The path to self-damnation:
the dangers of self-publishing
Review by Olimpiu G. Urcan
(posted 18 November 2005)
The City of London Chess Club Championship
By Roger Leslie Paige
PABD, Great Britain 2005
I have seen this book on the Internet as many of the readers
of The Campbell Report perhaps have. I took a further
step and I bought the book hoping that it would contain some
of the games I was missing for one of my future projects. The
slight concern over disclosing my credit card number on the
Internet, the twelve days waiting period, and the disappointment
that the booklet did not contain what I needed, is something
one can get over rather quickly without too much ado. Yet, some
features of the book cannot be left without mentioning.
Errors are something I've thought a lot about since 2004, when
my first book on Albin and Marco came out with many mistakes
in both language, editing and presentation. I've made some,
if not all, of the same mistakes that Paige has made in the
book under review, and so I have some insight into why they
Simple research shows that Roger Leslie Paige loves Publish
and Be Damned's motto: "Publish and sell your book in four
easy steps". Clicking on the link http://www.pabd.com/topics/chess
one finds no less than four books signed by the same author
between 2004 and 2005. The motto of the company that deals with
this kind of self-publishing is based on the Duke of Wellington's
reply to one of his mistresses:
"Our name is inspired by the Duke of Wellington who, when threatened by a mistress with the publication of certain private letters, returned a note to her that said: "Publish and be damned".
The name of our service is a little irreverent but was a reaction to the hurdles in the way of today's aspiring author. At a time when people are more interested in expressing themselves in print than ever, it has become more difficult to achieve that goal. We believe that it is your choice to publish and the arbitrary tastes of publishers, the perceived marketability of your book or cost of publication should not act as a barrier.
PABD was established with a simple philosophy. To provide writers with a highly cost-effective means of turning their manuscript into a finished book. We have achieved this by creating a series of automated tools that you can use to self-publish your own book - and then sell it if you wish."
Personally I feel that self-publishing can be cheaper and allows
dreams about bigger profits, yet is a dangerous affair for a
chess writer. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the
copy I have ordered of Paige's latest book.
On the length (or rather shortness) of those 151 pages that
claim to be a "history of the London Chess Club Championships
from 1890 to 1939", the author has structured the material into
7 major sections: 1. Introduction, 2. Historical Summary, 3.
Some Club Personalities, 4. Annual Results/Crosstables, 5.Games,
6. Bibliography, 7. Index of Players. Before I offer my analysis
of these pages, here is a general outlook of the book: once
you get past the front cover, perhaps nicely done to some extent,
your are hit by a remarkable lack of editing and proper page
layout. The text wanders all over the page, and the poor matching
of the headlines with the text and quotes, the lack of proper
borders, and a general lack of decent editing immediately strike
The introduction explains that "it is surprising that there
is no single, definitive history of the famous championship,
or of the club which hosted it." At the end of the half of page
of introducing the reader to the topic Paige hopes that "this
work gives some idea of the richness of this famous club's championship.
Perhaps some day a more comprehensive history it will be written".
We do hope so. And not because this booklet is a ground-breaking
work, but rather because such a comprehensive and serious history
of one of the historical European chess clubs would be necessary
since Paige's attempt leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth
of an admirer of British chess.
The "Historical Summary", the second section of the book, confirms
the alarming signs that the reader receives from the very first
lines of the Introduction. You might expect at least a couple
of very good pages of useful information, but what you get is
exactly 31 lines and a long table with the champions of the
London Chess Club between 1891 and 1939. Those 31 lines contain
a short trip among the buildings and locations where the Club
used to have its premises over the years, and the reader starts
to feel dizzy when from line to line he is sent to The Horns
Tavern, The White Heart, The Green Dragon, Mouflets Hotel, City
Restaurant, Salutation Inn, The Windmill Tavern, and Grocer's
Hall Court between 1852 and 1939. The first table of the book
presents the champions of the Club and offers only the names
and the year when the respective performance was achieved.
Quickly passing by this simple and lazily done set of statistics
the reader reaches the third section of the booklet, "Some Club
Personalities", richer in text but lacking in taste again. In
this section of 22 pages there are 33 profiles of some of the
players who were involved with the activities of the London
Chess Club. Occasionally, the most schematic
data offered is accompanied by an extremely rudimentary crosstable
with the player's results in some British tournaments. The information
given on these players is rather sketchy and it is less than
one can find in any serious chess dictionary. The general feeling
one gets is the need for double-checking. Surely, the author's
sources were restricted to the obituaries published in the British
Chess Magazine and extracting a few dates and one sentence
cannot be enough to build a historical profile. One example
of how Laige treated his subjects follows below, with the note
that punctuation and style was kept as in original at page 18:
He joined the City Club in 1875 but then left England to go to the U.S.A. and France. He rejoined the club in 1888. Not a lot is known about Moriau whom Edward Winter ("A Chess Omnibus") sugests might be the same person as Colonel Moreau who lost all 26 of his games at Monte Carlo in 1903. Page 16 of the January 1893 "B.C.M." says "Mr. C. Moriau (champion) is a Frenchman, but does not look it.". The February 1874 issue of "Deutsche Schachzeitung" suggests his place of residence was Lyons. The first City championship of 1891 was played in two sections: Moriau and Mocatta tied in section A and Moriau won the play-off. In Section B Loman and Woon tied and Loman won that playoff. Loman then beat Moriau for the championship in 1892. The "B.C.M." for June 1898 (p254) gave the following brief details: "We are sorry to announce that Mr. Moriau, a well-known and brilliant over-the-board and blindfold player, is dangerously ill and whatever may happen it may be taken for granted that his chess career is finally over." There was, however, no subsuquent reference to his possible death or recovery. "
If the reader wants to learn more about the mentioned Woon
that tied with Loman in Section B, the profile number 34 can
hardly suffice. Although he was a member of the Club for 30
years Woon received 5 lines. Again punctuation follows the original,
"34.Charles J. Woon (c1854-1912)
He was a member if the City Club for 30 years and last played in the championship in 1908/09 when he came fifth. In 1897 City Summer tournament won by Blackburne.Woon came 7th out of 8 with 2.5 ponts. He was champion of Middlesex in 1911"
The fourth section of the book, "Annual Results", is the most
distasteful. A series of results, combined with telegraphic
text and even messier crosstables, form the statistics
that any chess club's historian would be expected to provide
with maximum of accuracy, dilligence and usefulness possible.
I can only assume Paige got tired of drafting the crosstables
and he gave it all up. He simply scanned the crosstables one
can find in the British Chess Magazine and reproduced
them as pictures inside the body of the text. Not even proper
attribution is given. The bad quality of the scan, the lack
of taste and the little amount of work shown by such a minimum
of editing technique would convince the reader that he just
spent some pounds unnecessarily. The only constructive thought
that comes to mind is that - since they are taken directly from
the British Chess Magazine and the scan is the living
proof - such scans have a higher degree of credibility.
If one hopes that the author will redeem his sins once the
fifth section of the book is reached, dissapointment is a certainty.
On 116 pages there are 188 games. The style used is based on
one of the Chessbase programs and the Chessbase diagrams make
any chess book dealing with historical topics less esthetical.
With Paige's booklet the problem resides not only with the software
and layout. Most of the games have annotations given without
any text explanations, and they are shown in the standard Chessbase
style. No source is indicated when such annotations (without
any text) are provided. A sample game found on page 82 (we've
respected the punctuation and symbols used by the author in
J. Davidson - Lasker, Edward [A43]
City of London C.C. Championship, 1912/13 London, 1913
1. d4 c5 2. e3 e6 3. Nf3 f5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 cxd4 6. exd4
Bb4 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O b6 9. Qb3 [9.Bf4+/-] 9…Be7 10.
Re1 Bb7 11. d5 Na6 12. dxe6 [12.Qd1+/=] 12…Bxf3 13. gxf3
Nc5 [13…dxe6=/+] 14. Qc2 dxe6 15. Bf1 Bd6 [15…Qd7=]
16. Nb5 Bb8 17. b4 Na6 18. Rxe6 [18.Rb1+/=] 18…Nxb4
19. Qxf5 a6 20. Ba3 [20.Na3=] 20…Nfd5 21. Qe4 axb5 22.
cxd5 Qg5+ [22…Rxa3-/+] 23. Bg2 Rxa3 24. Re8?
[24.Qxb4 Rd3 25.Rae1=] 24…Bxh2+ 25. Kf1 Qf6 26. Rc1 Bd6
27. Bh3 Rxf3 28. Rxf8+ Bxf8 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. Rc8 Qh4 BCM
5/1913, p208 0-1
Almost every game has sketchy annotations and source given
in such form, although some of the games do not have any indicated
source and they are simply found in the common databases, a
thing that implies no historical research skills. A problem
appears with the sources as it is very clear that the author
based his selection of games from the British Chess Magazine.
A simply made statistic shows that aproximately 85% of the games
given quote as source the leading chess magazine used as primary
source by Paige. Perhaps here rests the main drawbacks of his
The last part of it, the bibliographic list, provides the sources
Paige used, and here we quote his primary sources: The Chess
Monthly, Chess Amateur, British Chess Magazine,
The Field, The City of London Chess Club Annual Report
("various years", the author notes). Keeping in mind Paige's
decision to extensively use the British Chess Magazine
in selecting his information and games, the author's inability
to conduct a minimum of proper historical research becomes very
evident . Historical study done on single sources, easily available
as it is with the famous British Chess Magazine, without
the intention and the will to put in real efforts for unravelling
unknown, forgotten or really interesting material from less
known or difficult to find sources, is one of the sins of untrained
historians or authors experimenting with the writing of chess
history. Not a single British chess column, and there were many
during the London Chess Club's long existence, was researched
by Paige. One wonders if Paige knows how much work, travelling
and resoures a chess historian spends on covering his subject:
many travel to libraries from Cleveland, London or The Hague
to unravel precious information from known or less known chess
columns. It has been said countless times that many chess history
monographs, produced by Eastern-Europeans basically (but not
only), fail with regard to accuracy/fluency of English language,
proper editing and some methodological problems. Paige's work
is an example that reverses this description of an inferior
chess history book: coming from a native English speaker, dealing
with a British chess club, yet working outside (or below) of
an established historical methodology and ignoring the contemporary
need for good chess editing.
The short bibliographical list is followed by an index of players. The back cover has an inscription reading "A History of the City of London Chess Club Championship from 1890 to 1939".
In conclusion, Paige's The City of London Chess Club Championship
(PABD, 2005) is like a research note pad sketchily made in the
first stage of collecting material. It should have been followed
by a couple of hard years of intensive work on all available
chess columns from London, the majority of chess journals of
the époque and a greater care in bringing to life the characters
that gave so much of their time and energy to the London Chess
Club. There are no illustrations in the book, which makes the
work what it is: a faceless piece of work, without personality
or the capacity to remind us of the life of an illustrious chess
The ability to paint these characters in such a way as to reflect
the life, growth and death of such a club belongs to the gift
and passion of a hard working chess historian. Paige failed
here and his display of so called history makes us paraphrase
the same Duke of Wellington's words: I don't know what effect
this booklet will have upon the reader, but, by God, it frightens
me. But perhaps the final words of our review are little irreverent.
© 2005 Olimpiu Urcan. All rights reserved.