Sunday 4 September 2016

Here's one you haven't got !

Chess Records Number 1: 1924 New York, edited and published by Arthur Curtis, Surbiton, 1957.

Arthur Curtis from Surrey, England, was a chess book dealer in the 1950's; he issued regular lists of chess books, none of which I have seen, and also advertised in the British Chess Federation Year Book from 1950-51 to 1957-58 after which his adverts stop.

BCF Year Book 1956-7

Curtis ventured into chess publishing in 1957 and produced two books in his series of Chess Records: Number 1 on the New York 1924 tournament and Number 2 on the 1957 World Championship match between Botvinnik and Smyslov with annotations by R. G. Wade.

Curtis's advert in the BCF Year Book for 1957-58 indicated that a further book, in his Chess Records series, on the St Petersburg Tournament of 1914 was in the course of preparation but this never appeared.

BCF Year Book 1957-8

Arthur Curtis's two publications were not reviewed in either the British Chess Magazine or Chess, but they did receive brief notices in Ken Whyld's Chess Reader, volume II, no. 4, Spring 1958, page 49 (page 109 of the reprint by Publishing House Moravian Chess, Olomouc, 2004.)

The New York International Chess Congress of 1924 was one of the most important tournaments in the first half of the twentieth century and The Book of the New York International Chess Tournament 1924, with Original Annotations by Alexander Alekhine, edited by Hermann Helms, published by American Chess Bulletin, New York and Printing Craft, London, 1925 is one of the outstanding tournament books.

In discussing Curtis's book on New York 1924 Whyld describes the original Alekhine/Helms book as `perhaps the most mistake-ridden book ever´ and indeed the book includes a ten page Errata listing over 550 amendments. The Errata is introduced by W. H. Watts but was compiled principally by A. H. E. Johnson. Most of the amendments relate to Alekhine's notes and, according to Watts, mainly arose due to the transcription from the Continental notation to the English notation. Curtis's book includes just the moves without notes and he has corrected some but not all of the relevant errors.

Whyld continues `Alekhine's book of this event, despite its myriad mistakes, is highly prized because of its annotations. Consequently, it is almost unobtainable, even at a high price.´ This is borne out by dealers catalogues of the time in which this work rarely appears. The book continues to be scarce but a reasonable copy can be found for around £50.

Betts 25-75 indicates that Curtis published his edition because of the scarcity of the original English edition and before the book was reprinted by Dover in 1961.

Two Dover editions of New York, 1924

Arthur Curtis's book includes a Table of Results, Progressive Scores, Games Index, Openings Index, List of Prizes and the 110 games without notes. The rear cover includes adverts for Russian books (on the inside) and Games collections in English for sale by Arthur Curtis.

I shall be pleased to hear if anyone has any of Arthur Curtis's book lists or either of his two publications; these are held by the National Library of the Netherlands but appear to be lacking in the Cleveland Public Library.

 © Michael Clapham 2016

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