Saturday, 11 January 2020

Lasker & His Contemporaries

Following the news of the tragic death of Bob Long from Davenport, Iowa, here is a brief overview of his series of books titled Lasker & His Contemporaries. 

Six issues were published between 1978 and 2011 with Long both editing and publishing the series as well as contributing many of the articles. Although originally planned to appear twice a year, it is difficult to describe this as a periodical, with up to 14 years between some issues and, indeed, Long did not regard this as a regular magazine and refused to take subscriptions. Andy Lusis agreed, entering these books in the Biographical Games Collections section (1218) of his Bibliography, however, this is listed in Di Felice's Chess Periodicals (1337).

Bob Long assembled an impressive line-up of contributors including Hugh Myers, Wolfgang Heidenfeld, Dale Brandreth, and C. J. S. Purdy; many historical articles were also included, some by Lasker himself.  John Hilbert took over as chief editor from issue 5 and contributed much of the material in issues 5 and 6.

The series was devoted to chess history and predominantly Emanuel Lasker and the chess scene from the 1880s to the 1940s. A few articles of a more recent nature were also included. The number of pages in each book increased in direct proportion to the length of time between issues.

Issue Number 1, 1978, 34 pages

Issue Number 2, 1979, 40 pages

Issue Number 3, 1980, 45 pages

Issue Number 4, 1983, 56 pages

Issue Number 5, 1997, 64 pages

Issue Number 6, 2011, 72 pages.

This series of books was very well produced on good quality paper, and the many interesting articles are frequently illustrated with photographs of the period.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Recent acquisitions

Before continuing the Russian chess literature series we will have a look at a few of the far too many chess books purchased last year.

Science and Art of Chess, by J. Monroe, New York 1859. 281 pages.

There was a minor boom in chess book publishing immediately following the American Chess Congress of 1857 and Morphy's subsequent successes abroad, culminating in 1860 when, for the first time, ten original chess books in the English language came off the presses in a single year. Having saturated the market, only one new chess book in English was published in the following three years, and it was not until 1887 that original chess books in English again reached double figures in one year.

Science and Art of Chess was originally published with decorative blind-stamped covers but my copy, from the Union College Library, Schenectady, N.Y., has been rebound in a blue cloth library binding.

I have found very little information on the author J. Monroe; David R. Sands refers to him as "the mysterious J. Monroe" in his article A Chess Life in a Library, a Biography on a Bookshelf, in the Washington Times of 5th March 2019. Monroe had obviously studied chess literature extensively and wrote knowledgeably on the game. The number of literary quotations throughout the book indicates that he had also studied the classics.

The author opens his Preface with "The present treatise follows a method unlike any which has hitherto been adopted in regard to Chess", a not uncommon claim for a new work, but the general plan of the book is very similar to earlier handbooks with a short introduction to the history and literature of chess, instructions and an overview of the game, laws and rules, an outline of the openings, and concluding with 35 problems, including some by Monroe.   

Where his book differs from other works is in the extensive coverage of the movements of the pieces and their inter-relationships with each other. Monroe devotes more than 100 pages and over one-third of his book to these matters. 

Monroe, a Bachelor of Civil Law, writes in a very formal, often stilted, manner, typical of the mid 19th century, consequently, much of the book is quite heavy going. 

Chapter VII, Plan or Method, is based around Monroe's fundamental principle that all attacks consist "in the operation of a superior force upon a decisive point"; and he discusses this strategy using geometric terms such as: the objective angle, lines of array, perpendicular order, double oblique order, etc., and illustrates his ideas with geometrical diagrams, thus preceding Franklin K. Young's similar concepts by 35 years. 

Page 208

The book was published in early 1859 and was bang up-to-date with several of Morphy's games from 1858, including the final game from his match with Anderssen played in Paris on 28th December 1858.

Page 224


Chess in Lighter Vein, by H. T. Bland, Wallasey 1930. 

This self-published booklet of 48 pages comes in blue card covers and includes many short stories, anecdotes, rhymes, poems, sketches and parodies by the author. These had originally appeared in the American Chess Bulletin for which Bland was the officially accredited representative in Great Britain.   

In addition to the contents advertised above there are many other short rhymes, comments, aphorisms etc. to fill the pages.

Several of the items revolve around local chess club life of the era, courtship, and the pros and cons of playing the game. A few stories are written in the voice of a country yokel. Some of the poetry is quite clever but, with the passage of time, much of the humour has disappeared, and most of the content is humdrum and uninteresting. Nevertheless, an essential addition to my library of English chess literature. These are the best entries that I could find:


Gossip's Vest-Pocket Chess Manual, by G. H. D. Gossip, Philadelphia circa 1920.

The main attraction of this little book lies in the beauty of its production. The decorative blind-stamping of the red cloth covers incorporates the publisher's name, and the gilt title is in an embossed shield. The adornments are completed with pink-tinted edges and rounded corners. There are both Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences in the binding. This example is as fresh as the day it was produced, one hundred years ago.

The book is a later edition of The Chess Pocket Manual by G. H. D. Gossip, first published in 1894, and includes basic instructions, 125 pages on the openings and 26 pages on endings. Some illustrative games are given including a few of Gossip's own games.   


Some Problems for my Friends, by D. G. McIntyre, Cape Town 1957. 88 pages.

Leonard Reitstein's bibliography of South African chess literature; A List of Chess Books Published in South Africa, published in 2008, reveals that surprisingly few chess books have been published in that country. There are just 49 entries up to 2007 with, amazingly, nothing before 1934, and only 15 books and 3 magazines published prior to Spassky-Fischer in 1972. McIntyre's book is number 11 in the chronological list and was the first book of chess problems published in South Africa. There are a number of curious and fascinating aspects to this work.

The book has a frontispiece portrait of Donald McIntyre on glossy paper but, unusually, this is not facing the title page but is on the recto of the preceding leaf.  

The book was issued partly "in gratitude to the many who over the years have collaborated with me in making a collection of three-move problems by C. A. Lucas Bull, South Africa's greatest problemist, living or dead." (Bull died in 1935).  The cost of publishing Bull's problems was, however, prohibitive and the hoped-for grants from South African cultural funds were not forthcoming. McIntyre continues: "Provision, however, has been made, so that, in the last resort, the book of Bull's three-movers, Sonatas in Chess, will be published after my death" He had presumably bequeathed funds for this purpose. In the end, this had proved unnecessary and Sonatas in Chess was published in 1960, six years before the reading of McIntyre's will, with the assistance of a grant from The Cape Tercentenary Foundation, according to Reitstein's bibliography.

A further objective of McIntyre's book was to "call the attention of problemists and problem lovers to the Alain White Chess Problem Collection in the South African Library." More about this later.

Some Problems for my Friends has an introductory essay: On Problem Collections, by Alain White together with a portrait of White, this time on the verso facing the essay. Now, White had died in 1951 and, in his Foreword, McIntyre explains that this essay was originally written in 1914 in readiness for a small collection of his problems that never appeared due to the outbreak of war. McIntyre considered that White's remarks were still pertinent over 40 years later.


Alain White mentions a small collection of problems by E. S. Huntington; Vest Pocket Two-Movers. This is a rare booklet of 20 pages published in Boston in 1888, but not recorded in Betts' Bibliography and not in the van der Linde-Niemeijeriana collection. However, Cleveland Public Library holds a copy, along with an eight-page pamphlet by E. S. Huntington; Pocket Problems published in Quincy, Mass. in 1892.

McIntyre presents around 150 problems laid out so that the diagrams are on the left-hand page with solutions and commentary opposite.  These range from juvenilia to much more complex compositions.

There are two appendices; Appendix I is an account of The Alain White Collection in the South African Library, Cape Town, written by the chief librarian D. H. Varley. The Collection was amassed by McIntyre and included many books sent to him by his long-time friend Alain White. Dr Niemeijer also contributed to the Collection which was named in honour of White. The Collection was presented to the South African Library in 1945 and a special book-plate was commissioned to represent Alain White's twin interests of chess and succulent plants. 

Appendix II has some South African chess poems and rhymes.


 A few more next time.

                                    © Michael Clapham 2020

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Russian Chess Literature Part 4 - Early Periodicals - Table

Below is a Table of bibliographic references from four sources for Russian chess periodicals up to 1917. The sources are as follows:

Sakharov 1968 - Shakhmatnaya Literatura SSSR; Bibliografia (1775-1966), Moscow 1968

Sakharov 2001 - Shakhmatnaya Literatura Rossii; Bibliograficheskiy Ukazatel (1775-1997), Moscow 2001.

LN - Bibliotheca van der Linde - Niemeijeriana, The Hague 1955.

Di Felice - Chess Periodicals; An Annotated International Bibliography, 1836-2008, Jefferson 2008.

The Table has been compiled with the assistance of Karel Mokry's Tables of Corresponding Numbers  available in the excellent Collector's Corner on his website

In addition to the periodicals previously discussed, I have included some chess columns in general periodicals which will be covered in a later article.  However, I have excluded Sakharov (1968) 209; Tidskrift för Schack, 1890, which was published in Helsingfors, Sweden, as I can discern no Russian connection. I have also omitted LN 6318: Shashki, a periodical dedicated to draughts.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Russian Chess Literature; Part 3 - Early Periodicals - continued

Meanwhile back in Moscow...

7. Shashechnitsa: Ezhemesyachnyĭ Zhurnal, Moscow 1891. edited by D. I. Sargin and P. P. Bobrov. Sakharov (1968) 211, Di Felice 2439, LN 6314.

Shashechnitsa was launched in July 1891, six months after the St Petersburg magazine Shakmatnyĭ Zhurnal had commenced, and for the first time, Russia had two contemporary chess journals. Although titled Shashechnitsa (Draughtsplayer), the magazine was conceived as a publication equally devoted to chess and draughts. However, chess predominated from the outset; the first issue included 38 pages of chess and 10 pages of draughts.

Shashechnitsa, September 1891, pages 90-91

Shashechnitsa, advert for proposed volume 2
The magazine's title proved misleading to the public and after six months the journal was renamed Shakhmatnoe Obozrenie (Chess Review) and continued with the same numbering - see next item.


8. Shakhmatnoe Obozrenie: Ezhemesyachnyĭ Zhurnal, Posvyashchennyĭ Igram v Shakhmaty i Shashki, Moscow 1892 to 1910 intermittently. Editors: initially D. I. Sargin and P. P. Bobrov, then Sargin in 1892-93 and Bobrov from 1901 to 1910. 
Sakharov (1968) 211, Di Felice 2401, LN 6315.

As the full title indicates, this continued to be dedicated to both chess and draughts, with articles, games, problems, obituaries, news and reviews on both games included.  The magazine contained contributions from many prominent chess writers from home and abroad. There were theoretical articles by S. Alapin, A. Goncharov, I. Savenkov, A. Hardin, M. Shabelsky, etc., and M. Gonyaev wrote a number of historical essays.  The editors arranged competitions for both composing and solving chess problems.

There were long gaps in publication from 1894 to 1900, and 1905 to 1908, many issues were double, treble and even quadruple numbers, and the promised final two issues for 1904 (77 and 78) never appeared. However, during the periods 1903 to 1904 and 1909 to 1910 this was the only chess periodical in Russia. This was fortunate as the magazine was able to give wide coverage to the important 3rd All Russian Tournament held in Kiev in 1903, won by Chigorin, and the outstanding Chigorin Memorial Tournament held in St. Petersburg in 1909 - equal first Emanuel Lasker and Akiba Rubinstein.  

3rd All Russian Tournament crosstable
The editors organised a number of correspondence tournaments, and the January 1904 issue includes details of Alexander Alekhine's participation in these events as a 10 and 11-year-old.

The issue covering January, February, March and April 1909 includes two fine group photographs from the St Petersburg tournament of that year:

Several people are in both photographs.

The volume for 1909 also includes an enormous folding leaf, with seven folds, stretching to nearly a metre in length. This gives the results of the games between 34 masters up to 1909.  The overall results were as follows:

Following the death of Chigorin in 1908, Znosko-Borovsky had picked up the baton of his campaign for Russian chess unity, and published a Draft Charter of All-Russian Chess and a follow-up article: On the question of the organisation of All-Russian Chess Union, in the 1909 magazine. 

The 1909 volume included a list of subscribers with around 300 names. 


9. Shakhmaty: Zhurnal, Posvyashchennyĭ Shakhmatnoĭ Igrye, St. Petersburg 1894. Sakharov (1968) 212, Di Felice 2422, LN 6316.

This fortnightly magazine appeared for 12 issues between January and July 1894. Editors noted in various sources include the publisher A. S. Suvorin, M. P. Fedorov and Mikhail Chigorin. Chigorin actually contributed most of the content and M. Shabelsky also took an active part in the magazine. 

In addition to the usual material, the matches between Chigorin and Lasker in 1893, and Lasker and Steinitz in 1894 were covered.  The magazine commenced the publication of all the games between Labourdonnais and McDonnell, but only 36 of these "brilliant rejoicing inspirations of the past" had been printed before the journal closed for financial reasons. Among the books reviewed were the works of A. Binet, who explored blindfold play from a psychological viewpoint, - see LN 3406 and LN 3407. 


10. Tygodnik Szachowy (Chess Weekly), Warsaw 1898-1899. edited by V. Dzerzhbitsky. Sakharov (1968) 213, Di Felice 2684, LN 6280.

Published in Warsaw, Poland, which, at the time was partitioned by Russia, this was the first chess periodical in the Polish language. The magazine concentrated on chess life in Poland and included theoretical and historical articles, games, problems and also literary items including poetry. Draughts players were also catered for.

Numbers 1 to 14 in 1898, and 1 to 46 in 1899 were published, the majority of which were double numbers.  


11. Shakhmaty: Ezhemesyachnyĭ Zhurnal Vykhodyashchiĭ v Odesse, Odessa 1911, edited by N. E. Laurent or Loren. Sakharov (1968) 214, Di Felice 2420, LN 6319.

This, the first chess periodical published in the Motherland outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow, was launched with the aim of informing chess amateurs about the latest events in the chess world, particularly in Russia. The magazine lasted for just two issues - July and August 1911, before ceasing due to a lack of subscribers, and of suitable contributions from prominent chess players.  Capablanca was featured in the first issue.


12. Ershte Jiddishe Shakh-Zeitung, Lodz 1913, editors G. Salwe and M. Kryshek.

Sakharov (1968) 215, Di Felice 915, LN 6282.

As the title states, this was the first Jewish chess newspaper and just three fortnightly issues were published in partitioned Poland in October 1913. 


13. Shakmatnyĭ Vestnik, Moscow 1913-1916, edited by S. P. Simson.

Sakharov (1968) 216, Di Felice 2414, LN 6320.

Ostensibly a fortnightly magazine but many issues were double numbers. Alexander Alekhine's brother Alexey was the publisher and also conducted the correspondence tournaments. The editorial staff included O. S. Bernstein and D. N. Pavlov (Games), L. B. Zalkind and V. Platov (compositions), K. I. Isakov (Russian and foreign news) and A. S. Selevnev. Alexander Alekhine also contributed and features frequently in the magazine.

The International Grandmaster Tournament at St. Petersburg in 1914 naturally featured prominently, taking up most of the space in the 1st May and 15th May 1914 magazines with further games and coverage in later issues.


The magazine did much to popularise chess in Russia and took an active role in the formation of the All Russian Chess Union in 1914. The circulation reached 1,000, but high publishing costs and the onset of the First World War forced the closure in October 1916. 

This was the final chess periodical to be published in Russia before the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917.


14. Izvestiya Vserossiĭskago Shakhmatnago Obshchestva, 1914 and 1916. Sakharov (1968) 217, Di Felice 1187, LN 6322.

The newly formed All Russian Chess Union issued two bulletins on its progress and activities, in 1914 and 1916, containing information on the emergence of the Union, statutes, program of activities, list of members etc. 

Issue No. 1, dated 25th June 1914 with 32 pages, was published in St. Petersburg (2,000 copies), and No. 2, although dated 15th February 1917, was included as a 12-page supplement to the September 1916 issue of the Moscow magazine Shakmatnyĭ Vestnik.

The Revolution in 1917, together with the first World War, followed by civil disturbances, brought organised chess activities in Russia almost to a standstill, and it was five years before the publication of chess periodicals recommenced in 1921. 

Bibliography - additions to previous lists:

Skinner L. & Verhoeven R, Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games, 1902-1946, Jefferson 1998. 
Feenstra Kuiper Dr. P., Hundert Jahre Schachturniere, 1851-1950, Amsterdam 1964.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2019