Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Colourful covers

Many apparently worthless chess books have great aesthetic value and here are a few pre-1950 chess books with attractive printed covers.

Chess & Draughts: How to play Scientifically by Albert Belasco, London, c1945.

122 Chess Problems, Puzzles, Studies and End Games by E.G.R.Cordingley, London, 1946.

The Chess Pilot by J. Mieses, London, 1947.

Chess Made Easy, Simplified Instructions for Learners by J.A. Guthrie, London, 1922.

From the Introduction:

`Throughout the book we have adopted the term `Castle´ in preference to `Rook´-which is frequently employed-as less likely to cause confusion.´

The notation is adapted accordingly; e.g. P-KC3 instead of P-KR3, and C-C8 in place of R-R8.

Drueke's Chess Primer, Wm. F. Drueke & Sons, Inc., Grand Rapids, c1940


Chess, British Standard Hand Book No. 12, J. & R. Maxwell, London, 1886.

Chess Openings by Alfred Emery, London 1923.

De Witt's American Chess Manual edited by Henry Chadwick, New York, 1880.



                                        © Michael Clapham 2016

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bobby Fischer and chess literature

From Bobby Fischer by Harry Benson, New York, 2011

Bobby Fischer was renowned for his knowledge of chess literature and, not only studied the games and writings of his contemporaries, but was a very keen student of all of his great predecessors and of chess literature from the 19th century onwards. 

From June 1956 to July 1958 Bobby Fischer spent much of his time at the home of John W. Collins where the Hawthorn Chess Club met several times a week. In Collins' book My Seven Chess Prodigies, New York, 1974, he recalls Fischer's voracious appetite for chess literature.

From page 53:

and from page 55:

Frank Brady wrote the first, and probably still the best, biography of Fischer in his 1965 book Profile of a Prodigy: The Life and Games of Bobby Fischer, and a new enlarged edition was published in 1973 following the World's Championship match.

Frank Brady relates the following on page 8 of the 1965 first edition:

Brady expanded on this in the New Edition of 1973 and mentioned many of the books in Fischer's library in 1972 on pages 11 and 12:

Dimitrije Bjelica relates on page 67 of his Grandmasters in Profile that, in 1967, Fischer requested some old chess books from Lothar Schmid:

Fischer had a high regard for many 19th century chess players and writers and included five in his famous article The Ten Greatest Masters in History on pages 56-61 of Chessworld Volume I Number 1, January-February 1964, these being Staunton, Morphy, Tchigorin, Steinitz and Tarrasch. 


Such was Fischer's knowledge and recall of chess literature that he frequently cited chapter and verse in his own writings and game annotations. Some examples of Fischer's references to 19th century chess literature follow:

A Bust to the King's Gambit, on pages 3-9 of The American Chess Quarterly volume one number one, Summer 1961, starts with a reference to The Chess Player's Manual by G.H.D.Gossip and S.Lipschütz, (originally published in 1875, not 1874 as stated by Fischer although the Preface is dated 1874, with Lipshütz coming on board for the revised edition of 1888).

There is an interesting follow up to this article in ACQ vol.2 no.3 Winter 1962-1963, pages 486-487, where Fred Wren quotes a letter from Wendell John Lutes who pointed out that Fischer's analysis had been included in Labourdonnais' Le Palamède, almost word for word.

Another extract from ACQ vol. 3 no. 4, Spring 1964:

Fischer's excellent annotations in his My 60 Memorable Games include many 19th century references including the following:

Game 18, note to white's sixth move; `Morphy-Anderssen, Paris 1858´
Game 34, note to black's third move; `played by Charousek in the 'nineties´
Game 44, note to black's ninth move; `The best defense follows an old analysis from Freeborough and Rankin (1893)´

Game 45, There are several references to Steinitz and Tchigorin and in the note to black's tenth move, Fischer cites Dr. Gottschall in the 1892 Deutsche Schachzeitung.
Game 51, note to black's fifth move; `Anderssen-Morphy, match 1858!´   
Game 56, notes to black's 5th move; references to Schallopp-Harmonist and Schallopp-Blackburne, Frankfurt, 1887.

Steinitz in particular receives many mentions throughout the book.

However, the earliest work referred to by Fischer, that I have found, albeit in a second hand account, is A Treatise on The Game of Chess by J.H.Sarratt published in London, 1808.

Chess volume 66, June 2001 page 21 has an article entitled Encounter with Bobby Fischer in which the author, Anthony Mantia, recalls his meeting with Fischer at a simultaneous event in 1964 and includes the following quote by Fischer:  `That line was refuted in 1808 as published in Sarratt's treatise.´

© Michael Clapham 2016

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Bedtime reading

The Chess Player's Bedside Book by Raymond Bott and Stanley Morrison, published by Faber & Faber, London, 1966.

The dust jacket informs us that `this is a lighthearted book designed to interest and entertain both the less academically-minded player and the most dedicated chess intellectual.´ The 83 pages contain a random mixture of Chess Lore, Games, Poems, Puzzle Stories and Variations on a Theme.

The Chess Lore includes a three page history of chess, a very incomplete Morals of Chess by Benjamin Franklin, a couple of chess tales and a few quotations from masters, some of which were new to me and I particularly liked this quote by Botvinnik (taken from page 19 of his book One Hundred Selected Games, London, 1951)

There are sixteen games with 13 notes between them, six of which are on the 10 move game between 13-year-old R.D. Keene and M. Orly. The Evergreen game is included but is erroneously headed: G.A. Anderssen v J. Dufresne, Berlin 1854. There is one note, to black's fifteenth move.

The book has four short stories, each featuring a chess puzzle, and a number of problems and game continuations are dotted about.

The Variations on a Theme include brief descriptions of lightning chess, five-minute chess, simultaneous and blindfold play, and kriegspiel. 

The whole work is interspersed with a miscellany of chess anecdotes and snippets including the following:

The book has its interesting and amusing moments but is not only lighthearted but also light.

The Chess Player's Bedside Book edited by Raymond Edwards and Raymond Keene, published by B.T. Batsford, London, 1975.

This was `Batsford's first and decisive advance into the territory of the less serious side of chess.´

This is a more substantial book, of 149 pages, with 23 interesting articles, including some of a historical nature. These are written by the editors and other familiar chess writers of the 1970's including Harry Golombek, Wolfgang Heidenfeld, William Hartston, Hans Böhm, Kevin O'Connell, and Svetozar Gligorić, plus articles by Aron  Nimzowitsch and Frank Marshall taken from other publications

Benjamin Franklin's Morals of Chess again make an appearance, however, this is even shorter than in the previous book; more than half of Franklin's original essay is missing!   

The 16 page section of plates in the middle of the book includes portraits of several chess personalities of the 1960's and 1970's, other historical figures, including Nimzowitsch, Steinitz and Chigorin, and also the following two pages of, barely recognisable, caricatures of leading players.

There are articles on Fairy Chess, Gyula Breyer, Unsung Heroes of US ChessComputer Chess, The Style of Robert J. Fischer, Psychology and Desert Island Books, in which Raymond Edwards, who displays a good knowledge of chess literature in his article, nominates eight English language chess books that he would enjoy if stranded on a desert island. These are:

Masters of the Chess Board by Richard Reti.
Chess Praxis by Aron Nimzowitsch.
My Best Games of Chess 1908-1923 by Alexander Alekhine.
The World Chess Championship 1937 with annotations by Alekhine and Euwe.
100 Selected Games by Mikhail Botvinnik.
Championship Chess by Mikhail Botvinnik.
My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer.
200 Open Games by David Bronstein.   

There are many games throughout the book, some deeply annotated,  together with some challenging problems, endings and positions to solve, all stimulating stuff, so this book is more likely to result in  !!+!?=?-!~??  than  zzzzzzzz...

Caïssa's Web: The Chess Bedside Book by Graeme Harwood, published by Latimer New Dimensions, London, 1975. 167 pages including index.

This is an anthology of stories, anecdotes, quotations, excerpts from chess and other literature, and other allusions to chess, brought together in chapters on Poetry, Drama, Fiction, History, Proverbs, Stratagems, Definitions and Symptoms. There are no games, problems, endings or positions to ponder over, and only the briefest mention of The Morals of Chess

There are however several good cartoons, taken from various chess periodicals, including the following:

The 12 pages of plates in the middle of the book include the well known painting, by Karel van Mander, of Shakespeare and Jonson Playing Chess. Harwood comments that `the only published copy of this seems to be in A. Klahre's Chess Potpourri´, published in 1931, and fails to mention that both The Good Companion Chess Problem Club and American Chess  Bulletin had published the painting in 1915. The van Mander painting was also reproduced several times in Tracy Kingman's book An Authenticated Contemporary Portrait of Shakespeare, published by William Edwin Rudge, New York, 1932. 

Plate from Caïssa's Web

Plate from Tracy Kingman's book

Most of the chapter headings are self explanatory while the chapter on Stratagems focuses on `how players should or could win games´ and `is a catalogue of epithets, advice and gamesmanship´. The Symptoms chapter `is a collation of the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual phenomena general to all who play chess at any level.´
Caïssa's Web is generally interesting and informative but definitely has some soporific value. 

                                  © Michael Clapham 2016

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Reference books for chess bibliophiles

Standard reference works for chess bibliophiles


Below I give details of the main reference works for researching collectable chess books. These are predominantly in English although all but three can be used for researching publications in all languages. 
In each case I give the abbreviated title by which these works will be frequently referred to in these articles and this information is included on a separate page accessible from a tab at the top of this page. 



CHESS: An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published in the English Language 1850-1968 compiled by Douglas A. Betts, published by G.K.Hall & Co., Boston, Massachusetts, 1974.

Reprinted in smaller format by The Chess Player, Nottingham, 1988 and by Moravian Chess, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2005. Only the Moravian edition is now readily available.

The standard bibliography of English language chess publications from 1850 to 1968 and my favourite book, about which I will write a detailed article later. 


CHESS: An annotated bibliography 1969-1988 by Andy Lusis, published by Mansell Publishing Limited, London, 1991. Difficult to find and expensive.

This book continues the bibliography of English language chess publications from 1969 to 1988 and includes considerably more titles in its 20 year coverage than Betts records for the previous 120 years.

Chess Texts

Chess Texts in the English Language printed before 1850, An annotated bibliography compiled by Ken Whyld and Chris Ravilious, published by Moravian Chess, Olomouc, Czech Republic, [2003]. Readily obtainable.

Comprehensive coverage of publications from 1475 to 1849 with a wider scope than Betts or Lusis, as various games compilations, e.g. Hoyle's Games, and many articles from non-chess publications have been included.


Bibliotheca Van der Linde-Niemeijeriana: A Catalogue of the Chess Collection in the Royal Library, published in The Hague, 1955. 


Reprinted by L'Esprit, Rosmalen, 1988. Only this reprint is easily obtainable. 

This book records the holdings in The Royal Library up to the early 1950's, however, the collection is continually growing and an up to date catalogue is available online at www.kb.nl

Chess book catalogues etc. occasionally state `not in L/N´. This usually means that the item referred to is not in the published Catalogue of the Royal Library, however, the item could very well be included in the up to date online catalogue.


Bibliotheca Van der Linde-Niemeijeriana aucta et de novo descripta: A catalogue of the collection in the Royal Library, The Hague, Volume I. Chess: Bibliography and History, compiled by K.W.Kruijswijk, published by Government Printing Office, The Hague, 1974.

Aucta has become the accepted abbreviation for this work which records, in much greater detail than in L/N, the holdings on chess bibliography and history up to 1972. There are 1,300 entries compared with only 336 on bibliography and history in L/N.  Unfortunately no further volumes have been published. Readily available.

van der Linde 

Geschichte und Litteratur des Schachspiels, by Antonius van der Linde, published by Julius Springer, Berlin, 1874. 2 Volumes.

Reprinted with the slightly amended title Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels, by Edition Olms, Zurich, 1981 with the 2 volumes in one. 


Both of these editions are very hard to find, but print-on-demand copies are available.  

The best work on chess history and literature when first published in 1874 and still an essential aid today. Although I understand very little German I find this a valuable  reference source.


A History of Chess by H.J.R.Murray, published by The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1913. 

Reprinted from corrected sheets by The Oxford University Press in 1962 and 1969, and later reprints by other publishers are readily available. 

The standard work in the English language on the early history of chess, with considerable information about chess writers and their works. Most later writers have borrowed heavily from Murray. 

Chess Personalia

Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography compiled and edited by Jeremy Gaige, published by McFarland & Company, Jefferson and London, 1987.

Published as a paperback by McFarland in 2005, readily obtainable but usually expensive, try chessbooks.co.uk.

Includes basic, but reliable, biographical details of around 14,000 chess personalia with references to further information sources about each subject, and an index of obituaries in The British Chess Magazine from 1881 to 1986.

This is an indispensable research aid.

Oxford Companion

The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1984.

Paperback edition with corrections issued by Oxford University Press in 1987 and reprinted in 1988.


Second enlarged edition published by Oxford University Press in 1992 and an updated paperback edition published in 1996. All editions are easily obtainable.


Chess: The History of a Game by Richard Eales, published by Batsford Academic and Educational, London, 1985.

Reprinted by Hardinge Simpole in 2002, both editions easily obtainable.

Eales includes a substantial amount of information on chess writers and their works, especially on the early chess authors, and also has an eleven page essay on chess bibliography.  

Chess Periodicals

Chess Periodicals: An Annotated International Bibliography, 1836-2008 by Gino Di Felice, published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson and London, 2010.

Available but often expensive, try chessbooks.co.uk

This book is sometimes referred to as Di Felice but I will refer to it as Chess Periodicals to distinguish this work from Di Felice's series of Chess Results books.

Includes details of 3,163 chess periodical publications including magazines, newsletters, yearbooks, directories, handbooks etc. from around the world, listed alphabetically, with a General Index and Index by Country.

There are many other reference books, some of which I may add to the list in due course, but these are the works that I find most useful.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2016