Edward Winter launched Chess
Notes in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados
to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over
4,700 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by
Explorations (1996), Kings,
Commoners and Knaves (1999), A
Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess
Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph
on Capablanca (1989).
Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing
in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical
mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents
from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary
readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent
masters, such as, of late, Bent Larsen, Yasser Seirawan and Nigel Short.
A hallmark of Chess Notes is its rigour – no gossip or unsubstantiated
claims. The column specializes in setting the record straight with fresh information,
but is also perfectly prepared to criticize those who are, in the words of one
reviewer of Kings, Commoners and Knaves, the "cheapjacks and schlock
merchants of the chessbook world".
That same reviewer (W.D. Rubinstein, who is a history professor) referred to
"Winter's hysterical deadpan humour", and this light touch stands
alongside a scrupulous academic approach. If Winter quotes something, he gives
the full source and the exact context. If he criticizes someone, readers know
that hard facts exist to justify the criticism.
All forms of chess life are covered by Chess Notes; earlier this year Winter
posted a batch of two items: one was about Jean-Jacques Rousseau's connections
with chess and the other concerned chess in comic-book fiction. Winter writes
as if cultural, and national, barriers did not exist. Chess is chess. An idea
of the scope of Chess Notes' contents can be gained from the Factfinder
and from the Archives
page. There the reader will find feature articles by Winter on subjects as diverse
as Unusual Chess Words, Chessplayer Shot Dead in Hastings, Copying, Pillsbury's
Torment, Books about Fischer and Kasparov, Chess Awards, Chess Prodigies, The
Termination, Copyright on Chess Games, Napoleon Bonaparte and Chess, and War
approach is well illustrated by a new project of his: establishing an inventory
of chess records. The seeds for this were sown in Chess Notes items 3493, 4035
and 4682, where, in the deadpan style mentioned above, Winter described the
dismal chess contents of the Guinness World Records book for the years
2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively:
... Before us lies the US paperback 1988 Guinness Book of World Records,
which had a chess section some 70 lines long (pages 564-565). This also featured
the most simultaneous chess games, the most consecutive games, the most blindfold
games, the longest game, the slowest move, the earliest loss on time, the longest
tenure of the world championship, the highest-ranked player, the most active
world champion, the youngest world champion, various women's records, and the
longest recorded session of playing chess.
The other day we had the misfortune to come across the latest edition, Guinness
World Records 2005 (London, 2004), and found that the chess content has
been not so much dumbed down as drummed out. There is no chess section at all,
the only references to the game being four brief entries under various headings.
In the "Toys" section on page 108 (immediately following information
on the "Longest Hot Wheels track") comes this:
"Largest chess piece
Mats Allanson (Sweden) has made a scaled-up king measuring 4m (13ft)
high and 1.4m (4ft 6in) in diameter at the base."
The next page (still the "Toys" section) has:
"Earliest chess pieces
Chessmen found at Nashipur, modern-day Bangladesh, have been dated to c. AD
900 and are the oldest known in existence."
Then on page 110 ("Games & pastimes"), just after the reader
has been apprised of the "Farthest wink shot in tiddlywinks", the
following is offered:
"Most opponents in consecutive chess games
Between 27 and 28 February 2001, Anna-Maria Botsari (Greece) played 1,102
consecutive [sic – simultaneous was meant] games of chess against
different opponents, with just seven draws and the rest wins, at Kalavryta,
That is the only reference to chess in the "Games & pastimes"
Page 153 marks the final occasion when the existence of chess is acknowledged:
"Largest networked chess computer
On 30 January 2004 Grand Master Peter Heine Nielsen (Denmark) played a game
of chess against ChessBrain, the world's largest networked chess computer.
ChessBrain consisted of 2,070 computers located in 56 countries, which simultaneously
combined their processing power.
The match, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, ended in a draw after
And that is it. Not one world-class chess master is mentioned by name. There
is no indication that any championship title has ever existed. Indeed, the total
space devoted to chess in the entire book is less than that accorded on page
113 to an exploit by Kathryn Ratcliffe (UK), who, on 25 October 2003 and with
a tally of 138, broke her own record "for the most Smarties eaten in three
minutes using chopsticks".
... We now have before us the 2006 edition. Treatment of chess is still a far
cry from what the book offered in past decades, but a modest start has been
made in the right direction, with a chess section (page 46) comprising the following
"Most moves in a game": 269 in Nikolić v Arsović,
Belgrade, 1989 (although Arsović is named first).
"Longest correspondence": two South African players,
Reinhart Straszacker and Hendrik Roelof van Huyssteen, played 112 correspondence
games between 1946 and Straszacker's death in 1999.
"Most games simultaneously": Andrew Martin's performance
against 321 opponents at Wellington College, Berkshire, England on 21 February
"Highest ratings": 2851 by G. Kasparov in January 2000
and, the highest figure for a woman, 2675 by J. Polgar in 1996.
The book's cut-off point seems to be spring 2005 for the inclusion of records
and about 15 for the age of readers targeted.
"The world's biggest-selling book" is the boast on the back cover
of Guinness World Records 2007 (London, 2006). Two pages include entries
on chess: page 99 has a couple of dozen words about Sergei Karjakin being the
youngest grandmaster, while page 137 offers brief features on the smallest and
largest chess sets, as well as the following: "On 25 June 2005, 12,388
simultaneous games of chess were played at the Ben Gurion Cultural Park in Pachuca,
Hidalgo, Mexico." That is all. The four entries from the 2006 edition (see
C.N. 4035) have been dropped.
Although poker has five entries on page 136, games such as draughts and bridge
receive no treatment at all, and the editorial team's interests are evidently
on a different plane. For example, pages 8-9 document such pivotal attainments
as "most heads shaved in 24 hours", "fastest time to drink a
500-ml milkshake", "longest tandem bungee jump", "fastest
carrot chopping", "largest underpants", "most socks worn
on one foot" and "fastest person with a pricing gun".
Edward Winter has now taken the first steps to build up a proper inventory
of the subject, and his Chess Records feature article is reproduced below with
By Edward Winter (© 2006)
This inventory of chess records, which begins by focusing on items that have
appeared in Chess Notes, will be built up over the months ahead. Additions/corrections
from readers to existing entries and proposals for new ones will be most welcome.
An exceptional webpage by Tim
Krabbé already covers chess records relating to the practical game
(such as the latest castling, greatest number of checks, most promotions and
earliest stalemate), and as far as possible our own Chess Records article will
avoid any overlap.
A 202-page book was devoted to a single game: Kasparov Against the World
by G. Kasparov with D. King (New York, 2000), although there was also much diary
material. (C.N. 2483; pages 176-177 of A Chess Omnibus.)
David Lawson (né Charles Whipple, 1886-1980) was aged 89
when his book Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess (New York,
1976) was published. (C.N. 287; page 108 of Chess Explorations.)
Murray Chandler (born on 4 April 1960) brought out A White Pawn in
Europe in 1975 (privately printed in Wainuiomata). It gave his games
at the World Junior Championship in Yugoslavia and English tourneys from
August to November 1975. (Contribution by Robert Meadley in C.N. 662;
page 108 of Chess Explorations.)
Earliest chess content
The earliest printed book with chess content was Summa Collationum by
Johannes Gallensis or John of Waleys (Cologne, Ulrich Zel, circa 1470).
(Contribution by Michael Macdonald-Ross in C.N. 484; page 114 of Chess Explorations.
See also C.N. 4536.)
C.N. 4244 mentioned Sakkvilágbajnokok by Károly Molnár
(Budapest, 1977), a 243-page hardback on the world champions. It measures approximately
6cm x 4cm, and for purposes of comparison it appears below alongside a CD:
C.N. 3435 quoted a paragraph from page 215 of CHESS
, 17 May 1957:
‘H. Jarvis, Croydon, played postal chess from 1931 (when he went on
holiday to Germany) onwards, with Eberhardt Wilhelm, secretary of the international
correspondence chess organization. When the war started, it was Mr Jarvis
to move. Naturally the game was abruptly interrupted, and after the war ended
it was two years before normal postal services were resumed. Wilhelm thereupon
wrote and pointed out that it had been Mr Jarvis’ move for eight years
and said that if he did not reply by return he would claim the game. Mr Jarvis
had the move ready; he despatched a move at once and the games were duly concluded.
So the one move took eight years. “Is this a record” asks Mr Jarvis
“for the longest time ever taken to play a chess move?”’
The same C.N. item also gave a game which took about 16 years and was widely
published in the mid-1870s:
Karl Brenzinger – Francis Eugene Brenzinger
Correspondence, 1859 – 18 March 1875
Two Knights’ Defence
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 Na5 6 Qe2 Nxc4 7 Qxc4 Bd6
8 d3 O-O 9 Nc3 h6 10 Nge4 Kh8 11 O-O Nh5 12 d4 f5 13 Nxd6 cxd6 14 dxe5 dxe5
15 Qe2 Qe8 16 Nb5 f4 17 f3 Ng3 18 hxg3 fxg3 19 f4 Bd7 20 Nd6 Qe7 21 Ne4 Qh4
22 Nxg3 Qxg3 23 Rf3 Bg4 24 Rxg3 Bxe2 25 Re3 Bc4 26 d6 Rxf4 27 Re1 Rd4 28 b3
Bb5 29 c4 Bc6 30 c5 Rg4 31 Re2 Rf8 32 Be3 Kg8 33 a4 Rb4 34 Rb2 Kf7 35 Bd2 Rg4
36 Bc3 Ke6 37 b4 Rf3
38 Bxe5 Kxe5 39 b5 Be4 40 Rd2 Rfg3 41 Raa2 Bxg2 42 d7 Bc6+ 43 Kh2 Bxd7
44 Rxd7 Rg6 45 Re2+ Kf6 46 Rde7 (This mistake was attributed to impatience
after Black took seven months over his 45th move.) 46...Rg2+ 47 Rxg2
Rxg2+ 48 Kxg2 Kxe7 49 Kf3 h5 50 a5 Kd7 51 White resigns.
[Click to replay]
Sources: La Stratégie, 15 May 1875, pages 141-143, and Deutsche
Schachzeitung, July 1875, pages 218-219.
Although the magazines specified that White and Black lived in Pforzheim and
New York respectively, Irving Chernev (on page 129 of his book Wonders and
Curiosities of Chess) stated that the game was ‘between a Mr Brenzinger
of New York and his brother in England’. In C.N. 3438 John Hilbert provided
Steinitz’s notes to the game, from The Field, 24 April 1875.
Youngest player of a published game
José Raúl Capablanca, receiving queen odds, defeated Ramón
Iglesias in Havana on 17 September 1893 when he was four years and ten months
old. (C.N. 2146; page 234 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves.)
Youngest composer of a published problem
Page 132 of the May-June 1917 American Chess Bulletin published a composition
by Elliot Franklin Eichholtz, who was stated to be five years old. (C.N. 2184;
page 234 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves.)
Mate in two moves.
Fewest moves played
In the 2003 Capablanca Memorial tournament, Premier I group, Péter Székely
of Hungary played a total of 130 moves (his opponents played 133) in the 13
rounds. He scored +0 –0 =13, with an average of ten moves per round. His
smallest number was six, and his longest game lasted 13 moves. He won fourth
prize since he had the highest Sonneborn-Berger score of the four players on
50%. (Contribution by Calle Erlandsson in C.N. 2937; page 81 of Chess Facts
William (né Wilhelm) Steinitz (born in May 1836) lost his world
chess championship title on 26 May 1894, when aged a little over 58 years.
Copyright 2006 Edward Winter. All rights reserved.
If you wish to submit a record or suggest a new category, please fill in the
following form, remembering to give your name and full postal address. Exact
sources should also be specified. Any such material subsequently incorporated
in the Chess Records article will be duly credited to you, and only your town/city
of residence will be mentioned publicly.
or suggestions on chess records
Chess Notes appears at Richard
Forster's Chess History Center. Forster is a Swiss master who wrote a wonderful
book on Amos Burn.
In Chess Notes Winter makes a point of excluding any praise of himself, but
he is never reluctant to pay tribute to work of high quality by others. In Chess
Notes item 3403 he wrote regarding the "unmissable" Burn volume: "If
there is one chess book, above all others, that we would be immensely proud
to have written ourselves it is Amos Burn A Chess Biography by Richard
Forster (Jefferson, 2004). An impeccable McFarland hardback of 972 pages, it
is simply of matchless quality."