Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (82)

4/22/2012 – Historical chess photographs are not always treated as sacrosanct, and the Editor of Chess Notes shows examples of how they have been fabricated, doctored and airbrushed. He examines, in particular, the odd case of a group photograph taken during the Carlsbad, 1907 tournament. Three different versions have been found, with various individuals eradicated for no discernible reason.

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Chess Explorations (82)

By Edward Winter

Facts in chess history and lore are often distorted and doctored, but so too, occasionally, are photographs. A familiar case concerns the picture of Alekhine and Capablanca supposedly taken during their 1927 world championship match in Buenos Aires:

Detailed information is provided in A Fake Chess Photograph.

Another instance concerns Alekhine and the vanishing onlookers:

See C.N.s 6507 and 6525.

Airbrushing and doctoring may even occur in a group photograph and seemingly without reason. In C.N. 5685 Philippe Kesmaecker (Maintenon, France) drew attention to this pair taken at Carlsbad, 1907:

Subsequently, C.N. 5722 reproduced two good-quality scans received from Per Skjoldager (Fredericia, Denmark). That item was able to give the three versions below. They came, respectively, from a) page ix of Das Internationale Schachmeisterturnier in Karlsbad 1907, b) opposite page 445 of the October 1907 BCM and c) opposite page 257 of the September 1907 Deutsche Schachzeitung:

As Mr Kesmaecker remarked, the figures in the background progressively disappear.

He also mentioned the existence on the Internet of a slightly different shot of the group (with, for example, Janowsky in profile), and we added that a copy of that one (also with much airbrushing) is in the plates section of Maróczy Géza élete és pályafutása by József Szily (Budapest, 1957):

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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 7,600 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). In 2011 a paperback edition was issued.

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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