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


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