Chess Reincarnation

Edward Winter

From page 321 of The Oxford Companion to Chess by D. Hooper and K. Whyld (first edition, page 321, i.e. the entry on ‘Spurious Games’):

‘Equally false is the claim made by I. Chernev in The Fireside Book of Chess (1949) that [a position given by the Companion in the Forsyth notation] occurred in a game Jørgensen-Sørensen, 1945. White mates in three beginning 1 Nh5+ Rxh5 2 Rxg6+. How could the players possibly have arrived at such an unusual position? In fact this is a 9th-century manṣūba by al-‘Adlī.’

In reality, the Fireside Book (co-authored by F. Reinfeld and I. Chernev, with no indication as to which of them wrote which parts) itself mentioned the ninth-century precedent. Indeed, that was the very purpose of the Americans’ item, which appeared on page 84 of their anthology:

‘Do you believe in reincarnation of chess ideas? The diagram shows a position which occurred in a game played in 1945 between Jorgensen and Sorensen. This identical position is described by al-Adli in an Arabian manuscript dating back to the ninth century!


Jorgensen mated in three moves (thereby solving al-Adli’s problem) by 1 Kt-R5ch RxKt 2 RxKtch+ KxR 3 R-K6 mate!’

Can readers shed any light on this alleged 1945 game?


Virtually the identical Fireside Book text on this matter was reproduced on page 62 of Chernev’s Wonders and Curiosities of Chess (New York, 1974).

Calle Erlandsson (Lund, Sweden) points out that the ninth-century al-‘Adlī position was given by Poul Hage on page 455 of Alt om skak by B. Nielsen (Odense, 1943), i.e. just two years before the two Danish-sounding players were purported to have had the same position in a game:


Our correspondent adds that the Danish magazine Skakbladet published no Jorgensen v Sorensen game in either 1945 or 1946. On the other hand, we note that in 1946 Chess Review published two games by a player named (F.A.) Sorensen of Pittsburgh.

The Companion was certainly right to ask how such a position could have occurred in actual play (what might Black’s last move have been?), and we are still hopeful of discovering, with readers’ help, when the position was first ascribed to Jorgensen and Sorensen.


The above-mentioned Danish book has photographs of Johs. Sørensen (page 504), Ernst Sørensen (page 504), C. Jørgensen (page 505), Svend Jørgensen (page 506) and Leon Jørgensen (page 511).

Now we note that on page 470 of the May 1899 American Chess Magazine Samuel Tinsley stated that a very similar position had been ‘published in the Glasgow Herald in 1894 as a fine ending from actual play recently. It is fair to state that Mr Forsyth pointed the whole thing out at once in the Glasgow Herald’.

Can a reader find out exactly what the Herald published?



In 1894 there was no chess column in the Glasgow Herald, but W.C. Spens wrote in the Glasgow Weekly Herald. The material referred to by Tinsley has yet to be traced.

We now see that on pages 110-111 of an earlier book, Challenge To Chessplayers (Philadelphia, 1947), Reinfeld gave the same position with the same players named but, this time, with the caption ‘Storkovenhagen, 1945’. That appears to be a misspelling/miscopying of Storkøbenhavn (i.e. Greater Copenhagen) and suggests that Reinfeld took the position from a Danish source. But, if so, which? Incidentally, whereas his Fireside book referred to ‘this identical position’, in Challenge to Chessplayers Reinfeld wrote: ‘The position is almost [our italics] identical with the setting of a problem composed 1,000 years ago.’



From pages 284 and 309 of A History of Chess by H.J.R. Murray (Oxford, 1913):



From page 84 of The Fireside Book of Chess by I. Chernev and F. Reinfeld (New York, 1949):


C.N. items discussing this topic were brought together on page 274 of Chess Facts and Fables, and have been augmented above.

An additional point is that on page 226 of the August 1970 BCM, in D.J. Morgan’s Quotes and Queries column, Kenneth Runkel of Wausau, WI, USA appealed for the score ‘of Jorgensen v Sorensen, Storkovenhagen, 1945’. On page 288 of the October 1970 issue Morgan wrote:

‘J.P. Toft. Thank you for note, and for our wanted score of Jorgensen v Sorensen, played in the Danish Worker-Chessbund in Copenhagen, March 1945. For a copy will Kenneth Runkel of Wisconsin send his full address.’

Nothing further appeared in the BCM.

We have taken the matter up with Claes Løfgren (Fur, Denmark), who has found the following on pages 126-127 of the October 1946 edition of Arbejder-Skak (‘Workers’ Chess’):



Our correspondent’s translation:

‘Abu’n Na’am or Oluf Jørgensen?

The position below comes from a game which was played in the Easter Tournament of the Greater Copenhagen Workers’ Chess Clubs in 1945. The white pieces are played by Oluf Jørgensen, A.S. [the Copenhagen Workers’ Chess Club] while Viktor Sørensen, Tram Workers’ Chess Club, conducts the black pieces. White’s position is apparently hopeless. The white king has been driven all the way down to the eighth rank, and Black threatens mate in no fewer than three different ways. But Oluf Jørgensen does not lose his head. He plays:


24 Ng3-h5+! Rh7xh5
25 Rg1xg6+! Kf6xg6
26 Re1-e6 mate.

But – when we accidentally found the position in a chess column the other day, it appeared familiar to us. And what did we find then after a closer search in our collection?

The position is piece for piece to be found in a mediaeval manuscript: the Al-Adli manuscript, which dates back to the ninth century, and the position is ascribed to a certain Abu’n-Na’am.

Besides, the Arab Philipp Stamma published a work in 1737 with 100 endgames, in which a similar position with exactly the same play appears.

It happens occasionally even in the game of chess that history repeats itself. Here is an example then, which it must be said is one of the very rare cases.’

Mr Løfgren comments that the article was unsigned, but that the main editor of Arbejder-Skak was J.P. Toft. The tournament in question was covered in the May 1945 issue; a few games were given, but without mention of the Jørgensen v Sørensen encounter. Another curiosity is the information that the diagrammed position arose after only 23 moves. It is not yet possible to say where the position had been published in ‘a chess column the other day’, or whether, in 1970, J.P. Toft sent D.J. Morgan the full game-score, as the latter implied.


Luc Winants (Boirs, Belgium) draws attention to this similar position (White mates in three) ...


... on pages 337-339 of Le jeu des Eschets by Gioacchino Greco (Paris, 1669):





Latest update: 8 December 2023.

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