Saturday 20 May 2017

Betts Analysed

Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works published in the English Language, 1850-1968 by Douglas Betts has a total of 2,769 entries in 55 Sections. This includes 145 in section 7-General chess periodicals, 78 in section 8-Yearbooks,  and 18 in section 42-Problems periodicals.

Leaving these periodicals and yearbooks aside for the moment, the total number of entries is reduced to 2,528. However, this vastly overstates the actual number of original chess works for the following reasons:

1. Different editions of the same work, e.g. the same book published in London and New York, have separate entries.

2. Later editions are recorded separately, e.g. a later paperback or Dover edition of an earlier work.

3. 100 entries are simply articles in other works in the Bibliography, and not publications in their own right; e.g. entries 2-2 to 2-6 in section 2 on Organisation.

4. Many publications are entered in more than one section because the content is relevant to each; e.g. 19-10 Strategy & Tactics in Chess by Max Euwe which is also recorded at 18-4.

5. There are many (193) non-chess works listed which have only partial chess content. The majority of these are in section 44-Chess in fiction, and for example, nine of the twelve books in section 41 are books on recreational mathematics with some chess puzzles. An extreme example, of the non-chess works listed, is 5-7, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages in which the chess content is restricted to just two of the 478 pages.

Taking all of this into account and looking at section 10-General works, for example, 159 of the 320 entries are different or later editions of previously listed books, and section 23-Collections of end-games includes nine different or later editions and nine books entered in other sections, leaving just 13 original works out of the 31 entries. An exceptional example is section 44 where only 18 of the 167 entries are dedicated chess works, and these are novels.

The majority of entries in most sections are for original chess publications, but I calculate that the number of duplicated entries and non-chess works is 976, leaving 1,552 original chess works out of the total of 2,528. 

See the table below for a full analysis:

From a bibliographical point of view it is obviously important to record every edition of each work, and this information is very useful to collectors, librarians, book sellers, chess-players, problemists, authors and editors; but here I am trying to establish the number of original chess publications.

Some "later editions" of a work are substantially different from the original edition, and these have been counted as separate books. Take for example Eugene Cook's American Chess Nuts recorded at 32-6 and 32-7. The first edition included 404 problems in 72 pages whereas the second edition had 2,404 problems and 627 pages, so these are obviously two very different books.

A few notes on some of the sections:

Section 1 - Bibliography. 
Betts has listed a few auction catalogues with major chess book collections and several book dealer's catalogues with some works on chess, but he has omitted the most acclaimed and sought after item - Quaritch's 1929 catalogue of Rimington-Wilson books. There must be several hundred other catalogues by dealers, auctioneers and collectors which are not recorded.

Section 25 - Tournaments.
Entries 25-5, 25-9, 25-12, and 25-13 have German text only.

Out of the 399 original works in this section at least 250 are typescript productions often recording just the moves of the games with little else. These pamphlets are useful records of the events covered but have none of the features usually associated with a classic tournament book such as New York 1889 or Hastings 1895. They are tournament books, but not as we know it, Jim.

Section 54 - Chessmen 
Although Betts included many chess book catalogues in the bibliography section, he did not include any auctioneer's, dealer's or collector's catalogues in the section on chessmen. There are, no doubt, a large number of these catalogues which are a very useful reference source for chess piece collectors and historians etc.

Reverting now to the periodical publications, there has long been a debate about how these should be counted. Should it be every single issue, each volume, or the series as a whole? Betts has taken the normal approach of recording complete runs of a periodical as a single item. Although in the section on yearbooks he has sometimes listed long sequences of these as one item, and sometimes given each year an individual entry. 

The problem with listing, for example, 88 volumes of the British Chess Magazine as a single item is that this gives a very misleading number of chess books available. For this exercise I have taken the approach of counting each volume of a periodical as one item, and if volume numbers are not ascertainable I have counted each year's run as one item. 

Many periodicals ended after just a few issues (at least four folded after only one issue), and these have been counted as one item, whereas a periodical that ran for 20 years, without volume numbers being evident, has been counted as 20 items.

The periodicals section in Betts is very incomplete, as he acknowledges, and furthermore, it is impossible to ascertain the full publication details of many entries. However, with the help of Di Felice's Chess Periodicals, I have drawn up the following table giving the number of volumes/years for each periodical. This shows that the 145 entries in section 7-General periodicals, comprise around 1,000 volumes/years.

I have compiled similar tables for section 8-Yearbooks, and section 42-Problem periodicals. Incidentally, there are also a few periodical publications listed in other sections, including Ken Whyld's Chess Reader which is listed in the Bibliography section at 1-52. See also 13-173, 13-176, 24-86 to 24-92, 24-106 to 21-110, 32-29, 32-48.

                                          © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday 11 May 2017

Chess Masterpieces

A number of chess books have this title.

Chess Masterpieces, by H. E. Bird, London 1875  


This was Bird's first  chess book and he explained in his Preliminary Remarks that he had endeavoured to illustrate the various styles of all the great masters, and claimed to have examined all the recorded games of the principal players since 1849. Bird had originally selected 250 games but these had been whittled down to 150 plus five games played before 1849 and a further two in the Addenda, to fill in a blank space. The book is dedicated to Herr Kolisch.

The author gives a useful breakdown of the source of the games, and makes interesting observations regarding the lack of match play in recent years.

Anderssen features in 43 of the games, 32 are by Morphy and 27 by Bird, including 14 of his losses. The dates and occasions are sometimes given and most games have very light notes.

Betts records only one edition of this work but there are variants. In my green covered copy the printing is slightly crisper, possibly indicating an earlier printing, and this book includes an additional title page featuring a chess problem. The Preliminary Remarks are dated June 1875 (no date in the brown edition), and page 140 has additional information on games 29 and 49 which is not included in my brown covered edition. 

In 1887 Bird's Modern Chess and Chess Masterpieces was published. This included 207 games, almost half by Bird.

Chess Masterpieces edited by W. H. Watts, London and New York 1924 



Watts observes, in his Introduction, that collections of master games are the most popular type of chess book, noting that "many chess books have proved unacceptable to the chess-playing public" without specifying any types or titles. 

Watts included 50 games played by the best players of the last 50 years and this therefore follows on perfectly from the period explored in Bird's Chess Masterpieces.

The scores of the games and some of the notes were taken from many sources and these are acknowledged on the final page.

Photographs and short biographies of prominent players are printed on glossier paper, and these are stated to be taken from Chess Pie, The Official Souvenir of the International Tournament, London 1922; but the biographies are shortened and some of the photos differ. 

The next book with this title was:

Chess Masterpieces by Frank Marshall, New York 1928. 


I do not have this book which includes one "best game" by each of 22 masters with annotations and biographical notes.

There are many other books with Chess Masterpieces in the title including:

Colle's Chess Masterpieces by Fred Reinfeld, first published in 1936.

A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, by Fred Reinfeld, London 1950.


This contains a good selection of 100 games by British and Commonwealth players from 1798 to 1948. However there are no games by Staunton since, according to Reinfeld, "it takes too much time to find a game by him which one can enjoy".

Every game is introduced with Reinfeld's engaging and perceptive remarks and the book is full of his entertaining annotations. Reinfeld's chess knowledge and his capacity for imparting this in his books is quite extraordinary. Here are a couple of examples of his game introductions:

Other titles include:

Selected Chess Masterpieces, by Svetozar Gligorich, London and New York 1970.


Gligorich's first chess book that was originally published in English, is a compilation of his Game of the Month features from Chess Review covering the period from 1965 to 1969. 45 games are included (four of Gligorich's) and each game has an enticing introduction and extensive notes by the author.

Lesser Known Chess Masterpieces 1906-1915, by Fred Wilson, New York 1976   


This book contains 335 games reprinted from the nine volumes of The Year-Book of Chess, 1907 to 1915/16.

Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces by Hans Kmoch, New York 1941.


This work was originally published as Rubinstein Gewinnt, Vienna 1933 and includes 100 fully annotated games from 1907 to 1931.

                                   © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday 6 May 2017

Fischer's early tournaments (Part 3)

Three more tournament books featuring Bobby Fischer from the 1960's.

Jubilarni Medjunarodni Veleturnir, Bled 1961

Edited by Anton Preinfalk and published in Ljubljana, Slovenia (formerly part of Yugoslavia) in 1962. 

The title translates into English as Jubilee International Tournament, although this event is commonly referred to as the Alekhine Memorial Tournament in English language publications.  The event was held to commemorate the very strong tournament in Bled in 1931 won by Alekhine.  

According to Frank Brady in Profile of a Prodigy, 1965 edition page 25, 1973 edition page 27, Fischer had a following in Yugoslavia with at least one of the nation's chess clubs named after him.

I am obviously struggling with the language for this book but a good description, in English, of Fischer's performance at Bled can be found in Profile of a Prodigy, 1965 pages 57-59, 1973 pages 48-49, with the dubious interview between Dimitrije Bjelica, Fischer and Tal omitted from the later edition.    

Fischer scored his first ever win over Tal in this tournament, and was the only undefeated player, but, after drawing eleven of his nineteen games, he finished runner-up to Tal.

The book has an introduction by Edo Turnher, president of the Chess Federation of Slovenia, technical details of the event, including cross-tables, and all 190 games mostly with detailed notes. A forty page Theoretical Overview of the Openings by Varja Pirc completes the work.

The commentary on the games is by Tal, Gligorić, Keres, Petrosian and Geller. Curiously, Fischer's games are recorded first for every round, except the fifteenth, but only five of his games have annotations. These are by Gligorić and Tal, who analyse their own games against Fischer, and by Keres, who analyses the games against Geller, Matanović and Trifunović.

The book has many photos including the following featuring Fischer:

This appears to be an extraordinarily interesting book for Fischer fans and it is a pity that there is not an English translation.

United States Championship 1962/63

Edited by Walter Kühnle-Woods and published by Swiss Chess Agency, Zurich 1963.

The text is in both English and German, and this is one of the 143 works, out of 2,760 entries, not examined by Douglas Betts  when compiling his Bibliography.

This booklet came with an interesting bookmark apparently showing Fischer teaching, but possibly meaning studying:

Nineteen year old Fischer won the U.S Championship for the fifth time and qualified, with Bisguier, for the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal Tournament, but Fischer refused to play in that event. He lost his first round game against Edmar Mednis, and this no doubt inspired Mednis to write his 1974 book How to Beat Bobby Fischer, which analyses all of Fischer's 61 losses from 1958 to 1972. 

United States Championship 1962/63 has a brief introduction and commentary between some of the rounds, written in poor English, but probably perfect German. Kühnle-Woods was the editor of Schweizerische Schachzeitung and the bi-lingual periodical Chess Express/Schach Express.

All games are recorded in continental algebraic notation without notes and the booklet finishes with an Openings Index and an advert for further books published by Swiss Chess Agency. There are no photographs or illustrations.

Here is the commentary on the final round and Fischer's game against Bisguier:

United States Championship, New York, 1963/64

Published by Swiss Chess Agency, Zurich 1964, but the editor is not named.

The text is again in German and English, and this time the German text is placed first throughout the booklet. The only pictures are on the covers.

Frank Brady gives an exhilarating account of this tournament in Profile of a Prodigy, 1965, pages 84 to 86, with a slightly extended version on pages 74 to 76 of the 1973 edition. 

This was Fischer's sixth U.S. Championship and he sensationally won all eleven games. First prize was $2,000 and Fischer also won one of the two brilliancy prizes for his 21 move win against Robert Bryne.

The cross-table includes another little word-finder puzzle, did you spot the previous one in the 1962/63 book? A short commentary precedes each round and all games are included without notes.

Fischer's famous third round game against Robert Byrne is game 48 in My 60 Memorable Games, (one of four from this tournament featured in that book), and the introduction to this game on page 297 includes Byrne's memorable remark about the commentators:

An Openings Index together with sundry information completes the book.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017