Monday, 5 March 2018

More 2017 acquisitions

The Game of Chess by Kenneth Sawyer Goodman (1883-1918), published by The Stage Guild, Chicago 1944.

The Game of Chess was Kenneth Sawyer's best known play first performed in 1913 and first published in 1914. This is not a chess book as such, but this clever one act play, set in pre-revolutionary Russia and with a cast of four, opens and closes with a chess game in progress. 

This publication is recorded in Betts' Bibliography at 46-5 where he quotes the colophon at the end of later editions stating that the first edition consisted of 150 copies on Japanese Vellum, indicating a small limited edition. However, the colophon in the first edition, which is freely available online, states that there were also 1,050 copies printed on laid paper. 

Colophon from first edition

Colophon from later editions


From Morphy to Fischer, Who's Next: A Russian's viewpoint.

This twelve page pamphlet by the Russian father and son chess historians and authors, Isaac Linder and Vladimir Linder was issued in 2002 and, I believe this was an essay delivered at a meeting of Chess Collectors International.

The authors discuss American chess heroes with lengthy observations on Morphy and Fischer, and a paragraph or two on Pillsbury, Marshall, Fine and Reshevsky. The "Russian's viewpoint" is generally complimentary and favourable to their subjects, while making some honest insights into their characters, particularly Fischer's:

Frank Brady refers to this essay in his book Endgame published in 2011. The reference is on page 369 of the hardback edition (page 425 of the paperback edition) in a note to page 264 (page 315, p/b) where details are given of the $100,000 in cash handed to Fischer in 1993 by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, in payment of royalties in respect of the Russian edition of My 60 Memorable Games.  

The final page of this pamphlet has a large group photograph from the U.S.S.R. v The Rest of the World match held in Belgrade in 1970.


One Hundred Chess-Games Played Between Mr. J. F. Emmett and Mr. Vivian Fenton, During the Winter of 1864. Published by Trubner and Co., London 1865.

This is one of the very first books dedicated to recording the games between two players, probably only preceded in English works by William Lewis's A Selection of Games at Chess, Played at the Westminster Chess Club, between Monsieur L. C. de la Bourdonais and an English Amateur of First Rate Skill, [Alexander McDonnell]), London 1835, and,  An Account of the Late Chess Match between Mr. Howard Staunton and Mr. Lowe, by Thomas Beeby, London 1848. 

In my copy pages 9/10 have been inserted after pages 11/12.

The one hundred games are given with occasional light notes, often one word,  frequently in Latin, and with many witty metaphors:

Game 47; "Saving the foal to lose the mare" 
Game 50; "Throwing a fly for a brace of trout"
Game 66; "A hare for three birds"
Game 77; "Taking the bung from one end of the cask to stop the other" 
Game 79; "Turning up at last like Blucher at Waterloo"
Game 84; "A bull in a china shop"
Game 87; "A coal-cart with twelve horses drawn across the Strand"

Throughout the winter, Mr. Emmett had the black pieces and Mr. Fenton the white pieces, but they alternated having the first move. The overall result was declared to be 58 wins for Emmett, 38 wins for Fenton and 5 draws, which adds up to 101 games but there is some confusion in the scoring right from game one which is marked up as a win for both players. There is also the remark on page 52, after game 91, that games exceeding 50 moves have, with two exceptions, been omitted, as taking up too much space. 


Chess-Nuts, No. 1 First Aid to Beginners, Part I - For White, by Arthur Firth, Letchworth 1928.

The first, and only, book in a proposed series of small handbooks for beginners and social chess players. The aim was to teach some basic openings from both White's and Black's points of view, and the material was "taken from articles which have already appeared in two or three provincial papers" (BCM, London Chess League Supplement, 1928 page 386). However, these articles are not recorded in Chess Columns, A List, by Ken Whyld, Olomouc 2002.

Part I dealt with White's point of view and page 73 included an announcement that Number 2 of the First Aid Series would give Black's point of view, however there were no further books in the series.

Social Chess was a theme for Arthur Firth who contributed a series of articles to The British Chess Magazine under the heading of Social Chess in 1929 and 1930
before launching his chess magazine The Social Chess Quarterly which appeared from October 1930 to April 1936.

Firth also issued Chess-Nuts or Chess in a Nutshell in 1929, being 50 cards with an end game or study on one side and the solution on the other. He advertised these in all 23 issues of Social Chess Quarterly.

                                                         © Michael Clapham 2018



Saturday, 24 February 2018

Biblio Magazine and The Royal Game

Biblio, the short lived American magazine was "a brave attempt to create a quality international magazine for book collectors" and it was certainly an impressive production. The magazine was published between August 1996 and April 1999.

The May 1998 issue included a scholarly eight page article: Kingly Books of a Royal Game, by James Weinheimer, a chess historian and librarian at Princeton University, and Angus Carroll, a collector of rare books from Chicago.

The article opens with the line "Long before chess had black and white squares it had a chequered past" and relates a few old anecdotes featuring King Knut, the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I, King Ferdinand of Spain and Christopher Columbus.

The authors interweave chess history with the literatature of the game and they focus on three great American chess collections formed during the latter part of the nineteenth century; those of John G. White of Cleveland, Charles Gilberg of  Brooklyn, New York, and Eugene B Cook of Hoboken, New Jersey. All three collections were ultimately bequethed to major American research libraries.

The John G. White Collection.

Noting that this is the largest collection of chess books in the world with more than 35,000 volumes, the authors give details of some of the very earliest books in the collection including the first printed book that refers to chess, Summa Collationum by John of Wales, Cologne 1470; Caxton's morality, The Game and Playe of the Chesse, Bruges c1475, (the collection also holds nine manuscript copies of De Ludo Scacchorum by Jacobus de Cessolis from the 13th and 14th centuries, one copy of which contains the only known portrait of the author);  and the third printed book on chess (excluding the moralities of John of Wales and Caxton), Questo Libro e da Imparare Giocare à Scachi et de le Partite, by Damiano, Rome 1512.

Regarding the latter work the authors observe "since most books of the time were unillustrated, this book's woodcut illustrations made for difficult printing, and the printers of the various editions traded the blocks among themselves. Consequently, the different editions can be dated by examining the deterioration of the woodcuts."

Other noteworthy items in the collection include Il Dilettevole e Giudizioso Giuoco de Scacchi, Venice 1724 - 1735, which includes 49 hand drawn plates demonstrating the basic rules of the game, and Thomas Middleton's satirical and allegorical play A Game at Chess, London 1625. The play was shut down after only nine days on the orders of King James I following complaints from the Spanish ambassador to Great Britain who believed that he had been portrayed unfavourably in the play .    

The Charles Gilberg Collection.

New York businessman and noted problemist, Charles Gilberg, built a major chess collection with an emphasis on fine bindings. After his death in 1898 Gilberg's heirs kept the collection until 1930 when it was sold to Silas W. Howland, who willed the 2,800 volumes to Harvard University. 

The collection includes a first edition of Ruy Lopez's work Libro de la Invencion Liberal y Arte del Juego del Axedrez, Alcala 1561, written partly in criticism of Damiano's treatise.  

The Biblio authors discuss the earliest original chess book in English, Arthur Saul's The Famous Game of Chesse-Play, London 1614, noting that this was aimed at the nobilty, being "fit for princes or any person of quality soever", and commenting on Saul's curious classification of checkmates.  

Thomas Hyde, professor of Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford Univerity and chief librarian at the Bodleian Library, authored the first scholarly history of chess, Mandragorias seu Historia Shahiludii, Oxford 1694, however, the authors claim that the title reflects a mistake. "Hyde had followed an incorrect etymology for the Arabic word for chess, using satrang instead of shatranj, then translating satrang into Latin: Mandragorias, which actually means mandrake root."

"Nevertheless, the book's many languages displayed both Professor Hyde's erudition and the wide typograpical resources of the Oxford press 300 years ago. This book represents its era's state of the art in printing."   

The E. B. Cook Collection

Eugene Beauharnais Cook formed the third of the great American chess collections, he nurtured a deep interest in chess history and bibliography, and when he died in 1915 the collection of 3,000 items was bequethed to Princeton University Library.

The Cook collection includes one of the earliest books to expose the workings of Wolfgang von Kempelen's automaton, the Turk: Ueber den Schachspieler des Kempelen und dessen Nachbildung, by  Joseph Racknitz, Leipzig/Dresden 1789. The authors give a brief history of the Turk stating that following von Kempelen's death, the machine was purchased by Johann Maelzel in partnership with Ludwig van Beethoven, and then later sold to Napoleon's stepson, Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, after whom  E. B. Cook was named.

E. B. Cook's library included the first chess treatise printed in German; Das Schach-oder König-Spiel by Gustav Selenus, i.e. August, Duke of Braunschweig-Luneberg, Lipsiae 1616. This work is a "German translation of Ruy Lopez but with a unique notation that limited the book's appeal.... However it is a favourite of collectors because of the dozens of extraordinary plates and engravings."

E. B. Cook was the judge for the problem tournament at the First American Chess Congress of 1857 and his collection obviously included The Book of the First American Chess Congress, by Willard Fiske, New York 1859. The authors state that this is useful for its history of chess in early America and complete bibliography of American chess books. However, the bibliography had several omissions as noted by Ralph Hagedorn in Benjamin Franklin and Chess in Early America, Philadelphia 1958, which lists 60 books published up to 1859 compared with 39 in Fiske's work. 

The authors reveal that the Cook collection proudly housed one of only ten copies of the earliest surviving printed treatises on  chess, Repetición de Amores e Arte de Axedrez, by Luis Ramirez de Lucena, Salamanca 1497, explaining that the only known copy of the first printed chess treatise, Llibre dels jochs partitis dels schachs en nombre de 100, by Francesch Vicent, Valencia 1495, was lost  in 1811, during the French occupation of Montserrat, where the book was kept in a Benedictine monastery. They were unaware, twenty years ago, of the sensational discovery of the Cesena manuscript , which includes Vicent's work, as detailed in The Return of Francesch Vicent, by Jose A. Garcon, Valencia 2005. 

Lucena's work is in two parts; an anti-feminist tract and a chess treatise. Princeton's copy contains only the chess section which describes both the older and newer versions of the game.

In the final part of the article, sub-titled To Err is Human, the authors make some very pertinent, (and reassuring), remarks on the future of chess in the computer age; these are particularly apposite in the light of Alpha Zero's recent exploits. Deep Blue had just defeated Kasparov in 1997, following which some commentators had proclaimed the end of chess as we know it. 

The authors respond "This is nonsense, chess is not about making 200 million calculations per second, it is about psychology and strategy, vision and risk, flashes of brilliance amongst the darkness of uncertainty.... No computer is on the verge of creating masterpieces such as the games of Capablanca, Alekhine or Tal, because genius is not the product of blind calculation."

"The world can do without My Best Games, by Deep Blue, which might include; First I mindlessly calculated eight billion moves, then, without knowing whom I was playing, or even why, I calculated a few billion more."

Although computers may one day play the perfect game, this will not matter, since, a computer might calculate umpteen gazillion moves without making a single error, but no human ever will. "The Royal  Game will continue to be played for the same reason it always has been, because chess is one of the most challenging and rewarding of all intellectual endeavours. The machines will play their one game of chess among themselves, but, for us, there will always be crushing defeats and miraculous escapes, electrifying sacrifices and terrible blunders. The very imperfection of human play being the source of the game's infinite beauty. And undoubtedly more great books on chess will come....."

The article concludes with some diverse recommendations for A Bookshelf fit for a Grandmaster:



Friday, 9 February 2018

Almost there with the BCM's

A complete run of The British Chess Magazine has long been a major aspiration in my chess book collecting and I am now very close to this target.

The foundation of my collection of the world's longest continuously running chess periodical was the acquisition of a 62 year run from 1920 to 1981 purchased from the book dealer Tony Peterson in 2003.  These had evidently come from Kevin O'Connell's library which was sold at Phillips Auctioneers in London in 2000.

Two years later, many of these were replaced with another run purchased from Tony Peterson, this time covering the years from 1910 to 1951. These included the difficult to find war years (particularly the First) and most are in uniform half-leather bindings.  

Another eleven volumes were added in 2006 when I acquired the years 1899 to 1909 from Michael Sheehan of Caissa Books. These are all uniformly bound in  BCM maroon cloth but, curiously, in different heights.

Bound volumes for the years from 1886 to 1898 came from various sources, and in various styles, over a number of years, with 1892 proving particularly elusive, only joining the others in 2012. I have since replaced 1892, 1893 and 1894 with a matched set, as shown below, and with 1893 having the Christmas Number.

By the end of 2012 I had a run from 1886 to 1998 with just the first five volumes and a few of the most recent ones missing. I now have the recent years up to 2009 and last year I bought a fairly foxed 1885. 

I have recently purchased 1883 and 1884 in a combined volume which needs rebinding so I may have these two years bound individually.

1884 frontis

So I am now 1881 and 1882 short of a full run, although I do have a reprint of 1881 published by Tony Gillam's company The Chess Player in the 1980's.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2018

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Chess book collecting in 2017 part 2

A further selection of books acquired in 2017.

"Among These Mates" (Chirpings of a Chess Chump) by "Chielamangus", Sydney 1939.

Chielamangus was a pseudonym of C. J. S. Purdy and this literary work was published in both soft-back and cloth bound editions with a print run of 3,000. This is the cloth bound edition with a lovely dust jacket.

The Preface states that the book "spans ten years of a peripatetic chess career", and it thus coincides with the first ten years of Purdy's editorship of the Australasian Chess Review which he launched in July 1929, at the age of 23, to fill the void left by the demise of The Austral, Chess and Draughts Newspaper, the mainstay of Australian chess from 1922 to 1929, according to Purdy in Chess World July 1949, page 145.

The whole work is written in a satirical and humorous manner and is full of jokes, puns, perceptive quips, witty one-act plays and much more mirth making material. A few examples:

Chielamangus on Chess, outlining the game:

Page 12: "The object of the game is the mate of the opponent's King, the word 'mate' being derived from the old Persian 'mat' or carpet.

Page 14: The opening of a game of chess is called the opening. The primary principle of opening play is not to move a piece twice before it has been moved once. 

Page 14: "The player who completes his development first is said to have the initiative, because he is thus able to start making blunders while his opponent is still occupied in bringing out his men"

History of the Game:

Page 15: discussing Ruy Lopez; "He never played the Ruy Lopez, which was therefore named after him... Incidentally some authorities suspect that he was not a bishop after all; but he mitre been."

Pages 15-16 "Deschapelles, who, when he was no longer certain of beating everybody, refused to play at all unless his opponent would accept pawn and move. If Deschapelles lost he could say it was because of the odds. This was known as the Deschapelles coup." 

Most of the articles and anecdotes are of a provincial nature and, while the book provides many chuckles nearly 80 years after publication, much of the  material now appears dated, as Purdy himself admitted long ago in 1954 in Chess World.


Chess Pie: Official Souvenir of the London International Congress 1922, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1922.

Chess Pie No. 2, With Problem Supplement. The Official Souvenir of The British Chess Federation issued in connection with the International Team Tournament 1927, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1927.

Chess Pie No. 3. The Official Souvenir of the International Tournament, Nottingham 1936, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1936. 

These superb souvenir publications commemorated major chess tournaments in England in 1922, 1927 and 1936. They were not tournament books themselves but were issued to promote and publicise each event beforehand. 

The first Chess Pie celebrated the very strong London International Chess Congress of 1922 won by Capablanca ahead of Alekhine, Vidmar, Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, Reti etc. 

In his Introduction and Preface, the editor, and manager of the publishers Printing Craft, outlined the many difficulties in the production of this first souvenir and was especially disappointed with the response from potential advertisers, simply because an association with chess was not conducive to profitable advertising.

The book includes biographies of most of the competitors with a famous game from each. Many of these biographies are by the players themselves. British Champions past and present are also featured. 

Brian Harley contributed the 15 page Problem Section which includes short biographies of famous composers beginning with Alain C. White, who had amassed a collection of 200,000 problems by 1922. There are several other interesting articles including Reminiscences of International Tournaments by Isidor Gunsberg and Chess Puzzles by H. E. Dudeney.

Many high quality photographs of chess personalities complete the production.

Chess Pie No. 2 commemorated the first Chess Olympiad held under the auspices of F.I.D.E., in London in 1927, and in his Introduction Watts praised Leonard Rees, Secretary of The British Chess Federation, whose vision and pioneering efforts led to the foundation of the International Federation. The editor also anticipated that this sixteen team tournament would "prove the greatest gathering of chess talent the world has ever seen."

The book runs through the sixteen competing nations giving biographies of many team members along with a memorable game from each.  There are, again, many excellent photographs, a Problem Section by Brian Harley, and the Problem Supplement includes 49 problems for solving in the Max Meyer No. 2 Problem Tourney.

Following Watts' criticism in the first Chess Pie, this issue has a substantial amount of adverts for chess products throughout the book. Whether Watts' hope, expressed in his introduction, was realised is debatable; most of the world's top players were missing and no tournament book on the event was published. The tournament is, however covered in Chess Olympiads  by Árpád Földeák, published in Hungary in 1966, and International Championship Chess; A complete record of FIDE events, by B. M. Kažić, London 1974. 

Chess Pie No. 3 was published in preparation for the Nottingham International Chess Tournament of 1936. Watts began his Introduction by trying to dispose of the remaindered stock of Chess Pie No. 2 which had not sold well, however, only a very few copies of Chess Pie No. 1 were still available. All three Chess Pies are now scarce and sought after.

Before moving on to the tournament and players, Watts inserted an enlightening six page article entitled Chess Publishing since 1927.  Watts was very proud of his own achievements in chess publishing and considered that the vast improvements in chess literature in recent years were down to him. He probably had his publisher's hat on as much as his author's hat when writing this article.

Without naming names he was highly critical of many chess books, authors and publishers, dismissing most books as "pot-boilers" or the work of some totally unqualified author. Some exceptions being Staunton's Handbook, which he considered "a perfectly wonderful production in every way", the tournament books for London 1883, Hastings 1895 and London 1899, Mason's Principles of Chess and The Art of Chess, and Edward Lasker's Chess Strategy; "There had never been anything like it before and even today one can have nothing but praise for it... excellent in every way."

He had fulsome praise for several recent titles including Lasker's Manual of Chess, "unique amongst chess books, as in it the greatest of all chess players endeavours to show that chess has meaning and a purpose." Chess by Dr, Tarrasch, "If a chess library is to count one book and one only this is the book." Chess Praxis by Nimzowitsch, "Nothing approaching it has been put in the hands of the ambitious chess player." Chess for Match Players by W. Winter, "It is, however when I look at Mr Winter's book that I feel most proud" and he devotes one and a half pages to a mainly positive review of this work.

A few further books are praised including:

How to Play the Chess Openings by Znosko-Borovsky
The Art of Combination by Znosko-Borovsky
The Art of Sacrifice by R. Spielmann
Chesslets by Dr. J. Schumer (another Printing-Craft publication and another purchase in 2017)

Watts concluded his article with a list of the other outstanding publications of the last few years:

The rest of the book was the now familiar mix of biographies and best games of the competitors, many photographs and illustrations, and  various interesting articles.  The Nottingham Tournament created history by having four world champions competing in the same event.  Consequently Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Euwe, were accorded extensive coverage. However, Botvinnik, the joint winner and future world champion, received just a very short paragraph at the bottom of page 57.  The articles are by H. M. Lommer and M. A. Sutherland, P. W. Sergeant, Gerald Abrahams, André Chéron on The Strategic French School, and Alexander Hammond on Historic Chesspieces

Three wonderful publications but I still do not know why they were called Chess Pie.

Finally for now, I began to seriously pursue the Alain C. White Christmas Series of books last year, not having had much interest in them before. I acquired 19 of the Series including the second-hand bookshop find-of-the-year: České Melodie, Potsdam 1908, for just £10. I now have just over half of the Series, mainly the more common titles.

The sixth book in the Christmas Series, this compilation of problems by the Bohemian composer Josef Pospíšil was edited by A. C. White and W. H. Thompson, and includes 200 of his problems spanning the years 1880 to 1908. There are also introductory articles by B. G. Laws and J. W. Allen on The Bohemian Theory of the Chess Problem and The Work of Josef Pospíšil. The text is in German and English.  

                                        © Michael Clapham 2018