Category Archives: Biographies

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

Remembering Robin CO Matthews (16-vi-1927 19-vi-2010)

Robin Charles Oliver Matthews
Robin Charles Oliver Matthews

BCN Remembers Robin CO Matthews (16-vi-1927 19-vi-2010)

Brian Stephenson (BCPS) writes : “Probably the UK’s greatest composer of ‘mate in 3’ #ChessProblems . His chapters in the book you note were what got me hooked on chess composition. Nearly all of his output can be viewed at The Meson Database

From Wikipedia :

“Robert (Robin) Charles Oliver Matthews (16 June 1927 – 19 June 2010) was an economist and chess problemist.

RCO Matthews
RCO Matthews

Matthews was born in Edinburgh. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1965 to 1975 and the Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge from 1980 to 1991. He was also the Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1993.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“British Composer, International Judge of Chess Compositions (1957), International Master for Chess Compositions (1965), economist, appointed Master of Clare College, Cambridge in 1975. He has specialised in orthodox three movers and is among the world’s leaders in this field.”

As a chess problemist he specialised in the composition of directmate three-movers, a field in which he was recognised as one of the world’s leading exponents.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

International Master of the F.I.D.E. for chess compositions (1965) and International Judge of the F.I.D.E. for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the British Chess Problem Society for 1971 and 1972. Professor of Economics at Oxford University. Born on 16th June 1927. Professor Matthews has composed about 200 problems, about 40 of them 1st prize winners, mainly strategic three-movers, He is one of the world’s best three move composers. His best problems give clear-cut expression of complex themes, with proper attention given to key-moveand by-play in the best English tradition. The results are massive rather than elegant, but carefully constructed. Themes he has specialised in include overload White self-weakening and reciprocal change.”

R.C.O. Matthews
British Chess Magazine
1956

White to play and mate in three moves

Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art

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

GM Norm for Matthew Wadsworth

FM Matthew J Wadsworth
FM Matthew J Wadsworth

FM Matthew Wadsworth, one of England’s most promising young players, has earned his first Grandmaster norm from his excellent performance in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL). Matthew, who is eighteen (nineteen in June), has a current FIDE standard play rating of 2413 and is ranked 34th amongst the active players in England (by FIDE rating) earning his FM title in 2016. Matthew has IMs norm under his belt but could leapfrog to Grandmaster status with further norms and by increasing his live rating to 2500. Most likely, however, is that the IM title will be ratified at the next FIDE Congress now that his live rating has topped 2400.

Matthew’s first ECF grade was 66A in 2007 (aged 7) and he played for Maidenhead in local leagues, St. Pirans’s School and then Reading School. Matthew joined 4NCL at an early age and played for AMCA (Andrew Martin Chess Academy) soon rising the ranks to the AMCA first team and he currently represents the Guildford 2 team in Division One of the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL). Matthew’s 4NCL results for the 2018-19 season were :

1. Fodor, Tamas Jr, draw
2. Ashton, Adam G, win
3. Gonda, Laszlo, draw
4. Kulon, Klaudia, win
5. Holland, James P, win
6. Stewart, Ashley, win
7. Ledger, Andrew J, win
8. Plat, Vojtech, loss
9. no game
10. Jackson, James P, win
11. no game

giving a performance of 7/9

One of the undoubted highlights of Matthews chess year was has draw with Oxford domiciled GM Hou Yifan, three times Women’s World Champion from China during the annual Varsity match, Matthew representing Cambridge.

FM Matthew J Wadsworth
FM Matthew J Wadsworth

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996
Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

Gata Kamsky was born in 1974 in Siberia. When moved to Leningrad he became a student of the renowned veteran trainer, who  had coached since about 1945, witness Spassky and Korchnoi ! and author (‘Improve Your Chess Results’ and ‘The King’s Gambit’ with Viktor K), Vladimir Zak. At 12 he won the USSR Junior Championship. However, early journeys into the top game were not always successful and his fast track was criticised even by Botvinnik himself.

Gata Kamsky with Father
Gata Kamsky with Father

His father brought Gata up alone and loomed large in the prodigy’s life, Kamsky Senior even stopping Short in his tracks (“Where is your father?”). He was moved to the USA in 1989 but, sadly, has recently stated that he was never fully accepted. He became GM shortly afterwards.

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

Although a  1996 FIDE World Championship challenger, he lost a well contested match versus Karpov, whereupon Kamsky Senior announced Gata intention to pursue a career in medicine. He had withdrawn from the game, was seeking a teenage bride, and by order!

This book deals with the first part of an incredible career up to  1996. It centres on 22 games, all against fellow grandmasters, all with very deep notes. The text lacks an index. No attempt is made to list his tournament record, or give family photos or reminiscence. It is the first of two volumes, the second yet to appear.

The Two K's
The Two K’s

A recent interview on ‘Perpetual Chess Podcast’ saw Gata labeling himself an advocate of the Lasker School. He emerges from an era when preparation might even be considered cheating. a big fan of endgame studies. Further, he is revealed as almost humble, of great depth who, the introduction to his book states, as author, seems to want to be compared with Fischer. I don’t agree but, BCN, as ever, welcomes correspondence here.

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

Potential buyers of this book, which is subtitled ‘Awakening’ should definitely listen in to his interview and please let us know what you think.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019

Book Details:

  • Paperback : 315 pages
  • Publisher : Thinkers Publishing 28th April 2019
  • Language : English
  • ISBN-10 : 9492510286
  • ISBN-13 : 978-9492510280
  • Product Dimensions : 17.1 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm/li>

Official web site of  http://www.thinkerspublishing.com

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996
Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

My Magic Years With Topalov

My Magic Years with Topalov
My Magic Years with Topalov

After four years, ending in 2014, of  working with the Bulgarian Grandmaster, Veselin Topalov, the second (“a Second generally has to work at night, often all night”) to the former FIDE World Champion speaks of his duties, preparation and with colour (“He fought like a lion for 71 moves”). It is a tale of dedication and loyalty to a seemingly fearsome character. (Presumably this could not have been written whilst the author, who is also the Managing Editor of Thinkers series, was under contract?!)

Chapters: A World Apart. The Start of Our Co-operation. Learning the Job. Zug More Success! Tough Times in Thessalonika. Rollercoaster in Beijing! Preparing for the Candidates. The Candidates Tournament. A Few Novelties More. Exercises 24 positions and Solutions.

Many annotated games, mostly recent, no Rabars but ratings quoted. Use of smaller diagrams in notes (good!). A few cartoons and 7 crosstables. Very artistic colour cover. No index.

Digestible and thorough and, happily, honest. The author has been a French grandmaster for the last decade.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019

Book Details:

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing 28th April 2019
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9492510448
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510440
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2 x 23.4 cm
  • 31 black and white photographs

Official web site of  http://www.thinkerspublishing.com

My Magic Years with Topalov
My Magic Years with Topalov