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

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