Fritz 15

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Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (5)

4/30/2007 – We bring you a further selection of mysteries from Edward Winter’s Chess Notes, including an alleged game by Stalin, some unexplained words attributed to Morphy, a chess magazine of which no copy can be found, a US champion whose complete name is uncertain, and another champion who has vanished without trace. Our readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.
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Unsolved Chess Mysteries (5)

By Edward Winter

A game attributed to Stalin (C.N.s 3533 & 4133)

Page 368 of the Dictionnaire des Echecs by François Le Lionnais and Ernst Maget (Paris, 1967) had an entry for Stalin with the following illustrative win over ‘le chef de la Guépéou’, who was named as ‘Yejov’:

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nbd7 6 Be2 a6 7 O-O e6 8 f4 b5 9 a3 Bb7 10 Bf3 Qb6 11 Be3 Qc7 12 Qe2 Be7 13 g4 Nc5 14 Qg2 O-O 15 Rad1 Rfe8 16 g5 Nfd7 17 Rd2 e5 18 Nf5 Ne6 19 Nxe7+ Rxe7 20 f5 Nd4 21 f6 Ree8 22 Bh5 g6

23 Bxg6 hxg6 24 Qh3 Ne6 25 Qh6 Qd8 26 Rf3 Nxf6 27 gxf6 Rc8 28 Rdf2 Qxf6 29 Rxf6 Rc7 30 Nd5 Bxd5 31 exd5 Nf8 32 Bg5 Nh7 33 Rxd6 e4 34 Be3 Rce7 35 Bd4 f6 36 Bxf6 Nxf6 37 Rdxf6 Resigns.

The Dictionnaire marked the occasion as ‘Moscou?, 1926?’ and used the conditional tense to indicate doubts about the game’s authenticity (‘la partie suivante qui aurait été gagnée par Staline’). A source was mentioned: Freude am Schach by Gerhard Henschel (Gütersloh, 1959).

Although the year 1926 has now stuck to the game, it seems to be based on a misreading of Henschel’s book (pages 86-90). True enough, ‘1926’ is the only date to appear on those pages, but its context had nothing to do with when the game (‘Stalin – Jechow’) allegedly took place. Indeed, Henschel’s own claim was that it was much older, for the first sentence of his item affirmed that Stalin had played it ‘kurz nach seiner Flucht aus der sibirischen Verbannung’ ('shortly after his escape from Siberian exile', page 86), whereas two pages later Henschel’s book (published, it will be recalled, in 1959) stated that the game had been played about 50 years previously (‘Wenn wir bedenken, dass die Partie schon vor rund 50 Jahren gespielt wurde ...’ – 'If we consider that the game was played around 50 years ago ...').

As regards the genesis of the game, Henschel stated on page 86:

‘Die hier aufgezeichnete Partie ist uns nur durch einen Zufall bekannt geworden. Ein alter Mitarbeiter Lenins, dessen Name leider nicht bekannt ist, hat sie aus der Erinnerung aufgeschrieben.’ ('The game recorded here came to our attention only by chance. An old associate of Lenin, whose name is unfortunately not known, noted it down from memory.').

Henschel’s book is replete with errors of all kinds (Fischer is misspelt ‘Fisher’ throughout) and needs to be handled with great circumspection. Was it really the first place where the alleged Stalin game appeared in print?

Capablanca and Stalin (C.N. 4950)

In C.N. 4950 Francis E.W. Ogle (Medwood, NJ, USA) referred to reports that Capablanca complained to Stalin that Russian players were cheating in a 1930s tournament in Russia, and in that same item we commented that the Cuban’s widow, Olga Capablanca Clark, had mentioned the subject to us a number of times. For example, on 26 July 1989 she wrote to us:

‘It is little known, I believe, that Stalin came to see Capablanca play, hiding behind a drapery. This happened in Moscow in 1936. Capa had mentioned it to me en passant, so I am a bit hazy about the details, such as who had accompanied Stalin – seems to me it was Krylenko. However, the gist of this encounter remains quite clear in my mind.

Capa said to Stalin: “Your Soviet players are cheating, losing the games on purpose to my rival, Botvinnik, in order to increase his points on the score.”

According to Capa, Stalin took it good-naturedly. He smiled and promised to take care of the situation.

He did.

From then on the cheating had stopped and Capablanca had won the tournament all by himself. This was an important conquest, proving to the world that Capablanca returned to his own great form.

As he told it to me Capa added: “I had promised you to be again the best chessplayer in the world. So I have done it for you.”’

Olga and José Raúl Capablanca

What do Russian sources (chess and non-chess) say about whether Stalin was indeed present at Moscow, 1936 (and/or Moscow, 1935)?

Unexplained words attributed to Morphy (C.N.s  2026 & 2030)

C.N. 2026 quoted from pages 30-31 of Life of Paul Morphy in the Vieux Carré of New-Orleans and Abroad by Regina Morphy-Voitier (New Orleans, 1926):

‘Another mania which lasted a while, was walking up and down the long verandah of his home, his hands behind his back and muttering these words in a low voice: “Il plantera la bannière de Castille sur les murs de Madrid au cri de Ville gagnée, et le petit Roi s’en ira tout penaud.” (“He will plant the banner of Castile upon the walls of Madrid to the cry of victorious [sic gagnée means ‘won’] city, and the little King will go away looking very sheepish.”) He did not know that he was being overheard, nor was it ever known what he meant by these words.’

As mentioned in C.N. 2030, slightly different English versions of Morphy’s words appeared on page 30 of Morphy Gleanings by P.W. Sergeant (London, 1932) and on page 299 of David Lawson’s Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess (New York, 1976). Nobody has yet identified the source or context of the French quote.

The above photograph, a detail from Samuel Loyd’s ‘photographic chessboard’ (1868), was given in C.N. 3890. Is a better-quality version available anywhere?

A non-existent chess magazine? (C.N. 1314)

This paragraph on page 463 of the November 1933 BCM was referred to in C.N. 1314:

‘In spite of political troubles, Juan Corzo, ex-champion of the Havana Chess Club, has succeeded in bringing out the first (September) number of a new monthly, Jaque Mate, at the price of $1 a year. Most of the space in this opening issue is given to the games of the historic match Corzo-Capablanca at the end of 1901, begun just before Capablanca’s 13th birthday. There is also an article on “World Champions from Ruy López to Alekhine”.’

We have been unable to trace this magazine, or even to find a reference to it in any Cuban source. It is unconnected with the Jaque Mate published in Havana in the 1960s and 1970s.

Juan Corzo y Príncipe

S. Lipschütz (C.N. 555)

S. Lipschütz (1863-1905) was a US champion, but chess historians are still unable to establish with certainty his forename. C.N. 555 quoted Jeremy Gaige on page 41 of his booklet A Catalog of USA Chess Personalia (Worcester, 1980):

‘His first name has been variously given as Samuel, Simon or Solomon. The weight of evidence does not clearly favor any of them. The reader might care to note the following from the American Chess Bulletin, 1906, page 31: “We are indebted to Mr T.J. Johnston of New York, an intimate acquaintance of the dead master, for calling attention to the fact that the latter’s name was Solomon ... and not Simon, as stated.”’

S. Lipschütz

In C.N. 3520 Anders Thulin (Malmö, Sweden) reported that he had checked computerized lists of passengers to New York; no conclusive evidence was found. C.N. 4804 mentioned a further piece of evidence, from page 2 of the monograph about Lipschütz brought out by the Chess Player in 2000. It gave the following translation from page 108 of the Hungarian publication Kárpáti Kalendárium, 1980:

‘We’ve learned just lately from the register of births that Samuel, the son of Mr Lipschütz, a tradesman living in poor circumstances, and their fifth child, was born in 1863 [4 July]. Little Samuel’s chess talent attracted attention in his early childhood, but the hard struggle to earn a living prevented him from improving his play. He became a printer’s apprentice at the age of 14 and made every effort to become a pressman. However, after a little while he left the printer’s shop and emigrated to the UK and later to the USA.’

The Chess Player monograph was entitled Samuel Lipschütz, but the forename matter is still open. Lipschütz died in Hamburg on 30 November 1905. Can any documentary evidence be found in German sources of that time?

Who was K. Nadzhmetdinov? (C.N. 3755)

Below is the front cover of the May 1943 Chess Review:

What is known about K. Nadzhmetdinov? The only information provided inside the magazine was on page 147:

‘In 1939, tournaments were held by the collective farm members of the different Republics and the winners played in the All-Union Collective Farmers’ Chess and Checkers Tournament. Among those who came to Leningrad for this event was farmer K. Nadzhmetdinov, chess champion of the Uzbek SSR.’

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Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then around 5,000 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. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center.

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