Monday, 23 October 2017

William Lombardy

William James Lombardy died on 13th October and, aside from all of his chess achievements, it was interesting to read in his obituaries that he had become disillusioned with the Catholic Church in the 1970's, and disappointing to read of his financial difficulties in later life; however, very little was mentioned about his chess writings.  

Lombardy wrote or co-authored several chess books including :

Modern Chess Opening Traps, New York 1972. ( Also published as Snatched Opportunities on the Chessboard in London 1973).

U.S. Championship Chess: with the games of the 1973 tournament, New York 1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess Panorama, Radnor, PA c1975, written with David Daniels.

Chess for Children, Step by Step, Boston  c1977, written with Bette Marshall. (There are also German and Danish editions).

Guide to Tournament Chess, New York c1978, written with David Daniels. 

6e Interpolis Schaaktoernooi 1982, Tilberg 1983, written with R.G.P. Verhoeven.

Understanding Chess, My System, My Games, My Life, New York 2011.

Lombardy was listed as a Contributing Editor of American Chess Quarterly from 1961 to 1965 and wrote regular articles, generally with annotated games demonstrating various openings, for that magazine. Volume one number two included a brief Biographical sketch of William Lombardy on page 46.

Lombardy also contributed articles to American Chess Bulletin, Chess Life and later Chess Life & Review.   

The sixteen year old Lombardy was featured on the front cover of Chess Review for October 1954 in recognition of his victory in the New York State Championship for that year.  Lombardy drew with Florencio Campomanes in the final round to clinch the title.

He was also featured in My Seven Chess Prodigies by John W. Collins, New York 1974, and wrote the Foreword for that work. 

In 1974 Lombardy wrote an article for Sports Illustrated entitled A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma, this is on page 64 (nice touch) of the January 21st 1974 magazine, and he recalls many of the behind the scenes events both before and during the World Championship Match of 1972, where he acted as an informal second to Bobby Fischer. Lombardy also recollects some of Fischer's abysmal behaviour and quotes a remark by Miguel Najdorf which summed up the situation pretty well "Bobby wants 30% of the gate and 30% of the television, but he doesn't want the audience or the television".

Lombardy concludes his story by relating how he obtained Fischer's first autograph as world champion when he persuaded the new title holder to sign his copy of My 60 Memorable Games in the car back to the hotel after the final game of the match.  

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The CCLA Record

The CCLA Record, (Official Organ of The Correspondence Chess League of Australia) was launched in August 1948 and ran for 39 volumes to 1986 when it was succeeded by The Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly in 1987.

Although this national chess magazine had been running for over 20 years by 1968, surprisingly, it is not recorded in Douglas Betts' Bibliography. The magazine is recorded in Lusis, A206, and also in De Felice's Chess Periodicals, No. 457. Naturally, this is recorded in The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand by John van Manen, Sydney 1978, (No. 74), and fuller details are given in the much enlarged 4th edition of this work*, updated by Bob Meadley and Paul Dunn, published by the Ken Whyld Association in 2011, (No. 425). 

Several years ago I acquired 17 assorted issues of this quarterly periodical, from Clive Lane, the Australian chess book dealer, and the shipping costs were more than the cost of the magazines. Clive Lane traded as Fischerbooks but is no longer in business.

My copies cover the period from 1963, volume 16, to 1976, volume 28, and throughout this period the President of the Correspondence Chess League of Australia was C. J. S. Purdy, whose Chess World headquarters were used as a clearing house for the League's activities. The editor of The CCLA Record from August 1963 to February 1964 was Mrs F. A. Purdy, who I believe was Cecil Purdy's daughter-in-law.

The contents were a mixture of correspondence chess news, both national and international, annotated games, tournament announcements and results, rules, letters etc. The early 1960's magazines variously had  8, 12 or 16 pages but this increased to 24 and then 32 pages in the 1970's.

Membership numbers of the CCLA were regularly published in The CCLA Record and these provide a striking example of the effect that Bobby Fischer had on the popularity of chess worldwide during the 1960's and 1970's. In July 1963 membership numbered 781 and bumbled along below 900 until the late 1960's. However, by March 1973, following the Spassky-Fischer world championship match, membership had more than doubled to 1,977, but later slipped back to 1,392 in March 1976.

The August 1963 edition announced that two tournament books were nearing completion, both based on the Australian correspondence championships. However, it appears that neither was published.

The Games Section was often sparse, occasionally only one game would be included. November 1963 presented three, including the following miniature between M.Newman and W. Megier, which is annotated in rhyming couplets by the winner Maurice Newman, who manges to squeeze in Morphy, Lasker and Keres:

The May 1976 magazine gave details of all past winners of the Australian Championships from 1938 up to 1972.

This seems to be a scarce magazine with only limited availability. The National Library of the Netherlands has some issues from volumes 4 to 6, one issue of volume 22, and a run from volumes 25 to 30. The Cleveland Public Library appears to have no copies, but The M. V. Anderson Chess Collection in the State Library of Victoria has a complete set.
* The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand, 4th Edition is a very attractive book giving, not only full details of all known chess literature up to 2009, but a fine Tribute to John van Manen by Bob Meadley, followed by A Trip through Bob Meadley's Chess Library with many wonderful illustrations and descriptions of scarce chess publications from Down Under.

                                       © Michael Clapham 2017

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Modern Chess Instructor, Part II, by W. Steinitz

The value of the scarce Part II of Steinitz's The Modern Chess Instructor, New York 1895, scaled new heights recently when a copy sold for €831 at the LSAK chess book auction earlier this month.

While the value of many collectable chess books has stagnated recently, the price of this particular item has risen inexorably over the last twenty years or so.

This is almost entirely due to the book's rarity, as this is simply a 64 page paperback openings book, (usually given a wide berth by collectors), covering the, less than exciting, Ponziani opening and the Giucco Piano. I do not have this book, I should make the effort to acquire the Olms reprint, but, no doubt, Steinitz's explanation of these openings is of some significance, especially if he continues the exposition of his theories on the game, which constitutes an important element of The Modern Chess Instructor, Part I, New York 1889.

This book turns up for sale from time to time and is usually sold with Part I. A copy was sold (with Part I) at the remarkable auction of chess literature held by Hauswedell & Nolte in Hamburg on 24th November 1995, when the pair fetched DM 500, the equivalent of about £225 at the time. The book was exaggeratedly described as "of the greatest rarity".

Dale Brandreth had a copy for sale, bound with Part I, in his List TMB-59 issued in July 2001. The price was $275 compared with $75 for Part I only and Brandreth stated "most copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Part II is exceedingly scarce".

International Chess Auctions in Ireland sold both Parts in February 2002 for €287 describing Part II as very scarce, and another pair was sold later that year in the Klittich-Pfankuch November auction for €220, Part II described as very rare. 

Part II only was sold on Ebay in August 2008 for £272 and another copy (or maybe the same one) sold for €531 in the International Chess Auction held in February 2009. Parts I and II together were also sold in the Klittich-Pfankuch auction in November 2010 for €300 and for €340 in their November 2014 auction. The most recent sale was for €831 in the LSAK auction on 9th September 2017 as mentioned above.

Some earlier book sellers were aware of the book's scarcity; E. G. R. Cordingley calling this "exceptionally scarce" in his Catalogue No. 4, February 1936 and "the scarcest modern book on chess" in Catalogue No. 5, June 1936. He valued the book at 10/- compared with, for example, 7/6 for each of Mrs W. J. Baird's books, Seven Hundred Chess Problems, and The Twentieth Century Retractor.

The University Place Bookshop, New York, Catalogue No. XIII, 1937 described the book as "one of the scarcest modern works on chess", although the price differential was only moderate: Part I $2.50, Part II $4.75.

John Rather also described the book as "one of the scarcest chess books" in his List 82-A, 1982.

However, the book's scarcity was not always appreciated; Will H. Lyons advertised Part I for sale at $1.50 and Part II at 0.75c in his 1897 Catalogue No. 7, (perhaps the fire had not yet happened), and in the Antiquariatsliste Nr. 291 of N. V. Martinus Nijhoff's Boekhandel en Uitgeversmaatschappij, circa 1938, Parts I and II were sold together for Gld. 2.50.

The British Chess Magazine offered a small chess library for sale on page 76 of the February 1928 magazine, including The Modern Chess Instructor, Part I at 5/- and Part II at 2/- or 6/- the pair. The next month, it was announced, on page 106, that all of the books for sale were disposed of on the first morning and could have been sold ten times over.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Ken Whyld advertised both Parts I and II at 15/- each in his List No. 7 issued in 1954 when he sold off E. G. R. Cordingley's library, although he did describe Part II as very scarce.

                                     © Michael Clapham 2017

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The John G. White Collection

The Gambit, Official Publication of the Missouri Pacific St. Louis Chess Club, issued a Souvenir Edition in June 1930 devoted to the John G. White Collection in the Cleveland Public Library.

Following a page of Acknowledgments and a portrait of the late John Griswold White by Sandor Vago, there is a biography of White written by Mrs. Ina B. Roberts, the publicity representative of the Cleveland Public Library, noting that he was born in 1845, graduated in 1865, admitted to the bar in 1868 and first elected to the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Public Library in 1883. White was President of the Board for 15 years before his death in 1928 aged 83.

A detailed description of The John G. White Collection of Folklore and Orientalia is given by the collection's librarian Gordon W. Thayer. I will comment briefly on this before moving on to The Chess Collection

The foundations of The Collection of Folklore and Orientalia were laid at the end of the 19th century when the United States acquired the Philippines. The CPL had few books about these islands, and White rectified this by acquiring a number of books about the Philippines and donating them to the library. After several years of donating further books on the Orient, folklore, archeology and the early voyages, it was decided to keep all of these books together in what became known as The John Griswold White Collection of Folklore and Orientalia.  
The books were housed in a special library in a long, beautiful room overlooking Lake Erie. The Collection is extraordinarily wide-ranging and rich in material - two of the more exotic items being bronze figurines from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and a book of magic spells, written with boiled lemon juice on folded birch bark, formerly owned by the medicine man of a savage tribe from Sumatra; now there's a book you don't see every day.  

Five pages of this Souvenir Edition are devoted to a description of the Folklore and Orientalia Collection, and the more you read, the more you marvel at the scope and content of this remarkable collection covering witchcraft, alchemy, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, customs and manners, traditions, mythical legends, gypsies, superstitions etc. etc. I will be pleased to send scans of these pages to anyone interested.

In contrast, the rather disappointing, and poorly written, article on The Chess Collection receives only three and a half pages of coverage. The author of this essay was the chess collection's librarian, Walter C. Green, who displays a distinct lack of knowledge and understanding of his subject. No doubt this was due to the fact that he was new to the job, since the chess and checkers collection had only recently been donated to the library following J. G. White's death in August 1928. Perhaps this June 1930 article is the first account of the great Chess Collection.

Walter Green talks of "Angell's Handbook of Chess", (presumably meaning Agnel's Book of Chess), "the chess automaton" (which one?), "Harold H. W. Murray's monumental history of chess", and there are obvious errors such as "collection of mathematics" (should be manuscripts).  

Instead of delighting us with mouth-watering descriptions of the undoubted treasures in the collection, Green goes on and on about the extensive material held relating to the knight's tour and cubic chess, whatever that is.  In fact there is not a single mention of any individual chess book, just generalities about having lots of this and loads of that. 

There are, however, some interesting revelations:

a. The chess and checkers collection contained around 12,000 volumes in 1930; the most recent estimates that I can find give figures of between 32,000 and 35,000, including over 6,000 bound volumes of periodicals.

b. Chess columns from newspapers and magazines formed an important part of the collection which had 400 bound volumes of these cuttings, including 140 bound volumes from the J. W. Rimington Wilson collection.

c. Bound chess periodicals in all languages numbered about 1,000 and were, with one or two exceptions, complete.

d. J. G. White specified in his will that all advertising pages were to be bound up with the periodicals, a practice, unfortunately, not adopted by many magazine publishers when binding up there own volumes.  

e. White's greatest interest, in the latter part of his life, was in manuscripts, and he went to great trouble and expense to acquire either originals or copies of these.

The three pages of illustrations are equally disappointing; the only chess books displayed are some run-of-the-mill beginners books by Cunnington and Blake, and these are not even the cloth-bound first editions but later, paper covered, editions. However, these books are merely the back-drop to some replicas of the Lewis chessmen. A second illustration shows the same replica Lewis chessmen, while the third illustration shows some more chessmen.  

The full article on The Chess Collection follows:

                                        © Michael Clapham 2017