26 April 2009

D.J. Richards, Russian Lecturer

Flipping through various books that touch on Soviet Chess, it's clear that many used D.J. Richards 'Soviet Chess' as a basic reference. This puts Richards in the ranks of chess writers who have written a major work on chess history. What other information is available about him?

Locating accurate, coherent info about a writer with the family name 'Richards' isn't straightforward. For example, Bookfinder.com has entries for D.J. Richards, David Richards, and D. Richards, all of which appear to be relevant to the author of 'Soviet Chess'.

The only other chess related work by Richards is 'Modern Chess Opening Theory' by A.S. Suetin, translated from the 1958 Russian edition by Richards and edited by P.H. [Peter Hugh] Clarke. Bookfinder.com (see Author is Suetin; Title is chess opening theory) lists editions published in 1965, 1968, 1973, 1975, 1981, and 2004.

The 'translated by' clue is important. It explains why there is so much Russian source material in 'Soviet Chess' and it opens a window on Richards' profession as lecturer in Russian at Exeter University. I'm fairly certain that non-chess titles authored or co-authored by Richards were

  • 'Russian Views of Pushkin' (not to be confused with 'Russian Views of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin'), and
  • 'Russian Critical Essays' (two volumes, one covering the XIXth century, the other the XXth century)

Others works where I'm less certain are

  • 'Ninety Advanced Russian Unseens',
  • 'Zamyatin: A Soviet Heretic', and
  • 'Penguin Book of Russian Short Stories'.

Other works which I'm fairly certain were authored by another D.(J.)Richards are

  • 'The Haunting Wind', and
  • 'Russian Rightists and the Revolution of 1905'.

Our Richards was also co-author of 'The Voice of a Giant: Essays on Seven Russian Prose Classics' and contributed one of the seven essays, specifically the essay on Lermontov's 'Hero of Our Time' (see A Hero of Our Time [Wikipedia]). In addition to the books, he authored a number of scholarly essays on Russian literature.

Following the Exeter connection reveals that Richards was an accomplished chess player. From The Western Morning News, ('has one of the oldest chess columns in the country, having carried one, almost continuously, since the 1880s') column of 24 November 2007:

This whole story of 20th century chess is told in a newly-published book entitled 'White King and Red Queen' by Daniel Johnson. [...] The book is as well-researched as it is readable, with 36 pages devoted to the bibliography and index. Interestingly, one of his two main sourcebooks, which he fully acknowledges, was Soviet Chess (Oxford 1965) by D. J. Richards, who at the time was Lecturer in Russian at Exeter University and who, between 1960 and 1967, was champion of the Exeter Club on five occasions.

The emphasis is mine. Another source is Exeter Chess Club, 100 years:

Richard Hall writes: I was at Exeter University, reading law, from 1964-1967, The University team was very strong, with myself, B.D. Dabulawicus, M.B. Sage and D.E. Brown all in the same year.

I believe I joined the Exeter City Club for only one year, 1966-67. This was predominantly so that we could enter a strong Exeter team in the National Club Championship. Brian Dabulawicus, Martyn Sage and myself joined together; A.R.B. Thomas was also a member. That year I also won the Devon Championship, beating D.J. Richards in the final, having beaten Andrew Thomas in an earlier round.

That 'A.R.B. Thomas' must be the same person as 'Andrew Thomas', who must also be the 'Right, Mr. Thomas!' mentioned in Fischer's '60 Memorable Games' (p.166), who must also be the author of the book 'Chess Techniques' (1975). The Exeter chess club of the 1960s must have been absolutely remarkable.

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