Monday, 19 June 2017

Chess pictures

Collecting chess related pictures, illustrations and photographs goes hand-in-hand with chess book collecting, and here are four that I have bought this year.

Photograph circa 1900.

I do not recognise any of the twelve well dressed men in this photograph taken around 1900. The picture was purchased in Norfolk, England and I would be interested if any of the men can be identified.

 The sixteen leading chess players of the world


This is a tinted copy of the well known engraving published in The Graphic on 17th July 1886, and I do recognise some of these.

The players standing are, from left to right, Captain George Mackenzie, Baron Ignatz Kolisch, Simon Winawer, Henry Bird, Jules de Rivière, Samuel Rosenthal, James Mason, William Norwood Potter, Emil Schallop, Louis Paulsen, Rev. George MacDonnell, Isidor Gunsberg, and those seated are Joseph Blackburne, William Steinitz, Johannes Zukertort and Berthold Englisch

The Chess Game by Francesco Beda

This is a large 90cm. x 60cm. print of a beautiful painting by the Italian artist Francesco Beda. This painting is recorded in Chess in Art compiled by Manfred Roesler, Davenport, Iowa 1973.  

The Chess Players by Sir John Lavery


A print of Sir John Lavery's 1929 painting which is in the Tate Gallery. This is number 146 in Chess in Art.

                                          © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Philidor by Pohlman

There were many Philidorian texts published following the death of the great player in 1795, but perhaps the most extraordinary is Chess Rendered Familiar by Tabular Demonstrations of the Various Positions and Movements as described by Philidor: with many other Critical Situations and Moves, and a Concise Introduction to The Game, by J. G. Pohlman, London 1819.  

The frontis has an engraving of Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess, and usually includes these lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest below the illustration:

Mira. Sweet Lord you play me false.
Fer.   No my dear love. I would not for the world.

However, there is a variant frontis without these lines:

Only one of the eight copies so far examined lacks these lines.

This book includes 2,352 chess-board diagrams, six to a page, representing openings, and games from Philidor. This was a remarkable feat of typesetting and printing.

There is an unusual and interesting depiction of the king and queen in these diagrams, the queen definitely has a feminine appearance compared to the masculine king. 

The essence of the -typically for the time- long-winded Preface is that Philidor's book was difficult and time consuming to follow, and that by presenting Philidor's games with a diagram for every move, the author has greatly facilitated the understanding of those games.
Pohlman's book commences with a thirty page Introduction to the Game of Chess which gives basic instructions, rules, maxims, and the laws of chess. This Introduction seems to be a mixture of material taken from Peter Pratt's Studies of Chess and the anonymous An Easy Introduction to the Game of Chess, the 1816 edition of which was by the same publisher as Pohlman's book, Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy. 

This is followed by Philidor's Preface to his Treatise on the Game of Chess giving the text from the first English edition of Chess Analysed published in London in 1750. This Preface includes Philidor's frequently quoted remark regarding pawns; "they are the very life of this game", but he also touches on the equally important maxim that learning a few opening moves by rote leads nowhere in chess without an understanding of why the moves were made, and of the position arrived at.

Philidor also makes some harsh criticisms on other aspects of the game such as the en passant rule and the permissibility of a player having more than one Queen on the board, which he regards as most ridiculous. He is also critical of the works of Carrera, Greco and Bertin. Philidor's forthright views are worth showing in full:

Then follows the 392 pages of chess-board diagrams. These represent, firstly  the moves of the games, different mates and ends of games taken from Philidor's final work; Analysis of the Game of Chess, London 1790, with Philidor's notes to these games reworded and placed at the end. Secondly, eight games played by Philidor without sight of the board, and one other, and thirdly, Critical Situations and Moves taken from Stamma.  

There is very little information to be found on Pohlman; major libraries name him as John George Pohlman but he is not mentioned in any of the usual chess reference works.

Pohlman published works on other games including Whist Rendered Familiar, London 1821 and 1827, A Practical Treatise on the Game of Draughts, London 1819, The Game of Draughts, London 1823 and The Polish Game of Draughts, London 1811 and 1815.

The title page of the latter work states that Pohlman was employed by the Audit Office and was the author of Tables of Exchanges, Interest and other Calculations, and the Annual Statement of the London Course of Exchange. He also wrote other works of an arithmetical/financial nature. Pohlman begins the Preface to this work as follows; "The Translator, during his travels and residence on the Continent, had frequent opportunities of seeing the Polish Game of Draughts admirably played, and everywhere preferred to the common game...."

How successful Pohlman's Philidorian book was is difficult to say, there were no subsequent editions and his format of a diagram per move was not repeated for many years. Will H. Lyons was already describing the book as scarce in the 1890's and the fact that this book is not recorded in some early bibliographies indicates that only a small number were sold and that it was not widely known.

Chess Rendered Familiar is not recorded, for example, in John Cochrane's Catalogue of Writers on the Game of Chess, published with his Treatise in 1822, nor is it listed in the Bibliographie Chronologique des Éditions Publiées de L'Analyse de Philidor on pages 300 to 306 of C. Sanson's Analyse du Jeu des Échecs par A. D. Philidor, Paris 1871, which lists 65 editions of Philidor from 1749 to 1870.
                                            © Michael Clapham

Friday, 9 June 2017

The American Supplement to Cook's Synopsis

The American Supplement to the "Synopsis," containing American Inventions in the Chess Openings; Together with Fresh Analyses in the Openings, since 1882, edited by Joseph W. Miller, London 1885.

The "Synopsis" supplemented is the third edition of William Cook's Synopsis of the Chess Openings. A Tabulated Analysis, London 1882.

First published in 1875, Cook's Synopsis is a tabulated analysis of the openings with a short introduction to each, including historical origins, and a columnar layout with notes; a format still utilised in more recent openings encyclopedias such as Modern Chess Openings, Batsford Chess Openings, Nunn's Chess Openings etc. 

The American Supplement has a cryptically worded Introduction which I do not fully follow, but mainly appears to be a complaint about unacknowledged copying. 

The publisher of The American Supplement was W. W. Morgan Jun., a major chess goods dealer at the time, and there are several adverts at the back for his wares. The first advert on the verso of page 91 is for a proposed book with the title Modern Chess Openings. However, this was never published and that title was eventually taken by R. C. Griffiths and J. H. White for their 1911 book, and many later editions.

The advert section also includes a three page Catalogue of Books on the Game of Chess offered for sale by W. W. Morgan Jun. and this lists many interesting and scarce works from the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, perhaps the most important part of the whole book, to chess bibliophiles, is the specimen issue of The Chess Player's Chronicle bound in at the end of each book. W. W. Morgan Jun. was the proprietor and publisher of The Chess Player's Chronicle at the time and he promoted his magazine by including a recent 12 page (plus covers) weekly issue with each American Supplement.

I have three copies of The American Supplement and each has a different issue of The Chess Player's Chronicle for 1885 which is a very scarce periodical in its original form.

The full title of this periodical  from 1881 to 1889 was The Chess Player's Chronicle and Journal of Indoor and Outdoor Amusements, however, my three copies have chess content only.

Page 39 of the 1st July 1885 issue has this rib-tickler about Blackburne:

Each issue has a list of books for sale by W.W. Morgan Jun.

The American Supplement is not a particularly scarce book but, extraordinarily, I cannot see this in the Cleveland Public Library catalogue; surely they have this?

                                           © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Betts Analysed, "fruit bowl" edition

Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works published in the English Language, 1850-1968 by Douglas Betts has a total of 2,769 entries in 55 Sections. This includes 145 in section 7-General chess periodicals, 78 in section 8-Yearbooks,  and 18 in section 42-Problems periodicals.

Leaving these periodicals and yearbooks aside for the moment, the total number of entries is reduced to 2,528. However, this vastly overstates the actual number of original chess works for the following reasons:

1. Different editions of the same work, e.g. the same book published in London and New York, have separate entries.

2. Later editions are recorded separately, e.g. a later paperback or Dover edition of an earlier work.

3. 100 entries are simply articles in other works in the Bibliography, and not publications in their own right; e.g. entries 2-2 to 2-6 in section 2 on Organisation.

4. Many publications are entered in more than one section because the content is relevant to each; e.g. 19-10 Strategy & Tactics in Chess by Max Euwe which is also recorded at 18-4.

5. There are many (193) non-chess works listed which have only partial chess content. The majority of these are in section 44-Chess in fiction, and for example, nine of the twelve books in section 41 are books on recreational mathematics with some chess puzzles. An extreme example, of the non-chess works listed, is 5-7, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages in which the chess content is restricted to just two of the 478 pages.

Taking all of this into account and looking at section 10-General works, for example, 159 of the 320 entries are different or later editions of previously listed books, and section 23-Collections of end-games includes nine different or later editions and nine books entered in other sections, leaving just 13 original works out of the 31 entries. An exceptional example is section 44 where only 18 of the 167 entries are dedicated chess works, and these are novels.

The majority of entries in most sections are for original chess publications, but I calculate that the number of duplicated entries and non-chess works is 976, leaving 1,552 original chess works out of the total of 2,528. 

See the table below for a full analysis:

From a bibliographical point of view it is obviously important to record every edition of each work, and this information is very useful to collectors, librarians, book sellers, chess-players, problemists, authors and editors; but here I am trying to establish the number of original chess publications.

Some "later editions" of a work are substantially different from the original edition, and these have been counted as separate books. Take for example Eugene Cook's American Chess Nuts recorded at 32-6 and 32-7. The first edition included 404 problems in 72 pages whereas the second edition had 2,404 problems and 627 pages, so these are obviously two very different books.

A few notes on some of the sections:

Section 1 - Bibliography. 
Betts has listed a few auction catalogues with major chess book collections and several book dealer's catalogues with some works on chess, but he has omitted the most acclaimed and sought after item - Quaritch's 1929 catalogue of Rimington-Wilson books. There must be several hundred other catalogues by dealers, auctioneers and collectors which are not recorded.

Section 25 - Tournaments.
Entries 25-5, 25-9, 25-12, and 25-13 have German text only.

Out of the 399 original works in this section at least 250 are typescript productions often recording just the moves of the games with little else. These pamphlets are useful records of the events covered but have none of the features usually associated with a classic tournament book such as New York 1889 or Hastings 1895. They are tournament books, but not as we know it, Jim.

Section 54 - Chessmen 
Although Betts included many chess book catalogues in the bibliography section, he did not include any auctioneer's, dealer's or collector's catalogues in the section on chessmen. There are, no doubt, a large number of these catalogues which are a very useful reference source for chess piece collectors and historians etc.

Reverting now to the periodical publications, there has long been a debate about how these should be counted. Should it be every single issue, each volume, or the series as a whole? Betts has taken the normal approach of recording complete runs of a periodical as a single item. Although in the section on yearbooks he has sometimes listed long sequences of these as one item, and sometimes given each year an individual entry. 

The problem with listing, for example, 88 volumes of the British Chess Magazine as a single item is that this gives a very misleading number of chess books available. For this exercise I have taken the approach of counting each volume of a periodical as one item, and if volume numbers are not ascertainable I have counted each year's run as one item. 

Many periodicals ended after just a few issues (at least four folded after only one issue), and these have been counted as one item, whereas a periodical that ran for 20 years, without volume numbers being evident, has been counted as 20 items.

The periodicals section in Betts is very incomplete, as he acknowledges, and furthermore, it is impossible to ascertain the full publication details of many entries. However, with the help of Di Felice's Chess Periodicals, I have drawn up the following table giving the number of volumes/years for each periodical. This shows that the 145 entries in section 7-General periodicals, comprise around 1,000 volumes/years.

I have compiled similar tables for section 8-Yearbooks, and section 42-Problem periodicals. Incidentally, there are also a few periodical publications listed in other sections, including Ken Whyld's Chess Reader which is listed in the Bibliography section at 1-52. See also 13-173, 13-176, 24-86 to 24-92, 24-106 to 21-110, 32-29, 32-48.

                                          © Michael Clapham 2017

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Chess Masterpieces

A number of chess books have this title.

Chess Masterpieces, by H. E. Bird, London 1875  


This was Bird's first  chess book and he explained in his Preliminary Remarks that he had endeavoured to illustrate the various styles of all the great masters, and claimed to have examined all the recorded games of the principal players since 1849. Bird had originally selected 250 games but these had been whittled down to 150 plus five games played before 1849 and a further two in the Addenda, to fill in a blank space. The book is dedicated to Herr Kolisch.

The author gives a useful breakdown of the source of the games, and makes interesting observations regarding the lack of match play in recent years.

Anderssen features in 43 of the games, 32 are by Morphy and 27 by Bird, including 14 of his losses. The dates and occasions are sometimes given and most games have very light notes.

Betts records only one edition of this work but there are variants. In my green covered copy the printing is slightly crisper, possibly indicating an earlier printing, and this book includes an additional title page featuring a chess problem. The Preliminary Remarks are dated June 1875 (no date in the brown edition), and page 140 has additional information on games 29 and 49 which is not included in my brown covered edition. 

In 1887 Bird's Modern Chess and Chess Masterpieces was published. This included 207 games, almost half by Bird.

Chess Masterpieces edited by W. H. Watts, London and New York 1924 



Watts observes, in his Introduction, that collections of master games are the most popular type of chess book, noting that "many chess books have proved unacceptable to the chess-playing public" without specifying any types or titles. 

Watts included 50 games played by the best players of the last 50 years and this therefore follows on perfectly from the period explored in Bird's Chess Masterpieces.

The scores of the games and some of the notes were taken from many sources and these are acknowledged on the final page.

Photographs and short biographies of prominent players are printed on glossier paper, and these are stated to be taken from Chess Pie, The Official Souvenir of the International Tournament, London 1922; but the biographies are shortened and some of the photos differ. 

The next book with this title was:

Chess Masterpieces by Frank Marshall, New York 1928. 


I do not have this book which includes one "best game" by each of 22 masters with annotations and biographical notes.

There are many other books with Chess Masterpieces in the title including:

Colle's Chess Masterpieces by Fred Reinfeld, first published in 1936.

A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, by Fred Reinfeld, London 1950.


This contains a good selection of 100 games by British and Commonwealth players from 1798 to 1948. However there are no games by Staunton since, according to Reinfeld, "it takes too much time to find a game by him which one can enjoy".

Every game is introduced with Reinfeld's engaging and perceptive remarks and the book is full of his entertaining annotations. Reinfeld's chess knowledge and his capacity for imparting this in his books is quite extraordinary. Here are a couple of examples of his game introductions:

Other titles include:

Selected Chess Masterpieces, by Svetozar Gligorich, London and New York 1970.


Gligorich's first chess book that was originally published in English, is a compilation of his Game of the Month features from Chess Review covering the period from 1965 to 1969. 45 games are included (four of Gligorich's) and each game has an enticing introduction and extensive notes by the author.

Well, there had to be some Fischer didn't there? 

Lesser Known Chess Masterpieces 1906-1915, by Fred Wilson, New York 1976   


This book contains 335 games reprinted from the nine volumes of The Year-Book of Chess, 1907 to 1915/16.

Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces by Hans Kmoch, New York 1941.


This work was originally published as Rubinstein Gewinnt, Vienna 1933 and includes 100 fully annotated games from 1907 to 1931.

                                   © Michael Clapham 2017