01 March 2012

A Bright Future for Chess History

Even though it's been nearly a month since my last post on the Kings of Chess Journalism (see Hunting Treasure in Chess Review), the subject has been just beneath the surface of several recent posts. Both Kenny Rogoff as You've Never Seen Him and Fischer on the 'Rubbish' Defense were motivated by issues of Chess Life from the 1960s, while 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg and The First World Championship were inspired by the first decade of the British Chess Magazine (BCM).

If you have any sort of interest in chess history, delve into old issues of chess magazines only when you have nothing urgent to do. One topic leads to another which inevitably leads to another and, before you know it, your available time has vanished. A case in point is BCM. While browsing 19th century issues I discovered that a journalist's primary means of acquiring information in that era was through reading the work of other journalists. I doubt I could find a single issue of the early BCM which did not directly acknowledge another journal elsewhere in the world. For example, BCM Volume 1, Number 1 (January 1881) had the following on one of its first pages.

Note the references to Delannoy, Chess Monthly, Deschapelles, and Chess Player's Chronicle -- all historically important topics -- among others. Other items in the same issue were from Italy, Denmark, Brazil, France, and Germany, not to overlook the cities and regions of Britain itself.

As more of these old periodicals are digitized and placed on the web, researches will be possible that, until now, could only be conducted in a well-endowed chess library. It's a bright future for chess history.

No comments: