* The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
Chess Reviews

Following are reviews of chess-related published material, some previously published in my columns in APCT News Bulletin (some editing has occurred for these web versions), some written specifically for this website and some written by other chess journalists. Dates of the reviews are given, as well as references, if they were previously published. Opinions are strictly those of the reviewers. Your comments are welcome (Contact Webmaster).
-- J. Franklin Campbell

Most recent reviews listed first

First Anglo-Pacific Invitational Chess Championship Mini-review
Review by J. Franklin Campbell

Caissa Editions has just published a new tournament book of interest to cc players. First Anglo-Pacific Invitational Chess Championship by American IM Erik Osbun. The tournament was the first major event organized by the Anglo-Pacific Tournament Bureau, which later became the North American/Pacific Zone of the ICCF. It started in 1985 with a strong field of players from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. The top places were won by Roger Chapman (NZL), Claude Pare (CAN), Max Salm (AUS), Chris Van Dyck (USA) and David Eisen (USA). Walter Muir was the other USA participant. The tournament director was International Arbiter Maurice Carter.

This is a nice 6"x9" paperback of 182 pages with 135 games in FAN notation, all deeply annotated by author IM Erik Osbun, aided by notes from the players. This isn't one of those database dumps, either. Of course, a lot of analysis is given, but here are some samples of the type of descriptive notes you'll find scattered through the annotations:

  • "This move causes Black's game to set up as if in concrete. The flexible and better line is 12 Nc5 as Savon played." (game 4)

  • "White sells Black a tempting pawn at d6 for the privilege of jamming with the two Bishops, an idea stemming from the game Fischer-Olafsson, Stockholm, 1962. Is the pawn easily swallowed, or is it a bone in Black's throat?" (Game 59)

  • "White offered a draw. He should have played 17.f3 and hoped for the best in the complications to come. After the text, Black will make the most of his Bishop pair." (Game 89)

  • "Not really unreasonable in the circumstances, but this wing break generally works better with the Knight at f6 instead of d7. Naturally, 10 e5 11.d5 Ne7 12.Nc1 f5 deserves serious consideration instead of the risky text move." (Game 113)

I personally appreciate such descriptive notes, which make it easier for me to understand the games and to follow the plans of the players (also, this adds to the pure entertainment value of the book). There are lots of historical references and game fragments from GM praxis in the notes. There are adequate diagrams, the text is easy to read, and there are good indexes in the back of the book (by players and by openings). Caissa Editions (Dale Brandreth Books) is well known as a publisher of quality chess books. I urge all cc enthusiasts to get a copy of this excellent book. Hopefully we'll see more correspondence chess books published in the future.

You can obtain this book by sending a check for $24.00 to:
Caissa Editions, P. O. Box 151, Yorklyn, DE 19736 USA

Back to the Top

Review by J. Franklin Campbell

I noticed an advertisement for a new portable chess set while checking out an issue of Chessville. My old favorite magnetic disk set, which I used for years to analyze my cc positions, is worn out and has been out of production for a long time, so I quickly contacted the producers of this new set to see if I had found a replacement. This new set is called Sticky Chess. Instead of using magnets to hold the pieces down, this set uses Velcro. This is a cool new product that many will like very much. Following is my critical review of this product listing all the little pros and cons according to my personal preferences. I recommend these sets for anyone needing a small portable set for analysis.

If you wish to play a game with an opponent you should be aware that the pieces have an orientation. Sets like this (and the older magnetic disk sets and the chess wallets with pieces that fit into slots) all have this feature. They are like printed diagrams, so when viewing the board from the "other side" the pieces will appear to be upside down. For analysis this is no problem. In fact, I prefer this 2-dimensional design. My personal approach is to always analyze positions from the White side, just as you would normally view printed chess diagrams.

The board comes rolled up, or rather folded into thirds. A couple elastic bands hold the board closed. The pieces consist of little white or black plastic squares with pieces printed on them in black or white (the printing is well done, unlike with some small sets I've seen in the past). The back of each square tile has a piece of Velcro attached. With the pieces in place the board looks much like a printed diagram. The two size boards come with the same size of pieces. On the smaller board the pieces are approximately the same size as the squares, so you can't easily see the square color on which a piece resides. For this reason I prefer the larger board where the pieces match the board size better. Slightly disconcerting is the color scheme, with white on black vs. black on white. Which side is White and which Black? I was surprised to notice that I set up the board initially with White represented by the black pieces on white background. I would have preferred a different background color, but this is a matter of taste. The only place available for storing captured pieces is the border around the board, which can get very crowded as you near the endgame. Here the designers probably tried to balance making the sets compact vs. providing space for captured pieces. They probably balanced it pretty well. At your desk you can put the pieces elsewhere to avoid the clutter of the border.

I understand the Velcro should last for a very long time and I doubt that you'll wear it out. However, you can replace the board or buy a new set of pieces if anything should get lost or damaged. The cost of a new complete set is quite reasonable, US$12.95 for the small set and US$15.95 for the larger version, plus shipping. The sizes are 10x10 inches (25x25 cm) with a playing area of 8x8 inches (20x20 cm) for the large and 8x8 inches with a playing area of 6-1/4 x 6-1/4 inches for the small. You probably won't want to try to sneak a game in at the school library, as each time you remove a piece you'll get the distinctive "ripping" sound of detaching Velcro. In compensation you'll find that the Velcro holds the pieces in place without the pesky shifting you can get with a magnetic set.

You can find these news sets offered on-line at the Sticky Chess web site http://www.StickyChess.com. They promise a backgammon version soon, possibly of interest to you since I've known so many strong chess players who were also backgammon enthusiasts. Checkers is also available.

I put this set through its paces on a recent airplane trip. I had a recent game by John Knudsen that I wanted to examine, so I set up the board and held the set by the top left corner with my left hand and moved the pieces with my right hand. As the set was dangling in space, there was no solid support. As I moved pieces I would peel a piece off a square and "place" the piece on the destination square. Without being able to press the piece down firmly I noticed that pieces didn't always adhere well. I gradually learned to provide a little support behind the board to allow more positive placement. After that I had no problems. The review at Chessville reported two players playing a game by making a move and tossing the set to the opponent. The pieces reportedly stayed in place. Try that with a magnetic disk set and see what happens! I dropped my magnetic set in my car once and almost didn't find all the pieces. Some had bounced up under the seats and attached magnetically to the springs and other supports. It took me an hour to find all the missing pieces. This would never have happened with Sticky Chess. When you fold up the board for storage the pieces won't shift.

The design of the pieces is similar to the fonts used in printed chess diagrams. The King and Queen are very easy to distinguish. I always like to compare the pawn and bishop to be sure they are clearly distinguishable, and here there was little problem. However, the pawns are similar in size to the pieces … I would have preferred a slight difference in size to make the pawns stand out better. As with all new sets there may be a short period of adjustment as you learn to recognize the pieces without any effort, and this set should present no problem in this area. You can judge for yourself in the illustrations below..

When you unroll the board to playing position you'll find a pronounced "curl" to the board, as it doesn't want to lay flat. I suspect you'll get use to this quickly, and perhaps this "curl" will become less pronounced with use. The convenience of being able to fold the board and slip the attached bands around the board to secure it in the closed position is great, so there's a little trade-off here. I like the bright red exterior surface of the board (it appears to be made of nylon). Overall, I'd rate this as a first-class chess product. It appears to be well made, and I believe it is destined to become very popular with chess enthusiasts.

[Addendum (11-Sept-2002): I received a few comments by a user of this set after publishing this review. His observations were (1) you can't use this set on an airplane at night since the sound of removing the pieces would disturb the other passengers, (2) he had one tile break as he lifted it from the velcro board, and (3) after moderate usage he noted some of the velcro fibers pulling loose from the board.]

Large Sticky Chess Set

Small Sticky Chess Set

Back to the Top


The content below is copyright 1999 by Eric C. Johnson. All rights reserved.



- by Eric C. Johnson

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. Laura Sherman’s new film, “In the Open,” does not portray chess tournaments in a particularly glamorous light.

But that’s OK, because most chess tournaments are not very glamorous.

During the first few minutes of the film, this realization might rub some USCF tournament veterans the wrong way. After all, aren’t movies supposed to be polished affairs, where the subject matter is made to look its best? And aren’t we supposed to judge movies by the quality of the acting, the flashiness of the special effects, and the intensity of the drama?

But life, like an amateur chess tournament, is not always polished and professional. Life, unlike the movies, does not have an unlimited budget.

Jean Baudrillard coined the phrase the “hyperreal” to describe such situations, where our expectations derived from artistic depictions come to replace, or seem more real than, the actual event.

And here, in Laura Sherman’s new film, this tension between how we think a movie should depict a chess drama runs head-long into what we know those chess events are really like.

“In the Open” deals with a group of longtime friends who assemble together over a long weekend to attend a local USCF-rated chess event. Sam is a Jason Priestly look-alike who really digs chess. Mary, the hostess, really digs Sam (but doesn’t know it yet). Gary is the typical Star Trek nerd, who intellectualizes everything, including his own social backwardness. Mo and Kyle are brothers engaged in a bit of sibling rivalry. Ricki is a tomboy desperately trying to get noticed. These are the social undercurrents of what is undisputably a chess movie, but yet also something more (and yet less) profound.

This is not the story of a tension-filled national championship, as in “Searching For Bobby Fischer.” There are no champions here. There are no huge crowds, no cheering parents. That type of story would be too easy, drawing as it would on our existing sense of the hyperreal.

Instead, “In the Open” takes the exact opposite approach, concentrating on showing what a small amateur tournament is really like. In this respect, the film succeeds brilliantly. The players are decidedly average, yet likable as most folks are in real life. They each have their own particular social flaws, yet each has some equally redeeming features. They grow on you.

And the film pulls no punches when it comes to showing the social negatives associated with amateur chess. The players express some opinions that would surely make a USCF official blanche. One character questions whether women can compete as equals against men in chess. Another actively schemes to drive the two main female characters away from the tournament by spreading false gossip. A third bemoans the fact that chess is a dead-end, where even the top players cannot make a decent living.

Early in the film, one of the characters exclaims to her father, “Oh great, just because Mom is out of town, I have to come to the chess-geek convention.” Now that’s painful realism for you!

And yet, the film’s accuracy is also its very greatest charm. The tournament hall scenes show real players using real USCF equipment (vinyl boards and BHB clocks). There is a large, blue USCF banner hanging on the wall. And the movie makes it very clear, through constant dialogue references, that this is supposed to be a USCF-rated tournament.

In fact, the scenes with the actual chess play come across very well. When the friends are gathered together at Mary’s house before the tourament, they play some casual blitz games. To the director’s credit, these games actually look like real blitz games. During the tournament itself, the camera pans from board to board, stopping for a few minutes of dialogue as each game begins or ends. That, too, is a pretty fair representation of how it really happens, as opposed to our hyperreal expectation of how it should happen in the movies,

What comes through most clearly, in this cinematic photograph of the USCF universe, is that these very average characters have the same life problems off the board as they do on the board. Chess, like life, is a game of open information. The challenge is to see deeply enough into the situation to notice the fine details.

Nothing is lost by revealing to the reader that Sam and Mary find each other over the board (literally), or that Gary learns that he needs to take more risks (both in chess and in his social life), or that Mo and Kyle finally come to a new and deeper appreciation of their relationship as brothers. There is no “secret ending” here, just as there are no “hidden moves” in a game of chess. You simply have to look more deeply to find the answers that were there all the time. Answers to problems that you, the viewer, have had in your own life and on your own board from time to time.

If the USCF had a sense of humor, they would show this film publicly at every National Event. It will undoubtedly become an underground classic on the chess circuit. I can think of no better recruitment film for new members for the federation’s 2,200 affiliated clubs and chess businesses. Veteran chessplayers will also appreciate the movie’s no-nonsense realism.

“In the Open” is not a hyperreal rendering of what chess should be like. Instead, it is very much a time capsule movie of how we actually played it.


For information on how to order your copy of “In the Open,” contact Laura Sherman (of Wild Heart Films) at laurasherman@earthlink.net.

Buy the film

The content below is copyright © 1999 by Eric C. Johnson. All rights reserved.

Back to the Top

Chess Pride Magazine edited by Eric C. Johnson

It's not unusual to see a new chess publication appear on the scene. However, occasionally one shows up that has a special mission. Chess Pride magazine is such a publication. Some may think a magazine which combines a concern for Gay Rights with chess is a rather strange idea. However, read what editor and publisher Eric C. Johnson has to say.

"Just as with so many areas of gay and lesbian history, our sports history is poorly documented. Many famous sports heroes have been gay or lesbian -- just think of Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova. How many of our chess heroes have been gay or lesbian? Chess Pride will be our publication of record, an historical reference for our past and a guide to our present (and future). ... There are approximately 85,000 members of the U. S. Chess Federation. Even using conservative estimates, that means there are several thousand gay and lesbian chessplayers in the U.S. who currently are members of USCF. ... Chess Pride will raise the visibility of our gay and lesbian chessplaying community, so that our strongest players will be more willing to show their ... chess pride!"

So far three issues have been published. The planned publishing schedule is three issues per year, though that schedule has shown some slippage. The goal of raising awareness of the chess accomplishments in the gay/lesbian community is a worthy one, in my opinion. Like any minority, especially one that has traditionally been so suppressed, the accomplishments of members of that minority are often invisible and the absence of successful role models for the members of that minority creates a real and damaging void. Bravo to those who attempt to correct this terrible situation! I, for one, am an enthusiastic supporter of those who work to end prejudice against any minority group, be it racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation. The recognition of self-value is of tremendous importance. Chess accomplishment is one measure of accomplishment.

This new publication must therefore be judged in two areas: (1) does it achieve its aim for raising awareness and creating a record of accomplishment and (2) is it a good chess magazine?

The first area is a little difficult for me to judge. However, it certainly goes miles beyond anything with which I'm personally familiar. The career of the famous gay chessplayer Anthony E. Santasiere is covered in Issue 1. His career is recounted, along with numerous games and descriptions of some of the major events in which he participated. For me the highlight was the very interesting interview of GM Arthur Bisguier. He professes to have no prejudices and is glad to support chess and the recording of chess history. The second issue covers Paul Morphy, not personally known to be gay. However, there were a few gay-related issues involved with his trip to Europe. An article by Jerry Hanken "My First U. S. Open Opponent" (in 1957 ... the opponent was Santasiere) was named the winner of the 1998 CJA award for the Best Human Interest Story. In issue three the main topic was Weaver Adams, an other well-known gay chess master famous for his White to Play and Win approach and advocacy of the Vienna Game and Bishop's Opening. Publisher and chess master Ken Smith is interviewed along with an autobiographical article by Adams himself (previously published). It seems to me that Chess Pride is off to a good start in raising awareness.

The second area must be judged with some consideration of it's first goal. We wouldn't necessarily expect to find the ultimate chess analysis here, but we might expect to find some decent chess. The main chess content so far is the games by the famous players highlighted in each issue. There is also a readers' games column with some light annotations.

The magazines are 8-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches with 20 pages including covers (covers are heavy weight colored stock) with good printing, art and layout. The writing is excellent and the overall appearance is quite impressive. Most of the magazine content will appeal to all chess enthusiasts, though I've seen no specific cc content. I can heartily recommend this little magazine to all chess enthusiasts, except those who may be homophobic. To subscribe send $19.95 for one year to: Chess Pride, 39F Wellington Drive, New Windsor, NY 12553. Individual copies are $7.00 each. They can be reached electonically at chesspride@aol.com

--- J. Franklin Campbell (December 1998)

Copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

Review by Roy DeVault

"Correspondence Chess World" CD-ROM from Chess Mail
Compiled and Edited by Tim Harding

Chessmail editor Tim Harding was kind enough to send a copy of his new CD-ROM to CCLA for review, and Herb Hickman asked me to undertake the task. What a welcome assignment! My problem is that the CD contains so much of interest to correspondence players that it is difficult to do it justice in a single review.

The games files included on the CD include over 39,000 corr. games from the period 1804-1998, though the distribution of the games is heavily skewed towards the 90's. In addition, more than 11,000 games played on the Internet, and over 6,000 games played in IECC, all of these being recent games.

Harding has wisely provided the games in multiple formats for those PC users who do not own a chess database. Files are provided in "old" chessbase format, "new" chessbase format and PGN notation. "Old" chessbase refers to releases prior to 6.0, and "new" to releases 6.0 and 7.0. As Harding points out in a recent article in Chessmail, Chessbase has become the de facto standard PC chess database. However, for those who do not own CB software, the CD includes a PGN reader which allows one to play thru the games, with a on-screen board displayed, without the necessity of owning any software other than a web browser.

The CD also includes 12 complete issues of Chessmail magazine, which can be viewed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The free Acrobat reader is included on the CD. Also included is chess-related software, including a demo of the Chess Mentor tuition program, and PGN-based programs that may be used for organizing email correspondence play. Two full pages of instructions for using all the items on the CD are available for printing.

For those who care little about the extra included software, I can honestly say that the collection of correspondence games alone is worth the price (US $40) of the CD. I browsed the large databases and found: The 1st National Team Championship, all 50 boards; 102 Games of Walter Muir, over 100 early corr. games of Paul Keres, around 50 games by Curtis Carlson, a number of Soviet corr. Championships, around 70 of Harding's games, a large selection of games from the Baltic Area Team tournaments, and on and on. Frankly, there is more material here than I could digest in a lifetime, even if I limited myself to studying the games of a few top correspondence players.

One could say that the "drawback" of the CD is that it has a European slant in that there are relatively few "American" games. To me, this is a distinct advantage, since domestic correspondence games are far easier to obtain than the European games he provides. Although I own some large chess databases, the games on this CD duplicated rather few games I already had, and many are likely to be virtually unobtainable elsewhere.

In summary, if you would like a huge selection of top-class correspondence games, some annotated, you will not go wrong with Harding's offering. The CD may be ordered from: Chess Mail Limited, 26 Coolamber Park, Dublin 16, Ireland. For those with Internet access, credit card orders may be placed at: http://www.chessmail.com/cd_form.html

--- Roy E. DeVault (November 1998)

Copyright © 1998 by Roy DeVault

Back to the Top

Lasker and His Contemporaries, Issue Number 5
edited by John S. Hilbert

While preparing to write the following review my friend Ralph Marconi noted that he was also preparing a review of the same book for Check! magazine. Ralph offered me permission to post his review at this site. However, I had already committed to writing a review myself. It struck me that it would be interesting to provide readers with both reviews to demonstrate the different attitudes of two separate reviewers. Therefore, following you will find both of these reviews. Perhaps a book of less quality would have provided for a more interesting contrast. As it is, we both appreciated the excellence of this book and both recommend it heartily. I hope you find these two reviews of interest.

I must candidly admit that I read a preliminary version of Marconi's review before I wrote mine. However, my review is an independent document written without any intentional reference to his review. The main thing to learn from these two reviews is that you should get a copy of this book! Ralph Marconi's review is given first followed by mine. I also recommend a visit to Ralph Marconi's Correspondence Chess Site.

Review by Ralph Marconi

Lasker & His Contemporaries: Issue 5
edited by John Hilbert
Published by Thinkers' Press. Inc.
1997. SC. 64 pages, 51 diagrams
50 games.
ISBN: 0-938650-98-X
Price: $20 US
Order from:
Thinkers' Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 8
Davenport, Iowa 52805-0008
ph#: 319-323-1226
Fax: 319-323-0511
email: tpi@chessco.com
Website: http://www.chessco.com

This highly acclaimed, scholarly produced series, continues with the long awaited 5th installment. The first issue was published in 1978 and the last one in 1984. This latest issue, continues the tradition of featuring historical material spanning the period from approximately 1890 to 1940. The editor of this new issue, Chess Historian John Hilbert (the author of Buffalo Chess Tournaments: 1894 & 1901 and Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster) has put together a collection of truly fascinating, informative and detailed historical articles.

Since I don't have the previous 4 issues in my chess library I cannot compare this latest one to these previous issues. Nevertheless, the contents of this newest edition is truly enjoyable and, if the previous issues were anything like this latest issue, then it would be well worth getting the complete set. The lead article (Part I) recounts details of young Emanuel Lasker's first 2 months stay in the United States starting in Fall of 1892. The article includes 15 games from Lasker's encounters at the famous Manhattan Chess Club, annotated by Steinitz and Lasker. In addition, great looking black and white photos of old chess clocks grace the pages throughout; with interesting biographical items supplementing the main article. The second article presents details of the Walbrodt-Delmar Match, played in New York in 1893. All eleven games from the match are included, most of which are annotated, plus a few additional games. The most interesting game was the 3rd, where the game was play ed until move 9, when White (Walbrodt) discovered, perhaps to his embarrassment, that the position of the White King and Queen were reversed. What's even more bizarre was that Delmar hadn't notice the error either. The third article features the Hanham-Young match of 1887, held in Boston. This article is written with a lot of light-hearted humor which was refreshing to read. Five games from the match are included. The 4th article is an informative profile of the young Carlos Torre, during his stay in Rochester, NY and Detroit, Michigan. Included are 14 games, a few of which are annotated.

The final four articles are: Henry Chadwick: Father of Baseball, Friend of Chess, Examining the Past: Essentials Tools for Exploring Chess History, Steinitz: Forgotten Games and Alekhine: Forgotten Games. The piece on Henry Chadwick, written by Edward J. Tassinari (who has written historical articles in a number of journals, such as: Studies in Latin American Popular Culture and the Journal of Unconventional History.) combines the great pastime of baseball and that of chess. The result is an interesting read. I especially found Hilbert's article on essential tools for exploring chess history quite interesting, informative and inspiring. He gives you a summary of the major research sources to consult and a good many additional ideas for research. The forgotten games articles offer much the same in the way of encouragement and methods of historical research.

I personally found the 8 ½ in x 11, letter size, journal like format a pleasant change. The binding, typeface, diagram fonts used, and paper quality are excellent.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in not only playing over chess games, but in also chess history.


Issue # 6 is due out this coming Fall. I for one cannot wait for it's publication. The projected topics in this issue will be: Divinsky on Lasker's Mathematics (this should be interesting for all those mathematics aficionados), Hilbert on Lasker in the United States Part II, Warburton on Lasker-Marshall, Flawed Analysis, Salomon on My Game with Alekhine, 1944, Pope on Stenitz-Gunsberg, 1890-1891, Pope on Maroczy-Charousek, Budapest 1895, Forgotten Games:Pillsbury, Marshall. Thinkers' Press notes that the contents of this next issue are subject to change.

--- Ralph P. Marconi (June 1998)

Copyright © 1998 by Ralph P. Marconi

Review by J. Franklin Campbell

Without waiting till the end I'll just say right now that this is a wonderful book and is highly recommended. L & HC No. 5 was edited and mostly written by noted chess historian John S. Hilbert (see this website's "One the Square" articles for several samples of his work). ChessCo owner Bob Long has published a number of intriguing chess books in recent years via Thinkers' Press Inc., Davenport, Iowa, such as the series on the first cc world champion C. J. S. Purdy. Here he has revived the L & HC series started many years ago.

One of the most attractive elements of this book is the way Hilbert has blended quotes from historical documents (such as newspaper reports from the time of the events) into his articles. He has a way of weaving these quotes into the articles that makes them fit in a seamless fashion into the flow of the articles. You are made to feel like an observer of these historic events as they occurred. I also enjoyed being immersed in the language of the era. One example from early in the book: "Last evening the attendance was a brilliant one, A. B. Hodges was the fifth opponent, and Lasker, winning the toss, chose the Ruy Lopez attack." The first-hand reports on a great player from the past are also fascinating, such as, "Lasker's bearing over the chess-board is tranquillity itself. He sits erect, calm, imperturbable except for a puckering of his mouth. If the position grows complicated he leans over the board, supporting his head on his right arm, but soon falls back into his first a ttitude. He does not partake of any beverage while playing but smokes any number of cigars."

Of course, I should point out that the subject of this book is World Champion Emanuel Lasker and the players of his era. The time period covered by this series is stated as being roughly 1890 through 1940. This volume contains nine articles plus several other features, such as the interesting "Editorial Views." The articles are:

  • Lasker's First Two Months in the U.S. - John Hilbert
  • The Walbrodt-Delmar Match, New York 1893 - John Hilbert
  • A Return to Dignity in Chess: A Modest Proposal - Prof. A. Moron Verboses (a.k.a. Hilbert)
  • The Young Carlos Torre: Rochester and Detroit 1924 - John Hilbert
  • Henry Chadwick: "Father of Baseball," Friend of Chess - Edward J. Tassinari
  • Examining the Past, Essential Tools for Exploring Chess History - John Hilbert
  • Steinitz - Forgotten Games
  • Alekhine - Forgotten Games
  • Review: "Napier, The Forgotten Chessmaster" by John Hilbert (reviewed by Bob Long)
This book really makes chess history come alive. Not only are chess events of the day documented in entertaining and lively fashion, but Hilbert inspires others to follow his path in discovering our rich chess heritage. For the benefit of those who determine to follow Hilbert's lead and do research on their own, he has provided the very useful article "Examining the Past, Essential Tools for Exploring Chess History." This is must-reading before you embark on your own journey of discovery and is worth the price of the book by itself.

Hilbert isn't adverse to including a little subtle humor, either. His article on "A Return to Dignity in Chess" under the pseudonym of Prof. A. Moron Verboses is most entertaining. Although it contains the same high level of research and interesting historical commentary as his other articles, some of the "editorial comment" by "Prof. Verboses" is most amusing. For example, "We seek perfection in our heroes off the board as well as on it, and certainly expect it of them while they sit before our treasured 64 squares engrossed in honorable, yet bloodless, combat. Petty demonstrations of vanity, irksome, tawdry reminders of the most venal motives, have no welcome haven in the true chess aficionado's pantheon of chess immortals. Such demonstrations ignore virtue, honor, and the true psychological insight the lover of fine chess craves more than the mere bread and water of ordinary wood shifting." Well, I couldn't have said it better myself!

Interspersed throughout the book are some very nice illustrations: old photos, pictures of old chess clocks, illustrations from the era. Most of the articles contain scores of the chess games with annotations from the time. Although I prefer smaller page sizes the book seems well constructed and the three columns per page contribute to a very readable text. My eyesight is far from perfect but the choice of font style and size are easy to read, as are the chess diagrams. L & HC is 64 pages, soft cover 8.5 x 11 inches, list price $18. I look forward to Number 6 coming out soon. I can't recommend this Number 5 issue too strongly.

--- J. Franklin Campbell (June 1998)

Copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

Kingpin magazine edited by Jonathan Manley

I was a real fan of Chess Chow, published by American GM Joel Benjamin before it disappeared from the publishing scene. It combined serious chess with humor and provided a glimpse into what makes the top players tick. When I read a sample article from KingPin on the Internet I was reminded of this wonderful publication. I had to see more. I obtained the two most recent issues of KingPin, planning to review them for this column and to satisfy my own curiosity. After some delay, here is that review. Though officially listed as publishing three issues a year, the publisher of this English magazine Jonathan Manley candidly admitted this was inaccurate. He said, "You have homed in on what is perhaps Kingpin's main weakness: infrequent publication. Subscribers receive three issues of the magazine, but at present there is a delay of 6-7 months between issues." Having dealt with the frequency question, what about the content of the magazine?

Unlike some magazines, which emphasize recent tournaments and the latest opening theory, the attractiveness of KingPin is not effected by any slight delays in publishing. Indeed, picking up a few back issues will provide some very entertaining reading. Getting somewhat ahead of myself I heartily recommend this delightful publication. You can either subscribe or buy individual issues from Chess Digest.

Issue 26 Autumn 1996: The cover has photos of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi under the banner, "FIDE announces new presidential team." This sets the tone for the magazine. The "Kingpin Questionnaire" has the replies by IM Colin Crouch, and he answers such questions as: What is your first memory of playing chess? What was your worst defeat? How do you relax? What is your favorite record? What is your favourite television programme? (remember, this is an English magazine). Which meal do you most like to eat and could you cook it yourself? What was your most embarrassing moment at the chess board? Who is the most courteous person you have played? There are many other interesting questions and answers along these same lines.

Following is a regular column with perhaps the most appealing title I've come across, Gary Lane's Agony Column. Perhaps this title was my first clue of a similarity to Chess Chow as it contained a regular feature titled Michael Wilder's Agony Column. Lane's column is different, though, with a Q & A format where he answers the questions sent by "readers." One sample: "Dear Gary, why not save time by reading a chess book in the shower. Simply cover all the pages in cellophane and it will be waterproof. Probably." Gary: "The best ideas are often the simplest ones." Well, you get the idea.

GM Glenn Flear contributes the next article named What's the difference between a 'good' and a 'bad' performance? He says, "If you've ever examined your own games after a tournament, it's amazing how just a few critical moments make the difference between a great result and a disaster." He then documents this concept with examples from his personal experience ... very interesting, with some very real examples in the form of annotated games.

The Voice of Reason by GM Nigel Davies explains why wooden sets are better plastic. Of course, there is more to this article than this little topic. Perhaps it's a personal idiosyncrasy but I rather enjoy glimpses like this into a "foreign" society such as the English. GM Davies gives his opinions on how to improve the chess club scene in England with many interesting observations.

There was also a lengthy article by Edward Winter. His explorations into the history of chess are well known to American readers and are always interesting. Other articles in this issue: Sophisticated Ideas: The Importance of Open Lines by IM Luc Winants, More Ideas in the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit by IM Gary Lane, Letter from France by GM Tony Kosten, C.J.S. Purdy: AN Unconventional Chess Thinker by Amatzia Avni, a caption contest (most amusing), Hack Attack ... Happy Bloody Birthday by GM John Emms, Neutralising the Norm-hunters by GM James Howell, and Confessions of a British Nightclubber by IM Aaron Summerscale fill out the remainder of this issue, followed by over eight pages of book reviews by notable chess authorities.

There were few advertisements and over 50 total pages in this entertaining issue. A little humor mixed in with some serious chess makes for a winning combination.

Issue 27 Summer 1997: The cover has a photo of Nigel Short and Bulgarian IM Antoaneta Stefanova. He's saying, "Are you fun-loving Chess Spice?" I think this is an English humorous remark, but I can't be sure. The "Kingpin Questionnaire" is of GM E. Gufeld. There's Gary Lane's Agony Column followed by a more serious article Did Intel Break its Word to 20,000 Children? by IM Michael Basman. There's The Article With No Name by GM Tony Kosten which mixes chess games and lots of personal stories. Next to the article The Fine Art of Swindling by FM Jonathan Rogers is a fake (?) ad for Kirsan Toilet Tissue. There's also The Lost Weekend by GM Stuart Conquest, Before and After the IM Title by IM Susan Lalic, Skewer (a real potpourri of chess behind-the-scenes stories) and (a personal favorite) "Nunn is out to ruin me" -- Golombek's shock claim. It starts, "The world of chess publishing was rocked to its foundations last month whe n former world champion chess writer Harry Golombek launched a scathing attack on B. T. Batsford and editor and typesetter John Nunn. In the course of a two-hour diatribe organised by spiritualists in Buenos Aires, Golombek claimed that Nunn had 'deliberately improved my analysis' in the new Batsford algebraic edition of his classic Capablanca's 100 Best Games." The article continued in this vein. I particularly enjoyed the reply attributed to Nunn. "I never had any of this trouble with Alekhine."

Also in this issue: Never Forget the Elephant Gambit by Gary Lane, Forum by Edward Winter, Old Masters Never Die, They Just Fade Away by GM Nigel Davies, Scenes from Paris by GM Jim Plaskett, Blood from a Stone by IM Jonathan Rowson and about ten pages of book/magazine reviews. Overall, this publication provides a nice mix of serious chess and humor in a most attractive and readable fashion. The articles are written almost entirely by titled chess players ... very nice and very readable. There's little specifically for the correspondence chess player but that doesn't prevent me from recommending this excellent publication to my readers.

http://nic.net4u.nl/~reviews/booksbw.htm on the Internet contains chess book reviews by Bertrand Weegenaar and makes for some interesting reading. [Note: these book reviews are now located at the Chess Mail web site at John Elburg's Chessbookreviews. -- JFC] His review number 21 contains a short review of KingPin number 27. The editor of KingPin Jonathan Manley can be reached directly by email at .

Chess Digest is selling No.26 for US$8.95 and No.27 for US$9.95. Sterling prices for a 3 issue subscription: UK=£8.00, Europe=£10.00, USA/RoW=£12.00. Jon Manley added, "... If your readers would like to order by credit card, I suggest they contact either Chess Digest or the London Chess Centre. Several Kingpin articles are archived in the Chess Cafe's Skittles Room. ... Kingpin No.28 will be out in January ..." Featured in No. 28 will be: an interview with Yasser Seirawan which contains some very straight talking about Kasparov, Edward Winter's Forum, IM Gary Lane's Agony column, GM Tony Kosten's Letter from France, IM Crouch on Kasparov's analytical gaffes, IM Chris Ward on Paul Morphy, A mysterious letter from Hungary from one Robert Fischer, IM Gary Lane advocates the Grand Prix Attack (2 Nc3, 3 f4 Sicilian), IM Richard Forster on a curious 19th century chess variant, GM Nigel Davies says that preparation is unimportant, IM Jonathan Rowson on the supernatural power of che ss intuition, and a selection of book reviews.

--- J. Franklin Campbell, APCT News Bulletin, January 1998

Copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

Chess Mail magazine edited by Tim Harding

Tim Harding of Ireland has launched a new magazine dedicated to correspondence chess. Named Chess Mail it is aimed at the serious correspondence chess competitor and will be published 11 times a year. Subscriptions may be ordered for 29 Irish Pounds (payable by Visa or Mastercard) or by a bank draft for $46 US made out to Chess Mail Ltd. The address is Chess Mail Ltd., 26 Coolamber Park, Dublin 16, Ireland.

Harding's purpose is to provide the sort of coverage currently available to German-language readers in Fernschach magazine. However, it won't be a clone of that magazine. His first pilot issue contains articles and tournament reports from quite a few different countries, including an article on cc chess etiquette by this columnist and a games article by former CCLA Games Editor Roy DeVault on games from the CCLA Championship. Besides the English language countries there will be coverage from other countries where English is in use, such as the Scandinavian countries.

The pilot issue consists of 64 pages printed on good quality paper in the A5 paper size (about 8x6 inches, the same size as Fernschach). The entire world of correspondence chess will be reflected in the coverage, including postal, email and fax. Harding has set up a web page and will provide some of the magazine material there (e.g., my article is now available on his web page). The pilot issue covers material about or from the following countries: USA, Sweden, Qatar, Iceland, Holland, Israel, Ireland, Wales, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Also included are ICCF results, crosstables from ICCF and various other tournaments, analysis columns, international and national chess news plus probably the best coverage offered so far on email and chess on the Internet. Reviews of software and Internet services are promised, in addition to book reviews.

Harding plans to establish a network of chess journalists from all over the world to provide material for his magazine. He is an established chess author and a strong cc competitor. I recently favorably reviewed his new book Winning at Correspondence Chess in my column. He also wrote the excellent The Games of the World Correspondence Chess Championships I-X in addition to many other chess books. Harding will probably personally write quite a bit of the magazine himself. This magazine promises to fill a void in the chess literature for English speakers. I know of nothing similar in print anywhere. I strongly recommend this wonderful new magazine. ... No magazine covers club news better than the APCT News Bulletin. Add this second magazine to your subscription list and you'll have the rest of the world covered. I want to personally thank Tim Harding for producing this fantastic new magazine, which I believe is a real service to the correspondence chess community. You can check out some sample articles on Chess Mail's web page at Chess Mail magazine

--- J. Franklin Campbell, APCT News Bulletin, November 1996

Copyright © 1996, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

"Winning at Correspondence Chess" by Tim Harding

It's not often that a book comes along aimed squarely at the postal chess player, so it's a big occasion when it happens. "Winning at Correspondence Chess" by international cc star Tim Harding of Ireland (176 pages, soft cover 8.5 x 5.5 inches, list price $25, available from APCT for $23.75) is such a book. The emphasis is on text, with games and analysis mostly given to illustrate points. Although clearly written for the British reader, there is much of value for the North American reader. I strongly recommend this book. This is a book you can pretty much sit down and read (without a chess set at hand). In fact, one night I discovered I had continued reading several hours past my bed time. The final section on "Computers and the future of CC" kept me going till I finished it at one sitting.

Tim Harding is well-versed in international cc (correspondence chess) play, representing Ireland in various high-level competitions and serving on ICCF committees. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this book and shares many interesting stories and insider viewpoints with the reader. He told me that he was only told at the last moment that the book would be published in the USA. Otherwise he would have included more references for the American reader. Most of the references and addresses are for British readers. The language is very "British" as well. Personally I found this interesting, except I would have liked to see the addresses of USA postal organizations given for the uninitiated cc player. He's promised that these references will be updated in any future edition to include USA organizations.

This book is aimed squarely at the competitor, as opposed to the person who plays postal in an attempt at perfection in play. Thus there is no advice to give back moves or such. Instead, he aims at helping the cc competitor to improve his chances at winning games through proper attitude and application of skills. As he says in the preface, "This book is primarily a battle manual for the player who wants to be a winner at correspondence chess." For instance, on page 49 he discusses publishing games and notes in magazines and says, "The corollary to this is that you should not be too keen to publish your games and analysis because they reveal details of your style and opening preferences." Following are a few more miscellaneous quotes to give the flavor of the book.

"... it is advisable to approach each new tournament in a standard way." "If you have other games still in progress and quite possibly at a critical stage, it is important to decide on clear priorities ..." "In particular, do not underestimate opponents who tell you they are in their late sixties or even in their eighties!" "Victories, particularly when well-earned, are still very sweet and there is nothing like a resignation card from an opponent to make your day." "An important piece of advice for any CC player is: know the rules! Study them!" "... it is important for all CC players to have a reliable 'move processing' system ..." "Check every step and then check again ..." "Opponents' conditionals should always be considered first anyway, in case your opponent has not given himself the best move, enabling you to make a move that would otherwise have been bad." "Every Friday evening look through your notebook and see what games are slow and, if a repetition seems due, send it off on Saturday morning." This provides a small window into the types of practical advice you'll find on every page of this outstanding book.

There are a few comments I found amusing. His recommendation to use " ... either a hardcover ruled foolscap book ... or, alternatively, a ... 'single cash'" to keep tournament records had me scratching my head. But these instances were more amusing than anything. On the other hand, this book is packed with interesting stories and practical advice. You may find yourself thinking, "Of course, why didn't I think of that." He covers how to use books and databases in your selection of openings, loads of practical advice on the conduct of both individual games and tournaments and he even provides a short history of cc, including brief biographies of the leading players. This is a marvelous book. Every cc player should have it on their shelf (after thoroughly reading it).

--- J. Franklin Campbell, APCT News Bulletin, September 1996

Copyright © 1996, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

"Chess Openings Lexicon" by Roy DeVault

At the risk of appearing guilty of conflict of interest, I'd like to introduce APCT members to a useful little book written by my friend Roy DeVault, who was the games editor for the CCLA magazine Chess Correspondent for years and has written a number of chess books, including tournament books for the last several annual CCLA championships. It was interesting to hear ideas about the book mentioned from time to time as the concept occurred to DeVault and the plans for the book evolved. And now I have a copy of this just-published reference book in hand. Why didn't anyone think of this book before?! It's a marvelous combination of opening reference, dictionary of opening terms and cross reference between ECO and NIC codes. I wish I had owned this book when I edited the APCT Team Newsletter during the first National Team Championship! Assigning ECO codes to the many game scores published was a nightmare. This book would have allowed me to identify the opening codes with ease.

The book opens with a brief history of opening classifications. It then launches into the real meat of the book with entries for every ECO code from A00 through E99. For each code the identifying moves are presented (often a number of different lines fall under one ECO code and they are all given). The corresponding NIC code is listed for each variation. The common names are also listed. If you want to identify the Koltanowski Variation of the Giuoco Piano it's right there as one of the many lines listed for C50. You can easily find it by checking the extensive 18-page index in the back of the book. The intent of this book isn't to introduce original ideas. Rather, it has brought together all the essential chess opening codes and nomenclature that are normally spread throughout your chess library.

I heartily recommend this book. It should be on the reference shelf of every chess enthusiast with an interest in openings. The index makes identifying specific names easy. This 6x9-inch Chess Digest softcover book has 127 pages with a list price of $16.50.

--- J. Franklin Campbell, APCT News Bulletin, March 1996

Copyright © 1996, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top

"How To Get Better At Chess" - by Evans, Silman and Betty Roberts

While browsing through the chess book collection at a local book store How To Get Better At Chess by Evans, Silman and Betty Roberts caught my eye (paperback, 254 pages). A brief glimpse was enough to tell me that I had to have a copy of this unique book. I purchased a copy from APCT ($16.95 postpaid) and must say that this marvelous book has completely lived up to my expectations. Ms. Roberts has collected the views of a variety of top chess players over the years on various topics and has given us their answers to some questions, some of their anecdotes and player profiles (along with games annotated by Silman). The topics covered are:

How Does One Get Better At Chess?
What's More Important - Study or Practice?
What Books or Players Have Influenced You the Most?
How Do Top Players See Things So Quickly?
Is There An Age When Improvement Stops?
Is Memory Important In Chess?
How Does Winning and Losing Affect You?
Profiles and Games
As my readers know, I delight in the human side of chess. This book provides a good dose of this and provides some delightful comments by some of the best known chess masters. Here is a sample which I particularly enjoyed. Miguel Quinteros (in reply to the question "What's More Important - Study or Practice): "... Some players have no talent for the game. They don't enjoy playing and they lust after success but don't want to work. Since they are doomed to remain weak they would be well advised to take up something else, like knitting." Another marvelous remark by Larry Christiansen, "Truthfully, one's peak is reached at about thirty-five or thirty-six. I've seen lots of players reach this age and then stop all forward progress. Then they become worthless hacks, good only for donating blood."

This book is full of such quotes, some thought-provoking and some merely outrageous. Whether you agree with them or not (and they certainly don't agree with each other!) I think you'll find the views of so many top players gathered together to be most interesting and entertaining. There's some useful advice here, too. I haven't bothered going over any of the games. This is a book you can just sit down and read. I recommend it.

--- J. Franklin Campbell, APCT News Bulletin, September 1995

Copyright © 1995, 1998, 2002 by J. Franklin Campbell

Back to the Top


Contact Webmaster