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Neil Brennen

The world's chess community was saddened when we learned of the death of Kenneth Whyld on July 11, 2003 at the age of 77. Below, chess historian Neil Brennen gives some of his impressions of this great chess historian, lists his best known chess publications and discusses a subject they had in common, their researches into the games of the great world champion Emanuel Lasker. Thanks for your fine tribute to a chess writer who has touched so many of our lives, Neil, including mine.
--- J. Franklin Campbell


A Tribute to Ken Whyld :
Three New Lasker Games

by Neil Brennen
(posted 16 July 2003)


On July 11, 2003, the world of chess history lost one of its most prominent and beloved figures in the passing of Kenneth Whyld.

Whyld's contributions to chess history are substantial, and promise to be enduring. For nearly 25 years he conducted the "Quotes and Queries" column in British Chess Magazine, taking it over on the death of D. J. Morgan in 1978. Whyld wrote many full-length articles on various aspects of chess history, ranging from Alekhine's Nazi chess articles to chess automatons. His work on The Oxford Companion to Chess, written with David Hooper, was described by chess historian Edward Winter as "a masterpiece representing a landmark in the literature of our game", and remains the best one-volume reference work on chess nearly 20 years after it was first published. His recent volume Chess Columns: A List, a book which attempts to provide a listing of every newspaper chess column ever printed, promises to take a place alongside Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia in every chess historian's library. And his Collected Games of Emanuel Lasker, with 1390 games, positions, and problems, is the essential starting point for researchers of the second World Champion's chess career

Lasker was also a starting point for my friendship with Ken, as my stumbling across a previously unknown Lasker game in a Philadelphia chess column was the reason I contacted him early in 2000. If, as Tarrasch wrote, chess has the power to make men happy, chess history has the power to make men friends, as almost everyone who has corresponded with Ken Whyld can attest to. Although that particular game, a draw by a young Carlos Torre from a Lasker simultaneous display, had previously been found by chess historian Eduardo Bauza Mercere in another newspaper, Whyld was kind enough to mention my name in connection to the game's recovery in his British Chess Magazine "Quotes And Queries" column. Due to the importance this game has for our understanding of Torre, as well as the amusing way Black manages to escape with a draw, the game is republished here.

Emanuel Lasker - Carlos Torre [C11]
Simultaneous, Brooklyn Jewish Center,
May 27, 1924
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Bd3 c5 9.0-0 cxd4 10.Re1 Qb6 11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.Rb1 Nc5 13.Nxd4 Bd7 14.b4 Nxd3 15.Qxd3 0-0-0 16.Red1 Rhg8 17.b5 e5 18.Nf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5+ Qe6 20.Qe4 h6 21.a4 f5 22.Qe3 f4 23.Qxa7

               
23...Rxg2+ 24.Kf1 Rg1+ 25.Kxg1 -
Philadelphia Public Ledger July 6, 1924 (Also published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 5, 1924)

However, that game against Torre wasn't the only Lasker game I came across that I sent to Ken. There were three other Lasker games that I had forwarded to Ken over the years, and for some reason or another they were never published either in British Chess Magazine or in a series of newly recovered Lasker games Ken had published in Quarterly for Chess History. These three games, unfortunately, will serve as the conclusion of my nearly four year friendship with Ken Whyld. They are to appear in my forthcoming book Sharp Play: The Life and Games of Sydney Sharp, Pennsylvania's Champion, but it is fitting that they appear now, as a tribute to Lasker's great chronicler.

The first game comes from an April 23, 1910 simul at the Franklin Chess Club in Philadelphia. Lasker, coming off a simul the day before in Washington DC, managed a score of 19 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw against the Philadelphia players. Previously, two games were recovered from this simul: a 58 move loss to Stasch Mlotkowski in a Spanish and a 29 move win against Walter Penn Shipley's McCutcheon French. Now, we can add the following win against 1906 Pennsylvania Champion Aaron Goldberg, taken from the pages of the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Goldberg himself contributed the notes to the paper's chess column. I recall Ken e-mailing me that he liked the way Lasker managed to hang on through a worse position and eventually win the game.

Emanuel Lasker - Aaron Goldberg [C66]
Simultaneous, Philadelphia, April 23, 1910
Notes by Aaron Goldberg
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bxb5 9.Nxb5 a6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.f4 0-0 12.f5 Ng4 13.Nd5 Bf6 14.Qd3 Be5 15.Bf4 c6 16.Qg3 Bd4+
If 16...cxd5 17.Qxg4 dxe4 18.Bxe5 dxe5 19.Qxe4 Qb6+ with an even game. 17.Kh1 If White interposes at e3, Black wins a clear pawn, with a good game. 17...Nf2+ 18.Rxf2 Bxf2 19.Qxf2 cxd5 20.exd5 Qf6 Not as good as 20...Rc8 21.Be3 Rfe8 22.Bd4 Qg5 23.f6
               
23...g6 If 23...Qxd5 here, Black retains the Exchange with a good game. 24.c4 Re4 25.Rd1 Rae8 26.h3 Re2 27.Qf3 Rc2 28.c5 dxc5 29.Bg1 b6 30.d6 Rd8 Lost move. Should have played 30...Rf8 at once. 31.d7 Rd2 32.Qe4 Rf8 33.Rxd2 Qxd2 34.Qe7 Qd1 35.Kh2 Qd2 36.Be3 1-0
Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 1, 1910

The second and third games, recovered from the chess column of the Philadelphia Public Ledger of September 11, 1921, are something of a mystery, and Whyld and I disagreed about their authenticity. In my last e-mail exchange with Whyld he doubted these games were genuinely played by Emanuel Lasker, and asked me to make sure that it wasn't Edward Lasker instead. However, Public Ledger chess columnist David A. Mitchell made it clear it was the former World Champion, and not Edward Lasker, who played them. However, Mitchell never indicated when the games were played, and under what conditions, making it difficult if not impossible to assign the games to a particular Lasker visit to Philadelphia. In fact, Mitchell doesn't even indicate the games were played in Philadelphia, although, since Lasker's opponent was his friend Hermann Voigt, the noted cable-match player and Philadelphia master, it seems likely the City of Brotherly Love was the location of these games. As it stands we can admit the first game to the Lasker canon with the qualification that we cannot place the event, or determine if it was an exhibition game or from a simultaneous display. David Mitchell's notes from the Public Ledger chess column are included below, and lightheartedly poke fun at the Germanic English spoken by "Philadelphia's Chess Boss", as Voigt was often described in the local chess press.

Emanuel Lasker - Hermann Voigt [B58]
Game, Occasion unknown
Notes by David A. Mitchell
1.e4 c5
The Sicilian Defense, a favorite opening of the local player, especially the variation which leads later on to Black's developing the Bishop at g7. 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 Bd7 7.Be3 g6 The usual continuation, the object being to fianchetto the Bishop while the e pawn is unmoved. 8.f4 Bg7 9.Nb3 a5 "We are here to do it!" Have you ever heard this remark from the veteran cable expert? 10.a4 Nb4 11.Nd4 Rc8 12.h3 0-0 13.g4 e5 14.Ndb5 Bxb5 15.Bxb5 exf4 16.Bxf4 d5
               
17.Bg5 White's 17th move looks like the natural play, but in reality it is a trifle off-color. Black's reply proves that the Bishop would have been better posted on f4. 17...Qd6 18.Bh4 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 Qe5 20.0-0 dxe4 Oh, Hermann, and to think that you let him draw! 21.c3 Nd5 22.Qe2 e3 23.Rae1 Bh6 24.Qf3 f5 25.g5 Bg7 26.c4 Nb6 27.Rxe3 Qxb2 28.Re6 Nxc4 29.Bf2 Qd2 30.h4 Ne5 31.Qxb7 -
Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 11, 1921

The second Lasker game from Mitchell's column is, perhaps, the game that caused Whyld to question the attribution to Lasker. Indeed, it seems odd to see a world champion open with 1.a4. However, it's not so strange when one considers the opponent. Hermann Voigt had a penchant for using unorthodox debuts even in a serious match, as the following game illustrates. Morton Eschner - Hermann Voigt Franklin Chess Club -Mercantile Library Chess Association Match, April 1910 1.e4 a5 2.d4 a4 "The boss" claims fine things for this mode of opening, but average mortals may have to strain their optics to see any good in it. 3.a3 g6 The move recommended by S. T. Sharp, earthquake specialist. 4.Bd3 Bg7 5.Be3 Nf6 6.h3 Nc6 7.c3 d5 8.e5 Nd7 9.Ne2 0-0 10.0-0 f6 11.f4 Nb6 12.Nd2 Na5 13.Kh2 f5 14.Rg1 Bd7 15.Qe1 e6 16.g4 fxg4 17.Rxg4 Nc8 18.Qg3 Ne7 19.Rg1 Qe8 20.Nf3 Nc4 21.Bc1 Nf5 22.Bxf5 exf5 23.Rh4 Nd6 24.exd6 Qxe2+ 25.Rg2 Qe6 26.Rxh7 cxd6 27.Ng5 Qe7 28.h4 Rae8 29.h5 gxh5 30.Qf3 Qe1 31.Qxh5 Cannot stop impending mate. 1-0 Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 8, 1910

Here, just like in the Eschner-Voigt game above, the unorthodox debut is routed. It seems likely this was a skittles game, or perhaps an offhand game to test the opening. There's no reason to suspect Mitchell made up the game score Whether Lasker ever expected it to be published is another matter; regardless, the game is as amusing today as Mitchell found it to be eight decades ago.

Emanuel Lasker - Hermann Voigt [A00]
Offhand game, occasion unknown
Notes by David A. Mitchell
1.a4 g6
"None of your monkey business. Just watch us perform!" 2.d4 d5 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bf4 Bf5 6.e3 a6 7.Ne5 c6 8.g4 Bc8 9.h3 h5 10.g5 Nfd7 11.Nd3 Nf8 12.h4 Nbd7 13.Bg3 Ne6 14.Bh3 Nb6 15.Be5 0-0 16.f4
               
16...f6 17.gxf6 exf6 18.f5 fxe5 19.fxg6 Qxh4+ 20.Kd2 Ng5 0-1
Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 11, 1921

And thus my friendship with Ken Whyld closes as it began, with Lasker games. However, there is comfort in knowing that chess history has been, and will continue to be, served well by Ken's works, and that future historians can build on the legacy he left us.

Rest in peace, Ken.

 

© 2003 Neil R. Brennen, All Rights Reserved.

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