30 April 2017

Staunton's Text Book

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we've seen books and we've seen Howard Staunton, as in Luxury Chess Sets (February 2014), but I can't remember seeing a book by Staunton discussing his chess sets. The auction for the book pictured below was titled '1849 Chess Players Text Book Staunton 1st ed Jacques, very rare, NOT the handbook; Issued to go with the classic sets he signed & endorsed'. The winning bid was GBP 370 (approximately US $478.69, according to eBay) after 22 bids from six bidders.

The auction's description was especially informative:-

AUTHOR: H Staunton
TITLE: Chess Players Text Book.
YEAR: c1859, very early edition.
SIZE: 4 in x 5 in approx
CONDITION: I am selling the usual rare and interesting bargains this week. This is a very nice find; I have not seen another copy in 20 years. No copies on COPAC (*). Note that this is his text book, not the very common hand book. It seems to date from 1849 when his sets were first produced and specifically mentions the signed boxes of which there were only 500. Original green publisher's paperback binding generally clean and bright but with a few marks here and there, front cover and first few pages off, spine mostly missing. Inscribed and dated 1859 inside. All edges gilt. Pages very clean, few pencil notes towards the end. Text block binding strong. Well worth having, this is hard to find, also an early and important work.

Along with the book's cover and price list of chess sets, both shown in the composite image above, was a scan of the book's preface. It said,

The following pages were written to accompany the very elegant Chess-men with which the Designers have complimented the Author by associating his name. Being intended only for beginners, they are divested as much as possible of whatever might appear perplexing or repulsive; and the examples for study presented in the order conceived to be the most natural and easy for apprehension.

To profit fully by these examples, the learner will do well, when he is thoroughly conversant with the preliminary matter of the first six chapters, to restrict himself to the examination of one position at a sitting. Let him commence, for instance, with the easy Check-mate of Diagram No. 4, and when he quite comprehends the object of each move, proceed to the next diagram, and the next, and so on through the whole, in the sequence in which they appear. He will soon master this series of short contests, wherein one or two pieces only are engaged on each side, and then be in a condition to enter on the study of the OPENINGS, when the conflict is begun with the full array of both armies in opposition.

In playing over the several demonstrations, his labour will be greatly lightened, and his progress facilitated, by the use of the Chess-men to which we have alluded. To say nothing of their unquestionable superiority in form and proportion to all others intended for actual play, the happy thought of distinguishing the Pieces appertaining to the King, so that no confusion can arise, throughout the longest game, between the King's Rooks and Knights and those belonging to the Queen *, renders them peculiarly adapted for the purposes of Chess Analysis; and is of itself sufficient, we hope, to entitle them to the preference of those amateurs who are seeking to improve their play.


* In the registered Chess-men, the King's Rook and Knight are distinguished from the same pieces on the Queen's side by a small crown stamped on their summit.

Note the classic advice to study the endgame first -- 'master this series of short contests, wherein one or two pieces only are engaged on each side, and then be in a condition to enter on the study of the openings' -- given over 150 years ago. Less classic is the necessity to distinguish the Rooks and Knights on the Kingside from those on the Queenside.

(*) COPAC: National, Academic and Specialist Library Catalogue (copac.jisc.ac.uk)

28 April 2017

Queen of Katwe Meets Queen of IMF

Chess has brought Phiona Mutesi from the slums of Uganda to the portals of power in Washington, D.C.

Photo top left: SM17 Conversation with Phiona Mutesi (Queen of Katwe) © Flickr user International Monetary Fund under Creative Commons.

The caption for all images said,

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Communications Assistant Director Sabina Bhatia [in red jacket] welcomes Phiona Mutesi from Uganda to the IMF Headquarters 19 April 2017 in Washington, DC. Mutesi is a chess player from Uganda where her story got told by Disney films in "Queen of Katwe". IMF Staff Photograph / Stephen Jaffe

Mutesi has been mentioned in several posts on this blog. For the first, see 'The Queen of Katwe' (January 2011).

27 April 2017

Early N.Y. Scholastic Championships

A recent post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, started, 'Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were [...]'. There was another story that caught my interest, Golden Anniversary NY State Scholastic Shatters Attendance Records, because of the golden anniversary angle.

This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the New York State Scholastic Championship, and, as befits such a milestone, this year’s attendance shattered previous records. Last year, the event had 948 players, which was the third highest number since MSA began keeping statistics in 1991. The tournament had never broken the thousand player barrier—until this year’s total of 1165 players in eleven sections. Looking at previous MSA history, only six tournaments have broken that barrier, and five of those were New York City Scholastic Championships! • NB: If 'MSA' doesn't strike a chord, see US Chess Federation - Member Services Area.

For the past few years I've been spending one post per month on U.S chess news from 50 years ago -- the most recent was April 1967 'On the Cover' -- and I had the tools at hand to research this particular piece of chess history.

At first I thought the 'New York State Scholastic Championship' might have started as one of Bill Goichberg's early tournaments, but I soon learned that his event was the 'Greater New York Scholastic Championships'. As I gathered notes from different sources, I had trouble keeping track of the different bits of information, so I developed the following table to keep things straight. I know it's not easy to read, but it helps to know that 'CL66C077' means Chess Life 1966-03 ('A' through 'L' are months) p.77.

Event Date Announced Reported Rated
Greater New York High School and Junior High School Championships 1966-04 CL66C077 CL66E120 CL66H184
Greater New York Scholastic Championships 1966-12 CL66J255 CL67A014
(The Greater New York Scholastic Championships of December 1966 also received a mention in the March 1967 'On the Cover', where it was featured on the cover of Chess Review.)
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (3rd annual) 1967-12 CL67L401 CL68D140 CL68C097
New York Scholastic Championship
(Ithaca NY)
1968-03 CL68A039
'second statewide high school event for New York State'
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (4th annual) 1968-12 CL68L461 CL69E205 CL69C114

Back to the golden anniversary angle, it's not clear to me if 2017 was the 50th annual event or the 50th anniversary (i.e. the 51st event). Whatever it means, the numbering is probably off by a year or two. Does it matter? I also discovered the '51st Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championships 2017' on gnyscc.com. If 1966 was the first, then 2015 was the 50th, and again we're off by a year.

Enough nitpicking. The early New York scholastic events were the start of a long-running tradition and set the stage for the Fischer boom a few years later.


Later: After posting the above table I continued to look for early NY scholastic events. I eventually found the first 'New York Scholastic Championship'; the announcement was in Chess Review ('CR') rather than Chess Life ('CL').

Event: New York State High School Championship (Liverpool [Syracuse] NY)
Date: 1967-03
Announced: CR67B038 (1st Annual N.Y. State Scholastic Championship; secondary school students)
Reported: CL67D088
Rated: CL67F165

After the 1968-03 event listed in my original table, I found the following.

Event: New York State High School Championship (Binghamton NY; CCA)
Date: 1970-05
Announced: CL70C174
Reported: CL70G399(?)
Rated: CL70H456

Event: New York State Individual & Team of Two High School Championship (Binghamton NY)
Date: 1971-04
Announced: CL71D223
Reported: ?
Rated: CL71H462

I couldn't find the 1969 event and I imagine that it was pushed aside by the first 'National High School Championship'.

Event: National High School Championship (New York NY; CCA)
Date: 1969-04
Announced: CL69B082 (article B083)
Reported: CL69E173 (cover); CL69F234 (teams); CL69F241 (article)
Rated: CL69G301

Taking all of this together with my original observation,

Back to the golden anniversary [NY State Scholastic] angle, it's not clear to me if 2017 was the 50th annual event or the 50th anniversary (i.e. the 51st event). Whatever it means, the numbering is probably off by a year or two.

It's fair to say that the 2017 NY State Scholastic indeed marked the 50th anniversary of the first such event.

25 April 2017

GM Bisguier, Catalog Model

After last week's post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, I could have titled this current post 'Bisguier's Later Years'. I've used USCF product catalogs in the past -- see 'The Chips Are Down!' (July 2015) and An Early Digital Clock (August 2015) -- to establish a baseline for technical progress, but they also serve to fix commercial trends in time.

US Chess

Left: Official 1992 Winter Catalog
Right: Official 1992 Summer Catalog

1992 Winter Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends and uses the Deluxe Fold-Out Table! (Set and grandmaster not included.)

There were two models of the table that sold for $159 ('Deluxe' model) and $99 ('Space-Saving' model). The introduction for both said,

Let your dream chess table unfold! Own a beautiful wood chess table without having to rearrange the furniture! Folded up, this unique table is a space-saver that can be carried with just one hand. In a moment, the handle disappears as you fold out and lock into place a sturdy, full-size table! And yes, the squares align perfectly in the middle of the board!

This beauty is hand-made of solid American hardwoods by Amish craftsmen. The richness of the walnut squares and the distinctive grain of the light ash squares make each board unique. No cheap veneers here! Oak gives the table its strength.

1992 Summer Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends the Informants as the rapid way to winning chess!

Volumes 50 and up sold for $25.50 each. The catalog explained,

Get the winning edge with Informants! Knowledge is power. You want your chess information well organized so you can find it quickly. And you want it fast so that you can score wins with the latest grandmaster ideas in your openings.

You know that Informant is the world's leading theoretical publication, with games selected and annotated by the world's best. The games are arranged by opening variation and subvariation, and keyed to the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and Encyclopedia of Chess Endings for quicker reference. Includes the best combinations and endgames.

How do we know that the winter catalog preceded the summer catalog? The winter catalog said, 'Informant 53 arrives in March!'; the summer catalog said, 'Informant 54 is due out this summer!'

24 April 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Short Events

Continuing with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Team Events++, for today's post I looked at events where Levy & O'Connell (L&O) showed only two or three games played by Korchnoi in a particular event. I started with 37 of these.

The following chart shows how I cataloged the different events. A handful of events (e.g. '1946 USSR Junior Ch., Leningrad') are mismatches between the number of games according to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) and the number of games given in L&O. Another handful (e.g. '1949 MOS1') are not explained in L&O. One 'event' is an error introduced by the scanning of the L&O index; for a description of that process, see Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper (January 2017).

The rest of the events show the description given in L&O. Most of these are team matches between cities. Next post: the stragglers!

23 April 2017

Chess, Autism, and Youtube

April is National Autism Awareness Month. The last time I posted on the subject was Autism, Rumors, and Word Association (April 2014), and it seems appropriate to include it in the series on 'The Sociology of Chess', last seen a month ago in Chess Strategy Woodcut.

There aren't many videos that cover chess and autism. The following is from Youtube's ABC News (Australia) channel.

Chess club helping young minds (2:09) • '(24 Jun 2012) Launceston families have formed a chess club aimed at helping gifted children and those suffering from ADHD or autism.'

Another Youtube clip I considered for this post was KVDC Caspar Hermeling, chess and autism interview - Karel van Delft 2014 (Dutch language with English subtitles; Interviewer: 'You play chess and you have Asperger'). It ends with the thought,

Chess brought me much pleasure: the game itself and the social contacts.

Any true fan of the game would certainly agree.

21 April 2017

Parents at the Supernationals

This video, on Youtube's US Chess Federation channel, starts with a quote.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.'

At first I was puzzled by the clip, because it seems to be providing advice to parents for a specific tournament. But what tournament?

The Good Chess Parent (5:43) • 'If you're a parent, watch this video.'

Then I found another video published on the same day:-

Taken out of any context where the video might be referenced, the title is meaningless. The description said, 'Do you know everything you need for Supernationals 2017? Watch this video and find out.' Now I understood. Nearly a week later, the same channel published another video in the same series:-

Wikipedia buries the topic in a page on Scholastic chess in the United States. which is out of date:-

Beginning in 1997, there has been a single event known as the Supernationals where all events are held in one place simultaneously. [...] This event currently occurs every four years; the previous two Supernational events have shown huge participation numbers.

For more information on the forthcoming event, see SuperNationals VI (uschess.org), May 12-14, 201; Nashville, TN.

20 April 2017

Bisguier's Earliest Years

Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were:-

That last story started,

Hall of Famer, US Champion and Grandmaster Arthur Bernard Bisguer (October 8, 1929- April 5, 2017) died at 87 years old of respiratory failure. In 2005, Arthur Bisguier was recognized by the US Chess Federation as “Dean of American Chess”, in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game.

From 'Chess Memoirs' by Dr. Joseph Platz (Chess Enterprises 1979, p.46):-

It was in 1943 at the Bronx Chess Club that I met a boy of 14 whose chess game made quite an impression on me. Immediately I sensed that here was a master in the making. I played him often and analyzed with him the way I had learned it from Lasker. I brought him to the Manhattan CC and there he met the competition which he needed to acquire master strength.

Soon he won the the championship of the Manhattan CC, and then the New York State Championship. Afterwards he won the U.S. Championship, he played and won some international tournaments abroad, and finally was awarded the title "International Grandmaster". His name: Arthur Bisguier. I claim to have discovered him and inspired him with the love for chess which is necessary for great achievements.

In the introduction to the same book, GM Bisguier echoed the story:-

When I started playing tournament chess in the early 1940's, my play was restricted almost entirely to public school and to the Bronx Empire City. Chess Club. There the perennial champion was a quiet, gentlemanly, solidly built yet shadowy figure by the name of Dr. Joseph Platz. Why shadowy? Because like the shadow he seemed to appear and disappear at the most unlikely times. [...]

Dr. Platz' play and demeanor, both on and off the board, served as an example for me during my formative years. His encouragement and practical advice provided a useful stimulus which served as a springboard for many of my successes in those days. His own play featured soundness with the right blend of daring aggression. He had a few "pet" lines in the opening which he handled with great virtuosity, so much so that he won more than his share of special prizes for brilliancies and best played games.

To this day, thirty six years after I first met Dr. Platz, I still occasionally "borrow" one of his lines and they seldom disappoint me. Occasionally, as a result of not having the time to keep up with the latest wrinkles of opening theory, he would obtain a difficult position, but that was where his resourcefulness and tenacity held full sway, and he saved many a game where a less stouthearted player would have resigned. This was a legacy from his idol and mentor, the great former world champion, Dr. Emanuel Lasker. [...]

Arthur B. Bisguier, March 1979, International Grandmaster

Bisguier's own autobiography ('The Art of Bisguier') was published in two volumes: The Early Years: 1945-1960 (amazon.com) and Selected Games 1961-2003 (ditto).

18 April 2017

April 1967 'On the Cover'

Last month's edition of 'On the Cover' (see March 1967 for details) featured two events for amateur players. This month's edition features two important events from 50 years ago that have been obscured by the passage of time.

Left: 'Fischer Triumphs in Grand Prix d'Echecs de Monaco'
Right: 'Ubiquitous Champion'

Chess Life

Coming in June: Grandmaster Lombardy's full report on this event.

Chess Review

Wherever one finds titles for the taking, in this country at the very least, it is apt to be Pal Benko who takes them. A former Hungarian champion, he has splurged to titles since coming here in the Eastern Open, the American Open, the National Open and the United States Open as well as numerous regional events. His latest exploit has been to re-affirm his near-monopoly on the championship of the Manhattan Chess Club in New York.

Wikipedia's page on the Manhattan Chess Club ('closed in 2002') has no list of champions. Benko's last solo 'On the Cover' was March 1966, but he also appeared in October 1966 ('U.S.Open Co-Champions') and November 1966 ('Our Men in Havana').

17 April 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Team Events++

Let's take stock. The first portion of Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) lists only the major events played by Korchnoi during the period 1946-1977. For the last few posts -- the most recent being Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More of the Same -- I've been comparing the TMER with the game record in Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O), which also covers the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career.

In the 'More of the Same' post, I identified 13 events missing from the TMER. The top portion of the following chart shows those events along with appropriate identification. Most are team events.

The bottom portion of the chart lists 34 more events where L&O gives between four and six games for the event. A handful of these match the TMER, e.g. '1957 European Team Ch., Vienna'. Another handful are listed on the TMER, but with a difference in the number of games played, e.g. '1950 Leningrad Ch. [13 games played]' but with only five games in L&O.

The majority of the events are missing from the TMER completely, e.g. '1956 ? [Molotov, Match vs. Kotkov]'. Most of the missing events are either team events or mini-matches. Some events have a footnote, e.g. '1959 Budapest (A)', which I'll address at a later time.

16 April 2017

The 'Seventh Season' Is Chess

The last time we saw a lithograph on Top eBay Chess Items by Price was Chess Stone Lithograph (December 2014). The item pictured below was titled 'Will Barnet Seventh Season signed and numbered 15/300 girl chess cat' and sold for US $1,300.00 on a single bid.

The item's description said,

"Seventh Season”; Color serigraph/ lithograph; 1975?; Framed size: 17 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.; Edition: 15/300; Signed and titled in pencil; Condition: excellent; Back of frame states: "Le septieme saison", French for "SEVENTH SEASON"

It also included the artist's biography:

American Artist: b. 1911-2012. Will Barnet was born in Beverly, Massachusetts. He studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and then at the Art Students League in New York. He cites Daumier as his first great inspiration at the age of 14, both for "his profound vision of life and his unequalled draftsmanship."

A prolific graphic artist, Barnet changed his style significantly at different points in his career. His earliest works were influenced by expressionism. His work of the 1930s and 1940s deals with the social themes in the forefront of the depression era, but also the more personal theme of the mother and child. They were followed by abstract works in the 1950s and 1960s, and finally evolved into more figurative works of silhouetted forms set against geometrically designed backgrounds.

From the earliest years Barnet valued concept equally with technique. Printmaking gave him a wider, freer means of expression although painting has remained another important medium throughout his career. He later taught art at such leading American schools as Yale University, Cornell University, the Art Students League and at Cooper Union. Among his students at Cooper Union were Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly.

Barnett's work has been exhibited in prominent museums and galleries in the United States and Canada and is included in many prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

To tell the truth, the image above isn't from the recent auction, where all images were photos taken at an angle (presumably to reduce glare) and weren't very good. The image is from a 2011 eBay auction, which said,

From a color serigraph produced in 1975, this beautiful book print was lithographically reproduced over 30 years ago, and printed on heavy, white stock. Paper size is about 11 by 15 1/2 inches; image size about 10 1/2 by 13 3/4 inches; highly suitable for framing

To learn more about the printing technique, see Wikipedia's Lithography. From the same source, the Will Barnet page informs,

He is probably best known for his enigmatic portraits of family, made from the 1970s onwards, notably the Silent Seasons series.

As for 'Seventh Season' and chess, I wasn't able to make the connection.

14 April 2017

Karpov's Stamp Exhibition

The description for this photo said,

Anatoly E.Karpov, World Chess Champion and President of the International Foundations of Peace Association, gives a welcome speech.

What's that got to do with postage stamps?

Anatoly E. Karpov © Flickr user UNIS Vienna under Creative Commons.

The related photo album, 'Exhibition of postal stamps from the collection of the world chess master Anatoly Karpov', said,

Opening ceremony of the exhibition of postal stamps from the collection of the world chess master Anatoly Karpov and simultaneous chess game with 14 representatives from international organizations competing against Anatoly Karpov on 4 April 2017 at the Vienna International Centre.

As for UNIS, it stands for 'United Nations Information Service'.

02 April 2017

Mrs. Piatigorsky's Autograph Collection

The name Piatigorsky has appeared on this blog many times, most notably for the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup (September 2016), but this is its first appearance for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The item pictured below was titled '2nd Piatigorsky Cup program - signed by all the players, including Bobby Fischer', and sold for US $999.99, Buy-It-Now. Assuming it's legitimate, someone got a great bargain.

The description said,

This is the program book from the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup Grandmaster Chess Tournament held in 1966 at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. It is signed by all the players including World Champion GM Tigran Petrosian and future World Champions GM Robert Fischer and GM Boris Spassky. As you can see, several pages have small stains; but on the whole the program is in very good condition. The tournament is the strongest one ever held in California. (From the estate of Jacqueline Piatigorsky.)

Condidering the phrase 'From the estate of Jacqueline Piatigorsky', and adding the seller's background...

Interests: Anything concerned with California chess - magazines, photos, letters, pinbacks, tournament bulletins, newspaper columns and articles, posters, tournament flyers and other ephemera.

...it's certainly legitimate.