All posts by Richard James

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965
The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965 : Pedro Méndez Castedo & Luis Méndez Castedo

Pedro Méndez Castedo & Luis Méndez Castedo

Pedro Mendez Castedo is an amateur chess player, an elementary educational guidance counselor a member of the Asturias Chess History Commission, a bibliophile and a researcher of the history of Spanish and Asturian chess. He lives in San Martin del Rey Aurelio, Spain. Luis Mendez Castedo is an amateur chess player, a full teacher at a state school, a member of the Asturias Chess History Commission, a bibliophile and an investigator of the history of Spanish chess. He lives in Gijon, Spain.

 

When I mention Gijón, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Mustard? No, that’s Dijon. Dijon’s in France, but Gijón’s on the north coast of Spain, on the Bay of Biscay.

Small international chess tournaments were held there between 1944 and 1951, then between 1954 and 1956, and, finally, in 1965. These were all play all events, with between 8 and 12 players: a mixture of visiting masters and local stars. A bit like Hastings, you might think, but these tournaments usually took place in July, not in the middle of winter.

The strength of the tournaments varied, but some famous names took part. Alekhine played in the first two events and Euwe in 1951. A young Larsen played in 1956, while other prominent masters such as Rossolimo, Darga, Donner, Prins, Pomar and O’Kelly also took part. The local player Antonio Rico played in every event, with fluctuating fortunes: winning in 1945 ahead of Alekhine and 1948, but also finishing last on several occasions. English interests were represented on three occasions by Mr CHESS, BH Wood.

A nice touch is the Foreword, written by Gene Salomon, a Gijón native who played in the 1947 event before emigrating first to Cuba and then to the United States.

The main part of the book comprises a chapter on each tournament. We get a crosstable and round by round individual scores (it would have been better if these didn’t spill over the page: you might also think that progressive scores would be more useful). We then have, another nice touch, a summary of what was happening in the world at large, and in the chess world, that year. Then we have a games selection, some with light annotations: words rather than variations, giving the impression that little if any use was made of engines.

The book concludes with a chapter on ‘Special Personages’: Félix Heras, the tournament organizer, and, perhaps to entice British readers, BH Wood. Appendices provide a table of tournament participation and biographical summaries of the players.

Returning to the main body of the book, let’s take the 1950 tournament as a not entirely random example. A year in which I have a particular interest.

We learn a little about the football World Cup, the Korean War and a Spanish radio programme, the first Candidates Tournament and the Dubrovnik chess olympiad.

The big news from Gijón was the participation of the French player Chantal Chaudé de Silans, the only female to take part in  these events, and rather unfairly deprived of her acute accent here. She scored a respectable 3½ points, beating Prins and Grob (yes, the 1. g4 chap).

Rossolimo won the event with 8½/11, just ahead of Dunkelblum and Pomar on 8. Prins and Torán, playing in his home city, finished on 7 points.

This game, between Arturo Pomar and Henri Grob, won the first brilliancy prize.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. g3 Bg7 6. Bg2 c6 7. e3 h5 8. Nge2 h4 9. Qb3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Nd7 11. a4 Nb6 12. a5

12… Nd7 13. a6 Qc7 14. Qc4 Nb6 15. Qc5 Rh5 16. Qa3 bxa6 17. Nf4 Rh8 18. Qc5 Bb7 19. Ba3 e5 20. Nd3 exd4 21. cxd4 Rh5 22. Ne5 O-O-O 23. g4 Nd7 24. Qc2 Rxe5 25. dxe5 Nxe5 26. Rb1 h3 27. Be4 Nxg4 28. Ke2 a5 29. Rxb7 Kxb7 30. Rb1+ Kc8 31. Bxc6 Ne5 32. Bb7+ Kb8 33. Ba6+ Qb6 34. Bd6+ Ka8 35. Rxb6 1:0

The annotations – by result rather than analysis – neither convince nor stand up to computer scrutiny. We’re told at the start of the game that ‘Pomar takes the initiative from Black’s error in the opening and does not relinquish it until the final victory’, but the annotations refute this claim. After criticizing several of Grob’s moves but none of Pomar’s, we’re told, correctly, that Black could have gained an advantage by playing 25… Qa5+. However, Grob’s choice was second best, not a ‘serious mistake’: Stockfish 10 tells me 26… a5 was still better for Black, and 27… a5 (in both cases with the idea of Ba6) was equal, though I guess those moves might not be easy to find without assistance. It was his 27th move, and perhaps also his 26th, which deserved the question mark.

This game was played in the last round of the tournament, on 26 July 1950.  Two days later a boy would be born who would learn chess, develop an interest in the game’s history and literature, and be asked to review this book. What is his verdict?

An enjoyable read, a nice book, but not a great book. If you collect McFarland books you’ll want it. If you have a particular passion for Spanish chess history, you’ll want it. Otherwise, although the book is not without interest, it’s probably an optional extra.

The tournaments, apart perhaps from Alekhine’s participation in the first two events, are not, in the overall scheme of things, especially significant. The games, by and large, aren’t that exciting. The annotations are, by today’s standards, not really adequate. The translation and presentation could have been improved.

Just another thought: we could do with a similarly structured book about the Hastings tournaments. There was one published some years ago, but a genuine chess historian could do much better.

Richard James, Twickenham 20 November 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 244 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476676593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476676593
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.5 x 25.1 cm

Official web site of McFarland

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965
The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

Emanuel Lasker : A Reader : A Zeal to Understand

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader
Emanuel Lasker: A Reader

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand : Taylor Kingston

Taylor Kingston

Taylor Kingston has been a chess enthusiast since his teens. He holds a Class A over-the-board USCF rating, and was a correspondence master in the 1980s, but his greatest love is the game’s history. His historical articles have appeared in Chess Life, New In Chess, Inside Chess, Kingpin, and the Chess Café website. He has edited numerous books, including the 21st-century edition of Lasker’s Manual of Chess, and translations from Spanish of The Life and Games of Carlos Torre, Zurich 1953: 15 Contenders for the World Championship, and Najdorf x Najdorf. He considers the Lasker Reader to be the most challenging and interesting project he has undertaken to date.

 

Taylor Kingston
Taylor Kingston

When I’m asked who my favourite chess player is, I always answer ‘Emanuel Lasker’.

Why? Partly because he was a player who didn’t really have a style. Like Magnus Carlsen, with whom he has sometimes been compared, he just played chess. But more because he was such an interesting personality. Unlike most champions (Euwe and Botvinnik were exceptions) he had a life outside chess, on several occasions taking long breaks from the game. And what a life it was: mathematician, philosopher, writer, playwright, bridge player, and, lest we forget, chess player.

Chess historians are finally taking notice of this fascinating man. In 2009 a massive volume about him was published in German, edited by Richard Forster and others. Last year the first of three volumes of a greatly expanded edition of this work appeared in English. If you have any interest at all in chess history you should certainly possess this book, and, like me, you’ll be eagerly looking forward to volumes 2 and 3.

What we have here might best be seen as a companion to this work, and, if you’re a Lasker fan or have any interest in chess history you’ll want this as well.

Taylor Kingston has compiled and edited a collection of Lasker’s own writings, not just on chess but covering every aspect of his multi-faceted personality.

We start with the London Chess Fortnightly, which Lasker published for a year between 1892 and 1893, annotating his own games as he was trying to establish himself as a contender for Steinitz’s world title. Here and throughout the book, the editor adds the occasional contribution from Stockfish 8.

Lasker and Steinitz met in 1894, with our hero becoming the second official world champion as a result of winning the match. Both players annotated some of the games for newspaper columns. In 1906 Lasker published this in his chess magazine, which we’ll come to later, but in this book they appear in the correct chronological place.

The Hastings 1895 tournament book (if you don’t have a copy I’d like to know why) was unusual in that all the games were annotated by one of the other participants. The six games Lasker annotated feature here.

Lasker’s first book, Common Sense in Chess, was published the following year. We have here an extract from Chapter 9, the End Game.

We then jump forward to 1904. The longest and, for chess players, perhaps the most interesting section of the book covers Lasker’s Chess Magazine, which was published in New York between November 1904 and January 1909. The games themselves give the reader an overview of chess during those years, with amateurs as well as masters being represented. Lasker’s annotations and, in some cases, game introductions, were often colourful in nature and tell us a lot about the man himself.

Burn-Forgacs (Ostend 1906), for instance, ‘begins like a summer breeze and ends like a winter’s gale’.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Qa5 7. Nd2 Ne4 8. Ndxe4 dxe4 9. Bh4 e5 10. Be2 f5 11. O-O g6 12. c5

‘Here the red lantern flashes out; queen and bishop prepare to take the diagonal from b3 to e6 and f7, which are woefully weak, and the black king will be in grave peril.’

12… Bg7 13. Qb3 Nf8 14. Bc4 Qc7 15. d5 h6 16. d6 Qd7 17. Be7 Ne6 18. Nb5 cxb5 19. Bxb5 1-0

Another major chapter concerns the 1908 Lasker-Tarrasch world championship match. After some details of the background to the match (there was little love lost between the two players: Edward Lasker quoted Tarrasch as saying ‘the only words I will address to him are check and mate!). Taylor Kingston presents the games with annotations from Lasker’s Chess Magazine, Tarrasch’s book of the match and other contemporary sources, along with the usual computer interjections.

We then have a chapter on Lasker’s unsuccessful 1921 match against Capablanca, and another on his non-appearance at New York 1927. Lasker’s Manual of Chess was first published in German in 1926: here we have an excerpt in which he discusses the theory of Steinitz.

Lasker’s chess writings are completed by an article on Lasker and the Endgame by guest contributor Karsten Müller, and a short section on Lasker’s problems and endgame studies.

The last 75 pages of the book consider other aspects of Lasker’s life: his philsophy, his contributions to mathematics, and Lasca, a board game he invented.

Perhaps the most interesting section offers extracts from The Philosophy of the Unattainable, his most important philosophical work, published in 1919. As far as Taylor Kingston is aware, it has never been published in English.

Lasker’s last work, The Community of the Future, was published in 1940, five months before his death. Here, Lasker considers the problems faced by the world and proposes a ‘non-competitive community’ as his solution, with ‘self-hope co-operatives’ to deal with unemployment. Again, fascinating reading, and, you might think, his utopian ideas are still of some relevance today.

The book is a well-produced paperback. There are a few notation errors caused by translation from descriptive to algebraic, but this shouldn’t cause you too much bother. I hope I’ve convinced you that this book deserves a place on your shelves.

Richard James, Twickenham 20 November 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 400 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (19 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859003
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand
Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games
Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games : Alex Dunne

FM Alex Dunne

FM Alex Dunne
FM Alex Dunne

How we all laughed, back in the day. How we all laughed whenever Fred Reinfeld’s name was mentioned. All those books written for patzers. How to Win When You’re Ahead. How to Win When You’re Behind. How to Win When You’re Equal. How to Win With the White Pieces. How to Win With the Black Pieces. How to Win with the Blue Pieces. How to Win with the Yellow Pieces. Well, perhaps we made up some of those titles, but you know what I mean. Endless books of basic, over-simplified instruction, not for the likes of us.

But now, half a century or so on, I’d say that Fred is one of my heroes. A man who brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, teaching them the basics so that they could move onto higher level instruction later on if they chose to do so. If they didn’t, no matter: they were still enjoying chess. And he wrote some excellent higher level books as well. A particular favourite of mine was his collection of Tarrasch’s best games: I guess Tarrasch’s logical style suited Reinfeld’s style of annotations.

There was much more to him than chess books, though. In the 1930s, when he was in his 20s, he was one of the strongest players in the USA, numbering Reshevsky (twice), Fine and Marshall among his victims.  At the start of 1942 he decided to give up competitive chess and concentrate on writing. It wasn’t just chess books that he wrote, either. His bibliography includes books on checkers, coin and stamp collecting, science, maths and history. He died relatively young, in 1964, at the age of 54. Granted another 20 or 30 years, who knows how many books he would have written.

It’s easy to mock, isn’t it? We can all name authors who decided it would be more lucrative to write bad books quickly than to write good books slowly. but Reinfeld’s books, although for the most part not written for stronger players, were by no means bad. He was an excellent writer and pioneering teacher who developed the ‘solitaire chess’ method of asking questions on a game and awarding points for good answers. It’s hard to disagree that he was one of the most influential figures in mid-20th century chess, and a biobibliography was long overdue.

Fred Reinfeld
Fred Reinfeld

Sadly, this volume doesn’t really do Reinfeld full justice. The author, Alex Dunne, is an enthusiast rather than an academic historian. It includes 282 games (actually 281, as one game appears with two sets of annotations), mostly played by him, some with notes, either by Reinfeld or by Dunne. You might possibly want more annotations, or you might think that, as Reinfeld was best known as a writer, this doesn’t matter too much.

Dunne also provides, as you might expect, details of Reinfeld’s books, although it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for. There’s a discussion about whether or not Reinfeld ghostwrote Reshevsky on Chess and Marshall’s My Fifty Years of Chess, but Dunne adds nothing further to what is readily available online and leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. There’s also nothing about Edward Young, generally assumed to be a pen-name of Reinfeld, although the books published under this name are included in the bibliography. (Wikipedia and other online sources claim that Reinfeld also used the pseudonym Robert V Masters, but Dunne tells us, without providing sources, that Masters was actually Sterling Publishing Company President David Boehm.)

Reinfeld produced American editions of various British chess books. I’d have welcomed more information about what, if any, changes were made. To take just one example, he mentions Epic Battles of the Chessboard by ‘Richard Cole’. He might have mentioned that the original title was Battles Royal of the Chessboard,  and should certainly have given the author, Richard Nevil Coles, who, for some reason, was usually known by his middle name rather than his excellent first name, his correct surname. ‘R Nevil Coles’ would have been much better. Again, Morphy’s Games of Chess is incorrectly attributed to E Sergeant in the text, but the bibliography correctly identifies the author as Philip Sergeant.

Reverting to the games, some of Reinfeld’s opponents are identified by their first name and surname, others only by their initial and surname. I thought I knew that W Goldwater, for example, was Walter, and it took all of 5 seconds for Mr Google to confirm this.

All in all, then, something of a missed opportunity. A worthy book and a worthy subject, but lacking the rigorous historical research and accuracy we expect from this publisher. I’d like to suggest a group biography of Reinfeld and his occasional co-authors Chernev and Horowitz as a possible project for a US chess historian. Nevertheless, in the absence of anything else, if you’re interested in chess history of this period, chess literature or chess teaching you’ll still want to buy this book.

Here’s one of Reinfeld’s favourite games:

 

 

Richard James, Twickenham July 15th 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 194 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 October 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476676542
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476676548
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of McFarland Books

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games
Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games : Hans Renette & Fabrizio Zavatarelli

Hans Renette

Hans Renette
Hans Renette

Neumann, Hirschfeld & Suhle. Sounds like a Berlin law firm, doesn’t it? In fact they were 19th century Prussian born chess players with Berlin connections, all active in the 1860s. You tell me you’ve never heard of them? One of them may well be the strongest (for his time) player you’ve never heard of.

Let me take you back to the year 1860. Morphy’s short career in competitive chess had already come to an end, and Steinitz (strange to think he was a year older than Morphy) was just a fairly promising youngster. Anderssen was still active, along with younger players such as Kolisch and Paulsen, but, if you remove Morphy from the equation, there was no clear number one player.

Among those just below the top was (Carl Friedrich) Berthold Suhle (1837-1904), the first of this book’s joint protagonists. Suhle had a very brief chess career spanning the late 1850s up to 1865, when he returned home from Berlin, choosing to focus instead on family life and his career as an academic specialising in Ancient Greek.

Enter Philipp Martin Hirschfeld (1840-96), who, when he arrived in Berlin in 1859, already had a reputation as a theoretician. He was as yet no match for Suhle, though: in a nine game match in 1860 he could only muster two draws. (Note that Jeff Sonas, on his Chessmetrics site, mistakenly dates this match to 1865, causing him to overstate both Hirschfeld’s rating in the early 1860s and Suhle’s rating in the late 1860s.) Like Suhle, Hirschfeld decided to concentrate on his career rather than become a chess professional. Joining his father’s business, he set up a tea company, travelled widely and lived in London through much of the 1870s and 80s. He maintained his interest in chess for the rest of his life but never took part in international tournaments.

The main part of the book is devoted to Gustav Richard Ludwig Neumann (1838-81), who, for a few years round about 1870 was one of the best three or four players in the world. Neumann was a real chess addict who decided to make a living through his favourite game. His first international tournament was Paris 1867, where he finished 4th behind Kolisch, Winawer and Steinitz. Later the same year he won a small but strong tournament in Dundee, this time ahead of Steinitz. It seemed like a new star had arrived, but at the end of 1869 he suffered a mental breakdown and was taken to an asylum. He recovered well enough to be released the following April and that summer resumed his tournament career at Baden-Baden, where he finished 3rd behind Anderssen and Steinitz, and level with Blackburne. Sadly, his mental illness returned at the end of 1872, putting an end to his chess career. Neumann was one of the great might-have-beens of chess, but you’ve probably never heard of him.

The two authors of this volume are both respected chess historians who have written other biographies for McFarland. Hans Renette has penned excellent books on Henry Bird and Louis Paulsen, while Fabrizio Zavatarelli has published a book on Ignaz Kolisch. In 2015 they discovered that Hans was researching Neumann while Fabrizio was studying Suhle and Hirschfeld. Given the overlap in time and place they decided it would make sense to pool their resources.

If you’re familiar with McFarland biographies you’ll know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. A sturdy, large format hardback which will sit impressively on your bookshelf, 711 games with annotations taken from contemporary sources and computer-aided updates from the authors, many atmospheric photographs and outstanding historical research, The English is not always entirely idiomatic, but no matter.

Although the book probably won’t do much to improve your rating, lovers of attacking chess will be delighted to see a lot of Evans Gambit and King’s Gambit games, with the Ruy Lopez in third place.  By today’s standards these players were not so strong, but all of us, from Magnus Carlsen down to the humblest patzer, are standing on the shoulders of giants. If you value the history and heritage of our wonderful game you’ll want to find out more about Suhle, Hirschfeld and Neumann, all of whom part of what makes us what we are.

Here’s a crazily complicated game from the book. You’ll have hours of fun spotting the missed opportunities for both players.

 

Richard James, Twickenham June 7 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476673799
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476673790
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 3.2 x 27.9 cm/li>

Official web site of McFarland Books

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games