Friday, 21 June 2019

Six more classic games collections

Here is a further selection of games collections showing how they were produced 50 to 100 years ago.

Morphy's Games of Chess, by Philip W. Sergeant, published by G. Bell and Sons, London 1916.   

An elegant green cloth hardback with rounded corners, dust jacket, portrait of Morphy and 352 pages. The Biography runs to 36 pages, almost a book in itself, and brings together "a great quantity of material from all quarters, and attempts to weld it into a whole".

There follows the 300! games; every one annotated to a greater or lesser extent, partly by the author, with the assistance of fellow members of the City of London Chess Club, and partly borrowing from previous Morphy games collections by Löwenthal, Lange and Maroczy, and other authorities such as Zukertort, Steinitz and Lasker.

In addition, Sergeant provides an introduction to each of the chapters and gives brief vignettes of many of Morphy's opponents. The book is completed by indexes of players and openings.


Petrosian's Best Games of Chess 1946-1963, Selected and Annotated by P. H. Clarke, London 1964. A classic G. Bell & Sons publication with maroon cloth, gilt titles and dust jacket.

You certainly get your money's worth here; this book, published a year after Petrosian won the world championship from Botvinnik, includes the following:

1. P. H. Clarke's Preface.
2. List of Games.
3. Petrosian's Tournament and Match Record.
4. A ten page essay: Petrosian the Pragmatist, outlining his, often maligned, style of play.
5. A biography extending over 17 pages incorporated into the introductions to the eight chapters of Petrosian's career, from Apprentice Master to The World Championship.
6. 60 extensively annotated games.
7. Indexes of openings and opponents.


Pillsbury's Chess Career by P. W. Sergeant and W. H. Watts, London 1923. 

This book, by another leading chess book publisher from the first half of the twentieth century; Printing Craft,  was the first collection of Pillsbury's games printed in English, (earlier works had been published in German and Swedish). 

An eight page Biography is followed by 233 games, including 44 played blindfold; almost all are annotated with numbered notes placed at the end.


Réti's Best Games of Chess, Chosen and Annotated by H. Golombek, London 1954. Maroon cloth hardback with the usual G. Bell & Sons dust jacket of the period.

From the dust jacket: "Richard Réti was the author of two of finest books on chess, Modern Ideas in Chess, and Masters of the Chessboard."  Also: "Golombek is particularly fitted to write this book, since he is one of the world's leading exponents of Rétis opening.....and has followed Réti's trail throughout the world."

Golombek's Foreword  highlights the substantial research carried out across Europe in compiling this work, and he presents a five page Memoir of Réti, lists of his tournament and match results, and 70 annotated games divided into eight phases of Rétis career. 15 endgame studies are interspersed throughout the work.


A Memorial to William Steinitz; Containing a Selection of his Games Chronologically Arranged with an Analysis of Play, edited by Charles Devidé, New York and London 1901.

This dark blue cloth hardback is the earliest publication in this article, and includes a fine portrait of Steinitz. In his Preface Devidé informs us that, due to the limitation of just 100 pages the content is severely curtailed from that originally envisaged, and in particular the full account of Steinitz's life and deeds, that the author had prepared, could not be included. Devidé does however, include "a mere sketch of his life" running to eight pages.

The former world champion's match and tournament records are listed followed by 73 (Betts says 72)  annotated games including "his most famous and brilliant games and those of theoretical importance". The vii, 99 pages are printed on unusually thick paper.   


Mikhail Tal's Best Games of Chess, Selected and Annotated by P. H. Clarke, London 1961.

This fine production by G. Bell and Sons follows Tal's meteoric rise from schoolboy in 1951 to world champion in 1960. Clarke was just 27 when he wrote this work which includes a frontispiece portrait, Preface, two preliminary articles; The Road to the Championship, charting Tal's chess career, and, The Genius of Tal, which discusses his lively style of play. Extracts from an interview between Tal and Clarke are included in A Word from Mikhail Tal, followed by Tal's Tournament and Match Record.

The fifty games are each given a brief introduction and extensive commentary and annotations by Clarke. There are naturally indexes of games, openings and opponents.


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Six Classic Games Collections

Having referred to classic games collections in the previous article I give below brief details of six such works. Many of the best games collections have been written by the players themselves, but the following examples were all compiled by an independent author. The other criteria are that the book is written in English and is at least fifty years old.

Alekhine's Best Games of Chess 1938-1945, chosen and annotated by C. H. O'D. Alexander, London 1949.

A typically beautifully produced book by G. Bell and Sons in pink cloth hardback with dust jacket, this volume completed the trilogy of Alekhine's best games collections. 

C. H. O'D. Alexander did not include a biographical account of Alekhine's life and career as this task had already been "admirably carried out by Mr. du Mont in the second volume of this series". 

The book presents 42 main games and all are extensively analysed with instructive comments and clear diagrams. 


H. E. Atkins: Doyen of British Chess Champions, by R. N. Coles, London 1952.

Published by Sir Isaac Pitman, this compact volume has attractive yellow cloth covers, a dust jacket and a fine portrait of Atkins as a frontispiece. The Biographical Note extends to eight pages and gives a detailed account of Atkins' life and curious chess career which was punctuated by long spells of inactivity.

Each of the fifty games, from 1893 to 1937, has a brief introduction and lucid commentary by Coles.   


The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Selected and Annotated by Fred Reinfeld, New York 1942.

Another well produced book, by Chess Review of New York, this comes with maroon cloth covers, pictorial dust jacket. and a portrait of Capablanca by E. Valderama.

Reinfeld's remarkable industry is epitomised by this work which provides a thirteen page biography of Capablanca, his Tournament and Match Record, and 113 games annotated in the author's clear and informative style.

The games are arranged into five stages of Capablanca's career; viz. The Boy Prodigy becomes a Master. 1902-1909, Grandmaster. 1910-1914, Challenger. 1914-1920, World Champion. 1921-1927, and Ex-Champion. 1927-1942. Each phase is  preceded by an overview of Capablanca's style of play during the period, focusing on his choice of openings; and every single game has a brief introduction summarising the key points.

Another impressive early work by Fred Reinfeld. 


Emanuel Lasker, The Life of a Chess Master, by J. Hannak, London 1959. 

Translated by Heinrich Fraenkel from the original German work: Emanuel Lasker, Biographie eines Schachweltmeisters, first published in Berlin-Frohnau in 1952. The English book, published by Andre Deutsch, has a red cloth hardback with dust jacket.

This book takes a different approach from the usual biography/playing record/games approach, and charts Lasker's entire life over 30 chapters, with relevant games at the end of each chapter. The annotations to the 100 plus games were taken from many different sources which are usually noted at the end of each game. Alas there is no portrait, index of games, or overall record of Lasker's tournament and match career. 


Frank J. Marshall; One Hundred Annotated Games Illustrated with 150 Diagrams, by P. Wenman, (Ex Scottish Champion) Leeds 1948.

This book is No. 1 in the series Great American Chess Players, and the only other book in the series was a lightly annotated collection of Pillsbury's games by P. Wenman, also published in 1948.

The Marshall collection includes a five page Biographical Note, Marshall's Record in Tournament and Matches, and 100 annotated games, clearly laid out with occasional diagrams.  


R.P. Michell. A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, London 1947. 

Another Sir Isaac Pitman publication in red cloth hardback with dust jacket and frontispiece portrait. 

A seven page biography, which includes a magazine article written by Michell entitled The Uses of the "Books" is followed by 36 characteristic games from 1901 to 1936, each annotated, not with reams of analysis, but with helpful commentary on many of the key positions. 

A further selection of six games collections will appear next time.

Friday, 31 May 2019

A shambolic book on Fischer

Chess Combinations, Strategy and Intuition in the Chess Games of Robert James "Bobby" Fischer (2017 Edition) 

The title page promises Complete games: Openings, Middlegame and Endgames (including annoteted games) but, perhaps wisely, does not name any author, editor or compiler.  However, the author is Chaturang Phalak (chess player and writer - Facebook) who has self-published, through Amazon, a number of chess books under the publishing name of Chess Science whose logo is a 10 x 10 chequered board with a dark square bottom right.

The 111 pages are not numbered although the Table of Contents indicates 133 pages. The discrepancy is due to several games being allocated two pages in the Contents but are actually squeezed into one page in the book. The occasional completely blank page is also included here and there.  

The book starts with an inane and inept biography which condenses the entire life and chess career of Robert James "Bobby" Fischer into just over a page, including a portrait, ending with a link to Youtube for further biographical information.  No matter, we already know practically everything about Fischer, so on to the games.

The first chapter, Ten Notable Games, kicks off with Fischer's brilliancy against Donald Byrne in the Third Rosenwald Trophy Tournament (1956), with a few comments taken from The Games of Robert J. Fischer by Robert Wade and Kevin O'Connell, London 1972, or from the internet. This is followed by Robert Byrne vs Fischer, U.S. Championship 1963/64 with comments from various unidentified sources but mostly lifted from My 60 Memorable Games.  The final eight Notable Games contain just the bare moves.

The next chapter, covering the 1972 world championship match, commences with a bumbling preamble to "the Match of the Century". The first line gives a flavour:

The author reveals the secrets of top level preparation:

... and for good measure the final two paragraphs are duplicated in full:

All of the games in the match are given, with just the bare moves, even though games 6 and 13 had already been included a few pages earlier in Ten Notable Games. I have not played over all of the games but the few that I have looked at seem accurate enough. However the presentation is completely colourless with no commentary, explanations or analysis, no chess punctuation, and certainly nothing to demonstrate Fischer's Combinations, Strategy and Intuition. Typical of the blandness is Game 3, considered by Fischer as one of his best in the match, and at the end of which he "sealed a crusher"; 41...Bd3+, 0-1: 

Chapter three is Fifteen Games Annotated by Bobby Fischer, beginning with Fischer vs Bolbochan, Stockholm 1962, with half a dozen of Fischer's comments from My 60 Memorable Games. However the copy and pasted notes retain Fischer's descriptive notation amidst the algebraic notation of the game moves. 

Next is Unzicker vs Fischer, Varna 1962 with selected notes from My 60 Memorable Games,  then comes our old friend, the game between Robert Byrne and Fischer, U.S. Championship 1963/64, with identical text and diagram from chapter one: Ten Notable Games.

The final twelve games in this chapter are all from the Blitz Tournament held in Herceg Novi 1970, and this time all of the notes are poached from Chess Meets of the Century by Bobby Fischer and Dimitrije Bjelica, Sarajevo 1971.  

The title of the next chapter; Fischer on Buenos Aires Tournament (1970), raises the hope that we are in for some of Fischer's insights into his 17 games from that event, however, there is not a single word from Fischer, and the only game in this chapter with any commentary is Fischer vs Samual Schweber with two short notes taken from This game is followed by a pair of identical diagrams (typically unhelpful) showing the final position:

The game between Fischer and Oscar Panno had already been given in chapter one.

The final chapter; Selected Fischer vs Russians Games presents 13 games from 1958 to 1962, all silently, but with no repeats.  

No sources are credited or acknowledged anywhere in the book; there is just the odd mention of "Fischer", "Wade", "Byrne" etc. in the notes. Each game is accompanied by an oversized computer generated diagram showing the final position but otherwise devoid of information. 

The moves to most games are given with zero chess punctuation, so there is no indication if a move involved a capture or check, was good or bad, or even if it ended the game. Where there are lines of analysis, these blend in to the actual game moves with no separation or highlighting.

Compared to many of the classic games collections of the past this shambles is an extraordinarily feeble production.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

E. G. R. Cordingley's Limited Editions of Tournament Books

E.G.R. Cordingley launched his series of Limited Editions in the Summer of 1933 shortly after sending a letter to The British Chess Magazine, (May 1933, page 204), deploring the loss of the game scores from many tournaments, and appealing for a "Circle of Chess Votaries" willing to support his scheme for printing the games from interesting events.  His first book covered the Hastings Christmas Tournament 1932-33 and only 30 copies were printed.

Cordingley's second Limited Edition on Frankfurt 1930 was published in an edition of 40 copies towards the end of 1933 and he again wrote to The British Chess Magazine, (November 1933, page 505), seeking a permanent body of subscribers on whose support he could rely. At the time he had 28 subscribers, and this had increased to 47 when his third book, on Liege 1930, was published in the Spring of 1934 with 61 copies.   

It seems that Cordingley's intention in printing such small numbers of his earliest books was simply to cover the costs of supplying the demand of his modest circle of subscribers. However, in his very interesting article; E.G.R Cordingley, Publishing Pioneer, in the December 1999 issue of Chess, Ken Whyld opined that his friend and associate "saw that by limiting and numbering his publications, his customers were assured that their investments would not depreciate, and indeed he offered to buy back at the original price"

Whatever his motives, the growth in interest in chess tournament publications has resulted in these very limited editions becoming rare, sought after and expensive. Cordingley sent a complimentary copy of his Hastings 1932/33 book to The British Chess Magazine in 1933 and this very copy turned up in a chess book auction in 2007 when it sold for around €250. (Antiquariat A.Klittich-Pfankuch, June 2007, lot 818)

I do not possess any of the earliest Limited Editions, my first is number 7 in the series, Moscow 1935, volume I, published in May 1935, 250 copies. 

In his Foreword, Cordingley acknowledges the assistance provided by R. N. Coles and Dr. Lloyd Storr-Best who translated the notes from the Russian daily bulletins and also wrote the Preface painting the background to the tournament and describing the extraordinary interest it generated in Moscow. 4,000 spectators filled the playing hall every day. Cordingley also offered to buy back copies of his first three books, and mentioned that only about 25 people possess the complete set of his Limited Editions.

Volume I of Moscow 1935 covers the first ten rounds of this famous tournament, after which Botvinnik was leading ahead of Flohr, Em. Lasker, Levenfish, Ragosin, Capablanca etc.   Here is the game between Botvinnik and Stahlberg in Round 7.

Number 10 in the series is Moscow 1936 and I have a subscriber's copy which is numbered and signed by Cordingley. Subscriber's copies also included the vignette shown at the top of this article.

The title page includes details of Cordingley's American Agent, Fred Reinfeld, and Ken Whyld states in his Chess article that Limited Editions 4 to 10 (excluding No. 9) were produced jointly with Reinfeld; in fact Cordingley No. 8 and Reinfeld No. 3 on Margate 1935 are the same book. Cordingley No. 9, on Dresden 1936, was a German publication reissued with an English title page.

In Moscow 1936, most games are given in Continental notation with notes at the end, making the games a little difficult to follow smoothly. 

The book includes four pages of adverts for chess books, and the List of Subscribers has many familiar names:

There was no No. 11 in the series but when Ken Whyld purchased Cordingley's library in 1952 he found that it included the stencils for Budapest 1921 which he supposed were intended to be used for No. 11. Whyld completed this work and published the pamphlet in 1953 as the last of Cordingley's Limited Editions of Tournament Books.
No. 12 is Amsterdam 1936 published in 1937 in a smaller format. 

Cordingley engaged Reuben Fine, the joint winner, to analyse and annotate the games and, this time the notes were interspersed within the moves, making the games easier to follow. However, Cordingley's method of production, i.e. a standard typewriter, precluded normal chess diagrams, and grids with letters were the best that he could manage.  These were difficult to fathom and probably received the derision that he had anticipated in his Introduction to this book.

Although the 28 games are extensively annotated, there is no overall commentary on the eight player tournament, won by Fine and Euwe ahead of Alekhine.

The List of Subscribers had grown to 76 entries.

Next off the typewriter was Hastings 1936-37, won by Alekhine ahead of Fine and Eliskases. 

This 30 page publication was back to a larger format, and notes to the 45 games were taken from The British Chess Magazine and Chess. There is no introductory matter except for a cross table and index of openings.

The book includes four of the awkward diagrams and a few adverts are squeezed in. The List of Subscribers had reached 80.

Incidentally, the numbers of copies printed according to Betts' Bibliography is not always correct. Moscow 1935 and Moscow 1936 both had 250 copies not 240 as stated in Betts, Amsterdam 1936 had 280 copies not 265 and Hastings 1936-37 had 180 copies not 140. I have amended the table given in a previous article and I shall be pleased to hear of any other discrepancies.

                                              © Michael Clapham 2019