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

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