01 December 2007

Soviet Players in Hooper & Whyld

Continuing the hunt for biographical data in resources at hand, as in Soviet Players on Chessgames.com a few weeks ago, I checked my list of 359 names against 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld. This is one of the three reference books I keep closer to my desk than other chess books in my library. The others are Murray's History and Gaige's Personalia. If you've never seen the OC2C, as I call it, the book is organized like an encyclopedia, with aphabetical entries (from 'Abbazia Defence' to 'zwischenzug') and information behind each entry proportional to its importance. Capablanca merits 2 3/4 pages, the early World Women's Champions only 2-3 lines.

I have the OC2C paperback edition from 1996 and I noted a few special problems with it. First, I use it so much that the binding is breaking and pages are starting to detach. More importantly, the choice of which players have been included is somewhat arbitrary. There is no mention of the criteria used for inclusion and it appears that the authors had to guess which upcoming players would be good bets for the long term. Not too surprisingly, British players are over-represented in all time frames. Staunton gets a little more space than Em.Lasker.

I found OC2C entries for 138 names, of which 14 were only referenced in another entry. For example, 'P.Kondratyev' isn't listed under his own name. He is listed under 'Kondratiyev Variation, 1186 in the FRENCH DEFENCE, an idea of the Soviet player Pavel Evseyevich Kondratiyev (1924-1984)'. The number 1186 is a reference to an appendix on opening lines where the moves are given. The Kondratiyev Variation is 4.Bd3 in the Winawer.

A research topic for the future would be to determine who is listed in Hooper and Whyld but missing on my list. I noticed entries for Alexander Goldin and Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, both of whom are now candidates for inclusion.

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