Wednesday 25 October 2017

Beginners Chess by Bobby Fischer, and Bobby Fischer for Beginners

The Unknown Bobby Fischer, by John Donaldson and Eric Tangborn, Seattle 1999, is full of fascinating facts about Fischer and the final chapter, Works by and about Bobby, begins by listing six works by him. 

These include his well known books  Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (written in collaboration with Stuart Margulies and Don Mosenfelder), My 60 Memorable Games, Chess Meets of the Century (with Dimitrije Bjelica), and the extraordinary pamphlet "I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!"

The sixth item on the list is Beginners Chess, which is in fact, a cheap plastic chess set and board with 84 pages of chess lessons, produced in 1966 by Milton Bradley the board game manufacturer from Springfield, Masachusetts. 

The teaching sheets are placed under a plastic window and by progressing through the lessons the game is gradually explained to the absolute beginner.

Only on page 75 do you get to play through the first game and this is the two-move Fool's Mate. The notation is straight out of the eighteenth century.

It is unclear how much, if anything, Fischer had to do with these lessons, it is probable that he simply endorsed the product, as stated on the accompanying leaflet, although he had presumably approved the advice given.

John Donaldson confirms:

"Everything I have read suggests he only endorsed it. Andy Soltis told me it did not sell well, coming out a few years too early."

Beginners Chess was brought out in the same year as Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (1966) but I can see no similarities between the two, the latter work being a far more advanced course of instruction. In any event, the latest evidence indicates that Fischer had only a minor involvement with that book, see Edward Winter's Chess Notes, CN 10547. 


In 2010, New in Chess published Bobby Fischer for Beginners by Renzo Verwer,  an English translation of the original Dutch work Bobby Fischer voor beginners, Uitgeverij Aspekt 2008.

From the back cover:

This is very much a tabloid biography of Fischer with chapter headings such as Bobby Fischer was my first boyfriend. The book skims through his chess career and concentrates more on Fischer's failings and idiosyncrasies. Verwer quotes at length from the notorious interview with Ralph Ginzberg which took place in August 1961 and published in Harper's Magazine in January 1962, and which portrayed eighteen year old Fischer in a very poor light. 

The book also includes ten of Fischer's well known games, Tournament results, Statistics, Sources, and Glossary of chess terms. 


© Michael Clapham 2017

Monday 23 October 2017

William Lombardy

Sports Illustrated, January 21 1974, page 69

William James Lombardy died on 13th October 2017 and, aside from all of his chess achievements, it was interesting to read in his obituaries that he had become disillusioned with the Catholic Church in the 1970's, and disappointing to read of his financial difficulties in later life; however, very little was mentioned about his chess writings.  

Lombardy was keen to share his knowledge and experiences and he wrote or co-authored several chess books including :

Modern Chess Opening Traps, New York 1972. (Also published as Snatched Opportunities on the Chessboard in London 1973).

U.S. Championship Chess: with the games of the 1973 tournament, New York 1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess Panorama, Radnor, PA c1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess for Children, Step by Step, Boston  c1977, written with Bette Marshall. (There are also German and Danish editions).

Guide to Tournament Chess, New York c1978, written with David Daniels. 

6e Interpolis Schaaktoernooi 1982, Tilberg 1983, written with R.G.P. Verhoeven.

Understanding Chess, My System, My Games, My Life, New York 2011.

Lombardy was listed as a Contributing Editor of American Chess Quarterly from 1961 to 1965 and wrote regular articles for that magazine, generally with annotated games demonstrating various openings. 

Volume one number two included a brief Biographical sketch of William Lombardy on page 46.

Lombardy also contributed articles to American Chess Bulletin, Chess Life and later Chess Life & Review.   

The sixteen year old Lombardy was featured on the front cover of Chess Review for October 1954 in recognition of his victory in the New York State Championship for that year.  Lombardy drew with Florencio Campomanes in the final round to clinch the title.

He was also featured in My Seven Chess Prodigies by John W. Collins, New York 1974, and wrote the Foreword for that work. 

In 1974 Lombardy wrote an eight page article for Sports Illustrated entitled A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma, this starts on page 64 (nice touch) of the January 21st 1974 magazine, and he recalls many of the behind the scenes events both before and during the World Championship Match of 1972, where he acted as an informal second to Bobby Fischer. Lombardy also recollects some of Fischer's abysmal behaviour and quotes a remark by Miguel Najdorf which summed up the situation pretty well: "Bobby wants 30% of the gate and 30% of the television, but he doesn't want the audience or the television".

Lombardy concludes his story by relating how he obtained Fischer's first autograph as world champion when he persuaded the new title holder to sign his copy of My 60 Memorable Games in the car back to the hotel after the final game of the match.  

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Tuesday 3 October 2017

The CCLA Record

The CCLA Record, (Official Organ of The Correspondence Chess League of Australia) was launched in August 1948 and ran for 39 volumes to 1986 when it was succeeded by The Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly in 1987.

Although this national chess magazine had been running for over 20 years by 1968, surprisingly, it is not recorded in Douglas Betts' Bibliography. The magazine is recorded in Lusis, A206, and also in De Felice's Chess Periodicals, No. 457. Naturally, this is recorded in The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand by John van Manen, Sydney 1978, (No. 74), and fuller details are given in the much enlarged 4th edition of this work*, updated by Bob Meadley and Paul Dunn, published by the Ken Whyld Association in 2011, (No. 425). 

Several years ago I acquired 17 assorted issues of this quarterly periodical, from Clive Lane, the Australian chess book dealer, and the shipping costs were more than the cost of the magazines. Clive Lane traded as Fischerbooks but is no longer in business.

My copies cover the period from 1963, volume 16, to 1976, volume 28, and throughout this period the President of the Correspondence Chess League of Australia was C. J. S. Purdy, whose Chess World headquarters were used as a clearing house for the League's activities. The editor of The CCLA Record from August 1963 to February 1964 was Mrs F. A. Purdy, who I believe was Cecil Purdy's daughter-in-law.

The contents were a mixture of correspondence chess news, both national and international, annotated games, tournament announcements and results, rules, letters etc. The early 1960's magazines variously had  8, 12 or 16 pages but this increased to 24 and then 32 pages in the 1970's.

Membership numbers of the CCLA were regularly published in The CCLA Record and these provide a striking example of the effect that Bobby Fischer had on the popularity of chess worldwide during the 1960's and 1970's. In July 1963 membership numbered 781 and bumbled along below 900 until the late 1960's. However, by March 1973, following the Spassky-Fischer world championship match, membership had more than doubled to 1,977, but later slipped back to 1,392 in March 1976.

The August 1963 edition announced that two tournament books were nearing completion, both based on the Australian correspondence championships. However, it appears that neither was published.

The Games Section was often sparse, occasionally only one game would be included. November 1963 presented three, including the following miniature between M.Newman and W. Megier, which is annotated in rhyming couplets by the winner Maurice Newman, who manges to squeeze in Morphy, Lasker and Keres:

The May 1976 magazine gave details of all past winners of the Australian Championships from 1938 up to 1972.

This seems to be a scarce magazine with only limited availability. The National Library of the Netherlands has some issues from volumes 4 to 6, one issue of volume 22, and a run from volumes 25 to 30. The Cleveland Public Library appears to have no copies, but The M. V. Anderson Chess Collection in the State Library of Victoria has a complete set.
* The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand, 4th Edition is a very attractive book giving, not only full details of all known chess literature up to 2009, but a fine Tribute to John van Manen by Bob Meadley, followed by A Trip through Bob Meadley's Chess Library with many wonderful illustrations and descriptions of scarce chess publications from Down Under.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017