TWO NEW BOOKS BY DEVON AUTHORS
Very recently two new books written by Devon authors have become available and both are worthy of comment in "Chess Devon."
Firstly we take a look at:-
THE FORGOTTEN CHESS COMPOSER?
Brian is well-known to us as the webmaster of a very fine website on the endgame which has rather unfortunately been forced to lie fallow for some time. However, Brian has still been active in research for this book, of which this booklet is a precursor to whet our appetite.
John Brown (1827 - 63) was a one time preacher at Bridport and during his lifetime constructed many chess problems some of which were collected in a small book entitled "Chess Strategy" published by his admirers in 1865 to raise funds for his bereaved family. This booklet contains 23 problems selected from "Chess Strategy" together with the solutions. The selected problems are mostly 3 movers, and Brian not only gives the solutions but explains the themes in the unique vocabulary of chess compositors. If like me, you have skipped over problems in the past as being a mysterious branch of chess appealing to aficionados only, I would suggest that you dally awhile and acquaint yourselves with the beauty of the solutions and the benefit that you acquire for your over-the-board activities.
Brian and his wife have undertaken extensive research taking them to the nooks and crannies of many libraries throughout the country and there is no doubt that the forthcoming book will be the authoritative work on this composer.
Those of you who were fortunate enough to have had the time to participate in the 60th Paignton Congess will have been the recipient of a free copy of this very fine book by Bob Jones . It is indeed a very acceptable manner of recording the Jubilee of such a long running congress and the organisers are to be congratulated on financing such a worthy souvenir.
Having been the secretary of the organising committee during the 1970's, and a player in many Paignton Congresses, I am well placed to make comment on this book. Although extensive use of reports from other sources are made there is a feeling of the atmosphere generated by playing in this event that exudes from every page.
As with many of his works, the subject has been well researched mainly from "Chess" and "The British Chess Magazine." In itself this is a considerable task, but Bob has supplemented these reports with pen portraits of some of the players and has also sought anecdotes from other players who have had a long association with the congress, myself included. One or two anecdotes that did not reach print was some experiences I had as secretary during the 1970's and the reign of Ritson-Morry as controller. Ritson had many quirky habits, the least of which was to start play from a radio plugged into his ear sounding the two o'clock time signal. A risk that he had to endure at each congress was the affection that a whippet dog, owned by Mrs Pitt-Fox (a member of the committee) had for his ankles. This whippet had a genuine interest in all ankles, but Ritson's ranked very high in his regard much to Ritson's discomfort. I once saw him drag a table to which he was attached, a few yards in his effort to renew acquaintance with Ritson's socks, before his prey realised the impending danger and retreated out of range. There are many such episodes that I remember with some affection and this book does much to stir the memories.
Half the book is devoted to a description of all the meetings divided into the appropriate decade. The narrative is interspersed with tournament tables culled from magazines and papers, together with photographs of personalities - some in very fine colour.
A further major section of the book reviews 60 games played during the sixty year period including prize winning games. Unfortunately, there was a period when no games were recorded, but the fact that there are so many now available from recent years shows how much esteem the congress has generated mainly from the skilled and well directed efforts of Alan Crickmore and his wife.
A chapter is devoted to the history of Oldway Mansions and the Singer family. The family history is colourfully imbued by the presence of Isadora Duncan, a bohemian of the first order, who had a relationship with the son of the founder. In this section, Bob has chance to narrate in his own flowing prose and it is impossible to put the book down when reading this account. He leaves one with the comfortable feeling that although the future of the Mansion has yet to be decided, the ballroom will remain available to continue as the Congress venue. How will the "Centennial" be celebrated?
This is a very fine book that I would rate as the best that Bob has produced. Unfortunately there are some proof-reading shortfalls but that does not detract from the book as a whole.
Copies are available direct from the author:
40 Phillips Avenue,
or from chess book sellers, and the recommended price is £15.99.