20 May 2014

Staunton and the First World Junior Championship

My fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, last seen in Capablanca Letters, is a source of inspiration for all sorts of chess related subjects. For example, a few months ago I posted about autographs in 'Six World Champions on a Single Envelope', along with a list of other eBay items from the same fortnight that also featured autographs. One of the other items was

Staunton Centenary Chess Tournament Booklet England Autographed by Players 1951; $499.95; 1 bid

Its description said,

Staunton Centenary Chess Tournament and Junior World Championship Official programme booklet (pp12) autographed on title page by most of the 16 players in the main event plus C.H.O. D. Alexander and Herman Steiner who were visiting. [...]

Larsen participated in the World Junior Championship which was won by Ivkov, the other noteable being Olafsson. Brief bibliographies and one filled out crosstable (probably in Steiner's hand) along with most of the pages in the booklet are shown below in scans. [...]

While the $499.95 selling price was undoubtedly for the autographed page, pictured below, also interesting was the official programme booklet reproduced in the scans. Since there was much in the booklet that was new to me, I put the scans aside for a rainy day.

The booklet started with an introduction titled '1851-1951', describing the main tournament.

100 years ago • On the 27th May, 1851, there began in London the first International Chess Tournament ever to be held. Its organiser was Howard Staunton, then generally regarded as the strongest player in the world. Many of the most famous players of the day took part, including Anderssen, Kieseritsky, and Loewenthal. There were no clocks in those days and the tournament was played on an unsatisfactory knock out system, instead of the modern all against all. Staunton did not do very well; the winner was Anderssen, one of the most brilliant players who ever lived. Staunton was a forward looking man. He envisaged a Parliament of of chess masters who would codify the laws, and generally administer the affairs of chess throughout the world. In this he anticipated the International Chess Federation (F.I.D.E.). Now in 1951 the British Chess Federation is holding, under the auspices of F.I.D.E., an International Master Tournament which like its predecessor of 1851, forms part of a Festival of Britain.

Organisation • The organisation of a major tournament is beset with difficulties. The 1851 tournament was marred by a bitter dispute between the two leading London clubs of the day. In 1951 we have been spared internecine struggles, but we have had our own troubles. The first has been finance, tighter now than then. The tournament has only been made possible by the generosity of a few individuals and the three Corporations of Cheltenham, Leamington, and Birmingham, in which the tournament is being played. The second is the invasion of chess, the most international of games, by politics. This has disappointed our hopes of gathering together all the strongest players in the world.

Nevertheless, the masters who have come are splendidly representative of the best European chess. They include some names, such as Tartakower and Bogoljubow, who have been household words in chess for a generation, and others equally formidable who have come to the front since the war. The four selected British players, who inclde the present Champion and two ex-Champions, can be relied upon to provide stern opposition to anybody. There should be many memorable games, and a tournament in every way worthy of the occasion.

It then went on to describe 'The Junior World Championship'.

Birmingham is justly proud of its record in junior chess. Since 1930 the Junior Chess League has grown into one of the largest and most important in the country. The Annual Easter Congress commenced in 1935 and in 1937 and 1939 small international events for masters were incorporated into the Congress.

The League has given great attention to the widening of its congress events for boys and in 1947, when assisting in the United Nations appeal for children, conceived the bold idea of running an international tournament for boys. It worked so well that a more ambitious event was planned to celebrate the Warwickshire Jubilee in 1950 when 11 foreign and 9 British boys played in a tournament of the Easter Congress.

The success of these events convinced the International Chess Federation of the possibilities of Junior Chess, and permission was given for the league to organise this, the first Junior World Championship ever held. With generous aid from the local Council a fine entry of 18 nations has been received, and our own Boy Champion, Malcolm Barker, himself a Birmingham product, will uphold Britain's honour. Let us hope that in 2051 Birmingham will be celebrating another great centenary -- that of the Junior World Chess Championship.

Before this I had no idea that the great London tournament of 1851, often considered an unofficial World Championship, and the first World Junior Championship were somehow linked.

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