthday Josif!

Jun-25-10  MaxxLange: A real chess genius, who did not compromise with "the real world"


Premium Chessgames Member
  samsloan: I played Zilber for a few dollars when I did not know who he was. I was shocked when he played the book line against my 1. d4 e5 in a second. He obviously knew the line, the only opponent I ever had who knew it. This was in 1985 or 1986. I played him in a chess club that existed briefly at about 100th Street and Broadway in New York City. I played a few games with child prodigy KK Karanja and won most of the games. Then Karanja said "Why don't you play that guy over there", pointing to a crazy man talking to himself wearing a Hell's Angles type jacket. I asked Karanja how good he was. Karanja said "about an expert". I did not believe that the crazy guy could possibly be as strong as an expert so I decided to test this. I do not remember the score but he probably won all the games. If I had known that he was a famous player I would have kept playing. Instead I assumed that I was just having a bad day so I quit after a few games. It was not until months later that I found out who he really was. Sam Sloan
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingfu: This is the stuff of legends.

I wonder how many people walked past him and said, "Who is Tal?"

The movie should be called , simply, "Zilber."

Premium Chessgames Member
  samsloan: It was KK Karanja who suggested that I play Zilber, saying that Zilber was "about an expert". KK Karanja was a 12 year old black kid from Kenya. He was at least 2100 strength at age 12, but he disappeared from chess shortly after that. His father was a diplomat from Kenya, the birthplace of Barak Obama.
Dec-01-10  HeMateMe: Someone at the chess club told me that kkk was working in New York as a security guard, somewhere.
Jul-24-11  pureredwhiteblu: <Riverbeast> I believe I have discovered your identity based on your writing style and the 2010-USCF "Lost&Found" article. You seem like a cool cat, and based on your recent display of chess ability in your gameplay in Poland, I would highly encourage you to come back to USChess. This would be a great opportunity for you to become GM, help bring chess to the forefront again, which would create other lucrative opportunities; simuls, coaching, a book deal, or possibly, a great inspirational movie itself. You have so much talent, the possibilities are endless.
Premium Chessgames Member
  waustad: <strongest>Do you mean Larry D. Evans? Larry D. is the only one presently listed by FIDE since Larry M. died recently, but Larry D. was born in 1952. He's younger than I am, but it has been a while since he would have been considered young.
Nov-02-11  Strongest Force: Waustad, one last memory of Larry D Evans is when he was very young. It was in Philadelphia and I was involved in a foot race with two teens I had known since they were 10 and 11: Charles Hertan and Jonathan Schroer. Both became top 50 players in the US. As we where running we passed Larry Evans who told us to slow down. We kept running. Larry was a nice guy I had played in tournaments.
Jun-25-12  LoveThatJoker: Happy birthday, J.I. Zilber!


Jun-25-12  Marmot PFL: <His father was a diplomat from Kenya, the birthplace of Barak Obama.>

That was Barack Obama, Sr. (b Kenya 1934- d 1982), father of the US president. Confusion between the two remains common to this very day, possibly because both later studied at Harvard. There the elder Obama received a master's degree in economics while the younger was president of the law review.

Premium Chessgames Member
  stoy: Back in 1982 Israel Zilber won the championship of the Franklin-Mercantile Chess Club in Philadelphia. His name is on a plaque on the wall. I remember that he always had a pretty woman with him. He billed himself as a FIDE IM. It is sad to read of his subsequent misfortunes. Eccentric he was!

Richard D. Stoy FMCC Treasurer

Apr-09-14  Riverbeast: I discovered some footage of Zilber in Washington Square Park in the late 80s, in a movie called "For Love or Money"...It's a quick shot, just a few seconds or two (from 4:39 to 4:41):

The main focus of the clip is Vinnie Livermore, who was played by Laurence Fishburne is "Searching for Bobby Fischer"

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