Monday, 11 June 2018

Two very scarce chess books

Fifty Forced Mates, A Collection of Gems, selected by E. Ravenscroft, London 1937. Betts 20-8.


This little work was printed and published by London Transport Central Buses Sports Association, Chess Section, and distributed by Frank Hollings. It is another of the many chess books published after the death of the author/compiler.



The booklet has 36 un-numbered pages and includes 50 diagrammed positions with mate imminent in up to six moves.




A page of Keys is included half way through the book with further moves of the solutions given at the end.




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Feats in Chess, Containing Games and Curious Attitudes of Knight Movements by S. Rungiah Naidu (Pensioner), Secunderabad, India 1922. Betts 41-7









This curious little work of 55 pages and measuring just 16 cm. is a veritable Tardis of a chess book, opening up to reveal two enormous folding leaves. the first one, measuring 60 cm. x 51 cm. shows a chess board made up of 64 smaller chess boards, printed in red and black, depicting Curious Attitudes of Knight Movements. It is far too large to scan but I have taken the photo below:




The second folding leaf is slightly smaller at 42 cm. x 34 cm. and displays 36 further patterns of knight manoeuvres in a 6 x 6 grid.


The book begins with a simple primer of chess including Movements of the Pieces, Comparative Value of the Pieces, Chess Notation, Technical Terms and Important Laws, of which there are only seven, so presumably the unimportant laws have been omitted. The first part ends with six examples of openings and six endings or problems. These positions are on diagrams with BIG CAPITALS for Black men and small capitals for White men since chess figures for printing were not available in India at the time.  







Chapter II deals with various Feats of knight movements over the board including tracing animal and flower designs and mathematical accomplishments.




The author revelled in the critical acclaim for his book and he included three pages, plus an inserted leaf, of positive press publicity, presumably from manuscripts circulated before publication.




Friday, 11 May 2018

Kenny, Madden and Schenk

The Manual of Chess: Containing the Elementary Principles of The Game, by Charles Kenny, London 1847. Betts 10-1



One of the Manuals of Utility edited by John Timbs, this is a small beginners guide of 120 pages following the normal format of a brief history, description, technical terms, laws and general rules of the game, shallow openings, a few endings, five sample games and seven problems. The book concludes with details of four London venues where chess is played, and the two London chess clubs, and finally, a page on current chess periodicals and weekly chess columns.




Howard Staunton reviewed this book favourably in The Chess Player's Chronicle for 9th January 1847 on page 9, but this little work was almost inevitably swept aside following the publication of Staunton's own Chess-Player's Handbook in June 1847.  



An American edition of this work was published by D. Appleton & Co. in New York in the same year and Fiske commented on this as follows in his American chess bibliography in The Book of the First American Chess Congress, New York 1859:   "XVIII, this is one of several works by a well-known Chess author; the original appeared in London the preceding year; no alterations or additions whatever are made in this reprint."

 American edition of 1859

Fiske's statement is wrong on three counts; firstly, Charles Kenny authored just this one chess book (Fiske no doubt confused Charles Kenny with William Stopford Kenny who wrote Practical Chess Grammar, 1817, Practical Chess Exercises, 1818, Analysis of the Game of Chess by A. D. Philidor, 1819, and contributed to The Chess-Player, 1841.) Secondly, the London edition appeared in the same year as the New York edition, and thirdly, there are differences between the London and New York editions, the latter omits the final lists of Places where chess is played and Chess Periodicals.

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Historical Remarks on the Introduction into Europe of the Game of Chess and on the Ancient Chess-men Discovered in the Isle of Lewis, by Frederic Madden, London 1832. 91 pages.





This is a modern reprint of the 1832 publication (40 copies only printed) of Madden's important paper read before the Society of Antiquaries, and originally included in volume XXIV of Archaeologia. Whyld & Ravilious 1832:6 and 1832:7. However, there is nothing to indicate where, when, and by whom this was recently reprinted.

Madden discusses, on pages 3 to 11, the introduction of chess into Europe and he says that, of the numerous writers who have treated of this game, the only treatises worth mentioning, in which the game is considered historically, are those of M. Sarasin, Dr. Hyde, M. Freret, Hon. Daines Barrington, Francis Douce, L. Dubois, Lake Allen, Singer (in his Researches into the History of Playing Cards) and Richard Twiss.

Pages 12 to 43 then give an incredibly detailed description of the ancient chess-men and draughts-men discovered in 1831 at Uig, Isle of Man, which are now known as the Lewis Chessmen.  Madden states that the hoard included 67 chess pieces (it is now known that  a total of 78 was discovered) and he describes in detail every single one of the chess pieces, interspersed with the history and etymology of the nomenclature, form and appearance of the various chess-men.




Madden then endeavours to prove, on pages 43 to 91, that the pieces were made in the middle of the twelfth century in Iceland, basing his hypothesis on the material from which they were made (walrus tusk), the costumes in which they appear, and the ancient writings of Scandinavia. His conclusions were the result of an astonishingly detailed and conscientious examination of hundreds of printed works and manuscripts in many languages, and numerous museum exhibits and other artifacts including The Bayeux Tapestry. Madden was Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts at The British Museum at the time and so had relatively easy access to research materials, nevertheless this is research of Mariana Trench proportions!

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The Passionate Game; Lessons in Chess and Love, by Gustav Schenk, London 1937. Betts 43-70.



A literary work, originally published as Das leidenshaftliche Spiel: Schachbriefe an eine Freundin in Germany in 1936, in which a gentleman explains the game of chess to a lady in a series of love letters, with a happy ending.

The book has a number of attractive illustrations:




....and this copy has an intriguing inscription on the half-title:

  

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P. S. I have just been browsing through Staunton's edition of Shakespeare in a second hand bookshop, (3 volumes, £140) which again highlights the extraordinary level of research, attention to detail and erudition of many nineteenth century authors.


                                         © Michael Clapham 2018
 






Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Chess Monthly by Morphy and Fiske, part 2

Further extracts from The Chess Monthly, an American Chess Serial, edited by Paul Morphy, Esq. and Daniel W. Fiske, M. A., Volume II 1858, New York.



Morphy's European expedition.

There was no further news in the June issue regarding the Anglo/American negotiations, but as is well known, Morphy decided that, if Staunton would not travel to America, he would travel to England, and on page 216 of the July issue Fiske reported that Morphy had sailed from New York on 8th June heading for Liverpool ..."for the purpose, if it is agreeable to Mr. Staunton, of contesting a grand match with the distinguished English player". 

Pages 255/256 of the August issue gave the first reports of Morphy's arrival in England, with results and details of some of the players with whom he had "broken a lance". Page 256 also reported that Staunton had accepted Mr Morphy's challenge, the match to be played after the Birmingham Meeting with stakes of 500 pounds a side.

The first games appeared in September, including one of the consultation games against Staunton and 'Alter' (Rev. J. Owen) in which Morphy and Barnes sacrificed a rook on move 16 (they were already a piece for a pawn ahead at the time) before going on to victory in an exciting game. 




Other sources, including Morphy's Games of Chess, by J Löwenthal, London 1860, page 221, continue the game as follows:



Under the heading Paul Morphy in the Old World, Fiske writes "The spectacle now presented by the chess-world of Great Britain has never been equalled in the annals of the game", and he reproduces a long article, on pages 280-282, from The Press, a London journal of influence, which "gives a good picture of the excitement created by Mr. Morphy's advent in England, and of the impression which his style of play has made upon the British chess community." Following this are comprehensive details of Morphy's match against Löwenthal for which "Mr. Staunton has been named as umpire".

The laudatory praise for Morphy's exploits and triumphs continues in the October number on pages 314 to 320; including the following quotes (with indirect digs at Staunton):

George Walker: "we consider Mr. Morphy a phenomenon, and are delighted to hail in him certainly the finest player since M'Donnell and Labourdonnais."  

S. S. Boden: "he is beyond question, one of the very finest players living; and we may fairly question whether he will meet with his superior." 

Falkbeer: "This is, at least, a chess-player from head to foot. Since Philidor and Labourdonnais we do not remember a similar apparition"

The adulation reached a crescendo in November, with more praise from St. Amant, de Rivière and others, culminating with a report on Morphy's astounding blindfold exhibition in Paris against eight opponents, after which, Lequesne, one of his antagonists, proclaimed "such a mind never did exist, and, perhaps, never will again."   

However, in the December number, the admiration for Morphy was replaced by frustration and anger at Staunton's refusal to play him, prompting this outburst from Fiske on page 378:



References to chess literature

July 1858. After a five page history of Chess in Denmark, Fiske gives a short bibliography of chess works published in Danish, listing four items.




August 1858. Page 255 has brief details of Frere's Chess Handbook, by Thomas Frere, New York 1858, which had recently been detached from his edition of Hoyle and now published separately. 

November 1858.  On page 350 Fiske reported that there were now fourteen journals in the United States which publish weekly chess columns. The latest being Harper's Weekly with the chess department ably conducted by Charles H. Stanley, and on page 352 he gives the astonishing news, to me, that the Book of the Birmingham Meeting, containing a full account of that assemblage and a selection from the games played, is to be published under the editorship of Mr. Staunton. Regrettably no such work appeared, however, a report of the tournament, in which Staunton was knocked out in round two, and, during which Morphy played eight blindfold games simultaneously, is included in The Chess Congress of 1862, by J. Löwenthal, London 1864.



December 1858.   Fiske concludes this number with an announcement that his Book of the First American Chess Congress was currently at the printers and would appear in early 1859. He says it will be a volume of 400 pages, whereas the finished product had 563 pages. Finally the news that von der Lasa is engaged in writing a series of articles for the Berlin Schachzeitung on a complete copy of Lucena, one of the oldest printed chess books, discovered by him in a library at Rio de Janeiro. 

Further items of interest

In July, details were given of The Congress Picture, an engraving of the foremost members of the late national Congress, with the participants examining a well known three-move problem by Loyd.

Here is the engraving from page 56 of Chess, an Illustrated History, by Raymond Keene, Oxford 1990:




...and here is a copy of the rare photograph from which the engraving was obviously taken, on page 27 of A Picture History of Chess, by Fred Wilson, New York 1981. Wilson states that Morphy is making a move against Paulsen during the Congress.


An earlier appearance of the photograph is opposite page 314 of Chess Tales and Chess Miscellanies, by D. W. Fiske, published in 1912, eight years after Fiske's death.   



Another in the series Lives of Chess Men appears in the October number with a biography of Elias Stein and details of his chess works. 

November opened with a three page article on Continental Chess with news on the current chess scene in France, which was experiencing a period of chess apathy, and Germany which "unlike France exhibits no decline in chess". This followed on from October's article English Chess as it is Today, and Fiske (now 27) displays an impressive knowledge of many European chess personalities, chess clubs, books, periodicals and newspaper columns; presumably acquired from his overseas correspondents and a variety of chess literature and periodicals brought across the Atlantic by steamer. 

Fiske considered von der Lasa the foremost European player, (although he never competed in tournaments or formal matches - Oxford Companion to Chess, New Edition, page 216),  But since von der Lasa had been posted to Rio de Janeiro as Prussian Minister, Max Lange was the new rising star "worthy to be ranked among the very first of living players."

This has certainly whetted my appetite to obtain the other volumes in this series.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2018

Friday, 4 May 2018

The Chess Monthly by Morphy and Fiske

The Chess Monthly, an American Chess Serial, edited by Paul Morphy, Esq. and Daniel W. Fiske, M. A., Volume II 1858, New York.



Fiske's Chess Monthly, launched when he was just twenty five years of age,  was an outstanding periodical when first published between 1857 and 1861, probably the best in the English language up to that time, and for a long time thereafter; (John Keeble wrote in The British Chess Magazine in November 1931, page 496, "it is safe to say that [Fiske's] magazine remains to this day the most interesting thing of the kind ever issued"), and, 160 years later, it is still an extraordinarily interesting read for chess history and literature devotees.  

This is the second volume, for the year 1858, with Paul Morphy named as co-editor, although he had spent the second half of the year in Europe; and the whole volume is largely a tribute to Morphy with extensive reports of his exploits both at home and abroad. Of the 97 games included in this volume, the great majority are by Morphy, starting with games from the First American Chess Congress, held in New York in October and November 1857, and ending with many of his astonishing performances in England and France.  

There is considerable material on the the hoped for match between Staunton and Morphy, beginning on page 96 of the March 1858 issue with the following note: "Mr Staunton says that whenever a challenge is sent by America to Europe it will assuredly be accepted." The April number includes, on pages 124 to 126, the full text of the challenge to Staunton by the New Orleans Chess Club, dated 4th February 1858, with the terms of a proposed match.



In May, page 159, Fiske writes "Of course the great subject of conversation of late has been the challenge of the New Orleans Club. Players are asking each other: will Staunton accept? And the arrival of each successive number of the Illustrated News is awaited with great impatience." However, on page 160 Fiske announced: "Just as the Monthly is going to press we learn that Mr. Staunton declines the great challenge for the sole reason (as he expressly states) that the match is to be played in New Orleans."

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Daniel Willard Fiske (1831-1904) was a librarian by profession and an enthusiastic bibliophile, and he frequently wrote about chess literature in The Chess Monthly. Volume II includes the following:

January 1858:  A brief review of The Report of the Annual Meeting of the Chess Association, held at Manchester in August 1857, Manchester 1857 (Betts 8-3); an update on the progress of The Book of the First American Chess Congress; details of a forthcoming book of problems taken from the Madras Examiner, which Fiske referred to as a second Trevangadacharya Shastree; and a preview of the, soon to be published, appendix to Staunton's Handbook, this is Chess Praxis, published in 1860.

In a Bibliography of Philidor over twelve pages of the January and February magazines, Fiske gives a very detailed, but rather rambling, list of works by Philidor and of the many editions subsequently based on his writings. The footnotes contain as much information as the main text.



February 1858: Fiske published the "proof" that Letters on Chess, by Carl Frederich Vogt, translated from the German by U. Ewell, London 1848, was actually the work of William Lewis:





March 1858:   Pages 65/66 contain a review of Jean Preti's endgame treatise; Traité complet, théorique et pratique sur les Fins de Parties au Jeu des Echecs, Paris 1858, and in the monthly Miscellanea Zatrikiologica article on page 92 Fiske gives a long extract from a book by the Rev. D. R. Thomason: Fashionable Amusements, New York 1857, preceded by a comment that The Churchman newspaper "was greatly shocked at the attendance of so many clergymen at the late Chess Congress".

March also includes brief biographical details of Carlo Cozio, author of the rare treatise Il Giuoco degli Scacchi, Turin 1766 and, among several references to current chess literature, Fiske gives a hearty recommendation to the "excellent chess department of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" conducted by Napoleon Marache. He also announced "A new chess magazine was commenced last year at Rome, It is called the Album and is edited, we suppose, by Signor Dubois." However, I cannot trace this in either Di Felice's Chess Periodicals or Lineamenti di una Bibliografia Italiana degli Scacchi, by Chicco and Sanvito, Rome 1987; La Rivista degli Scacchi, edited by Dubois with Ferrante, commenced in 1859.





May 1858:  "For their quaint style and curious wording" Fiske published The Lawes of Chesse-Play, extracted from J. Barbier's 1640 edition of Arthur Saul's The Famous Game of Chesse-Play.



The Famous Game of Chesse-play, London 1640


There are many other interesting articles in the first six months of this volume, including, in January, No. III in the series Lives of Chess Men with a five page biography of Francois-André Danican-Philidor. January also included a brief report on the Morphy v C. H. Stanley match with some games published in later issues. In April Fiske commenced An English Chess Glossary, with frequent references to early chess literature. This had reached the letter F by October with no further entries in November or December. 




The second half of 1858 will be covered next time.


                                    © Michael Clapham 2018