Thursday 30 March 2017

Alekhine's articles for B. H. Wood's Chess magazine

When Baruch H. Wood launched his Chess magazine on 14th September 1935 he naturally had lofty ambitions and signed up the world chess champion, Alexander Alekhine, for a series of articles. Wood described this as "a series absolutely unique in the periodical literature of modern chess" in the November 1935 issue on page 85.

The first article by A. A. Alekhin appeared on pages 7-8 of the very first issue of Chess in September 1935. This was titled The win with the black pieces and Dr. Alekhin annotated his recent win over Förder of Palestine in the International Team Tournament at Warsaw. 

Further articles appeared in the October and November 1935 magazines in which Alekhine (now with a final "e") gave commentary and analysis on the first and third games of his world championship match with Dr. M. Euwe, which had commenced on 3rd October.

However, by the time of the December issue, Alekhine had all but lost his title and did not provide articles for this or the January 1936 magazine. (There was a statement from Alekhine on page 124 of the December issue, explaining his comparative lack of success so far in the match, and Alekhine's annotations to the 19th game of the match were included on pages 189-190 of the January 1936 magazine). 

B. H. Wood reminisced about this situation in his column in The Illustrated London News in 1949, and this item was reproduced on page 197 of The Treasury of Chess Lore by Fred Reinfeld, London 1955.

"He retired like a wounded lion to his château in France, and for weeks I could not get a word out of him. Finally, I had to issue my magazine without the article from his pen that had been promised. The time came to send off his monthly cheque. What to do? I deliberated a while, then sent it off as usual. I was sorry for him. Within a few days came two such articles as I have never printed before or since."

Wood does not specify the two articles referred to, but the February 1936 magazine had two very candid contributions by Alekhine. These appear on pages 222 to 226 with the titles The move that lost the title and The inside history of a "bad" game. Alekhine gives revealing commentary on the match and analyses the 24th game, which he drew, and the 25th game, which he lost. The second article is dated 3rd February 1936.

The following account of the conclusion of the match is on pages 385-386 of Chess for June 1936, after giving the moves of the thirtieth and final game:

This photograph shows Euwe and Alekhine singing the Dutch national anthem at the victory ceremony after the final game on 15th December 1935:

There were no further contributions from Alekhine until the May, June and July 1936 magazines which included articles on Curiosities in simultaneous play, The Bad Nauheim Tournament and The Dresden Tournament, respectively. 

Wood's investment in Alekhine's articles appears to have paid off, as on page 5 of the first issue of volume 2, September 1936, Wood claimed that "Chess has more than double the circulation of any other chess magazine in the English language." 

                                      © Michael Clapham 2017

Tuesday 21 March 2017

More early dust jackets

René Wukits of Lanzenkirchen, Austria has sent to me images of the following early chess books with dust jackets, from his collection:

My Best Games of Chess, 1908-1923, by Alexander Alekhin, London 1928.

The Game of Chess, by Dr.  S. Tarrasch, London 1935.

The Art of Chess Combination, A Guide for all Players of the Game, by Eugène Znosko-Borovsky, London 1936.

Strategy & Tactics in Chess, by Dr. M. Euwe, London 1937. 

As mentioned in my article of 3rd January 2016, the very earliest dust jackets were quite plain and were intended to protect the book only up to the point of sale. More colourful jackets started to appear in the 1930's and the above jacket for Znosko-Borovsky's book is a fine example.

Pre-1930 dust jackets seem to be very scarce, we now have three examples, all published by G. Bell & Sons, Ltd. Further examples would be welcome.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2017


Tuesday 14 March 2017

Masters of the Chess Board with additions by Claire Amez-Droz

Previous owner's embellishments to their books are often as interesting as the books themselves, if not more so. This copy of Masters of the Chess Board by Richard Réti, London 1933, was previously owned by Claire Amez-Droz, and she filled the book with newspaper cuttings featuring herself, and made many pencilled notes throughout the book. 

Mlle. Amez-Droz was born in Switzerland but lived most of her life in England. A regular London League player in the 1930's and early 1940's, she won the Women's Chess Championship of London in 1938 and 1939. By profession she was an accomplished violinist performing under the name of Miss Salonja Zema.

Some sample cuttings and comments:

Comments and doodles at the end of the game between Tarrasch and Tartakower, Berlin 1920: 

Comments at the conclusion of Steinitz v von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895:

Two handwritten Morphy games have also been pasted in just before the chapter on Paul Morphy.

The book includes two postcards dated circa 1934 from Mrs E. Heath who was a fellow competitor in the 1938-39 Women's Chess Championship of London.

Also tipped in to the book is an extract from the very scarce West London Chess Club Gazette for March 1944 with an obituary for Mlle. Amez-Droz.

A brief notice of her death was reported in The British Chess Magazine for March 1944 on page 58.

The British Chess Magazine had previously included a game by Claire Amez-Droz in its February 1942 issue on page 32.

Incidentally, Réti's much acclaimed Masters of the Chess Board is one of a surprising number of well known chess books published posthumously, I will list several that I know of in a future article.

                                            © Michael Clapham 2017


Sunday 12 March 2017

Stradivarius versus chess books

From the i newspaper, 11/12th March 2017:

Why is a Stradivarius violin, of which there are about 550 surviving examples, worth several million dollars while The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress, by William Steinitz , New York 1891, for example, of which there are no more than 500 copies, only worth several hundred dollars? 

Anyway, for those who collect chess books with one eye on the investment potential, it was encouraging  to see some spirited bidding on many of the lots in last week's auction of chess books and memorabilia at the Lund Chess Academy. See

Several bibliographical items fared well, the top lot was A Few Old Friends, 2nd edition, by David DeLucia, which fetched €277, followed closely by a 1940 catalogue  from Albrecht Buschke featuring general, chess and medical periodicals, realising €276. Chess: An Annotated Bibliography, 1st edition, by Douglas Betts sold for €135, and a Frank Hollings chess book catalogue from 1923 made €83.

Other good prices were achieved for the following:

Essai_analytiques sur Les Echecs avecs figures, by M. Chapais, €180
Das grosse Schachturnier zu London, in Jahre 1862, by Berthold Suhle, €161
Chessmen by Donald Liddell, signed by Frank Marshall and others, €212
Chess Monthly by Hoffer & Zukertort, volumes I, II and III, around €110 each
South African Chess Player 1965-66, edited by L. R. Reitstein, €111
Steinitz with Zukertort, by Harrie Grondijs, limited edition of 75, €200. (There are seven times more Stradivarii than this!)
Scunthorpe 1961, Congress of the Appleby-Frodingham Club, €69. This is probably much rarer than a Stradivarius, but demand is obviously much lower.

The next Lund Chess Academy auction starts on 1st June although chess books are constantly on sale on their website.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday 9 March 2017

Further early Fischer tournament books

On Bobby's birthday here are some more books covering his early tournaments.
A Record of the Proceedings of the Second and Third Rosenwald Trophy Chess Championships, New York, 1955/56, edited and arranged by Jack Spence, published by The White Castle Press (c.f. Fred Reinfeld's Black Knight Press) Omaha, 1958. Betts 25-244.

This is a nice hardback cloth-bound book compared with the usual ring-bound productions of Jack Spence's limited editions; there is no indication of the number printed of this particular limited edition, although the copy examined is No. 48.

The Third Rosenwald Tournament was held in New York from 7th to 24th October 1956 (although Bobby Fischer states October and November on page xiv of his book Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, and both Profile of a Prodigy by Frank Brady and Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games give the date as 1956-57), and this invitational tournament was Fischer's most important to date. According to Frank Brady (Profile of a Prodigy, 1965 edition page 18, 1973 edition page 16) invitations were extended to the 12 players considered the best in the country.

Thirteen year old Fischer started poorly and ended in eighth place with a score of 4½/11 after winning just two games. However he was still the sensation of the tournament on account of his "game of the century" against Donald Byrne in round 8. 

The tournament was also notable in Fischer's career as it was here that he first met Samuel Reshevsky over the board, eventually losing on time in a probably lost position. Reshevsky won the event, losing only to Donald Byrne in round one.

All 66 games are included, some without notes and others annotated at length including Fischer's much acclaimed win over Donald Byrne, with notes by Hans Kmoch

This book includes reports on the first four Rosenwald tournaments; Fischer did not play in the first two but here is part of the report on the fourth Rosenwald and United States Championship for 1957/58 which was covered in my earlier article:

Games from the United States Chess Championship and 6th Rosenwald Trophy Tournament, New York City, 1959-60, edited by Jack Spence, Omaha, limited edition of 140 copies. Although the Preface is dated April 1960, and this is the date given at Betts 25-291, the copy examined includes a page of adverts dated 1962.

The tournament was spread across three venues with four rounds taking place at West Side YMCA, two at the Marshall Chess Club (been there), and five rounds at the Manhattan Chess Club. Fischer's participation was only confirmed after a dispute regarding the public drawing of pairings. Hermann Helms, who reached the age of 90 a few days after the event, supplied the daily reports to The New York Times.    

By 1960, sixteen year old Fischer was already regarded as the leading young player in the world and a strong contender for the world championship. He won his third consecutive U.S. Championship ahead of Robert Bryne and Samuel Reshevsky; first prize was $1,000. Reshevsky was leading after three rounds but Herbert Seidman beat him in round four with a double piece sacrifice. Robin Ault unfortunately lost all eleven games (been there).

The interesting item About the Players gives their ages, occupations and hobbies (outside of chess); no hobbies are listed for Fischer. 

The only pictures are of Bobby Fischer, with a misspelled caption, which was actually taken in June 1957,  and Arthur Bisguier the U.S Open Champion.

Here is the photo of Fischer from the plate section of The Games of Robert J. Fischer by Robert G. Wade and Kevin O'Connell:

A round-by-round commentary is given and all 66 games, some annotated. Here is Fischer's brevity against Herbert Seidman in round seven:

and this is his victory over Sidney Bernstein in round eight:

My thanks to Owen and Kathleen Hindle for the loan of the above two books.

Stockholm Interzonal Tournament 1962.

I can't say too much about this 64 page booklet as there are no identifying details. There is no title page, no date, no names of author/compiler, printer or publisher, no preface or introduction. In fact there is virtually no text throughout the book. This is quite a mystery as it is not recorded in either Betts or Lusis and it is not held by either the Cleveland Public Library or the National Library of the Netherlands.  I bought it for $5 in New York in 2007.

This is the first page:


This publication simply records the 258 games, in descriptive notation, from the 23 round Interzonal. Fischer was undefeated and finished 2½ points ahead of a very strong field. There is a Progressive Score Table and a Crosstable of Play, and also an Openings Index.

Fischer's games against Bertok, Bolbochan and Korchnoi are included in My 60 Memorable Games; here is page 53 of the booklet with his game against Bolbochan:


I also have the following publication covering the same event: 

Medjuzonski šahovski turnir 1962, Štokholm, by Miloš Petronić, Belgrade 1962. 


This has much more information than the previous publication with a title page, list of competitors, round-by-round results and a four page introduction by Nikola Karaklajić which unfortunately I cannot read. 

All games are given without notes in continental algebraic notation, but the highlights for me are the photographs, though generally poorly reproduced. All are uncaptioned but here is a smartly dressed Fischer:

Tigran Petrosian and Fridrik Olafsson:

Svetozar Gligorić and Pal Benkö:

Lajos Portisch and Gedeon Barcza:

and these two have just cycled to the event:

Many thanks to René Wukits for help in identifying some of these players.

                                         © Michael Clapham 2017