Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (95)

by ChessBase
1/21/2013 – Patriotism, nationalism, jingoism and racism in the chess world have generated many literary horrors, some of which might be comical if they were not so alarming. The Editor of Chess Notes shows a range of little-known cases where the public record has been mutilated through, in particular, the expurgation of masters’ names for political reasons. A look back to some dark days.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Chess Explorations (95)

By Edward Winter

First of all, a case which may be considered little worse than soppy patriotism combined (as patriotism so often is) with factual incompetence. In a feature article on Chess (Basics, Laws and Terms) by B.K. Chaturvedi (Chandigarh, 2001) we commented:

In his 1995 match against Kasparov in New York, Anand won the first decisive game (game 9) but scored only +0 –4 =4 in the remainder of the match. Any respectable author would thus employ a word such as ‘comfortable’ or ‘decisive’ to describe Kasparov’s victory, but not Mr Chaturvedi. He writes on page 3:

‘However, the most renowned Indian chess player to date is Vishwanath [sic] Anand who recently challenged the current World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov and missed the mark with a difference of just four [sic] points.’

And from page 11 of this book (which, we reiterate, was published in 2001):

‘The present title holder is Gary Kasparov. He was challenged by India’s Vishwanath [sic] Anand or “Vishy” in 1995 and despite Vishy’s claiming initial victories [sic – the propagandist’s plural] and forcing Kasparov to draw, he eventually lost. So Kasparov remains the undisputed Chess Champion.’

For all this, of course, Anand himself is blameless, just as it was hardly Nigel Short’s fault that a small number of British ‘chess writers’ elected to slop jingoistic treacle over his shoulders before, during and after his 1993 match with Kasparov.

At the other end of the scale there have been sombre periods when chess literature has fallen victim to noxious racism. A quiz question: when Emanuel Lasker died in 1941, how did Deutsche Schachblätter cover the event? The answer is given at the end of this article.

The present section begins with a quote from page 10 of the January 1942 BCM (given in Chess: Hitler and Nazi Germany):

‘The “New Order” in Germany is busy on chess literature. The outstanding text-book in the German language is Dufresne’s Lehrbuch des Schachspiels, which has held the field for some 60 years. From 1901 to 1937 it was periodically revised, and brought up to date by J. Mieses, and so remained a thoroughly modern work.

As its popularity could not be gainsaid, it had to be “aryanized”, and a new revision was entrusted to a 100 per cent Aryan master [Max Blümich (1886-1942)].

Max Blümich

It will hardly be credited that the names of “non-Aryan” players have been omitted from the historical section, including Kolisch, Zukertort, Steinitz, Lasker, Rubinstein, etc. Not only that, all their most brilliant games which adorned earlier editions have been eradicated, although a few of their games were allowed to remain – those they lost! This is on a par with the maintenance of “Aryan” superiority in chess by the simple expedient of excluding non-Aryan competition.

There is only one word for it – lunacy. “Whom the gods wish to destroy …”.’

Some recent C.N. items have discussed the conduct of Kurt Richter during the Nazi regime. For example, C.N. 7875 referred to a position on page 113 of his book Kombinationen (Berlin and Leipzig, 1936):

The game was Tartakower v Colle, San Remo, 2 February 1930, but throughout the book the names of various (though not all) Jewish players were deleted. For instance:

  • Position 20: Post v unnamed opponent, Mannheim, 1914 (Flamberg);
  • Position 167: S. v von Bardeleben, Hastings, 1895 (Steinitz);
  • Position 197: von Holzhausen v unnamed opponent, 1912 (Tarrasch);
  • Position 239: von Scheve v unnamed opponent, Ostend, 1907 (Rubinstein).

The process was intensified in the second edition of Richter’s book (Berlin, 1940), as shown by position 66 on page 29:

1936 edition

1940 edition

(The details about the Lasker v Thomas game are also wrong. See Chaos in a Miniature.)

In the 1936 edition of Kombinationen ‘Dr Lasker’ was named as the opponent of Bogoljubow (Zurich, 1934, in position 107) and of Torre (Moscow, 1925, in position 237). Four years later, the former world champion’s name was reduced in both cases to ‘L.’.

Expurgations were even retained in the post-War translation Combinaciones en el medio juego (Buenos Aires, 1947):

An example from page 158:

In the 1936 German edition Nimzowitsch had been identified in connection with this position, but there was only ‘N.’ in the 1940 volume.

Later editions of Kombinationen restored the masters’ names. See too C.N.s 7909 and 7923. In the latter item Alan McGowan (Waterloo, Canada) gave a list of the Jewish players whose names were in the games index of the Deutsche Schachblätter during the period 1934-39. (Richter took over the editorship in January 1934.). The numbers dwindled and reached zero in 1939.

Now we turn to Eastern Europe and more recent times. C.N. 6832 reported:

ChessBase has reproduced from The Huffington Post an article entitled ‘A Disappearing Act’ by Lubomir Kavalek. Two paragraphs:

‘In 1975 at the US Open, Navratilova asked for political asylum and became persona non grata at home. Her name disappeared from the press. It was a game the communist establishment liked to play. The censors axed your name and the people learned how to read between the lines.

I met with similar fate after I left Czechoslovakia in 1968. Chess tournaments in which I participated were not reported or appeared without my name. The same year Martina left, a book of chess puzzles by two Czech grandmasters, Vlastimil Hort and Vlastimil Jansa, was published in Prague. The publisher Olympia printed 18,000 copies and when it was done, some censors discovered my name attached to one of the games. They did something unbelievable: they cut out the page with my name, printed a new one without my name and glued it back in the book. They did it page by page, book by book – 18,000 times.’

No further details were given in Kavalek’s article, so in C.N. 6832 we examined the Hort/Jansa book, Zahrajte si šachy s velmistry.

Of the 230 positions discussed, only one lacked the players’ names:

The nimble expurgation becomes clear only on close inspection: the sheet with pages 31-32 is slightly shorter than the others.

Kavalek’s name was given in the English edition, The Best Move (Great Neck, 1980), which was translated from the Czech by Irena Kavalek:

Page 16 of the Russian edition (Moscow, 1976) also included Kavalek’s name:

However, in C.N. 7939 Vitaly A. Komissaruk (Kasan, Russian Federation) added that there were deletions in the Russian edition:

‘The text for position 86 has a venue and a year, but White’s name is omitted (Korchnoi). The venue, year and name of a player were removed from positions 104 (Korchnoi), 135 (Korchnoi) and 203 (Sosonko).’

Our correspondent also mentioned that position 13 (shown below) did not identify the players or give any venue or date:

The game was Hort v Shamkovich, Moscow, 1962, as stated on page 21 of the original Czech edition of Hort and Jansa’s book.

The above, of course, are merely some examples which have been examined in C.N. Other familiar political cases include the treatment of Ludĕk Pachman.

Finally, the promised answer to the quiz question posed earlier in this article, concerning the extent of the coverage in Deutsche Schachblätter of Emanuel Lasker’s death in 1941: there was no obituary or report of any kind.

Submit information or suggestions on chess explorations

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 7,940 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.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register