Thursday 28 March 2024

Recent auctions Part 5 - Games of the Vienna Tournament 1882, and A Review of the Chess Tournament

Two more rare books from the Klittich auction held in November 2023.


Lot 1265. Games of the Vienna Tournament of 1882. A selection of the best and most brilliant games, with critical analysis by Alex. G. Sellman, together with a short account of the Tournament, edited by Sellman, Baltimore, Maryland 1882.


Courtesy of Klittich Auction House - Catalogue 85.

The only contemporary book on "The greatest contest which ever took place in Chess history" according to The Chess Monthly for July 1882 page 321; that was until the London International Tournament of 1883, which was described as "the most important Tournament which ever took place" in The Chess Monthly for July 1883, also on page 321. 

The LN catalogue and Di Felice, in his Chess Competitions, also list Internationales Schachturnier Wien 1882 dated 1882 but this is a collection of cuttings from Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung. (LN 5214, Di Felice 2333.2). Edition Olms published a comprehensive book on the event; Das II Internationale Schachmeisterturnier Wien 1882, in 1984.

From my researches I would say that this book is of greater rarity than the Philadelphia edition of Chess Made Easy discussed in the previous post and this is reflected in the price paid for this lot of €950. 

This book was already described as rare by Will. Lyons in his 1897 Catalogue No. 7 of Chess Requisites and Works on Chess, but on sale for just .75c. This was also for sale in Lyons' Catalogue No. 10 issued in 1909 at the reduced price of .50c!

I found no copies for sale after searching hundreds of dealers and auctioneers catalogues of the previous thirty years when compiling my price guide of Antiquarian and Collectable Chess Books in 2010, and I have seen no copies for sale since then. David Delucia had only one copy in his 2009 Catalogue.

Several major libraries have copies and fortunately a digital copy is available at and Google books from which the following content is gleaned.

The book has an attractive decorated cover, similar to the title page above but more ornate. The short account of the Tournament referred to in the title is indeed short. The Retrospective occupies less than a page and the preceeding Introduction is even shorter, just ten lines.

Sellman gives 42 of the approaching 300 games with light notes but there are no diagrams. A final score table and indexes of players and openings completes the book. The final score table differs slightly from the cross table in Hundert Jahre Schachturniere by Dr. P. Feenstra Kuiper, 1964, and also in Chess Results, 1747-1900 by Gino Di Felice, 2004. I think the modern records are correct.  

It was certainly a great tournament with many of the world's greatest chess players of the day. Steinitz and Winawer tied for first place ahead of Mason, Mackenzie, Zukertort, Blackburne, Englisch, Tschigorin etc. 

Additional coverage of this tournament in English can be found in the wonderful Brentano's Chess Monthly which gave 28 games, a short biography of Baron Ignatz Von Kolisch (a leading patron of the tournament), a spectators view of the tournament and portraits of some of the players, in its magazines for June, July and August-September 1882 before this most attractive of periodicals was sadly discontinued.




Lot 1231  A Review of "The Chess Tournament," by H. Staunton, Esq. with some remarks on the Attacks upon the London Chess Club contained in the Introduction to that work, by a member of the London Chess Club, printed for the author, London 1852. 26pp.


Courtesy of Klittich Auction House - Catalogue 85

The slightly confusing title has led some authorities to attribute this work to Howard Staunton; Di Felice names Staunton as the author in Chess Competitions 1161.1, and  Staunton is also indicated as the author of the present item in the Klittich catalogue, and, I have to admit, I also named Staunton as the author in my Price Guides of 2007 and 2010. 

However, this work was written and compiled by an anonymous member of the London Chess Club and is a review of Staunton's book on the 1851 Chess Tournament, followed by some remarks on comments made by Staunton in the Introduction to that work. The member is unknown but this copy (from Lowenthal's Chess Library and later Rimington Wilson's collection) has a pencil note on the title page indicating that the author was Medley. This would be George W. Medley, Secretary to the Committee of the London Chess Club set up to discuss the Tournament, and writer of several letters appended to this pamphlet. This is pretty flimsy evidence of Medley's authorship although he is a prime suspect.

The pamphlet begins with a short but positive review of Staunton's book The Chess Tournament, London 1852, concluding "We have no hesitation in pronouncing it one of the most interesting records of chess ever published". 



However, dark clouds quickly gathered, and the very next sentence reads: "Our commendations of the volume must, however, end here; and now commences the disagreeable portion of our task, which will consist of some observations we feel bound to make upon the contents of the Introduction...."  

There follows a blistering attack, written in a mixture of politeness and acrimony, over 17 pages, upon the St. George's Chess Club (which organised the event) and on Howard Staunton in particular.  The writer stokes up a head of steam with a catalogue of perceived injustices to him and the London Chess Club by Staunton's behaviour and writings over a number of years, and eventually explodes with this withering condemnation of Staunton's character as a chess-player and writer:

I won't go into the ins and outs or the rights and wrongs of this most bitter of disputes, the full details can be found in Chapters III and IV of the Introduction in The Chess Tournament on pages xxxi to li, (by the way, does this book hold the record for the highest number of Roman numeralled pages for the introductory matter?, they go on to lxci.), and also in this pamphlet which can be read online at 

Tim Harding discusses this pamphlet on pages 56 and 57 of Eminent Victorian Chess Players, published by McFarland in 2012*, and Edward Winter gives extracts from his copy in the feature article Attacks on Howard Staunton on the Chess Notes site.

The essence of this dispute seems to have been the opposition by a few members of the London Chess Club to the management of the Tournament by the St George's Chess Club, and in particular to the pivotal role played by Staunton, and his subsequent coverage of this in the Tournament book. However, it is apparent that the animosity between Staunton and the author of this pamphlet had been brewing for years and had now come to a head. 

This chess book, with zero chess content in terms of games or instruction, is nevertheless a desirable item as it rarely comes on to the market. Although several major libraries have copies, I have never before seen a copy for sale.  This copy sold for €280. 

For comparison purposes, a Damiano, second undated edition c.1524, was sold for £9,000 plus commission etc. at Forum Auctions in London today. I am not sure which is the rarer work.

(At the same London auction a second folio edition of Shakespeare sold for £82,000 hammer.)


*Harding comments in note 104 on page 358 of Eminent Victorian Chess Players: 

"As Murray pointed out in his B.C.M. article [May 1908] on Staunton, bibliographers have had some trouble with this item."

However there is no mention of this pamphlet in H.J.R. Murray's 1908 article and Harding was in fact referring to another anonymously authored pamphlet; A Few Observations on A New Treatise on Chess, by G. Walker, London 1841. This is mentioned in Murray's article on George Walker on pp 189 to 194 of the May 1906 British Chess Magazine.

More next time.






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