Three books from Olomouc

by André Schulz
7/14/2020 – Vlastimil Fiala's second love, besides his duties as a professor of political science, is chess history. In his Moravian Chess Publishing House he presents, in various series, relatively unknown events of chess history with astonishing depth.

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The Moravian Publishing House

The Moravian Chess Publishing House in Olomouc (pronounced [ˈɔlɔmɔuʦ]) dedicates its publishing program to the cultivation of chess history. The publisher is Vlastimil Fiala. Actually Fiala is a professor of political science, born in 1959 and not to be confused with the graphic artist, painter and art historian of the same name (1920-1993). Prof. Dr. Fiala studied history and philosophy and received his doctorate in history at Palacky University Olomouc in 1985. He worked as a research assistant, then as a lecturer at the universities in Prague and Olomouc, specializing in Oriental Studies and Modern African History. Since 2006 he has been a lecturer in African Studies at the University of Hradec Kralove. In the course of his academic career, Vlastimil Fiala has had a number of research assignments and has held visiting professorships at universities in England, the Netherlands, the USA and Ghana.

In addition to his tasks as a researcher and lecturer, Prof. Fiala is active in journalism and has been a member of the editorial staff of International Comparative Law Review (since 2003), Politologické revue (2003 to 2017), Současná Evropa (2008 to 2017) and Modern Africa: Politics, Society and History (since 2013). 

Chess history as a science

His second love is chess, more precisely chess history. Here Prof. Fiala conducts research with the same scientific accuracy as in political science and publishes his results mainly in his own publishing programme. From 1991 to 1997 Fiala was editor of the Czechoslovak Chess Bulletin. In 1998 he took over this task at the magazine Chess Monthly and since 1999 he is editor and publisher of the periodical Quarterly for Chess History, which publishes articles, contributions and games on chess history on a quarterly basis. 

Fiala's important book publications on chess history include the multi-volume biography on the chess career of Marcel Duchamp, as well as multi-volume biographies on Alexander Alekhine and Mikhail Botvinnik.

So if you want to get away from the fast-paced daily chess events, you will find excellent and enlightening reading material in the publishing program of Moravian Chess. Among the more recent publications are three small volumes, two biographies and a tournament book, based on contemporary sources inaccessible to most chess enthusiasts.

Henry Mackenzie

The more extensive of the two biographies, 164 pages long, deals with the chess career of George Henry Mackenzie. Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1837, was a professional soldier and quite a talented chess player. In 1862 he won a handicap tournament in London, beating Adolf Anderssen,who was playing without his f7 pawn, 2-0. Mackenzie went to the USA as a soldier in the American Civil War. After he was demoted and dismissed for desertion in 1865, Mackenzie worked as a professional chess player and had remarkable success. Meanwhile he lived in New York and was regarded as the best player in the USA from 1866, succeeding Paul Morphy. 

Fiala's monograph, however, concentrates solely on Mackenzie's chess activities of the year 1870 (!). The intensive, but only partial view of a historical chess player and his career is the concept of the new publishing series "Great Chess Player's Career". 

Thus this book begins on New Year's Day in 1870, which George Mackenzie spends with other chess friends in the "Europe Chess Room". The year 1870 marks the beginning of a major chess boom in New York and the USA, with many activities in which Mackenzie was also involved intensely. From George Mackenzie's chess activities in 1870 52 games have been preserved and are annotated in the book. The game notations are accompanied by detailed introductory texts describing the occasions and circumstances under which the games were played. There are also tournament tables.

With this biographic piece, Vlastimil Fiala sets a really large magnifying glass on a relatively short period of time - one year. But it is quite amazing how much there is to report Exciting and uplifting.


George Henry Mackenzie: Third US Chess Champion, 1870

19 Euros

Arthur Towle Marriot

In another series on historical chess players, Fabrizio Zavatarelli has devoted himself to the (entire) chess career of Arthur Towle Marriott. While some historically interested chess friends may still be reasonably familiar with the name of Mackenzie, the number of those who have heard of Marriott is probably very small. He was a well-known player during his time, but has been more or less forgotten, which probably because he died at a very young age. Born in 1859, Arthur Marriott died at the age of 24 of pneumonia, the result of a tuberculosis he had presumably contracted in 1880 - a tragic fate.

However, since Arthur Marriott played chess, he left behind a considerable number of games in the few years he had time to play. The collection of games in the 150-page book covers games from 1876 to 1884, the year of his death. Arthur Marriott came from a well-known family in Nottingham and a number of other family members played chess and were known for their playing-strength. His brother Edwin was the best player in Nottingham when he taught the 15-year-old Arthur how to play. 

Arthur Marriott took part in intercity matches. He played correspondence chess, casual games and also gave blindfold simuls. Fabrizio Zavatarelli has actually managed to collect 152 games of the now unknown master and published them in this book with commentary. The diligent author has also added whatever biographical information could be found. An entertaining book, which connects the reader through chess with a young person in a completely different time. 

The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott

19 Euros

The Meeting of the British Chess Association at Cambridge 1860

The third booklet is a small tournament book about a meeting of the young British Chess Association, which took place from August 28th to September 1st 1860 in Cambridge in the Red Lion Hotel. It was the eighth meeting in the history of the BCA. The meeting was first of  all a social event, but of course chess tournaments were also played: an individual tournament, team events, and a problem-solving contest were held. Lectures by masters of various aspects of chess were also part of the programme, as well as simultaneous exhibitions. 

Howard Staunton actually wanted to participate in the tournament, but had other obligations and only arrived later. He played a number of casual games against the other players. The tournament, played in knockout matches, ended with a victory for Ignaz Kolisch.

The booklet comprises 60 pages, contains 29 annotated games, tasks of the problem tournament, and opens a window to the chess summer of 1860 in Cambridge for a reasonable price.

The Meeting of the British Chess Association at Cambridge 1860

9 Euros

Moravian Chess...

Translation from German: Arthur Paul

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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