A selection of C.N. items about the American chess writer Andrew Soltis.
From The Great Chess Tournaments and Their Stories by Andy Soltis (Chilton Book Co., 1975), page 53:
‘About 1.2% of decisive master games end in time forfeiture, according to a study of 1,005 games played between 1895 and 1970. The study, by Ernest Rubin and published in the June 1973 issue of the American Statistician, found that of the 658 games ending in victory, 95% concluded with resignation, 3% by mate, and less than 1% by one player's failure to show up for play. Of the 347 draws, 83% came about by agreement, 10.7% by perpetual check, 4.6% by repetition of moves, 1.2% by stalemate and 0.5% by insufficient mating material.’
It may be added in passing that the Soltis book is not readily available in Europe but, on the whole, is too poorly researched to be worth specially seeking out.
In C.N. 193 it was pointed out that Soltis’s ‘repetition of moves’ should read ‘repetition of position’.
Regrettably the dishonourable tradition of scissors-and-paste chess history is currently being carried on by Andrew Soltis, none of whose works in this field have yet offered any valuable insights. Compare his articles in Golombek’s Encyclopedia of Chess with those supplied by Heidenfeld and you will find, side by side, the two extremes of chess writing.
Brief examples: Page 5: J.H. Blake was never BCM editor; Page 40: Jonathan Nunn; Page 48: The Riumin game was not Capablanca’s only loss on time; Page 75: ‘repetition of moves" (see C.N. 193); Page 105: Anderssen was not Austrian; Page 114 and elsewhere) Le, not La, Palamède; Page 131: The ‘Polish Immortal’ was played in 1935, not 1933 [see, however, The Polish Immortal]; Page 200: The BCM is hardly the official organ of ‘the British Chess Federation’ (though some try to bully it into being so).
Chess Lists is worth having, and we suspect that readers, like us, will probably enjoy it more than the contents really merit.
One error we are tired of seeing constantly repeated concerns Capablanca’s suggestion of modifying the rules of chess, and once again we feel that behind the inaccuracy is a desire to mock an immortal figure. A recent repetition is on page 94 of Soltis’s Lists book: ‘... after he lost the world title in 1927 Capablanca came up with his own version of an improved game of chess.’ The implication is clear: Capa was happy enough with the normal mode of play so long as he was champion but not once Alekhine had defeated him.
This is wholly untrue. Capablanca published an article in the Revista Bimestre Cubana, March-April 1926 (reprinted in Homenaje...) in which he suggested an additional form of chess to exist alongside the ‘real’ game, with a 10x10 board, two extra pawns and new pieces per side and the option for the former to advance one, two or three squares on their first move. Note the year: 1926.
See too Chess Variants and Rule Changes.
Hugh Myers (Davenport, IA, USA) has been reading American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer by Arthur Bisguier and Andrew Soltis (Macmillan, 1974) and quotes three snippets:
a) From the Preface, regarding Hermann Helms: ‘He played on the same Brooklyn Chess Club team as his good friend Harry Pillsbury and once defeated Frank Marshall twice in a New York State championship game.’ Our correspondent would like to know the Helms method for scoring two points from one tournament game.
b) Page 76, concerning Pillsbury in 1905: ‘He tried to commit suicide by jumping from the fourth floor of a Philadelphia hospital where he was being treated for mental disorders.’ Mr Myers comments: ‘I haven’t read that elsewhere. The fourth floor! If true, couldn’t a fall like that have been a factor in his death (“apoplectic seizure”) in 1906, and not simply syphilis, as has been alleged?’
c) Hugh Myers writes:
‘On pages 88-89 there is something that is too typical of master annotation. About the game Marshall-Atkins, Cable Match 1903, the co-authors say after move 24: “Black (Atkins) had played very effectively in the opening and held a considerable advantage ... White’s premature attack is repulsed.” Then Marshall played “25 P-N3!!” – “an ingenious attempt at swindle’. Marshall went on to win. They point out that annotators Mieses and Pachman didn’t understand the position, but that Marshall wrote how the game might have been drawn by the best response. So if Black had at best only a hard-to-find (and not certain) draw, why was White’s attack “premature”? And why did Atkins lose (or have only a possible draw with difficult play) if he “held a considerable advantage”??’
We add just two brief comments. 1) Once again there is the old problem of what Marshall wrote being what Reinfeld wrote. 2) At the end of the first paragraph on page 89 Bisguier and Soltis speak of a mate threat which does not exist.
From James J. Barrett (Buffalo, NY, USA):
‘In C.N. 997 Hugh Myers wondered how Pillsbury survived jumping out of the hospital window. The answer, of course, is that he “attempted to throw himself out of the window”, as Ludwig Bachmann is quoted as writing in 1914 by Walter Korn’s excellent America’s Chess Heritage (page 71).’
Mr Myers himself recently pointed out to us that on page 51 of The US Chess Championship, 1845-1985 by McCormick and Soltis it is specified that Pillsbury only tried to jump. We imagine that this is what Bisguier and Soltis meant on page 76 of American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer, but it is not what they wrote.
Ken Whyld (Caistor, England) writes:
‘James J. Barrett refers, in C.N. 1272, to Korn’s “excellent” America’s Chess Heritage. I found much to admire in the book, but there are too many blunders to call it excellent. For example, in a section on women’s achievements page 267 gives a substantial account of Mrs W.J. Baird’s creditable (for a woman) next to last place at New York, 1889. Quite apart from the fact that I find the patronizing tone of this section offensive, it was David Washington Baird who landed in that spot while David Graham Baird finished nearer to the middle.’
See too Pillsbury’s Torment.
This was the final position of the brilliancy prize game Bird v Mason, New York, 1876, in which White has just played his knight from e5 to g6:
According to page 86 of The Book of Chess Lists by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1984) Mason resigned in view of 50...Kg7 51 Nxe7+ Kxh6 52 Nxc8. What about 52 Rg6 mate?
Page 257 of Chess Explorations noted that the identical oversight had occurred on page 10 of Les Prix de Beauté aux Echecs by F. Le Lionnais (Paris, 1951).
C.N. 1496 quoted without comment this passage from page 2 of Morphy Chess Masterpieces by F. Reinfeld and A. Soltis:
‘Paul Morphy was a Herculean figure in his day, and his fame has not suffered with time. He was not just the first American to triumph over representatives of the Old World at chess. He was the first American to achieve a position of world superiority in any field.’
We now note the following text from page 142 of Checkmate, May 1904:
‘In a recent letter to a New York journal Mr F.M. Teed called attention to the fact that America won the yachting and chess primacy of the world about half a century ago. The old cup, he says, is still here, and even those who don’t care for yachting (or, like him, can’t afford it) are always pleased to hear of another win for Columbia or Reliance.’
Some extracts from an article by Andy Soltis on pages 10-11 and 64 of the June 1988 Chess Life:
1) ‘Fischer wrote a column for Boys Life, the Boy Scout magazine, during the late 1960s and did a television commercial for IBM.’) [Our request for information about the column was subsequently answered; see Fischer’s Chess Column in Boys’ Life.]
2) ‘In the 1955 US Junior, he forfeited one game on time. A year later he forfeited to Sammy Reshevsky in a major tournament. And he never lost on time again.’ (Wanted: nominations of other players who have lost on time only very rarely. How frequently has the fate befallen Kasparov?)
3) ‘Last November, a ninth-grade lab notebook filled with homework and doodles by the 13-year-old Fischer sold at auction in New York for $660. A typescript of his My 60 Memorable Games, with handwritten revisions, sold for $6060.’ (We should welcome further details.)
4) ‘At its peak, Fischer’s chess library was reputed to have consisted of nearly 500 books.’ (We would add that page 73 of the Gazette of the Grolier Club, June/December 1975 refers to a two-page letter from Fischer dated Madrid, 9 January 1971: ‘In 1970 Fischer, unsure of his plans, disposed of his own library – always a mistake as this letter indicates (wherein he now expresses regret about selling his books).’)
It is a pity that Soltis seldom stipulates the source of his information. Even ‘popular’ journalism should not be exempt from fulfilling this basic requirement.
On page 10 of the August 1992 Chess Life Andy Soltis wrote that Reshevsky had told a number of chessplayers that he was born in 1909, and not 1911 as commonly believed. If so, a curious (and unflattering) twist is given to the series of intelligence tests that the prodigy underwent in Berlin in 1920 at the hands of Dr Franziska Baumgarten. The latter wrote a detailed report in CHESS (14 March 1939, pages 245-246). Pages 323-324 of the 14 May 1939 issue of the same magazine reproduced the memory and geometrical tests ...
When the above item was reproduced on pages 202-203 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves a footnote added that in an interview with Hanon Russell in August 1991 Reshevsky insisted that he had indeed been born in 1911. As mentioned in C.N. 11199, the matter was discussed by Bruce Monson in an article about Reshevsky on pages 46-55 of the 1/2019 New in Chess.
See also Testing Reshevsky.
A quote about Kurt Richter from page 14 of Chess to Enjoy by A. Soltis
‘He was probably the greatest purely combinative mind of the century. Some claims for Mikhail Tal or Rudolf Spielmann might be made. But Richter’s gift for sparkling tactics and thirst for combinations was so developed that it was virtually the only noticeable aspect of his play.’
The above quote was shown on page 389 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves.
On page 10 of the November 1992 Chess Life A. Soltis said that Pillsbury’s last published game was against Marshall in 1904. Not so. C.N. 1673 gave the score of Pillsbury v Edward Hymes, Philadelphia, May 1905, which had been printed in the New Orleans Times-Democrat of 18 June 1905 and the June 1905 AmericanChess Bulletin (page 226). Mr Soltis was therefore also wrong to suggest on page 50 of his 1990 book on Pillsbury, written with Ken Smith, that the Hymes game ‘has apparently been lost’.
On page 20 of the April 1994 Chess Life, Andy Soltis rehashes a rickety anecdote:
‘Shortly after José Capablanca became world champion Znosko-Borovsky published a booklet of the Cuban’s losses called Capablanca’s Errors. Asked about it, Capa said he hoped to write a book called Znosko-Borovsky’s Good Moves but, he said, “Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in finding material for it”.’
Mr Soltis provides no evidence regarding Znosko-Borovsky’s alleged booklet or Capablanca’s alleged dialogue. (We can add that Znosko-Borovsky did write an article called ‘Capablanca’s Fehler’ on pages 150-154 of the January-March 1926 Kagans Neueste Schachnachrichten; it discussed positions from seven games, four of which the Cuban won.)
A similar tale, with Euwe replacing Capablanca, appeared on pages 276-277 of the 14 April 1939 issue of CHESS.
The Znosko-Borovsky anecdote also appeared on page 325 of The Golden Dozen by Irving Chernev (Oxford, 1976). See too Chess Anecdotes.
In early 1994 McFarland & Company, Inc. published Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis, a 383-page hardback, complete with 14 photographs, subtitled ‘A Biography with 220 Games’. The overall appearance is beautiful (no chess publisher rivals McFarland’s production standards), yet there are many unsightly factual mistakes and typographical errors (the latter particularly in the index). Although fluently written, the volume also suffers from the author’s rather romantic and anecdotal approach to chess history, information often being provided without any precise source. On the other hand, the presentation certainly achieves a skilful balance between known and unknown games/facts, and the author makes good use of Marshall’s hitherto unpublished archives. It is probably Soltis’s best historical work to date and, despite its weaknesses, offers much of interest.
Before us lie, by chance, two paperbacks, Chess Lists by A. Soltis (McFarland, Jefferson, 2002, $30) and Morecambe & Wise by G. McCann (Fourth Estate, London, £7.99). The latter work (an excellently-researched piece of scholarship on the United Kingdom’s ‘best and funniest double-act’) comprises 398 pages and includes (working backwards) a 22-page index, a four-page general bibliography and a 42-page section of endnotes giving corroborative sources for all the principal information presented. Chess Lists merely has a seven-page general index. Virtually everything in the book is unsubstantiated, leaving readers clueless as to whether the facts/stories proffered are true or false and, in either case, whether they are the fruits of Soltis’s own work/imagination or someone else’s.
John Hilbert (Amherst, NY, USA) comments on the first chapter (pages 1-13) of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1994):
‘My knowledge of Frank Marshall’s chess career involves only his earliest playing days, between 1893 and 1900, and I therefore limit my remarks to the few pages by Soltis in which he covers that period. Corroboration of the various points can be found in my own book Young Marshall (Olomouc, 2002).
1. On page 3 Soltis quotes Marshall’s statement in “unpublished notes” that he “won Montreal Chess Club Championship at age 15”. Soltis accepts the truth of this, since on page 6 he writes, “Besides winning the Montreal club championship …” In fact, Marshall never won the Montreal Chess Club Championship. He played in the first Montreal Chess Club Championship (1893), finishing third behind J.P. Cooke and D.C. Robertson, and in a handicap tournament which was not for the club title. He finished sixth in the 1894-95 handicap event. There is no evidence that he played in any other Montreal Chess Club Championships.
2. “Pollock (1859-1896) spent the last four years of his life in Montreal …” (page 4).
Sources, including Pollock Memories, show that Pollock lived in Montreal for just under two and a half years.
3. “It was at the Manhattan C.C. that Marshall played his first serious match, with Vladimir Sournin …” (page 7).
Marshall’s first known serious match was for the New York State Junior Championship at Ontario Beach, New York in July 1896, which he just managed to win against Louis Karpinski. Marshall’s second and more significant match was against William Ewart Napier at the Brooklyn Chess Club from 8 October to 7 November 1896. Napier crushed Marshall +7 –1 =3. Soltis does not mention either of these matches. In the match table on page 367 the Sournin match is dated 1896 instead of 1897.
4. “Solomon Lipschütz” (page 8).
I am unaware of any conclusive evidence regarding Lipschütz’s first name. Gaige in Chess Personalia gives Sámuel, Simon and Solomon as versions found in multiple sources. The index of Soltis’s book (page 377) has the misspelling “Lischütz”.
5. “Marshall also encountered some illustrious foreigners, such as Emanuel Lasker, the German-born world champion who was then living in New York” (page 8).
Although dates are not given, the context for this comment concerns Marshall’s first years in New York, i.e. approximately 1895-1900. I know of no evidence that Lasker visited the United States between 1895 and 1900, let alone lived there during that period.
6. “Marshall’s principal young rivals were Hermann Helms, Napier and Albert W. Fox …” (page 8).
Helms was seven years older than Marshall. Albert Fox, about whom I have done considerable research, does not appear to have had a game published in the United States prior to 1900, and I am aware of no games between Marshall and Fox until 1904. In 1900 Fox was a teenager living in Europe, and his earliest published games played in the United States are from 1901.
7. “In 1899 he lost a Brooklyn Chess Club Championship match, 2-1, to Napier …” (page 8).
Marshall and Napier did contest a short play-off match following a Brooklyn Chess Club championship tournament. The final result was indeed 2-1. The year was 1898, not 1899. Marshall, not Napier, won.
8. “Marshall’s notes say he won the New York State Junior Championship in 1897 in a match” (page 8).
The match against Karpinski was, as I mentioned above, played in 1896, and not in 1897. Marshall was no better at remembering what events occurred in which years, in his own past, than he was at spelling.
9. “In his later writing Marshall also referred to a match with Fox but without giving a date. It is likely it was played about this time. Two games survive …” (page 8). Soltis gives Fox v Marshall, “circa 1897”, 0-1 in 16 moves (page 9).
It is unclear why Soltis should consider that the facts about the match between Marshall and Fox are uncertain. A photograph of the two players in their 1906 match at the Manhattan Chess Club appeared on page 24 of the February 1906 American Chess Bulletin. The 16-move game given by Soltis was on page 25 of the same issue, and was identified as the first match-game. Game two also appeared on that page, while the remaining four match-games (Marshall won +5 –0 =1) were published on page 95 of the May 1906 Bulletin. Thus, it is clear when the match was played and what the result was. All six games survive, having been published in the most common source for American chess during that period.
10. The Soltis book omits mention of a number of other significant events involving Marshall, including the Brooklyn Chess Club Championship of 1898 (although there is the faulty reference to Marshall losing 2-1 to Napier in 1899, when no club championship was held) and his drawn match against Jasnogrodsky in 1898. In 1900 Marshall won matches against Medinus, Delmar and Roething, but Soltis makes no mention of any of them.
I make no comment on the rest of Soltis’s book, i.e. after 1900. I would hope that it is more accurate and thorough, as Marshall had by then become a better known figure.’
Tony Gillam (Nottingham, England) has just had occasion to read pages 226-230 of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1994), regarding Mannheim, 1914. He comments:
‘Page 226: “the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated in late June 1914 ...” Franz Ferdinand (not “Francis”).
Page 229: “On Friday, 31 July, Marshall played what proved to be his last game in Europe for more than a decade. Fittingly, it was a victory against Janowsky, a 62-move Slav Defence.” On Friday, 31 July Marshall lost to Spielmann, a game and date which Soltis gave on the previous page. Marshall beat Janowsky in Round 11 (the last played) on Saturday, 1 August.
Page 230: “Ossip Bernstein did not play competitively for 18 years after St Petersburg .” He played in a tournament at Le Pont in 1930.
Page 230: “Géza Maróczy had withdrawn even before the war, playing no public games between 1909 and a simultaneous exhibition in 1917.” Were San Sebastián, 1911 and his two tournaments in Budapest in 1912 played in private?”
Frank James Marshall
We also note that on page 229 Soltis related Marshall’s reaction to the sound of gunfire in Mannheim ‘according to La Stratégie’. In reality, the French magazine (page 399 of the November 1914 issue) was expressing scepticism about the veracity of the claims in question, which had been published in Dutch outlets (De Telegraaf of 17 August 1914 and the August and September 1914 issues of Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond).
The plates section of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion has a group photograph of Mannheim, 1914. It is dated 1924.
In C.N. 4738 John Hilbert catalogued many mistakes on pages 1-13 of Soltis’s book, which – appalling to relate – won the 1994 ‘Book of the Year’ award of the British Chess Federation. Page 666 of the December 1994 BCM named the judges as Ray Edwards and John Littlewood.
The book Chess Step by Step by F.J. Marshall and J.C.H. Macbeth (New York, 1924) is a further matter where A. Soltis’s 1994 monograph on Marshall (see C.N.s 4738 and 6266) went awry. On page 347 Soltis stated that Chess Step by Step ‘went into five printings’ and that another book written by Macbeth was Cryptography. Chess Step by Step had far more printings, the final one in our collection, the tenth, being dated November 1945. The author of Cryptography (London, 1922) was André Langie. As shown by our copy below, Macbeth was the translator (although he added a section at the end of the work):
Published opinions on the Marshall/Macbeth book have varied widely. Soltis described it as ‘a routine introductory text of 306 pages’, whereas the book itself carried high praise from the Boston Herald: ‘the finest book on chess fundamentals ever written’.
Marc Hébert (Charny, Canada) notes a game on pages 214-215 of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1994):
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 O-O d5 8 Qe2 Be7 9 Nd2 Qc7 10 Re1 Rb8 11 Nf3 Bc5 12 b3 Ng4 13 Rf1 Bd4 14 Rb1 h5 15 c4 dxc4 16 Bxc4 c5 17 Bb2 Bb7 18 Bxd4 cxd4 19 Rbc1 Qf4 20 Bb5+ Kf8 21 Bd3 Rh6 22 Qd2 Qxd2 23 Nxd2 Ne5 24 Bb1 Ba6 25 Rfd1 Be2 26 Re1 d3 27 h3 Rg6 28 Kh2 Rf6 29 Kg1 h4 30 Rc7 Ng6 31 f3 Nf4 32 Kf2 Rg6 33 Rg1 Rb5 34 Rc8+ Ke7 35 Rgc1 Rxg2+ 36 Ke3 e5 37 R8c7+ Kf6 38 R1c6+ Kg5 39 Rxf7 g6 40 Rxf4 exf4+ 41 Kd4 Rg3 42 e5 Bxf3 43 Rxg6+ Kxg6 44 Bxd3+ Kf7 45 Bxb5 Rxh3 46 Nc4 Rh1 47 Nd6+ Kf8 48 Nf5 Rd1+ 49 Kc3 h3 50 e6 Re1 51 White resigns. (The score here corrects the ‘19 Rac1’ and ‘35 Rfc1’ in Soltis’s book.)
Our correspondent observes that the game was given as won by Marshall against Jacob Rosenthal in the 1913 team match between the Manhattan Chess Club and the Franklin Chess Club, being accompanied by various details about the occasion in Soltis’s narrative of Marshall’s chess activity that year. However, on page 369 of Walter Penn Shipley by John S. Hilbert (Jefferson, 2003) a different game was presented as played in that team match – a French Defence in which Marshall was White against Shipley. Commenting that the latter game was published in the report on the match on page 150 of the July 1913 issue of the American Chess Bulletin, Mr Hébert asks why two games against different opponents have been ascribed to Marshall.
As John Hilbert (Amherst, NY, USA) points out to us, the above Rosenthal v Marshall game was played in the match between the Manhattan Chess Club and the Franklin Chess Club three years later, on 30 May 1916. The game-score was given, together with the full match result, on pages 156-157 of the July-August 1916 American Chess Bulletin.
Marshall v Shipley (1913) was played in Philadelphia, and Rosenthal v Marshall (1916) in New York.
We are still trying to determine when the Frere v Marshall game first appeared with the date 1917, i.e. the year before the Marshall Gambit was played by the US champion against Capablanca. The earliest instance found so far remains pages 238-239 of 1000 Best Short Games of Chess by Irving Chernev (New York, 1955):
On page 11 of the January 1983 Chess Life A. Soltis wrote regarding the opening of Capablanca v Marshall, New York, 1918:
‘But how much of a surprise was it really? A year before his attempt at revenge against Capablanca, Marshall saw this game published ...’
There followed Frere v Marshall, ‘New York, 1917’. Mr Soltis’s account being devoid of any sources, it can only be wondered on what specific grounds he stated that Marshall saw the Frere-Marshall game published in 1917. We have found the game nowhere prior to Marshall’s Comparative Chess (Philadelphia, 1932), a book which, moreover, gave the game datelessly.
Page 181 of 2010 Chess Oddities by A. Dunne (Davenport, 2003) affirms:
‘The top selling chess book of all time is Lasker’s Manual of Chess.’
That is the entire item, the reader being offered not one word of corroboration or other information. So why would such an improbable claim be made? All we can say is that on page 198 of the 1984 edition of The Book of Chess Lists A. Soltis asserted that the Lasker book was the best-selling chess title of Dover Publications, Inc.
Frederick S. Rhine (Park Ridge, IL, USA) asks about an episode in the 1965 Capablanca Memorial tournament in Havana (for Fischer, in New York) related on page 213 of American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer by Arthur Bisguier and Andrew Soltis (New York, 1974):
‘All went well until Fischer played Viktor Ciocaltea of Rumania. Ciocaltea’s first move, 1 P-Q4, was played on the Marshall Club board by a FIDE judge. Fischer replied with his usual 1...N-KB3. Then came the remarkable reply, 2 P-K5!? There was considerable consternation on West 10th Street as the officials realized that White’s first move had been 1 P-K4 and not 1 P-Q4. Could Fischer take his move back? Could the error in transmission be explained? It didn’t matter because Fischer waved aside the fears by playing 2...N-Q4. He was willing to play Alekhine’s Defense, an opening he had never played before in tournament chess and was not to play again for five years. But he was sufficiently prepared to hold Ciocaltea to a draw in an unfamiliar opening.’
Do contemporary reports corroborate this account? We see nothing in Chess Life, Chess Review or the tournament book (published in Buenos Aires later in the year).
The game was played on 29 August 1965, and the following day the New York Times (page 22) noted that Fischer ...
‘... pulled two surprises yesterday in his third game of the Capablanca Memorial tourney: He adopted an unusual defense, and he discharged his referee.’
The report stated that Frank Brady, whose task was to oversee Fischer’s moves in New York, was dismissed ‘even before the game got under way’. His book on Fischer, Profile of a Prodigy, had been published the previous week.
Source: Chess Life, September 1965, page 191
McFarland & Company, Inc. is often said to produce the finest chess books, and the company’s catalogue certainly has many very good volumes, including a few of superb quality. Such is the company’s reputation that some reviewers tend to give an unthinkingly warm welcome to any new McFarland title, but blanket praise does a disservice to a truly exceptional book such as Aron Nimzowitsch On the Road to Chess Mastery, 1886-1924 by Per Skjoldager and Jørn Erik Nielsen and is far too generous to, for instance, Isaac Kashdan, American Chess Grandmaster by Peter P. Lahde.
In this sense, McFarland books may serve as a test of the book reviewer’s knowledge, judgement and reliability. If he writes that William Steinitz, Chess Champion by Kurt Landsberger is a dependable work of scholarship, alarm bells should ring.
As mentioned in C.N. 6266, the 1994 ‘Book of the Year’ prize from the British Chess Federation went to another handsome McFarland hardback, Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by Andrew Soltis, the judges being two non-historians, Raymond Edwards and John Littlewood. C.N. items have reported in detail on many of the book’s deficiencies; see, for instance, the remarks of two correspondents in C.N.s 4738 and 6266. To mention another example, in C.N. 2798 (an item also given on page 227 of Chess Facts and Fables) we quoted from an entry in the bibliography on page 371 of the Marshall book:
‘LeLionnais, Francois. Les Preix de Beatue aux Echecs. Payot. Paris 1970.’
Our comment was that ‘a proof-reader, had there been one, would have made four or five corrections to that single line’. The hypothetical correcteur would also have had his work cut out with the index, which has such entries as Clintrón, Lischütz, Jacque Mieses, Nimzovic, O’Briend, Rey Arduid, Carlose Torre, and Voight.
There has probably never been a chess book wholly free of error, but it is a question of degree and of whether the author, whatever his lapses, shows signs of caring. When McFarland brought out a paperback edition of the Marshall volume in 2013, no such signs were in evidence. All the faulty index entries mentioned above were left uncorrected, as were virtually all the historical mistakes pointed out in C.N. over the years.
From page 79 of the 2002 edition of Chess Lists by A. Soltis:
‘The most tragic case belongs to Paulino Frydman, a little-known Polish master who was invited to the Bad Podĕbrady, Czechoslovakia international of July 1936. Surrounded by several world-class players – including Alexander Alekhine, Salo Flohr, Erich Eliskases and Gideon Stahlberg – he astounded them by allowing only a draw in his first seven games. But two rounds later, with a score of 8-1, he lost to Alekhine and suffered a nervous breakdown. Frydman scored only one and a half points in his last eight games and finished as an also-ran. He was never again a significant figure in chess.’
There were similar words from Sourceless Soltis on page 81 of the 1984 edition of his book. In reality, though, from the field of 18 masters Frydman finished equal sixth with Eliskases, and his significant over-the-board achievements in subsequent years are a matter of public record. As regards the ‘nervous breakdown’ part of the story, it may be wondered if Soltis had any solid information of his own or was merely copying from Wolfgang Heidenfeld’s entry on the Podĕbrady tournament in The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek (London, 1977).
Next, a typical Internet item by Bill Wall:
‘Frydman, Paulino (1905-1982)
A leading Polish player during the 1930s who represented his country in seven Olympiads. He used to run around nude in hotels yelling, “fire”.’
Wall writes similarly at another website:
‘Paulino Frydman was a leading Polish player during the 1930s who represented his country in seven olympiads. He used to run around nude in hotels yelling “fire”.’
‘The Polish master Frydman also ran around nude, but usually in hotels while yelling, “fire”.’
At yet another Internet site, Wall disseminates a slightly dressed-up version of his story:
‘The Polish master Paulino Frydman represented his country in seven chess olympiads. He liked to clear out hotels by running down the halls in his underwear yelling, “Fire!”’
At no stage, of course, has Wall given any further particulars, but a similar tale may be recalled from The Psychology of the Chess Player by Reuben Fine. On page 65 he wrote:
‘During a chess tournament in Poland a Polish master by the name of A. Frydman was reported to have gone berserk and to have run through the hotel without any clothes on shouting “Fire!”’
This may seem strange. We have been repeatedly assured by Wall that the master in question was Paulino Frydman, so why did Fine write ‘A. Frydman’? Moreover, Fine suggests that the incident in question occurred once only, whereas Wall is ostensibly privy to information that it was Frydman’s frequent conduct (i.e. what he ‘used to’ do, ‘liked to’ do and ‘usually’ did). Finally, given that Podĕbrady was in Czechoslovakia and not Poland, where Fine places the tournament in question, how might any of this tie in with Soltis’s reportage?
We note that page 44 of CHESS, 14 October 1937 contained the following piece under the heading ‘What really happened?’:
‘Variations of the following weird theme have appeared in a number of British and American newspapers. We reproduce without comment:
“In a chess tournament at Jurata, Poland, a contestant, Willy Frydmann, lost a game then went raving mad.”’
So now we have ‘Frydmann’ instead of ‘Frydman’ and ‘Willy’ rather than either ‘Paulino’ or ‘A’.
Pages 197-198 of the July 1937 Deutsche Schachzeitung had a brief account of the Jurata tournament, a 22-man contest in May/June for the Polish championship. It was won by Tartakower ahead of Ståhlberg and Najdorf, and the Deutsche Schachzeitung stated that P. Frydman finished last but two, with 6½ points, having withdrawn after losing in the 15th round and suffering a nervous breakdown. (‘Frydman erlitt, als er in der 15. Runde verlor, einen Nervenzusammenbruch und musste aus dem Turnier ausscheiden.’)
However, the full crosstable of Jurata, 1937 was given on page 374 of the December 1937 Wiener Schachzeitung, and it stated, correctly, that the player who finished 20th was A. Frydman. Earlier (page 152 of the May 1937 issue) the Wiener Schachzeitung had named the player as Achill Frydman and had referred to ‘den tragischen Unfall Achill Frydmans, der mit einer schweren Nervenerkrankung in eine Heilanstalt überführt werden musste’.
Jeremy Gaige’s Chess Personalia lists ‘Achilles Frydman (1905-circa 1940)’, a player with an entry on page 276 of Szachy od A do Z by W. Litmanowicz and J. Giżycki (Warsaw, 1986). Perhaps a Polish correspondent can locate further details. And perhaps – a true long shot, this – one or two writers will consider it appropriate to substantiate their assertions about Paulino Frydman. For our part, we have found no contemporary report mentioning fire, nudity or underwear.
See too ‘Fun’.
William Steinitz – Curt von Bardeleben
Hastings, 17 August 1895
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3 d5 8 exd5 Nxd5 9 O-O Be6 10 Bg5 Be7 11 Bxd5 Bxd5 12 Nxd5 Qxd5 13 Bxe7 Nxe7 14 Re1 f6 15 Qe2 Qd7 16 Rac1 c6 17 d5 cxd5 18 Nd4 Kf7 19 Ne6 Rhc8 20 Qg4 g6 21 Ng5+ Ke8 22 Rxe7+ Kf8 23 Rf7+ Kg8 24 Rg7+ Kh8
‘But Bardeleben didn’t resign. He stared at 25 Rxh7+, shot a glance at Steinitz, and without a word got up from his chair and left the room. He didn’t come back. Tournament officials searched and found Bardeleben pacing angrily. No, he wouldn’t return to the board so that outrageous Austrian could mate him.
So Steinitz had to wait for Bardeleben’s time to run out before he could claim the win. Not only claim it – he demonstrated the final ten-move mate and the crowd cheered.’
The author of that apparent exercise in imagination, simultaneously fertile and sterile, is A. Soltis (The Great Chess Tournaments and Their Stories, pages 67-68). He then moved on to discuss ‘John’ Henry Blackburne, but we shall move on to chess history, with a straightforward question: what really happened at the conclusion of Steinitz v von Bardeleben, Hastings, 1895? All kinds of assertions have been made; for instance, page 110 of Kasparov’s first Predecessors book stated (without specifying any source) that von Bardeleben ‘suddenly stood up and silently walked out of the room (later he sent a note by special delivery tendering his resignation)’.
For further details see our feature article on the game, which includes the following:
Tarrasch wrote about von Bardeleben’s manner of finishing games in an article, ‘Betrachtungen über das Schachturnier zu Hastings’, on pages 324-328 of the October 1895 Deutsche Schachzeitung, reproduced from the Frankfurter Generalanzeiger of 29 September and 6 October 1895. It included the following:
‘Liegt Deine Partie aber ganz darnieder,
dann geh’ mal ’raus und komm’ nicht wieder!’
Possible English translations of the couplet were given on page 217 of Lasker’s Chess Magazine, March 1905. The matter was discussed, without any precise attribution, on pages 189-191 of Chess to Enjoy by A. Soltis (New York, 1978).
An extract from C.N. 3679:
On pages 6-7 of Chess Life, February 1981, in an article subsequently included on pages 93-97 of his book Karl Marx Plays Chess (New York, 1991), A. Soltis related that C.H. Wheeler found the 12-move game in 1887, as did K. Whyld on page 199 of the April 1992 BCM. Both failed to specify any source for their information. Soltis, furthermore, confused matters on page 11 of his book Sam Loyd His Story and Best Problems (Dallas, 1995) by writing:
‘ ... around the turn of the century there was an ongoing effort to construct the shortest possible game ending in stalemate. Eventually an Englishman named C.H. Wheeler found a 12-mover that went 1 d4 d5 2 Qd2 e5 3 a4 e4 4 Qf4 f5 5 h3 Be7 6 Qh2 Be6 7 Ra3 c5 8 Rg3 Qa5+ 9 Nd2 Bh4 10 f3 Bb3 11 d5 e3 12 c4.’
Such dense inaccuracy is quite common in Soltis’s output, and it should be noted that:
i) The construction effort took place in the 1880s, and not ‘around the turn of the century’;
ii) It was not ‘the shortest possible game ending in stalemate’ but the shortest possible game ending in stalemate without captures;
iii) C.H. Wheeler was American, not English (as Soltis could have discovered by consulting Gaige’s Chess Personalia);
iv) Black’s first move should read 1...d6, not 1...d5;
v) Soltis omitted the move which brought about the stalemate, i.e. 12...f4.
A. Soltis gave an alleged Einstein game (discussed in C.N.s 3533 and 3667) on page 372 of the July 1979 Chess Life & Review, with the following introductory note:
‘I’ve tried to find a good game by top-flight scientists without success. The following, which can boast of two of the greatest names in physics, will have to do. It was apparently played in the late 1940s when Hans Albert Einstein, son of the Einstein, and Robert Oppenheimer were both on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. Hans Albert was, by the way, an internationally known hydraulic engineer – an expert on control of rivers.’
As usual, Soltis offered nothing whatsoever to back up his assertions about the circumstances in which the game was ‘apparently’ played.
Opposite the title page of The Human Side of Chess by F. Reinfeld (New York, 1952) was a list of four other books by him, including ‘Paul Morphy, King of Chess (in preparation)’. No such volume ever appeared, although in 1974 Collier Books, New York brought out Morphy Chess Masterpieces by F. Reinfeld and A. Soltis. (The back cover stated that Reinfeld had ‘died in 1973’, instead of 1964.) We know nothing of the genesis of the Reinfeld/Soltis book, i.e. to what extent it may have been based on Paul Morphy, King of Chess.
‘My favorite chess writer’ is how Andrew Soltis described D.J. Morgan in a good article on pages 8-9 of Chess Life, June 1983 which was reproduced, under the title ‘Master of His Craft’, on pages 166-170 of Soltis’s book Karl Marx Plays Chess (New York, 1991).
See Chess Morganisms.
Jerry Spinrad (Nashville, TN, USA) informs us that he is researching the baseball career of Jackson Showalter and is seeking, in particular, substantiation of the widely-published claim that Showalter invented the curve ball. Information about any early occurrences of that claim will be appreciated.
We note that it was mentioned, sourcelessly, by A. Soltis on page 30 of the April 1980 Chess Life. On the general subject of Showalter and baseball we can give a couple of quotes from pages 242-245 of the June 1892 BCM:
‘... he received a first-class school and college education – which included baseball.’
‘His tendency is the national game of baseball – in England he would have been a cricketer with a good strain of football thrown in. He travelled with the Georgetown baseball team, of which he was the only amateur, in a successful Southern tour some years ago, encountering all the crack teams from the Ohio River to the Gulf, New Orleans included. ... He is a baseball crank.’
See Chess and Baseball.
A game-score often wrongly disseminated is ‘Blake v Hooke, London, 1891’: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bc4 f5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nc3 exd4 6 Qxd4 Bd7 7 Ng5 Nc6 8 Bf7+ Ke7 9 Qxf6+ Kxf6 10 Nd5+ Ke5 11 Nf3+ Kxe4 12 Nc3 mate.
The game continues to be handled carelessly even by writers who are aware that it was long ago shown to be spurious. For instance, on pages 90-91 of Chess Lists (Jefferson, 2002) A. Soltis wrote:
‘This version [i.e. ending with 12 Nc3 mate] appeared, for example, in Chess Sparks [by J.H. Ellis], published in 1895. [Ellis’ book merely stated after 7...Nc6 ‘and White gives mate in five moves’.] It was repeated in Julius du Mont’s 200 Miniatures [200 Miniature Games of Chess] but with the dateline of “London 1923”.
More serious, however, is the discrepancy that occurred when the game appeared in the British Chess Magazine in 1930. There, after Black’s seventh move, lies the note: “At this point there is [was] a mate in five which White overlooked.” Instead, White played a different line but still managed to sacrifice his queen, according to BCM: 9 Qd5 h6 10 Bg6 Ne5 11 b3! hxg5 12 Qxe5+! dxe5 13 Ba3+ Ke6 14 exf5 mate.
Which should you believe? The 1930 one. BCM’s editor then would have known which was correct. The editor was Joseph Henry Blake. [The Editor was R.C. Griffith, and in the 1930 BCM the game was given in an article by A. Firth.]’
Beyond Soltis’s panoply of imprecision (he also put ‘Hook’ instead of Hooke), it is notable that he lifted all the research material, without a word of credit, from the BCM’s Quotes and Queries column (the game having been discussed in items 417, 1457, 3967 and 4078).
Even so, Soltis (who dated the game 1891) missed the last of those four items, where Frank Skoff pointed out this feature on page 427 of the November 1889 BCM:
However, we add here that the game was played even earlier than 1889. It was published on pages 286-287 of the Chess Player’s Chronicle, 17 October 1888, taken from G.A. MacDonnell’s column in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News:
See also C.N. 5224.
This position occurred after 54 g4 in the game between Vladimir Simagin and Jaroslav Šajtar in the Moscow v Prague match on 10 March 1946. Play is recorded as continuing 54...fxg4+ 55 Qxg4+, and a draw was agreed at move 63.
The game was given on pages 24-25 of Moscow v. Prague 1946 (Sutton Coldfield, 1946), and Oliver Beck (Seattle, WA, USA) informs us that in his copy a previous owner, Paul Hugo Little, noted that according to the 4/1946 issue of Shakhmaty v SSSR Simagin originally played 55 Qxf6+, and after 55...Kxf6 56 fxg4 the game continued for ten moves before it was realized that his 55th move was illegal. The game was then replayed with 55 Qxg4+.
Mr Beck asks for more information about the episode, and readers’ assistance will be appreciated.
We note that on pages 24-25 of Chess Lists (Jefferson, 2002) A. Soltis wrote regarding the position after 55 Qxf6+:
‘The spectators, who followed the moves on a demonstration board, burst into laughter. But Black instantly responded 55...Kxf6 and after 56 fxg4 the game went on as if nothing had happened.’
No source is given. There is only Soltis’s say-so, which amounts to very little more than not very much.
From pages 179-180 of The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked by Andrew Soltis (Jefferson, 2000):
‘Aron Nimzovich had an ego problem. After Carlsbad, 1929 he added a sign to his apartment door that read: CANDIDATE FOR THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. “So you won’t forget?”, he was asked. “So that the chess world doesn’t forget”, he replied.’
No source was offered.
See also Nimzowitsch the ‘Crown Prince’.
On pages 32-33 of the 5/2004 New in Chess Boris Spassky mentioned in an interview that at one time Enrico Caruso’s entourage included Boris Kostić.
Kostić took up residence in the United States in the first half of 1915, as reported on page 108 of the May-June 1915 American Chess Bulletin. His contact with Caruso was related on pages 34-35 of Ambasador Šaha by D. Bućan, P. Trifunović and A. Božić (Belgrade, 1966) and on pages 33-35 of Ambasador Šaha by D. Bućan (Novi Sad, 1987), and we shall be grateful if a reader can assist us in extracting the hard facts from those two accounts.
Neither book gave any games played between Kostić and Caruso, but on pages 93-94 of Chess to Enjoy (New York, 1978) A. Soltis wrote:
‘One of the most aggressive players in the musical world was Enrico Caruso, who took the game seriously enough to study under Boris Kostić, the first great Yugoslav player. Here is one of their many skittles or offhand games with the mighty tenor playing Black.’
The moves, presented with the customary Soltis sourcelessness, were: 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 Nc3 Nbd7 5 Bg5 Bb4 6 e3 c5 7 Qc2 Qa5 8 Bxf6 Nxf6 9 Nd2 cxd4 10 exd4 O-O 11 a3 e5 12 dxe5 d4 13 Nb5 a6 14 exf6 Re8+ 15 Kd1 axb5 16 fxg7 Bxd2 17 Qxd2 Qa4+ 18 Kc1 bxc4 19 Be2 c3 20 Qd1 Qa5 21 Bd3 cxb2+ 22 Kxb2 Qc3+ 23 Kb1 Re6 24 Bxh7+ Kxh7 25 White resigns.
No place or date was stipulated, but when B. Pandolfini gave the conclusion on page 106 of Treasure Chess (New York, 2007) he put ‘1918’. In some databases (as well as on page 55 of CHESS, September 2004) ‘New York, 1923’ is specified – even though Caruso died in 1921.
‘Great skill at chess is not a mark of greatness of intellect, but of a great intellect gone wrong.’
That remark is often quoted with inaccurate and incomplete information. For example, the following comes from page 1 of Chess to Enjoy by A. Soltis (New York, 1978):
Churlish as it may seem to pass strictures upon Soltis when he gives a source of sorts, no date is attached to the New York Clipper, and the reference to Pillsbury in March 1906 is wrong. As shown in Pillsbury’s Torment, the master’s hospitalization in Philadelphia was in 1905.
From page 237 of Treasure Chess by B. Pandolfini (New York, 2007):
‘New York Morning Telegraph (late 1800s)’ may not be much of a source, but by Pandolfini’s standards it is chapter and verse. At first glance, moreover, it seems to improve, however vaguely, on what was on page 7 of Chess Quotations from the Masters by Henry Hunvald (Mount Vernon, 1972):
The text appeared on page 4 of the New York Sunday Telegraph, 2 April 1905:
The article/editorial was quoted on pages 267-268 of Lasker’s Chess Magazine, April 1905, and the final part was reproduced by Eliot Hearst on page 255 of the September 1961 Chess Life. Both provided the exact date of the newspaper, identifying it by its more general title, the New York Morning Telegraph.
As any random survey of chess bibliographies will show, reprints often result in the provision of confusing information, even when there is no change of title. To take one well-known work:
Any bibliography which lists 500 Master Games of Chess is, of course, at liberty to cite any of these editions, as long as the details are correct and it is specified that the book was first published in 1952. Instead, this kind of thing is offered:
Page 248 of The Complete Chess Addict by M. Fox and R. James (London, 1987).
Page 371 of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1994).
Page 147 of Winning with Reverse Chess Strategy by W. Reuter (Davenport, 1998).
Page 256 of The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 2000).
Page 3 of Play the Ponziani by D. Taylor and K. Hayward (London, 2009).
Page 5 of The Rules of Winning Chess by N. Davies (London, 2009).
Page 6 of Giants of Innovation by C. Pritchett (London, 2011).
Unable to write ‘du Mont’, Soltis wrote him out. From page 93 of The Wisest Things Ever Said About Chess (London, 2008):
The passage cited is on page 55 of Tartakower and du Mont’s book.
From page 5 of Chess to Enjoy by A. Soltis (New York, 1978):
The Steinitz ‘once’ story was disposed of in C.N.s 1077 and 6590.
As regards the paragraph quoted, Soltis did not bother to state when during its long run (1904-63) the American Chess Bulletin published it.
An article by Julio Kaplan (‘Games from Lone Pine’) on pages 364-366 of the July 1977 Chess Life & Review stated on the final page:
‘... as Lasker used to say: “Long analysis, wrong analysis”.’
Chess literature has references by the barrowful to what this or that master ‘used to say’, but responsible writers do not diffuse such material without secure sources. The ‘long/wrong’ saying is commonly attributed to Larsen, e.g. by A. Soltis on page 190 of The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked (Jefferson, 2000) and on page 27 of The Wisest Things Ever Said About Chess (London, 2008). In each case the wording offered was ‘long variation, wrong variation’, and the corroboration offered was zero.
Larsen’s own words are shown below from page 46 of How To Get Better At Chess by L. Evans, J. Silman and B. Roberts (Los Angeles, 1991), in the chapter ‘How Do Top Players See Things So Quickly?’:
From an interview with Karpov by Irwin Fisk posted by ChessBase on 2 March 2015:
‘I.F.: Spassky was in preparation to play Fischer for the world championship. Had you played Spassky?
A.K.: Yes, I played a training match with Spassky. He asked me to play training games, but we played only one game. Spassky won this game even though he had a lost position, but I made a stupid mistake, and after this suddenly Spassky said he didn’t want to continue this training match, so maybe he was happy he beat me in that game.
I.F.: Where was this game played?
A.K.: We were near Moscow.’
A similar, though more detailed, account is on pages 98-99 of Karpov on Karpov (New York, 1990):
‘Toward the end of the camp, Spassky, wishing to check his form, decided to play several games with me. In the first game, he selected the Ruy López. I played White and quickly gained a winning position. All I had to do was hold on to it for a little while longer, but, weary from the previous inactivity and irritated by how I was being treated, I decided to show off and embarked upon unnecessary tactical complexities. This gave Spassky a chance to display his customary resourcefulness. I should have regrouped in time, changed the arrangement, and played to at least hold on to what remained. But I already realized my lead was receding, and I overplayed and lost. Spassky liked this game. He decided that his form was superior and there was no reason to continue checking it. My participation in his final prematch training was virtually limited to this one game.’
On page 8 of the September 1989 Chess Life A. Soltis disseminated a different version:
‘In some instances, no details about a match are ever disclosed. Or a smidgen of information surfaces, such as after the 1972 world championship match, when Anatoly Karpov confirmed the rumors that he had played a match to help prepare Boris Spassky for the challenge of Bobby Fischer. All Karpov would say then about the result was “I did not lose”.’
A similar text appeared on page 148 of Soltis’s book Karl Marx Plays Chess (New York, 1991), but in neither case did he offer the reader any source. It is possible that he was relying on a mere rumour published, as an editorial end-note, on page 70 of the February 1973 Chess Life & Review:
To state the obvious, or what ought to be, great wariness is required over ‘community’ websites which, instead of trying to get matters correct from the outset, allow individuals, usually unnamed, to post whatever they choose. The onus is placed on others to try to make rectifications if they can be bothered.
In the particular case of Wikipedia, the quality of chess entries varies enormously (C.N. 5919 named two good ones, and there has been considerable overall improvement to the site since then). Discernment remains essential, and quoting Wikipedia is not a step to be taken lightly.
In C.N. 8110 (see Chess: The Need for Sources) a correspondent pointed out that in The Immortal Game by David Shenk (New York, 2006) ‘details of Spassky’s chess career are attributed to a Wikipedia entry’. Recent books with no qualms about citing Wikipedia include Miguel A. Sánchez’s volume on Capablanca (C.N. 9456); see pages 509 and 527. From the latter page:
‘According to Wikipedia ... But according to the more reliable version of Andy Soltis in ...’
McFarland books really should do better than that.
From page 92 of The Book of Chess Lists by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1984):
See too page 16 of the second edition (Jefferson, 2002). Both books had the odd sentence, ‘They had to eat lunch with one another and even take naps in tandem’. Another case of Soltis sans source.
Below is an item from page 57 of Curious Chess Facts by Irving Chernev (New York, 1937):
And from page 86 of Chernev’s Wonders and Curiosities of Chess (New York, 1974):
The terms of the Rosenthal v Zukertort match were set out on pages 133-134 of La Stratégie, 15 May 1880 and, as shown below, on pages 260-261 of the May 1880 Chess Monthly:
It is unclear why both Chernev and Soltis referred to a midday break, given that play began at 14.00. As regards the arrangements during the evening adjournment, in the Field, 8 May 1880 Steinitz, who was the referee, wrote in his report on the second match-game:
‘Rosenthal took nearly half an hour to consider his reply, and the time for adjournment (half-past six o’clock) having been reached, he marked his move on the score sheet, which was handed over in a sealed envelope to the editor of this department, who joined the two players at dinner at a West-end restaurant. It is one of the regulations of the match that the two opponents should not separate during the two hours of adjournment for refreshment. Such a provision is now always adopted in tournament [sic], and is obviously necessary where many different parties are interested in the contest. Both masters are expert blindfold players, and quite capable of analysing positions from memory, even when engaged in conversation. Yet their stopping together during the dinner hour must be satisfactory to both, and is calculated to keep up a friendly feeling between the opponents. At half-past eight o’clock the game was resumed ...’
Concerning the temperature provision, page 81 of La Stratégie, 14 March 1880 had reported that Rosenthal ...
‘... a émis le désir de ne commencer la lutte qu’en septembre prochain, ou si elle est commencée en avril et qu’elle se prolonge jusqu’aux chaleurs, il se réserve le droit de l’interrompre, sa santé ne lui permettant pas de jouer lorsque la température est élevée.’
As mentioned in C.N. 2451 (see page 172 of A Chess Omnibus), the maximum temperature in question was 25 degrees centigrade, which is 77, and not 67, degrees Fahrenheit. Page 119 of the 15 April 1880 issue of La Stratégie stated:
‘Le match sera commencé vers la fin de ce mois, et dans le cas où le thermomètre s’élèverait à 25 degrés centigrades, la lutte serait interrompue.’
The match was played at the St George’s Club in London from 3 May to 25 June 1880 and was won by Zukertort (+7 –1 =11). In the regulations reproduced above from the Chess Monthly, we also draw attention to condition V (publication rights to the games) and rule of play VI (repetition).
The following paragraph is from page 51 of Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion by A. Soltis (Jefferson, 1994):
Soltis did not specify his source or indicate whether the quoted words were his own translation. Can a reader provide the original Russian text? For now, we can give only the following on page 477 of the November 1903 BCM, with ‘rogue’ instead of ‘swindler’:
Martin Sims (Upper Hutt, New Zealand) points out a remark in Ghulam Kassim’s annotations to the second game in the Madras-Hyderabad correspondence match, after 1 g3:
‘Many of the Indian Players commence their Game in this way.’
Source: page 45 of Analysis of the Muzio Gambit, and Match of Two Games at Chess, Played Between Madras and Hyderabad by Ghulam Kassim and James Cochrane (Madras, 1829). The book can be read on-line.
Our correspondent asks for information about a sourceless assertion by Andrew Soltis that elephants conveyed the chess moves. On page 10 of Chess Life, January 1990 Soltis wrote:
‘Take the case of the two-game match played more than 160 years ago between the masters of the Bay of Bengal port of Madras and the best players of Hyderabad, some 300 miles up into the interior of India. The surest way of sending the moves back and forth was via the regular mail pouches – that is, the ones carried by elephants.’
‘The 2-0 victory by Madras is almost forgotten by history but should be remembered as The Elephant Match.’
A recent account of the contest is on pages 166-172 of volume one of L’histoire du jeu d’échecs par correspondance au XIXe siècle by Eric Ruch (Aachen, 2010). From pages 166-167:
‘Le lecteur imaginatif peut se représenter l’image romantique d’un postier indien à demi-nu, enturbanné, juché nuit et jour sur un éléphant, pour couvrir à travers l’épaisse jungle, les 300 miles de distance séparant les deux cités, pour y acheminer les coups d’échecs de nos joueurs par correspondance.’
The text, which was not in quotation marks, had a footnote mentioning an article by Bruno Bassi on page 327 of Mail Chess, March 1949. Courtesy of the Royal Library in The Hague, it is shown here:
The article was included in the collection of Bassi’s writings, The History of Correspondence Chess up to 1839 compiled by Egbert Meissenburg (Winsen/Luhe, 1965). An Italian translation, by Enzo Minerva, was published as a supplement to the 5/1991 issue of Telescacco nuovo, Rome under the title Storia del gioco per corrispondenza fino al 1839.
The correspondence match of the late 1820s was discussed on pages 31-33 of Indian Chess History 570 AD-2010 AD by Manuel Aaron and Vijay D. Pandit (Chennai, 2014). Page 31 stated:
‘An unlikely story is that the moves were despatched by golden caparisoned elephants carrying a private postman wearing a crimson turban and pearl-grey livery holding a blue lantern.’
From page 18 of Western Chess In British India (1825-1947) by Vijay D. Pandit (Nottingham, 2011):
‘We know that the moves were transported by liveried servants riding on the back of elephants ...’
The statement is unsubstantiated. We prefer to be told how we know what we are told that we know.
Have writers’ references to transportation by elephant merely misused Bruno Bassi’s light-hearted fancy beginning ‘The reader blessed with a vivid imagination may indulge in the romantic picture of ...’, or is there documentary evidence?
From page 127 of Chess to Enjoy by A. Soltis (New York, 1978):
Whatever details about the players and occasion are lacking, perhaps of necessity, did Soltis take the position from a reliable source? The reader is not told even that.
His comment ‘will force White to upgivvet’ is doubly wrong: the Swedish word is not upgivvet but uppgivet and, in any case, ‘will force White to ge upp’ is needed.
The same misspelling upgivvet was on page 57:
Larry Evans blindly availed himself of that material, though without mention of Soltis, in his syndicated column in, for instance, the Reno Evening Gazette, 3 March 1979, page 17. Even the idea of ‘disgust’ in connection with the German term aufgegeben was repeated:
For the full (uncorrected, of course) column, see page 45 of Evans’ book The Chess Beat (Oxford, 1982).
Frits Fritschy (Leiden, the Netherlands) comments that A. Soltis’ attempt (copied by L. Evans) to give the Dutch term relating to resignation was also faulty, since geef het op is the imperative form. Standard Dutch usage is either the past participle opgegeven or Wit geeft het op/Zwart geeft het op.
We add that elsewhere on page 57 of the Soltis book referred to in C.N. 10233 German tenses were muddled: ‘... and Spielmann got a chance to “aufgegeben”.’
The Introduction to Why Lasker Matters (London, 2005) begins, on page 3, with Soltis’s signature sourcelessness:
One of the many reasons why a book should give precise sources is that they enable readers to check information independently. That process is often very difficult with Gyula Breyer. The Chess Revolutionary by Jimmy Adams (Alkmaar, 2017), as some examples will show.
From pages 142-143:
‘Marshall remembered Breyer as a “tall, boyish, slim and happy-looking lad who played clever openings and knew more ‘book’ than any master” [Andrew Soltis in Frank Marshall: United States Chess Champion].’
The square brackets are from Adams’ book (as is the absence of italicization of ‘Marshall’). The passage is readily found in the Soltis book, whose index has only two references to Breyer, on page 199:
A point of detail is that the words ‘who played clever openings and’ are not attributed to Marshall, but the main point is that the reader is no further forward because, as usual, Soltis is silent as to the exact provenance and context of the alleged Marshall quote. His output cannot be regarded as reliable, and the Breyer book demeans itself by using it ...
From the plate section of American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer by Arthur Bisguier and Andrew Soltis (New York, 1974):
The reference to the world championship is an obvious mistake, but when was the photograph taken? Below are two more recent appearances:
Tarrasch potere della logica by Jakov Nejstadt (Rome, 1996)
A Picture History of Chess by Fred Wilson (New York, 1981), page 74
Apparent confirmation that the occasion was the Nuremberg, 1906 tournament is on page 6 of Chess Review, December 1944, which showed a dated copy inscribed by Marshall:
However, in the Nuremberg tournament (third round, 25 July 1906), Tarrasch had the white pieces against Marshall. (See the tournament book, pages 91-92.)
The photograph had been published the previous year, on page 318 of the October 1905 American Chess Bulletin:
It seems to us that the position is from the 17th and final match-game, won by Tarrasch on 14 October 1905: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4 5 O-O c6 6 Bc4 Ne7 7 Qh5 d5 8 exd5 cxd5 9 Bb5+ Bd7 10 Bxd7+ Qxd7 11 Qe5 d3 12 cxd3 O-O-O 13 a3 Nc6 14 Qh5 g6 15 Qd1 Qf5 16 b4 Qxd3 17 Nc3 Bg7 18 Qa4 Kb8 19 Ra2 Nd4 20 Re1 Rc8 21 h3 Nf5 22 Qd7 Rhd8 23 Qxf7 Rc7 24 Qe6 Re7 25 Qxe7 Nxe7 26 Re3 Qc4 27 Rxe7 Bf8 28 Rxh7 d4 29 Rc2 dxc3 30 Rxc3 Qe2 31 g3 Bd6 32 Kg2 Rf8 33 White resigns.
The game (remove Black’s knight at g8) between an amateur and Cecil De Vere, London, 1867 which was mentioned in C.N. 11207: 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 e6 3 dxe6 Bxe6 4 Nf3 Bd6 5 Be2 Nc6 6 Bb5 Bd7 7 O-O O-O 8 Bxc6 Bxc6 9 d3 Re8 10 c3 Re6 11 Nd4
11...Bxh2+ 12 Kxh2 Qh4+ 13 Kg1 Bxg2 14 Kxg2 Rg6+ 15 Kf3 Re8 16 Rg1 Rf6+ and mates in three moves.
As noted in C.N. 11207, the game was found by Owen Hindle in The Field, 14 September 1867 and given on page 666 of the December 2003 BCM (in the Quotes and Queries column conducted by Chris Ravilious). It was discovered after publication of the monograph on De Vere, “The English Morphy?” by Owen Hindle and Bob Jones (Exmouth, 2001).
Fabrizio Zavatarelli (Milan, Italy) points out a passage on page 16 of Why Lasker Matters by Andrew Soltis (London, 2005), in the game Lasker v Bauer, Amsterdam, 1889:
C.N. 11207 commented: ‘Specifying sources is not only an act of fairness to earlier writers but also a way of ensuring that relevant background information is known.’ Soltis did not name the researchers who found the 1867 and 1884 games (Owen Hindle and Richard Forster respectively) or, indeed, the author of Lasker’s Combination (Victor Charushin). The assertion by Soltis that the Burn v Owen game was ‘little known until mentioned in the British Chess Magazine in 2003’ is incorrect (see C.N. 11207).
In the above position Lasker, against Bauer, played 15 Bxh7+, and Steinitz wrote on page 268 of the September 1889 International Chess Magazine:
‘The beginning of a most profound and elegant combination.’
Page 354 of the September 1889 BCM had Lasker as the loser:
See too The Double Bishop Sacrifice.
‘He took up Sanskrit to trace the history of chess.’
That is one of innumerable claims about J.H. Zukertort presented sourcelessly by Andrew Soltis on pages 177-178 of Chess to Enjoy (New York, 1978). Chess literature offers many similar assertions; see, for instance, pages 144-145 of Wonders and Curiosities of Chess by Irving Chernev, where it was affirmed that Zukertort learned ‘Sanskrit in order to trace the origin of chess’. Chernev’s introduction to the item stated:
‘The most remarkable man that chess ever produced was Johannes Zukertort.’
See J.H. Zukertort’s Alleged Accomplishments.
Some writers have the peculiar habit of snippet-dangling, and ... on page 1 of The United States Chess Championship, 1845-1996 by A. Soltis and G.H. McCormick (Jefferson, 1997) an aromatic morsel is waggled fleetingly under the reader’s nose. In a cursory list of some American chess masters’ professions, Sidney Bernstein is described as ‘a movie censor’. Nostrils atwitch, the reader hopes for some hard facts, but the book has already moved on to calling Jackson Showalter a cattle rancher. To rewind, though, what exactly is known about the assertion that Sidney Bernstein was a film censor? Where and when? Working for whom? In peacetime or in wartime, or both? Censoring what kind of films? What reliable source do the co-authors have for their tiny, if tantalizing, nibble?
When nothing is explained, everything and anything can be imagined; even, for instance, that – and stranger things have happened in chess literature – there has been a mix-up over, say, Sydney Sharp or Jacob Bernstein. Only with the rewarding discipline of real sourcing can the writer aspire to real clarity and real precision, and that is what readers deserve.
From page 70 of The Fireside Book of Chess by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld (New York, 1949):
Such a ‘Crane v Charlick’ game is often mentioned in chess literature, and one or two books have added a twist. From the ‘Longest Game’ entry on page 186 of Harry Golombek’s The Encyclopedia of Chess (London, 1977):
The same account was on page 270 of the 1981 Penguin edition, but any confidence and excitement over seeing an exact source (‘the Adelaide Observer for 10 March 1883’) are misplaced.
Confidence and excitement over seeing an exact source are seldom a reaction to the output of Andrew Soltis, and on page 78 of The Book of Chess Lists (Jefferson, 1984) he was faithful to his customary ipse dixit approach:
A similar text is on page 76 of the second edition, Chess Lists (Jefferson, 2002), but what do all the above snippets offer the reader? Plenty of bare assertion, one ‘precise’ newspaper reference which will be shown to be wrong, and a discrepancy over the date of the game: ‘1888’ according to Chernev/Reinfeld; ‘1883’ according to Golombek and Soltis (two editions apiece).
Unsurprisingly, the game, played in Melbourne, interested C.J.S. Purdy, and two of his features are reproduced here:
Page 67 of the Australasian Chess Review, 19 March 1937 (and not 1936 as in the page header)
In those columns too some details were faulty.
Much later on, D.J. Morgan’s Quotes and Queries column in the BCM grappled with the matter, but not without adding confusion. Four items (71, 168, 838 and 1851) were published:
BCM, September 1953, page 249
BCM, April 1954, page 112
BCM, February 1960, page 39
BCM, May 1968, page 137
(The diagram relates to a different item.)
Despite what was cited in the third of these Quotes and Queries items, the fourth one had a double mix-up over dates:
‘... the Australian Championship, 1883. Charlick, in his chess column in the Adelaide Observer, 10 March 1888, under the heading “The Melbourne Centennial Congress” reported ...’
In his Encyclopedia Golombek was perhaps trying to reconcile matters by changing ‘10 March 1888’ to ‘10 March 1883’, but all references to 1883 in connection with this game are wrong. Morgan’s ‘10 March 1888’, for which Golombek put ‘10 March 1883’, should read 10 November 1888 (the date quoted correctly by Morgan, courtesy of M.V. Anderson, in the February 1960 BCM).
The Australian Championship was held in October 1888, and a valuable summary is on an unnumbered page of volume one of The Records of Australian Chess by John van Manen (Modbury Heights, 1986):
The key Australian press cuttings which follow demonstrate that the game occurred in the tournament itself (and not in the play-off match as stated by Gundersen/Purdy in 1937). Above all, and contrary to virtually all assertions, the game was Charlick v Crane and not Crane v Charlick.
The Melbourne Argus, 17 October 1888, page 16 reported that the game had begun the previous day and had been adjourned in the afternoon. At the second adjournment, according to the column, play ‘had extended to over 180 moves on each side’:
On page 15 of the Melbourne Argus, 18 October 1888 a correction was published (80 moves, and not 180):
On 23 October 1888, page 10 of the Melbourne Argus stated
that the game had been resumed, and concluded, the previous day,
having lasted 110 moves. It was wrongly indicated that Crane had
the white pieces:
Charlick’s column in the Adelaide Observer of 10 November 1888, page 44, began with a diagram from the game, which, it said, had lasted 219 moves (i.e. on the basis of his idiosyncratic system of counting moves):
Finally, in the Adelaide Observer of 17 November 1888 (page 44) Charlick gave the first 79 moves, adding that the game ‘lasted 30 moves longer’, and also using the ‘219’ figure as the total:
The extant moves are in a number of databases but are included here for ease of reference:
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 O-O Be7 5 d4 Nxe4 6 d5 Nd6 7 Bxc6 dxc6 8 dxc6 e4 9 Nd4 Bf6 10 Nc3 O-O 11 Re1 Re8 12 Bf4 bxc6 13 Bxd6 cxd6 14 Nxe4 Bb7 15 Nf5 d5 16 Nxf6+ Qxf6 17 Rxe8+ Rxe8 18 Ne3 Ba6 19 c3 Re4 20 Qb3 Qd6 21 Qa3 Qxa3 22 bxa3 Kf8 23 Rb1 Ra4 24 Rb3 Ke7 25 g3 Ke6 26 f3 c5 27 Kf2 c4 28 Rb2 Rxa3 29 Nd1 Kd6 30 Rd2 Kc5 31 Ne3 Bb7 32 Nd1 Bc8 33 Nb2 Bf5 34 Nd1 Bg6 35 Nb2 Rxa2 36 Ke3 Ra5 37 Kf4 Kc6 38 Nd1 Bd3 39 Ke5 Kc5 40 h4 Ra6 41 Rb2 Be2 42 Ne3 Bxf3 43 Rb7 Re6+ 44 Kf4 Rf6+ 45 Ke5 Re6+ 46 Kf4 Rf6+ 47 Ke5 a6 48 Nf5 Kc6 49 Rb4 Bh5 50 Nxg7 Rh6 51 Nf5 Re6+ 52 Kf4 Re4+ 53 Kg5 Bg6 54 Nd4+ Kc5 55 Rb8 Re3 56 Rc8+ Kb6 57 g4 Rxc3 58 Rc6+ Kb7 59 h5 Be4 60 Rf6 Rd3 61 Rxf7+ Kc8 62 Ne6 c3 63 Rc7+ Kb8 64 Kh6 Rg3 65 Rc5 Rd3 66 g5 d4 67 Nxd4 Rxd4 68 Rxc3 Rd6+ 69 Kg7 Kb7 70 Re3 Bc2 71 Re2 Rd7+ 72 Kh6 Rd6+ 73 Kg7 Rd7+ 74 Kh6 Bf5 75 Re5 Rf7 76 g6 hxg6 77 hxg6 Rf6 78 Kg5 Rxg6+ 79 Kxf5 Rd6 and the game was eventually drawn.
On page 46 of the January 1997 Chess Life an article entitled ‘Erroneous Transition to the Pawn Endgame’ by Lev Alburt and Leonid Verkhovsky with Leo Dykhno referred to a ‘diction’:
Citations for the dictum ‘the rook endgames are never won’ are sought. On page 86 of The Wisest Things Ever Said About Chess (London, 2008) Andrew Soltis referred to ...
‘... Tarrasch’s more sweeping claim that “rook and pawn endings are never won”. (A minority credits a version of this to Tartakower.)’
Page 240 of Turning Advantage Into Victory in Chess by Soltis (New York, 2004) had this:
See too ‘All Rook Endgames are Drawn’.
From pages 15-16 of Wonders and Curiosities of Chess by Irving Chernev (New York, 1974):
The game N.N. v Bruening was discussed in C.N. 4638.
Regarding Kujoth v Fashingbauer, we have received the following from Mark Erickson (Richland, WA, USA):
‘Andrew Soltis’s “Chess to Enjoy” column on pages 12-13 of the April 2009 Chess Life, entitled “The Hoax is on You”, included the famous miniature Kujoth v Fashingbauer, Milwaukee, 1950 (1 e4 c5 ... 10 b6 “and Black resigned on move 16”) and stated:
“When the game was published, some Europeans laughed at the rather obvious hoax ...” (Soltis cast particular doubt on Black’s name.)
The letters column on page 6 of the August 2009 Chess Life printed a reply from Kujoth. He reported that his book Chess is an Art had two games against John Fashingbauer, and he made some odd statements:
- “The second game, involving ten-consecutive-pawn moves in the Wing Gambit ...” In fact, that was the first of his two games against Fashingbauer given in Chess is an Art (ten-pawn-move game: 1950, game 39; the other game: 1951, game 40);
- Without consulting Kujoth, a columnist named Averill Powers had truncated the well-known game from 28 moves to ten in his column, entitled “The Game of Kings” in the Milwaukee Journal of 21 May 1950. Kujoth also asserted, without further explanation: “I have just completed a discussion with Myron Katz, attorney at law in Milwaukee.”
In his response on the same page of the August 2009 Chess Life, Soltis gave a 28-move version of the Sicilian Defense game supplied by Kujoth (“his original handwritten score of the game”). The issues of Chess Life can be read on-line.
Nonetheless, in his own book, Chess is an Art, published much earlier, Kujoth himself had stated that Black resigned at move ten. From pages 106-107:
Moreover, in his Introduction to the book Kujoth referred approvingly to two works, by Chernev and Sokolsky, which had given the ten-move version.
Why did Kujoth change his position in 2009, denying that the game had lasted only ten moves?’
The title page of the book referred to by Mr Erickson:
We have this edition (where the games against Fashingbauer, numbers 37 and 38, are on pages 47-49):
The 21 May 1950 Milwaukee Journal column has yet to be found.
C.N. 740 quoted from pages 22-23 of Nigel Short: Chess Prodigy by David Short (London, 1981):
‘If Nigel has one “favourite move” it has to be e4-e5.’
In C.N. 1043 we wrote:
‘This theme was touched on by A. Soltis in Chess Life & Review, November 1979 (page 608). Crediting the BCM (no date given), Mr Soltis quoted the following: Marshall – Bd3/d6; Chigorin – e4/e5; Philidor – c3/c6; Morphy – f4/f5; Steinitz – f3/f6. He then added: Larsen – h4/h5; Karpov – Qcl or b1/c8 or b8; Fischer – Bc4/c5; Suttles – Nh3/h6; Spassky – d5/d4; Petrosian – b4/b5.’
Here it may be added that the BCM item for which Mr Soltis gave no exact source was the final part of an article by Stasch Mlotkowski on pages 134-135 of the May 1918 issue:
See Pet Moves in Chess.
From page 267 of Lasker’s Chess Magazine, April 1905:
‘Mr Pillsbury was operated on at the Presbyterian Hospital, Philadelphia on 27 March, and a few days later, while in a high fever, he tried to jump from a fourth story window. He was finally controlled and returned to bed.’
Or, as A. Bisguier and A. Soltis recounted the story on page 76 of American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer (New York, 1974):
‘… he tried to commit suicide by jumping from the fourth floor of a Philadelphia hospital where he was being treated for mental disorders.’
See Pillsbury’s Torment.
The final paragraph of the Introduction to Confessions of a Chess Grandmaster by A. Soltis (Davenport, 1990):
‘And I’m not going to bore you with two pages of sub-variations explaining why 22 b3!? is slightly better than 22 Rc2?! There is entirely too much punctuation wasted today by members of the Hübner-Timman school who will give you reams of analysis to reveal the absolute truth about a game but may not get around to explaining why a move is good, what was in the player’s mind when he played it or how it can help you improve your own play.’
See also Chess Punctuation.
On page 4 of The Inner Game of Chess (New York, 1994) Andrew Soltis asserted:
‘He [a master] knows the old saying that “Chess is 99% tactics”, but he also knows it’s inaccurate. Chess is really 99% calculation – the inner game of chess.’
See Chess Strategy and Tactics.
This is all that A. Soltis could be bothered to give on page 271 of 365 Chess Master Lessons (London, 2017):
See Mysteries at Sabadell, 1945.
See also A Chess Mess.
A concluding word from Historical Havoc:
Even works with certain scholastic pretensions tend to lack corroborative footnotes and bibliographical references. Sources are considered to be frills; the writings of Andrew Soltis, for instance, optimistically expect the reader to take almost everything on trust.
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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.