Sunday 30 April 2017

Wizards of the Chessboard

Fred Reinfeld from the back cover of Chess: How to win when you're Ahead

In the 1940's Fred Reinfeld compiled a number of master's games collections including: The Immortal Games of Capablanca in 1942, Keres' Best Games of Chess, 1941, followed by an extended edition in 1949, Tarrasch's Best Games of Chess, 1947 and The Unknown Alekhine in 1949. Reinfeld also issued two books in the series Wizards of the Chessboard

Book I: Botvinnik the Invincible, published in 1946. 

In his Foreword, Reinfeld states; "There is fairly general agreement that Botvinnik is the greatest living master." (Alekhine had died earlier in 1946), and that one of the objects of the book was to educate American chess players as to the style of Russian players generally and Botvinnik in particular. This followed the crushing defeat of the U.S.A by the U.S.S.R in the radio match held in 1945.

The ten page introduction gives biographical details of Botvinnik's chess career, this is followed by Botvinnik's Tournament and Match Record up to 1945.

The book includes 62 games from 1926 to 1945, each with a brief prefatory note and annotations by Reinfeld. 

Here is the introduction to game 30 against A. Lilienthal at Moscow 1936: 

and here is Botvinnik's exciting 18 move draw against Alekhine at Nottingham 1936:

Book II: Nimzovich the Hypermodern, published in 1948. 

Reinfeld explains in his short Introduction, which is dated August 1947, that  he did not propose to repeat his description of Nimzovich's career, as this had recently been included in his revised edition of Nimzovich's My System  published earlier that year. 

The 58 games in this collection were each given a catchy title and were generally "short, sharp, witty encounters". Every game has a brief introduction and Reinfeld's lucid annotations.

Here are the introductions to a few of the games:

You could hardly expect Reinfeld to out-annotate two of the greatest annotators in these two books, but the notes and comments are in his usual clear, simple and understandable style.

From the rear of the dust jacket for Nimzovich the Hypermodern:

An advert at the back of this book gives details of a third book in this series, on Paul Morphy, but alas, this did not appear.

Published by David McKay, these two books are much more common in America than on this side of the Atlantic but I was fortunate to buy both of these on a visit to Bob Jones of Keverel Chess Books in Exmouth, Devon this week.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Additions to Betts' Bibliography

Further to the earlier article, here are a few of the many American publications which escaped the net.

The Commercial Chess League of New York (organized 1923), 50 Selected Games from Tournament Play, 1935 to1952.   

This 54 page publication, which is stapled into card covers, was published by The Commercial Chess League of New York, but the editor/compiler is not named. All games are given without notes, in descriptive notation, together with an index of players and teams. 

Drueke's Chess Primer, published by Wm. F. Drueke & Sons, Inc, Grand Rapids, Michigan.



Again the author is not named and this 30 page booklet is undated, but reference is made to F.I.D.E.'s 1929 Laws of Chess as translated by the British Chess Federation in 1931. 

The illustrations on the front cover, title page and page 3, all display Drueke's unique and attractive octagonal based chessmen, as do the adverts at the rear;  perhaps this booklet was issued  with Drueke's chess sets.

The book gives basic instructions for beginners, and includes Technical Terms (with some dubious definitions), The Laws of Chess, some simple Openings, one illustrative game (Morphy v the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard), and one problem composed by Wm. A. Shinkman. 

and just in case you haven't seen it lately:

The Cleveland Public Library lists another book published by Wm. F. Drueke, in 1917, with the title A Beginner's Book of Chess; this is also not recorded in Betts.


E. S. Lowe's Chess in 30 Minutes, published by E. S. Lowe Company Inc., New York 1955.



The verso of the title page states "Copyright 1955 by Edward Young" and this is one of several books by Young which are not recorded in Betts. Others include:

A Pocket Guide to Chess Endings, publ. I & M Ottenheimer, Baltimore 1955
Chess at a Glance, Baltimore 1955
A Pocket Guide to Chess Combinations and Sacrifices,  Baltimore 1955
A Pocket Guide to Chess Pitfalls,  Baltimore 1955
A Pocket Guide to Chess Openings, Baltimore 1955
Chess: The Way to Win, publ. Castle Books, New York 1960

In fact the only Edward Young book recorded in Betts is The Complete Chess Player, London 1960. 
Edward Young was a pseudonym for Fred Reinfeld. 

This is another beginners's book, although much more comprehensive than Drueke's Chess Primer. The 94 pages give instructions on the game in Reinfeld's typically lucid style, with many examples of play illustrated with chess-board positions. The book includes seven clearly annotated games, each teaching a different opening, and showing how to capitalise on your opponents mistakes. 

There are four pages of adverts at the rear for E. S. Lowe's chess sets.


Movagram No. 1, Lasker vs Capablanca, St Petersburg Master's Tournament 1914. Published by The Victoria Company, Bloomington, Indiana 1924.


I have already discussed this small book in the article on Chess Books featuring a single game. There is no title page, and virtually no text apart from the Note on page 2, and the light notes to the moves, stated to be by Dr. Lasker.  The Note erroneously implies that Lasker defended his world championship title by winning this game.

This 87 page book shows, with a diagram for every move, the crucial 18th round game won by Lasker. This is described as "one of the most dramatic and famous games in all chess history" by Dale Brandreth in his 1993 book on the St Petersburg Tournament.

Regarding the scarcity, or otherwise, of these items, I can find no record in any library catalogue or bibliography of the Commercial Chess League and Movagram works, but the booklets by Drueke and E. S. Lowe are very common, with any number available on the internet.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday 15 April 2017

The Year-Books of Chess, 1907 to 1916 Part 3

The Year-Book of Chess, 1913, London 1914.


It was All Change Here! this year; the title page now includes "Founded by E.A.Michell", and the Preface announces that the Year-Book has changed hands and is now the exclusive property of Mr. Frank Hollings. Several improvements were planned for this and future editions, including "a tolerably complete list of all works on the game published during the twelve months". Unfortunately this did not come to pass.

Some regular features of previous editions had been omitted to make room for new material this year; namely an article on Kriegspiel by W. H. Stephens, Brilliancies, with examples of recent striking short games, and a 44 page Addendum with particulars and games from the early part of 1913.  

There is also a Review of Modern Chess Openings, second edition (revised), 1913, by R. C. Griffiths and J. H. White. This concludes:

The General Review of the Year was written by E. A. Michell and the main events from 1912 were the international tournaments at San Sebastian, Pöstyen, and Breslau, each won by Rubinstein, (jointly with Duras at Breslau). However, Michell again comments that "England is very nearly non-existent as far as International Chess is concerned" This was the final contribution from Michell who subsequently pursued his career as a concert director. 

Several other events are detailed in the 220 odd pages of tournament and match coverage including a third match between Marshall and Janowsky in Biarritz, 1912, and the Alechin v Levitzky match held in St. Petersburg, 1913. 

Here are a couple of interesting adverts at the back of the book:


The Year-Book of Chess, 1914, edited by M. W. Stephens, London 1915.

The outbreak of war in Europe was not only blamed for the late publication of this edition but, more seriously, caused a hiatus in international competition for several years. The main event in 1914 was the Grand International Masters' Tournament at St. Petersburg, for which entries were extended to include Alechin and Niemzowitsch, and where Emanuel Lasker and Capablanca met over the board for the first time. Many other tournaments and matches are reported on including the unfinished Mannheim Tournament. 

New features this year include the End-Game Section by C. E. Cecil Tattersall:

Also Periodical Chess Literature, giving details of dedicated chess periodicals and newspaper and magazine chess columns from around the world. The editor acknowledges that this first attempt at such a list is "lamentably deficient" but hoped to improve on this in future years.

There are articles on Chess Organisation in Great Britain by R. H. S. Stevenson, A Brief History of the Ponziani by W. H. Watts, The Muzio Gambit by T. Hamilton, and Kriegspiel by W. H. Stephens.
Several books are reviewed this year including two of A. C. White's Christmas Series books, and Chess Strategy by Edward Lasker, reviewed by.... Edward Lasker! 

Ed. Lasker's review continued for another two pages.

Other books reviewed include The Grand International Masters' Chess Tournament at St Petersburg, 1914, The Second Player in the Chess Openings by Colonel R. K. Teversham**, and Staunton's Chess Player's Handbook, revised and edited by E. H. Bermingham, which is slated. But the promised list of new works on chess did not appear.

** The Second Player in the Chess Openings, London 1914, is mentioned in a, tongue in cheek, remark by Michael MacDonald Ross on page 102 of Bob Meadley's must read for chess book buffs: A Letter to Bert, (A medley about chess libraries, dealers and collectors), available online.

From page 102 of A Letter to Bert

The selection of Brilliancies includes the following:

An advert for Mortimer's Chess Player's Pocket Book claims that this "has enjoyed a larger circulation than any other book on chess that has ever been published".  A wild statement not borne out by the number of surviving copies.


The Year-Book 0f Chess, 1915 and 1916, edited by W. H. Watts and A. W. Foster, London 1917.


The editor for the 1914 Year-Book had departed for military service and the joint editors for this final edition were W. H. Watts and A. W. Foster. The Problem Section had also changed hands from P. H. Williams to H. G. Hughes.

The Preface, by the joint editors, gave the usual apology for the lateness of publication and acknowledged that, in the absence of the Continental chess magazines, they had drawn heavily from the chess columns of The Field, (now conducted by Amos Burn).  The editors also welcomed the new Chess Annual for 1915, published by British Chess Magazine, viewing this as a supplementary work rather than  a rival publication.  

There were no major international tournaments during these two years and it was often difficult to  obtain information on the few events that did take place. However, the editors managed to include reports and games from the New York Masters' Tournament of 1915 and the Rice Memorial Tournament of 1916, both won by Capablanca, and 100 pages are devoted to these events.

The Leopold Trebitsch Tournaments of 1914 and 1915, both won by Schlechter,  are included, as are various tournaments amongst the Russian players interned in Germany, in which Bogoljuboff fared particularly well, winning three of the tournaments reviewed and finishing second to Flamberg in the other.   


Some Historic Blunders. W. H. Watts gives over twenty examples by famous players.

Problem Tourneys and their Methods. G. W. Chandler discusses some of the difficulties in conducting satisfactory problem tournaments.

Chess Coincidences. W. H. Watts highlights some similarities in chess problem compositions, positions reached in over-the-board play, and even whole games, citing striking similarities between Lasker-Bauer, Amsterdam 1889 (game No. 2 in Dr. Lasker's Chess Career by Fred Reinfeld), and Niemzowitsch-Tarrasch, St. Petersburg 1914. (game No. 24 in the tournament book mentioned above). Watts concludes his article with the following chess doomsday scenario:

In another chapter on Kriegspiel, Alfred W. Foster claims that "the Year-Book contains the only authoritative information on Chess Kriegspiel which has been published in the English Language."

The End-Game Section by Tattersall and the Problem Section by Hughes make their final appearance, and the adverts at the rear include these recommendations by Frank Hollings:

And so ended the ten year run of this useful and informative publication, which had often been produced under difficult circumstances, but which had provided an important record of world chess events.   

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017