29 December 2009

Scientific American's Chess Puzzles

As I expected, the number of articles in Scientific American favorable to chess far surpasses the number that were unfavorable (see Not Everyone Likes Chess for the original post). I didn't expect that the types of article split neatly into three categories : chess puzzles, computer chess, and chess neuroscience.

Chess puzzles appeared regularly during the SciAm reigns of two of America's greatest puzzlists -- Sam Loyd (1841-1911) and Martin Gardner (b.1914). Here's an excerpt from Gardner's 'Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions: The First Scientific American Book of Puzzles and Games' (University Of Chicago Press, 1988), Chapter 9, 'Sam Loyd: America's Greatest Puzzlist'.

For ten years Loyd apparently did little except push chess pieces about on a chessboard. At that time chess was enormously popular; many newspapers carried chess columns featuring problems devised by readers. Loyd's first problem was published by a New York paper when he was 14. During the next five years his output of chess puzzles was so prodigious that he became known throughout the chess world. When he was 16 he was made problem editor of Chess Monthly, at that time edited by D.W. Fiske and the young chess master, Paul Morphy. Later he edited several newspaper chess columns and contributed regularly, under various pseudonyms, to a score of others.

In 1877 and 1878 Loyd wrote a weekly chess page for Scientific American Supplement, beginning each article with an initial letter formed by the pieces of a chess problem. These columns comprised most of his book Chess Strategy, which he printed in 1878 on his own press in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Containing 500 of his choicest problems, this book is now much sought by collectors.
Scientific American Supplement: 'a weekly supplement to Scientific American Magazine that ran during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It featured new inventions, scientific discoveries, and biographies of scientists and inventors.' • While chess problems represented a significant portion of Loyd's work, they were a small portion of Gardner's. A list for Martin Gardner: Mathematical Games starts,
The great Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" columns in Scientific American were assembled, over the years, into fifteen volumes. I put together this simple listing to help me trace which book a remembered essay actually appears in.

and references four collections of chess puzzles.

  • The Eight Queens and Other Chessboard Diversions
  • Eccentric Chess and Other Problems
  • Chess Tasks
  • Mathematical Chess Problems

As for computer chess and chess neuroscience in Scientific American, watch this space...

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