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 

Monday, 20 April 2020

William Greenwood Walker - going round the houses.

This is a typical example of the meandering journeys that chess books can take you on....

Reading Brian Gosling's book; John Brown: The Forgotten Chess Composer?, (see my article J. B. of Bridport), I noticed that the correspondent who proposed publishing a collection of Brown's problems was WGW, and I wondered if this could be William Greenwood Walker, author of the book of games between de la Bourdonnais and McDonnell, published in 1836. 

The first port of call was Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia, to check if William Greenwood Walker was still around in the 1860s. However, this disclosed no date of birth and only 1834+ as a vague date of death. Interest is already aroused. The only source listed by Gaige is Chess & Chess-Players, by George Walker, London 1850.

Chess & Chess-Players includes a long article by George Walker; The Battles of M'Donnell and de la Bourdonnais, and on page 381 he commented that William Greenwood Walker had "shuffled off this mortal coil since the year 1834".  Now, this is before the publication of WGW's book in 1836; is this another candidate for the series on books published posthumously?  

Noting that George Walker's article had originally appeared in The Chess Player's Chronicle for 1843, perhaps there had been an error in transmission. However, CPC volume IV page 379 confirms the date of 1834. Earlier in this article (page 369 of Chess & Chess-Players, page 372 of CPC)  George Walker also comments that his namesake had "died full of years". It is now looking very unlikely that he could have survived into the 1860s.

Time to have a look at William Greenwood Walker's book; A Selection of Games at Chess, Actually Played in London, by the Late Alexander M'Donnell, Esq...., London 1836, to see if there is any indication that it had been published after the author's death. 

This clearly shows that he was alive in July 1836, the date that he signed The Preface.

A quick check in The Oxford Companion to Chess, 1984 first edition and 1992 second edition, revealed no separate entry for WGW, just a note at the end of George Walker's entry that WGW had died soon after the Bourdonnais - McDonnell matches in 1834 "full of years". Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850, by K. Whyld and C. Ravilious, which includes birth and death dates of authors where known, also has no dates for W. Greenwood Walker.

A Century of British Chess, by P. W. Sergeant, London and Philadelphia 1934, has several mentions of W. Greenwood Walker but no birth or death dates; Gaige would surely have spotted these anyway. 

Next stop; Chess Notes by Edward Winter who loves to grapple with questionable birth and death dates; had he researched this mystery? Alas no; there are no entries for William Greenwood Walker in the very extensive Factfinder index, and a custom search brings up four hits in Chess Notes but no new information on Walker's birth or death dates.

Right, there is a McFarland book on the de la Bourdonnais - McDonnell matches which must have been extensively researched, does this have any information on William Greenwood Walker? De la Bourdonnais versus McDonell, 1834 by Cary Utterberg, Jefferson 2005, has 13 references to WGW in the index but these reveal nothing more then the "died full of years" quote on page 33. 

Timothy Harding specialises in exploring 19th-century British chess so let's check his deeply researched and detailed works; Eminent Victorian Chess Players, Jefferson 2012, and British Chess Literature to 1914, Jefferson 2018.

The first of this pair, on chess players who flourished from the 1840s onwards, has no mention of WGW, and although A Selection of Games at Chess Actually Played... is briefly mentioned on page 246 of British Chess Literature to 1914, there is no new information about the author. The latter book has an Appendix listing over 100 amendments to Gaige's Chess Personalia, but nothing for W. Greenwood Walker.

Finally, I turned to John Townsend's two absorbing works: Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, Wokingham 2011, and Historical notes on some chess players, Wokingham 2014. A constraint for researchers is that only 100 copies of each book have been printed.

John Townsend is an authority on genealogical and biographical research with a particular interest in 19th-century chess personalities, and, lo and behold, on pages 1 to 4 of Notes on the life of Howard Staunton he provides substantial biographical information on William Greenwood Walker, including details of his death on 24th June 1839 aged 53. Townsend also notes that WGW was a native of Leeds but does not provide a birth date.

Notes on the Life of Howard Staunton, page 3

Notes on the Life of Howard Staunton, page 4

So, several hours and 14 books later, I have finally discovered William Greenwood Walker's date of death, but I still don't know the identity of the WGW who wrote to Staunton in 1863.


Postscript: I should have turned to the internet at the outset as a quick search finds the following information on the hayton.webtrees.net website:

John Townsend has cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the above information, believing that the marriage to Mary Ann Dodd and stated occupation of silk manufacturer are both incorrect. 

Further update: Richard James has provided a copy of the Baptism register for St. Peter's Leeds for December 1785, stating that William Greenwood Walker was born on 5th November 1785 and baptised on 9th December. His father was William Walker of Park Row.

Finally, William Greenwood Walker's book not only provides us with the most complete 19th-century record of the matches between de la Bourdonnais and McDonnell, but it also has one other claim to fame in that it includes the very first reference to Howard Staunton, who is listed as a subscriber to the book. 

Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, page 3
                                           © Michael Clapham 2020