Saturday 24 October 2020

The Brussels Encounter OHRA 1986


The Brussels Encounter: OHRA, by William Hartston, Willi Iclicki amd Roger Lancaster, Chequers Chess Publications, London 1987. Lusis 2117

The OHRA tournament, played in Brussels in December 1986, was the first tournament in which Kasparov had competed for three years and his first as world champion. The book claims that the average Elo rating of the six participants (Kasparov, Korchnoi, Hubner, Short, Portisch, and Nunn) made this the strongest tournament in the history of the game. All of this inspired the BBC to choose this event for its new Chess Classic series.


In the Chess Classic series of programs the players narrated a commentary to their games revealing their thoughts during play, in a similar manner to The Master Game broadcast in the 1970s. 

All 30 games from the tournament are included in the book (13 games were covered by the BBC) with annotations by Garry Kasparov, Lajos Portisch, John Nunn, Raymond Keene and Andrew Martin. For each game the bare moves and result are firstly given, this is followed by diagrams showing the position after every pair of moves, followed by a full analysis of the game. the 13 games from the BBC series are then repeated again with the players thoughts at key moments.



These insights into the top players' deliberations are extremely interesting but you have to wonder how candid the players were for this publication, some comments seem very superficial. Not so in the following game between Kasparov and Portisch.


Each round has a brief summary and occasional Off the Board snippets are also included. 

As expected Kasparov was the clear winner scoring 7½ out of 10, losing only to 21 year old Nigel Short. The book states "reputedly the world champion's first ever loss against a younger opponent" - but surely not correct. 


For a six player tournament a huge amount has been packed into this 286 page work.

Chequers Chess Publications published two other books: The Game of the Round: Dubai Olympiad 1986 and The Book of the World Championship: Kasparov vs Karpov: London/Leningrad 1986:


                                         © Michael Clapham 2020


Thursday 22 October 2020

Le Match: Capablanca-Alekhine: Buenos Aires 1927

Le Match: Capablanca-Alekhine: Buenos Aires 1927, by V. Soultanbéieff, L'Echiquier, Bruxelles 1929. 

LN5079, 64pp + Table des Matieres + Errata. 



This is one of the scarcer publications on the Capablanca v Alekhine world Championship match of 1927. It is not in the Kieler Schachkatalogue, published in 2000, which lists over 8,000 items, no copies have been sold at the Antiquariat Klittich auctions and only one copy has appeared in the LSAK Chesslund auctions; this sold for 136 euros in 2018.

Although the title page is dated 1929, the Avant-Propos has a date of Mai 1928.



Victor Ivanovich Soultanbéieff was born in 1895 in Russia and moved to Belgium in 1921, making his home in Liège where he died in 1972.

This book is number 65 in the chronological list in Belgian Chess Publications: An Annotated Bibliography by Henri Serruys and Guy Van Habberney, Antwerp 2011.



This beautifully produced bibliography, which has colour photographs of every book published in Belgium from Cessolis/Caxton 1474 onwards, includes a vignette of Soultanbéieff on page 40.



Soultanbéieff wrote two other chess books; Tournoi International d'Ostende 1936, Ostende 1936, which included the games from the first five rounds only (out of nine) from that tournament, and Guide Pratique du jeu des Combinaisons, Bruxelles/Liège 1950.  

Soultanbéieff's book on the Capablanca v Alekhine match includes Un peu d'Histoire, Du Titre de Champion du Monde, going back to Ruy Lopez, short biographies and results of the competitors, an overview of Le Match, La Victoire d'Alekhine: Réflexions rétrospectives, and Les Parties du match with extensive annotations to the 34 games. 

                                             © Michael Clapham 2020

Thursday 15 October 2020

Hay-on-Wye "Town of Books"



During the summer I made the annual pilgrimage to Hay-on-Wye, a delightful little town on the Welsh/English border. Hay-on-Wye has developed a worldwide reputation as the "Town of Books" ever since Richard Booth opened his first second-hand bookshop in 1962. The town holds a renowned Literary Festival every year (but not this year).



The town quickly became one of the largest centres for second-hand and antiquarian book sellers in the world and the 2005-2006 directory listed 31 book shops in the town with others nearby. 


However, in line with the general decline in second-hand bookshops, the latest directory for 2019-2020 lists only 20 shops in the town, and some of these are now closed. Richard Booth's bookshop is the largest in the town and in 2010 claimed to hold 500,000 books. Hay Cinema Bookshop, in the old converted cinema, carries a stock of around 200,000 books. 

Hay-on-Wye bookshop directories for 2005-2006 and 2019-2020

I have heard tales of some wonderful chess book finds in Hay-on-Wye in years gone by but nowadays decent old chessbooks seem to be much more elusive. However, I made three purchases which made the trip worthwhile.

The Chess-Board Companion by William Lewis, London 1838.

This little book is the first edition of Lewis's Companion which was published in several later editions or thousands. The book is in lovely condition for its age with a very good tight binding and all edges still have the bright gilding.  Priced at £50, I knocked the dealer down to £40.


The Chess Players' Compendium, fourth edition by William Cook, London 1907. 

This book was previously in the library of the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club in the author's home town. The binding has been re-backed and the covers are marked, but this cost just £10 from a market stall in the town (market day is Thursday).


I already had the first edition of 1902 and a fifth edition published by David Mckay in America in 1910.

First edition, 1902 and fifth edition, 1910 of Cook's Compendium


One Hundred Chess Maxims by C. D. Locock, Leeds 1930. £5


A lovely clean example of this seemingly scarce booklet which gives basic hints to beginners.


A second "Revised and Enlarged" edition was published in 1935, although it has fewer pages than the first edition.

                                            © Michael Clapham 2020


Tuesday 13 October 2020

Chess Matches

Following on from the previous article (back in May) I set out below the top 24 chess matches based on the number of publications listed in Chess Competitions 1824-1970 by Gino Di Felice, Olomouc 2013.


The list shows the number of publications, the event, and Di Felice's number. 

28  Botvinnik v Tal world championship match, 1960                       2617
26  Euwe v Alekhine world championship match, 1937                     2446
26  Alekhine v Euwe world championship match, 1935                     2494
25  Capablanca v Alekhine world championship match, 1927            2443
20  Botvinnik v Smyslov world championship match, 1954               2463
18  Lasker v Capablanca world championship match, 1921               2472
16  Petrosian v Spassky world championship match, 1969                2598
15  Tal v Botvinnik world championship match, 1961                        2465
15  Botvinnik v Smyslov world championship match, 1957                2592
14  Smyslov v Botvinnik world championship match, 1958                2464
12  Botvinnik v Bronstein world championship match, 1951               2460
12  Botvinnik v Petrosian world championship match, 1963               2566
12  Petrosian v Spassky world championship match, 1966                 2567
11  Lasker v Tarrasch world championship match, 1908                     2539
11  Soviet Union v Rest of the world, 1970                                       2945
10  Alekhine v Bogoljubow world championship match, 1934             2442
  8  De La Bourdonnais v McDonnell, 1834                                        2484
  8  Steinitz v Lasker world championship match, 1894                      2537
  8  Staunton v St. Amant, 1843                                                      2607
  8  Steinitz v Zuckertort world championship match, 1886                 2615
  8  Soviet Union v U.S.A. radio match, 1945                                     2946
  7  Alekhine v Bogoljubow world championship match, 1929              2441
  7  Lasker v Marshall world championship match, 1907                     2535
  6  Steinitz v Chigorin world championship match, 1889                    2610

Di Felice's bibliography does not extend beyond 1970 so does not include the Spassky v Fischer match of 1972 which, no doubt, has inspired the largest number of books on a chess match; there are at least 20 in the English language alone.

20 of the 24 events are world championship matches and there is a nice symmetry in that the Alekhine v Euwe match of 1935 and the rematch of 1937 have the same number of publications. The De La Bourdonnais v McDonnell and Staunton v St Amant matches both took place before the establishment of a formal world championship. The other two entries are for team matches.

Many of the entries in Di Felice's bibliography are not books devoted to the match and often include  articles on matches in magazines, collections of match games in general chess books and even collections of newspaper cuttings. However, the number of publications listed gives some indication of the relevant popularity of the events.




© Michael Clapham 2020