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Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

As several of my readers know, I am considered to be the most eminent chess players around; not only in Israel, where there are more top chess players than anywhere else, but on the entire face of the earth. Moreover, I am the greatest chess player ever, since the day the game was invented by my forefather the notorious Vladimir Cardozo the Terrible.

It sticks in my gizzard and goes against the grain of my great humility to reveal this. But now that you’ve asked me, I have no choice but to tell you. And the truth must prevail, especially so that the less gifted among my readers will learn the trick.


My genius is so impressive that famous scientists have asked permission to remove part of my skull and replace it with a piece of transparent plastic so that they could watch my brain at work. I said it would be fine with me, because I want to advance scientific knowledge, but the Animal Rights Movement in Israel objected and we had to drop the plan.


When I enter international chess competitions, it frequently happens that some of my most formidable opponents turn pale, others have heart attacks, and still others have nervous breakdowns. There are even those who commit suicide.

Since I don’t want to cause the death of well-meaning but backward geniuses, I decided a long time ago to withdraw from these championships and play only against my computer. It can’t have a heart attack, and it never turns pale.

But this solution also weakens my playing, since the reason I always win and crush the greatest minds is not because I’m the best player. The truth is the reverse. I would always be standing with the losers if not for the fact that I make my opponents extremely nervous, which weakens them, and I can then have a field day.

The way I do this is by suddenly making such bizarre moves on the chessboard— completely irresponsible and even foolish moves—that nobody can follow my strategy. They think it is the result of a brilliant super mind. In other words: Superb virtuosity.  The result is that it takes my opponents by complete surprise and creates total pandemonium in their minds. It freezes their brains. It dazzles the eyes of the spectator.  And from that position, I strike. It’s called the Cardozo-Fright-Da’as Toire Combination.

It makes them so anxious that they can no longer keep their minds on the game. If they were to stay calm, they would easily know how to corner me, because my situation could not be worse.

It is what top chess players call: Das Enkraften des Gegners durch’s Aufrechthalten einessimulierte Negativismus. And although I have no idea what it means, I fully agree with this observation.

Actually, I feel it is better described as: The Psychological Nervous-Syndrome Chess Game, better known as the PNSCG technique.


The reason that I use this technique is because I’ve carefully studied Megillat Esther and have realized that this story is really a chess game of high risks in which Mordechai and Esther deliberately do some stupid things, thereby creating severe anxiety among their opponents, which lead to such chaos in their minds that they totally lose it.

Take King Achashverosh, for example. When Vashti refused to appear before him (naked) as he had demanded, she paid with her life. As is well known, this refusal was engineered by Mordechai so as to confuse and annoy the king, who probably  would  suspect that some Jews were behind this snub.  After all: Who else? This was a most risky and foolish undertaking because if the king were indeed to find out, he would be enraged and call for the extermination of the Jews. But, as Mordechai had foreseen, the king lost his mind as soon as Vasthi refused to appear. He was incapable of dealing with this enormous blow to his authority. Had he called in Sherlock Holmes to find out who had done this to him, he would have left his beloved Vashti alive. Instead, he asked for immediate revenge, instant satisfaction, here and now, and therefore had Vashti killed. In other words, it was his nerves that undid him and subsequently initiated this chess game called Megillat Esther. Objectively, this was a high-risk, stupid move by Mordechai, which could have gone wrong but worked out perfectly well, by his relying on the even greater stupidity of the king who could not keep his mind on the game. And so the way was paved for Esther, queen of the chessboard, to move forward and outmaneuver the many other beautiful pawns.

Then, you have the case of Haman. He wanted every human being to bow down  before him as he rode his royal horse. He got totally frustrated when Mordechai refused to do so—indeed a most foolish thing for Mordechai to do. But Mordechai knew that this would irritate Haman, who would then go out of his mind—exactly what Mordechai was aiming for. Haman consequently decided to set up a plan to do away with Mordechai and the Jewish people. He became a nervous wreck, unable to think about what he was actually doing. He engineered a strategy that he believed would bring him even more honor, only to discover that he’d actually given all honor to his archenemy Mordechai, who immediately became the most celebrated man in the entire kingdom from Hodu to Cush. This must have enraged Haman, especially after he realized that it was he who fell into his own trap.

Or, take the case of Esther, who suddenly decided to walk into King Achashverosh’s inner chambers, uninvited. This was tantamount to committing suicide! But Esther knew that her beauty (even after she had fasted for three days!) would throw the king off guard. After all, let us not forget that he had a weak spot for beautiful women. And indeed, instead of having her killed, the king, to everyone’s absolute horror, told her on the spot that she can have half his kingdom! Who in his right mind would ever come up with that? In other words, he had turned into a complete lunatic, was ripe for psychiatric treatment, and was in need of heavy medication.

These are only three instances of powerful people who lost their minds and turned into laughing-stocks. I could add many more examples from the Megillah alone.

And that is exactly the point. It’s not logic and careful analysis that enables you to win a war. It’s making your opponents so nervous and bewildered that they can’t think straight anymore.


Here is an example of how I use the same strategy in my chess games and why I always win.

One time, my opponent was convinced that he had thought through all of his options on the chessboard so that he could make his next move. But he overlooked my rook and, like the man who tried not to step in the puddles, walked straight into the canal.

At this point, you need to be fast and make your next move so that he doesn’t recognize his blunder a moment later. You immediately rub your hands gleefully, making the impression that you’re waiting for him to take your rook. You then quickly make the next move with a pawn, doing so without even a moment’s contemplation.

He now takes your rook but becomes suspicious. Why didn’t you pause to consider for even a moment? What’s he missing? He now believes he must have overlooked something of huge importance, but he can’t figure out what! He turns pale, gets nervous, moves his chair around, and starts trembling.

You promptly start whistling and jump up and down a bit, as if you’re in heaven. This makes him even more agitated, and he can’t keep his thoughts on the actual game anymore.

You now say: Yeah, chess is not easy! Or: Really? Or: Yes, that’s a possibility, which means there are more options that he just can’t think of. His blood pressure rises, and his face becomes red.

You quickly make your next move, get up from your chair, fill your pipe, and start peacefully walking around the hall as if the game is yours—but only after giving him a kind-hearted clap on his shoulder and saying: Later we’ll analyze what went wrong.You had no other option.

When you return to your seat, he is no doubt still thinking what his next step should be. He’s searching for something that doesn’t exist, and nothing is more tiring than that.

He has now reached a state of mind in which he will surely make a major blunder. He’s looking for an elusive dream of which only you know the secret. You pulled his leg, but he believes it’s serious and is panicking as never before. Drops of sweat are falling from his face.


And that, my dear friends, is the secret to my success in winning all the chess games against Bobby Fisher, Mikhail Botvinnik, Richard Réti, Aron Nimzowitsch, and the Dutch Max Euwe. They all lost their nerve. They were much more clever than I am, but they couldn’t handle their anxiety. And that is my secret! Ha ha.

But this is also why I can’t win against my computer. The trouble is that it doesn’t get nervous; it doesn’t turn pale and start drumming its fingers on the table; it doesn’t rock its chair; and it shows no signs of perspiration.

For me, that means the fun of playing chess is gone. It’s boring and flatly annoying. No red face. No drumming fingers. No perspiration. No heart attack. So why play?

I have therefore decided to stop playing chess altogether. Yes, I’m sorry for you, because I know that you’re all waiting for me to play in the next world championship. But alas…

And yes, I know, some foolish people believe that it is the triumph, the checkmate that is the goal of the game. But that’s not the real IT. True, it’s nice. But it’s only a bonus. After all, such a winner is nothing more than a collector of scores. The real thing is the game itself, its tension, observing your opponent getting mad, as did Achashverosh and Haman in Megillat Esther. It is not the end result but the psychology behind it that is the issue. The PNSCG.

I once met a man who told me proudly that he had lost beautifully. He had made all of his opponents terribly anxious but not enough. The reason why he had lost the game was due to the fact that his moves on the chessboard were too clever.  A pity. He should have studied Megillat Esther more carefully like I did.

Purim Sameach!

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Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is the founder and dean of the David Cardozo Academy and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Rabbi Cardozo is the author of 13 books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew.