A Sorry Case

Edward Winter

(1999, with updates)


Our article Over and Out referred to ‘a clear-cut lie’ by Eric Schiller and to his ‘mendacity’. The ink was hardly dry before we had occasion to note more of the same, in the form of a grotesque attack on us at his Chesscity website which was flatly untrue, not to say libellous.

As is well known, Lasker and Tarrasch played two matches, in 1908 and 1916. The first of these was for the world championship, but the second (six games only) was not. Even so, some authors have erroneously indicated that the 1916 encounter was a world title match, two examples being Karpov in Miniatures from the World Champions (Batsford, 1985, pages 43-44) and Koltanowski in With the Chess Masters (Falcon Publishers, 1972, page 48).

Koltanowski wrote: ‘Twice Tarrasch mounted a campaign to take the world title from Lasker – and twice Lasker beat him badly.’

We quoted this in the September-October 1986 issue of Chess Notes and simply added a five-word rhetorical question, ‘When was the second time?’ The item was included on page 160 of our 1996 book Chess Explorations.

A straightforward matter, it might be thought, but now enter Eric Schiller. In late 1999 he posted on his website the following monstrosity:

‘Young Mr Winter gives as an “example of general carelessness” that Koltanowski makes the absurd statement that Tarrasch played two matches with Lasker, as only one was played. Anyone who has followed the careers of these great players knows that there were, of course, two matches. The second match does contain some rather poor play by Tarrasch, who got clobbered, but nevertheless it was a real match. The games are presented below. In his 90s Kolty may slip up from time to time. But the insult by the impudent young chess historian is without foundation. In any case, Kolty’s witty prose and wealth of anecdotes are far more valuable than some whining lad who can’t even get the facts right.’

On another page on the same site Schiller wrote, under the heading ‘Chess Explorations and Exploitations’:

‘So when Young Salieri (not his real name, but many will recognize the moniker) claimed that he knows more about the early days of the century, when George was actually playing and eye-witnessing events, it behooved us to check the facts. The question is simple: did Lasker play one match against Tarrasch (as claimed by Young Salieri), or two, as Kolty stated. Click here for the answer.’

In short, although we had been referring to the status of the 1916 match, i.e. the (indisputable) fact that it was not for the world title, Schiller falsely and aggressively proclaimed that we were unaware of the very existence of the match.

On 14 December 1999 we sent an e-mail message to the Chesscity site asking for a retraction and apology. To quote just one paragraph from our message:

‘To claim that I am unaware of the 1916 match is absurd, if only because on page 214 of my book [Chess Explorations] I specifically referred to it. Or again, the book that I edited for Pergamon Press, World Chess Champions, included some discussion of the 1916 match, together with the annotated score of one of the games.’

Apprised of the truth, Schiller had no intention of apologizing. On 18 December he wrote to us:

‘Nio [sic] apology necessary, you are guilty of an unwarrented [sic] attack on Koltanowski. I will defend him against your garbage.’

The same day he rewrote bits of his website, maintaining the untruth that we had claimed there had been only one Lasker v Tarrasch match, intensifying his personal attack on us and introducing a fresh charge, equally groundless: now, he added, we were also guilty of ‘sloppiness, poor editing’. To be accused of that by Schiller, of all people, is priceless.

It may be recalled that our ‘Over and Out’ article mentioned that Schiller’s books contain ‘hundreds of gross errors’, and we have often quoted chapter and verse. See, for example, the 1999 Kingpin, in which we cited a selection of nearly 40 such instances from three books published by Schiller in 1999 alone. In our book Kings, Commoners and Knaves we pointed out dozens of historical and other blunders in his book World Champion Combinations (in which, for example, the chapter on Capablanca has six games and four positions, with obvious factual gaffes in every single one of them).

Our ‘Over and Out’ article also commented on how some writers who are criticized ‘ignore the (unanswerable) facts and pin their hopes on a water-muddying counterattack’, and that is precisely what Schiller has been doing in the present case. He has brushed aside the inconvenient matter of his hundreds of gross errors, trying instead to retaliate via another issue of his own choice, Lasker v Tarrasch. But what do we find? His attempted revenge is based on a distortion of the facts which is brazen even by his own dire standards. And when it blows up in his face, he refuses to correct the record properly or apologize, preferring to launch fresh attacks, also false. Despicable? Of course. Surprising? Not at all. It is vintage Eric Schiller.




Afterword: The above statement was first published in 1999 at the Inside Chess website. Below is the text of our Kingpin article referred to.


It would be foolhardy to estimate how many books the ugsome Eric Schiller has written in 1999, but below are some observations on three of them, all from Cardoza Publishing:

The first is entitled Whiz Kids Teach Chess and contains many infantile errors. For instance: ‘… Black didn’t advance the e-pawn to d5’ (page 24), and ‘When Black advances the d pawn two squares to d6 …’ (page 103). On page 35 we read ‘The armies are at equal strength’, but this refers to a position in which Black is a rook ahead. On page 109 ‘checkmate’ is illustrated by two illegal positions (in the first of which White has no king and in the second of which Black has two).

The young reader is also given a little politics. On pages 138 and 140 Schiller goes awry with the French for FIDE, whereas on page 115 he inexplicably refers to ‘the Professional Chess Association (WBCA)’.

The book’s prose would be shameful from a 12-year-old, and even the proper use of apostrophes is beyond Schiller. Examples: ‘a normal part of most top young player’s days’ (page 23) and ‘Beginner’s are usually advised to never resign’ (page 121).

One final irresistible quote is the typically slipshod reference on page 94: ‘… as Gabe relates (on page whatever)’.

Then there is the Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom, another showcase for Schiller’s slapdashery, as the following examples show:

Wrong moves: On page 59, after 1 e4 e5 2 f4, Black’s move is given as …Be5, twice. Page 301 has the illegal move Qh4+ instead of Qh6+. The same page claims that in a simple queen ending 3 Qc1 is mate, but it is not. Page 279 has …Qa1 checkmate instead of …Qh1.

Wrong history: Page 69 attributes a quote to Tarrasch in 1935, by which time he was already dead. Page 167 claims that in 1895 Lasker was ‘on his way to the World Championship’, but he had won it in 1894.

Inscrutable reasoning: Page 82 starts: ‘White offered the initial gambit, but it is Black who holds the extra pawn.’ This refers to a position where White is a pawn ahead.

Illiteracy: ‘it is still you’re turn to move’ (page 142). Another example: ‘A passed pawn increases it’s strength …’ (page 250 – in large letters and framed).

Bizarre typos: ‘There are of course slow ways of chasing denied away …’ (page 131). From the context, it would seem that ‘chasing the knight away’ was meant. Another example comes on page 145: ‘it can also crate threats’. With all Schiller’s typos, one could pass denied away crating lists.

Misspelling of names: ‘Lake Hopatong’ (page 160). ‘Wywill’ (page 297).

Wrong diagram: Page 198, for example.

Inconsistent spelling: Brinkmate/Brinckmate (page 262). Malteses Cross/Maltese cross (page 280 – with another wrong diagram). Wolf’s/Wolff’s (page 331). The next page has Englisch/English.

Nonsensical game-score: Pages 321-322 have a game ‘Pillsbury v Lee, London 1889’. The two did not even meet that year. Ten years later they played a game which opened similarly, but the continuation given by Schiller was in fact what occurred, up to a point, in a different game, Pillsbury v Newman, Philadelphia, 1900. In short, yet another shambles.

Awful writing style: A specimen from page 343: ‘What on earth is going on here. White is giving away the store! Let’s see, Black has an extra rook, worth five clams or whatever, and can eat another one at a1. Must be winning, right?’

Inaccurate rating scale: According to the chart on page 408, a typical ‘International Grandmaster’ is likely to have an Elo rating of 2800 (200 points more than ‘World Class Grandmasters’), and the figure given for an International Master is 2000.

The third Cardoza washout, World Champion Tactics, was co-written with Leonid Shamkovich, not that that helps. The book has hardly started by the time White is being called ‘Black’ (page 14). On page 55 Kasparov is referred to as ‘Tal’. Page 36 has …Qa1 checkmate instead of …Qh1; that is the same mistake as the one mentioned above regarding the Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom, and indeed the paragraph appears identically in both books. Yet it is not just a question of copying from one book to another. Even within World Champion Tactics there is duplication, such as the Alapin v Alekhine ending on that same page (page 36). It turns up again on page 61 (and both times there is the wrong claim that the event was an ‘international’).

Why anybody should wish to buy Schiller’s books is almost as incomprehensible as why anybody should be prepared to sell them.



Below is a C.N. item entitled ‘Crass’ which we wrote in 1985:

One book we most certainly shall not be reviewing in full is Grüenfeld Defense, Russian Variations by Eric Schiller, published by Chess Enterprises.

Grüenfeld is the novel spelling on the front cover. The back cover and spine prefer Gruenfeld. The Preface gives Grünfeld. The bibliography has Bruenfeld.

Ah yes, the bibliography, with its reference to the 1946 edition of Modern Chess Openings by ‘Griffith, P.C. & E.W. Sergeant’. P.C. Griffiths cannot be meant, since in 1946 he was not writing, he was being born. Presumably Mr Schiller was not sure whether the co-author was E.G. Sergeant or P.W. Sergeant, so he took one initial from each.

All this, though, is a mere antipasto, leading in to our tentative nomination for the most crass couple of sentences of 1985:

‘Dedication

To Harry Golombek, a friend and mentor, whose vast knowledge of chess, arbitin, and foreign languages I hop to someday acquire. May my writing retain its vitality as long as his has!’

As printed ...

(1054)

Walter Korn’s reaction regarding Modern Chess Openings is available on-line in C.N. 7317.



A contribution from Nigel Freeman concerning The Anti-Sicilian: 3 Bb5(+) by Y. Razuvayez and A. Matsukevitch (London, 1984):

schiller freeman

Our comment at the end of the C.N. item:

We add just one point. The very first sentence of the book claims that after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 ‘the move 3 Bb5 was first encountered in official competitions more than 100 years ago in the game Winawer-Steinitz, Paris 1867’. Doesn’t everyone know that 3 Bb5 was a familiar move back in 1851, even being played twice in the London tournament?

(1230)



As mentioned on page 294 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves, in 1996 Eric Schiller came out with a volume on Rudolf Spielmann. ‘Rudolf’ appeared on the front cover, but elsewhere (including the title page and back cover) the name was misspelt ‘Rudolph’.



A further recent book by Mr Eric Schiller is 100 Awesome Chess Moves, Cardoza Publishing again being the culprit. The illiteracy begins on the front and back covers (‘This collection … are …’). Those unfortunate enough to own a copy are also invited to turn to the ‘Index of Games’ (pages 286-287) and hunt for any correct page references.

(Kingpin 2000)




schiller

schiller

schiller

(6013)




schiller

Page 10 of Learn from Bobby Fischer’s Greatest Games by Eric Schiller (New York, 2004)

schiller

Page 12 of Learn from Bobby Fischer’s Greatest Games by Eric Schiller (Las Vegas, 2009)

(6206)



As noted in Historical Havoc (an article we published in 1998), page 13 of World Champion Openings by Eric Schiller (New York, 1997) referred to ‘Emil Zukertort’. Any respectable writer would, of course, take the earliest possible opportunity to correct the blunder. Consequently:

schiller

World Champion Openings by E. Schiller (first edition – New York, 1997)

schiller1

World Champion Openings by E. Schiller (second edition – New York, 2002)

schiller

World Champion Openings by E. Schiller (third edition – Las Vegas, 2009).

A few lines later, in all three editions, mention is made of another world championship challenger, Isidore [sic] Gunsburg [sic].

(6383)



It is common knowledge that Capablanca participated in only one Olympiad (Buenos Aires, 1939), though not common enough. From page 35 of The Big Book of Chess by Eric Schiller (New York, 2006):

‘The reigning champion, Jose Capablanca, had played in the initial 1927 Olympiad event.’

(6443)



One of Euwe’s most famous wins is the ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’, the 26th game of his 1935 world title match against Alekhine. See, for instance, page 150 of Euwe’s From My Games 1920-1937 (London, 1938) and such well-known books as Wellmuth’s The Golden Treasury of Chess, Fine’s The World’s Great Chess Games and Schonberg’s Grandmasters of Chess. Various chess encyclopaedias (e.g. by Sunnucks, Golombek and Brace) have an entry for the ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’, and it is, in short, a matter on which no half-competent writer would go wrong.

From page 158 of The Big Book of Chess by Eric Schiller (New York, 2006):

schiller

The Euwe win given by Schiller as the ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’ was played in Amsterdam.

(6683)



Under the heading ‘Incorrigible’ the following item appeared in C.N. 3216 (see also page 249 of Chess Facts and Fables):


‘Wilhelm Steinitz did not become World Champion until he was over 58 years old, on May 26, 1894.’

That is what Eric Schiller persistently claims. We drew attention to it in C.N. 2241 (i.e. on page 89 of the 1/1999 New in Chess). Far from correcting his spectacular gaffe, Schiller subsequently posted it at a second website, as we noted in C.N. 2302 – see page 98 of the 5/1999 New in Chess. Yet even then Schiller refused to make a correction, so in C.N. 2468 (page 105 of the 1/2001 New in Chess) we mentioned the matter a third time.

What, then, is the situation today, all these years later? It will surprise no-one to learn that Schiller’s website still affirms:

‘Wilhelm Steinitz did not become World Champion until he was over 58 years old, on May 26, 1894.’


That summary was written in 2004. Today, a dozen years after we first pointed out the spectacular gaffe, the same claim about Steinitz is still on-line, under the title ‘Oldest World Champion’ in a signed article by Schiller at a website which states that it is supervised by him: Chesscity.com.

(6890)

Addition on 5 January 2013: the above link no longer works.



On 3 May 2010, the day Florencio Campomanes died, Eric Schiller posted the following message at chessgames.com:

‘An evil man who is not going to be missed. Thoroughly corrupt persecutor of those who wanted chess to move forward. Destroyer of our beloved World Championship.

Some champagne with dinner tonight to wish him good riddance!’



On the back cover of Attack with the Boden-Kieseritzky-Morphy Gambit by Eric Schiller (New York, 2011):

schiller



See too An Alekhine Blindfold Game.



Latest update: 19 May 2014.



To the Chess Notes main page.

To the Archives for other feature articles.



Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.