Friday 29 January 2016

Oxford and Cambridge Universities

Oxford and Cambridge Universities both have a long chess heritage. Oxford University Chess Club was founded in 1869 and their website: claims that it is the oldest university chess club in the United Kingdom. However the website for the Cambridge University Chess Club: claims that it can trace its roots back to 1856. 

The first president of Oxford University Chess Club was the Reverend Charles Ranken, editor of The Chess Player's Chronicle from 1877 to 1880 and co-author, with Edward Freeborough, of Chess Openings Ancient and Modern, London 1889.

Rev. C.E.Ranken

The Varsity Chess matches between these two Universities were established with the help of Wilhelm Steinitz in 1873 and have been an annual event almost continuously since then. 

Oxford and Cambridge Chess Match, Illustrated London News, 1873
The match in 1874 was, undoubtedly, a very important chess event that year. Held at the City of London Chess Club, nearly all of the chess celebrities of the Metropolis were present including Staunton, Steinitz, Lowenthal, Horwitz, Zukertort, Bird, Blackburne, De Vere, A.A. MacDonnell, Boden, Duffy, Zytogorski and Wisker. This is reported in The City of London Chess Magazine for April 1874 p72. This must have been one of Staunton's final appearances as he died three months later.

Oxford University Press has a long tradition of publishing important chess works going back as far as 1694 when Thomas Hyde's Mandragorias, seu Historia Shahiludii was published at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford which was designed with a printing house underneath as a home for the developing Oxford University Press. The press was relocated to the Clarendon Building in 1713 where, 200 years later H.J.R.Murray's A History of Chess was published. Other notable chess works published by the Oxford University Press include :

A Short History of Chess by H.J.R. Murray, 1963

The Golden Dozen: The twelve greatest chess players of all time by Irving Chernev, 1976 


The best games of C.H.O'D.Alexander by H.Golombek and W.Hartston, 1976

Fischer's Chess Games With an Introduction by Raymond Keene, 1980
Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games Volume 1 1485-1866 by David Levy & Kevin O'Connell, 1981
The Oxford Companion to Chess, David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, 1984, 1992


Both University Chess Clubs have published periodicals which are named after mythical creatures. Dragon is the Bulletin of the Cambridge University Chess Club  and Unicorn was the magazine of Oxford University Chess Club. Dragon commenced in October 1959 although this is not recorded in Chess, An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published in the English Language 1850-1968, by D.A. Betts, Boston 1974. However, Chess, An Annotated Bibliography 1969-1988 by Andy Lusis, London 1991 and Chess Periodicals by Gino De Felice, following Lusis, both give brief details. Neither has details of the extent of publication or availability but according to the CUCC website Dragon was still being published up to 2008. Cambridge University Libraries appear to have just a single issue, No. 14 dated 1964.

Dragon Summer 1986
Dragon Christmas 1994

Dragon January 1989
Dragon February 1994

Unicorn was first issued in late 1981. Lusis examined this issue and also No. 7 dated February 1988. The Bodleian Library has No. 2 (1982) and No. 4 (1984) and possibly No. 3, this is not clear from their catalogue. I have nos. 2, 4, 5 (1987), 6 (1987) and 7 (1988). Therefore seven magazines were issued over a period of eight years and I do not know if any further issues were produced. There is no mention of this magazine on the Club's website.

Unicorn No. 6 October 1987
Unicorn No.7 February 1988

Both Universities have magnificent libraries with substantial chess holdings. Bodleian Library at Oxford University and Cambridge University Libraries are both Legal Deposit Libraries and have therefore been entitled to receive one copy, free of charge, of every book etc. published in the United Kingdom and Ireland over the last two hundred years; and they both house important chess books published from 1475 onwards. Their chess collections are probably second only to The British Library's holdings in importance in Great Britain.  Online catalogues are available as follows:

Cambridge University Libraries:

The Bodleain Library in particular is renowned for its collection of manuscripts and H.J.R. Murray researched these extensively in the preparation of his magnum opus; A History of Chess, Oxford 1913. Murray bequeathed his own collection of books and papers to this library and Dr. Timothy Harding has written a long and interesting article about Murray and the Bodleian Library which was included in his Kibitzer column in April 2006 at the old Chess Cafe website.
A History of Chess, 1969 edition

                                       © Michael Clapham 2016

Saturday 23 January 2016

Neuhausan-Zurich 1953 Candidates Tournament

The World Championship Candidates' Tournament held in Neuhausen and Zurich in September and October 1953 is regarded as one of the greatest chess tournaments ever held. The competitors included all of the world's best players with the exception of the world champion himself, Mikhail Botvinnik.

This tournament was also very significant in the history of chess book publishing; not only did the event inspire the first "instant" chess tournament book but more books about the event have been published in English than for any other tournament up to that date. 

The first book on the event to appear in English was World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, with annotations by D. Hooper and W. Winter, and published by K. Whyld, Nottingham in November 1953. This book was published just over a month after the event and William Winter claimed, in his introduction, that this was unique for a chess tournament book containing so many annotated games. This mimeographed and spiral bound production of 96 pages includes a three page Introduction by William Winter, all 210 games annotated, some comprehensively, others very briefly, and an extensive openings index.

Hooper & Winter front cover
Hooper & Winter title page

From October 1953 to September 1954 B. H. Wood had issued supplements to his Chess magazine containing instalments from this tournament and these were published in book form as The World Championship Candidates' Tournament Switzerland 1953

B.H.Wood title page
B.H.Wood front cover

This book has 329 pages with notes to all of the games collated from numerous sources and edited by Baruch H. Wood. There is a 32 page Survey of the Openings by Leonard Barden (`It was an overwhelmingly "Indian" tournament´, p326) and Barden was also responsible for most of the opening notes to the games. The book also contains around 40 photographs from the event, Round by Round Surveys and Ring-side Commentaries.

24 years passed before the next book on this tournament was published in English but in the meantime several books had been published in other languages most notably David Bronstein's Russian book Mezdunarodnyi turnir grossmeisterov, first published in Moscow in 1956 (The Oxford Companion to Chess mistakenly states 1954 on page 50 of the first edition and page 60 of the second edition), with a second, revised edition published in 1960. Bronstein's book was soon regarded, not only as an excellent tournament book, but also as one of the best instructional manuals on the middle game ever written and, indeed, this was the author's intention as declared in his preface to the second edition.

An English translation of this work was obviously desirable and, after many years work, two different translations were published within a short time of each other in 1978 and 1979. 

The first to appear was The Chess Struggle in Practice: Candidates Tournament Zurich 1953 by David Bronstein, translated by Oscar D. Freedman; edited by Burt Hochburg, with an introduction by Dr. Max Euwe. This was published by David McKay Company, Inc., New York in 1978 and by B.T.Batsford, London in 1980. The Translator's Note states that the translation was started in 1962 by Freedman in co-operation with Hochberg but the first attempts to publish the work around 1965 failed. However, following the post Fischer chess publishing boom in the early 1970's, David McKay Company, Inc. agreed to take on the Bronstein project and the  book was eventually published in 1978. Freedman had died in 1968 and Hochberg carried out the final revisions and editing. This book has 499 pages and uses the descriptive notation.

In 1979 Dover Publications, Inc. of New York brought out Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by David Bronstein; translated by Jim Marfia. This translation was carried out over ten years and entailed four revisions. The book has 349 pages and uses the algebraic notation. 

As these books came out almost simultaneously they both claimed to be the first English translation of Bronstein's classic work, but I do not know whether the two publishers were aware of each other's productions.

Batsford dust-jacket flap
Dover back cover

Following the much wider circulation of Bronstein's work the book has frequently been hailed as one of the best tournament books of all time. In fact it was regarded as such even before the English translations had appeared. Wolfgang Heidenfeld wrote, in a letter to Chess, published on p2 in October 1977, `Friends who know Russian tell me that Bronstein's book on the 1953 Candidates' is possibly the best tournament book ever written.´

Letter from W Heidenfeld

33 years later the tournament was still considered of sufficient importance for another book to be published in English. This was Zurich 1953; 15 Contenders for the World Chess Championship by Miguel Najdorf, published by Russell Enterprises, Inc., Milford, 2012. This book is a translation (by Taylor Kingston)  of Miguel Najdorf's  book  originally published in 2 volumes in Spanish; 15 Aspirantes al Campeonato Mundial Torneo de los Candidatos, Suiza, 1953, Buenos Aires 1954.

In addition to Najdorf's annotations to the games, which often differ markedly from Bronstein's notes, this book, of 392 pages, includes an introduction by Yuri Averbakh, biographical sketches of the players, a round-by-round account of the action, a closing summary and a survey of the tournament's impact on opening theory.

Both Bronstein and Najdorf competed in this tournament and two other competitors, Max Euwe and  Gideon Stahlberg have also produced books on the event. 

                                         © Michael Clapham 2016

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Some early chess book dealers

Will H. Lyons 1897

Bernard Quaritch 1929
Frank Hollings circa 1930

E.G.R.Cordingley 1936
Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1944

University Place Book Shop 1937
Albrecht Buschke 1954

Dr. M. Niemeijer 1948

N.V.Martinus Nijhoff circa 1938

Albert S. Pinkus 1954
                                      © Michael Clapham 2016

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Chess Books featuring a single game

A few chess books have been published which feature just a single game.

Kasparov Against the World

The best known of these is Kasparov Against the World by Garry Kasparov with Daniel King, published by KasparovChess Online, New York, 2000.

This book tells the story, over 202 pages, of the game played on the internet in 1999 between Kasparov and 58,000 chess players from around the world who voted for their chosen move following recommendations from a team of four analysts: Etienne Bacrot, Florin Felecan, Elisabeth Paetz and Irina Krush. These four teenagers were chosen `as the next generation of chess masters´.

Kasparov won the game, which he described on p202 as `one of the greatest games of chess ever played´, after 62 moves over four months.

Turnover Chess

The innovative chess publisher Michael Basman edited a series of booklets under the banner of Turnover Chess in 1977 and 1978. The first series of 8 books published in 1977 featured games by Fischer and Alekhine:

1. Fischer v Sherwin, New Jersey Open, 1957
2. Fischer v Fine, New York, 1960
3. Fischer v Weinstein, U.S. Championship, 1960-61
4. Gudmundsson v Fischer, Reykjavik, 1960
5. Alekhine v Tarrasch, Mannheim, 1914
6. Bogoljubov v Alekhine, Hastings, 1922
7. Reti v Alekhine, Baden Baden, 1925
8. Alekhine v Nimzovich, San Remo, 1930

Advert in Chess May 1977

A second series of books on the English opening was issued in 1978 again concentrating on a single game:

1. Uhlmann v Mariotti, Manila, 1976
2. Smyslov v Liberzon, Riga, 1968
3. Smejkal v Andersson, Biel, 1976
4. Miles v L. Bronstein, Sao Paulo,1977
5. Pribyl v Kozlov, Stary Smokovec, 1976
6. Romanishin v K. Grigorian, USSR Championship, 1976

A third series of booklets was published in 1978 each with a single game on the Sicilian Close opening:

1. Spassky v Geller, 6th match game, 1968
2. Spassky v Larsen, 3rd match game, 1968
3. Spassky v Hort, Bugojno, 1978
4. Wade v Byrne, Hastings, 1970-71
5. Suttles v Gipslis, Sousse, 1967
6. Smyslov v Kotov, Moscow, 1943

These booklets were advertised in Chess in 1977 and 1978 but are very hard to find nowadays.

Basman was a pioneer of publishing chess instruction on audio cassettes but I cannot agree with his advice in the following advert in Chess, February 1979:

Advert in Chess February 1979


The Victoria Company of Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A published a small book in 1924 with the title Movagram No. 1 Lasker vs Capablanca St Petersburg Masters' Tournament 1914.  This featured the crucial 18th round game won by Lasker. The book has 87 pages and includes a diagram for every move with some light notes by Dr. Emanuel Lasker.

I have not seen this book recorded in any catalogue, bibliography or online resource and I do not know whether subsequent books were issued in this series.

The Game of Chess Played between London and Portsmouth in 1845

Carl-Eric Erlandsson published, in 1989, a pamphlet entitled The Game of Chess Played between London and Portsmouth through the Electric Telegraph of the South Western Railway April 9, 1845.

This was  a reprint from The Illustrated London News of April 12, 1845 and  commemorates the game played in consultation between Howard Staunton and Captain H.A. Kennedy in Portsmouth (actually in nearby Gosport) and Messrs G. Walker, H.T. Buckle, Captain W.D. Evans, G. Perigal and J.W. Tuckett in Vauxhall, London.

Two games were played, the first on Wednesday 9th April which was won by the London team, (this was described as a trial game and a private one in the ILN article), and a second game on Thursday 10th April, and it is the second game that is included in the pamphlet and ILN article. 

A squabble arose between Staunton and Walker following these games. In brief; Walker claimed that these games constituted a match but Staunton declared that they were played predominantly to test the equipment of the new technology and, furthermore, that the two teams were unevenly matched. 

Rear cover of pamphlet

I would be pleased to receive details of other single game publications.

                                © Michael Clapham, 2016