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