Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (30)

by ChessBase
11/16/2009 – Another pot pourri is presented by the Editor of Chess Notes. A prediction about Garry Kasparov made when he was only 11, a curious Lilienthal reference in a chess poem, an almost unknown player who reportedly challenged Alekhine for the world title in 1927, and an oft-published nineteenth-century miniature which is spurious. A further visit to the wonderful world of chess lore...

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Chess Explorations (30)

By Edward Winter

C.N. 5783 quoted from page vii of One Move and You’re Dead by Erwin Brecher and Leonard Barden (London, 2007), which recorded that Barden (one of the world’s most eminent chess journalists) ...

‘... was the first to predict in print that Garry Kasparov (then 11) would become world champion and that Nigel Short (then nine) would become Kasparov’s challenger.’

Regarding the Kasparov forecast, we were permitted by the Guardian Research Department to reproduce the column in question (The Guardian, 24 February 1975, page 16):

In C.N. 507, after the prediction’s appearance on pages 5-6 of the book on Kasparov Fighting Chess (London, 1983), we described it as ‘an amazing piece of talent-spotting’. Fighting Chess called the passage ‘the first western report’ on Kasparov.

Further to the remarks about English players in the above Guardian column, Mr Barden informed us in C.N. 5783:

‘My comment that “England, too, has some possible world class prospects” was a reference to both Julian Hodgson and Nigel Short. It was not until March-April 1975, after Short had performed impressively in Jersey and in a junior event in London, that I rated him ahead of Hodgson, allowing for age, and as a potential rival for Garry Kasparov. At the end of the London event I asked Čenĕk Kottnauer, whose opinion on juniors I regarded highly, to analyse and play a game with Short, and Kottnauer was greatly impressed.

The invitation to the Soviet Embassy for Weinstein to play was on my prompting, my grounds being that he would be nervous on his first journey to the West and that Hodgson could gain a psychological edge for battles to come. Moscow refused.

My forecast in the Guardian of 24 February 1975 was made about 15 months before Botvinnik went into print with his famous remark about the future of chess being in Kasparov’s hands.’

Dominique Thimognier (St Cyr sur Loire, France) presented in C.N. 5846 this bizarre cutting from Le Figaro of 3 December 1927:

For reasons unexplained, the French newspaper reported that the new world champion, Alekhine, had just been sent a first challenge for his title, by the English player C.A.S. Damant.

Further to our feature article Alfred Kreymborg and Chess Jim Kulbacki (Cheyenne, WY, USA) drew attention in C.N. 6348 to two other chess-related poems by Kreymborg, one of them being ‘Chess Players’ on pages 120-124 of Blood of Things (New York, 1920). We find it especially intriguing for two apparently prescient references to a player named Lilienthal. Here, for example, are the last few lines of the poem:

At that time, of course, Andor Lilienthal (born 1911) was unknown to the chess world.

The portrait of Lilienthal below comes from opposite page 32 of El Ajedrez Español, October 1934:

As pointed out in C.N. 5217, a game-score often wrongly disseminated is ‘Blake v Hooke, London, 1891’: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bc4 f5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nc3 exd4 6 Qxd4 Bd7 7 Ng5 Nc6 8 Bf7+ Ke7 9 Qxf6+ Kxf6 10 Nd5+ Ke5 11 Nf3+ Kxe4 12 Nc3 mate.

We noted that the game continues to be handled carelessly even by writers who are aware that it was long ago shown to be spurious. For instance, on pages 90-91 of Chess Lists (Jefferson, 2002) A. Soltis wrote:

‘This version [i.e. ending with 12 Nc3 mate] appeared, for example, in Chess Sparks [by J.H. Ellis], published in 1895. [Ellis’ book merely stated after 7...Nc6 ‘and White gives mate in five moves’.] It was repeated in Julius du Mont’s 200 Miniatures [200 Miniature Games of Chess] but with the dateline of “London 1923”.

More serious, however, is the discrepancy that occurred when the game appeared in the British Chess Magazine in 1930. There, after Black’s seventh move, lies the note: “At this point there is [was] a mate in five which White overlooked.” Instead, White played a different line but still managed to sacrifice his queen, according to BCM: 9 Qd5 h6 10 Bg6 Ne5 11 b3! hxg5 12 Qxe5+! dxe5 13 Ba3+ Ke6 14 exf5 mate.

Which should you believe? The 1930 one. BCM’s editor then would have known which was correct. The editor was Joseph Henry Blake. [The Editor was R.C. Griffith, and in the 1930 BCM the game was given in an article by A. Firth.]’

Beyond Soltis’ panoply of imprecision (he also put ‘Hook’ instead of Hooke), it is notable that he lifted all the research material, without a word of credit, from the BCM’s Quotes and Queries column (the game having been discussed in items 417, 1457, 3967 and 4078).

Even so, Soltis (who dated the game 1891) missed the last of those four items, where Frank Skoff pointed out this feature on page 427 of the November 1889 BCM:

However, we added in C.N. 5217 that the game was played even earlier than 1889. It was published on pages 286-287 of the Chess Player’s Chronicle, 17 October 1888, taken from G.A. MacDonnell’s column in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News:

Christian Sánchez (Rosario, Argentina) wrote in C.N. 5224:

‘Has someone else played the “spurious” game 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bc4 f5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nc3 exd4 6 Qxd4 Bd7 7 Ng5 Nc6 8 Bf7+ Ke7 9 Qxf6+ Kxf6 10 Nd5+ Ke5 11 Nf3+ Kxe4 12 Nc3 mate?

Roberto Grau gives the same game-score but without names on page 80 of volume I of Tratado general de ajedrez (Buenos Aires, 1939), and the position after 7...Nc6 with the heading “M. Seguin-X” on page 122 of the same volume. The solution is on page 221.

Kurt Richter gives the game on page 140 of Hohe Schule der Schach Taktik (Berlin, 1956) with the heading “Seguin-N.N., 1938”.’

To date, no further information has come to light.

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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter

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, over 6,300 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. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.

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