Thursday 8 February 2018

Chess book collecting in 2017 part 2

A further selection of books acquired in 2017.

"Among These Mates" (Chirpings of a Chess Chump) by "Chielamangus", Sydney 1939.

Chielamangus was a pseudonym of C. J. S. Purdy and this literary work was published in both soft-back and cloth bound editions with a print run of 3,000. This is the cloth bound edition with a lovely dust jacket.

The Preface states that the book "spans ten years of a peripatetic chess career", and it thus coincides with the first ten years of Purdy's editorship of the Australasian Chess Review which he launched in July 1929, at the age of 23, to fill the void left by the demise of The Austral, Chess and Draughts Newspaper, the mainstay of Australian chess from 1922 to 1929, according to Purdy in Chess World July 1949, page 145.

The whole work is written in a satirical and humorous manner and is full of jokes, puns, perceptive quips, witty one-act plays and much more mirth making material. A few examples:

Chielamangus on Chess, outlining the game:

Page 12: "The object of the game is the mate of the opponent's King, the word 'mate' being derived from the old Persian 'mat' or carpet.

Page 14: The opening of a game of chess is called the opening. The primary principle of opening play is not to move a piece twice before it has been moved once. 

Page 14: "The player who completes his development first is said to have the initiative, because he is thus able to start making blunders while his opponent is still occupied in bringing out his men"

History of the Game:

Page 15: discussing Ruy Lopez; "He never played the Ruy Lopez, which was therefore named after him... Incidentally some authorities suspect that he was not a bishop after all; but he mitre been."

Pages 15-16 "Deschapelles, who, when he was no longer certain of beating everybody, refused to play at all unless his opponent would accept pawn and move. If Deschapelles lost he could say it was because of the odds. This was known as the Deschapelles coup." 

Most of the articles and anecdotes are of a provincial nature and, while the book provides many chuckles nearly 80 years after publication, much of the  material now appears dated, as Purdy himself admitted long ago in 1954 in Chess World.


Chess Pie: Official Souvenir of the London International Congress 1922, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1922.

Chess Pie No. 2, With Problem Supplement. The Official Souvenir of The British Chess Federation issued in connection with the International Team Tournament 1927, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1927.

Chess Pie No. 3. The Official Souvenir of the International Tournament, Nottingham 1936, edited by W. H. Watts, London 1936. 

These superb souvenir publications commemorated major chess tournaments in England in 1922, 1927 and 1936. They were not tournament books themselves but were issued to promote and publicise each event beforehand. 

The first Chess Pie celebrated the very strong London International Chess Congress of 1922 won by Capablanca ahead of Alekhine, Vidmar, Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, Reti etc. 

In his Introduction and Preface, the editor, and manager of the publishers Printing Craft, outlined the many difficulties in the production of this first souvenir and was especially disappointed with the response from potential advertisers, simply because an association with chess was not conducive to profitable advertising.

The book includes biographies of most of the competitors with a famous game from each. Many of these biographies are by the players themselves. British Champions past and present are also featured. 

Brian Harley contributed the 15 page Problem Section which includes short biographies of famous composers beginning with Alain C. White, who had amassed a collection of 200,000 problems by 1922. There are several other interesting articles including Reminiscences of International Tournaments by Isidor Gunsberg and Chess Puzzles by H. E. Dudeney.

Many high quality photographs of chess personalities complete the production.

Chess Pie No. 2 commemorated the first Chess Olympiad held under the auspices of F.I.D.E., in London in 1927, and in his Introduction Watts praised Leonard Rees, Secretary of The British Chess Federation, whose vision and pioneering efforts led to the foundation of the International Federation. The editor also anticipated that this sixteen team tournament would "prove the greatest gathering of chess talent the world has ever seen."

The book runs through the sixteen competing nations giving biographies of many team members along with a memorable game from each.  There are, again, many excellent photographs, a Problem Section by Brian Harley, and the Problem Supplement includes 49 problems for solving in the Max Meyer No. 2 Problem Tourney.

Following Watts' criticism in the first Chess Pie, this issue has a substantial amount of adverts for chess products throughout the book. Whether Watts' expectation of this being the "greatest gathering of chess talent", was realised is debatable; most of the world's top players were missing and no tournament book on the event was published. The tournament is, however covered in Chess Olympiads  by Árpád Földeák, published in Hungary in 1966, and International Championship Chess; A complete record of FIDE events, by B. M. Kažić, London 1974. 

Chess Pie No. 3 was published in preparation for the Nottingham International Chess Tournament of 1936. Watts began his Introduction by trying to dispose of the remaindered stock of Chess Pie No. 2 which had not sold well, however, only a very few copies of Chess Pie No. 1 were still available. All three Chess Pies are now scarce and sought after.

Before moving on to the tournament and players, Watts inserted an enlightening six page article entitled Chess Publishing since 1927.  Watts was very proud of his own achievements in chess publishing and considered that the vast improvements in chess literature in recent years were down to him. He probably had his publisher's hat on as much as his author's hat when writing this article.

Without naming names he was highly critical of many chess books, authors and publishers, dismissing most books as "pot-boilers" or the work of some totally unqualified author. Some exceptions being Staunton's Handbook, which he considered "a perfectly wonderful production in every way", the tournament books for London 1883, Hastings 1895 and London 1899, Mason's Principles of Chess and The Art of Chess, and Edward Lasker's Chess Strategy; "There had never been anything like it before and even today one can have nothing but praise for it... excellent in every way."

He had fulsome praise for several recent titles including Lasker's Manual of Chess, "unique amongst chess books, as in it the greatest of all chess players endeavours to show that chess has meaning and a purpose." Chess by Dr, Tarrasch, "If a chess library is to count one book and one only this is the book." Chess Praxis by Nimzowitsch, "Nothing approaching it has been put in the hands of the ambitious chess player." Chess for Match Players by W. Winter, "It is, however when I look at Mr Winter's book that I feel most proud" and he devotes one and a half pages to a mainly positive review of this work.

A few further books are praised including:

How to Play the Chess Openings by Znosko-Borovsky
The Art of Combination by Znosko-Borovsky
The Art of Sacrifice by R. Spielmann
Chesslets by Dr. J. Schumer (another Printing-Craft publication and another purchase in 2017)

Watts concluded his article with a list of the other outstanding publications of the last few years:

The rest of the book was the now familiar mix of biographies and best games of the competitors, many photographs and illustrations, and  various interesting articles.  The Nottingham Tournament created history by having four world champions competing in the same event.  Consequently Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Euwe, were accorded extensive coverage. However, Botvinnik, the joint winner and future world champion, received just a very short paragraph at the bottom of page 57.  The articles are by H. M. Lommer and M. A. Sutherland, P. W. Sergeant, Gerald Abrahams, André Chéron on The Strategic French School, and Alexander Hammond on Historic Chesspieces

Three wonderful publications but I still do not know why they were called Chess Pie.

Finally for now, I began to seriously pursue the Alain C. White Christmas Series of books last year, not having had much interest in them before. I acquired 19 of the Series including the second-hand bookshop find-of-the-year: České Melodie, Potsdam 1908, for just £10. I now have just over half of the Series, mainly the more common titles.

The sixth book in the Christmas Series, this compilation of problems by the Bohemian composer Josef Pospíšil was edited by A. C. White and W. H. Thompson, and includes 200 of his problems spanning the years 1880 to 1908. There are also introductory articles by B. G. Laws and J. W. Allen on The Bohemian Theory of the Chess Problem and The Work of Josef Pospíšil. The text is in German and English.  

                                        © Michael Clapham 2018

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