Monday, 2 April 2018

One hundred years ago

1918 saw the end of The Great War during which, it seems, chess book publishing virtually ground to a halt. I can find only five new chess books published in English in 1918. I have not checked extensively for non-English works but, judging by the lack of book reviews in the main chess periodicals of the time, they were also thin on the ground. (Bernhard Kagan published pamphlets in 1918 on the two Berlin tournaments held that year and another on the match between Rubinstein and Schlechter also held in Berlin in 1918, and a pamphlet was published in 1918 by Curt Ronniger on the Kaschau International Tournament held in August 1918.)

The five works in English were as follows:

1. The International Chess Code, by The British Chess Company, published by Routledge, London and Dutton, New York.

Not entirely new, but considerably enlarged, and with a new title, compared with previous editions. Page 9 of The Chess Amateur for October 1918 carried an article by E. E. Cunnington, the co-author with W. Moffatt, outlining the evolution of their Chess Code, which was first published in 1894, and the great lengths they went to, along with W. P. Turnbull, in preparing this work. 

However, both The Chess Amateur and The British Chess Magazine published decidedly critical reviews of this book, claiming that it was unnecessary and carried little weight, as the generally accepted laws of the game had been published by the British Chess Federation in 1912. The review in The Chess Amateur is on page 2 of the October 1918 issue and is taken from Times Weekly. The unsigned BCM review, probably by the editor I. M. Brown, is on page 295 of the October 1918 issue.

BCM October 1918 page 295


2. Chess and Checkers: The Way to Mastership, by Edward Lasker, New York and London.

This is a more elementary treatise than Lasker's previous work Chess Strategy, first published in English in 1915. The chess section takes up 222 of the 284 pages and includes chapters on The Rules of the Game, Elementary Tactics, General Principles of Chess Strategy, and two Illustrative Games, annotated at length; a win by the author against Jackson Showalter and a loss to Capablanca. Finally a chapter on Problems outlines the art of problem composition with a few examples.

Title page from 1929 reprint

In his Introduction, Edward Lasker lists 16 leading players of the day in approximate order of strength, a matter picked up by The British Chess Magazine when reviewing this book on pages 110-111 of the April 1919 issue. The BCM berated Lasker for omitting Blackburne, Atkins and Gunsberg from the list of players of international fame. However, by 1918, Blackburne and Gunsberg, if not Atkins, were surely past their best.


3. Chess Idylls: A Collection of Problems by Godfrey Heathcote, edited by Murray Marble, Alain C. White and George Hume, published by The Chess Amateur, Stroud.

Alain C. White had "hearkened to the call of his nation's exigencies and was engaged on national duties" (BCM February 1918 page 45), but, nevertheless, was able to continue with his annual Christmas Series productions, and devoted this volume to the compositions of England's foremost composer Godfrey Heathcote. 

Godfrey Heathcote from page 100 of The Chess Bouquet

Although persistently advertised as Alain C. White's 1919 book in The Chess Amateur, this was in fact issued to recipients in time for Christmas 1918.

Heathcote and White were highly praised for their respective endeavours, in long reviews of Chess Idylls in both The British Chess Magazine (February 1919 page 59, and May 1919 page 178), and The Chess Amateur (February 1919 pages 134, 136 and 137-138).

BCM February 1919, page 59


4. Seventy-two black-checkers, by C. D. Locock,  published by Whitehead and Miller, Leeds.

This scarce eleven page pamphlet brings together four articles published in the BCM in September to December 1917 dealing with complex problems described as "synthetic self-mates in which White does not check or capture, and Black does not move except to check". 

BCM September 1917 page 300

BCM September 1917 page 301


Finally, here's one you haven't got:

5. History of Chess in Queensland, by W. A. Smith, Brisbane.

According to The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand, 4th Edition, by John van Manen, Belgrade 2011, this history of the Queensland Chess Association was compiled by its secretary, W. A. Smith, and read at a meeting of the Association in January 1918. The lecture was subsequently printed and a copy sent to every member.



So, putting aside the revised book of rules, Locock's weird pamphlet and the talk on Queensland chess, there were just two chess books of substance published in English in 1918; Edward Lasker's book for beginners and Alain C. White's annual offering of problems. This seems quite extraordinary compared with the torrent of chess literature in recent years.


With this paucity of new chess literature it was largely left to the chess periodicals and chess columns to keep the flag flying and to provide regular sustenance for chess enthusiasts. In America, the American Chess Bulletin and The Good Companion Chess Problem Club were both produced throughout the war, while in England, The British Chess Magazine, The Chess Amateur and the British Correspondence Chess Association Magazine were published continuously at this time. However, this was not without considerable difficulties due to the lack of chess material, interrupted postal services, paper shortages and increased costs etc. 

The Chess Amateur, advert January 1918

One periodical was actually launched in 1918; The British Columbia Chess Magazine (later The Canadian Chess Magazine, Betts 7-61, Chess Periodicals 427), the first copy of which was published in December 1918.

The Chess Amateur for March 1918 included this Blackburne Bon-Mot on page 162:


                                         © Michael Clapham 2018

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Additions and Corrections

The Illustrated London Magazine

In the previous article I included the chess columns from Volume I of 1853. I now learn that the first five volumes are available on Google Books as follows:

Volumes I and II are here, although the only chess column in Volume II was in March 1854 on pages 105/106.

Volumes III and IV are here. Volume III covered July to December 1854 with chess columns from September to December on pages 106, 154, 211, and 256. The September column included a recently played game between Green and Williams, and assuming that this was Elijah Williams, the column's editor, this was possibly one of his last games before he died on 8th September 1854.

Volume IV included a chess column every month from January to June 1855 on pages 41, 82, 126, 175, 215, and 271.

Volume V covering July to December 1855 is here, with chess articles in July, August and September on pages  50, 104, and 162.

Williams' successor as chess editor is not named but was possibly Josef Kling, as most of the games included were played in Kling's Chess Rooms and many of the problems are by Kling.

Thanks to Dr. Timothy Harding for much of this information. Harding's forthcoming book British Chess Literature to 1914, A Handbook for Historians, is eagerly anticipated.


Additions to Betts' Bibliography.

I previously stated that the book: Leicestershire Chess Club Centenary Tournament, 1961, had been omitted from Douglas Betts' Annotated Bibliography. That was incorrect as this book is included, hidden away at the bottom of page 359, and I have removed the details from my previous article.

However, a tournament book not recorded by Betts is Commonwealth Tournament, Oxford 1951, edited by Ken Whyld.  

This is Ken Whyld's Limited Edition Number Three, and it is curious that Betts missed this considering that he included the other five books in the series. The edition was limited to 125 copies and in an email dated 2002 Whyld informed Eric Fischer that he did not have a copy himself.

An intriguing note at the end mentions a publication on Vienna 1882 "not for general sale".


The following photograph, with caption, from the event was published on page 55 of A History of Chess by Jerzy Gizycki, (English text edited by B. H. Wood), London 1972. This book is packed full of wonderful photos and illustrations.


Marache's Manual of Chess

In the first article on A. J. Souweine's catalogue I included an illustration of, what I thought, was the first edition of Marache's Manual of Chess, with the "fancy pictorial wrapper":

However, René Wukits has queried whether this colourful cover was really published as early as 1866. Perhaps the first edition had this green and gilt cover:




The Chess Problem by R. McClure

In my article on this rare periodical I claimed that it was "the only British chess periodical which commenced operations during the war years". Jurgen Stigter has pointed out that the West London Chess Club Gazette (which is absent from Betts' Bibliography) was also launched during the war, having commenced in November 1941.


Chess Pie No. 2 and the International Team Tournament, 1927

In my article I stated that no tournament book on this event was published. Wrong again; the very useful recent publication: Chess Competitions, 1824-1970, compiled by Gino Di Felice, lists six books and pamphlets relating to this tournament. 

These include Chess Pie No. 2, a Programme published by the British Chess Federation, Hamilton-Russell Cup Results, published in 1927, two editions of Ken Whyld's later book on the event, first issued in 1993, and Schachkämpfer: Einzelbilder vom Länderwettkampf zu London im Juli 1927, by Erwin Voellmy, Basel 1927. 


William Lombardy

Lombardy's article on Bobby Fischer, A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma, from Sports Illustrated is available in full on several websites including Chess.Com, here and here

Lombardy's inscribed copy of My 60 Memorable Games was sold, along with some other items, at Bonhams, New York last December for $1,875. I understand that this copy of Fischer's book is now being advertised for sale for $50,000!


I am always very pleased to receive comments and corrections .

Monday, 5 March 2018

More 2017 acquisitions

The Game of Chess by Kenneth Sawyer Goodman (1883-1918), published by The Stage Guild, Chicago 1944.

The Game of Chess was Kenneth Sawyer's best known play first performed in 1913 and first published in 1914. This is not a chess book as such, but this clever one act play, set in pre-revolutionary Russia and with a cast of four, opens and closes with a chess game in progress. 

This publication is recorded in Betts' Bibliography at 46-5 where he quotes the colophon at the end of later editions stating that the first edition consisted of 150 copies on Japanese Vellum, indicating a small limited edition. However, the colophon in the first edition, which is freely available online, states that there were also 1,050 copies printed on laid paper. 

Colophon from first edition

Colophon from later editions


From Morphy to Fischer, Who's Next: A Russian's viewpoint.

This twelve page pamphlet by the Russian father and son chess historians and authors, Isaac Linder and Vladimir Linder was issued in 2002 and, I believe this was an essay delivered at a meeting of Chess Collectors International.

The authors discuss American chess heroes with lengthy observations on Morphy and Fischer, and a paragraph or two on Pillsbury, Marshall, Fine and Reshevsky. The "Russian's viewpoint" is generally complimentary and favourable to their subjects, while making some honest insights into their characters, particularly Fischer's:

Frank Brady refers to this essay in his book Endgame published in 2011. The reference is on page 369 of the hardback edition (page 425 of the paperback edition) in a note to page 264 (page 315, p/b) where details are given of the $100,000 in cash handed to Fischer in 1993 by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, in payment of royalties in respect of the Russian edition of My 60 Memorable Games.  

The final page of this pamphlet has a large group photograph from the U.S.S.R. v The Rest of the World match held in Belgrade in 1970.


One Hundred Chess-Games Played Between Mr. J. F. Emmett and Mr. Vivian Fenton, During the Winter of 1864. Published by Trubner and Co., London 1865.

This is one of the very first books dedicated to recording the games between two players, probably only preceded in English works by William Lewis's A Selection of Games at Chess, Played at the Westminster Chess Club, between Monsieur L. C. de la Bourdonais and an English Amateur of First Rate Skill, [Alexander McDonnell]), London 1835, and,  An Account of the Late Chess Match between Mr. Howard Staunton and Mr. Lowe, by Thomas Beeby, London 1848. 

In my copy pages 9/10 have been inserted after pages 11/12.

The one hundred games are given with occasional light notes, often one word,  frequently in Latin, and with many witty metaphors:

Game 47; "Saving the foal to lose the mare" 
Game 50; "Throwing a fly for a brace of trout"
Game 66; "A hare for three birds"
Game 77; "Taking the bung from one end of the cask to stop the other" 
Game 79; "Turning up at last like Blucher at Waterloo"
Game 84; "A bull in a china shop"
Game 87; "A coal-cart with twelve horses drawn across the Strand"

Throughout the winter, Mr. Emmett had the black pieces and Mr. Fenton the white pieces, but they alternated having the first move. The overall result was declared to be 58 wins for Emmett, 38 wins for Fenton and 5 draws, which adds up to 101 games but there is some confusion in the scoring right from game one which is marked up as a win for both players. There is also the remark on page 52, after game 91, that games exceeding 50 moves have, with two exceptions, been omitted, as taking up too much space. 


Chess-Nuts, No. 1 First Aid to Beginners, Part I - For White, by Arthur Firth, Letchworth 1928.

The first, and only, book in a proposed series of small handbooks for beginners and social chess players. The aim was to teach some basic openings from both White's and Black's points of view, and the material was "taken from articles which have already appeared in two or three provincial papers" (BCM, London Chess League Supplement, 1928 page 386). However, these articles are not recorded in Chess Columns, A List, by Ken Whyld, Olomouc 2002.

Part I dealt with White's point of view and page 73 included an announcement that Number 2 of the First Aid Series would give Black's point of view, however there were no further books in the series.

Social Chess was a theme for Arthur Firth who contributed a series of articles to The British Chess Magazine under the heading of Social Chess in 1929 and 1930
before launching his own chess magazine The Social Chess Quarterly which appeared from October 1930 to April 1936.

Firth also issued Chess-Nuts or Chess in a Nutshell in 1929, being 50 cards with an end game or study on one side and the solution on the other. He advertised these in all 23 issues of Social Chess Quarterly.

                                                         © Michael Clapham 2018



Saturday, 24 February 2018

Biblio Magazine and The Royal Game

Biblio, the short lived American magazine was "a brave attempt to create a quality international magazine for book collectors" and it was certainly an impressive production. The magazine was published between August 1996 and April 1999.

The May 1998 issue included a scholarly eight page article: Kingly Books of a Royal Game, by James Weinheimer, a chess historian and librarian at Princeton University, and Angus Carroll, a collector of rare books from Chicago.

The article opens with the line "Long before chess had black and white squares it had a chequered past" and relates a few old anecdotes featuring King Knut, the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I, King Ferdinand of Spain and Christopher Columbus.

The authors interweave chess history with the literatature of the game and they focus on three great American chess collections formed during the latter part of the nineteenth century; those of John G. White of Cleveland, Charles Gilberg of  Brooklyn, New York, and Eugene B Cook of Hoboken, New Jersey. All three collections were ultimately bequethed to major American research libraries.

The John G. White Collection.

Noting that this is the largest collection of chess books in the world with more than 35,000 volumes, the authors give details of some of the very earliest books in the collection including the first printed book that refers to chess, Summa Collationum by John of Wales, Cologne 1470; Caxton's morality, The Game and Playe of the Chesse, Bruges c1475, (the collection also holds nine manuscript copies of De Ludo Scacchorum by Jacobus de Cessolis from the 13th and 14th centuries, one copy of which contains the only known portrait of the author);  and the third printed book on chess (excluding the moralities of John of Wales and Caxton), Questo Libro e da Imparare Giocare à Scachi et de le Partite, by Damiano, Rome 1512.

Regarding the latter work the authors observe "since most books of the time were unillustrated, this book's woodcut illustrations made for difficult printing, and the printers of the various editions traded the blocks among themselves. Consequently, the different editions can be dated by examining the deterioration of the woodcuts."

Other noteworthy items in the collection include Il Dilettevole e Giudizioso Giuoco de Scacchi, Venice 1724 - 1735, which includes 49 hand drawn plates demonstrating the basic rules of the game, and Thomas Middleton's satirical and allegorical play A Game at Chess, London 1625. The play was shut down after only nine days on the orders of King James I following complaints from the Spanish ambassador to Great Britain who believed that he had been portrayed unfavourably in the play .    

The Charles Gilberg Collection.

New York businessman and noted problemist, Charles Gilberg, built a major chess collection with an emphasis on fine bindings. After his death in 1898 Gilberg's heirs kept the collection until 1930 when it was sold to Silas W. Howland, who willed the 2,800 volumes to Harvard University. 

The collection includes a first edition of Ruy Lopez's work Libro de la Invencion Liberal y Arte del Juego del Axedrez, Alcala 1561, written partly in criticism of Damiano's treatise.  

The Biblio authors discuss the earliest original chess book in English, Arthur Saul's The Famous Game of Chesse-Play, London 1614, noting that this was aimed at the nobilty, being "fit for princes or any person of quality soever", and commenting on Saul's curious classification of checkmates.  

Thomas Hyde, professor of Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford Univerity and chief librarian at the Bodleian Library, authored the first scholarly history of chess, Mandragorias seu Historia Shahiludii, Oxford 1694, however, the authors claim that the title reflects a mistake. "Hyde had followed an incorrect etymology for the Arabic word for chess, using satrang instead of shatranj, then translating satrang into Latin: Mandragorias, which actually means mandrake root."

"Nevertheless, the book's many languages displayed both Professor Hyde's erudition and the wide typograpical resources of the Oxford press 300 years ago. This book represents its era's state of the art in printing."   

The E. B. Cook Collection

Eugene Beauharnais Cook formed the third of the great American chess collections, he nurtured a deep interest in chess history and bibliography, and when he died in 1915 the collection of 3,000 items was bequethed to Princeton University Library.

The Cook collection includes one of the earliest books to expose the workings of Wolfgang von Kempelen's automaton, the Turk: Ueber den Schachspieler des Kempelen und dessen Nachbildung, by  Joseph Racknitz, Leipzig/Dresden 1789. The authors give a brief history of the Turk stating that following von Kempelen's death, the machine was purchased by Johann Maelzel in partnership with Ludwig van Beethoven, and then later sold to Napoleon's stepson, Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, after whom  E. B. Cook was named.

E. B. Cook's library included the first chess treatise printed in German; Das Schach-oder König-Spiel by Gustav Selenus, i.e. August, Duke of Braunschweig-Luneberg, Lipsiae 1616. This work is a "German translation of Ruy Lopez but with a unique notation that limited the book's appeal.... However it is a favourite of collectors because of the dozens of extraordinary plates and engravings."

E. B. Cook was the judge for the problem tournament at the First American Chess Congress of 1857 and his collection obviously included The Book of the First American Chess Congress, by Willard Fiske, New York 1859. The authors state that this is useful for its history of chess in early America and complete bibliography of American chess books. However, the bibliography had several omissions as noted by Ralph Hagedorn in Benjamin Franklin and Chess in Early America, Philadelphia 1958, which lists 60 books published up to 1859 compared with 39 in Fiske's work. 

The authors reveal that the Cook collection proudly housed one of only ten copies of the earliest surviving printed treatises on  chess, Repetición de Amores e Arte de Axedrez, by Luis Ramirez de Lucena, Salamanca 1497, explaining that the only known copy of the first printed chess treatise, Llibre dels jochs partitis dels schachs en nombre de 100, by Francesch Vicent, Valencia 1495, was lost  in 1811, during the French occupation of Montserrat, where the book was kept in a Benedictine monastery. They were unaware, twenty years ago, of the sensational discovery of the Cesena manuscript , which includes Vicent's work, as detailed in The Return of Francesch Vicent, by Jose A. Garcon, Valencia 2005. 

Lucena's work is in two parts; an anti-feminist tract and a chess treatise. Princeton's copy contains only the chess section which describes both the older and newer versions of the game.

In the final part of the article, sub-titled To Err is Human, the authors make some very pertinent, (and reassuring), remarks on the future of chess in the computer age; these are particularly apposite in the light of Alpha Zero's recent exploits. Deep Blue had just defeated Kasparov in 1997, following which some commentators had proclaimed the end of chess as we know it. 

The authors respond "This is nonsense, chess is not about making 200 million calculations per second, it is about psychology and strategy, vision and risk, flashes of brilliance amongst the darkness of uncertainty.... No computer is on the verge of creating masterpieces such as the games of Capablanca, Alekhine or Tal, because genius is not the product of blind calculation."

"The world can do without My Best Games, by Deep Blue, which might include; First I mindlessly calculated eight billion moves, then, without knowing whom I was playing, or even why, I calculated a few billion more."

Although computers may one day play the perfect game, this will not matter, since, a computer might calculate umpteen gazillion moves without making a single error, but no human ever will. "The Royal  Game will continue to be played for the same reason it always has been, because chess is one of the most challenging and rewarding of all intellectual endeavours. The machines will play their one game of chess among themselves, but, for us, there will always be crushing defeats and miraculous escapes, electrifying sacrifices and terrible blunders. The very imperfection of human play being the source of the game's infinite beauty. And undoubtedly more great books on chess will come....."

The article concludes with some diverse recommendations for A Bookshelf fit for a Grandmaster: