Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Some games from Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players

I wanted to post a few games from Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players when I posted my review but didn't have a chance til now.

Gunsberg was awarded the prize for best game of the sixth American Chess Congress for this first round win over Mason.

Here is a fine win for Bird from a unfinished match with Steinitz.

I didn't know Zukertort's games very well or much of his biography outside his match with Steinitz, so I am glad to be able to replay some of his games.

I remember replaying this game many times from my long lost copy of Blackburne's Chess Games, I still hope against hope for a Blackburne biography much less a complete games collection.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"The Game" and the Mysterious Disappearance of Peter Winston

Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog brought to my attention the story of the disappearance of Peter Winston and what was once simply known as "The Game".
A young Peter Winston then 14, decisively beats Walter Browne perhaps at the time the best American player outside of Bobby Fischer.
"... as Chess Life magazine explained. Winston crushed the elder player so decisively that their contest would be discussed in chess circles for years, called simply “The Game.” "
But within a few years Peter Winston mysteriously disappears never to be heard from again.
Here is the link to the New York Observer article by Sarah Weinman that brought the case of Peter Winston to all our attention.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tim Harding: Eminent Victorian Chess Players

Readers of chess history have much to be thankful for, with publishers like McFarland, Caissa Editions, and others illuminating many of the byways of the game. Little known players and once forgotten tournaments are now getting their due, thanks to the enterprising spirit of these publishers , and of a handful of hard working chess historians. Tim Harding the author of numerous chess books on opening theory and correspondence chess has of late turned his attention to chess history; Eminent Victorian Chess Players is the latest book to come from his historical research.

Ten players are the subject of Eminent Victorian Chess Players they range from the well-known William Steinitz to the obscure Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth. Each of the ten was eminent in his own way in the Victorian chess scene, whether as player, author,chess journalist or organizer.

The English champion Howard Staunton and Austrian world champion Steinitz stand at the center of much of the narrative but the other eight receive their just due. Much was made of the "gentleman amateur" vs. the "chess professional", Harding exposes the xenophobia and anti-Semitism which was an undercurrent of Victorian chess life. I must say they were a cantankerous lot with one totally disagreeable character the aforementioned Rev. Skipworth. The battles in the chess press of the time make for some entertaining reading.

To think that all major chess in Victorian Britain was limited to London would be a mistake, as there was an active scene in the counties with players like Amos Burn (one of the eminent) being based outside the capital whether for business or personal reasons. there were also nascent efforts to to create a national chess organization which for the most part fell on infertile ground at the time.

The inclusion Steinitz and the other foreign "chess professionals" may come as a surprise but each had substantial career in Britain and at least one became a British subject. Several of the ten have been subject of biographies already of at least part of their careers, with Burn already being the subject of an exhaustive biography, but for the majority of the ten their lives and games even their names are not well-known. There is still much to discover and game scores to unearth.

At the end of the book there is a  full scholarly apparatus but this no dry scholarly tome but an entertaining and  informative book. Tim Harding has done very well by his model (Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey).

 I don't intend to look a gift horse in the mouth but one minor quibble, I regret McFarland has decided to published the book in paperback rather than hardcover.


Friday, July 6, 2012

The Lewis Chessmen

The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from Isle of Lewis: was a recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. I'm sorry I missed it, I would have made a special effort to see the exhibit especially
as it was taking place at the Cloisters, one of my favorite places in New York.

More on the exhibit:

More on the Cloisters:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Illinois Games Database

The Illinois Chess Association has created a database of Illinois related chess games, there are now over 20,000 games in the database. The criteria for inclusion in the database seems to be that if one of the players has lived or the game was played in Illinois the game may be included in the database. We only wish that the database was downloadable or searchable by event.