Saturday 6 August 2016

Albert Belasco's Chess & Draughts and Draughts & Chess

Chess & Draughts: A Complete Guide: How to Play Scientifically, by Albert Belasco, published by W. Foulsham & Co., London, is a very common book and is the one that we all pass over in second-hand bookshops. The book went through at least 38 editions from 1916 up to 1962 and was printed in large numbers, but was cheaply produced and is often found in poor condition.

17th edition

30th edition
32nd edition

The book seems to be of such insignificance that no major library has bothered to collect all editions. The British Library appears to have only two editions, the Cleveland Public Library has four editions including the 3rd and 4th, while the National Library of The Netherlands at The Hague  has made the best effort by obtaining 13 of the 38 editions, the earliest being the 5th. 

Douglas Betts was unable to examine any of the first seven editions when compiling his Bibliography although he did examine six later editions and gives useful information in his notes.

7th edition

The 7th edition included a fine portrait of Capablanca as a frontispiece.

However, the book does have some bibliographic interest to chess book collectors. All editions are undated but each includes brief information on the current world chess champion and this is virtually the only way of dating the various editions.

7th edition

From the information in Betts and online resources it appears that the successive world champions featured in the following editions:

Lasker:        editions 1 to ?
Capablanca: editions 7 to ?
Alekhine:     editions 13 to 17 (following 1927 match)
Euwe:          editions 19 to?
Alekhine:      editions 22 to 32 (following 1937 match)
Botvinnik:     edition 36 (following 1954 match)
Botvinnik:     editions 37 to 38 (following 1961 match)

It seems that no editions featured Smyslov or Tal, and the editions featuring Euwe are no doubt the scarcest. 

17th edition

30th edition

A considerable amount of basic information was packed into the 30 odd chess pages, including how to form a chess club, laws and instructions, openings and gambits, games and problems. The very early editions also listed newspaper chess columns and had a two page article on J H Blackburne, described as the Blindfold Champion of the World

Incidentally, the draughts champion of the World from editions 7 to 32, and possibly further, was Robert Stewart who won the title in 1922 in a match against Newell W. Banks, of 40 games, in which he won 2, lost 1 and drew 37! 

A much scarcer book is Belasco's previous work; An Elementary Guide to the Scientific Games of Draughts and Chess, 7th edition, published by Horace Marshall, London, 1912. The previous six editions dated from 1888 to 1897 included draughts only, and an 8th edition was published in 1913 described as the 365th thousand!

The chess content is very similar to that included in Chess and Draughts described above and includes brief details of the World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker and the Blindfold Champion of the World, J. H. Blackburne. 

Inscription by Albert Belasco

                                        © Michael Clapham 2016

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