Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The John G. White Collection

The Gambit, Official Publication of the Missouri Pacific St. Louis Chess Club, issued a Souvenir Edition in June 1930 devoted to the John G. White Collection in the Cleveland Public Library.

Following a page of Acknowledgments and a portrait of the late John Griswold White by Sandor Vago, there is a biography of White written by Mrs. Ina B. Roberts, the publicity representative of the Cleveland Public Library, noting that he was born in 1845, graduated in 1865, admitted to the bar in 1868 and first elected to the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Public Library in 1883. White was President of the Board for 15 years before his death in 1928 aged 83.

A detailed description of The John G. White Collection of Folklore and Orientalia is given by the collection's librarian Gordon W. Thayer. I will comment briefly on this before moving on to The Chess Collection

The foundations of The Collection of Folklore and Orientalia were laid at the end of the 19th century when the United States acquired the Philippines. The CPL had few books about these islands, and White rectified this by acquiring a number of books about the Philippines and donating them to the library. After several years of donating further books on the Orient, folklore, archeology and the early voyages, it was decided to keep all of these books together in what became known as The John Griswold White Collection of Folklore and Orientalia.  
The books were housed in a special library in a long, beautiful room overlooking Lake Erie. The Collection is extraordinarily wide-ranging and rich in material - two of the more exotic items being bronze figurines from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and a book of magic spells, written with boiled lemon juice on folded birch bark, formerly owned by the medicine man of a savage tribe from Sumatra; now there's a book you don't see every day.  

Five pages of this Souvenir Edition are devoted to a description of the Folklore and Orientalia Collection, and the more you read, the more you marvel at the scope and content of this remarkable collection covering witchcraft, alchemy, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, customs and manners, traditions, mythical legends, gypsies, superstitions etc. etc. I will be pleased to send scans of these pages to anyone interested.

Conversely, the rather disappointing, and poorly written, article on The Chess Collection receives only three and a half pages of coverage. The author of this essay was the chess collection's librarian, Walter C. Green, who displays a distinct lack of knowledge and understanding of his subject. No doubt this was due to the fact that he was new to the job, since the chess and checkers collection had only recently been donated to the library following J. G. White's death in August 1928. Perhaps this June 1930 article is the first account of the great Chess Collection.

Walter Green talks of "Angell's Handbook of Chess", (presumably meaning Agnel's Book of Chess), "the chess automaton" (which one?), "Harold H. W. Murray", and there are obvious errors such as "collection of mathematics" (should be manuscripts).  

Instead of delighting us with mouth-watering descriptions of the undoubted treasures in the collection, Green goes on and on about the extensive material held relating to the knight's tour and cubic chess, whatever that is.  In fact there is not a single mention of any individual chess book, just generalities about having lots of this and loads of that. 

There are, however, some interesting revelations:

a. The chess and checkers collection contained around 12,000 volumes in 1930; the most recent estimates that I can find give figures of between 32,000 and 35,000, including over 6,000 bound volumes of periodicals.

b. Chess columns from newspapers and magazines formed an important part of the collection which had 400 bound volumes of these cuttings, including 140 bound volumes from the J. W. Rimington Wilson collection.

c. Bound chess periodicals in all languages numbered about 1,000 and were, with one or two exceptions, complete.

d. J. G. White specified in his will that all advertising pages were to be bound up with the periodicals, a practice, unfortunately, not adopted by many magazine publishers when binding up there own volumes.  

e. White's greatest interest, in the latter part of his life, was in manuscripts, and he went to great trouble and expense to acquire either originals or copies of these.

The three pages of illustrations are equally disappointing; the only chess books displayed are some run-of-the-mill beginners books by Cunnington and Blake, and these are not even the cloth-bound first editions but later, paper covered, editions. However, these books are merely the back-drop to some replicas of the Lewis chessmen. A second illustration shows the same replica Lewis chessmen, while the third illustration shows some more chessmen.  

The full article on The Chess Collection follows:

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017

Monday, 11 September 2017

Fred Reinfeld's early chess books

Having taken a light-hearted dig at Fred Reinfeld's repetitive output in the last article, I will redress the balance with a look at some of his earlier books from the 1930's.

Reinfeld wrote his first chess book* at the age of 23 in collaboration with Irving Chernev, and this was published by his own Black Knight Press:

Chess Strategy and Tactics, Fifty Master Games Selected and Annotated by Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev, New York 1933.

The fifty games cover the period from 1870 to 1933, although the majority are from the 1920's and 1930's, and include examples from the leading players and major tournaments of that period. Each game has a short introduction and instructive annotations. There is no indication in the book regarding each author's contribution but, curiously, the copyright notice mentions Irving Chernev only.

Here are the introductions to games by Steinitz and Reti:

Five portraits are included, the frontis features Steinitz, while Capablanca and Alekhine have been put together opposite page 66, and Isaac Kashdan and Salo Flohr appear opposite page 92.


I have two copies of this book, a hardback and a ring-bound softback. The only difference between the two is an advert in the latter for Curious Chess Facts by Irving Chernev which was published by The Black Knight Press in 1937.

Reinfeld's second book, A. Alekhine vs. E. D. Bogoljubow, World's Chess Championship 1934, edited by Fred Reinfeld and Reuben Fine, was published by David McKay Company, Philadelphia in 1934. 

The 26 games of this return world championship match are annotated over 48 pages but, again, there is no indication of who wrote what, unless you can distinguish between Reinfeld's and Fine's annotational style, which I haven't attempted.

Incidentally this is one of three books in English covering this, relatively lesser, world championship match; compared with, for example, Lasker v Capablanca 1921, Capablanca v Alekhine 1927, Alekhine v Bogoljubow 1929, and Alekhine v Euwe 1935 which each had only one book devoted to them in English. In fact, only the 1937 world championship match between Euwe and Alekhine had more books written about it in English (four), prior to the Spassky v Fischer match in 1972 (over 20 and counting).

The book on the left was published by The Freeman Press, which had printed Reinfeld's first book the previous year.

Reinfeld's next six books were all published in 1935, the year that he commenced his Modern Chess Library Series with The Book of the Cambridge Springs International Tournament, 1904,  and also the Reinfeld Limited Editions Series with The Games of the Match between S. Flohr and M. Botvinnik, 1933.

Most of Reinfeld's books from these early years are difficult to find and the only book that I have from 1935 is Dr. Lasker's Chess Career: Part I, 1889-1914, Printing-Craft, London. This was another collaboration with Reuben Fine, and there were no further Parts.   

Lasker was a favourite of Reinfeld's and he spent three years researching and analysing the 75 games for this book. 

Reinfeld released three books in 1936 and four in 1937 including volume VI in his Limited Editions Series: Keres' Best Games 1932-1936.  

This was a typescript production stencilled onto the rectos only and  includes 54 games with notes and analyses taken from various sources but mostly annotated by either Reinfeld (22 games) or Keres (25).

The book also has a detailed analysis of the Moeller Attack by Keres and an Errata compiled by Sidney Bernstein. Finally, the List of Advance Subcribers has 79 names.

From page 6:

A second volume of Keres' games was published in 1938;  Keres' Best Games Part II -- 1937, featuring 53 of the 88 games played by Keres in that year including some of his losses.

I have no idea how many of these Limited Editions were printed, but the subscription list in this particular book names 52 Permanent Subscribers and 50 Other Subscribers.

Reinfeld complains in his Preface that "the previous three volumes of this series have had a rather poor reception", but later states that "the first six volumes are now out of print", presumably including one of the aforementioned three.

The Preface also gave detailed information on the next planned volume in the series, a collection of Sammy Reshevsky's best games. This promised to include "contemporary descriptions and reactions to his appearance as a child prodigy", but, alas, this volume never appeared.

A game between Keres and Fine from the Ostend tournament of 1937:

Front covers of the two Keres games collections with errors in the label for Part II:

Fred Reinfeld was also a very competent linguist and translator. Most of the annotations in these two volumes came from non-English publications and were presumably translated by Reinfeld. He is also credited as translator in the 1938 book  From My Games 1920-1937, by Dr. M. Euwe, G.Bell & Sons, London, and receives fulsome praise from Euwe in his Preface.

By the end of the decade Reinfeld had written or co-authored over 20 chess books including volumes on several important tournaments such as Cambridge Springs 1904, Margate 1935, Warsaw 1935, and Kemeri 1937, along with annotated games collections of Botvinnik, Colle, Nimzowitsch, Keres and Lasker; and all of this was achieved before the age of 30.

 * Wikipedia, sourced by Bill Wall, states that an earlier book on the Bled tournament of 1931 was co-authored with Isaac Kashdan but I cannot find this in any bibliography or library catalogue, and doubt its existence. Reinfeld did, however, annotate 16 games for Kashdan's 1933 book on the Folkestone International Chess Team Tournament.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Some lovely old Fred Reinfeld's

Here are a few books by Fred Reinfeld recently acquired, all with attractive dust jackets:

The Modern Fundamentals of Chess, Nicholas Kaye, London 1961.

How to get more out of Chess, Arco, London 1958.

The Complete Chessplayer, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1953.

Not to be confused with....

The Complete Chess Player, by Edward Young (a.k.a. Fred Reinfeld), Arco, London 1960.

How to Play Chess, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London 1954 

And for the more ambitious....

How to Play Chess Like a Champion, Arco, London 1957. 

Chess: How to Fight Back, W. Foulsham & Co. London 1956.

Obviously the content of each book is practically the same but, with a policy of collecting everything in English up to 1968, I need all of these. Furthermore as no one else wants them they are only a few £££'s each.

I now have around 45 books by Reinfeld which is probably about a third of his chess output.
                                           © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Chess Problem, a scarce periodical

The Chess Problem, edited and published by Robert McClure of Whitburn, West Lothian, commenced in November 1942 and ran for 108 issues up to March 1948. 

I have recently acquired all issues from No. 34 for 16th February 1944 up to No. 108 for March 1948 of this fortnightly magazine and, as this is almost impossible to find, I will describe it in some detail.

Further information on this magazine can be found in an article by John Beasley in The Problemist for May 2003, which has been reproduced in the biographies section of the chessscotland website. The Chess Problem was launched with the aim of filling the gap created by the suspension of the chess column in the Falkirk Herald following the death of that column's editor in 1942, and, in fact, this was the only British chess periodical which commenced operations during the war years.

The Chess Problem is also briefly mentioned in T. R. Dawson's Problem World article in The British Chess Magazine, January 1943, page 21, and in C. S. Kipping's Problem Pages in Chess, June 1943, page 149.

BCM January 1943, p 21
Chess June 1943, p 149

The early issues consisted of a single sheet of paper folded in half to create four pages, and, unfortunately, the paper size is slightly larger than foolscap so that my scans are cropped.

Issues 34 to 86 were part printed and part duplicated with hand-stamped diagrams and text, or perhaps each copy was individually hand-stamped.        

Pages from issue No. 34:

The basic layout of the early issues was a hand-stamped end game study on the printed front/title page, with a stamped issue no. and date. Some problems Selected From Early Days were stamped on page 2, six printed problems appeared on page 3, and hand-stamped solutions and corrections to earlier problems were included on page 4.

Issue No. 35:

From No. 41 an additional leaf was attached inside increasing the size to 6 pages, this included an End Games article by M. W. Paris and the end game study no longer featured on the front page. However, Nos. 57 to 75 (January to September 1945) reverted to four pages and Paris's End Games articles moved to page 2.

Issue No. 41:

Issue No. 60:

It was announced in Issue No. 62 that M. W. Paris was making a collection of Endings on the lines of the "White-Hume" Problem Collection, but  I have been unable to find any further details of this.

Issue No. 65 carries the first of many regular adverts by Dr. A. Buschke, the New York chess literature dealer, while No. 66 advertises The Chess Correspondent, Official Magazine of the Correspondence Chess League of America, noting that this includes master and correspondence games, fully annotated by Fred Reinfeld.

There was a hiatus in publication of three months between issue No. 76, 1st October 1945, and issue No. 77, 9th January 1946, and there was only one End Games article between October 1945 and June 1946 due to the long serious illness of Mr. Paris.  

The editor published a letter to his readers in issue No. 81, March 1946, appealing for financial contributions to assist with the purchase and installation of a printing press. McClure noted that the present circulation was 160, and increasing with every issue. He promised to double the size of the magazine with the new press. 

The appeal was successful and from No. 87, 29th May 1946, a fully printed eight page magazine was produced in a slightly smaller format (which now fits in the scanner). 

Issue 87:

The magazine was further improved from issue No. 91 onwards with proper covers for the first time, these were variously blue and pink. Issue No. 91 also announced the International Composing Tourney for End Games, conducted by L'Italia Scacchistica, to be judged by Dr. Jean Mennerat, the well known French chess bibliophile, and R. Bianchetti of Italy.

Publication became erratic from August 1946, with up to six weeks between issues. From 1st November 1946 the magazine was produced twice monthly and then monthly from No. 101, February 1947 to No. 105, June 1947. There was then a gap of seven months to No. 106 for January 1948 owing to a break-down in the editor's health due to overwork, and only two more issues were published, ending with No. 108 in March 1948. 

Issue No. 106 had announced a new series on Chess Problemists of the World but this appeared only once, in No. 107, with problems by G. Mott-Smith of New York. 


There is no indication in the final issue that this would be the last and I can find no further information about Robert McClure or the reasons for the abrupt discontinuation of his magazine. A total of 802, mainly original, problems from around the World were published during the magazine's life and these included help-mates, retractors, fairy problems etc. Only solutions up to 740 had been printed before publication ceased.

Pages from the final issue:

These magazines came with a sheaf of papers which mainly include solvers comments on previous problems, and I assume that these were distributed with the relevant issue. Some of these have lists of books for sale by Dr. A. Buschke printed on the back. There is also an eight page leaflet on Fairy Chess Problems which appears to be written in McClure's hand. 


The National Library of the Netherlands, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, has a full run, with the editor misnamed as MacClure, but I cannot trace this in the Cleveland Public Library. The British Library has issue No. 3 and most issues from 30 to 106 (lacking 40, 75, 104, 107, 108). As noted in John Beasley's article in The Problemist, the British Chess Problem Society also has a full set.  

                                             © Michael Clapham 2017