I first met Mr. Scherbak when I started to play in Montreal tournaments in early 1970. Always in good spirits, smiling, friendly and helpful, perhaps even overly polite, Mr. Scherbak represented the best role model, along with his friend Ignas Zalys, that I could imagine of the older generation chess master. I still remember the exquisite wood chess clock and beautiful wood pieces that he carried with him to each tournament; how he would set up each and every piece exactly in the middle of the square before the game. How he recorded each chess move with elegance and clarity…Mr. Scherbak was a player of strong classical principles and a big fan of the Botvinnik school of chess. He played 1.d4 with White and loved to play against the Kings Indian Defence.
I had the good fortune to play Mr. Scherbak several times in my formative years. I remember especially well the interesting Spanish games we played at the Montreal Labour Day tournament in 1973 and again at the Montreal Labour Day tournament in 1975, soon after I had won the International Master title. Unfortunately my score sheets of these games are lost, but I will always remember his wonderful spirit and the gentlemanly discussions that followed in the post mortems.
I don’t know anything about how or when Mr. Scherbak started to play chess, but when he first came over to Canada with his family in 1952 he was already quite a good chess player and soon became a regular at the local tournaments, quickly establishing himself as one of Montreal’s toughest players. Mr. Scherbak played regularly up until the mid 1970’s, when he began to retire from competitive chess. By the 1980’s Mr. Scherbak had become more of a spectator than a player. This was a big loss for the entire Montreal chess community!
Here is one of Mr. Scherbak’s best games:
Zalys I. – Scherbak M.
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 d6 5. d3 e5 6. Nge2 Be7 7. Be3 Nd4 8. Qd2 Bh3 9. Kf1 Qd7 10. Bxd4 cxd4 11. Nd5 Nxd5 12. exd5 h5 13. c3 dxc3 14. bxc3 h4 15. f3 Qf5 16. Qe3 Bg5 17. Qe4 Qd7 18. f4 Bf5 19. Qe3 Bh6 20. Kf2 Kf8 21. Rhe1 Re8 22. Qd2 f6 23. Rab1 g5 24. fxe5 fxe5 25. Kg1
Black begins a strong counterattack against Zalys’ King position
25… g4! 26. Qc2 Be3 27. Kh1 hxg3 28. Nxg3
Now a brilliant rook sacrifice rips the White King position wide open28… Rxh2! 29. Kxh2 Qh7 30. Nh5 Qxh5
[30… g3! is even faster] 31. Kg3 Bf4 32. Kf2 g3 33. Kf1 Qh2 34. Qe2
Now the final wave of the attack begins
34… Bh3! 35. Qf3 Qh1 36. Ke2 Qxg2 37. Qxg2 Bxg2 38. c4 b6 39. Rg1 Bh3 40. Kf3 Bf5 41. Rbd1 Kg7 42. Rh1 Kg6 43. Rhe1 Kg5 44. Kg2 Rh8 45. Rh1 Rxh1 46. Kxh1 Bh3 47. Re1 Kg4 [0:1] A great finale!
Tamara has done a number of short films based on her family history, and especially how Mr. Scherbak survived the slave labour camps in Nazi Germany and eventually came to Canada in 1952.
Two of these films are ”I carry my memories in this suitcase” (2009) and ”Dedashka” (2007)
(Though I do not speak Ukrainian, apparently dedashka means grandfather.)
“I carry my Memories in This Suitcase” is a story told through photos and documents of one family’s long journey through both Soviet and Nazi regimes and refugee camps to the shores of Canada and freedom.
The actual video can be found at the link below, and includes some details of the origins of Mr. Scherbak as well as some very nice photos :
This short film is well worth seeing! Michael Sherbak was born in the Ukraine on October 22 1923. The Ukraine was at that time part of the Soviet Union. When World War II broke out, Mr. Scherbak and his family were shipped to Germany to work as slave labour. When the war ended, not wanting to be sent back to Soviet controlled Ukraine and certain death, the Sherbak family pretended to be of Polish nationality, and spent the following years in refugee camps. Eventually the family was given permission to go to England , where Mr. Scherbak met his future wife, Leonie Lichtenberger, of Austrian descent. In 1952 the family went to Canada.
About Dedashka: Montreal, QC Documentary, 2007:
An elderly man of Ukrainian origin, Michael Scherbak, tries to hold onto his memories of time spent at a forced-labour camp in Germany during World War II.
Director: Tamara Scherbak
Dedashka has already won awards for Best Film and Best Director!Dedashka
‘s synopsis states:
It’s the crumbling memories of a man. A man who spent his formative years in slave-labor camps in Nazi Germany. Now, elderly and progressively losing his memories, he deals with the importance of remembering the past… This film talks about more than war between humans – it talks about the war which we all must face one day – a war with ourselves, our memories. The act of remembering is a powerful tool; it’s a way to reclaim lost moments and to make sense of your identity. But what if you can no longer remember? What if your memories begin to disappear? How can there be a present without the past?
You can actually find a video of Mr. Scherbak, already an old man (2008) speaking about some of his experiences during the war at this link:
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS