Friday, 16 November 2018

If only...

Vintage Russian chess literature is full of wonderful photographs, drawings and cartoons, rarely seen in the West. 


Larger version below


This drawing was included on the back page of 64 шахматно шашечная газета for 30th December 1938. This is 64 shakhmatno-Shashechnaya gazeta, or 64 chess checkers gazette.

The picture of Philidor playing Morphy was part of the New Year's Quiz featuring six questions. The heading to this picture asks "How observant are you", and the caption states "In this picture an artist has drawn two famous chess players. Not being particularly knowledgeable in chess, he made major inconsistencies. Take a closer look at the picture and list these inconsistencies"  



Questions 3 and 6 were draughts related. I have the 1939 volume but have not yet tracked down the solutions.


This newspaper size periodical is number 12 in Di Felice's Chess Periodicals where he states that it was published weekly. However, it was actually published every five days and there were 72 four-page issues in 1938.






                                          © Michael Clapham 2018

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Royal Game, by Stefan Zweig.



Another posthumous publication, this chess novel was first published as Schachnovelle in Buenos Aires in December 1942, a few months after Zweig had committed suicide with his wife on 22nd or 23rd February 1942. 

Stefan Zweig

The English edition, The Royal Game, was published in 1944 having been translated from the German MS. by B. W. Huebsch. 



Although written in the late 1930's and early 1940's the story is set in the 1960's aboard a passenger ship sailing from New York to Buenos Aires.


This is the improbable tale of Dr. B., an Austrian lawyer, who had been arrested by the Gestapo and kept in solitary confinement. To stop himself going mad he taught himself chess, using a book stolen from one of his inquisitors. He had no board or pieces but played endless games against himself in his head, and consequently went mad.



25 years later, having abstained from chess during this time, he comfortably outplays and beats the world chess champion, Mirko Czentovic, in a full length serious game, after a chance meeting aboard the liner. Unfortunately the moves were not recorded for posterity (or scrutiny).

Czentovic, a taciturn Yugoslavian idiot savant peasant, could not memorize a single game of chess, yet became champion of the world aged 20 having mastered every secret of chess technique in just six months.

Stefan Zweig evidently had little knowledge of the game, portrays unlikely scenarios and uses incorrect terminology. The story has many anomalies and loose ends, and raises several unanswered questions. 



Nevertheless, the author, a master of psychology, does give an insight into the torment, obsessive behaviour and monomania that the game can induce, and he includes this excellent observation (on page 13 of my copy although here are many different editions):

"It stands to reason that so unusual a game, one touched with genius, must create out of itself fitting matadors"

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The Royal Game is also included in various anthologies including The Chess Reader, compiled by Jerome Salzmann, New York 1949, and Sinister Gambits, edited by Richard Peyton, London 1991:




Thanks to Tony Peterson for images of The Royal Game, and also to Peter Braunwarth for the precise publication date of Schachnovelle.

Monday, 12 November 2018

A Short History of Chess by H. J. R. Murray




A Short History of Chess, by H. J. R. Murray, Oxford 1963.

Further to the brief reference to this posthumous publication in the previous article, Dr. Tim Harding has provided some intriguing information on the evolution of this work, ascertained from research carried out at the Oxford University Press in 2005. Letters seen by Harding in the archive file on Murray at the O.U.P.  give a fascinating, behind the scenes, glimpse of the difficulties in producing this book.  

The following comments are provided courtesy of Dr. Tim Harding and the Oxford University Press:

"Whether the posthumous ‘Short History of Chess’ did much for Murray’s reputation must be doubted. The original manuscript or typescript is unavailable so I cannot confirm yet whether the date of composition (1917) given in the publisher’s note is certain, probable or unreliable. Nor, in the absence of any correspondence from the author relating to it, is it clear for whom exactly this work was composed."

"From some correspondence I have been allowed to see in the Oxford University Press archive, the original idea, after Murray’s death, was that Goulding Brown (a some-time contributor to ‘British Chess Magazine’) would write a final chapter to bring the story up to date, but the editors at the Press were unhappy with what he produced. It was decided that Brown’s chapter would continue Murray's work up to about 1930 only and Harry Golombek was commissioned to write a second extra chapter, although Brown was unhappy about  this, judging  from letters in the file from the Press to Kathleen Murray [H. J. R. Murray's daughter]. (At the same time Golombek was working on his own chess history for another publisher, but this was a popular work based on secondary sources.)"

"Ultimately, after the project had hung fire for some years, the Press gave Golombek a deadline of late 1962 to finish his work and this must have spurred him into action since the book appeared in 1963. There must have been a compromise with Goulding Brown, too, because in the printed book his chapter goes up to 1945 and overlaps with Golombek, who starts with Alekhine and the decline of the hypermoderns. In the O.U.P. file there is even a mention that a new edition was being considered as late as 1976 but, so far as I am aware, it was never proceeded with – just as well because it would have been even less a genuine Murray work than the first edition."

 

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Posthumous publications, part 2

A few more books published after the author's death:

Chess: Theory and Practice, by the late Howard Staunton, edited by Robert B. Wormald, London 1876.  





Wormald, who died in December 1876 aged 42, makes clear in his Preface that he had presented the book for publication almost exactly as it left Staunton's hands, indicating that the work was virtually complete at the time of the author's death. 


Staunton died on 22nd June 1874, aged 63 or 64, while working at his desk, but there are varying accounts of what he was working on. In Howard Staunton; the English World Chess Champion by R. D. Keene and R. N. Coles, St. Leonards on Sea, 1975, page 25 states that "a heart attack took him ..... as he sat in his library chair working on the manuscript of a further chess book, which proved sufficiently advanced with the help of editing by R. B. Wormald, to appear in 1876 as Chess: Theory and Practice"  

However, H. J. R. Murray, on page 518 of an article in the BCM for December 1908, stated that Staunton died while seated at his desk and writing another of the series of papers on Unsuspected Corruptions of Shakespeare's Text which he had been contributing to the Atheaneum.

The fascinating book Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, by John Townsend,  Wokingham 2011, quotes, on page 167, from a letter written by Staunton's wife to her husband's friend James Halliwell: "You will I am sure be very grieved to hear that my poor husband died yesterday quite suddenly. I found him in his chair quite dead with an un-finished letter before him. An hour before when seen he appeared in his usual health." 

The industrious Staunton was probably working on all three.

It is unclear exactly when Staunton wrote Chess: Theory and Practice, but probably over a number of years right up to his death. Townsend's book has many extracts from Staunton's correspondence during the latter years of his life, but there is not a single mention of his final chess work. However, von der Lasa, writing in The City of London Chess Magazine for February 1875, quotes from a letter from Staunton dated 29th November 1873: "I have myself been engaged on a work of the same nature [as Bilguer's Handbuch]... Many sheets of it were in type this time last year, when I was attacked by my old complaint, ... and was compelled to lay it aside."  


Howard Staunton, by D. N. L. Levy, Nottingham 1975, a book which concentrates on Staunton's writings, but without an index or even a contents page, gives, on page 142, the text of a letter from Staunton to Mr. Fraser dated February 17th, 1874, which includes the following: "My Chess work goes on very slowly; though it is nearly all written and a good deal in type. I broke down last year through ill-health. I have never gained the ground then lost."

Chess: Theory and Practice is another extraordinary contribution to chess literature by Staunton.  The first 29 pages are devoted to Some Account of the Origin and History of the Game of Chess. This includes descriptions of the most important chess works from the 15th to the 19th centuries, perhaps written with the assistance of his friend J. Rimington Wilson, to whom this book was dedicated. This is followed by a comprehensive primer,  and an extensive analysis of the openings, over 400 pages, with many illustrative games. Nevertheless, Dr. Tim Harding claimed on page 246 of British Chess Literature to 1914, Jefferson 2018, that the book "made little impact now that Staunton was no longer alive."



The production of this book is all the more meritorious considering Staunton's other literary commitments at the time, his very poor physical and mental state of health, and his nomadic existence during the final years of his life. This is all evident from the many extracts from Staunton's letters in Townsend's book.  

One final matter from Chess: Theory and Practice; pages 22/23 give details of a book by Fra. Antonio das Neves which appeared after his death, in 1647. This is Arte do Liberal Loguo do Axadres, a  manuscript which was never printed, according to van der Linde (Geschichte volume II page 171).


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My Love Affair with Tchigorin, by A. E. Santasiere, Dallas, Texas 1995.




Anthony Santasiere died aged 72 in 1977 leaving some of his manuscripts to Ken Smith who published this book some 18 years later. Smith included the following short note on the last but one page of the book:


Santasiere's passion for chess is evident from his Introduction which is written in his typically romantic style; the word "love" or its derivatives appear 30 times. 

The 100 games are clearly displayed with many diagrams, and are annotated by Santasiere borrowing heavily from previous commentators. 



The short biography of Santasiere, presumably written by Ken Smith, reveals that he was the twelfth of thirteen children of Italian and French parents, had drawn games with Edward Lasker, Marshall and Janowski at Lake Hopatcong in 1923, and was chess champion of Florida in his 60's. Santasiere was also an accomplished poet, musician, artist and novelist.   

While Santasiere was not the most highly respected author, this is a useful addition to the sparse literature on Chigorin in English.

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One of the best known posthumous chess books is A Short History of Chess by H. J. R. Murray, Oxford 1963.
 



Written by Murray 1917, the typescript was found among his papers following his death in 1955. The Clarendon Press at Oxford published this shortly after they had reprinted Murray's 900 page A History of Chess, which was first issued in 1913.  The 138 pages of A Short History of Chess are far more digestible than its predecessor, which expends over 800 of the 900 pages on pre 1500 chess history. 



Murray's typescript took the story of chess from its beginnings up to 1866, and additional chapters were added to A Short History of Chess by B. Goulding Brown covering 1866 to 1945, and by H. Golombek on Modern Times.



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The Modern Two-Move Chess Problem, by Comins Mansfield and Brian Harley, London 1958.




A note on the half title explains that Brian Harley, who died in 1955 aged 71, had designed this book as a primer to introduce beginners to the fascinating charm of the chess problem.






The explanatory Introduction is followed by 24 pages containing 100 problems composed by Comins Mansfield, and 100 pages of solutions with commentary by Brian Harley.

 






A few more another time.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Posthumous publications, part 1.

Plenty of chess books have been published after the death of the author; these include books "in the press" at the time of the demise, part written works, completed and edited after the author's death, and books published from manuscripts left behind, sometimes many years after the author had passed away.

Among these posthumous publications are some classic works including the following selection:

Masters of the Chess Board, by Richard Réti, London 1933.


Richard Réti died in 1929, aged 40, and this book was originally published in Germany in 1930 as part of a two volume set: Das Werk Richard Rétis im Schach, Mährisch-Ostrau, 1930-1931. Volume I is Die Meister des Schachbretts.

The translation into English by M. A. Schwendemann was revised by Julius du Mont who also wrote an introductory note on the author. In this, du Mont referred to Réti's infamous briefcase, stating that "at last he has parted with it, but let us all be grateful that, in it he left his Magnum Opus, Masters of the Chess Board."  


Réti included brief biographical vignettes and characteristic games of some of the leading chess masters from Anderssen to Alekhin with the aim of teaching the historical development and underlying principles of the game.

The British Chess Magazine reviewed both the German and English editions (1930, pages 94-95 and 1933, page 248 respectively), noting that there had been criticisms because no British master was included, but agreeing with Rudolf Spielmann's assessment that this was one of the finest books published on the game.


________________________________________________________________

My Best Games of Chess, 1931-1954, by S. G. Tartakower, London 1956.



Tartakower published his first collection of Best Games, covering the period from 1905 to 1930, in 1953, and the second volume, covering the years from 1931 to 1954, was published shortly after his death in 1956. 



The French texts were translated and edited by Harry Golombek for both volumes and in his Foreword for the second collection, Golombek talks of his friend Tartakower in the present tense before adding a final sentence: "As this book goes to press I learn with the deepest regret of the sudden death of Dr. Tartakower in Paris on February 5th, 1956". 




Renowned for his dry humour, this is from the final position given in the book:

                           S. G. Tartakower v Dr. M. Falk, Paris, 1954.


Your Generated Chess Board

Black played Nxh2 and announced: "It's something like mate in two moves or else I win the Queen". Tartakower replied "Yes, it is mate in two", and played:

Qxa7 ch     Kxa7
Ra3 mate.

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One-Hundred-and-one of my Best Games of Chess, by F. D. Yates, London 1934.



A posthumous work arranged and completed by W. Winter and edited by W. H. Watts.  

Fred Dewhirst Yates died in 1932 aged 48 and the obituary in The British Chess Magazine for December 1932, pages 525 to 528, gives a vivid account of the circumstances of his death.  

The book was published by Watts's company Printing Craft Ltd. and, immediately following the obituary, the BCM published a letter from Watts, on page 529, giving details of the planned collection of games, confirming that Yates's part of the book was very nearly finished, and promised to pay a proportion of the proceeds to his relatives. 


______________________________________________________________

Draw! by W. Heidenfeld, London 1982.



Heidenfeld had written a precursor to this book in 1968 with the title Grosse Remispartien, but Draw! was a new work, omitting some of the games from his 1968 book and with many additional games. 




The manuscript had been completed and Draw! was almost ready for publication when Heidenfeld died in August 1981 aged 70; John Nunn finalised and edited the work.







The engaging Introduction, written by Heidenfeld in May 1981, gives six preliminary examples of exciting draws before the 64 games in the main part of the book.

First class games, commentary, annotations and editing but I found the horizontal layout of the moves, with minimal distinction between the actual moves played and variations, a little unclear. 

Monday, 8 October 2018

A very rare chess pamphlet

Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge, in March 1831, published in Hatfield in 1831.



The British Chess Magazine, Chess Annual 1916, included an essay, on pages 5 to 13, written jointly by Philip W. Sergeant and B. Goulding Brown entitled Early Oxford and Cambridge Chess. Goulding Brown followed this up with a further article: The Critical Period of Cambridge Chess in the September 1917 issue of The British Chess Magazine, on pages 265 to 273, in which he enlarged and corrected the Cambridge portion of the first essay.



Both of these items included a footnote, on the first page of each, giving details of an 8 page pamphlet entitled Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge, in March 1831, published in Hatfield in 1831.


Footnote to BCM 1917 page 265


The first mention that I can find of this pamphlet is on page 243 of the bibliographical appendix to George Walker's short lived magazine The Philidorian, which ran from December 1837 to May 1838, and this also appears in the Bibliographical Catalogues in Walker's A New Treatise on Chess, third edition, London 1841, page 278, and fourth edition, with additional title, The Art of Chess-Play, London 1846, page 389. 

The Philidorian page 243, extract

Walker's references to this pamphlet were picked up by subsequent bibliographers and this item appears in Literatur des Schachspiels, by Anton Schmid, Vienna 1847, on page 266:

Schmid, page 266, extract

Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels, by Antonius van der Linde, Berlin 1874, zweiter band, page 74, and  Das Erste Jartausend der Schachlitteratur (850-1880), van der Linde, Berlin 1881.

Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels volume II, page 74, extract

This is also recorded at 1831:3 in Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850 by Ken Whyld and Chris Ravilious, but is not in Di Felice's Chess Competitions 1824-1970; An Annotated International Bibliography.

So, plenty of bibliographical references, but finding a copy is another matter. This pamphlet is not recorded in any of the major library catalogues such as those for The Royal Dutch Library, Cleveland Public Library, The British Library, the Cambridge University Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, etc. Nor have I found it in any bookseller's or collector's catalogues.

However, at least one copy does exist, or it did in 1932. Goulding Brown returned to this matter in The British Chess Magazine for October 1932 in an article on pages 431 to 435 entitled Early Oxford and Cambridge Chess: A Sequel.



On page 434 he discusses the Particulars of a Match at Chess pamphlet and confirms that he had had no replies to his previous request for information about any copies. Goulding Brown then revealed that a copy had been discovered hidden in a volume from the Rimington Wilson library bound up between William Lewis's two Series of Progressive Lessons on the Game of Chess, published in 1831 and 1832.  



This volume formed part of the Rimington Wilson auction sale held by Sotheby's in 1928 and subsequently appeared in Bernard Quaritch's Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Works...of the Game of Chess issued in 1929. Item 813. 


Quaritch catalogue, 1929, page 49, extract

Goulding Brown purchased this book from Quaritch and devotes several paragraphs of his BCM article to a description of this exceptionally rare leaflet. He describes it as a badly printed octavo of eight pages, containing the full scores of a three game match between two unnamed players, and he points out the historical importance of this being the very first separate publication of the complete account of a chess match between two players, as distinct from a correspondence match between two clubs.

This pamphlet had previously been in the possession of George Walker and had presumably been purchased by Rimington Wilson from the sale of Walker's library in 1874. On the title page Walker had noted the player's names as Mr. Gordon of Trinity College and Mr. Oppenheim, Professor of Languages, and that the match was won by the former.

Goulding Brown then tried to deduce the exact identities of these players before concluding with details of another MS. note by Walker to the effect that both were very weak players.  





The question is: where is this treasure now?