Sunday, 15 November 2020

Chess Book Auction - Antiquariat A. Klittich-Pfankuch


The auction house Antiquariat A. Klittich-Pfankuch is holding its 79th Auction in Braunschweig, Germany next weekend. 


This bi-annual event is predominantly an auction of chess books and related items, and on Saturday 21st November there will be over 1,100 chess items going under the hammer.


Every lot is described in detail in the 266 page catalogue and all lots are also fully described and illustrated in the online catalogue.

The first 382 chess lots consist of chess sets, memorabilia, photographs, paintings and autographed & manuscript items.  This auction is particularly strong in the last named items with over 200 lots including rare autographed or hand-written items by such as Alekhine, Adolf Anderssen, Henry Bird, Bogoljubow, Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker, Löwenthal, Jacques Mieses, Paul Morphy, Nimzowitsch, Reti, Rudolf Spielmann, Tarrasch and many others.

Then comes almost 750 books and periodicals beginning with the Schachraritäten followed by books sorted into various languages, just over 100 tournament books, and over 200 lots of Zeitschriften.

The fully illustrated online catalogue is a mouthwatering feast for enthusiasts and collectors of chess literature and memorabilia.  


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Bobby Fischer's final tournament; Palma de Mallorca 1970

Fifty years ago this month Bobby Fischer played in his last ever major chess tournament, the Interzonal Chess Tournament held in Palma de Mallorca, before embarking on the series of Candidates matches leading to the World Championship match with Spassky in 1972. (Fischer also played in a minor blitz tournament in Manhattan in August 1971, shortly after his Candidates semi-final match with Larsen, winning with a score of 21½ points out of 22.)

Several books were published on the event including three fully or partly in the English Language; two of these will be discussed here.

Interzonal Chess Tournament; Palma de Mallorca 1970, edited by R.G.Wade and L.S.Blackstock, Nottingham 1970.


This gruelling 23 round tournament ran from 9th November to 13th December 1970 and copies of this book were on sale at the annual Hastings Congress in early January 1971 due partly to Tony Gillam, the publisher, pounding away for many hours on his Linotype casting machine.

This high quality tournament included 15 Grandmasters and 9 International Masters, all battling for the six available places in the Candidates, for which Petrosian and Korchnoi were already qualified. Fischer's participation was in doubt until just a few weeks before the event as explained on page 10 of the book:

Benko still attended the tournament as second to both Reshevsky and Addison.

Considerable planning had been made by chief arbiter Albéric O'Kelly de Galway and assistant arbiter George Koltanowski, aiming at the fairest and most acceptable pairings throughout the tournament, in particular to ensure that players from the same country met each other in the earlier rounds. Unfortunately this all went out of the window due to a mix up at the drawing of lots resulting in considerable chaos and dissatisfaction among the players. Nevertheless, with a small amout of switching of rounds, the tournament proceeded fairly smoothly.

For each round, Wade and Blackstock's book provides a succinct but informative summary of the play plus some off the board snippets. The authors obviously had their ears to the ground, and followed the play perceptively. Almost all of the 276 games are entertainingly annotated, often with the help of comments from the players or their seconds, and occasional diagrams are shown at key moments. Here is the summary for round 17:

Obviously, with so many games to cover in a 232 page book, there is a lot to squeeze in and every page of the book, apart from the 24 full page portraits, is packed with text, there is very little white space. However, the layout is clear and the book is easy and enjoyable to read.  

Following his big margin wins in Buenos Aires and Rovinj - Zagreb earlier in the year, Bobby Fischer continued in his  outstanding form and qualified for the Candidates matches in no uncertain manner.

Fischer took the lead in round 5, overtaking the Mongolian outsider Tudev Uitumen who had won his first three games. In round 9 Fischer lost his only game of the tournament to Bent Larsen, allowing Efim Geller to catch him up. The much anticipated Fischer v Larsen game was adjourned after white's 46th move and was promptly published with notes in the official daily bulletin before the game was resumed. The bulletin even gave the winning line for black from the adjourned position!

Draws in the next two rounds (including round 11 where he played 1.c4 for the first time in a serious game) left Fischer ½ point behind Geller after 11 rounds. However Fischer beat Geller in round 12 (he had lost their three previous encounters) and regained the lead. Fischer was still only ½ point clear after 16 rounds but then pulled right away from the field by winning each of his last seven games (his last round win was a walk-over as Panno declined to play). Fischer won the tournament with a score of 18½; 3½ points clear of the three runners up, Larsen, Geller and Huebner. This seven game winning run was the start of his remarkable sequence of 20 successive wins before eventually losing the second game of his final Candidates match against Petrosian.

Fischer's biographer Frank Brady described this victory as "one of the outstanding accomplishments of his career and one of the most remarkable results achieved by any player at any time in the long history of the game" on page 179 of the updated edition of Profile of a Prodigy, David Mckay, New York 1973 (published by Batsford in London 1974 under the title of Bobby Fischer). On the same page Brady quotes a prophetic remark by Najdorf following this event: "He'll have to concede two points to the rest of the players to make any future tournament in which he competes interesting to all"   


The six qualifiers for the Candidates matches: (Although these photographs are in the Palma 1970 book, the portraits of Fischer, Larsen and Geller were taken at the Siegen Olympiad in September 1970)

Clockwise: Fischer, Larsen, Geller and Huebner)


Taimamov and Uhlmann

Fischer did not enter any of his games for the Best Game Prize (won by Wolfgang Uhlmann for his round 13 game against Uitumen), but the following game against Rubinetti was considered as one of his best by the editors Wade and Blackstock:


Following on from the final comment made in the article: Fischer's Participation, the editors published a correction on page 222:



However, this is at odds with David Levy's comments on page 135 of the Christmas 1970 Chess magazine in which he stated that Fischer had reputedly been paid $15,000 to play.

The book concludes with a three page Tournament Survey summarising each player's performance and commenting on the event generally.



Souvenir Book/Buch; VII Interzonal Ajedrez; Palma de Mallorca 1970, produced and published by The Chess Player (Tony Gillam), Nottingham 1971.


This was actually the 8th Interzonal tournament and not the 7th as stated on the title page.

This high quality production was published in a limited edition of 600 copies and consists almost entirely of 115 full page photographs from the event printed on glossy paper. The small amount of text is in either English, German or Spanish. The book includes a list of the 24 competitors, a calendar of the 23 rounds, four pages with 52 facsimile signatures of the players, officials and others, and the menu from the closing banquet.


Other than that it is photographs all the way through, including many close-up shots of the players. The book states that all but one of the photographs are by David Levy, the exception being by Gerhard Bruckner. 



There seems to have been an embargo on photos of Fischer at Palma de Mallorca as there is not a single close-up of him at the event in either of these two books, although there are plenty of most of the other competitors. The Souvenir Book does have three full page photos of Fischer but these were all taken at the Siegen Olympiad held two months earlier. There are  two other photos in which Fischer appears; one showing him in discussion with chief arbiter O'Kelly de Galway after his sixth round win against Reshevsky, and in the other he is being presented with the winner's trophy.

Two further photos feature the board ready for Fischer's game against Minic, and the demonstration board showing the final position after his win against Uhlmann in round 18.




The British Chess Magazine for January 1971 has a long report on the Interzonal on pages 1 to 21 by Harry Golombek who attended the final two weeks of the event. A couple of interesting comments from his report:

1. Raising the matter of Fischer's debacle at the previous Interzonal Tournament in Sousse in 1967 where he withdrew when in the lead after 14 rounds on account of several well documented disagreements with the organisers, Golombek asks how the Palma organisers managed to keep him placated throughout. Golombek states that both O'Kelly de Galway and Koltanowski informed him: "The perfect and obvious solution was found by acceding to all Fischer's demands"

2. Reflecting on Fischer's game against Minic, Golombek comments "...Fischer had little difficulty in winning, even though, to those of us who had been accustomed to seeing players like Alekhine and Capablanca dispose of lesser players with the utmost accuracy in the ending and with a corresponding elegance, it was rather painful to witness the imprecise, almost amateur, way in which this particular ending was conducted. Still, note that one instinctively compares Fischer with such figures as Alekhine and Capablanca; there are few such in the long history of the game."   

I would like to thank Tony Gillam of The Chess Player publishing company for pemission to include extracts and photographs from his two books, and also Owen Hindle for his assistance.  




Sunday, 8 November 2020

Alessandro Sanvito's bibliographies of Italian chess literature

Alessandro Sanvito, the eminent Italian chess historian, author and bibliographer died in Milan on 21st October aged 81.


Sanvito's studies, over many years, into the bibliography of Italian chess literature will be of lasting value to authors, researchers and collectors. He collaborated with Adriano Chicco in producing the pioneering work Lineamenti di una Bibliografia Italiana degli Scacchi in 1987. 


This was published under the patronage of AMIS - Associazione Maestri Italiani di Scacchi, and listed 916 printed books in alphabetical order by author/compiler, or title where the author was unknown or unclear. The Indice per Materie at the end sorts the entries into nine categories:


Appendice 1 - Manoscritti adds 74 manuscripts and Appendice 2 - Periodici gives details of 34 chess periodicals.


This book includes 21 illustrations: 

Clockwise: Centurini 1853, 15th C. manuscript, Cozio 1766, anonymous 1825.

After his friend and collaborator Adriano Chicco died in 1990, Sanvito continued their researches, and in 1997 he produced a 64 page update to Lineamenti listing items published from 1987 to 1996. Shortly afterwards, Sanvito published a fully revised and updated work: Bibliografia Italiana degli Scacchi; Della Origini al 1999, Milan 1999.

For this book the 1,420 entries are organised into 11 categories: 

The bibliography endeavours to include all chess books published in Italy in any language, as well as books by Italian authors published abroad. Important articles and essays written by Italians, published in non-chess books and magazines are also included, but chess columns (which commenced in Italy in 1847) in non-chess periodicals have not been included. The many works with only limited chess content range from important treatises on associated games, such as rithmomachia, to novels with chess scenes, such as Ian Fleming's Dalla Russia con Amore which describes a chess tournament in the USSR in the first few pages, apparently.

Sanvito has 22 entries for his own works:

Italy has a very rich chess literature heritage with printed books dating back to the celebrated 16th century authors Damiano 1512 etc., Vida 1527 etc., Actius (Azzio) 1583, Ruy Lopez 1584, and Gianutio 1597. 

A few even earlier books with a chess connection are listed: John Shirwood 1482, Jacobus Publicius 1482/1485, Dal Pozzo 1485, and Stefano Costa 1489. 

Many of the 88 manuscripts are undated but there are examples from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, alongside many hand-written scripts by later acclaimed authors such as Cozio, Ercole del Rio, Gianutio, Greco, Lolli, Polerio, Ponziano and Vida.

A detailed commentary with references to further information is provided for many of the important books and manuscripts, and the location in public libraries of many of the rare books and manuscripts is also given. All of this provides very useful information for researchers and scholars.

This revised work has 25 full page illustrations:

Clockwise: Actius 1583, Damiano 1512, Salvioli 1885, Gianutio 1597

18th century Venetian manuscript and Giacometti 1793

The introductory articles in both of these bibliographies, firstly by Alvis Zichichi, President of AMIS, and secondly by the compilers, Chicco and Sanvito, highlight the enormous efforts required in preparing such works. The seemingly dry and basic bibliographical details for each item frequently hiding the extensive research and co-operation from many organisations, libraries and individuals necessary in establishing and verifying accurate descriptions. 

A new edition of Bibliografia Italiana degli Scacchi by Allesandro Sanvito was published in 2015 listing over 3000 items, more than double the number in the 1999 edition.




Saturday, 24 October 2020

The Brussels Encounter OHRA 1986


The Brussels Encounter: OHRA, by William Hartston, Willi Iclicki amd Roger Lancaster, Chequers Chess Publications, London 1987. Lusis 2117

The OHRA tournament, played in Brussels in December 1986, was the first tournament in which Kasparov had competed for three years and his first as world champion. The book claims that the average Elo rating of the six participants (Kasparov, Korchnoi, Hubner, Short, Portisch, and Nunn) made this the strongest tournament in the history of the game. All of this inspired the BBC to choose this event for its new Chess Classic series.


In the Chess Classic series of programs the players narrated a commentary to their games revealing their thoughts during play, in a similar manner to The Master Game broadcast in the 1970s. 

All 30 games from the tournament are included in the book (13 games were covered by the BBC) with annotations by Garry Kasparov, Lajos Portisch, John Nunn, Raymond Keene and Andrew Martin. For each game the bare moves and result are firstly given, this is followed by diagrams showing the position after every pair of moves, followed by a full analysis of the game. the 13 games from the BBC series are then repeated again with the players thoughts at key moments.



These insights into the top players' deliberations are extremely interesting but you have to wonder how candid the players were for this publication, some comments seem very superficial. Not so in the following game between Kasparov and Portisch.


Each round has a brief summary and occasional Off the Board snippets are also included. 

As expected Kasparov was the clear winner scoring 7½ out of 10, losing only to 21 year old Nigel Short. The book states "reputedly the world champion's first ever loss against a younger opponent" - but surely not correct. 


For a six player tournament a huge amount has been packed into this 286 page work.

Chequers Chess Publications published two other books: The Game of the Round: Dubai Olympiad 1986 and The Book of the World Championship: Kasparov vs Karpov: London/Leningrad 1986:


                                         © Michael Clapham 2020


Thursday, 22 October 2020

Le Match: Capablanca-Alekhine: Buenos Aires 1927

Le Match: Capablanca-Alekhine: Buenos Aires 1927, by V. Soultanbéieff, L'Echiquier, Bruxelles 1929. 

LN5079, 64pp + Table des Matieres + Errata. 



This is one of the scarcer publications on the Capablanca v Alekhine world Championship match of 1927. It is not in the Kieler Schachkatalogue, published in 2000, which lists over 8,000 items, no copies have been sold at the Antiquariat Klittich auctions and only one copy has appeared in the LSAK Chesslund auctions; this sold for 136 euros in 2018.

Although the title page is dated 1929, the Avant-Propos has a date of Mai 1928.



Victor Ivanovich Soultanbéieff was born in 1895 in Russia and moved to Belgium in 1921, making his home in Liège where he died in 1972.

This book is number 65 in the chronological list in Belgian Chess Publications: An Annotated Bibliography by Henri Serruys and Guy Van Habberney, Antwerp 2011.



This beautifully produced bibliography, which has colour photographs of every book published in Belgium from Cessolis/Caxton 1474 onwards, includes a vignette of Soultanbéieff on page 40.



Soultanbéieff wrote two other chess books; Tournoi International d'Ostende 1936, Ostende 1936, which included the games from the first five rounds only (out of nine) from that tournament, and Guide Pratique du jeu des Combinaisons, Bruxelles/Liège 1950.  

Soultanbéieff's book on the Capablanca v Alekhine match includes Un peu d'Histoire, Du Titre de Champion du Monde, going back to Ruy Lopez, short biographies and results of the competitors, an overview of Le Match, La Victoire d'Alekhine: Réflexions rétrospectives, and Les Parties du match with extensive annotations to the 34 games. 

                                             © Michael Clapham 2020