Thursday, 15 October 2020

Hay-on-Wye "Town of Books"



During the summer I made the annual pilgrimage to Hay-on-Wye, a delightful little town on the Welsh/English border. Hay-on-Wye has developed a worldwide reputation as the "Town of Books" since Richard Booth opened his first second-hand bookshop in 1962. The town holds a renowned Literary Festival every year (except this year).



The town quickly became one of the largest centres for second-hand and antiquarian book sellers in the world and the 2005-2006 directory listed 31 book shops in the town with others nearby. 


However, in line with the general decline in second-hand bookshops, the latest directory for 2019-2020 lists only 20 shops, and some of these are now closed. Richard Booth's bookshop is the largest in the town and in 2010 claimed to hold 500,000 books. Hay Cinema Bookshop, in the old converted cinema, carries a stock of around 200,000 books. 

Hay-on-Wye bookshop directories for 2005-2006 and 2019-2020

I have heard tales of some wonderful chess book finds in Hay-on-Wye in years gone by but nowadays decent old chessbooks seem to be much more elusive. However, I made three purchases which made the trip worthwhile.

The Chess-Board Companion by William Lewis, London 1838.

This little book is the first edition of Lewis's Companion which was published in several later editions or thousands. The book is in lovely condition for its age with a very good tight binding and all edges still have the bright gilding.  Priced at £50, I knocked the dealer down to £40.


The Chess Players' Compendium, fourth edition by William Cook, London 1907. 

This book was previously in the library of the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club in the author's home town. The binding has been re-backed and the covers are marked, but this cost just £10 from a market stall in the town (market day is Thursday).


I already had the first edition of 1902 and a fifth edition published by David Mckay in America in 1910.

First edition, 1902 and fifth edition, 1910 of Cook's Compendium


One Hundred Chess Maxims by C. D. Locock, Leeds 1930. £5


A lovely clean example of this seemingly scarce booklet which gives basic hints to beginners.


A second "Revised and Enlarged" edition was published in 1935, although it has fewer pages than the first edition.

                                            © Michael Clapham 2020


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Chess Matches

Following on from the previous article (back in May) I set out below the top 24 chess matches based on the number of publications listed in Chess Competitions 1824-1970 by Gino Di Felice, Olomouc 2013.


The list shows the number of publications, the event, and Di Felice's number. 

28  Botvinnik v Tal world championship match, 1960                       2617
26  Euwe v Alekhine world championship match, 1937                     2446
26  Alekhine v Euwe world championship match, 1935                     2494
25  Capablanca v Alekhine world championship match, 1927            2443
20  Botvinnik v Smyslov world championship match, 1954               2463
18  Lasker v Capablanca world championship match, 1921               2472
16  Petrosian v Spassky world championship match, 1969                2598
15  Tal v Botvinnik world championship match, 1961                        2465
15  Botvinnik v Smyslov world championship match, 1957                2592
14  Smyslov v Botvinnik world championship match, 1958                2464
12  Botvinnik v Bronstein world championship match, 1951               2460
12  Botvinnik v Petrosian world championship match, 1963               2566
12  Petrosian v Spassky world championship match, 1966                 2567
11  Lasker v Tarrasch world championship match, 1908                     2539
11  Soviet Union v Rest of the world, 1970                                       2945
10  Alekhine v Bogoljubow world championship match, 1934             2442
  8  De La Bourdonnais v McDonnell, 1834                                        2484
  8  Steinitz v Lasker world championship match, 1894                      2537
  8  Staunton v St. Amant, 1843                                                      2607
  8  Steinitz v Zuckertort world championship match, 1886                 2615
  8  Soviet Union v U.S.A. radio match, 1945                                     2946
  7  Alekhine v Bogoljubow world championship match, 1929              2441
  7  Lasker v Marshall world championship match, 1907                     2535
  6  Steinitz v Chigorin world championship match, 1889                    2610

Di Felice's bibliography does not extend beyond 1970 so does not include the Spassky v Fischer match of 1972 which, no doubt, has inspired the largest number of books on a chess match; there are at least 20 in the English language alone.

20 of the 24 events are world championship matches and there is a nice symmetry in that the Alekhine v Euwe match of 1935 and the rematch of 1937 have the same number of publications. The De La Bourdonnais v McDonnell and Staunton v St Amant matches both took place before the establishment of a formal world championship. The other two entries are for team matches.

Many of the entries in Di Felice's bibliography are not books devoted to the match and often include  articles on matches in magazines, collections of match games in general chess books and even collections of newspaper cuttings. However, the number of publications listed gives some indication of the relevant popularity of the events.




© Michael Clapham 2020

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Tournament books

I mentioned in the last article that A.V.R.O 1938 was one of the most extensively covered tournaments in chess literature and I have now drawn up a list of the top 31 tournaments based on the number of publications listed in Gino Di Felice's Chess Competitions 1824-1970.

The list shows the number of publications, the event and Di Felice's reference number. 

There are some caveats in interpreting these figures as Di Felice's entries include pre-tournament programs, prospectuses and similar material, articles in non-tournament books, all reprints and later editions, scrapbooks of cuttings, and coverage in composite works etc. As an example, the Sixth American Chess Congress held in New York, 1889, has 11 publications listed. Five of these are pre-tournament matter, one is a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings and one is a modern reprint, leaving just four original tournament books on the event. Furthermore, events after 1970 are not included.

However, the relative numbers do give some indication of the importance and popularity of the major tournaments.

34  World Championship, The Hague and Moscow, 1948.                    576
30  Candidates Tournament, Neuhausen-Zurich, 1953.                     1465 
22  A.V.R.O. International Tournament, Amsterdam, 1938.                   45
19  Nottingham International Tournament, 1936.                             1563
16  St. Petersburg International Tournament, 1914.                          1932
15  New York International Tournament, 1927.                                 1496
14  Carlsbad International Tournament, 1929.                                    895
14  New York International Tournament, 1924.                                 1495
13  Candidates Tournament, Amsterdam/Leeuwarden, 1956.                 50
13  Candidates Tournament, Curaçao, 1962.                                       550
12  Candidates Tournament, Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade, 1959.                   296
12  Hastings International Tournament, 1895.                                    764
12  Second Piatigorsky Cup, Santa Monica, 1966.                              1939
11  Candidates Tournament, Budapest, 1950.                                     401
11  The Chess Tournament, London, 1851.                                        1161
11  First Piatigorsky Cup, Los Angeles, 1963.                                     1186
11  Moscow International Tournament, 1935.                                     1383
11  Sixth American Chess Congress, New York, 1889.                         1481
10  Groningen International Tournament, 1946.                                   710
10  Soviet Union Championship, Leningrad/Moscow, 1941.                  1108
10  The Chess Congress of 1862, London, 1862.                                1163
10  Moscow International Tournament, 1925.                                     1381
10  Interzonal Tournament, Palma de Mallorca, 1970.                         1658
10  Interzonal Tournament, Portorož, 1958.                                       1728
10  San Remo International Tournament, 1930.                                  1919
  9  31st Soviet Union Championship, Leningrad, 1963.                       1118
  9  Moscow International Tournament, 1936.                                     1385 
  9  Ostend International Tournament, 1907.                                      1629
  9  St Petersburg International Tournament, 1909.                             1929
  9  Interzonal Tournament, Sousse, 1967.                                          2071
  9  Interzonal Tournament, Stockholm, 1962.                                     2111    

Almost one-third of this list is made up of World Championship events. The unique World Championship Tournament of 1948 tops the poll and a further nine Candidates and Interzonal tournaments are included.

© Michael Clapham 2020

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Meet the Masters

Meet the Masters, by Dr. M. Euwe, London 1940.

This is a translation, by Lodewijk Prins and Baruch H. Wood, of Zoo Schaken Zij!
published in Amsterdam in 1938. The aim of the original work was to introduce to the Dutch chess-playing public the seven grandmasters who competed with Euwe in the A.V.R.O. Tournament held in Amsterdam in 1938. 

Keres and Fine were the joint winners (although Keres had the higher Neustadtl score), followed by Botvinnik, Alekhine, Euwe, Reshevsky, Capablanca and Flohr. 

This was the strongest tournament ever held up to that time and is one of the most extensively covered tournaments in chess literature. Gino Di Felice's Chess Competitions 1824-1970 lists 22 publications on the event. My miserable collection has just four of these.

The book has brief biographies of the eight players, a good portrait of each and a few representative games.

A second edition was published in 1945 and B. H. Wood added a few further paragraphs to some of the biographies.

These additions mainly reported on the wartime chess exploits of the players; Capablanca, however, played no further serious chess after the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, and Wood briefly commented on his death in March 1942.

The supplemental information on Flohr is restricted to a single sentence: 

My copy of the second edition was issued in America by David McKay. The binding and dust jacket are stamped McKay although the text block is as issued by Sir Isaac Pitman in England.

                                      © Michael Clapham 2020

Sunday, 3 May 2020

The Cribbage Player's Text-Book by George Walker

The Cribbage Player's Text-Book, by George Walker, London 1837.

Not a chess book but a pretty little book on the game of cribbage by the famous chess author George Walker.

The book does have some chess interest however, with an eight-page catalogue of works on chess and draughts by George Walker and published by Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, with copious reviews.

© Michael Clapham 2020

Friday, 1 May 2020

One Hundred Chess Problems, by Rev. A. Cyril Pearson

One Hundred Chess Problems, by Rev. A. Cyril Pearson, London 1883.

This is the third edition of this work, originally published in 1879. However, I can find no trace anywhere of a second edition. This was Pearson's only chess book and, almost certainly, the only chess book published by the Civil Service Printing and Publishing Company. 

Portrait of Arthur Cyril Pearson in The Chess Bouquet, by F. R. Gittins, London 1897, page 61.

The Rev. Pearson (1838 - 1916) also compiled a couple of books of general puzzles and edited a dictionary. The LN catalogue also lists an article by Pearson in Chambers Journal for 1887 on Curiosities of Chess

Chess problem books were very popular in the second half of the nineteenth century and far exceeded other categories of works on chess (excluding periodicals). Books on chess problems accounted for 73 of the 248 chess books published in the English language between 1850 and 1899, compared with, for example, 41 general treatises, 34 tournament and match books, 29 books on openings and 28 games collections. 

Typical of the period, the book was beautifully produced, with attractive gilt title and facsimile signature on the front cover surrounded by black ornamentation, bevelled edges to the cloth covers, red-tinted page edges, and a colourful frontispiece Chess Puzzle.  

Pearson often inscribed copies of his book, and this copy has an inscription dated 1888. The author also provided a hand-written draughts problem and diagram on the rear endpaper.  

The original Preface dated December 1878 is given, along with a Preface to Third Edition in which the author states that a few additional problems are included and proudly proclaims that the first new problem had won two first prizes in the Chess Monthly Problem Tournament of 1882. 

The solution commences with 1. Nab5

The problems are clearly displayed one to a page with Solutions at the end. 

The publishers also took the opportunity to include ten Opinions of the Press, both on the first edition of this work and on this new edition.  

© Michael Clapham 2020