Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (17)

10/16/2007 – This further selection from Chess Notes examines some gross examples of fraud and plagiarism in chess literature. A number of books, for instance, have been published in Canada and India under the names of Brian Drew, Frank Eagan, Thomas E. Kean and Philip Robar, but did any of those individuals even exist? Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

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Unsolved Chess Mysteries (17)

By Edward Winter

Chess scandals are common enough and tend to concern alleged cheating by players and/or maladministration by officials. The affairs may even briefly interest the mainstream press, but few eyelids are batted, even by insiders, over cases of theft or other malpractice regarding the game’s literature. As noted in the first of these Unsolved Chess Mysteries articles, a Spanish publisher brought out a book whose author was slyly named as ‘Garry Kaspartov’, but who minded much? (Would there, though, be similar indifference if a duplicitous English-language publisher issued a chess book billed as being by ‘Bobby Fisher’?) As shown in our feature article on Copying, all sorts of ‘chess writers’ have freely passed off the output of others as their own, but few cases, if any, have resulted in the deserved public outcry.

A striking example is the Coles affair. In May 2002 Rick Kennedy (Columbus, OH, USA) mentioned at the Chess Café Bulletin Board that Coles Publishing Company Inc. (Canada) had, in 1976, brought out a book entitled Chess Strategy by Frank Eagan which was, in fact, a verbatim reproduction of Capablanca’s Chess Fundamentals. That was, strange to say, our first knowledge of the mysterious Frank Eagan, and we hastened to procure a copy. It turned out that, apart from the title page, the entire contents were identical to the crown octavo edition of Chess Fundamentals (i.e. the 184-page version first produced by G. Bell in 1951).

The imprint page (‘Copyright 1976 and published by Coles Publishing Company Limited Toronto – Canada’) also had, in tiny letters, ‘Originally published by G. Bell & Sons Ltd. London England’, but neither Capablanca’s name nor the title Chess Fundamentals was given anywhere.

The publishers of this outrage are/were an internationally-known company, the producers of the ‘Coles Notes’ series of booklets of literary criticism. How did such fraud occur and, apparently, remain unnoticed (bearing in mind, incidentally, that in 1976 the company G. Bell was still producing chess books)? And who was Frank Eagan? His name vanished in 1980 when Coles reissued Chess Strategy and belatedly put Capablanca’s name on the title page.

Another 1976 chess book published by Coles, ‘Play Winning Chess by Brian Drew’ soon came to hand.

We at once recognized the contents as identical to Chess in an Hour by F.J. Marshall and I. Chernev (published by Arco, New York in 1968 and 1975). ‘Identical’, that is, with one significant exception. Page 47 of the earlier volume had the following note:

‘The new material found in pages 48 through 93 was compiled and prepared expressly for this newly revised edition by Irving Chernev.’

That was deleted from the Coles edition and, indeed, there was no mention of either Chernev or Marshall as the authors. It may be recalled here that Marshall’s original book was published in 1937 and that at the time Coles introduced ‘Brian Drew’ to the chess world Irving Chernev was still alive.

Also in 1976 Coles brought out ‘Two Weeks To Winning Chess by Thomas E. Kean’:

The title repeated an old one of Reinfeld’s, but the contents were, from start to finish, a direct reproduction of the well-known introductory book Chess by R.F. Green. Below are the opening pages of the Green book (1938 edition) and the Kean one (1976). The concluding words (‘Free use has, necessarily, been made of standard works on the game’) take on a whole new meaning in the light of Coles’ practices.

Not that Coles always changed, or invented, authors’ names. Its 1979 volume Chess Problems for Beginner or Expert by John M. Rice had, in small letters on the copyright page (yes, Coles books always had one of those…), the following statement: ‘Originally published by Faber & Faber’. That is so. The text, all 349 pages of it, was identical to John Rice’s 1970 work An ABC of Chess Problems.

In 2002 we asked Mr Rice whether he had authorized the Coles edition of his book, and he replied that he was not even aware of it.

Yet another example, from 1980, was ‘Teach yourself Chess by John Love’. That turned out to be a reprint of Love’s book Chess: A New Introduction (published by Bell in 1967).

We asked Mr Love whether he was aware of the later edition, and he replied:

‘No, I knew nothing about this Coles publication. As you can imagine, I was more than a little surprised by the contents, not least by the thought that I’d ever written anything worth stealing.’

The Coles affair was discussed in C.N.s 2657, 2689, 2711, 2736 and 2754. Can anything further be discovered about the company’s behaviour?


Now, from Canada to India.

As shown in C.N. 2750 (see pages 335-337 of A Chess Omnibus), the book Chess (Basics, Laws and Terms) by B.K. Chaturvedi (Chandigarh, 2001) copied extensively from Chess Made Easy by C.J.S. Purdy and G. Koshnitsky. In C.N. 4683, however, we offered a rebondissement: was it possible that the (dire) Indian volume was itself subsequently the victim of plagiarism? Below, on the left, is a passage from page 6 of the Chaturvedi book, alongside the text on page 8 of A Guide To Chess ‘Edited and Revised by Philip Robar’ (New Delhi, 2002):

The next paragraph in both books (pages 7 and 9 respectively) is a particularly bumpy read:

Among other examples of ‘similarities’ are the books’ concluding glossaries, but is it a plain case of plagiarism by the Robar volume? Matters are far from simple. For instance, the imprint page of the Robar book stated, however implausibly, ‘XIVth Edition 2002’; if there have truly been 13 previous editions of A Guide To Chess, most, if not all, of them would pre-date the 2001 Chaturvedi book. But who is Philip Robar? And what exactly was ‘edited and revised’ by him for the Guide?

A further consideration is that his name was not on the cover but only on the title page:

An additional mystery concerns the book’s spine: it named the author as ‘Dr C.P. Mithal’.

We returned to the subject in C.N. 4717, pointing out that the publishing company’s website showed a line-up of chess volumes whose authorship was ascribed to that same mysterious Philip Robar. By way of example, we briefly examined one of them, Techniques of End Game in Chess (New Delhi, 2002):

Different typefaces and notations were used in the book, and of necessity because 90 pages were lifted, unascribed, from Chess endings for the practical player by L. Pachman (London, 1983) and about 100 pages were stolen from Practical Chess Endgames by D. Hooper (London, 1968).

Sample pages are shown below:

Robar (left) and Pachman

Robar (left) and Hooper

It will be noted that the Robar book amended the chapter endings, with a misspelling both times. Everything in Techniques of End Game in Chess from page 49 to the end (page 240, which chopped off Pachman’s analysis in mid-flow) was by either Pachman or Hooper.

Not surprisingly, the other chess productions of Pankaj Books were also put together, without attribution, from previous writers’ work. As in the case of Coles, more details about the company’s conduct will be welcome.

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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.


Articles by Edward Winter

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (1)
    14.02.2007 – Since Chess Notes began, over 25 years ago, hundreds of mysteries and puzzles have been discussed, with many of them being settled satisfactorily, often thanks to readers. Some matters, though, have remained stubbornly unsolvable – at least so far – and a selection of these is presented here. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (2)
    12.03.2007 – We bring you a further selection of intriguing chess mysteries from Chess Notes, including the origins of the Marshall Gambit, a game ascribed to both Steinitz and Pillsbury and the bizarre affair of an alleged blunder by Capablanca in Chess Fundamentals. Once again our readers are invited to join the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (3)
    27.03.2007 – Recently-discovered photographs from one of Alekhine’s last tournaments, in Spain in 1945, are proving baffling. Do they show that a 15-move brilliancy commonly attributed to Alekhine is spurious? And do they disprove claims that another of his opponents was an 11-year-old boy? Chess Notes investigates, and once again our readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (4)
    10.04.2007 – What would have happened if the score of the 1927 Capablanca v Alekhine match had reached 5-5? Would the contest have been declared drawn? The affair has been examined in depth in Chess Notes. Here chess historian Edward Winter sifts and summarizes the key evidence. There is also the strange case of a fake photograph of the two masters. Join the investigation.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (5)
    30.04.2007 – 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.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (6)
    19.05.2007 – A further miscellany of mysteries from Chess Notes is presented by the chess historian Edward Winter. They include an alleged tournament game in which Black was mated at move three, the unclear circumstances of a master’s suicide, a chess figure who was apparently unaware of his year of birth, the book allegedly found beside Alekhine’s body in 1946, and the chess notes of the poet Rupert Brooke. Join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (7)
    02.06.2007 – The chess historian Edward Winter presents another selection of mysteries from Chess Notes. They include an alleged game by Albert Einstein, the origin of the Trompowsky Opening, the termination of the 1984-85 world championship match, and the Marshall brilliancy which supposedly prompted a shower of gold coins. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (8)
    In this further selection from Chess Notes historian Edward Winter examines some unauthenticated quotes, the Breyer Defence to the Ruy López, the origins of the Dragon Variation, the contradictory evidence about a nineteenth century brilliancy, and the alleged 1,000-board exhibition by an unknown player. Can our readers help to solve these new chess mysteries?

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (9)
    Why did Reuben Fine withdraw from the 1948 world championship? Did Capablanca lose an 11-move game to Mary Bain? Was Staunton criticized by Morphy for playing ‘some devilish bad games’? Did Alekhine play Najdorf blindfold? Was Tartakower a parachutist? These and other mysteries from Chess Notes are discussed by Edward Winter. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (10)
    15.07.2007 – Did Tsar Nicholas II award the ‘grandmaster’ title to the five finalists of St Petersburg, 1914? What connection exists between the Morphy family and Murphy beer? Can the full score of one of Pillsbury’s most famous brilliancies be found? Did a 1940s game repeat a position composed 1,000 years previously? Edward Winter, the Editor of Chess Notes, presents new mysteries for us to solve.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (11)
    01.08.2007 – Did Alekhine attempt suicide in 1922? Why is 1 b4 often called the Hunt Opening? What are the origins of the chess proverb about the gnat and the elephant? Who was the unidentified figure wrongly labelled Capablanca by a chess magazine? Does Gone with the Wind include music composed by a chess theoretician? These and other mysteries from Chess Notes are discussed by the historian Edward Winter. Readers are invited to join the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (12)
    12.08.2007 – This new selection from Chess Notes focuses on José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942). The chess historian Edward Winter, who wrote a book about the Cuban genius in the 1980s (published by McFarland), discusses a miscellany of unresolved matters about him, including games, quotes, stories and photographs. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (13)
    26.08.2007 – In a 1937 game did Alekhine play two moves in succession? Can the full score of a Nimzowitsch brilliancy be found? Who was Colonel Moreau? Why was it claimed that Morphy killed himself? Who were the first masters to be filmed? What happened in the famous Ed. Lasker v Thomas game? Is a portrait of the young Philidor genuine? From Chess Notes comes a new selection of mysteries to solve.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (14)
    The latest selection from Chess Notes consists of ten positions, including fragments from games ascribed to Capablanca and Nimzowitsch. Was an alleged Bernstein victory a composition? What is known about a position in which Black resigned despite having an immediate win? Can more be discovered about the classic Fahrni pawn ending? Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (15)
    Chess books repackaged as camouflage in Nazi Germany. Numerous contradictions regarding a four-move game. The chess encyclopaedia that never was. Quotes strangely attributed to Spielmann and Capablanca. These and other mysteries are discussed in the latest selection from Chess Notes. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (16)
    Did Lasker invent a tank? Why did Mieses complain to FIDE about Bogoljubow? What merchandising carried Flohr’s name? Who coined the term ‘grandmaster draw’? What did Hans Frank write about Alekhine? Did Tom Thumb play chess? These are just some of the questions discussed in the latest selection from Chess Notes. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (17)
    This further selection from Chess Notes examines some gross examples of fraud and plagiarism in chess literature. A number of books, for instance, have been published in Canada and India under the names of Brian Drew, Frank Eagan, Thomas E. Kean and Philip Robar, but did any of those individuals even exist? Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.


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