Source: Page 139 of Chess Review, May 1963 (given in C.N. 7494)
We have written very few ‘set-piece’ book reviews, two examples being Karpov’s Chess is My Life for the BCM in 1981 and Alexander Alekhine’s Chess Games, 1902-1946 by Leonard M. Skinner and Robert G.P. Verhoeven for New in Chess in 1998. In contrast, many C.N. items entitled ‘Books Notes’ have offered briefer comments on recently-published chess volumes. Below is a selection of such items from the 1980s, when Chess Notes appeared as a magazine.
Leonid Kubbel’s Chess Endgame Studies edited by T.G. Whitworth is a delight, excellently researched and produced. In the April 1984 Illustrated London News John Nunn compares its price (£5.50, post free) with that of the Batsford book by Bellin, Trompowski [sic] Opening and Torre Attack (£6.96, postage extra): ‘Bellin’s book is 96 pages and Whitworth’s 176, so somebody must be making a profit!’
David Bronstein Chess Improviser by B.S. Vainstein (Pergamon) also merits praise, although not quite in the same league as the recent Keres work from the same stable. Heidenfeld’s posthumous Damen sind Luxus (Schwarz-Weiss Verlag) is an enjoyable collection, complete with many interesting photographs, of 70 games featuring an early exchange of queens.
Practical Chess Playing by Raymond Edwards is a good addition to the Routledge Chess Handbooks series (volumes 3 and 6 of which are especially fine), but is marred by an unimaginative, if not downright lazy, selection of games and positions. The author prepares us in his Preface to expect ‘examples from well-known sources’ but his justification rings false. Why should book 7 give Capablanca v Tartakower, New York, 1924 when that ending will already be familiar to the reader from book 6? Any enthusiast who has reached the stage of being interested in ‘the practicalities of chess playing’ deserves better than the over-familiar classics.
The same publishers offer Pachman’s trilogy on openings, middle-games and endings, a most useful set. A pity that players’ names without any venue or date are given. Other random thoughts in brief: the openings book (page 56) gives 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 Nxe4 and this last move, which we were all brought up to believe to be a blunder, is now described as follows: ‘Black can make this line into a gambit which is not without chances’. We were not at all keen on John Littlewood’s patronizing Preface to the endings book.
Tibor Flórián’s Defence & Counter-Attack is another worthwhile translation from Pergamon, carefully prepared for publication. Mysteriously, no translator’s name. The Games in the St Petersburg Tournament, 1895-96 is a Chess Player reprint of a BCM limited edition by Mason and Pollock, with a new, historically interesting, introduction by Ken Whyld. A new work rather than a reprint is Olms’ Das II. Internationale Schachmeister-turnier Wien 1882, edited by Christian M. Bijl. It is an industriously produced compendium and the student who finds some aspects of modern strategy difficult to grasp may well feel more at ease with the more clear-cut games on offer here. We regret that the publication of this book is likely to mean that the planned ETC volume on the same event (see C.N. 601) will not now appear for some time, but, that apart, it is a work that makes a most welcome addition to the lovely Olms range.
Endgame Strategy by M.I. Shereshevsky is not only of value to students of the final phase; it also contains much historically useful analysis of great games of the past. The same publishers (Pergamon) have also brought out volume two of Comprehensive Chess Endings by Yuri Averbakh. Like volume one, and like Endgame Strategy, and like ... it is translated by Kenneth P. Neat. One matter of detail in volume 2, page 127: two moves have been omitted (deliberately, it would seem) from the middle of the Flohr-Capablanca ending.
Master Chess, A Course in 21 Lessons by D. Kopec, G. Chandler, C. Morrison, N. Davies and I.D. Mullen (Pergamon) scores well for clarity and freshness of approach. But enthusiasm for the team’s work has to be tempered since nobody seems to have stretched himself very much to give correct historical references. Names of players, venue and date have often been copied from some unreliable source without any checking.
Whilst it is fascinating to learn that a game won by Kopec (page 50) was played in the 12th Greater Manchester Open, round one to be precise, against a gentleman named Hutchinson who, for the record, had a grading of 2120, one notes that the information about older games is incomplete and often wrong. For example: Page 6: If the highly dubious smothered mate game really has to be used, at least ‘London’ should be indicated and Atkins’ name correctly spelled. Page 8: Craddock-Mieses was played in London, 1939. Moreover, 2 Ne4 should read 2 Nd5. Page 11: the Alekhine-Marshall game was played at New York, 1927. Page 11: ‘Capablanca-Corio’. i) Corio should read Coria. ii) Buenos Aires, 1914 is not given. iii) the white and black positions have, inexcusably, been transposed. Pages 22-23: two positions to illustrate the (unnecessary) theme ‘Don’t Be A Lipschuetz’. About the first (against Zukertort) we should like to know a great deal more. The second is against Lasker, although Chandler has not bothered to find out that it was played at New York in 1902. ‘Everyone makes oversights ...’, he writes just above the diagram. To prove the point, he misplaces the white rook (d4 instead of f4) and omits a black pawn at c5. Don’t be a Chandler ... Page 78: the second note, regarding Tartakower-Alekhine, Semmering, 1926, is wrong. Alekhine had not played ...c5, but had his bishop on e6, which changes everything. Page 91: both Stoltz and Kashdan would have been rather too young to play at The Hague, 1921 ... Page 99: the Maróczy-Tarrasch position comes from San Sebastián, 1911. Page 117: the Alekhine-Navarro game was played in 1941, not 1940 (see C.N. 955).
To state the obvious, the above are elementary matters that could have been verified in any moderately good chess library. Why weren’t they?
It may perhaps be concluded that a high proportion of historical references in general chess books always tends to be inaccurate. T.D. Harding, in The New Chess Computer Book (also Pergamon), page 167, makes it clear that history is not the only sufferer: ‘... 50 per cent of what is written about chess in the popular computer magazines is rubbish’. We reviewed the first edition of his book in C.N. 171. The updated and expanded 1985 version is excellent, and provides a vast amount of sensible comment which is, above all, scrupulously fair. Another example of Harding’s bouncy style; from page 216:
‘It is a cliché that computers play endgames appallingly badly, but like other computer chess clichés (‘Computers never resign’ or ‘Computers always grab material’ for example) more and more of the new dedicated computers are disproving it. The cliché that the average human player (especially the younger player) is much weaker in the endgame than the middle game is much truer, so when simplified positions arise it is almost a toss-up which will play worse – the human or the micro.’
A couple of mistakes (‘Lasker-Pilnik Variation’, page 29 and Mieses-Alekhine, Scheveningen, 1923, page 88) will no doubt be corrected when this splendidly conscientious study goes into its third edition.
Chess Exchanges by S. Taulbut and S. Jones is sound enough but sprawling. Such books require a rigorously adhered to structure. When is Taulbut going to learn that game and position references are not optional frills, but essential information for the serious student? Examples: Page xvii: ‘Lasker vs Lasker, New York, 1924’. A great help! This reference is omitted altogether from the index. Page 27: occasions not given for the two games. Page 29: ‘Rubinstein vs Marshall, 1922’. Breslau, 1912, in fact. Page 36 ‘Wyville’. Pages 63-64: Hartston-Basman. Why no date? Page 65: ‘Korchnoi vs Polugayevsky’. Why no date or venue? Page 69: ‘Korchnoi vs Kasparov Candidates Semi-final (Acorn Computers World Championships 1983), Game 8’. Now perhaps Paul Buswell will understand why Raymond Keene’s misrepresentations are so dangerous. Page 75: Capablanca-Shipley. Why no occasion? (Simultaneous exhibition, Philadelphia, 1924). Page 95: ‘Nimzovitch vs Marshall Bad Kissingen, 1982’ ... Page 97: ‘Korelov vs Blattner, Correspondence Game’. Page 107: Alekhine-Podgorny was played at Prague, 1943. We are fed up with pointing out this error. Pages 173-174 (and page 180 and page 206): ‘Schlecter’. Page 177: Adorjan vs Tompa. No occasion given. Page 178: Hecht vs Markland. No date or venue. Page 181: ‘Såo Paulo’ (in Scandinavia?). Page 182: Stean vs Corden. No venue or date. Page 186: Romanishin vs Petrosian. No venue. Page 187: Smyslov vs Botvinnik. No venue. Page 188: Korchnoi vs Reshevsky. No venue or date. Then there is all the careless inconsistency; for instance, at least four different ways of presenting British championship games in the headings.
Two handsome hardbacks have come from McFarland & Company, Inc.: Two Move Chess Problems by Robert Clyde Moore and The US Chess Championship, 1845-1985 by Gene H. McCormick and (‘Grandmaster’) Andy Soltis. It is always a pleasure to see a problem book published, especially when it is as clearly written and beautifully produced as R.C.M.’s. The McCormick/Soltis work is a fairly good attempt to deal with a tricky subject. (Tricky because there is too little information available about the earliest times, and too much available about recent contests, and also because the off-and-on nature of the competition itself – just one event between 1909 and 1936 – makes it difficult to write a flowing account.) The early chapters have a number of surprising errors, though the treatment of Morphy is impressively well-balanced. On the other hand, the lengthy gossip about Browne’s seating and lighting complaints (e.g. pages 241-242) has no place in a hardback history of 140 years of American chess. The trouble is that Soltis was there.
On Advances in Computer Chess 4 edited by D.F. Beal (Pergamon Press) we feel obliged to pass; a layman’s view has no value. Nor will we attempt any detailed discussion of the first two booklets in ‘Roycroft’s 5-man Chess Endgame Series’, other than to say that the computer analysis clearly represents a decisive step forward in our understanding of queen and pawn endings. We have spent much of our available ‘endgame time’ enthralled by the Olms reprint of Troitzky’s Collection of Chess Studies; the article ‘Two Knights against Pawns’ (60 pages long) is quite incredible.
Two new Pergamon books, both translated by Kenneth P. Neat, are attractively produced. Comprehensive Chess Endings by Y. Averbakh, V. Henkin and V. Chekhover offers 300 awesomely detailed pages about queen endings and is ‘designed to be used either as a textbook or as a reference work for the analysis of adjourned games’. It will be an amazingly conscientious student who puts it to the former use.
Buenos Aires Olympiad 1939 edited by A.J. Gillam (The Chess Player) will be invaluable to anyone who does not possess the original complete games collection. The introduction is rather bitty, an assemblage of quotes from contemporary issues of the BCM and CHESS, although it may be argued that this method gives an ‘at-the-time’ flavour. The enthusiast looking for offbeat ideas could do worse than to start with Czerniak-Enevoldsen, a bizarre ‘Budapest Gambit?’ beginning 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nd2 e5 and ending with some original queen offers based on the knight fork motif. (Black won in 39 moves, having made five pawn moves in the first 17 and none at all thereafter.) A final word: the indexes are superb.
Chess The Records by Ken Whyld (Guinness Books) has seven chapters (Milestones, World Championships, International Tournaments, National & City Championships, The Records, The Players, and Clash of Kings). All are carefully researched (Jeremy Gaige being acknowledged for extensive assistance), and the result is a reference work which we keep on our most readily accessible shelf. Nonetheless there are disappointments, such as the absence of a list of (non-world championship) matches, of the kind to be found on pages 340-343 of Chicco and Porreca’s Dizionario enciclopedico degli scacchi. This omission is all the more unfortunate given the unreliability of Hundert Jahre Schachzweikämpfe by P. Feenstra Kuiper.
The chapter entitled ‘The Players’ in K.W.’s new book omits masters such as Mieses and Teichmann, whilst including weaker national champions. The ‘Milestones’ section is much too British-dominated (‘1983: East Anglian Chess Union’) and also gives an example of how a lack of punctuation can alter the meaning: ‘1946: Alekhine died giving FIDE the opportunity to seize control of the world title’. The ‘Clash of Kings’ articles are wisely and neatly written, although we regret the way they break up the other reference sections.
Errors are very few and, if we are being rather severe on a fine book, it is for two reasons: a) Chess The Records will probably go into many future editions, and b) it is one of the injustices of reviews that the best authors are judged according to more demanding criteria than one would ever waste time applying to Shaun Taulbut or Eric Schiller.
Batsford have just published two good books with certain similarities: 40 Lessons for the Club Player by Aleksander Kostyev and Kasparov Teaches Chess. The former is the sequel to From Beginner to Expert in 40 Lessons (C.N. 986). Although there is far more history this time, it comes to a rather mysterious halt with Morphy in Lesson 26 (which contains one of the few factual errors – June for July in Morphy’s death date). The Kasparov work is more basic, but has a certain simple charm which is reminiscent of Capablanca’s Last Chess Lectures. This impression is reinforced by the fact that Kasparov, perhaps surprisingly, lays particular emphasis on understanding the endgame. Page 51 has a good Botvinnik quote: ‘There is no better way to get into a cramped position than to strive merely for development.’
Planeta Șah Almanah 1986 is a wide-ranging magazine-cum-book (224 pages) that should not be missed. In case anyone may be put off by the language, it should be mentioned that Romanian is quite easily read (i.e. guessed at) by anyone with knowledge of other Romance languages.
An author will often use the Introduction and Acknowledgements pages to drone on about the unremitting labour his book required, as though its publication marked the end of a momentous epoch of human activity. The dangers of not complying with this tradition are shown by The Games of D.A. Yanofsky compiled and edited by David J. Ross (Ottawa, 1985). On page 4 we read: ‘The job of the compiler in preparing a book such as this one is relatively easy. It is merely a question of organizing material which already exists ...’ But if compiling and editing the book was a doddle, why didn’t Mr Ross have the time to proof-read it? We have rarely seen a games collection with so many misprints. There is an amusing one on page 14, after Yanofsky’s career as a local councillor etc. has been reported: ‘For Yanofsky, career and politics are the mayor factor in his professional life.’
Batsford have recently published two books entitled World Chess Championship. Volume 1 (by P. Morán) covers Steinitz to Alekhine; in volume 2 R.G. Wade, A.J. Whiteley and R.D. Keene deal with Botvinnik to Kasparov. The chief value of the books is that they give the full scores (mostly annotated, to varying degrees) of all world title matches since 1886.
Despite the occasional dud (e.g. Pillsbury, El Genio del Ataque) Pablo Morán is a respected historian, and his prose descriptions of the ‘Steinitz to Alekhine’ championship matches are, for the most part, penetrating and fair. He also successfully deals with the problem of balance between hackneyed and fresh information. (By this we mean that an author wishing to avoid the well-trodden path has to ensure that in giving little-known sideline snippets he does not pass over the essential facts, however familiar.)
The original Spanish was published over a decade ago but the Batsford edition fails to take account of what has been learnt since then. Hence a large number of historical blunders – all easily avoidable.
If the author or editors had been armed with The Oxford Companion to Chess and Chess Notes they could probably have spared us nearly all errors such as the following (and we stress the words ‘such as’): Page 7: ‘Adolfo’ Schwarz (just as ridiculous as ‘Isidoro’ Gunsberg on page 11). Pages 7-8: no word that Zukertort’s ‘achievements’ are exaggerations. Page 18: it is misleading to mention the 1903 Lasker-Chigorin match (in which the Rice Gambit had to be played) in amongst serious events. Page 18: the Capablanca-Marshall match was played in several US cities, not just New York. Page 19: ‘Chess, like music and love, has the power to make men happy’. Why is this called ‘a saying which can be attributed to Tarrasch’? Page 21: Now we have Janowsky describing himself, and Mary Stuart, as ‘splendid but unlucky’ (see C.N. 1160). Page 24: Schlechter was not Jewish. Page 27: Capablanca did not become Cuban champion when he beat Corzo in 1901. Page 28: Lasker ... ‘organised a competition in St Petersburg in 1914’. Page 33: Alekhine did not obtain a doctorate. Page 34: An incomprehensible reference to how Alekhine and Nimzowitsch tied for first place at a tournament in St Petersburg 1913 which ‘was played with the idea that the winner would play the same tournament the following year’. In any case, the two St Petersburg tournaments were held the same year, 1914. Page 35: New York, 1927 was not a tournament to determine a challenger for Capablanca. How many more times will it be necessary to state this? Page 35: Capablanca did not win the New York 1924 tournament. Page 35: In 1927 Capablanca did not win a ‘match’ undefeated. Page 40: It is misleading to say that Moscow, 1925 was Bogoljubow’s ‘main success, since he beat Lasker and Capablanca’. Page 35 (similarly): Alekhine had ‘a second placing in Hastings, 1933-34, in which he was beaten by Flohr’. Page 40: Alekhine is said to have taken ‘two joint first places in small tournaments in Berlin, 1932, and Mexico, in the same year’. For Berlin read Berne, presumably.
On one occasion, however, Batsford have attempted to set the record straight. Both the 1909 and 1910 Lasker-Janowsky matches have been included and, despite the stubbornness of the company’s chess adviser, we find a Batsford editorial note on page 25:
‘There is substantial evidence that this match was not for the world championship title. However, we have included it for the sake of completeness.’
Let us not quibble over the phrase ‘substantial evidence’ or even the meaningless ‘for the sake of completeness’. What really matters is that the note has been attached to the wrong Lasker-Janowsky match, the one that really was for the world championship. Bravo Batsford.
Volume 2 also begins with a blunder – on the very first page. And it is a blunder of the worst kind: a snide remark, quite unjustified, on a delicate matter. It concerns the Alekhine Nazi articles: ‘He claimed they were forgeries, but this claim, only made after the war, convinced few.’ [Our emphasis.]
As we showed in C.N. 1041, Alekhine had made the claim at least as early as 23rd November 1944.
Luckily, though, much of the rest of the prose material is good, not that it always matches up with the subsequent game annotations. For example, on page 27 it is stated that in the first game of the 1972 match ‘Fischer suicidally snatched a pawn and lost a piece’, whereas on page 181 the move is given a ‘?!’. We feel tempted, however, to tear out chapter 8 (‘Karpov-Kasparov 1984 and 1985’) which is over-long, inaccurate, biased, shrill and self-contradictory. Its weaknesses are so blatant and so numerous that we do not propose going into detail – unless challenged to ...
In short, a pair of books worth having for the game scores and certain parts of the prose, though everything could so easily have been improved. Just as the active player keeps up to date with opening theory so is it necessary for writers on chess history to keep abreast of the evolution of historical research (and for publishers to ensure that old books are updated in new editions). We would prefer companies to publish no books at all on the game’s past rather than to produce works which trot out antiquated misconceptions.
Sans transition, the BCM has recently published an anthology of items which appeared in the magazine between 1923 and 1932. One would obviously prefer full-scale reprints of entire years, but given that this is apparently an unsound financial proposition the anthology project has to be warmly welcomed. Selection and layout have been handled outstandingly well.
My Best Games of Chess by L. Szabó is another valuable Pergamon translation. Although Szabó has not really stamped his personality on the book, which rather lacks charm and colour, it is nonetheless an autobiographical collection well above the average. Szabó is so strong that it is remarkable he should be such a little known player.
‘Chess scandals’ existed, of course, over a century ago, an example being the well-known claim that James Grundy bought a game at New York, 1880. An account appears in the tournament book, which has recently been reprinted by Olms. The Zurich company is performing a wonderful service to chess; and not least to the problem world, as so many of the tournament books republished include detailed material on the corresponding problem tourneys.
Edition Marco of Berlin have brought out a beautifully produced German edition of Alekhine’s Nottingham, 1936 tournament book (with several footnotes on the annotations although the transposition of moves pointed out in C.N. 1252 has not been spotted). It would be marvellous if an English-language publisher would return the compliment by commissioning an English translation of Alekhine’s books on New York, 1927 or Zurich, 1934.
From The Chess Player comes Jimmy Adams’ Paris, 1900. The notes are almost entirely from magazines of the time. Those by Rosenthal tend to be irritating (after 1 d4 f5 he writes, ‘The correct move is 1...d5 2 c4 e6’), but that is not to say that they should have been omitted or even commented upon. Typos are few, the worst we saw being Black’s 21st move on page 93 (Burn v Maroczy): ... g6 instead of ...Rd3, unless it is the 1900 BCM that is wrong. Another good book (costing just $5.00, from Chess Enterprises, Inc.) is The Games of Viktor Kupreichik by Gene McCormick (68 pages). We note on pages 20-21 an interesting comment on authors’ inconsistent use of ± etc. signs to evaluate positions.
The Game of the Round (published by Chequers) is a 320-page work on the 1986 Dubai Olympiad, similar in style to the same publisher’s world championship book (C.N. 1285). As before, a team of writers has joined forces to produce, with notable speed, a fine record of a memorable event. One stylistic complaint, though: ‘I’ and ‘we’ are often used without any indication of who is writing.
Notes of a Soviet Master by Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky, translated by Bernard Cafferty, is a handsome 54-page hardback from Caissa Editions. The main value of the book (the narrative of which stops in the mid-1920s) is the insight it provides into Russian chess organization in the second decade of this century. Ilyin-Genevsky comes over as an attractive personality who offers hope to us all on the very first page:
‘Normally it is considered that in order to play chess well you have to have some special gift of nature. I do not hold to this point of view. I consider that every person who sincerely loves chess, takes an intelligent attitude to the game and works at it, can achieve success.’
Page 29 has a brief reference to M.G. Klyatskin (C.N.s 646 and 734):
‘I had a very good relation with him, but I did not have much of an opinion of his play which was adventurous, anti-positional and based exclusively on traps and combinations.’
In Part II Dale Brandreth has added a selection of 50 of Ilyin-Genevsky’s best games; only two are annotated, including his famous victory over Capablanca at Moscow, 1925 (a valuable synthesis of the conflicting assessments). We should have liked to see rather more games from the period actually covered by the book, as well as an index of players. A fine book.
The Crowood Press have produced two more titles. Winning Endgames by Tony Kosten is a rather slight work, parts of which are written in ahead-of-the-dictionaries English. Page 17: ‘A lot of chessplayers are under the impression that pawn endings are trivial because of the absence of pieces.’ Or page 117: ‘White makes a trivial draw.’ Page 56 talks of ‘Black’s hopes of a perpetual’, a neologism which appears three times more on pages 92-93. Page 69 has a sentence that could have been penned by Jon Speelman: ‘Botvinnik was probably the finest protagonist of the white side of the Nimzo-Indian ever.’ The other Crowood Press book, Chess Openings by Mike Basman, is more substantial and escapes from the treadmill that usually afflicts such beginners’ works, for Basman is good at giving original touches to routine matters. On the minus side, page 29 (despite C.N. 683) gives the game played by ‘Nimzowitsch (aged 13)’. At page 163 we all but yelped in pain: ‘The above diagram shows that Black is almost back rank mated ...’ And then there is this preposterous comment on page 253: ‘Another very careful move which shows that Alekhine was not the mad attacking player that everyone made him out to be.’
Paul Keres’ Best Games (Volume 1: Closed Games) by Egon Varnusz, published by Pergamon, seems to have run into proof-reading trouble, particularly in the diagrams. That apart, it is quite good, although the market for Keres’ best games books must now be saturated. Perhaps the next would-be author could turn his attention to Janowsky.
Following From the Opening into the Endgame (C.N. 500) Edmar Mednis has now written, also for Pergamon but in much better English, From the Middlegame into the Endgame. It is a useful book of instruction, only slightly marred by the absence of an index. One notes on page viii that Mrs Mednis’s hair has kept its colour.
Chigorin, under-estimated by some but over-estimated by others, is probably one of the least understood masters. Two collections of his games have appeared in English this year and provide a welcome opportunity to re-examine him. Mikhail Chigorin, Selected Games by Efim Bogoljubov is a B.T. Batsford/Caissa Books co-production in which ‘Anmerkungen von E. Bogoljubow’, supplemented by other authorities’ notes, have been divested of their prose so that 240 “annotated’ games can be fitted into 111 pages. The book starts with eight carelessly presented pages of introductory material (seven of them by Raymond Keene): ‘contempoaries’, ‘occassional’, ‘seperated’, ‘Brelau’, ‘St Petersburgg’, ‘absolutedly’, ‘Pillusbury’, ‘profansation’, ‘but it is not been refuted’, ‘occassions’...
The discredited spelling ‘Bogoljubov’ (C.N. 20) is also used in Mikhail Chigorin, The Creative Chess Genius, edited and translated from the Russian by Jimmy Adams (Caissa Editions), an impressive (and properly proof-read) collection of 100 games deeply annotated with words as well as variations. The 45-page introduction soundly beats the British book, while the tournament and match results table is also considerably more detailed.
The same typography is used in another Adams translation for Caissa Editions: Bled 1931 by Hans Kmoch, a handsomely uniform hardback. The book starts with a highly interesting 12-page article (1976 vintage) on the tournament by Flohr. (If we are reading page xvi correctly, Flohr states that he was defeated by Alekhine in a simultaneous exhibition as early as 1925.) The annotations of Hans Kmoch, who was the tournament arbiter, are superb, combining detailed analysis with on-the-spot revelations. Here is an example (from page 53) of his round-by-round summaries, which are uncommonly personal:
‘The sensation of today’s round was the powerful defeat of Nimzovitch by Alekhine. The opening was already effective. Alekhine, in pure gambit style, so rare in contemporary tournaments, sacrificed two pawns, one after the other. Nimzovitch could not recover from his astonishment. After taking both pawns, he left the board and, shaking his head, repeated several times, “He is treating us like patzers”. Later analysis, however, showed that Alekhine’s tactics were not only in order, but also extraordinarily strong.’
Bled 1931 must be one of the best tournament books ever to be made available in English, and is a fitting tribute to one of Alekhine’s greatest triumphs.
In C.N. 1441 John Roycroft referred to the difference between oral and written style. A complication occurs when books aim to reproduce masters’ own words as broadcast by radio or television, as is shown by Chequers’ recent book The Brussels Encounter, produced with the assistance of the BBC. (Or, as page 3 puts it: ‘Using the “voice-over” techniques made popular by the old programmes, viewers are given an opportunity to eavesdrop on the grandmasters’ thoughts‘.) The question to be resolved is the extent to which conversational slackness should be edited out of the grandmasters’ thoughts. Nobody will want starchy disquisitions, but surely there must be some revision of ungainly colloquialisms (regardless of whether the speaker is of English mother tongue). For instance, Nigel Short says on page 49: ‘... this whole ending ought to have been trivially winning for me ...’
Kasparov’s declarations frequently begin with ‘Okay’, a routine example being ‘Okay, he played Rf1’ (page 103). On page 116 we are even given: ‘Okay, now I think I’m okay’, with several further uses of the word in the rest of the game, which he loses.
In fact, though, contributors of written annotations do not always perform better. Page 13: ‘Short’s 8...a6!? needs further testing as a possibly viable antidote to Kasparov’s favourite line.’ What do the words ‘possibly viable’ add? Another example of this curious construction is on page 45: ‘This is the type of game which encourages Nigel’s supporters to regard him as the possibly leading Western contender to challenge for the world title.’
The book has frequent printing errors (e.g. ‘Ronih’ on page 30, and ‘lessor mortals‘ and ‘en pris’ on page 167), but although our review has concentrated on the irritating editing defects, there is no denying that the actual chess content of The Brussels Encounter is highly instructive.
Chequers has also brought out The Super Clash, a good book on the Brussels, 1987 tournament (although surely the date of each round should be given). This event has also been the subject of a very fine special issue (6/1987) of New in Chess. Just one brief quote (from page 91), Tal’s explanation of his choice of a move against Korchnoi: ‘... this time I decided to opt for Keres’ favourite continuation. I think that he is the only Russian grandmaster about whom my opponent did not write anything bad.’
Finally, a brief word about a recent reprint by The Chess Player of the first English-language chess magazine, The Philidorian (1837-38). The chess content is not especially rich (draughts and whist are also dealt with), but George Walker edited an interesting journal which avoided the ribald style of his long-running Bell’s Life in London column. Needless to say, his magazine is an extremely scarce item, and the reprint is most welcome.
The Complete Chess Addict by Mike Fox and Richard James (Faber and Faber) cuts across several formats. Brashly written, it nonetheless has a better scholastic base than such works as Chernev’s The Chess Companion and Soltis’s Chess to Enjoy. With the exception of the long chapter on chessplaying personalities from other fields (pages 1-75) the book does not seek to deal with any subject exhaustively; it is an entertaining but unmethodical miscellany. Much research has gone into the book’s production, judgement is normally sound, and the footnotes include a number of worthwhile afterthoughts.
The introductory feature (‘What is Chess?’) quotes 70 brief definitions (including Spassky’s trouvaille, “chess is a game’). Unfortunately, sources are not given. Many of the quotations manage to be both banal and pretentious, reminding one of how Latin beginners stumble upon any number of high-sounding epigrams by the random juxtaposition of two infinitives (laborare est orare, etc.).
Some other comments on matters of detail. Page 22 makes the grisly point that before Raymond Weinstein committed murder (C.N. 1311) an article in the BCM had said that he ‘had a ruthless killer instinct’ for the game. The exact reference might have been added (BCM, February 1964, page 49, the writer being Beth Cassidy). It is interesting to see on page 31 a correspondence game by William Golding, who, it is claimed, posted off an inaccuracy when excited by the arrival of news of his Nobel Prize, but, again, the reader deserves to be told exactly where this information comes from. Similarly, what is the source of the game which is said on page 75 to be attributed to General Tom Thumb? (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 Nf6 5 Ng5 d5 6 exd5 Nxd5 7 Nxf7 Kxf7 8 Qf3+ Kg8 ‘and the world’s smallest adult chess-player announced mate in three’). Page 85 says: ‘Spare a thought for G.A. Peck, champion of Rugby (the place, not the game) in 1967 when a mere 97 years of age.’ However, he died on 9 January 1966, according to the obituary on page 69 of the March 1966 BCM. This states: ‘At the time of his death he was match captain and held the Championship trophy of the Rugby C.C.’ Page 95: ‘A 100 per cent score in a tournament is a rather special achievement attained by only a select few at master level. Pride of place here must go to Gustav Neumann, with 34/34 at Berlin back in 1885.’ But Gustav Neumann died in 1881 (C.N. 1463), and we cannot trace any such tournament result in 1885 or earlier. Pages 100-123: the chapter containing ‘the 60 greatest games’ is an unnecessary repetition of familiar material and the book’s ‘apology’ on page 100 does not disarm the critic; the best thing in this sequence is the set of photographs with clever captions. Page 133 (the correspondence game related by B.H. Wood): use could have been made of the BCM, February 1972, page 85. Page 147: a neat neologism: ‘Elijah (Williams) introduced the concept of Sitzkrieg into chess.’ Pages 148-149: the Przepiórka-Ahues game was played at Kecskemét in 1927, not 1936; the tournament book (page 118) makes no reference to the claimed incident. Page 193: Yet again the boringly pointless anecdote about Bogoljubow being cut out of a photograph.
Two Batsford books which arrived together could hardly provide a stronger contrast. Chess literature is no richer for the publication of Saving Lost Positions by Leonid Shamkovich and Eric Schiller (£6.95). However, Secrets of Grandmaster Play by John Nunn and Peter Griffiths (£8.95 but over twice as many pages) must rank as the best instructional work Batsford has published. To say that it is a collection of 24 of Nunn’s best games gives no clue as to its outstanding merit: the annotations are scintillating. The co-authors’ introductory material explains how they carried out their work: for each game Nunn spent between three days and two weeks writing notes, after which Griffiths checked them and wrote up the game, adding further prose (descriptions of overall strategy, general tips, etc.). The two then met to agree upon the final text. Nunn is referred to in the third person, while Griffiths sometimes writes in the first person singular. What may at first sight seem a cumbersome approach has resulted in a beautifully eloquent and instructive blend of variations and verbal explanations. Here is an extract (from pages 49-50) which demonstrates the quality of the latter; it is the note on a position in which Nunn (Black) leaves a rook at its d4 outpost when his opponent plays 19 Ne2:
‘And here is the kind of positional sacrifice which seems so natural and logical when played by a grandmaster. We can all appreciate that Black is getting plenty of compensation for the exchange, yet we hesitate to take such decisions ourselves. Why? For two reasons, it seems. The first is that although material is only one element in chess (the others being time, space, development, pawn structure, etc.) it is the tangible one; and the same player who will throw tempi around with appalling abandon, or neglect his development, will shrink from sacrificing even a pawn unless he can see the consequences with absolute clarity. But grandmasters have a highly developed sense that material is just one factor in the equation; so in their games it is constantly being interchanged with the other elements. It is not a question of their being more daring than other players, or more prepared to risk losing. To a GM there is no danger whatever in this type of sacrifice; it is simply a matter of technique, a transaction. In this connection I might add that players who are generally regarded as extremely hard to beat tend to specialize in the art of positional sacrifice (Petrosian and Andersson spring to mind).
The second reason is what Dr Lasker calls “the certainty of having to apply yourself vigorously” (after sacrificing, that is). In other words: “It’s all very well for Nunn to do that, but if I tried it I would soon go wrong and then lose the endgame.” Well, it’s true that after sacrificing you have to play with a certain amount of vigour. But you have to do that anyway: If you want to stand up to really strong opponents, that is. Look at it this way: in allowing his pawns to be doubled at move 14 Nunn has already made a sacrifice of a kind (his pawn structure), and without vigorous play to follow it up he would have let the white bishop into c4. He also sacrificed at move four (development) and any hesitation after that would have led to trouble. He is always “sacrificing”; you cannot play this game without doing it.’
Such items as C.N. 330 and C.N. 1069 have expressed appreciation of the writing of Griffiths and Nunn. By joining forces they have formed an unbeatable team.
In October  Pergamon Press published London-Leningrad Championship Games by G. Kasparov, translated by Kenneth P. Neat. The 24 games (especially the 16th) have impressively deep notes; which other world champions have ever offered the public such a detailed explanation of their play? It is particularly instructive to read Kasparov’s (mainly negative) views on other commentators’ annotations.
A book that has attracted little attention is The Psychology of Chess Skill by Dennis H. Holding (271 pages) yet it is just as ‘deserving of a place in every chess lover’s library’ as most of the other works which attract that cliché. There must be something wrong with the general dissemination of chess literature when such a book is ignored whilst potboilers appropriate the limelight.
Holding has written an academic study complete with a six-page ‘References and Author Index’. The prose is clear (‘no prior knowledge of psychology is necessary for an understanding of the text, since all the important concepts are explained as they arise’ – page x.) and the general and historical research base (despite ‘British Chess Association’ more than once) is no worse than in other works of this kind, and possibly better.
At last Janowsky’s games have been anthologized, in a Russian book by S.B. Voronkov and D.G. Plisetsky. Any disappointment that the selection of games is not especially imaginative is counter-balanced by the detailed notes and use of contemporary source material. Dare one hope that an enterprising Western publisher will bring out a translation?
Szachy od A do Z by W. Litmanowicz and J. Giżycki (Warsaw, 1986-87) comes in two volumes and sets a number of records for chess encyclopaedias – notably for the most pages (1,438) and illustrations. Its exceptionally large number of entries makes it a useful Companion companion, though not really any more than that. The general level of accuracy seems reasonable, but falls well short of the standard set by Hooper and Whyld. Another small drawback is that the cut-off date in some sections is surprisingly early. We are given to understand that C.J.S. Purdy (wrong birth year, incidentally) is still alive. He died in 1979. On the other hand, many, though not all, deaths from the mid-1980s are duly recorded. Inadequate access to the most useful Western sources has clearly been another problem, but all in all the work is a mammoth enterprise which deserves a place in every ... etc. etc.
Deserving a place in every chess lover’s refuse dump is Unorthodox Openings by Eric Schiller and Joel Benjamin (Batsford), which has been brilliantly demolished in issue 39 of The Myers Openings Bulletin. A brief quote from the magazine’s 16-page review:
‘It’s frustrating to see the chess public being exposed to book after book written by people who are negligent, or lazy, or prejudiced in their research. An unsound rating system bestows the titles of Master or Grandmaster; knowledge of chess history, and of openings they don’t play, does not automatically accompany those titles. But are the writers any more to blame than the publisher? Or a reviewer in BCM who writes unthinking praise? Or a bookseller like the USCF that hypes the books it sells to its own members?’
Alessandro Sanvito sends us a copy of Lineamenti di degli Scacchi, compiled jointly with Adriano Chicco and published by the AMIS (Associazione Maestri Italiani di Scacchi). It is a beautifully comprehensive and elegantly produced catalogue of Italian chess books, magazines, articles, belles lettres, etc., and a veritable model of how a bibliography should be prepared.
From John van Manen come volumes 1 and 2 of The Records of Australian Chess, a compilation of tournament and match tables covering 1856-1921 and 1922-41 respectively. The amount of work involved is startling, and it is hard to think of any country whose chess history is now better documented than Australia’s. Other current or recent publications are the extremely scholarly Australian Chess Lore, an occasional journal which first appeared in 1981 and The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand (1978, with a small supplement in 1983). Mr van Manen has been behind all these projects.
The Sportverlag Berlin publication Unkämpfte Krone von Steinitz bis Kasparow by Raymund Stolze is better for looking at than reading.
Le Livre de Poche (Paris) has brought out a very inexpensive reprint of Tartakower’s 1933 work Bréviaire des échecs. In many matters of detail it differs from the English translation (by J. du Mont), which first appeared in 1937.
A cheap reprint of the 1803 edition of Philidor’s Analyse du jeu des echecs has just been published by Compagnie Jean-Jacques Pauvert et Nicolas Neumann of Paris.
In Plan Like a Grandmaster (Batsford, translated from the Russian by Ken Neat) Alexei Suetin does a poor impersonation of Kotov, the author of the fine ... Like a Grandmaster series. Plan ... has 354 scores (full or part), starting with the Famous Game Morphy versus the Opera allies (the date of which is five years out) and ending with the Famous Game Alekhine v Botvinnik, Nottingham, 1936. Most of the 352 others are also Famous Games, the same old Famous Games that are constantly recycled in other dreary books.
The chief aim of Suetin’s work is to illustrate ‘the most vital point of a chess game’, which is ‘the transition between opening and middlegame’ but there is little detailed annotation and the general prose passages are rather soporific à la Pachman(n). That complex masterpiece Alekhine v Böök, Margate, 1938 has just two brief notes. Since the blurb says that the 354 games or extracts ‘illustrate how top masters handle the opening’ one would at least expect an index of openings. In short, the book (from the author’s point of view) has to be considered a characteristic example of the modern Easy Way Out school.
One might expect that a book devoted to the low-risk domain of Famous Games could at least manage to be factually accurate. But Suetin still gives (on page 39) the invalidated Gibaud v Lazard game (Paris, 1924). On the same page he quotes Fine v Yudovich, ‘Moscow 1936’. As shown in C.N.s 1138 and 1396, this game was played in 1937; it is also wrong to say, at move 12, that ‘White soon resigned’: he did not give up until after move 43.
Venues are sometimes omitted for no apparent reason (e.g. Monticelli v Prokeš, on page 42). Almost everybody will know that this game, in which the Monticelli trap was introduced, was played in Budapest (in 1926 – the year is given). On the next page we have ‘Flohr v Gilg, Zurich 1934’. But Gilg did not play in that tournament and this Famous Game was actually played in the Bad Liebwerba tournament of that year (see page 286 of the Caissa Editions tournament book). Page 53: Against Sir George Thomas, Edward Lasker played not 18 O-O-O but 18 Kd2, as pointed out in C.N. 845. (See Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, page 149 and Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood, page 123.)
Batsford’s catalogues include a fair number of books on needlecraft, but the back covers of their chess publications also illustrate the not so genteel art of embroidery. After Reti’s Masters of the Chess Board (‘the only collection of the best games of all the world’s leading pre-war players from Anderssen to Alekhine’ – quoted in C.N. 1441), there was Secrets of Grandmaster Play (‘This collection of [Nunn’s] games is more than just a well-annotated selection of masterpieces by the world’s most dangerous attacking player.’) Now comes Playing to Win by James Plaskett (‘This thought-provoking and original work is the first analysis of creativity and aesthetics in chess’).
In none of the three cases could the remarks have had the author’s approval. Plaskett quotes Chess in the Eighties by D. Bronstein and G. Smolyan often enough to show that he does not consider himself the pathfinder his publisher claims on the basis of a 30-page article. The remaining 60 pages of the book are devoted to 15 of Plaskett’s games. They are well annotated, but seem to have been half-heartedly tagged on as a dubious illustration of the earlier argumentation.
‘Essay’ is too flattering a word for 30 such undisciplined pages. Plaskett is a fluent, likeable writer, but Playing to Win merely hints at the potential which a more caring publisher would have shaped into a proper, full-length book. Just when the ‘essay’ should be moving into top gear, the reader finds himself in the Selected Games section.
With a title like ‘Chess – A Personal View’ an author has sanctuary against irascible critics who would otherwise grumble that the book is not the one they would have written. Nonetheless it is difficult to see how an age-old question like ‘Is chess an art, sport or science?’ can be answered or discussed adequately when age-old answers are ignored. Insufficient acquaintance with general chess history and culture cannot be redeemed by citing morsels from British journalists’ columns and by an account of Vaganian ‘opining at a bar in Lucerne’ (page 3). Plaskett does not butcher chess history (there is no slip worse than ‘1930s’ instead of ‘1920s’ on page 31). He just ignores it.
Anchored in the 1980s (with a few musty references to the 1970s), he remarks (page 7) that ‘the truth is of course that in modern tournament or match chess, results predominate over creativity.’ Adduced as evidence of this is the profundity of opening preparation (duly illustrated by Famous Games), while the question of technical knowledge of the endings is neglected. Middle games are covered only accidentally, by means of a generous interpretation of what constitutes the opening (e.g. ‘18...d5!!’ on page 13). The whole ‘essay’ is dominated by discussion of the ‘DOI’ (‘Decisive Opening Innovation’) as if the chess world revolved around it. But on the last page (page 30) the reader is told that ‘it would be a quite exceptional year if out of the 6,000 or so master games played annually there were to be more than six DOI’s.’
‘Chess – A Personal View’ is written in a cultural vacuum, but in the remaining two thirds of this short book the grandmaster takes over and gives little reason for complaint, except when he writes on page 66:
‘For the next half-dozen moves a cardinal consideration is the efficacy of possible “sacs-back” on d5.’
Despite a posh title and back-cover pretensions to being ‘original and stimulating’, Chess The Mechanics of the Mind by Helmut Pfleger and Gerd Treppner (Crowood Press) might have been subtitled ‘Everything you always knew about chess and never expected to read yet again’. We had not seen the 1987 German original, but still found page after page numbingly familiar (a complaint that can be levelled at much that comes from the Federal Republic of Germany these days). The book deals in light psychology in a way unlikely to impart either knowledge or pleasure. The English edition reads as fluently as all the earlier books that have dispensed the same information, but is not helped by the way John Littlewood barges in with a ‘Translator’s Note’ on pages 14-15 which is based on ignorance. The book is best forgotten, which is readily achieved.
The same publisher has brought out, at a couple of pounds less (£4.95), Spike’s Chess Primer by George Ellison, a new edition of a work first published in 1983 and aimed at the 9-13 age group. The illustrations by E.H. Handforth are weak, but the text has some original touches. Once again, though, a beginners’ book neglects to explain what the pieces look like; how is the novice supposed to know, for instance, the difference between the king and queen when he opens the box of his first set? Another classic trap (page 37): ‘When a pawn reaches the other end of the board it becomes a queen or any other piece you choose, apart from a king.’ The words ‘of the same colour’ need to be added somewhere.
A great problem is how much a beginner can safely be told. Page 93 gives a diagram (r4q1k/4r2p/p6Q/1pp2BR1/3p1P2/2P5/Pn5P/6RK) and says that 1 Be6 “is an excellent move which threatens to win the queen and the game by Rg8+ after 1 Be6 Qxh6 2 Rg8+ Rxg8 3 Rxg8 mate or 1 Be6 Rxe6 2 Qxe6 Re8 3 Rg8+ Qxg8 4 Qf6+ Qg7 5 Qxg7 mate. But there is no mention of the better defensive attempt 1...Rf7 2 Bxf7 Qxf7, after which White can play 3 Rg7 Qd5+ 4 R1g2 Qe4 5 Rxh7+ and mate in two. Similarly, 3...Bg4 is ignored in the second diagram on page 100, and on page 128 12...g6 is not ‘forced to prevent mate on h7’.
The best beginners’ book may still be Teach Yourself Chess by William R. Hartston (1985). We are hesitant regarding the best children’s book, and should like nominations. Another discussion topic: which was the first chess book in history that was specifically aimed at children?
The World Champions Teach Chess compiled by Yakov Estrin and Isaac Romanov and edited by Michael Ayton (A. & C. Black) is similar to David Levy’s 1979 book Learn Chess from the World Champions but less well organized. Such works are amongst the easiest to prepare, so there is little excuse for the way The World Champions Teach Chess frequently confuses the reader; because of poor layout it is often difficult to know when a world champion’s piece has finished and when the Editors’ commentary restarts. On page 12 Steinitz is informing us that brilliant players were often excellent problemists when we suddenly read, ‘Around 1980, Yugoslav television polled its viewers ...’, without any indication that it is no longer Steinitz who is writing. There is likely to be similar confusion on page 29, page 55, page 79, page 81 and page 84.
Acknowledgement of sources is slovenly or non-existent. The presentation of a lecture Lasker delivered in June 1910 should have been credited to issue 2 of Lasker & His Contemporaries, whence the translation from the Spanish (by Hugh Myers) has been taken. In the Alekhine chapter, the book fails to provide the source of an article by A.A., which is followed, inexplicably, by a Chigorin v Steinitz game annotated by Chigorin, an Alekhine-Blümich game annotated by Alekhine and a Fischer-Reshevsky game explained by an anonymous annotator. The Euwe chapter has just one game, the ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’. Euwe’s annotations are readily available, but for some reason the book ignores them. Botvinnik’s chapter has 31 pages, Karpov’s seven. However, the former also contains a game annotated by Kasparov. And so it goes on, reaching a characteristically unruly conclusion with a final 30 or so pages of material that has nothing to do with the theme of the work.
Chess World Championships by James H. Gelo (subtitled ‘All the games, 1834-1984’) is an elegant hardback of 706 pages from McFarland & Company, Inc. The game-scores – no notes, but one diagram per game – are well spaced out and there is a good bibliography (rather unnecessarily divided into three parts) and a detailed openings index (where ‘Petrov’s Defense’ gives a jolt). It is useful to have these 1,164 games within a single volume, but the author’s selection criteria are dubious. Why give all the games from the Morphy v Mongrédien match or the London tournament of 1862? To include the October-November 1909 Lasker v Janowsky match is an astonishing blunder after all that has been written on the subject in the past few years. It is also inappropriate for a book published in December 1988 to conclude after the first Karpov v Kasparov match.
Chess Trivia by Peter Hotton and Herbert A. Kenny (Quinlan Press) is a series of quizzes, the standard of which can be gauged from the following sample with our comments in brackets:
Page 1: ‘What is the Udemann Code?’ (A misprint for Uedemann Code.)
Page 3: ‘What master once stood on his head between moves in a match? Nimzovitsch.’
Page 4: ‘What is axedras? The Spanish word for chess.’ (Chess in Spanish is ajedrez.)
Pages 4/13: ‘What is a fingerfelter?’ (A slip of the hand when typing Fingerfehler.)
Page 6: ‘What is the etymology of the word “gambit”? It is from the French cambi, meaning “exchange”.’ (It is from the Italian gambetta. French has no word cambi.)
Page 12: ‘Sam Lloyd’. (The Welsh puzzle king ...)
Page 21: ‘What master once stood on his head between moves in a tournament? Nimzovitsch.’ (So, once in a match and once in a tournament.)
Page 23: ‘What American chess master has written the most books about the game? Irving Chernev.’
Page 26 (and passim): ‘Rubenstein’.
Page 28: ‘What British champion conducts the chess column in the Manchester Guardian? Leonard Bardon.’ (The Manchester Guardian changed its name decades ago, but Barden has yet to change his.)
Page 31: ‘James Mason of Killarney.’ (Kilkenny.)
Page 32: ‘A.L.H. Deschappeles (1780-1842)’ (Evidently unrelated to A.L.H. Deschapelles (1780-1847) or to ‘Alexander Deschappelles’ further down the same page.)
Pages 39/49: (We are told that Steinitz was officially world champion for ten years, but claimed the title for 30 years, and that he was succeeded by Lasker, who was world champion for 30 years, from 1897 to 1927.)
Page 50: (‘Schlecter’, who, page 32 had claimed, died in 1916.)
Page 96: ‘What twentieth-century player was called the “crown prince of chess”? Keres.’ (Not Nimzowitsch, of course, whose match and tournament posture precluded crowning.)
Page 106: O’Kelly ‘is the only grandmaster who is a member of the nobility’. (He died in 1980.)
Page 112: ‘Who’s the world champion in 1983? Kasparov.’
Page 124: Euwe ‘world champion in 1948’.
Page 125: Botvinnik ‘world champion in 1950’.
It is like that from start to finish. ‘Emmanuel (and Emmanual) Lasker’, ‘Herman Helms’, ‘Paul Benko’, ‘Giovannie Leonardo’, ‘Paulson’, ‘Compomanes’, ‘Taimonov’, ‘Olgan Menchik’, ‘Scheveninger system’, ‘en pris’, ‘William Tevis’, ‘The London Illustrated News’, ‘LaPalemede’, etc. etc. etc.
Published in October 1988 by colección Ricardo Aguilera, Morphy su vida y 353 partidas by Benito López Esnaola claims to be an important work of scholarship but it could easily have been written by Hotton and Kenny. The author comments in his Introduction: ‘Morphy’s games have been compiled before, but I believe that the present book breaks the record with 353. The previous total was 300’. The back-cover blurb remarks that 353 is a ‘record figure’ and trumpets López Esnaola as ‘an excellent investigator of chess history’.
Such words are considerable exaggerations. Maróczy’s book (first published in 1909) contained over 400 games, even though López Esnaola mentions this predecessor on page 26. On the other hand, he has overlooked the second series of unknown Morphy games published by David Lawson in the BCM (September 1979), and shows no evidence of acquaintance with Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess.
There are so many misspellings they can hardly be printers’ errors. Pages 18, 26 and 35 refer to the ‘Britisch Chess Magazine’, no doubt by analogy with the ‘Britisch Chess Review’ (page 172). Staunton’s column was in the ‘Ilustration London’ (page 14), the ‘Ilustrated London News’ (pages 15, 16 and 172) and the ‘Ilustrated London’ (pages 17 and 18). Other nineteenth century revelations are ‘McConnel’, ‘Rouseau’, ‘La Bourdonais’, ‘Lichtenthein’, ‘Lichtentheim’, ‘Lichtenheim’, ‘Lyttleton’, ‘Lytleton’, ‘Harwitz’, ‘St Jame’s Chess Club’, ‘Zukertot’, ‘Andersen’, ‘Cuningham’, ‘Sucre’, ‘La Palamede’ and ‘Delandy’. How do authors and publishers dare put out such material?
The novelty of Paul Schmidt’s Schachmeister denken was that the detailed notes examined motivations from both players’ (conflicting) points of view. The blurb on the recent Chess Enterprises English translation (only $7.95) starts, ‘This book has long been recognized as one of the true classics of chess literature, with extraordinary instructional content’, a justified boast. Less impressive is the way it is dedicated to the memory of ‘Klaus Junges’. (The original German edition had Klaus Junge, but the Spanish translation (1974) gave ‘Klaus Jung’.)
Jimmy Adams’s book Isaac Boleslavsky Selected Games is a translation of Boleslavsky’s 1957 work Izbrannye Partii. The quality of the annotated games is very high and the book is a most welcome opportunity to become acquainted with a great talent who is far too little known in the West.
French chess literature has rarely been out of the doldrums since Philidor’s time, so it is a pleasure to recommend a new book with some sparkle, Almanach des échecs by Christophe Bouton and Jean-Pierre Mercier (published by Payot). It is a chronicle of 1988 compiled from the daily chess columns, short but dense, of Libération. Last year  was an important one for the hexagon and, perhaps rather against expectations, a comprehensive and valuable work has resulted which is particularly rich in Kasparov material and bobs along with good humour and charm. Political assessments are sometimes rather simplistic, but there are few chess columns in the world which could be adapted into such an interesting book.
Anyone can fill a page on Zukertort; ‘physician ... linguist ... war hero .. shattered by his foe Steinitz, etc.’, all topped off with the inevitable Zukertort v Blackburne, London, 1883 (28 Qb4!!). What has always been needed is a detailed study of his career, a gap now filled by Johannes Zukertort, Artist of the Chessboard by Jimmy Adams (Caissa Editions, Yorklyn). In the 1980s Adams had already made an outstanding contribution to chess literature, and the Zukertort work (all 534 pages of it) is another fine achievement. A hundred and thirty pages of historical material are followed by 319 annotated games, most long forgotten. Proof-reading has been excellent, and our only criticism concerns the absence of exact source references for material quoted (historical features as well as game annotations). Ironically, the hero of this book (apart from subject and author) is Steinitz, whose wonderful annotations to Zukertort’s games are quoted on many occasions and put others to shame.
Schach: 2000 Jahre Spiel-Geschichte by Roswin Finkenzeller, Wilhelm Ziehr and Emil M. Bahrer (AT Verlag) is available at 74 Swiss francs from Meissner Bucherdienst; a French translation has been published by La Bibliothèque des Arts, Paris-Lausanne. Despite the identical format, the latter is being sold by Geneva bookshops at 120 Swiss francs. The book offers the general reader an overall introduction to the history and culture of the game, the real attraction being the magnificent set of colour pictures. But if the book is lavishly illustrated, it is not, alas, lavishly researched.
A number of recent books have been reprints of old titles, and it is interesting to observe how different publishers have approached, if at all, the problem of correcting errors.
The simplest solution is to do nothing. Alekhine’s two collections of best games have been reproduced by Dover (1985) and Batsford (1989). The latter also includes the Alexander book covering 1938-45 and adds a most disappointing Foreword by Kasparov. Yet neither reprint offers corrections to Alekhine’s rare annotational slips or spurious claims (e.g. the five queens game).
In 1989 Dover have also reprinted Charousek’s Games of Chess by Philip W. Sergeant, though with freshly prepared diagrams. Sergeant included all the game-scores available to him, but he was working at a difficult time for research (the First World War). The reprint has been enhanced by Fred Wilson’s nine-page appendix listing ‘additions and corrections which were made by Philip W. Sergeant in his copy of the first edition as notes for a second edition which was never published’, though Dover could perhaps have gone even further by including extra Charousek games from other sources (such as the Blackmar Gambit win over Exner on pages 33-34 of Bruce Hayden’s Cabbage Heads and Chess Kings).
Another solution for reprints is the good old errata sheet, but here too there are dangers, for its presence implies that all the rest of the text has been checked and found accurate. The BCM has just reprinted Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games of Chess by Harry Golombek. An insert lists about a dozen corrections to du Mont’s memoir and the tournament/match records, but an even greater number of errors (just from those parts of the book) remain uncorrected, even though they have been pointed out publicly in, for instance, the October 1976 CHESS and C.N. 1080. We have sent the BCM a Letter to the Editor about this matter, quoting examples, and therefore give just one here: how could it still have been overlooked that on page 9 and page 20 the book claims that there were 14 draws (instead of ten) in the 1921 Lasker v Capablanca world title match?
Golombek has not updated or corrected any of the annotations, even though over the past 40 years he must have gained many new insights and noted occasional errors (such as a missed mate in two in the note to move 26 on page 56 – a mistake that seems to have originated with Capablanca himself). Yet despite the many missed opportunities in this reprint, it is good to see Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games of Chess available again. In our opinion, it is one of the finest of the many ‘Capablanca’s best games’ collections. As H.G. himself revealed on page 14 of Wade and O’Connell’s The Games of Robert J. Fischer, it is a book that Fischer read and appreciated.
See also Harry Golombek’s Book on Capablanca.
To the Chess Notes main page.
To the Archives for other feature articles.
Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.