The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

John S. Hilbert has previously contributed several articles to this web site. He is the author of Buffalo Chess Tournaments, 1901 and 1894 (Caissa Editions 1996) and Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster (Caissa Editions 1997) and edits Lasker & His Contemporaries, a journal of chess history (Issue 5 is now available and Issue 6 will be coming out soon). Through his writings John demonstrates the joys of chess historical research and brings to life our rich chess past. His careful attention to detail in his thorough research is evident in the following entertaining article. He can be reached at jshchess@aol.com.

Chess Columns: Now and Then
by John S. Hilbert

How does the typical chess column of today stack up against its predecessors? How does today's chess coverage in newspapers match up with what the average person could find a hundred years ago? Doesn't international telecommunications provide extraordinary advances in coverage, including the latest results from current tournaments half-way round the world? Could there be any comparison at all with the much slower paced and hence less valuable coverage of days gone by? The answers may or may not surprise you, depending on how familiar you are with chess columns in general.

Let's look for a moment at what for sake of argument appears to be one of today's typical columns. The major newspaper in my city (why name it? The circulation and size are similar to dozens of others) runs a weekly chess column (why single it out? Many do not differ in essentials). It appears in its Saturday issue, which in turn shows up on my side steps in time for my breakfast. The chess column runs with the comics, which to the cynical mind is more than mere coincidence. It is nationally syndicated, written by a name I know. The column gives one game, usually fairly current—at least within the last month. No notes. A brief write up appears, usually related somehow to the game in question, and often telling some general points about the winner or else the tournament in which it was played. I know for a fact that the syndicated column offers a chess problem each week because, while visiting relatives out of state, I found the same column in their local paper. My local paper, though, does not run the problem, possibly to save space.

In the course of a typical month, then, my local paper runs four chess games, none with notes, no chess problems, and some general commentary. In the past few weeks a game Kasparov played on the Internet appears, no doubt because he lost, and then there was a game by Judit Polgar, and two others by players less memorable than either of these. In a month with five Saturdays my chess diet increases by twenty-five percent. I don't recall any coverage of chess appearing elsewhere in the paper during the past month. This, too, strikes me as typical.

So how does this probably typical monthly scenario measure up against the past? Hold onto your chess boards, ladies and gentleman, as we travel a hundred years back, back to the pages of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a comparable paper for a nearly comparable town. More specifically, let's travel back to September 1897—an ordinary month in an otherwise ordinary chess year.

The first point of comparison, and the first surprise, comes before the paper is even opened. In my town the press has been reduced, essentially, to one major paper ... not so Philadelphia around the turn of the century. The Public Ledger chess column, written by Emil Kemeny, had something my paper's column couldn't even conceive of: competition. Within a few years either way, the Ledger would face columns in the Philadelphia Bulletin (Reichhelm), the Philadelphia Inquirer (Walter Penn Shipley), the Philadelphia Item, and others. No, they didn't necessarily run all at the same, exact time, though a number of them did. But a second paper, much less a second chess column, hasn't published in my town for many years and certainly not three, four, five or more such papers and columns.

The comparisons come thick and heavy as soon as the actual columns are read. My town's paper runs a syndicated column, one butchered by the editorial office, as it is stripped of its chess problem, and runs it in with the comics. Every week I read chess across from Garfield, Peanuts, and the rest of the bunch. Not so for the Public Ledger, where Kemeny's column appeared with the restof the news, sometime the sporting news, other times politics (which, again, the cynical sort might say is just another flavor of the sporting news). Indeed, the physical placement of chess columns, now and then, are just about as far apart as the distance between good news and bad jokes.

But to return to the chess. Kemeny gave only one game in each of his columns. But Kemeny's column wasn't syndicated, and Kemeny lived with and played against many of the folks he reported about. Local players writing about other local players, at least at times. How refreshing! And to make the point even more bracing, Kemeny started the Ledger's chess coverage for the month of September 1897 on Friday, September 3, 1897, with a victory by a local player in—take a deep breath—a correspondence game. He introduced the game as follows: "An unusually interesting game in the late Continental Correspondence tourney between Messrs. J. S. Hale, of Canada, and Mordecai Morgan, of this city, resulted in a victory for the local player. The game was strongly contested, and not until the twenty-ninth move was Mr. Morgan enabled to obtain any advantage. At that point a brilliant play, apparently involving the sacrifice of a pawn, gave him a winning position. The play from this point to the end abounded in intricate complications, and it required skill and accuracy to force a win. Mr. Morgan succeeded in doing it; he won the exchange on the forty-second move, and five moves later his opponent surrendered, the position then being a hopeless one."

Not bad. Now I have a clear sense of the game, even without notes. Did someone say without notes? Guess again, then read 'em and weep:

J.S. Hale - Mordecai Morgan
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Final Round, 1897
Ponziani Opening
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 Mr. Steinitz recommends 3. ...d5 as the best defense. White, however, by continuing Qa4, establishes a pretty powerful attack, which makes the defense quite difficult. The text move is perfectly satisfactory. Mr. Lasker considers it preferable to d5. 4.d4 Nxe4 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.dxe5 Nc5 8.Bc2 Be6 9.0-0 Be7 10.f4 g6 11.Be3 11. g4, followed eventually by f5, was a promising line of play, though it must be admitted it was somewhat dangerous, for the open g-file might have given Black a strong kingside attack. 11...Qd7 12.Qd4 12. Qe2, followed by Nd2 and Rad1, was probably better. The text play exposes somewhat the White Queen, for, if Black moves away his knight, the Bc5, as well as the c5 continuation, becomes threatening. 12...b6 13.Nd2 Nb7 14.Nb3 c5 15.Qd2 f5 16.a4 Better, perhaps, was 16. exf6, followed by Rae1, and eventually by f5. 16...a5 17.Bd1 Kf7 18.Qf2 h6 19.Nd2 Rag8 20.Be2 Nd8 21.Bb5 Nc6 22.Nf3 22. Rad1 was probably better. Black could hardly answer 22. ...d4 on account of 23. cxd4, followed by 24. Bxd4, and if 24. ...Qxd4 then 25. Bxc6. The text move invites the advance of Black's g-pawn. 22...g5 23.Qd2 g4 24.Ne1 h5 25.Nc2 h4 26.Rad1 h3 Forces the g3 reply, and the kingside becomes blocked. It will be observed, however, that the position is rather dangerous for White, Black being enabled to occupy the diagonal bearing on the kingside. It is true White is enabled to defend, but his opponent also threatens to break through the center. 27.g3 Qb7 28.Qf2 Better perhaps was the following continuation: Rfe1, Kf1, and Bg1. The play selected does not prevent the advance of Black's d-pawn, as the progress of the game shows. 28...Rd8 29.Rd2 If White intended to double rooks on the d-file he might have moved 29. Rd3, so as to be enabled to retreat the Bishop to c1. This however would have cut off the diagonal for White's King bishop and Black by answering 29. ...Na7 and 30. ...Nxb5 would have obtained an advantage on the queenside. Instead of 29. Rd2 White should have played 29. Bc1. The advance of the d-pawn would then be less dangerous. 29...d4 Brilliant and sound play. The move opens the diagonal for the Black Queen and Queen bishop. Since White is forced to capture the pawn, Black will be enabled to play Bc5. This is sufficient advantage to sacrifice a pawn. A closer examination of the position will show that White cannot well gain the pawn, for if Bxc6 and cxd4, Black answers Qxc6 and Qe4, threatening Bd5, followed by mating in a few moves. It appears that this well-timed advance of the d-pawn gives Black a winning position. 30.Bxc6 Qxc6 31.cxd4 Qe4 32.Rfd1 Bb3 A powerful move. White cannot answer 33. dxc5 on account of 33. ...Bxc2 winning a piece. Nor can he play 33. d5, for 33. ...Bxa4 would win. If White plays 33. Qe2, then 33. ...Bxc2 and 34. ...cxd4 would be the answer. There seems no better move for White than 33. Rc1, which, however, is not satisfactory, Black gaining time to double his rooks on the d-file. 33.Rc1 Rd7 34.Qe2 Rhd8 35.Qd3 Bxc2 36.Rcxc2 cxd4 37.Qxe4 fxe4 38.f5 The exchange of Queens was, perhaps, the best play, yet it gives Black a winning advantage, White being unable to save the bishop. The f5 move is quite ingenious. Black cannot capture the bishop on account of e6+ winning the rook. 38...Rd5 39.Bxd4 Bc5 Had White played 39. Bf4 then Black would have won with 39. ...Bc5, followed with the advance of the passed center pawns. 39. Bxd4 was more promising. Had Black answered 39. ...Rxd4 then 40. Rxd4 and 41. Rc7 would have followed and White was quite sure to regain his piece by f6. The text play, however, prevents this play. Black wins the exchange, which is sufficient to force a win. 40.e6+ Ke8 41.Bxc5 Rxd2 42.Rxd2 Rxd2 43.Be3 43. Ba3 threatening f6 and f7 could not be played, Black's answer would have been 43. ...e3, forcing White to play 44. Kf1 and Black continues 44. ...Rf2+ and 45. ...Rxf5, winning easily. 43...Re2 44.Bxb6 e3 45.Bxa5 Rg2+ 46.Kf1 Rxh2 Causes White to surrender. Black wins easily with Rf2+, followed by Rxf5 or Rxb2 and h2. 0-1

Had this column shown up on my side step IN Saturday morning's paper, chances are I'd still be playing the game over at lunch. And maybe again the following day. Is it any wonder so many players kept scrapbooks a hundred years ago, with material like this to collect? Is it any wonder those scrapbooks wereoften very heavy?

With this kind of coverage, not only of a local player but of a correspondence game, one can easily imagine Kemeny building quite a following waiting for his Friday columns. Those who did wait for his Friday columns would have been disappointed, however. Why? Because they would have missed a good deal of coverage.

In fact, they better have finished up playing over the Hale - Morgan game from Friday's paper, because the next day, Saturday, September 4, 1897, Kemeny was right back in action, reporting on a seven player, double round robin event being played in town at the Steinitz Chess Club, a minor club that actually played its games, at least for this tournament, at the city's most prestigious chess location, the Franklin Chess Club (which survives to this day, by the way, in merged form, as the Franklin-Mercantile Chess Club). The game from the Steinitz Club tournament was also annotated, and two chess problems accompanied that column.

Imagine two columns in one week with the kind of detailed notes given in the game above. Can you imagine it? Okay, now imagine three. That's right. With Sunday off, Kemeny was right back on duty Monday, with a September 6, 1897 Ledger column devoted to a consultation game (now there's a lost art, consultation play). This time the game selected was from out of town, though just up north, at the Brooklyn Chess Club. And who were the lucky unknowns selected for these honors? Why, the New York State Junior Champion, some one named Frank Marshall along with a fellow named Chadwick formed one team. And who did they beat? Just a kid, one named William Ewart Napier, playing with another fellow, this one named Elwell.

Chadwick and Elwell were both well-known members of the well-respected Brooklyn Chess Club. Their contributions are well beyond the score of this article as are, for that matter, their rather better known companions Marshall and Napier. Suffice it to say that of the latter two, one became champion of the United States (1909), while the other, and younger, became first British Chess Federation champion (1904). The consultation game was annotated in detail by Kemeny, just as he had annotated the games for his two previous columns of that week.

By now the happy, though winded, chess playing subscriber to the Public Ledger no doubt needed a break. And no doubt so did Kemeny, as one assumes he indulged in most normal habits, at least on occasion, such as eating, sleeping, and earning a living. The next column did not appear until Friday, September 10, 1897, when Kemeny annotated a game between Schieffelin and Stuart from the New York - Philadelphia inter-state contest played at Thousand Islands, New York, the previous month. Three days later, on September 13, 1897, Kemeny gave Schelecter - Thiring, Vienna 1897 the same treatment. Another three days passed before a game from a local match between Ferris and Voigt appeared.

Then, on the following day, Friday September 17, 1897, readers of the Ledger were once more treated to Kemeny's handling of a correspondence game. This one, too, was from the Continental Correspondence Tournament (which, by the way, had been initiated by local players including Walter Penn Shipley). If anything, the notes were longer and more detailed than in the Hale - Morgan game given two weeks earlier.

Once again, Kemeny gave a useful introduction to the game. Another distinction between now and then was that a hundred years ago some politeness was shown in introducing the protagonists, a lesson long forgotten though perhaps worthy of remembrance: "Mr. Julius A. Kaiser succeeded in defeating Mr. J. S. Hale, of Canada, in a splendidly contested game in the final round of the Continental Correspondence Tourney, which was finished last week. Mr. Kaiser selected the Queen's Gambit, which was declined by his opponent. Soon an interesting struggle ensued on the kingside, and, though the attack looked quite threatening, Mr. Hale was enabled to hold his own. The game abounded in interesting complications, and the play on both sides was of a high standing. The end game was a particularly instructive one. Mr. Hale missed a drawing chance, and his opponent quickly took advantage of it. Mr. Kaiser's sixty-fourth move, which won the game, is especially noteworthy."

Julius A. Kaiser - J.S. Hale
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Final Round 1897
Queen's Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 0-0 8.Bd3 Ne8 Mr. Napier, in his game against Mr. Steinitz [Steinitz-Napier, Staats-Zeitung Cup Tournament, Thousand Islands, Rd. 1, August 1897; Steinitz eventually won but only after Napier blundered at move eighteen—JSH] played 8. ...Re8 which threatens 9. ...Bxc5, followed by 10. ...e5. It seems that 8. ...Ne8 is hardly as satisfactory as 8. ...Re8. The knight should be kept at f6 to guard the h-pawn, which will be attacked by White's Qc2 continuation. The play selected makes it difficult for Black to develop the Queen knight and Queen bishop, while if 8. ...Re8 had been played the knight could be moved to f8 and g6. 9.h4 f6 To free his position Black endeavors to advance the e-pawn; he, however, is prevented by White's subsequent play, Qc2, which forces Black to answer f5. 10.Qc2 f5 11.g4 g6 12.gxf5 The exchange allows Black to get rid of his rather weak e-pawn, yet White had hardly any better continuation. 12. g5 would have somewhat blocked Black's position, but it would not lead to such lively attack as the text move does. 12...exf5 13.h5 13. 0-0-0, followed by Rdg1 and h5, it seems, was a stronger continuation. 13...g5 14.Rg1 h6 15.Bxf5 Ng7 16.Bh7+ Kh8 17.Ne5 At this stage White might have played 17. Nh4, threatening Ng6+. Black had no better answer than 17. ...gxh4, and White, by continuing 18. Rxg7, obtains a strong if not winning attack. Black cannot well capture the rook on account of 19. Qg6+ and 20. Qxh6 forcing a win in short order. It seems White has missed a brilliant win. 17...Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Bf6 19.Bd6 Be7 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 21.Bg6 Bf5 22.Bxf5 Rxf5 23.Rg2 Raf8 24.0-0-0 Qf7 25.Rd2 Nxh5 26.Qd3 Rf3 27.Rh2 Kg7 28.Qe2 g4 29.Rg2 g3 This advance seems premature. Black should have moved 29. ...Qg6, followed eventually by Nf6 and h5. The g6 play renders the pawn weak, and practically it does not involve much attack on the f-pawn, the Black pawn being pinned. The outcome of this play will be the loss of the Black g-pawn, as White's correct continuation proves. 30.Nd1 Qg6 31.Qe1 Nf6 32.Rxg3 Rxg3 33.fxg3 Ne4 34.Rg2 Rf3 34. ...h5, followed by Rf3, was, perhaps, better, but, at any rate, it will cause considerable difficulty for Black to regain the pawn he lost in consequence of the inferior g6 play. 35.g4 Qg5 36.Qg1 Rh3 37.Kc2 Quite necessary, Black threatening to continue Qh4 and Rh1. 37...Kg6 38.Qf1 Qf6 39.Qe2 Qf3 40.Kd3 Kg5 41.Qxf3 Rxf3 42.Nc3 Nf6 Much better was 42. ...Ng3, preventing White from Ke2. Black then could continue Kxg4, and the h-pawn would become quite dangerous. White could not answer 43. Rh2 on account of 43. ...Rxe3+ followed by 44. ...Nf1+ and 45. ...Nxh2. The play selected eventually will win the g-pawn, but White will obtain an advantage in position by placing his rook on the open f-file and entering at f7. 43.Ke2 Rh3 44.Nd1 Rh4 44. ...Nxg4 at once could not well be played. White might have answered 45. Nf2 and 46. Kf3, as well as Rxg4+, followed by Nf2+, Nxg3 and Kf3. In both cases White would have obtained a slight advantage. 45.Nf2 Ne4 46.Kd3 Nxf2+ 47.Rxf2 Rxg4 48.Rf7 h5 49.Rxb7 h4 50.Rg7+ Kh5 51.Rxa7 Rg6 An error in position judgment. Black did not appreciate the value of his opponent's pawns on the queenside and pursued aggressive tactics, relying on the passed h-pawn. The play is wrong, as the progress of the game shows. White will be enabled to sacrifice his rook for the Black h-pawn and force a win with his pawns on the queenside. Instead of 51. ...Rg6 Black should have played 51. ...Kg6, which would have forced a draw. White had no means to stop the h-pawn except by playing 52. Ra8. Black then answers 52. ...Kg7. White thus could be prevented from sacrificing his rook, and he would be obliged to draw the game by moving Ra8 and Ra7. 52.Rh7+ Kg4 53.a4 h3 54.b4 Rg5 55.Rxh3 Forced, for otherwise Black plays 55. ...Rh5 and 56. ...h2. The sacrifice, however, is perfectly sound. Black's King cannot reach the queenside quickly enough to stop the pawn, and the rook will be unable to cope with the well supported advanced pawns. 55...Kxh3 56.b5 Rg1 Best, should White be tempted to play 57. b6, Black would answer 57. ...Ra1, and if 58. b7 then 58. ...Rb1 would win. The text move forces the bxc6 combination, which gives Black some drawing chances. 57.bxc6 Rg6 58.e4 dxe4+ 59.Kxe4 Rxc6 60.Kd5 Ra6 61.c6 Ra5+ 61. ...Rxa4 at once was hardly better. White would have answered c7, Kc6, d5, d6, and d7, winning easily. 62.Kd6 Rxa4 63.d5 Kg4 64.Kc5 Beautiful play, which wins in every variation. If Black answers 64. ...Ra5+, then 65. Kb6 would follow. Black, of course, cannot capture the d-pawn, for c7 would win, and if he moves 65. ...Ra8, then Kb7, c7, Kc6 and d6 would follow. If Black plays Kf5 or Ra1 at once, White wins with c7, Kc6 and the advance of the d-pawn. 1-0

Playing over this one I would have missed my breakfast and lunch. Dinner would have been in serious doubt. My newspaper boy would have been seeking disability payments for the hernia he had developed carrying around bags of newspapers weighed down with the ink devoted to chess annotations. And neither of us would have had a chance to catch our breath, as Kemeny and the Ledger the next day, Saturday, September 18, 1897, would offer an annotated game recently won by Baron Rothchild in Paris. Two more chess problems graced the pages of the Saturday edition, as they had the previous week.

By Monday, however, after his day of rest, Kemeny had another correspondence chess offering. This one, though, instead of extending through a difficult and very instructive endgame like the game above, proved a miniature. The column, entitled "One of the Shortest and Best Games of the Continental Tournament," once more included a nice synopsis of the play: "The game played in the recent Continental Correspondence Tourney between Messrs. L'hommede, of Chicago, and Webster, of Boston, was a short one, but very brilliant, and resulted in a victory for the former. Mr. Webster did not select the best opening moves, and his opponent had a chance to establish a powerful attack by means of a brilliant piece sacrifice on the ninth turn. The continuation from this point was a lively one. Mr. Webster might have escaped defeat, but his fourteenth and seventeenth moves were inferior, and his game soon became hopeless. The battle might have been prolonged by means of a piece sacrifice on the eighteenth move. Mr. Webster, however, endeavoring to save the knight, got in a position where he could not escape immediate defeat, and on his twentieth turn he surrendered."

Hollis Webster - L'hommede
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Final Round 1897
Queen's Knight Opening
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 3. f4 is the usual play, and is much superior to the text play. White weakens his kingside without obtaining any advantage. 3...Bc5 4.Bg2 a6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Nge2 White should have moved 6. h3 prior to Nge2, to avoid the Ng4 play. 6...Ng4 7.0-0 h5 8.h3 The position is quite compromised, White being unable to develop his forces or dislodge the Black knight. His game, however, was not in immediate danger. 8. h4 should have been played to avoid the threatening 8. ...h4. White then might continue Nd5 and Bh3, with good chances of relieving his position. 8...h4 Brilliant play, which seems to be perfectly sound. Black gets the exchange and two pawns for the piece, with an almost irresistible attack. 9.hxg4 hxg3 10.g5 He could not play 10. Nxg3 or 10. Be3 on account of 10. ...Qh4, which would win easily. 10...gxf2+ 11.Rxf2 d6 12.Ng3 Bh3 13.Nh5 Qc8 14.Nd5 Better, perhaps, was 14. Nxg7+, followed by 15. Nf5. 14...Bxf2+ 15.Kxf2 Bxg2 16.Kxg2 Kf8 17.Be3 A serious mistake, which loses the game. White should have played 17. g6. If Black answers 17. ...fxg6, then 18. Qf3+ and 19. Nxg7 would follow. White moved 17. Be3 to hold the 17. ...Nd4 play, which, however, was not as dangerous as the 17. ...g6 move. 17...g6 18.Nhf6 Enables Black to win in short order. 18. Ndf6 would have prolonged the battle, though the loss of the piece would have finally decided the game in Black's favor. 18...Qh3+ 19.Kf2 Qh2+ Causes White to surrender. If he moves 20. Kf3, then 20. ...Rh3+ mates in two moves. If 20. Kf1, then 20. ...Qg3 wins, while if 20. Ke1 then 20. ...Qg2 would leave White without satisfactory reply. 0-1

Surely now the pace and frequency of chess columns would slow down for the hard-breathing reader. Not true ... the very next day, Kemeny annotated another nice miniature, this time a game from the Southampton tournament for the Sir George Newnes Amateur Challenge Cup. The winner, H. E. Atkins, would go on to win the British Chess Federation Championship many times starting in 1905, and was also become a regular player on the British Cable Match team. His opponent in the Kemeny column, W. H. Gunston, would play in one cable match, that of 1903, where on ninth board he defeated Brooklyn club player and future American Chess Bulletin annotator, Clarence Seaman Howell. The Atkins - Gunston game is a nice specimen of Atkin's early play, and a game not readily available today.

On Wednesday, September 23, 1897, the day after the Atkins game appeared, Kemeny annotated another correspondence chess game, though one not taken from the locally run Continental Chess Correspondence Tournament. The fireworks are quite pretty, and once more Kemeny's annotations allow the average player to witness much of the game's hidden beauty.

Dr. Michaelson - H. Caro
Correspondence Game 1897
Scotch Gambit
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Qd4 Qe7 8.f3 The variation selected by White is hardly a satisfactory one. On his fifth turn he should have played Nxc6, followed by Bd3 and 0-0. At the present stage he has no better move than 8. f3. He could not play 8. Bg5 on account of 8. ...Qxe4+, nor was 8. Bd3 satisfactory, for Black would have answered 8. ...d5 and 9. ...c5. Had White played e5, he would have lost that valuable pawn, Black moving Bc5 and d6. 8...c5 9.Qf2 Perhaps the best move, for it gives free action to both bishops and prevents such possibilities as Nxe4, followed by Qh4+. 9...0-0 10.Be2 d5 11.0-0 11. exd5 was likely to prove disastrous. Black, by continuing 11. ...Re8 and 12. ...Ba6, would have established a winning attack. 11...d4 12.Nd1 h6 13.Qh4 Bd7 14.Bd3 Rfd8 15.g4 White endeavors to establish an attack. The advance of the g-pawn weakens the kingside without obtaining any advantage. Black pays but little attention to this maneuver, and gets his forces ready for an attack on the queenside. Instead of White's thirteenth, fourteenth and present move, Bd2 might have been played. The exchange of bishops would have weakened Black's pawns on the queenside. An attack on that side would have been more promising. 15...Rab8 16.Qg3 Be6 17.b3 Necessary, for 17. ...c4 and 18. ...d3 were threatening to win the bishop. 17...Rb6 18.a3 Ba5 19.b4 Well played. White gets the a-pawn or c-pawn with good attacking chances. 19...cxb4 20.axb4 Bxb4 21.Rxa7 Rc6 22.Bf4 Rc8 23.Nf2 Better, perhaps, was 23. Be5, followed by Bxf6 and f4. White intended to double rooks on the a-file. By moving his knight, White enables his opponent to place his bishop at c3. 23...Qc5 24.Rfa1 Bc3 25.R1a4 g5 Black is preparing an attack on the queenside, and for that reason he moves 25. ..g5 to stop White from making headway on the kingside. The play seems fully justified. White has his rooks doubled on the open a-file, and they are quite powerful for the attack, yet they cannot be easily used for defensive purposes, since the black bishop cuts off their retreat to a1. 26.Bc1 Rb6 27.Ba3 Qc6 28.Be7 Nd7 29.f4 Rb1+ 30.Kg2 Nb6 31.fxg5 Ingenious play. White would obtain a winning attack should Black accept the offered sacrifice of the rook, as the play below shows. 31...hxg5 31...Nxa4 32.Qh4 Qe8 (32...Bb4 33.gxh6 Bxe7 34.Qxe7 followed by Rxa4 or Qf6. ) 33.gxh6 followed by Qg5+ or Bf6 and Qg5+. Black's correct reply, 31. ...hxg5, evades such complications. 32.Qe5 Bd2 He could not capture the rook on account of Qxg5+ and Bf6 forcing a mate in a few moves. 33.Rxd4 More conservative and in all probability better was 33. Ra1. The premature capture of the d-pawn places White's Queen and rook very badly, and Black's attack becomes almost irresistible. 33...Bf4 34.Qa5 Nc4 Excellent play. White cannot well capture the knight by 35. Bxc4, for Bxc4 would follow, leaving the White c-pawn unguarded, and the two Black bishops would occupy a very threatening position. Perhaps the best answer White had on hand was 35. Rxc4, sacrificing the exchange. 35.Qa4 Ne3+ 36.Kf3 He could not play 36. Kh3, for 36. ...Rh1 would have followed. If then 37. Nxh1, Black answers 37. ...Bxg4 mate, otherwise 37. ...Rxh2 mate follows. 36...Bxg4+ Exceedingly pretty play, which involves the offer of a Queen and knight sacrifice. As the progress of the game shows White cannot win either of them. 37.Nxg4 Nxg4 38.Ra6 He could not capture the knight, for 38. ...Qe6+ followed by 39. ...Qh3+ would mate in five moves. Nor could he play 38. Qxc6. Black would answer 38. ...Ne5+, followed by 39. ...Nxc6 and both rooks as well as the bishop would be attacked, Black winning at least the exchange. 38...Ne5+ 39.Kf2 Qc3 Causes White to surrender. He has no means to stop the Black Queen from entering at d2. If he plays 40. Be2 Black answers 40. ...Qe3+. 0-1

Thursday, September 24, 1897, the very next day, Kemeny treated his readers to his own victory over Eugene Delmar from the inter-state chess match played in August at Thousand Islands. I should mention that both this game, as well as the Schieffelin - Stuart game from the same event published in the Ledger for September 10, 1897, are exceedingly difficult games to find. I know. I've been trying to locate as many Thousand Islands 1897 chess games as I can for a bit of future writing.

Finally, on Saturday, September 25, 1897, Kemeny took at least a partial break. The Ledger ran the chess column, as usual on Saturdays, but no annotated game, or any game, appeared. The usual two problems were present, however, as well as some information about the Brooklyn Chess Club asking the Franklin Chess Club of Philadelphia for some assistance in the next cable match. Monday, September 27, 1897 saw Kemeny return with renewed vigor, annotating Blackburne - Cohn from Berlin 1897. Just before the end of the month, on September 29, 1897, Kemeny annotated one other game, this one Walbrodt's victory over Charousek from the same tournament.

So ended chess activity in the Philadelphia Public Ledger for September 1897. Kemeny had contributed an astonishing fifteen chess columns during the month, including fourteen deeply annotated games. Need more be said as to how now and then compare when it comes to chess columns?

And before anyone thinks I'm taking unfair advantage by selecting Kemeny's column from the Ledger, think of this: as remarkable as it was for Kemeny to contribute fifteen columns during a thirty day month, by today's standards it is even more remarkable that a general circulation newspaper would run all fifteen of them. Kemeny's annotations were more extensive than most during the period, but his coverage of events, both locally and nationally, was not. Indeed, his coverage of events was mostly non-existent, and certainly so when compared to other chess columns of the times, including Hermann Helms's long-running column for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. That column ran from 1893 with only a few relatively minor interruptions until 1954, when the paper folded—an incredible sixty-one years. And both columns, Kemeny's and Helms's, used about the same column space, though for somewhat different purposes.

The real point of my comparing chess columns between now and then, however, isn't to bash the syndicated columns of today, but to suggest just how entertaining, informative, and fascinating a local column, written by a local player, could once more be in just about any major metropolitan area. Such a column would be extraordinarily refreshing, a major boost to local club play, and well worth saving by breakfast readers like myself.

There are very good chess columns today, just as there were horrible columns one hundred years ago. And the costs of publishing, including paper, printing and payment for local coverage, just to name a few areas, are ever so much higher today than in times past. But those facts don't change the basic point: by and large we have lost much more than we have gained in terms of extensive, detailed chess coverage with highly entertaining material appearing on our steps for consumption along with cereal and eggs.

Of course, it need not be that way. To be fair, especially in terms of cost, one might better examine the availability of local, state, and regional chess coverage through today's ever-growing medium: the Internet. After all, where are you reading this column? Yes, the future in all likelihood does not bode well for detailed chess coverage reappearing in the daily print press. Perhaps the continued growth of Internet chess coverage will offer readers the same detail, delight, and wonder as did the chess columns of so long ago. Whether that coverage dissolves into the plain and tranquil waters of international syndication, or maintains individual identity, both in writing and in subject matter, is a question only time will answer. Then it will be time for another comparison of chess columns, now and then.

Copyright © 1998 by John S. Hilbert

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