CHESS Magazine: The story of Fred and Bruce

by CHESS Magazine
1/4/2017 – When Bob Jones undertook a trip to buy a collection of chess books he found some treasures, including a letter by the wife of Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964), one of the most prolific writers on chess. Only later did Bob realize that he had purchased the chess library of Bruce Hayden, himself an extraordinary personality in chess: chess correspondent for The Times and a great raconteur of chess tales. Here's a story that looks at one of the most prolific writers on chess.

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A Story of Fred and Bruce

By Bob Jones

Back in 1997, after early retirement from teaching, I found myself being drawn into the world of old chess books. Not that that was what I’d originally intended – it was just the way things were developing.

One day, late in the year, I got a phone call from a young lady in London, asking if I’d be interested in a collection of books she was having to clear out from the house of a recently deceased elderly relative. It was a long way from Exmouth, but it sounded an interesting proposition and at that time I was keen to build up a credible stock, so I agreed. She gave me an address near Hammersmith Bridge and the London Wetland Centre in Barnes.

I found the house without problem, and the lady led me into the kitchen, where, on the table, were about 50 or 60 books and a cardboard box of odds and ends. I had a quick look through them to ascertain their condition, quality and potential interest to collectors, and offered her what I considered to be a fair sum. She was clearly surprised at the amount and accepted immediately.

It was only on the way back that it occurred to me that I hadn’t even asked the woman her name nor whose books they were. Back home, I looked through the books again and was generally pleased with the acquisition, and almost as an afterthought I poked through the unpromising-looking contents of the box and found, among other things, a large envelope stuffed with typed or photocopied articles on Morphy and two letters addressed to the book owner. Only then did I realise I’d just purchased the chess library of Bruce Hayden, and the presence in the pile of two copies of his book Cabbage Heads and Chess Kings suddenly made sense.

The two letters were as interesting as the books, and reveal a little of both the writers and recipient. One was a rather terse note from Harry Golombek in reply to a Hayden suggestion, to the effect – Dear Hayden, Yes, a book of games by so and so would a good idea, but I’m too busy on another book, and anyway the Americans could do one much more quickly than I could hope to do.

The other was a beautifully typed letter on blue airmail paper, which is worth recalling verbatim.

791, Wenwood Drive,
East Meadow,
Long Island...N.Y.
July 10th 1964

Dear Mr. Hayden,

Your thoughtful letter has been a great comfort to me. You have summed up, better than anyone else has, the special gift Fred had, to take difficult subjects and make them understandable to those who wanted to learn. This gift of his he did apply in his other fields; and his books are all on recommended reading lists.

Chess was really his great love though, and while he was recovering from a virus infection, which for almost three weeks kept him from reading at all, the first attempt he made at reading was to play over some games which he had been saving to enjoy when he was not busy writing.

I know the passage you quote from Tarrasch. It was one of Fred’s favourites. Indeed he quotes it in his book Tarrasch’s Best Games of Chess! He had a great admiration for Tarrasch. I think your choice of a quotation was most felicitous. Thank you.

I remember very well our visit to Simpson’s. Indeed I had forgotten about the picture, and was baffled by the Associated Press picture of Fred in the New York Times obituary. On going through the files I found the original. It was of Fred pointing to a picture on the wall. It is a delightful photograph; all the old (maybe young) gentlemen look so dignified in their beards! It is the only really good picture I have of Fred, who thought taking pictures was a silly thing. He hadn’t changed much since 1957 (that was the year), except perhaps for a little less hair on the top of the head. But the same impish grin was there and the same humorous eyes.

Again, thank you for writing,

Sincerely yours,
(Mrs) Beatrice Reinfeld

I haven’t seen Hayden’s original letter, but one doesn’t need to – the reply says it all. The quotation in question is “Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy” which forms the last line of Reinfeld’s biographical introduction to Tarrasch’s games.

Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964) was one of the most prolific writers on chess ever and to this day the club player can learn much from his well-chosen examples and clarity of prose.

People were/are always divided as to the value or status of Reinfeld’s many books, an issue that was faced squarely and with some humour by S. Morrison in his BCM obituary.

“Fred Reinfeld, the most indefatigable and prolific of all chess authors, died of a virus infection at his home in Long Island USA on 29th May. He was 54.

I have always thought it strange that for every ten chess writers who cater for the advanced student, there is only one for the woodpusher. And despite the fact that beginners must always outnumber top boards. If, in this ratio of 10:1 I personify the ‘1’ in the form of Fred Reinfeld, I don’t suppose anyone will be surprised.

When I last met Reinfeld in 1962 and taxed him about how many books he had written altogether, he had no idea. At the time of his death, his output was still going strong. There were books on how to win when you have the black pieces, how to win with the white pieces, how to win when you are ahead and how to fight back when you are not! His greatest stumbling block in recent times must have been the selection of suitable titles for his latest books, for he had almost exhausted all the usual possibilities. He had also published books on coins, geology and outer space.

Most authors launch themselves straightway upon publishers. Fred Reinfeld’s first literary efforts were duplicated stapled sheets that he hawked from shop to shop in the depressed thirties, long before he had either fame or fortune. He was a strong player who, in various club championships, had taken games from Reshevsky, Fine, Denker and Horowitz, but knew he would never be world class.

Criticism about Reinfeld’s approach always seemed to come from the stronger type of player to whom his pages were never directed”.

I can’t find any obituary by B. H. Wood in CHESS, though he continued to publish reviews of his new titles for years after Reinfeld’s death.

As for Hayden himself, he was born in Glasgow on 7th April 1907 and died a few weeks before my visit to his house in 1997. He was christened Hendy Bruce Hayden, but the first name was never used. Although largely forgotten today, he was in his prime in the 1950s, chess correspondent for The Times and a great raconteur of chess tales, sometimes blurring the facts in order to enhance a good story (and who hasn’t done that from time to time?).

For example, at the 23rd Hastings Congress in 1948 Hayden brightly claimed to have won the Brilliancy Prize ahead of the likes of Szabo, Grob, Fairhurst, Alexander, Golombek et al. Quite true, but the fact that he was in the Premier Reserves B, while they were not, was blithely skipped over. In fact, even in that section he only came 8th/10 with 2½ points. So how did this come to be? Apparently, that year the Congress Committee had devised a new system of added points for entrants in the lower sections so that everyone should get a chance of the 2 guinea prize on offer, and he won this fair and square. Here is that game with notes by Julius du Mont from The Field.

[Event "Hastings"] [Site "?"] [Date "1948.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Hayden, B."] [Black "Winser, WA."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Julius du Mont"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "1948.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #01"] [SourceDate "2016.12.19"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. b4 {The Polish Opening by transposition. The advantage of playing Nf3 first is that the normal reply of 1...e5 is not available.} d5 3. Bb2 Bf5 4. g3 e6 5. a3 Nbd7 6. Bg2 Bd6 7. O-O c6 8. d3 Qe7 {Black appears to have a perfectly satisfactory game.} 9. Nbd2 e5 10. Re1 Nb6 ({Black now sees that a further advance of his centre would cost him a pawn - e.g.} 10... e4 11. Nh4 Bg6 12. Nxg6 hxg6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. dxe4 {, etc. He should have castled kingside at this point in preference to moving his knight from a good square from which it supported the centre and the other knight.}) 11. c4 Bc7 12. cxd5 cxd5 13. e4 dxe4 14. dxe4 Bd7 15. Rc1 Ba4 {One of those tempting moves which achieves nothing. In this case the queen is driven to an equally good square, leaving the queen hanging in the air.} 16. Qe2 O-O 17. Bh3 Rfd8 18. Nh4 g6 19. Ndf3 Bd6 20. Qe3 {White has made fine use of the absence of most of Black's minor pieces from the battlefield, but it is difficult to credit that the end is to come in another six moves!} Bc6 21. Qh6 Bxe4 22. Ng5 Bc6 23. f4 Qc7 { Threatening ...Bf8 winning the queen.} 24. Nf5 $1 {Brilliant play.} Bf8 ({If} 24... gxf5 25. Bxf5 {and Black is lost.}) 25. Bxe5 Qd7 26. Bxf6 Bxh6 {White now mates in two.} 27. Nxh6+ Kf8 28. Nxh7# {. A sparkling finish.} 1-0

In 1960 Hayden gathered many of these tales together to create his legacy to chess literature in the form of his book, Cabbage Heads & Chess Kings. The following position is from 1952. White is a piece down and has three pieces en prise. Should he resign – or what?

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "1952.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Hayden, B."] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Bob Jones"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rn1qk2r/p2b3p/1p2p1p1/1B5Q/4P3/B1P1n3/P1P3PP/R4RK1 w kq - 0 1"] [PlyCount "0"] [EventDate "1952.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #01"] [SourceDate "2016.12.19"] {White is a piece down and has three pieces en prise. Should he resign - or what?} *

Note that you can move pieces on the replay board to analyse, and in fact start an engine to help you. You can maximize the replayer, auto-play, flip the board and even change the piece style in the bar below the board. At the bottom of the notation window on the right there are buttons for editing (delete, promote, cut lines, unannotate, undo, redo) save, play out the position against Fritz and even embed our JavaScript replayer on your web site or blog. Hovering the mouse over any button will show you its function.

The above article appeared in the January 2017 issue of the British magazine CHESS

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read.


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