Thursday 23 February 2017

Here's one you haven't got

Hints on Correspondence Chess Play, also, A History of the Association, its Objects, etc., published by the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, Chicago 1905.

The Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association was formed in January 1896 and was named in honour of H. N. Pillsbury, the recent winner of the Hastings Chess Tournament, 1895. The main aim was to provide chess competition for the many players nationwide who were unable to visit chess clubs which were usually only found in major cities.

This 12 page pamphlet is not recorded in Betts' Bibliography and the only copy that I can trace is held by the Cleveland Public Library, whose copy is also dated 1905, although this had already been published by 1897 according to an article about the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association on pages 89-90 of American Chess Magazine for July 1897.

The pamphlet mentions the issue of Bulletins containing annotated games from the many tournaments that it organised but I can find no trace of these.   

Following a brief history of the Association there are two articles giving general advice on correspondence chess play. 

The first article is by Rev. Leander Turney who recommends the following books on the openings:

The German Handbuch - "The best book on the openings" 

Chess Openings Ancient and Modern by Freeborough and Ranken - "best and most complete", in English.

Cook's Synopsis

The Modern Chess Instructor, Part I, by W. Steinitz - "one of the best works on the openings treated" 

Rev. Turney also gives the following ten Maxims:

The second article is by Walter Penn Shipley who gives advice based on his own experiences of correspondence play, and recommends the following books:

The German Handbuch - "the most accurate of all the books on the openings"

The Modern Chess Instructor, Part I, by W. Steinitz

Chess Openings Ancient and Modern by Freeborough and Ranken 

Shipley also refers to J. H. Bauer's Schach-Lexikon, first published in Vienna in 1899, describing this as "a very small book which gives the first ten moves of 2,000 games, and where they can be found".

As can be seen, my copy of this pamphlet is in poor condition; it is heavily marked and soiled, and the brittle paper is quite fragile.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017


Monday 20 February 2017

The Chess Openings by H. E. Bird

I bought this at the Cambridge Book Fair at the weekend:

The Chess Openings, Considered Critically and Practically by H. E. Bird, London 1878. 

This is not especially scarce or sought after, but what a wonderful front cover! They just don't make them like that anymore.

This book features a three-part folding frontis containing three problems by A. P. Barnes forming Bird's initials, H. E. B.

Henry Edward Bird was inspired to write Chess Openings during his trip to North America in 1876 and 1877. He visited Montreal, New York and Philadelphia, where he finished third in the Fourth American Chess Congress of 1876.

Betts 13-18 dates this work to 1877, stating that this date was taken from the Preface. However, although the two introductory articles are both dated 1877, the Preface is actually dated April 1878, and Bird explains that he had originally intended to publish in America in late 1877 but "circumstances rendered it desirable for me to return and publish it here" i.e. London.

It seems that the book was ready for the press in America in 1877 but Bird was unable to find a publisher to take charge of the work and, although this was eventually printed and published in London, the endpapers include three large adverts for New York based businesses.  

Three times, in the introductory pages, Bird acknowledges that there are more elaborate and comprehensive works on the chess openings, referring particularly to R. B. Wormald's The Chess Openings and Staunton and Wormald's Chess: Theory and Practice, and explains that his book presents a condensed, but more digestible, form of the openings. The book includes many of Bird's own opening innovations and novelties.

Bird's book was, in fact, one of the earliest chess books dedicated to the openings, published in English, certainly one of the first ten.

The board position on the front cover, and on the title page, is taken from a sparkling game between the Rev. G. A. MacDonnell and S. S. Boden, and shows the situation after white's 20th move. The continuation is given on page 198. (see below). This game is included in Bird's Chess Masterpieces, on pages 61-62, and can also be found on pages 248-249 of 500 Master Games of Chess by Dr. S. Tartakower and J. du Mont.


The analysis of the openings includes many illustrative games, most of which were taken from Bird's previous book Chess Masterpieces, published in London in 1875. 

The Appendix has 27 Noteworthy Positions many of which are also included in Chess Masterpieces

Bird briefly mentions his book Chess Masterpieces in the introductory pages, stating that the third or American edition was to be published in June 1878 with the co-operation of Mr. I. D. J. Sweet, but I am not aware of any edition apart from the first.

Few Victorian chess books were complete without a selection of problems, and Bird included 15 in the problem section on pages 219 to 236 of Chess Openings. However, there is some confusion here as only the first eleven problems are listed in the index; page 231 gives a game which should have been included in the earlier part of the Appendix dealing with recent positions and variations; and page 232 should have been included with the Noteworthy Positions pages.

The book is completed by two lists of subscribers, firstly in America and Canada and secondly in England (including Scotland).

Scribbled notes and comments in these old books by previous owners are often interesting and this book includes the following alterations:

"fast" has been amended  to "first" on page [1].

The game between Mieses and Anderssen, mentioned on pages 86, 182 and 195, has been corrected to Rosanes - Anderssen. This is game 21 from Chess Masterpieces where it is described an an Allgaier but is in fact a Kieseritsky. This is also game 2 in Masters of the Chess Board by Richard Réti, London 1933.

Previous owner also suggests B to Q5! for black's 10th move on page 105, and K to K4! (instead of K to Q3) for Morphy's 40th move on page 199.

Anyway, back to that beautiful cover, which was also available in green, red and brown.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday 16 February 2017

The Chess Amateur and William Moffatt

There is considerable bewilderment in bibliographical sources regarding the editor of The Chess Amateur, the entertaining and wide-ranging periodical, published in Stroud, England, from October 1906 to June 1930.

Betts 7-54 states "No principal editor is given in the text; various regular contributors."

Chess Periodicals by Di Felice simply repeats the information from Betts.

The Chess Amateur did indeed have many regular contributors, including Philip H. Williams, the problem editor from its inception until his death in 1922. Other contributors included Carslake Winter-Wood, Rhoda A. Bowles, Alain C. White, Thomas R. Dawson (a major contributor), Rev. Edward E. Cunnington, Isidor Gunsberg, Cyril S. Kipping (succeeded P. H. Williams as problem editor),  William A. Fairhurst and William Moffatt.

Timothy Harding, in his excellent article British and Irish chess magazines, 1837-1914, at his website states in the entry on The Chess Amateur: "The editor is never named; Frideswide Rowland said it was W. Moffatt."

All other sources that I have checked, including the National Library of the Netherlands, the Cleveland Public Library, the British Library and the usual chess reference works are silent on the matter, although Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess (1977) says that Fairhurst was a major contributor, and The Batsford Chess Encyclopedia (1990) copies Golombek almost word for word.

However, The Year-Book of Chess, 1914 edited by M. W. Stevens and published by Frank Hollings in 1915, names Mr. Moffatt  (of Stroud, Glos.) as the editor of The Chess Amateur on page 308, following a review of his book Memorable Chess Games. The Year-Book repeats this information on page 314 in its list of Periodical Chess Literature (and also names W. E. Moffatt as chess columnist of the School Guardian).

Furthermore, Moffatt declares that he is the editor of The Chess Amateur in an item on the laws of chess on pages 34 and 35 of the November 1912 issue of his periodical:

The obituary to Moffatt, following his death on 16th October 1918, on page 36 of The Chess Amateur for November 1918, began:

"It is with great regret that we have this month to record the death of Mr. W. Moffatt, who was mainly instrumental in founding The Chess Amateur twelve years ago, and had since given devoted service to the journal as editor."

An article about the British Chess Company at gives Moffatt's year of birth as 1843, but this is at variance with the statement in his obituary in The Chess Amateur that he died in his 77th year. In any event he continued editing The Chess Amateur well in to his seventies.

William Moffatt founded the British Chess Company with William Hughes in 1891 and the BCC competed with Jaques of London in the production of chess sets. Moffatt designed the BCC's Royal chessmen which are remarkably similar to the Staunton pattern.

BCC's Royal chessmen designed by Moffatt

He also designed a chess set for use by blind players which was manufactured and sold by the National Institute for the Blind and the accompanying label  states "Designed by the late W. Moffatt (Editor of The Chess Amateur) and F. H. Merrick (Chess Editor of Progress)" The latter was a magazine for the blind.

Through the British Chess Company Moffatt was involved in the publication of a number of chess books including several by Rev. E. E. Cunnington and the three volume set of Classified Chess Games by C. T. Blanshard. He also published his own book Memorable chess games, brilliants and miniatures, Stroud 1913. which was printed in a limited edition of 365 copies.  

In the 1890's Moffatt was instrumental in the formulation of The British Chess Code, which was drawn up with the assistance of William Turnbull and Rev. Edward Cunnington, and first published in 1893 at Moffatt's expense.

Moffatt was obviously an influential figure in British chess in the latter part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century and it is therefore surprising that he did not merit an entry in Gaige's Chess Personalia.

I am grateful to Owen and Kathleen Hindle for assistance with this article. 

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Monday 6 February 2017

Bobby Fischer's early tournaments

Books covering Bobby Fischer's early tournaments are thin on the ground. Only one of his first nine tournaments from February 1955 to July 1956 has an associated tournament book in English, that is for the United States Junior Championships held in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1955. 

Furthermore, of the first twelve tournaments in which Fischer played, and for which there are tournament publications, nine are Limited Editions by Jack Spence, some of these very limited with less than 100 copies printed. The others include a book on the Canadian Open Chess Championship held in Montreal in 1956, by Daniel Yanofsky, and two B. C. M. Quarterlies covering the Portoroz Interzonal Tournament of 1958 and the 1959 Candidates Tournament held in Yugoslavia. Some of these books were published a considerable time after the event.

There were no books published in English on three tournaments in which Fischer competed in 1959, Mar del Plata, Santiago and Zurich and, similarly there are no books in English on two of his 1960 tournaments, Mar del Plata and Reykjavik, nor on Fischer's first Olympiad held in Leipzig in 1960.

I have a few of these publications on Fischer's early tournaments as follows:

A Selection of Games from the Tenth United States Junior Championship, Lincoln, Nebraska, published by Jack Spence in 1955.

The booklet consists of 20 sheets of paper stapled together and was printed in a limited edition of only 75 copies. This was the first tournament publication to include games by Bobby Fischer.  The tournament was won by Charles Kalme, a handsome unassuming youth from Philadelphia, according to Spence, and his prize was a $75 suit.

Fischer, the youngest competitor at 12, was virtually unknown at the time, and was not even mentioned in  Spence's introduction. He finished in 20th place out of 25 competitors scoring two wins, six draws and two losses. 

The booklet has 75 games, without notes, including four of Fischer's games. Here is his win against James Thomason in round three:

Games from the United States Chess Championship and Fourth Rosenwald Tournament, New York City 1957-1958, edited by Jack Spence, Omaha, 1958.  

This limited edition of 150 copies was a more professional production than the previous item, the 46 leaves being ring bound with proper covers. However, it is still a typescript stencilled on the rectos only.

Fischer, aged 14, won the event ahead of Reshevsky with a score of 10½-2½ winning $600. He was now the star of the show and featured prominently in Spence's Preface.

All 91 games are included, most with a short review of the opening and the course of the game. There are also round by round results and commentaries. Here is Fischer's first round win against Arthur Feuerstein.

All of Fischer's games from this event are featured in Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, New York and London, 1959, with his annotations written at the age of 14 and 15.

The tournament counted as the U.S.A. Zonal event and Fischer therefore qualified to play in the Interzonal Tournament to be held in Portoroz in August and September 1958.

1958 Interzonal Tournament Portoroz , August - September 1958, published by The British Chess Magazine , London 1958. B.C.M. Quarterly No. 2.

Bobby Fischer, aged 15, finished in joint 5th place in this, his strongest tournament to date, 1½ points behind the winner Mikhail Tal. This achievement qualified Fischer for the forthcoming Candidates Tournament and he was also awarded the Grandmaster title, becoming the youngest ever GM. In fact, at that time, no one as young as 15 had even been awarded the International Master title. Today the IM record is held by Praggnanandhaa who gained the title aged 10 !!

This book has a long 12 page introduction by A. S. Russell which included a detailed discussion of each player's performance. Here is what Russell had to say about Fischer:

Round by round score tables are provided and all 210 games are given without notes. There are indexes of openings, endings and the games. The book also has one tiny caricature of Tal measuring about 4cm. x 3cm., but no other illustrations.

The scores of Fischer's 20 games are also in Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, publication of which was delayed to enable these games to be included. 

Zurich May - June 1959, by Miloš Petronić, Belgrade 1959.

Fischer finished joint third in this very strong tournament, one point behind the winner Tal. This booklet has an introduction by Svetozar Gligorić and all 120 games are given without notes. A crosstable is provided together with portraits  and very brief one paragraph biographies of the 16 players.

1959 Candidates Tournament, Bled - Zagreb - Belgrade, September - October 1959, by Harry Golombek, London 1960. This book was published after the World Championship match held in the spring of 1960. 

A short introduction by Harry Golombek, the chief arbiter of the event, is followed by an explanatory note on the algebraic notation used in the book. Each of the 28 rounds is reviewed and all 112 games are annotated in some detail.  

Fischer scored 12½ points out of 28 finishing in joint fifth place out of the eight competitors, 7½ points behind the winner Tal. Bent Larsen was Fischer's second at this event.

Here is one of Fischer's four losses to Tal:

There are indexes of the games, openings, end-games and, very unusually, middle-games. The only portrait is the one of Tal on the front cover.

Leipzig Olympiad October - November 1960, by Miloš Petronić, Yugoslavia 1960.

Fischer played 18 games on board one for the U.S.A in this his first Olympiad, scoring +10 =6 -2. The U.S.A. team finished second to U.S.S.R. with Yugoslavia in third place.

The introduction by Aleksander Matanović is followed by 65 games without notes including six by Fischer. This cheaply produced booklet has a few interesting photographs including the following shot of Fischer and William Lombardy:

More of Fischer's tournaments in the 1960's another time.

                                     © Michael Clapham 2017