Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Chess Amateur and William Moffatt

There is considerable bewilderment in bibliographical sources regarding the editor of The Chess Amateur, the entertaining and wide-ranging periodical, published in Stroud, England, from October 1906 to June 1930.

Betts 7-54 states "No principal editor is given in the text; various regular contributors."

Chess Periodicals by Di Felice simply repeats the information from Betts.

The Chess Amateur did indeed have many regular contributors, including Philip H. Williams, the problem editor from its inception until his death in 1922. Other contributors included Carslake Winter-Wood, Rhoda A. Bowles, Alain C. White, Thomas R. Dawson (a major contributor), Rev. Edward E. Cunnington, Isidor Gunsberg, Cyril S. Kipping (succeeded P. H. Williams as problem editor),  William A. Fairhurst and William Moffatt.

Timothy Harding, in his excellent article British and Irish chess magazines, 1837-1914, at his website states in the entry on The Chess Amateur: "The editor is never named; Frideswide Rowland said it was W. Moffatt."

All other sources that I have checked, including the National Library of the Netherlands, the Cleveland Public Library, the British Library and the usual chess reference works are silent on the matter, although Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess (1977) says that Fairhurst was a major contributor, and The Batsford Chess Encyclopedia (1990) copies Golombek almost word for word.

However, The Year-Book of Chess, 1914 edited by M. W. Stevens and published by Frank Hollings in 1915, names Mr. Moffatt  (of Stroud, Glos.) as the editor of The Chess Amateur on page 308, following a review of his book Memorable Chess Games. The Year-Book repeats this information on page 314 in its list of Periodical Chess Literature (and also names W. E. Moffatt as chess columnist of the School Guardian).

Furthermore, Moffatt declares that he is the editor of The Chess Amateur in an item on the laws of chess on pages 34 and 35 of the November 1912 issue of his periodical:

The obituary to Moffatt, following his death on 16th October 1918, on page 36 of The Chess Amateur for November 1918, began:

"It is with great regret that we have this month to record the death of Mr. W. Moffatt, who was mainly instrumental in founding The Chess Amateur twelve years ago, and had since given devoted service to the journal as editor."

An article about the British Chess Company at gives Moffatt's year of birth as 1843, but this is at variance with the statement in his obituary in The Chess Amateur that he died in his 77th year. In any event he continued editing The Chess Amateur well in to his seventies.

William Moffatt founded the British Chess Company with William Hughes in 1891 and the BCC competed with Jaques of London in the production of chess sets. Moffatt designed the BCC's Royal chessmen which are remarkably similar to the Staunton pattern.

BCC's Royal chessmen designed by Moffatt

He also designed a chess set for use by blind players which was manufactured and sold by the National Institute for the Blind and the accompanying label  states "Designed by the late W. Moffatt (Editor of The Chess Amateur) and F. H. Merrick (Chess Editor of Progress)" The latter was a magazine for the blind.

Through the British Chess Company Moffatt was involved in the publication of a number of chess books including several by Rev. E. E. Cunnington and the three volume set of Classified Chess Games by C. T. Blanshard. He also published his own book Memorable chess games, brilliants and miniatures, Stroud 1913. which was printed in a limited edition of 365 copies.  

In the 1890's Moffatt was instrumental in the formulation of The British Chess Code, which was drawn up with the assistance of William Turnbull and Rev. Edward Cunnington, and first published in 1893 at Moffatt's expense.

Moffatt was obviously an influential figure in British chess in the latter part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century and it is therefore surprising that he did not merit an entry in Gaige's Chess Personalia.

I am grateful to Owen and Kathleen Hindle for assistance with this article. 

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Monday, 6 February 2017

Bobby Fischer's early tournaments

Books covering Bobby Fischer's early tournaments are thin on the ground. Only one of his first nine tournaments from February 1955 to July 1956 has an associated tournament book in English, that is for the United States Junior Championships held in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1955. 

Furthermore, of the first twelve tournaments in which Fischer played, and for which there are tournament publications, nine are Limited Editions by Jack Spence, some of these very limited with less than 100 copies printed. The others include a book on the Canadian Open Chess Championship held in Montreal in 1956, by Daniel Yanofsky, and two B. C. M. Quarterlies covering the Portoroz Interzonal Tournament of 1958 and the 1959 Candidates Tournament held in Yugoslavia. Some of these books were published a considerable time after the event.

There were no books published in English on three tournaments in which Fischer competed in 1959, Mar del Plata, Santiago and Zurich and, similarly there are no books in English on two of his 1960 tournaments, Mar del Plata and Reykjavik, nor on Fischer's first Olympiad held in Leipzig in 1960.

I have a few of these publications on Fischer's early tournaments as follows:

A Selection of Games from the Tenth United States Junior Championship, Lincoln, Nebraska, published by Jack Spence in 1955.

The booklet consists of 20 sheets of paper stapled together and was printed in a limited edition of only 75 copies. This was the first tournament publication to include games by Bobby Fischer.  The tournament was won by Charles Kalme, a handsome unassuming youth from Philadelphia, according to Spence, and his prize was a $75 suit.

Fischer, the youngest competitor at 12, was virtually unknown at the time, and was not even mentioned in  Spence's introduction. He finished in 20th place out of 25 competitors scoring two wins, six draws and two losses. 

The booklet has 75 games, without notes, including four of Fischer's games. Here is his win against James Thomason in round three:

Games from the United States Chess Championship and Fourth Rosenwald Tournament, New York City 1957-1958, edited by Jack Spence, Omaha, 1958.  

This limited edition of 150 copies was a more professional production than the previous item, the 46 leaves being ring bound with proper covers. However, it is still a typescript stencilled on the rectos only.

Fischer, aged 14, won the event ahead of Reshevsky with a score of 10½-2½ winning $600. He was now the star of the show and featured prominently in Spence's Preface.

All 91 games are included, most with a short review of the opening and the course of the game. There are also round by round results and commentaries. Here is Fischer's first round win against Arthur Feuerstein.

All of Fischer's games from this event are featured in Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, New York and London, 1959, with his annotations written at the age of 14 and 15.

The tournament counted as the U.S.A. Zonal event and Fischer therefore qualified to play in the Interzonal Tournament to be held in Portoroz in August and September 1958.

1958 Interzonal Tournament Portoroz , August - September 1958, published by The British Chess Magazine , London 1958. B.C.M. Quarterly No. 2.

Bobby Fischer, aged 15, finished in joint 5th place in this, his strongest tournament to date, 1½ points behind the winner Mikhail Tal. This achievement qualified Fischer for the forthcoming Candidates Tournament and he was also awarded the Grandmaster title, becoming the youngest ever GM. In fact, at that time, no one as young as 15 had even been awarded the International Master title. Today the IM record is held by Praggnanandhaa who gained the title aged 10 !!

This book has a long 12 page introduction by A. S. Russell which included a detailed discussion of each player's performance. Here is what Russell had to say about Fischer:

Round by round score tables are provided and all 210 games are given without notes. There are indexes of openings, endings and the games. The book also has one tiny caricature of Tal measuring about 4cm. x 3 cm., but no other illustrations.

The scores of Fischer's 20 games are also in Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, publication of which was delayed to enable these games to be included. 

Zurich May - June 1959, by Miloš Petronić, Belgrade 1959.

Fischer finished joint third in this very strong tournament, one point behind the winner Tal. This booklet has an introduction by Svetozar Gligorić and all 120 games are given without notes. A crosstable is provided together with portraits  and very brief one paragraph biographies of the 16 players.

1959 Candidates Tournament, Bled - Zagreb - Belgrade, September - October 1959, by Harry Golombek, London 1960. This book was published after the World Championship match held in the spring of 1960. 

A short introduction by Harry Golombek, the chief arbiter of the event, is followed by an explanatory note on the algebraic notation used in the book. Each of the 28 rounds is reviewed and all 112 games are annotated in some detail.  

Fischer scored 12½ points out of 28 finishing in joint fifth place out of the eight competitors, 7½ points behind the winner Tal. Bent Larsen was Fischer's second at this event.

Here is one of Fischer's four losses to Tal:

There are indexes of the games, openings, end-games and, very unusually, middle-games. The only portrait is the one of Tal on the front cover.

Leipzig Olympiad October - November 1960, by Miloš Petronić, Yugoslavia 1960.

Fischer played 18 games on board one for the U.S.A in this his first Olympiad, scoring +10 =6 -2. The U.S.A. team finished second to U.S.S.R. with Yugoslavia in third place.

The introduction by Aleksander Matanović is followed by 65 games without notes including six by Fischer. This cheaply produced booklet has a few interesting photographs including the following shot of Fischer and William Lombardy:

More of Fischer's tournaments in the 1960's another time.

                                     © Michael Clapham 2017

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Rowbothum, Greco and Ruy Lopez

The catalogue of English Literature of the 19th & 20th Centuries...together with Books on Sports and Pastimes, issued by Maggs Bros. in 1928, contained 428 pages listing 2,526 items. There are only three chess books but each is a rarity.

Item 2374: The Pleasaunt and wittie Playe of the Cheasts renewed, with Instructions both to learne it easely, and to play it well. Lately translated out of Italian into French: And now set furth in Englishe by Iames Rowbothum, London 1562.  £82

This is the very rare English translation of Damiano's Questo Libro e da Imparare Giocare a Scachi first published in Rome in 1512. This Italian work was translated into French by Claude Gruget and published in Paris in 1560 with the title Le Plaisant Jeu des Eschecz, and Rowbothum's book was taken from the French translation.

The following page from Rowbothum's book shows the clumsy notation in use at the time.

Richard Eales claims in his Chess: The History of a Game that, although Rowbothum was usually thought to have been the translator, it was more likely William Ward, who wrote the prefatory verses. However, Chess Texts 1562:1 by Whyld and Ravilious, state that the translation is believed to be by Ralph Lever the author of a book on the philosopher's game.

J. A. Leon gave a detailed description of this work in The British Chess Magazine for November 1894 on pages 434-437.

Item 2375: The Royall Game of Chesse-Play: Sometimes the Recreation of the late King, with many of the Nobility. Illustrated with almost an hundred Gambetts. Being the study of Biochimo the famous Italian, London 1656. £3 10s

This was the first publication in book form of Gioachino Greco's games which had previously only been available in manuscripts. Francis Beale was the editor and, Richard Eales, in his aforementioned History, states that Beale augmented Greco's games, which were given as in the manuscripts with almost no notes or explanations, by adding a much more elementary introduction taken largely from The Famous Game of Chesse-play by Saul/Barbier; an edition of this work had "recently" been published in 1652.

The inclusion of a portrait of King Charles I as a frontispiece was a strong political statement by the royalist supporters involved with the production of the book. King Charles I had been executed in 1649, following which the English monarchy was abolished, and a Commonwealth of England was declared with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. The monarchy was restored by Charles II in 1660. Many copies of this book had the portrait removed for fear of reprisals.

Item 2377: Il Giuoco de gli Scacchi di Rui Lopez, Spagnuolo; Nuovamente tradotto in lingua Italiana da M. Gio. Domenico Tarsia, Venice 1584. £4 4s

This is Giovanni Domenico Tarsia's Italian translation (albeit inaccurate according to Richared Eales), of Ruy Lopez's Spanish work first published in Alcala in 1561, Libro de la invencion liberal y arte del juego del Axedrez.  

The variant spellings of Gombito and Gobito on page 133 of this work are of bibliographical interest.

Item 2376 in the Maggs Bros. catalogue is, coincidentally, the work by Ralph Lever referred to above; The Most Noble , auncient and learned playe, called the Philosophers game, invented for the honest recreation of students, and other sober persons, in passing the tediousness of tyme. London 1563. £24

Interestingly, this book was published by James Rowbothum who also wrote the dedication to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in 37 4-line stanzas.

While not related to chess, the philosopher's game or rithmomachy was  an arithmetical game played on a double chess board.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017