Monday 31 October 2016

Chess Reader

I have been rereading Chess Reader recently, the periodical edited and published by Ken Whyld, which ran from Spring 1955 to October 1963. Two later issues were published by The Chess Player (Tony Gillam) of Nottingham in 1965 and 1966.

Described by Dr. Meindert Niemeijer in the Foreword as a magazine for chess bibliophiles, this periodical largely consisted of reviews of contemporary chess literature with a few related articles. Most of the reviews are by Ken Whyld although other reviewers included William Winter, James Gilchrist, Leonard Barden, David Hooper, Assiac (Heinrich Fraenkel), W. H. Cozens, and in the later issues Bernard Cafferty and Christopher Williams

Ken Whyld

The editor had a passion for chess history and literature, and, while the reviews were written primarily to discuss the merits or otherwise of the books for contemporary chess players, there was often an element of evaluating the importance and permanent value of the book in chess literature as a whole, and it is interesting to compare the reviews of 50 or 60 years ago to today's assessment of these works.

Original copies of Chess Reader are virtually impossible to find but a reprint by Publishing House Moravian Chess, Olomouc, is readily obtainable. 

This periodical is packed with Ken Whyld's entertaining and forthright reviews and is a rich source of material for chess literature enthusiasts (and my blog). Some of the items that I particularly noted follow, and I will give the date and page numbers of the original magazines, which I do not have, as well as the page number in brackets from the reprint, which I have used.

The permanent value of chess books and publications by MacGibbon and Kee.

The Spring 1955 issue gets off to a lively start and includes a long and interesting review, on page 7 (page 7), of World Chess Championship 1954 by H. Golombek, published by MacGibbon and Kee, London 1954. In this review Whyld raises the matter of tournament and match books as having greater permanent value and being more highly prized by connoisseurs than by the average chess player, upon whom publishers mainly rely. Publishers had consequently generally avoided tournament and match books and had concentrated on games collections and general treatises "works in fact of less permanent value to chess, but easier to sell".  

This was the third chess book published by MacGibbon and Kee, following:

Championship Chess, Match Tournament for the Absolute Chess Championship of the U.S.S.R., Leningrad-Moscow 1941, by M. M. Botvinnik, London 1950, and One Hundred Selected Games by M. M. Botvinnik, London 1951. 

The only other chess books that I can find by the same publisher are:

World Chess Championship 1957 by H. Golombek, London 1957.
Modern Opening Chess Strategy by H. Golombek, London 1959.
The Delights of Chess by Assiac (Heinrich Fraenkel), London 1960.



English chess libraries?

Page 19 (page 19) of the Summer 1955 issue has a review of The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess by I. Chernev, New York 1955. Whyld calls Chernev the "believe-it-or-not" man of American chess, presumably implying that he is an unreliable author. He later refers to the dust-jacket of this book of brevities, which declares that if we owned one of the four or five great chess libraries in the world, "you could, by diligent research, find most or all of these delectable nuggets". Whyld goes on to say "there are, to my knowledge, four libraries in this country from which most or all could be found". I would hazard a guess at Whyld and Golombek, but who were the other two?


Britain's best living chess author?

On Page 23 (page 23) of the Summer 1955 issue, in a review of Kings of Chess by William Winter, London 1954, Whyld characterizes William Winter as "Britains best living chess author. No other writer captures Winter's cultured and literary style and is also able to annotate games in a manner so helpful to the average player". Winter died shortly after this was written but not before contributing a review of Emanuel Lasker, Chess Champion by J. Gilchrist, Nottingham 1955, for this magazine, Winter 1955-6, page 48 (page 48).


Indian chess magazines?

Page 32 (page 32) of the Summer 1955 issue has a review of Indian Chess Bulletin, Organ of the Correspondence Chess Association of India. In this, Whyld refers to four short lived pre-war Indian chess magazines, but it is not clear which periodicals he is referring to. The following are recorded in bibliographies but two are post-war:

                                                                           Betts      De Felice's
                                                                                      Chess Periodicals

The Indian Chess Magazine        1922   1 issue        7-66         1133
The Indian Chess Magazine        1931   1 issue        7-73         1135
Indian Chess                             1947   1 issue      30-24         2994 
 (This is dated 1925 in Chess Periodicals)
Indian Chess Magazine             1949-50 12 issues   7-121        1132

Chess Periodicals also lists no. 1835, Picnic Magazine: A Journal of Literature, Science, Chess and the Drama, published in Calcutta in 1848.

Incidentally, Indian Chess Bulletin, the subject of this review, is not recorded in Betts , nor is Indian Chess Magazine,  published in Bombay in 1964, according to Chess Periodicals No. 1136.   


The best American chess book since 1945? 

Following a review of Trophy Chess by Larry Evans, on page 34 (page 94) of the Summer 1957 issue, Whyld implied that this was the second best chess book published in the USA since 1945 (see Spring 1958, page 60 (page 120)).  So what did he consider the best? I have not found the definitive answer but there are clues.

In the Autumn 1958 issue, page 8 (page 128), Whyld states "Larry Evans is undoubtedly the most important chess author in the USA today". This may raise a few eyebrows but Whyld quickly qualifies this by saying that "the competition is not fierce", and gives brief appraisals of a few American authors. "Chernev is always interesting and entertaining, Horowitz always professionally competent, Fine variable but with outstanding moment". There is no mention of Reinfeld.

So could it be Reuben Fine's Chess Marches On!, New York 1945, hailed as "the finest chess book that has come from U.S.A." by Whyld's friend and colleague  E. G. R. Cordingley, albeit in an advert, on the back of his Chess Students Quarterly for November 1946;  or perhaps Fine's The Middle Game in Chess, New York 1952, praised as "one of the most valuable contributions to chess theory in recent years", and "one of the best chess books on theory ever produced", in a review by D. A. Yanofsky in The British Chess Magazine for January 1954, page 15.

Maybe it was one of Reinfeld's from his pre-potboiler period, such as Tarrasch's Best Games of Chess, Philadelphia 1947, again described by Cordingley, in Chess Students Quarterly, December 1947, page 171, as "one of the best chess books of this century". 

Long articles by guest contributors were a feature of the early issues and the Autumn 1955 issue has a three and a half page article by Fran├žois le Lionnais, on pages 35 to 38, in which he discusses chess book collecting and some of the great chess libraries. This is followed by two articles from D. J. Morgan, in the Winter 1955-6 and Spring 1956 issues, detailing all of the books in the A. C. White Christmas Series, giving valuable information on these highly sought after chess books. A further article on the Overbrook Press series of chess books, under the nom de plume of Guynebans, was included on pages 13 to 15 (pages 73 to 75) of the Spring 1956 issue.

More from Chess Reader next time.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2016

Thursday 13 October 2016

Will H. Lyons. Purveyor of chess goods

William Henry Lyons (1849-1932), of Newport Kentucky, was probably the world's foremost chess literature dealer for around 30 years at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He also wrote a treatise on chess problems; Chess-nut burrs: how they are formed and how to open them, which he published in Newport in 1886.

I was very much intrigued by the footnote on page 172 of R. B. Swinton's Chess for Beginners and the Beginnings of Chess:

Swinton's accusation that Will H. Lyons had `ransacked the bookstores of England, Scotland, various German States and several other countries´ is in fact substantiated in Lyons' own catalogues. 

His Catalogue No.7. Chess Requisites and Works on Chess, issued in 1897, in which he claims to have the largest stock of chess goods in the world, states:

`My agents in the book centres of Europe constantly supply me with Rare and Out-of-Print Works´

`No pains or expense have been spared in seeking for and securing rare and out-of-print works.´

`All that was of value has been purchased.´

`All languages are represented, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, German etc. etc.´

`The largest collection of Chess Magazines ever known is offered.´

`I have searched the World for books and have "cornered the market" in the old and scarce works´.

`I have made America the great source of supply for Chess literature.´

etc. etc. 

Lyons' 80 page catalogue, which lists around 1,000 items, certainly backs up these boasts, and he undoubtedly offered the greatest selection of chess literature ever assembled in one catalogue. Lyons' catalogues were only surpassed when Bernard Quaritch also `cornered the market´ by buying up most of the Rimington-Wilson collection sold at Sotheby's in 1928, and offered them in his Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Works relating to the History and Theory of the Game of Chess issued in 1929. This included 1,657 items.


Some sample pages from Lyons' 1897 Catalogue will give an indication of the quantity and quality of his chess literature stock.

Notwithstanding this treasure trove of chess literature, and his world wide network of customers, the chess book trade at the time appears to have been rather slow. Lyons' Catalogue No. 10. Chess Requisites and Works on Chess, issued nearly twelve years later in July 1909, has 96 pages and circa 1,240 items, including many previously listed in Catalogue No. 7

Lyons no doubt replaced sold items but it is clear that many items offered for sale in 1909 were unsold from 1897 as can be seen from these pages from the 1897 (left) and 1909 (right) catalogues.

Today most of the items in Lyons' catalogues would be snapped up in a jiffy, and, going round second-hand bookshops these days, I nearly always find that a Will H. Lyons has been there before me.  

                                         © Michael Clapham

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Robert Blair Swinton and his chess book

Chess for Beginners and the Beginnings of Chess, by R. B. Swinton, published by T. Fisher Unwin, London 1891.

Title page, first edition

Frontispiece, first edition

Betts 10-47 states that this was originally published by Little, Brown in Boston in 1890, however, other sources, including the Cleveland Public Library, date the Boston edition as 1891. A second edition (simply a reprint) was also published in 1891 and a third edition, another reprint with a two page index, was published in 1897. This had a slightly amended title Chess for Beginners and the Beginners of Chess. Betts 10-59 implies that this was an error but Swinton may have intended to change Beginnings of Chess to Beginners of Chess as he uses this phrase elsewhere in the book (p119).  Betts 10-61 gives details of a third edition published in New York 1898 but I can find no collection or library possessing this and it may be a phantom (or very rare).

Title page, third edition

This was the only chess book written by Robert Swinton about whom virtually nothing is known. and record that he was born in 1829, worked for the Madras Civil Service, married Elizabeth Dorothy Rundell in 1858, had seven children and died in 1912. Swinton wrote two other books; The Proceedings in the case of the Earldom of Mar: 1867-1885, London 1889, and An Indian Tale or Two, Blackheath 1899. He also wrote articles for the Dictionary of National Biography.

Chess for Beginners...aimed to provide a clear summary of the elements of Chess together with a knowledge of the history and literature of the game. Part I (94 pages) is the instructional section written in an informal chatty style, and Part II (104 pages) includes eight chapters on chess history and literature. 

The book received mixed reviews in The British Chess Magazine and The Chess-Monthly. The British Chess Magazine for January 1891, page 16, offered a few snippets of praise in an otherwise negative review.


While the review in The Chess-Monthly for January 1891, page 136, was more enthusiastic although written in a sardonic manner.

I was particularly intrigued by Swinton's footnote on page 172 and I will comment on this at length next time.

                                    © Michael Clapham 2016

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Chess Texts printed before 1850. Part 3

This is the final instalment of the main chess publications in English recorded in Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850, by Whyld and Ravilious, covering the years 1836 to 1849.

This period saw the advent of the first chess periodicals, and the publication of George Walker's historically important Chess Studies in 1844, which included over 1,000 games played during the previous fifty years. Howard Staunton also emerged as England's foremost chess author and his publications quickly became the standard chess reference works replacing the manuals and treatises of Sarratt, Lewis, Walker and others.  
I have made many notes in my copy of Chess Texts and some of the observations that I have noted follow:

1672:1  The Famous Game of Chesse-Play   by Saul / Barbier.   Both Murray, in A History of Chess, Oxford, 1913, page 841, and Schmid in Literatur des Schachspiels, Wien, 1847, page 122, list an edition dated 1673. Murray also lists a 1676 edition but does not mention the 1680 edition recorded in Chess Texts.

1793:2 Benjamin Franklin. Another early occurrence of The Morals of Chess is in The Sentimental and Masonic Magazine for January 1793.

1830:1 The Bibliographical and Retrospective Miscellany. The list of works on the game of chess was compiled by George Walker as explained in my article of 15th March 2016.

1832:2 Encyclopaedia Britannica with John Donaldson's Treatise on the Game of Chess. In The Philidorian, 1838, George Walker states on page 232 that "a few copies were printed for private circulation"  

1836:10 The article on Stroebeck, taken from Lewis's Second Series of Lessons, London, 1832, was previously included in The Penny Magazine for 1st June 1833, page 216.

1841:6 The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information by William Hone. Several items on chess are listed in this Chess Texts entry, however all of these, and more on chess, are included in  the first edition of Hone's Year Book published in 1832. The chess content of this volume warrants a separate article.

The main chess publications in English from 1836 to 1849:

1836:12 Walker, George, Chess made easy
1836:13 Walker,William Greenwood, A selection of games at chess
1837:2   Alexandre, Encyclopedie des echecs
1837:9   The Philidorian
1837:13 Walker, G., Chess: the match played by... Paris and Westminster
1838:3   Lewis, The chess-board companion
1839:1   The chess-players handbook (Handbooks for the million)
1840:4   Huttmann, Curious chess problems
1840:5   Huttmann, Games of chess
1840:13 Huttmann, The Palamede
1840:14 Pinnock, A catechism of chess
1840:22 Walker, G., Catalogue of writers on chess
1841:2   Dearborn, The chess-player
1841:3   The chess  player's chronicle
1842:2   Pierson, Chess exemplified
1844:1   Brown, Chess problems
1844:6   Lewis, A treatise on the game of chess
1844:10 Walker, Chess Studies
1845:6   Kuiper, One hundred and twenty problems
1845:13 Tomlinson, Amusements in chess
1845:15 Williams, Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club
1846:1   Alexandre, The beauties of chess
1846:2   The American chess magazine
1846:6   The chess palladium and mathematical sphinx
1846:8   Stanley, Thirty-one games at chess
1846:9   Walker, The art of chess-play
1847:3   Jaenisch, Jaenisch's chess preceptor
1847:4   Kenny, Charles, The manual of chess
1847:7   Staunton, The chess-player's handbook
1848:1   Agnel, Chess for winter evenings
1848:2   Beeby, An account of the late chess match ... Staunton and Lowe 
1848:12 Vogt (Lewis), Letters on chess
1849:5   Kling, The chess euclid
1849:6   Staunton, The chess-player's companion
1849:7   Staunton, The chess-player's text book  


1837:9 (from facsimile edition, 1987)






                                       © Michael Clapham 2016