Thursday 31 August 2017

The Chess Problem, a scarce periodical

The Chess Problem, edited and published by Robert McClure of Whitburn, West Lothian, commenced in November 1942 and ran for 108 issues up to March 1948. 

I have recently acquired all issues from No. 34 for 16th February 1944 up to No. 108 for March 1948 of this fortnightly magazine and, as this is almost impossible to find, I will describe it in some detail.

Further information on this magazine can be found in an article by John Beasley in The Problemist for May 2003, which has been reproduced in the biographies section of the chessscotland website. The Chess Problem was launched with the aim of filling the gap created by the suspension of the chess column in the Falkirk Herald following the death of that column's editor in 1942, and, in fact, this was the only British chess periodical which commenced operations during the war years.

The Chess Problem is also briefly mentioned in T. R. Dawson's Problem World article in The British Chess Magazine, January 1943, page 21, and in C. S. Kipping's Problem Pages in Chess, June 1943, page 149.

BCM January 1943, p 21
Chess June 1943, p 149

The early issues consisted of a single sheet of paper folded in half to create four pages, and, unfortunately, the paper size is slightly larger than foolscap so that my scans are cropped.

Issues 34 to 86 were part printed and part duplicated with hand-stamped diagrams and text, or perhaps each copy was individually hand-stamped.        

Pages from issue No. 34:

The basic layout of the early issues was a hand-stamped end game study on the printed front/title page, with a stamped issue no. and date. Some problems Selected From Early Days were stamped on page 2, six printed problems appeared on page 3, and hand-stamped solutions and corrections to earlier problems were included on page 4.

Issue No. 35:

From No. 41 an additional leaf was attached inside increasing the size to 6 pages, this included an End Games article by M. W. Paris and the end game study no longer featured on the front page. However, Nos. 57 to 75 (January to September 1945) reverted to four pages and Paris's End Games articles moved to page 2.

Issue No. 41:

Issue No. 60:

It was announced in Issue No. 62 that M. W. Paris was making a collection of Endings on the lines of the "White-Hume" Problem Collection, but  I have been unable to find any further details of this.

Issue No. 65 carries the first of many regular adverts by Dr. A. Buschke, the New York chess literature dealer, while No. 66 advertises The Chess Correspondent, Official Magazine of the Correspondence Chess League of America, noting that this includes master and correspondence games, fully annotated by Fred Reinfeld.

There was a hiatus in publication of three months between issue No. 76, 1st October 1945, and issue No. 77, 9th January 1946, and there was only one End Games article between October 1945 and June 1946 due to the long serious illness of Mr. Paris.  

The editor published a letter to his readers in issue No. 81, March 1946, appealing for financial contributions to assist with the purchase and installation of a printing press. McClure noted that the present circulation was 160, and increasing with every issue. He promised to double the size of the magazine with the new press. 

The appeal was successful and from No. 87, 29th May 1946, a fully printed eight page magazine was produced in a slightly smaller format (which now fits in the scanner). 

Issue 87:

The magazine was further improved from issue No. 91 onwards with proper covers for the first time, these were variously blue and pink. Issue No. 91 also announced the International Composing Tourney for End Games, conducted by L'Italia Scacchistica, to be judged by Dr. Jean Mennerat, the well known French chess bibliophile, and R. Bianchetti of Italy.

Publication became erratic from August 1946, with up to six weeks between issues. From 1st November 1946 the magazine was produced twice monthly and then monthly from No. 101, February 1947 to No. 105, June 1947. There was then a gap of seven months to No. 106 for January 1948 owing to a break-down in the editor's health due to overwork, and only two more issues were published, ending with No. 108 in March 1948. 

Issue No. 106 had announced a new series on Chess Problemists of the World but this appeared only once, in No. 107, with problems by G. Mott-Smith of New York. 


There is no indication in the final issue that this would be the last and I can find no further information about Robert McClure or the reasons for the abrupt discontinuation of his magazine. A total of 802, mainly original, problems from around the World were published during the magazine's life and these included help-mates, retractors, fairy problems etc. Only solutions up to 740 had been printed before publication ceased.

Pages from the final issue:

These magazines came with a sheaf of papers which mainly include solvers comments on previous problems, and I assume that these were distributed with the relevant issue. Some of these have lists of books for sale by Dr. A. Buschke printed on the back. There is also an eight page leaflet on Fairy Chess Problems which appears to be written in McClure's hand. 


The National Library of the Netherlands, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, has a full run, with the editor misnamed as MacClure, but I cannot trace this in the Cleveland Public Library. The British Library has issue No. 3 and most issues from 30 to 106 (lacking 40, 75, 104, 107, 108). As noted in John Beasley's article in The Problemist, the British Chess Problem Society also has a full set.  

                                             © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday 24 August 2017

Summer acquisitions

I have acquired several unusual and interesting chess publications during my travels over the Summer and below are brief details of a selection of these, starting with some problem related items:

Report on First Problem Solving Contest for Schools, by G.P.Bowell.

This joint report by the British Chess Problem Society and the Chess Education Society is not listed in Betts' Bibliography and is undated, however this problem solving contest is referred to in the Annual Report of the BCPS for the year ended 31st August 1945; this latter Report is in The Problemist magazine for November 1945, pages 192-193.

Six weekly Papers, each containing three two-move problems, were completed by 505 pupils from 51 schools, and 50 competitors scored full marks. A second problem solving contest for schools was held in the year ended 31st August 1946 with 379 competitors from 47 schools.

This Report includes the six Papers, the 18 problems, notes to assist the pupils, solutions, and a Score Sheet listing all of the individual results. 

The above Report came with a run of 26 issues of The Problemist from 1944 to 1948.  

This is the bi-monthly periodical of the British Chess Problem Society and here are a few book-related snippets from these issues:

November 1944, page 147: Comments on the elusive Christmas Series book on Robert Braune, Apôtre de la Symétrie.

July 1945, page 176: A summary of a lecture by M.W. Paris on his chess library.

January 1946, page 203: Book Reviews.

July 1946, page 224: Additions to the Society's library.

July 1946, page 225: Obituary to C. D. Locock noting his chess works. 

July 1948, page 322: Additions to the Society's library.

Awards in Problem Tourneys, 1943-44, 1944-45, 1945-46, 1946-47, 1947-48. Published by the British Chess Federation. Betts 32-29.

This annual publication ran from 1930 to 1979, and the five issues above each cover three problem composing tourneys, giving around 25 to 30 winning compositions from each tourney with solutions and judges comments. Each issue also has an Introduction, Announcement of forthcoming tourneys and the final results from the previous year's tourneys as three months were allowed for claims in respect of anticipation, cooks or other defects. There were many such claims each year.

Shown here are pages from the 1945-46 issue together with Notes on the 1945-1946 Tourneys from the 1946-47 issue; note that the winning composition in Tourney no. 50 was subsequently found to be "cooked".

Finally, two pamphlets by Rev. Noel A. Bonavia-Hunt:

A Study in Simultaneous Pinning of White Force in the Two-Move Chess Problem, Stroud 1948. Betts 35-8.

Mutual Line-Pin Strategy in the Two-Move Chess Problem, Stroud 1948. Betts 35-9.

These are the first two in a series of twelve Research Pamphlets by Bonavia-Hunt published between 1948 and 1953 on various problem composing themes.

More recent additions to my library next time.

                                             © Michael Clapham 2017

Wednesday 16 August 2017

The Illustrated London Magazine

The illustrated London News is probably the most famous Victorian magazine to include a regular chess column, on account of Howard Staunton's stewardship from 1845 to 1874, followed by Robert Wormald (1874 to 1876), Patrick Duffy (1876 to 1888) etc. 

Much less well known is The Illustrated London Magazine: A Monthly Journal, launched in July 1853 with a chess column from August 1853 onwards. 

The editor of the chess column was initially Elijah Williams, author of Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club, London 1845 (one of several pre-1850 books included in Betts' Bibliography, which ostensibly covers the period from 1850 to 1968), and Horae Divanianae, London 1852.  

The chess column continued eratically until at least September 1855 by which time the title of the periodical had changed to The Illustrated Magazine, under which name this is listed in Ken Whyld's Chess Columns: A List, Olomouc 2002, with a note fom AJG (Tony Gillam) suggesting that this is The Illustrated London Magazine. However, Elijah Williams' editorship is not mentioned.   

The introduction to the first chess column in August 1853 describes Williams as one of the most distinguished chess magnates of the day, and the plan was to give original chess matter in the shape of "first-class London chess games actually and recently played by first-rate masters, together with skilful problems, a series of elementary lessons, chess intelligence etc."

The August chess column included one problem and two games, September included problem No. II and games 3 to 6, with a note that the solution to problem I had been held over to next month. October included problem No. III, games 7 to 11 and Elementary Lessons for Young Players No. 1, but no solutions to any of the problems. There were no chess columns in the November or December 1853 issues.

The next column did not appear until March 1854 and there were no further chess articles in volume II of The Illustrated London Magazine. Thanks to Ian Laing of Blacket Books, Edinburgh for this information.
Elijah Williams died in September 1854 and I do not know who continued the chess column.

The full chess columns for 1853 follow and it is possible that the games by such leading players of the time as Löwe, Barnes, Boden, Buckle, Williams etc. cannot be found anywhere else. They are not, for example, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games 1485-1866 by D. Levy & K. O'Connell, Oxford 1981, although that work is very incomplete as only important games, and those from major tournaments and matches, were generally included.

August 1853:

September 1853:

October 1853:

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017