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

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