Monday, 8 October 2018

A very rare chess pamphlet

Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge, in March 1831, published in Hatfield in 1831.

The British Chess Magazine, Chess Annual 1916, included an essay, on pages 5 to 13, written jointly by Philip W. Sergeant and B. Goulding Brown entitled Early Oxford and Cambridge Chess. Goulding Brown followed this up with a further article: The Critical Period of Cambridge Chess in the September 1917 issue of The British Chess Magazine, on pages 265 to 273, in which he enlarged and corrected the Cambridge portion of the first essay.

Both of these items included a footnote, on the first page of each, giving details of an 8 page pamphlet entitled Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge, in March 1831, published in Hatfield in 1831.

Footnote to BCM 1917 page 265

The first mention that I can find of this pamphlet is on page 243 of the bibliographical appendix to George Walker's short lived magazine The Philidorian, which ran from December 1837 to May 1838, and this also appears in the Bibliographical Catalogues in Walker's A New Treatise on Chess, third edition, London 1841, page 278, and fourth edition, with additional title, The Art of Chess-Play, London 1846, page 389. 

The Philidorian page 243, extract

Walker's references to this pamphlet were picked up by subsequent bibliographers and this item appears in Literatur des Schachspiels, by Anton Schmid, Vienna 1847, on page 266:

Schmid, page 266, extract

Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels, by Antonius van der Linde, Berlin 1874, zweiter band, page 74, and  Das Erste Jartausend der Schachlitteratur (850-1880), van der Linde, Berlin 1881.

Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels volume II, page 74, extract

This is also recorded at 1831:3 in Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850 by Ken Whyld and Chris Ravilious, but is not in Di Felice's Chess Competitions 1824-1970; An Annotated International Bibliography.

So, plenty of bibliographical references, but finding a copy is another matter. This pamphlet is not recorded in any of the major library catalogues such as those for The Royal Dutch Library, Cleveland Public Library, The British Library, the Cambridge University Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, etc. Nor have I found it in any bookseller's or collector's catalogues.

However, at least one copy does exist, or it did in 1932. Goulding Brown returned to this matter in The British Chess Magazine for October 1932 in an article on pages 431 to 435 entitled Early Oxford and Cambridge Chess: A Sequel.

On page 434 he discusses the Particulars of a Match at Chess pamphlet and confirms that he had had no replies to his previous request for information about any copies. Goulding Brown then revealed that a copy had been discovered hidden in a volume from the Rimington Wilson library bound up between William Lewis's two Series of Progressive Lessons on the Game of Chess, published in 1831 and 1832.  

This volume formed part of the Rimington Wilson auction sale held by Sotheby's in 1928 and subsequently appeared in Bernard Quaritch's Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Works...of the Game of Chess issued in 1929. Item 813. 

Quaritch catalogue, 1929, page 49, extract

Goulding Brown purchased this book from Quaritch and devotes several paragraphs of his BCM article to a description of this exceptionally rare leaflet. He describes it as a badly printed octavo of eight pages, containing the full scores of a three game match between two unnamed players, and he points out the historical importance of this being the very first separate publication of the complete account of a chess match between two players, as distinct from a correspondence match between two clubs.

This pamphlet had previously been in the possession of George Walker and had presumably been purchased by Rimington Wilson from the sale of Walker's library in 1874. On the title page Walker had noted the player's names as Mr. Gordon of Trinity College and Mr. Oppenheim, Professor of Languages, and that the match was won by the former.

Goulding Brown then tried to deduce the exact identities of these players before concluding with details of another MS. note by Walker to the effect that both were very weak players.  

The question is: where is this treasure now?

Friday, 5 October 2018

Recommended reading - in 1932

A stimulating series of articles and correspondence was launched with an item in The British Chess Magazine for July 1932 on pages 288/289: Some Reflections on Chess Authorship. This article was signed simply "S", (possibly Philip W. Sergeant) and the author lamented the poor financial rewards for chess writers. "S" wonders what is the most ever made out of a chess book and, while acknowledging that a few authors, such as James Mason and Edward Lasker enjoyed long sales runs of their works, his own experience was that "the game is not worth the candle".

"S" put the blame on the chess reading public for expecting to enjoy the game for next to nothing,  being unwilling to pay for their amusement, and for using the books available in clubs and libraries rather than buying their own copies.  

J. Keeble responded in a letter published in the September issue of BCM on page 402 in which he revealed that the print run of J. H. Blackburne's Games at Chess, London 1899, was 3,001 copies, bringing in £1,500 if all sold at ten shillings, therefore presumably making a profit.

"S" added a footnote to Keeble's letter suggesting that, even on these sales, which were good for a chess-work, the payments to Blackburne and his editor Anderson Graham would only have amounted to between £150 to £225, and concluded that "chess authorship has mainly the reward of virtue".   

The British Chess Magazine for October 1932, followed up with an article: The Chess Student and the Author on pages 436/437, having received a letter from W. F. Streeter of Cleveland, Ohio. 

Mr Streeter hit back, blaming the lack of chess book purchases on the authors for not providing what chess players are looking for, perceiving that chess writers were all too often content to tell the readers "What" without taking the trouble to tell them "Why".  He then requested details of books fulfilling the following criteria:

1. A book on the openings explaining the formations to be played for and the reasons for seeking such formations.
2.  A comprehensive textbook on the end-game.
3. A collection of games with annotations clearly explaining the player's objectives and the reasons for their moves.

The BCM article responded to Mr. Streeter's request by firstly making it clear that students should not expect to be spoon-fed everything, but should be encouraged to study and think for themselves, and then recommending the following English titles:

1. Chess Strategy by Edward Lasker, London 1915; The Modern Chess Instructor by W. Steinitz, London 1889; and Lasker's Manual of Chess, by Emanuel Lasker, London 1932. The latter work includes Lasker's views on education in chess exemplified by the following well known passage on page 337: 

2. The BCM did not know of any complete textbook on solving end-games but recommended A Thousand End-Games, by C. E. C. Tattersall, Leeds 1910, as covering the whole field.

3. The BCM suggested the collected games of Alekhine (by himself), Blackburne, Charousek, Morphy, Pillsbury, and Steinitz, together with various tournament books, without naming any particular titles.  


This article provoked further correspondence and two letters were published on pages 479-480 of the November 1932 magazine. The first was from F. E. Yewell who sympathised with Mr. Streeter's requirements of a chess book, stating that he had put into words the wishes of a considerable number of chess club members. He then makes a number of suggestions himself including two books by Znosko-Borovsky; The Middle Game in Chess and How Not to Play Chess.

The second letter, from C. A. S. Damant, gets straight to the point in stating that The BCM's reply to Mr. Streeter was "astonishing in its omission...... there is one book, and only one, that clarifies every phase of modern chess." The neglected work being My System by Aron Nimzowitsch, which Mr. Damant praises highly.

Of course, none of the above has diminished the appetite of most chess players for openings books enabling them to simply memorise long variations of moves by rote.

                                          ©Michael Clapham 2018

Friday, 28 September 2018

Another book featuring a single game

Back in January 2016 I gave details of a few chess books featuring a single game and here is another:

Дебют Алехина;  Партия, играннаг на парижском турнире в 1925 г.;  В карикатурах,  Составили Сезаъ и Ф. Цесельчукby, Mockba 1927.

Debyut Alekhina; Partiya, igrannaya na Parisskom turnire v 1925 g; v karikaturakh, by Sezab & F. Tsesel'chuk, Moskva 1927. LN 4672 (Humour section)

This little 16 page book covers the Alekhine Defence game played between Znosko-Borovsky and Alekhine at the Paris tournament of 1925. The moves are given with an expressive illustration and a caption.

The Foreword explains the difficulties in illustrating the artistry and skirmishes on a chessboard, and that this book is the first attempt to express in caricatures the struggle of a chess game.

The whole of this lively game is given first on page 3, followed by the move by move caricatures and commentary on pages 4 to 16.

"Quietly and simply I met with you.....An old wound has healed already".

A literal translation of the captions from Russian to English does not always make much sense, but there are possibly some allusions to the fact that both of these players had fled from Russia, ending up in France.

"But the gap that lay between us.......We are just familiar!...How strange"

"How strange it all is: since recently our proximity was immense, without borders"

....................................................."We are just familiar!...How strange"

"How strange!"

This is game 118 in Deux Cents Parties d'Echecs, (1918-1927), Rouen 1936, (ending with White's 34th move compared with White's 33rd in Дебют Алехина); and the game is also included in The British Chess Magazine  for June 1925 on pages 278-279. (ending after Black's 32nd move).   

Monday, 17 September 2018

Early Znosko-Borovsky

 The British Chess Magazine, 1921 page 172

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (1884-1954), is very well known for his popular chess books published between the wars, all based on his maxim that "chess is a game of understanding, not of memory", these include: 

The Middle Game in Chess, London, 1922.

How Not to Play Chess, London 1931. (See Preface for author's maxim given above)

How to Play the Chess Openings, London 1935.

The Art of Chess Combination, London 1936.

How to Play Chess Endings, London 1940.

These books were also published in other languages, and are frequently mentioned in the "Znosko-Borovsky" entries in various Western chess encyclopedias and dictionaries. However, none of these reference works, (with one exception*), give specific details of his earlier Russian chess books, and chess columns, all published in his native St. Petersburg between 1907 and 1913.   

Znosko-Borovsky's first chess publication was a tournament book on the 4th All Russian Chess Congress held in St. Petersburg in 1905/1906: IV Всероссийский Шахматный Турнир,  (IV Vserossiyskiy Shakhmatnyy Turnir), published in St. Petersburg in 1907. This is Sakharov (1968) 75, LN 5376, and only 500 copies were printed. 

In 1908 Znosko-Borovsky succeeded Chigorin, who died in January of that year, as editor of the chess columns in the St. Petersburg periodicals Novaye Vremya, and Niva. The first of these he conducted from January 1908 to April 1909, and the second from 1908 until 1916.

Znosko-Borovsky's first column in Niva, 1908

Znosko-Borovsky co-edited a book on the 1909 St. Petersburg International Tournament with Emanuel Lasker and Boris Malyutin: Международный Шахматный Конгресс В Память М. И. Чигорина, Петербург 1909, (Mezhdunarodnyi Shakhmatnyi Kongress v Pamyat M. I. Chigorina, S.-Peterburg, 1909), published in St. Petersburg in 1910. Sakharov (1968) 77, LN 5296, 1010 copies.

Also in 1910 he issued a general chess work, Пути Развитія Шахматной Игры, (Puti Razvitiya Shakhmatnoy Igry), (The Evolution of Chess),  with chapters on The Art and Science of Chess, Old and New Schools, The Tragedy of Chigorin, Lasker, Creativity of Schlechter, In the Future, and Chess Instruction. The first chapter is an historical article, and this book is listed in the history section of the LN catalogue at no. 259. it also appears in the Aucta bibliograpy, no. 1298. Sakharov (1968) 66, 1000 copies printed.

Puti Razvitiya Shakhmatnoy Igry, page 67

The following year Znosko-Borovsky issued the first monograph on Capablanca: Х.-Р. Капабланка, Опытъ Характеристики, (J. R. Capablanca-Opyt Kharakteristiki), St Petersburg 1911. (J. R. Capablanca: An Attempt at Characterisation). Sakharov (1968) 69, LN 3041. 

This 42 page book, based on lectures given by Znosko-Borovsky to the St. Petersburg Chess Society and the Moscow Chess Club, has no complete games but discusses in detail Capablanca's style of play, and gives as examples 15 positions and continuations from his games.  Seven of these positions are from  his 1909 match with Marshall, six are from his victorious tournament in San Sebastian in 1911, and the final two are from games against A. W. Fox played in 1906, and I. J. Sheffer in a simultaneous display in 1909.  

In the above game, against Sheffer, black's 19th move ....e4:f3, has been omitted. This game is also on pages 142/143 of The Unknown Capablanca, by Hooper & Brandreth, with the moves numbered one earlier.
Znosko-Borovsky's premise in his lectures, and in this book, is that chess players can broadly be divided between "time-men" and "space-men", roughly equating to the old combinative school of chess and the new positional school respectively. Assessing Capablanca's style of play up to 1911 the author comes down strongly on the time-man side.

The British Chess Magazine, obviously impressed by this work, devoted 10 pages to a detailed review on pages 57 to 64 and 100 to 102 of its 1912 volume, with long extracts translated into English.

Znosko-Borovsky's next book was a general chess handbook published in 1913: Кодексъ Шахматной Игры (Kodeks Shakhmatnoy Igry). Sakharov (1968) 94, LN 1306, 1000 copies printed.

This includes chapters on how to play and the rules of the game, the organisation of chess competitions, chess notation, a chess dictionary/glossary, and details of the rules, regulations and organisation of a number of chess associations, including draft statutes of the All-Russian Chess Union which was established in 1914.

Finally, Znosko-Borovsky wrote a book on the Muzio Gambit which was published in Leipzig in 1911, and Sakharov 63 records a textbook by A. Goncharov; Краткий Учебник Шахматной Игры, (A Brief Chess Tutorial),   which was printed/published by Znosko-Borovsky in 1914.

The outbreak of World War 1, followed by the Revolution of 1917 curtailed Znosko-Borovsky's chess publishing activities until the early 1920's, by which time he had emigrated to Paris.

* The exception is Dizionario Enciclopedico Degli Scacchi, by Adriano Chicco and Giorgio Porreca, Milan 1971, which mentions the chess columns edited by Znosko-Borovsky from 1908.

  Below are some of the books used for this article:

                                         ©   Michael Clapham 2018