Friday 25 November 2016

Salo Flohr: chess games collections

Salomon Mikhailovich Flohr (1908 -1983)

Salo Flohr was one of several "best players never to have become World chess champion". At his height in the 1930's he was almost certainly the second strongest player after Alekhine and was nominated by F.I.D.E. as the official challenger in 1937. Flohr never managed to beat Alekhine in an individual game but he did finish ahead of him in a tournament at Podebrady, Czechoslovakia in 1936. However, the War put paid to his championship ambitions and, despite his prominence, no collection of Flohr's games was published during his lifetime. This gap in chess literature was filled in 1985, around two years after his death, when three books were issued, two in English and one in Russian.

Salo Flohr: Master of Tactics, Master of Technique by Jimmy Adams, published by The Chess Player, Nottingham. 238 pages.

Salo Flohr's Best Games of Chess  by Gregory S. Donges, published by Thinkers Press, Davenport, Iowa. 105 pages.

Grossmeister Flor by V. D. Baturinsky, Moscow. 

Both English books are scarce and surprisingly expensive.  


Master of Tactics by Adams includes a comprehensive tournament and match record listing 149 events from 1927 to 1969. This is followed by a nine page biography and 100 games with a further 40 subsidiary games embedded within the text of the main games. The games are analysed in detail and usually include just one diagram. The notation is figurine algebraic. There are indexes of openings and opponents and the book is completed with a portrait of Flohr on the final page. 


Best Games by Donges also has just the one picture, and that is on the front cover. The tournament and match records in this book include a total of 119 events, 30 fewer than Master of Tactics, and the main omissions are four tournaments before 1929, five events during the war years and eleven events from the 1950's. However, there are also two tournaments and two matches listed in Best Games that are omitted from Master of Tactics

Best Games by Donges, back cover

The ten page introduction details Flohr's chess career and is more comprehensive than the coverage in  Adams' book although some sections are suspiciously similar. The brief review of Adams' book in The British Chess Magazine for June 1985, page 251, indicates that his was the first to appear.

The printing and layout of Best Games is far superior to that in Master of Tactics making the games and notes considerably easier to follow as will be seen from the following examples:


The Contents give details of the fifty games but there is no separate index of opponents. There is a Foreword, Afterword, Acknowledgments and a Bibliography.

Further photos of Flohr from Hundert Jahre Schachzweikämpfe and The British Chess Magazine:

                                      © Michael Clapham 2016

Saturday 19 November 2016

Chess book auction

The auction house Antiquariat A. Klittich - Pfankuch held their 71st auction today in the delightful town of Brunswick, Germany. Their twice yearly auctions specialise in chess literature and today nearly 800 lots went under the hammer in just 4 hours. I didn't attend the auction this time but followed the action online, although I don't think that online bidding was allowed. 

Karl Klittich rattled through the lots at the rate of 200 an hour but not in a frenzied manner, just calmly and efficiently, and he still had time to share a few laughs with the audience. He frequently sharpened his pencil and was, as usual, ably assisted by the lady to his right who sits silently for hours recording the winning bids. 

The auction catalogues are almost works of art themselves. This one has 290 pages, with very detailed descriptions and bibliographical information on each lot and many small illustrations throughout. There is even a five page index, how many auction catalogues have that? The online catalogue has a high definition image of every single lot. The production of the catalogues is very impressive and they must take many weeks to compile.  

Today's auction included over 100 lots of memorabilia, autographs, pictures etc. with items signed by Capablanca and Emanuel Lasker fetching €500 and €450 respectively. However, Bogoljubow's signature sold for only €30.

The top two lots in the sale were the following German works:

754. Mauvillon, F(riedrich) W(ilhelm) v. Belehrende Unterhaltung für junge angehende Schachspieler, bestehend in hundert ausgesuchten Stellungen ... / bedingten Spielendungen ... Ein Supplement zu seiner Anweisung zur Erlernung des Schachspiels. Gesammelt und hrsg. Heft 2 - 5 (von 5) in vier Bänden gebunden. Essen, Bädeker, 1832 - 1836. 16°. Mit zusammen 400 ganzseitigen Diagrammen auf Tafeln. VIII, 56 S.; IV, 53 S., 1 Bl.; IV, 57 S., 1 Bl.; VIII, 121 (statt 126) S. Pappbände. This sold for €2,400.

724. Kempelen. (Racknitz, Joseph Friedrich zu). Ueber den Schachspieler des Herrn von Kempelen und dessen Nachbildung. Leipzig und Dresden, Joh. Gottl. Immanuel Breitkopf, 1789. 8°. (Die 7 gefalteten Kupfertafeln fehlen.) Gestochener Titel, 4 Bll., 48 Seiten. Neuer brauner Halblederband mit Rückenschildchen. Sold for  €1,000

In the bibliography section Seven Days in Bamberg by David DeLucia, published in 2015 and describing his visit to Bamberg to see Lothar Schmid's library, fetched €350  while Antonius van der Linde's works were in demand as usual with Geschichte und Litteratur des Schachspiels selling for €280 and the scarcer Schaakbibliotheek (c. 850 - 1875). Utrecht, G. A. van Hoften, 1875 making €300.

The English books generally fared disappointingly with books by Lewis, Bird, Walker,  Selkirk and Lowenthal, for example, selling for only €15 to €30. However, there were a few highlights such as American Chess-Nuts by E. Cook etc., €190; the rare One Hundred and Twenty Problems by R. Kuiper (1842), €150; Lewis's Chess Problems, €250; Ponziani by Bingham, €160; and two books on the Steinitz-Lasker match of 1894 by H. Bird and J. Cunningham which sold for €250 each. One surprise to me was the sale of Lasker - Schlechter by L. Hoffer for €160.


One English lot that I am not familiar with is:

916. Munger, Ned. Cultures, Chess & Art. A Collector's Odyssey across seven Continents. Edited by  Lisa A. Smith. 3 (von 4) Bänden. San Anselmo, Mundial Press, 1996 - 2000. 4°. Mit vielen, teils farbigen Abb. und Skizzen im Text. 119; 221 S., 1 Bl.; 207 S. Orig. Leinenbände mit illustrierten Schutzumschlägen. Volume 1: Sub - Saharan Africa. Volume 2: The Americas. Volume 3: Pacific Islands & Asia. This sold for €140.

However, I now note that also has these three volumes for sale.

A.C.White's Christmas Series of books remain largely in the doldrums with a dozen English books selling for €30 to €60 each or being unsold. However  the French work Les Tours de Force sur l'Echiquier. Paris, Numa Preti, 1906 sold for €300. The early Christmas Series books are, generally, the most valuable.

Two other French books realised high prices:

971. Gunsberg - Tschigorin. Match Gunsberg - Tschigorine joué a La Havane di 1er janvier 1890 au 16 février 1890. Publié dans les numéros de février, mars, avril et mai 1890 du journal d'échecs "La Stratégie". Paris, Numa Preti, ca. 1890. 8°. Sold for €220.

973. Philidor, A. D. (François André Danican) Analyse du jeu des échecs; Nouvelle édition, considérablement augmentée ... Londres, (ohne Verlegerangabe), 1777. 8°. Sold for €330.

The top Scandinavian book was:

1017. (Christiansen, Ulrik.) Veiledning i Schackspil ved en Schackven. Kristiania, Kriedt, 1886. 8°. 40 Seiten. Neuer Pappband mit aufgeklebtem orig. Vorder- und Rückumschlag.  Sold for €120.

A scarce Mexican book by Andres Vazquez sold for €400:

1068. Vázquez, Andrés Clemente. Análisis del juego de ajedrez. Libro à propósito para que pueda aprender dicho juehgo, el que lo ignore del todo, sin necesidad de maestro ... Segunda edicion corregida y notablemente aumentada. México, Gobierno Federal, 1885. 8°. Mit wenigen Diagrammen. 296 Seiten. Rotbrauner Halbleinenband mit goldgeprägtem Titeldruck auf Rücken.

Tournament books in demand included :

Dusseldorf 1862, €230; Hamburg 1885, €120; Hamburg 1910, €130; Leipzig 1877, €140; London 1883. €160 and New York 1857, €150. However I was disappointed to see Folkestone 1933 selling for €70 having sold a copy myself last week for £10.


Top lot in the periodicals section was 16 volumes of Olms reprints of Wiener Schachzeitung covering the years from 1898 to 1949, but not complete, which sold for €360. Other Olms reprints also sold well. Good prices were also realised for Ajedrez Chileno 1936-1938, €130; Chess Digest 1968-1975, €150; New Zealand Chess, 1976-1981, €100; Promadas 1928-1930, €150; Westdeutsche Schach-Zeitung 1948, €150. 


A buyer's premium of 15% plus VAT has to be added to all prices.

The next auction will be in June 2017.

Monday 7 November 2016

Fischer and Tal, two scarce games collections

Games of Bobby Fischer, Philippines, circa 1972.

This pamphlet, of 24 pages, has very little information on its origins. There is no date, no mention of an author, editor, compiler, annotator, publisher or printer, nothing. The only clues are the references to Fischer as World Champion, therefore dating this no earlier than 1972, and the price of P2.00 (two pesos) on the front cover indicating that this was sold in the Philippines.

A one page biography of Robert James Fischer is followed by 25 games from 1965 to 1971 in no particular order. 

The games are lightly annotated and most include one diagram. These diagrams are, unfortunately, difficult to study due to the strange depiction of the white pieces on white squares and black pieces on black squares. 

I can find no record of this publication in any bibliography, catalogue or library including the Cleveland Public Library and the the Royal Library at The Hague.   

50 Selected Games of Mikhail Tal (World Chess Champion - 1960).

Again there is virtually no information in this typescript pamphlet to reveal its identity, not even a price. The poorly written introduction is signed R. G. Wade, and two games from 1971 are included, although both are dated 1972; other than that there are no clues as to its age or origins.

The table of contents is chopped off so that the final two games are not listed. Tal's tournament record on page 3 lists events up to 1967 although games are included up to the 39th Soviet Championships in 1971

The fifty games - all wins for Tal - have no notes and no diagrams.  The earliest game is dated 1944, against Gligoric, in the East vs West match. This date seems improbable but I have been unable to trace the game.

There are numerous errors in the game headings; wrong tournaments, wrong dates, misspelt opponents names, and there are also some discrepancies in the recorded moves compared to other sources. For example, the game between Niemela and Tal on page 9 has one extra move for each player at the end compared with the games in the databases at and

The game against Gligoric on page 21 ends after white's 33rd move; however, other sources continue this game to move 43, e.g. and

This publication is also absent from all bibliographies, catalogues and libraries that I have checked.

These two pamphlets were probably privately published, seemingly secretly, and it is a mystery how they were distributed and sold. 

                                       © Michael Clapham 2016

Thursday 3 November 2016

More from Chess Reader

Chess Reader 1955 to 1966 by Ken Whyld.

I note that this periodical is included in Section 1 in Betts' Bibliography, i.e. the bibliography section rather than the periodicals section, and the last issues published by The Chess Player in 1965 and 1966 are not recorded.

The best tournament books? 


In the Winter 1955-6 issue, page 46 (page 46) Whyld was asked by a correspondent to recommend the six best tournament books for someone with little space or cash, and, after stipulating that he had ignored books "whose scarcity gives them an inflated price", Whyld  nominated the following: New York 1889, Hastings 1895, New York 1927, Nottingham 1936, Saltsjobaden 1946 (Pirc) and Moscow 1947 (Botvinnik).

Bearing in mind the stipulation, to today's collectors, this is a very surprising selection, and even in the 1950's some of these were scarce and expensive. There is also more than one book on some of these tournaments and it is not clear which particular book Whyld had in mind. Let's look at these individually.

New York 1889. I assume that Whyld intended The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress, by W. Steinitz, New York 1891, rather than the two pamphlets with 42 games each published by W. W. Morgan, London 1889. Steinitz's book had a limited edition of 500 copies, and this, together with its impressive size and quality of production, and the excellent annotations by Steinitz, has resulted in this becoming one of the most sought after and expensive tournament books. From the outset it was a collector's item; copy No. 1 was offered to the highest bidder and was sold to Mr. C. H. Bruel for $30 in addition to the normal subscription of $10. The book today is valued at around  £500.

Hastings 1895. There are two books on this event; The Hastings Chess Tournament, 1895, edited by Horace F. Cheshire, London 1896, and the possibly superior Das Internationale Schachturnier zu Hastings by Emil Schallopp, Leipzig 1896. Tony Gillam once advised me that the annotations in Schallopp's book were much better than those in Cheshire's book. Current value around £75-£100 each.

Some of the competitors at Hastings 1895

New York 1927. Here there are three books, two by Alekhine: Das New Yorker Schachturnier 1927, Berlin/Leipzig 1927 and Mezhdunarodnyy shakhmatnyy turnir v New Yorke 1927, Moscow/Leningrad 1930, and Tartakower's  New Yorkskiy match-turnir 1927, Leningrad 1927.  The first book in English on this event was Jack Spence's limited edition of 200 copies published in 1956 (Betts 25-84). Current value of Alekhine's books £40, Tartakower, £20.

Nottingham 1936. Two main works; The Book of the Nottingham International Chess Tournament, with Annotations and Analysis by Dr. A. Alekhine, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1937 and Schach-Grossturnier Nottingham 1936 by Hans Kmoch, Vienna 1938. I suspect that Whyld intended the Alekhine book here and for New York 1927. Current value of the Alekhine book around £100 with dust-jacket. Kmoch, around £25.

Saltsjobaden 1948. Whyld specifies the book by Vasja  Pirc here, Meduzonski turnir Saltsjoben 1948, Zagreb 1949, in preference to the other main work by Gideon Ståhlberg. Current value around £25.

Moscow 1947. Again Whyld specifies Mikhail Botvinnik's book, Mezhdunarodnyy schakmatnyy turnir pamyati M. I. Chigorina, Moscow 1950. There is also a book by F. Chalupetzky. Current value around £25.

More best books 



Summer 1955, page 26 (page 26). In the review of Know the Game - Chess by H. G. Arnold, Whyld discusses one of his favourite topics, the unsuitability of most beginners books for beginners, and then declares that "B. H. Wood has written what is, in my opinion, the best guide for the absolute new-comer to the game", obviously referring to Wood's Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 and many reprints.

Spring 1956, page 3 (page 63). Whyld gives what he considers to be the best end-game books in five languages: those written by Berger (German), Cheron (French), Czerniak (Spanish), Fine (English), and Rabinovich (Russian).


Spring 1957, page 36 (page 96). A Guide to the Chess Openings by Leonard Barden, London 1957. "In my opinion, this is, for the club player, easily the best English-language book in print on the openings"

Spring 1958, page 54 (page 114). My Best Games of Chess 1935-1957 by V Smyslov, London 1958. "One of the best chess books to appear anywhere in the last twenty years".


Summer 1959, page 34 (page 154). Emanuel Lasker, the Life of a Chess Master by Dr. J. Hannak, London 1959. After discussing the previous lack of a complete biography of Lasker, "perhaps the greatest player yet seen", Whyld states "It is fitting, therefore, that the only full biography written about Lasker should be perhaps the best written about any chessplayer".

Winter 1960, page 20 (page 204). Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces by Hans Kmoch, New York 1960. This review is by W. H. Cozens who begins: "Ask any really strong chessplayer what is the best extant collection of annotated games, and it is an even chance that he will reply Rubinstein Gewinnt. The combination of Rubinstein the player with Kmoch the annotator has hardly been equalled - except perhaps by Alekhine the player plus Alekhine the annotator"


Autumn 1961, page 57 (page 241). Mikhail Tal's Best Games of Chess, by P. H. Clarke, London 1961. "It is a measure of this book's merit that it could well be Bell's best games collection since they first published Alekhine's book". [in 1927]

Christmas 1963, page 50 (page 298). Chess Problems: Introduction to an Art, by Lipton, Matthews and Rice, London 1963. "certain to be hailed by many as the chess book of the year"


February 1966, page 9 (page 443). The Art of Attack in Chess by V. Vuković, London 1965. Bernard Cafferty, in his review, states "this is one of the finest chess books ever, certainly the finest book of the decade". 

Most of the above books are possibly, even today, among the best in their field, but demand for these classics is low and most can be obtained very cheaply. 

....and the worst annotator


In the February 1966 issue page 12 (page 446), Whyld comments that "Bogoljubow was noted for being just about the worst annotator who ever lived"

Finally for now: 


Christmas 1963, page 62 (page 310). The Complete Chess Player, by Edward Young, London 1963. In this very last book review in the run of Chess Reader published by Ken Whyld (he continued to contribute to the issues published by The Chess Player),  Whyld does not appear to realise that Edward Young is a pseudonym for Fred Reinfeld, perhaps this was not so widely acknowledged at the time. In the generally negative review, Whyld does note "It is in fact not badly written - about beta-Reinfeld level...but it is quite useless for beginners", and after further criticism he wraps up with "words fail me. The cover is pretty"

There is much more of interest in Chess Reader (to me at least) and I may return to this periodical later.

© Michael Clapham 2016