Friday 7 April 2017

The Year-Books of Chess, 1907 to 1916 Part 1

E. A. Michell launched his series of Year-Books in June 1907, aiming to provide chess players with reference material in the form of a club directory, tournament reports, score tables, statistics etc., and study material in the form of games annotated by the world's leading authorities. Michell implied that chess had not hitherto had an annual reference work, overlooking, for example, the Chess Player's  Annual and Club Directory published in the 1880's and 1890's, and the Schach-Jahrbuchs by L. Bachmann and J. N. Berger in the 1890's.

The Year-Book of Chess, 1907, edited and published by E. A. Michell, London 1907.

The Preface and Introductory Remarks in the 1907 Year-Book include an acknowledgment that much of the information had been taken from various chess periodicals including Wiener Schachzeitung, The British Chess Magazine, La Stratégie, Deutsche Schachzeitung, American Chess Bulletin, Lasker's Chess Magazine, Tidskrift för Schack, Tijdschrift, Časopis Českých Šachistů, Revue d'Échecs, Rivista Schacchistica Italiana and many others. The chess columns of various newspapers were also consulted and Michell lavished particular praise on Leopold Hoffer's columns in The Field.

Michell concluded his prefatory remarks by stating: "The belated appearance of the Year Book for 1907 is due to a number of causes, which it would be tedious to discuss here. Suffice it to say that in future the Year Book will appear regularly in the January of the year for which it is dated." 

The Year-Book for 1907 includes the following four articles:

On Odds by G. W. Richmond: Ten pages discussing games at odds with examples by Staunton, Anderssen, Harwitz and Steinitz.

The Ostend Tournament by I. Gunsberg: A twelve page report on the organisation and competitors of this curiously arranged 1906 event, by its director. 
Some Chess Celebrities whom I have met by Rhoda A. Bowles: This lady had apparently met, played against, or corresponded with all of the great chess players of the time and here she gives her, possibly fanciful, recollections of Pillsbury (made her house his English home when in London), Dr. Lasker (romped on the hearthrug with her Persian kitten while she was beating Maróczy at chess with an opening shown to her by Marshall), Steinitz (burst into tears on meeting her at the Hastings Congress of 1895, after his fourth consecutive loss, but played his brilliancy against Bardeleben the next day after she had consoled him and pinned a buttonhole to his coat), Pollock, Schiffers and James Mason.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury by L. Hoffer: This is in effect a brief obituary of Pillsbury who had died in June 1906, with such statements as "As a blindfold player Pillsbury's record will never be beaten." and "Pillsbury has enriched the theory of the game... the demolition of the Berlin Defence of the Ruy Lopez...".

The main part of the work is the extensive coverage of  tournaments held in 1906, with results, cross-tables and annotated games from the Russian National Tournament, Stockholm Tournament (40 pages), Scottish Chess Association Congress at Glasgow, Ostend Congress (70 pages), Nuremburg Congress (38 pages), British Chess Federation Congress at Shrewsbury and a few other minor events. 

Other items include: Masters' Averages, 1906, headed by Carl Schlechter with 71.05%,  Chief Prize Winners of International Masters' Tournaments since 1881,
The Year-Book of Chess, Problem Section by Philip H. Williams, which includes a review of Les Tours de Force sur L'Échiquier, the third book in A. C. White's Christmas Series.   

The Chess Club Directory lists around 900 clubs in Great Britain and Ireland, with over 200 in London alone.

There are adverts at the end for The British Chess Magazine, The Chess Amateur "has double the circulation of any existing chess publication",  and The Year-Book of Chess, 1908.

The Year-Book of Chess, 1908, edited and published by E. A. Michell, London 1908.

My copy has the bookplate of W. H. Watts, a later editor of the Year-Book and proprietor of the publishing firm Printing Craft.


Much of the Preface, which is dated June 1908, is taken up with an apology and excuses for the late arrival, however "January can safely be put aside as the probable month" of publication for the 1909 book.

There are only two preliminary articles this year:

General Review of the Year by L. Hoffer: Hoffer comments on the great strides made by chess over the previous twenty years, particularly regarding the number of master tournaments and the increase in prize money available in both matches and tournaments. He then discusses several events from 1907 including tournaments held in Vienna, Ostend, Carlsbad, Berlin, Lodz and the B.C.F. Congress held at Crystal Palace, London. He also discusses the match between Emanuel Lasker and Marshall, and gives Brief Biographical Sketches of the Younger Players including Ossip Bernstein and Akiba Rubinstein, both aged 25 in 1907, Niemzovitsch (21), Tartakover (20), Erich Cohn (23), Walter John (28), Billecard (31), Forgács (26), Paul Johner (20), and Spielmann (23).  

The History of the Queen's Gambit, Accepted and Declined, by Señor J. Pillado: The author discusses the evolution of these openings so that the reader obtains a knowledge of the principles underlying the theory rather than details of the numberless variations.

The next 220 pages cover at length the main events of 1907, viz. the Vienna International Masters Tournament, the Lasker v Marshall match, the Anglo-American cable match, the Championship Tournament at Ostend, the Carlsbad Tournament and a few lesser events. 

Akiba Rubinstein topped the Masters Averages for 1907 with 71.87%. 

The problem section, edited by P. H. Williams, and the chess club directory are again present, and this year there are indexes of the circa 160 games and openings. 

The Year-Book of Chess, 1909, edited by E. A. Michell, London 1909.

The 1909 Year-Book was jointly published by E. A. Michell and Frank Hollings, but not until June 1909. However, it was expected that future editions would be available in February or March. 

A fine portrait (tissue guarded) of H. E. Atkins, the 1908 British Champion appears as a frontispiece, and another new feature is the chapter entitled Scores in the Chief International Tournaments from 1851 to the Present Day. This included scores and cross-tables from over 50 events during the period 1851 up to 1907

Otherwise the format was similar to previous years with a General Review of the Year by Michell which included Biographical Notes on the Six Players of the Year for 1908. These were Emanuel Lasker, Maróczy, Schlechter, Akiba Rubinstein, Oldrich Duras and H. E. Atkins.

The other preliminary article is A Study in Contrasts, in which Philip W. Sergeant compares the two games, Lasker v Steinitz, Montreal 1894, and Lasker v Tarrasch, Dusseldorf 1908, which both commenced with the same first eight moves, and were both won by Lasker on the 55th move after following contrasting courses.  

Part III of the book, covering 200 pages, deals with the tournaments and matches held in 1908, including the world championship match between Lasker and Tarrasch, matches between Janowsky and Marshall, Marshall and Mieses, Niemzovitsch and Spielmann, Rubinstein and Teichmann etc. The tournaments covered included those held in Vienna, Prague, Dusseldorf, and the British Championships at Tunbridge Wells.

Duras and Schlechter topped the Masters Averages for 1908, both achieving 72.36%.

The chess club directory is supplemented with a list of the leading chess clubs in South Africa supplied by Mr. B. Siegheim of Johannesburg.    

I had hoped to include all nine volumes in one article but this has proved much too lengthy, so further Year-Books will be examined next time, starting with the  1910 edition which was not published until August!

                                     © Michael Clapham 2017

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