Saturday, 15 July 2017

19th century additions to Betts

There are 248 chess books recorded in Betts' Bibliography published before 1900, excluding periodicals; but here are a few others that are not recorded by Betts.

A Collection of Problems in Chess, by the most Eminent Composers; Exemplifying some of the greatest beauties of Chess Strategy, by John Augustus Miles, Fakenham 1855. 64 unnumbered leaves.

John Keeble refers to this work in his obituary of Miles in The British Chess Magazine, September 1891 page 422, commenting as follows: "In 1855 he commenced authorship, and published a small volume of selected problems, entitled Chess Strategy, which contained only 120 problems, without solutions, and is very little known, only fifty copies being printed. This was followed by Chess Gems in 1860, and in 1878 another edition of the latter was issued, greatly enlarged, and considered at the time to be the best work of its kind extant."  

BCM September 1891 opposite page 421

The List of Subscribers includes only thirteen names, taking twenty copies between them.

The book includes 120 problems (plus two in the frontis) printed two to a page on the rectos only. These include problems and endgame studies by Kling, Anderssen, Bolton, Horwitz and many others. Problem no. 120 has been replaced by another pasted over the top.

The copy examined appears to be one of Horatio Bolton's six copies with his manuscript corrections.

The National Library of the Netherlands and the Cleveland Public Library both have this book as do several other libraries. This is also in the 1955 van der Linde-Niemeijeriana catalogue (LN 2395) which was a primary source for Betts, so it is surprising that he missed this. A copy was also included in Quaritch's 1929 catalogue of Rimington Wilson books, no. 983.

How to Play Chess, by G. C. Heywood, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1893.

The content of this basic primer of 37 pages was taken from the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle for which Heywood edited the chess column from 1890 up to his death in 1895, when the column was continued by his wife.

BCM December 1893 opposite page 507

The Elementary Lessons in Chess consisted of: Lesson I, The Chess Board, Lesson II, The Pieces, Lesson III, Notation, and Lesson IV, Technical Terms.  These are followed by one illustrative game, with no details of players or place, and 20 Minor or Special Principles by W. N. Potter, editor of the City of London Chess Magazine from 1875 to 1876, and with whom Heywood played two matches receiving the odds of pawn and two moves while they were both members of the City of London Chess Club. 

The final page includes recommendations for further study:

This is a very scarce item with no copies recorded in the British Library, National Library of the Netherlands or the Cleveland Public Library. However the Harvard College Library, which has substantial chess holdings, has a copy. 

Report of the second annual Gathering of the Northumberland and Durham Chess Association, held at North Shields, on Easter Monday and Tuesday, 22nd & 23rd April 1867,  Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1868. 57, [1] pages plus adverts.

This was a relatively minor tournament for local players but resulted in the publication of a very attractive tournament book giving full details of the event.  

The List of Members includes Honorary Members headed by Howard Staunton.

Several tournaments were organised, according to the number of players who turned up on the day, including the main tournament which was open to all amateurs (won by D. Hill), a handicap tournament and some lesser events. A limitation of time was established but obviously chess clocks had not yet been invented.  A Problem Tournament ran alongside the event with P. T. Duffy and H. C. Mott as examiners. All prizes were given in the form of chess literature and equipment.

The book includes 34 games and 12 problems.

It is evident that chess tournaments of 150 years ago were rather formal occasions compared to today's generally more casual events, although I recently attended the opening ceremony of the Dutch Chess Championships which included several speeches, a classical music recital and formal introductions of all sixteen players. 

This particular copy is from J. W. Rimington Wilson's library having been acquired from Lowenthal's chess library, and has Rimington Wilson's usual "ent in cat" inscription. This is no. 1043 in Bernard Quaritch's 1929 catalogue of Rimington Wilson books.  Lowenthal's chess library was sold at auction by Puttick and Simpson on 8th - 10th November 1876, see Aucta 701.  

Another rare item, I can find no record of this book in any online library. There was also a Report of the first annual Gathering of the Northumberland and Durham Chess Association; no. 1042 in the aforementioned Quaritch catalogue, but not recorded in Betts.

It seems that books published outside of London, and especially in Newcastle, were the most likely to have been omitted by Betts, and here is another one:

The Principles of Chess: A Lecture delivered before the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Chess Club, by Louis Zollner, on Tuesday, 10th March, 1891. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1891. LN 1077. In KB, CPL and Harvard.

Origin and Early History of Chess, by A. A. Macdonell, London 1898.
This is LN 244, Aucta 712, and is in KB and CPL.

Professor Arthur Anthony Macdonnell was an eminent Sanskrit scholar and this 25 page booklet consists of an article extracted from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for January 1898.

The essay is an extremely erudite discourse on the subject, with many references to Sanskrit literature, and Macdonnell's writings are frequently quoted in Murray's History of Chess. Interestingly, Macdonnell quotes Murray's English Dictionary in his discussion of the various meanings of the word "check".  This is Sir James Murray, father of H. J. R. Murray and chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary

Macdonell concludes that chess was known in India in the sixth century before spreading to Persia, Arabia and Europe in that order.  

My copy of this item is inscribed to Professor Jacobi, the German Sanskrit scholar and mathematician, who is mentioned several times in this booklet, but he had obviously not read this as the gatherings were unopened.

The Chess-Player's Pocket Companion, by Samuel Comyn, London 1851. vii, 68 pages with folding plate of a chess-board between pages 20 and 21.

This is primarily a book on the openings but also includes an Introduction which covers the history of chess (Comyn states in a few words the conclusions of Macdonell written nearly fifty years later), general instructions, maxims, laws, notation etc. The final chapter discusses various endings.

This book is not in the KB online catalogue but is in the British Library and Cleveland Public Library, and the Harvard University copy has been digitised

Folding plate from Comyn's Chess Player's Pocket Companion

I would like to thank Owen and Kathleen Hindle for considerable help in composing this article and especially for access to the first three books detailed above. 

                                           © Michael Clapham

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Solutions to the chess problems

Here are the solutions to the problems in last week's article Chess in non-chess books, taken from The Week-end Problems Book by Hubert Phillips:

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Friday, 30 June 2017

Chess in non-chess books

I referred recently to the number of books listed in Betts' Bibliography that had only partial chess content and below are two examples, with a further two books not recorded in Betts.

Mental Prodigies; An Enquiry into the Faculties of Arithmetical, Chess and Musical Prodigies...., by Fred Barlow, London 1951. 

This book claimed to be the first attempt to gather together particulars of those unusual people exhibiting certain curious mental abilities, and the Introduction promised "Investigations will not be confined to calculating prodigies. We shall want to devote some time to the study of associated subjects - in particular, to those persons possessing, to an unusual extent, the faculty of memory and also to musical and chess prodigies, men of genius, and precocious children."

However, the very disappointing chapter on Chess Prodigies on pages 119 to 125 makes only the briefest reference to the prodigies Morphy and Capablanca. Barlow also refers to a Polish boy of about eleven years of age playing twenty simultaneous games with skilled players. Obviously meaning Reshevsky but unable to recall his name.

There are two brief mentions of Morphy, including this highly dubious claim "Morphy stated that of the many thousands of games he had played, after his chess powers were mature, he had not forgotten a single game."; and this is all he had to say about Capablanca: "Jose Capablanca, chess champion of the world from 1921 - 27, started to play chess at the age of four." There is no mention of any other chess prodigies.

Much of the material in this chapter was taken from Alfred A. Cleveland's article The Psychology of Chess in The American Journal of Psychology, 1907.  

Barlow was the managing director of a Birmingham office equipment firm, and a member of The Magic Circle, The British Magical Society and The Society for Psychical Research. He was a keen chess player of average ability and here is a photo of him in play against Sidney Fincher - Barlow is on the right.

Mathematical Recreations and Essays by W. W. Rouse Ball, first published in London 1892 with many later editions and reprints.

Rouse Ball's book is recorded in Betts at 41-2, 41-4, 41-5, and 41-8, and I am using the 1949 reprint of the 11th edition revised by H. S. M. Coxeter. The book has various chess and chessboard related problems, starting with two problems concerning the re-arrangement of counters or pawns on a chessboard in the chapter on Geometrical Recreations on pages 122 to 125.

Chapter VI is entitled Chess-Board Recreations and the author starts by giving some mathematical calculations of the relative values of pieces, comparing his results to those of Staunton and von Bilguer. He then discusses the Eight Queens Problem, to determine the number of ways in which eight queens can be placed on a chess-board so that no queen can take any other, followed by the analogous Maximum Pieces Problem (finding the maximum number of kings, or any piece of one type, which can be put an a board so that no one can take any other) and the  Minimum Pieces Problem (finding the minimum number of kings, or pieces of one type, required to command or occupy all cells).

Rouse Ball then talks about Re-entrant Paths on a Chess-board commencing with a detailed discussion of the knights tour but also including re-entrant paths by kings, rooks and bishops. Various similar problems are also introduced.

There are several references throughout this chapter to C. F. Jaenisch's Applications de L'Analyse Mathématique au Jeu des Échecs, Petrograd 1862, and a reference to Pratt's Studies of Chess, sixth edition 1825, in connection with the knights tour.   

The Week-End Problems Book compiled by Hubert Phillips, London 1932.


This book is not recorded in Betts but includes a Chess Problems section edited by Comins Mansfield. This includes 24 problems claiming to be "the most brilliant collection of problems ever assembled in so small a compass".

Also included are six Inferential Problems by Lord Dunsany with some very detailed solutions.

Solutions will follow.

Going completely off at a tangent we have the following:

Chance and Choice by Cardpack and Chessboard by Lancelot Hogben, London 1950.

Despite the title, this work, by the author of the very entertaining book Mathematics for the Million, has nothing to do with chess. It is an oversize book of 417 pages on probability, and "chessboard" here refers to an array of items in a lattice format, used as a visual aid. For example:

However, in a desperate attempt to find some chess content, I managed to track down the following exercises based around chess:

 From page 75

From page 91 

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017