Monday, 4 December 2017

A. Klittich-Pfankuch auction

The bi-annual sale by the German auction house A. Klittich-Pfankuch took place on 23rd and 25th November and included over 800 chess lots in the following categories:

The 258 page printed catalogue gives extensive descriptions of every lot, interspersed with many illustrations, and every item is fully illustrated in the online catalogue.

While there were not as many rare early chess works as in some previous auctions, many interesting lots went under the hammer. The Schachmemorabilien section included six beautifully bound volumes of manuscript chess problems formerly owned by Antonius van der Linde, and which he used in his important works on the history and literature of the game. These unique items sold for a total of €5,300 and, fortunately, they all went to the same buyer so that the collection stays together.

Highlights in the Schachautographen section included a postcard from Bogoljubow to the Schachklub Bad Kreuznach from 1950 which sold for €100, and a postal envelope from Bugojno 1980 with the signatures of Karpov, Larsen, Timman, Ljubojevic, Polugaevsky, Ulf Andersson, Hort, Kuvajica, Ivkov, Tal, Kavalek and Gligoric. This sold for €200.

The bottom copy of Wolfgang Uhlmann's scoresheet for his game against Bobby Fischer in Buenos Aires, 1960 made €300 while one of the 500 signed first editions of Reuben Fine's Basic Chess Endings, Philadelphia 1941, sold for €150, and it didn't have the dust-jacket.

Several other signed items sold for high prices confirming the popularity of chess autographs and memorabilia.

There was nothing outstanding in the Schachgraphik section - top lot was three lithographs dated 1837 which sold for €75.    

In the Bibliographien section a group of chess book catalogues from Schach-Verlag Bernh. Kagan dating from the 1920's and 1930's sold for €100.

In the Deutsche Schachbücher section lot 812, Festschrift zum Vierten Kongress des Bayer, 1913 sold for €240.

Lot 844, Schachwerke des Verlags Kagan, Band I - III, (three volumes of the chess works from the publisher Kagan incorporating around 25 pamphlets) 1914-1925, fetched €210; and lot 867, Sammlung der Endspielstudien, Moscau 1914, a book of endgame studies by the brothers Vasily and Mikhail Platov with parallel German and Russian text sold for €240.

There were several scarce English works on offer including lot 900: History of the Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club, 1836 - 1936, by P. H. Bannock, Norwich 1936, which sold for €44; lot 910: The Philosophy of Chess, by William Cluley, London 1857, €180.

Lot 947, The Caduceus, by John Keeble, Norwich 1910 sold for €74 and lot 956: A Selection of Games at Chess, played at the Westminster Chess Club between Monsieur L. C. de la Bourdonnais and an English Amateur [Alexander McDonnell], by William Lewis, London 1835 made €400.

Lot 971: four volumes of The Chess Digest, by Mordecai Morgan, Philadelphia 1901-1905, €100; lot 973: Morphy's Games of Chess, by Thomas Frère, New York 1859, €130; and lot 997: The Chess Player's Instructor, by Charles Stanley, New York 1859, €120. However, several other 19th century chess books sold for just €20 to €30.

A feature of the auction was the large number of A. C. White's Christmas Series books offered for sale. 37 books in various languages were sold representing 27 different titles. (There are 44 books in the Christmas Series plus two Supplements). Prices ranged from just €15 for An English Bohemian: A Tribute to B. G. Laws, up to €150 for the two volume set Les Mille et un Mats Inverses, and €180 for 200 Bauernumwandlungs-Schachaufgaben. As usual it was the earlier books in the series that fetched the higher prices.

Another item of interest was lot 926: The Gentleman's Magazine: Or, Monthly Intelligencer for September 1733. 

This contains the essay Of the Game of Chess which was first published in The Craftsman for 15th September 1733. On 21st September 1733 a pamphlet was published, at Slaughter's Coffee-House, entitled A Letter to The Craftsman, on the Game of Chess, in response to this essay, and in 1734, Lewis Rou wrote a manuscript in New York with the title: Critical Remarks upon the Letter to the Craftsman, on the Game of Chess. Daniel W. Fiske borrowed this manuscript from Dr. George Henry Moore, librarian of the New York Historical Society in the 1850's, but it subsequently disappeared and became known as the Lost Manuscript of Lewis Rou. Fiske published a booklet with that title in Florence in 1902.

If this manuscript ever existed it would have been the first ever treatise on chess written in America, pre-dating Benjamin Franklin's Morals of Chess, the generally accepted first discussion of chess written or printed in America, by over 50 years. This item sold for only €10.

Two scarce early French works; Élémens Théoriques et Pratiques du Jeu des Échets, by Louis Hocquart, Paris 1810, and Cinquante Parties Jouées au Cercle des Échecs et au Café de la Régence, by L. Kieseritzky, Paris 1846, sold for €210 and €200 respectively.

Two variants of The Book of the Cambridge Springs International Tournament 1904, published by Fred Reinfeld's Black Knight Press in New York 1935, achieved good prices. The paperback edition sold for €80 while the cloth bound edition made €160.

Other tournament books in demand included lot 1148: Das zweite internationale Schachturnier in Karlsbad 1911, two volumes, Potsdam 1912, €160.

Lot 1156: The Chess Tournament, by H. Staunton, London 1852, €200.

Lot 1179: The Book of the Nottingham International Chess Tournament 1936, by W. H. Watts, London 1937, €160 (again, lacking the dust-jacket); lot 1185: Traité des Échecs et Recueil des parties jouées au Tournoi International de 1900, by S. Rosenthal, Paris 1901, €220.

Lot 1201: Im Land der Nussknacker, by Carsten Sicora, 2015, €170; and a collection of 101 of A. J. Gillam's booklets in his Rare and Unpublished Tournaments and Matches series sold for €420.

The Zeitschriften section included various volumes, but not complete runs, of American Chess Bulletin from 1905 to 1935, variously sold for €55 to €130; The British Chess Magazine, 1900 to 1955, all around €40; Deutsche Schachblätter, 1922 to 1940, €44 to €100; Deutsche Schachzeitung, 1864 to 1939, €15 to €160; Deutsches Wochenschach (und Berliner Schachzeitung) 1893 to 1916, €180 to €130; Oesterreichische Schachzeitung, 1873 to 1875, €50 to €440 for 1875; Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond, 1902 to 1946, €15 to €160; and Wiener Schachzeitung, 1898 to 1937, €15 to €78.  But perhaps the most interesting items were the fourteen bound volumes of the chess columns from Münchner Neueste Nachrichten from 1889 to 1902. These beautifully bound rare chess columns sold for between €100 and €340 per volume.

Top price in the periodical section was €500 for the 24 individual issues, in original wrappers, of The International Chess Magazine for 1890 and 1891. 

All prices quoted exclude the buyers premium of 15% and tax of 7%. 

The auction was admirably conducted by Karl Klittich, ably assisted by his hard-working staff, and all 800 lots went under the hammer in about four hours.  This included internet bidding which slowed down the process occasionally, and you certainly have to be on your toes as many lots are sold in under ten seconds. The auction house extends excellent hospitality to its patrons with refreshments provided throughout the day.

Many thanks to the the auction house for permission to use the above illustrations.

The next auction will be held in June 2018.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Beginners Chess by Bobby Fischer, and Bobby Fischer for Beginners

The Unknown Bobby Fischer, by John Donaldson and Eric Tangborn, Seattle 1999, is full of fascinating facts about Fischer and the final chapter, Works by and about Bobby, begins by listing six works by him. 

These include his well known books  Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (written in collaboration with Stuart Margulies and Don Mosenfelder), My 60 Memorable Games, Chess Meets of the Century (with Dimitrije Bjelica), and the extraordinary pamphlet "I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!"

The sixth item on the list is Beginners Chess, which is in fact, a cheap plastic chess set and board with 84 pages of chess lessons, produced in 1966 by Milton Bradley the board game manufacturer from Springfield, Masachusetts. 

The teaching sheets are placed under a plastic window and by progressing through the lessons the game is gradually explained to the absolute beginner.

Only on page 75 do you get to play through the first game and this is the two-move Fool's Mate. The notation is straight out of the eighteenth century.

It is unclear how much, if anything, Fischer had to do with these lessons, it is probable that he simply endorsed the product, as stated on the accompanying leaflet, although he had presumably approved the advice given.

John Donaldson confirms:

"Everything I have read suggests he only endorsed it. Andy Soltis told me it did not sell well, coming out a few years too early."

Beginners Chess was brought out in the same year as Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (1966) but I can see no similarities between the two, the latter work being a far more advanced course of instruction. In any event, the latest evidence indicates that Fischer had only a minor involvement with that book, see Edward Winter's Chess Notes, CN 10547. 


In 2010, New in Chess published Bobby Fischer for Beginners by Renzo Verwer,  an English translation of the original Dutch work Bobby Fischer voor beginners, Uitgeverij Aspekt 2008.

From the back cover:

This is very much a tabloid biography of Fischer with chapter headings such as Bobby Fischer was my first boyfriend. The book skims through his chess career and concentrates more on Fischer's failings and idiosyncrasies. Verwer quotes at length from the notorious interview with Ralph Ginzberg which took place in August 1961 and published in Harper's Magazine in January 1962, and which portrayed eighteen year old Fischer in a very poor light. 

The book also includes ten of Fischer's well known games, Tournament results, Statistics, Sources, and Glossary of chess terms. 


© Michael Clapham 2017

Monday, 23 October 2017

William Lombardy

Sports Illustrated, January 21 1974, page 69

William James Lombardy died on 13th October and, aside from all of his chess achievements, it was interesting to read in his obituaries that he had become disillusioned with the Catholic Church in the 1970's, and disappointing to read of his financial difficulties in later life; however, very little was mentioned about his chess writings.  

Lombardy was keen to share his knowledge and experiences and he wrote or co-authored several chess books including :

Modern Chess Opening Traps, New York 1972. (Also published as Snatched Opportunities on the Chessboard in London 1973).

U.S. Championship Chess: with the games of the 1973 tournament, New York 1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess Panorama, Radnor, PA c1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess for Children, Step by Step, Boston  c1977, written with Bette Marshall. (There are also German and Danish editions).

Guide to Tournament Chess, New York c1978, written with David Daniels. 

6e Interpolis Schaaktoernooi 1982, Tilberg 1983, written with R.G.P. Verhoeven.

Understanding Chess, My System, My Games, My Life, New York 2011.

Lombardy was listed as a Contributing Editor of American Chess Quarterly from 1961 to 1965 and wrote regular articles for that magazine, generally with annotated games demonstrating various openings. 

Volume one number two included a brief Biographical sketch of William Lombardy on page 46.

Lombardy also contributed articles to American Chess Bulletin, Chess Life and later Chess Life & Review.   

The sixteen year old Lombardy was featured on the front cover of Chess Review for October 1954 in recognition of his victory in the New York State Championship for that year.  Lombardy drew with Florencio Campomanes in the final round to clinch the title.

He was also featured in My Seven Chess Prodigies by John W. Collins, New York 1974, and wrote the Foreword for that work. 

In 1974 Lombardy wrote an eight page article for Sports Illustrated entitled A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma, this starts on page 64 (nice touch) of the January 21st 1974 magazine, and he recalls many of the behind the scenes events both before and during the World Championship Match of 1972, where he acted as an informal second to Bobby Fischer. Lombardy also recollects some of Fischer's abysmal behaviour and quotes a remark by Miguel Najdorf which summed up the situation pretty well: "Bobby wants 30% of the gate and 30% of the television, but he doesn't want the audience or the television".

Lombardy concludes his story by relating how he obtained Fischer's first autograph as world champion when he persuaded the new title holder to sign his copy of My 60 Memorable Games in the car back to the hotel after the final game of the match.  

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017