Chess History: Photograph Collections

Edward Winter

Below is a digest of C.N. items which include links to collections of little-known photographs of past chess masters.

John Hilbert (Amherst, NY, USA) writes:

‘Over 55,000 photographs from the Chicago Daily News for 1902-33, now the property of the Chicago Historical Society, are available at this webpage. A simple search for “chess” listed 38 images, including pictures of Lasker, C. Medinus, Sidney Johnston, C.W. Parks, Charles Phillips, Louis Uedemann, Sammy Rzeszewski, Frank Marshall, Harry Lee and Emil Kemény. The quality is exceptional, as they are taken from original negatives.’


Dan Scoones (Coquitlam, BC, Canada) asks whether it is possible to identify when this photograph of Alekhine was taken:


We note that it appeared on page 163 of Freude am Schach by Gerhard Henschel (Gütersloh, 1959) and that page 187 credited it to Ullstein Bilderdienst, Berlin.

This prompted us to look at the webpage of Ullstein Bild, where a search for ‘Alekhine’ and ‘Aljechin’ results in several unknown portraits of the master, although not the one above. Information will be welcomed on any other photographic agencies or companies with significant chess holdings.


Jan Kalendovský (Brno, Czech Republic) draws attention to an Amsterdam website whose picture archives include many chess photographs. Some particularly interesting ones can be found by searching for the names Aljechin, Capablanca and Euwe.


Olimpiu G. Urcan (Singapore) notes that additions continue to be made to the Library of Congress photograph collection and he draws particular attention to a pair of pictures of Capablanca dated 1915.



The following shot appeared on page 278 of The Golden Dozen by Irving Chernev (Oxford, 1976):


The Library’s conditions for use of its pictures should be noted. A search for chess photographs at the website also yields a good shot of Tartakower and Edward Lasker.


Olimpiu G. Urcan notes that many chess photographs, including unknown shots of Alekhine, can be found at the website of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna) by making a search for Schach.


See too the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery.


A set of unknown photographs of Capablanca at the website of the University of Miami Libraries is pointed out by Christian Sánchez (Rosario, Argentina).


Olimpiu G. Urcan mentions that many chess photographs can be viewed at the ‘Memory of the Netherlands’ website by entering either the Dutch word for chess, Schaken, or the names of such players as Lasker, Marshal [sic], Capablanca, Aljechin, Euwe, Botwinnik, Keres, Larsen and Tal.


Olimpiu G. Urcan draws attention to some Russian photographs (pre-First World War) at a webpage of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow.


Mr Urcan also points out the Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo website. A search for ‘Schach’ yields many photographs of chess masters past and present. We note, for instance, a 1921 shot of Samuel Reshevsky boxing against the Hollywood prodigy Jackie Coogan.


Wolfgang Franz (Oberdiebach, Germany) notes that the photographs in C.N. 8204 can be viewed, together with many others, at the Polish Zbiory NAC on-line website, e.g. by searching for Szachowe or Alechin.


A number of interesting photographs, including one featuring Magnus Smith, can be viewed at the Libraries and Archives Canada website.


The DigitaltMuseum website has many chess photographs.


Jean Fontaine (Montreal, Canada) provides some links to material at the Gallica website:


A small set of chess photographs from the International Institute of Social History is available on-line. They feature, in particular, Max Euwe.


Dan Scoones reports that there are many high-resolution chess photographs at the Russian Gallery website.


From Olimpiu G. Urcan:

‘IMAGNO, an Austrian historical picture agency, has some of its records digitized online. Through a keyword search (“Schach”) the database reveals a number of fine photographs from the 1930s, featuring, among others, Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Capablanca, Euwe, Flohr, Koltanowski, Mieses, Sämisch and Spielmann.’


Hans Mudde (Rijswijk, the Netherlands) notes that the Haagse Beeldbank website has many unknown photographs of, among others, Alekhine, Euwe and Botvinnik.


Thomas Höpfl (Halle, Germany) notes that the Chess in Luxembourg webpage has some fine photographs, including shots of Boris Spassky.


John Hilbert (Amherst, NY, USA) points out a collection of chess photographs on the website of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.



An addition is the Dutch Nationaal Archief.


Another photograph collection featuring many chessplayers is Europeana.


The TopFoto website has a large collection of chess photographs. Interesting older pictures can be viewed by deselecting ‘RBG’ in ‘Image Attributes’.


Thomas Höpfl points out that the Dutch website Fotoleren has many chess photographs.


Aðalsteinn Thorarensen (Reykjavik) has sent us a pair of Icelandic Chess Federation links (one and two) including a rich selection of photographs taken during the 1972 Spassky v Fischer match.


Chess photographs in the National Library of Israel were referred to in C.N.s 9914, 9917 and 9921. The collection in the Arxiu Municipal de Barcelona was mentioned in C.N. 9918.

On-line collections of images permit unexpected discoveries, such as an 1895 ‘Chess Masters at Hastings’ illustration (‘Ernest Prater’) in the LIFE photo collection. The players at the board appear to be Lasker and Pillsbury, but where has the picture been published?


Olimpiu G. Urcan points out that the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary has high-quality pictures of Löwenthal and Reshevsky, and that a search for ‘Jacques Mieses’ at the website of the Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History yields a number of letters written by him, in the Hanna de Mieses Family Collection, 1833-1981.


A Spanish website has a large number of chess photographs. One recommended search, ‘ajedrez 1943’, gives these 12 shots:



The Regionaal Archief Tilburg has many fine chess photographs.

tilburg chess


Many excellent photographs can be viewed at the Finna website by entering the Finnish word for chess, ‘shakki’.



The Getty Images website has many chess-related photographs, and Olimpiu G. Urcan mentions that, for instance, the results of a search with the words ‘British Chess Championship’ include the following:



Olimpiu G. Urcan draws attention to a number of items in the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive (Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA) and other material available via the UCLA Library Digital Archives:


Gerard Killoran (Ilkley, England) notes a series of chess-related photographs at the Arkivkopia website. In particular, there is a magnificent portrait of Alekhine.


Avital Pilpel (Haifa, Israel) informs us, courtesy of his colleague Moshe Roytman, that a search for the word שחמט (chess) yields many pictures of interest in the Israeli national library’s photograph collection Mare’h Eynayim, and notably concerning a simultaneous exhibition by Boris Spassky in 1964.


The MTVA Archívum has a fine selection of chess-related photographs.


Latest update: 27 June 2021.

To the Chess Notes main page.

To the Archives for other feature articles.

Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.