22 December 2011

Kings of Chess Journalism

I've already quoted Yakov Damsky, author of 'The Batsford Book of Chess Records' among other titles, in Not Everyone Likes Chess960. Another quote that caught my attention was 'Savielly Tartakower - a Grandmaster, the king of chess journalism at the time' (p.239), in reference to a simul he gave in 1929. As a blogger, I feel a general affinity for chess journalists and am always willing to learn from the masters of the craft. The title 'King of Chess Journalism', although entirely subjective, is a new idea for me and I started to wonder if anyone had compiled a list of such kings covering all ages. But first, let's look at Tartakower.

I imagine that for most fans of chess history, Tartakower is better known for his play than for his writing. How strong a player was he? I turned to a chart from Elo's 'Rating of Chess Players Past and Present', where Tartakower is no.20 in the chronological list.

Hard to read, isn't it? So is the original chart because it spans two pages. A two centimeter gap at the year 1915 makes it difficult to follow the arcs that cross that point. That's why I made a larger version of the same image, eliminating the annoying gap: 'Lifetime Ratings, Selected Grandmasters' as calculated by Elo.

From this we see that Tartakower reached his peak around 1923, when there were six players ranked higher: Capablanca, Lasker, Alekhine, Nimzovitch, Rubinstein, and Maroczy, in that order; and the same number ranked lower: Marshall, Vidmar, Euwe (just starting his career), Tarrasch (near the end of his career), Mieses, and Janowski. That places Tartakower in the top-10 for that period.

The only resource that I know equivalent to Elo's is Chessmetrics, where we find the Chessmetrics Player Profile: Saviely Tartakower. In the past I've been critical of the Chessmetrics methodology, as in Calculating Collusion, because it draws too many conclusions on skimpy data, but it still manages to paint pretty pictures. On the 'Ratings only' section of the Tartakower page, he jumps from no.44 in the world on the September 1941 list (rating 2586) to no.10 in the world on the January 1946 list (rating 2688), despite being inactive between those months, as were most players.

The Elo table lists a few names of less-known players -- Schallopp, Mason, Stoltz, Barcza, and Pomar -- and it might be worthwhile to research them. Add to that a post on Damsky, on Tartakower, and on other 'Kings of Chess Journalism', and I might have a little series in the making.

1 comment:

Macauley said...

Great stuff! Always enjoy your original, off-beat projects.