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 Winter: Chess 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 Crimes.
Winter's 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, Greece."
That is the only reference to chess in the "Games & pastimes" section.
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 34 moves."
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 four items:
"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 2004.
"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:
SlowestC.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.
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 and Fables.)
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.
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."