Tim's Tournament Book Blog III: Cambridge Spings 1904

Apr 6, 2016, 4:45 PM |

The Book of the Cambridge Springs International Chess Tournament 1904
Modern Chess Library Volume 1
Edited by Fred Reinfeld
The Black Knight Press, 1935
88 pages

Cambridge Springs 1904 was the greatest triumph of the long time American Chess Champion Frank J. Marshall(1906-36).  Amid a galaxy of stars including Lasker, Pillsbury, Janowski, Schlechter, and Teichmann, finished with a blistering thirteen wins, no losses, and four draws!  The event was widely regarded as a great triumph and, until that time, the best tournament ever on American soil.  The games were very combative as eight of the sixteen players finished the tournament with four draws or less (Albert Fox had only one draw!) remarkable by todays standards.
  The tournament is also famous for the so called Pillsbury’s Revenge legend.  According to tradition, Pillsbury was still very angry over losing to Lasker at the St. Petersburg 1896 tournament (a game that was awarded the brilliancy prize)  After careful (and some might say obsessive) study, Pillsbury became convinced that he erred on move seven and a different move would’ve given him a big advantage.  Rather than test his new idea right away, Pillsbury sat on it and unleashed it on Lasker at Cambridge Springs beating his rival in thirty moves.

As always, I played over a number of games from the tournament in preparing this blog.  The following are some general comments about the games themselves and I include two of my favorite games, one well known and the other not so much.
Please note that all comments in the games highlighted are my own.

Tchigorin-Janowski: Great battle between these two featuring a timely pawn break and play on opposite wings with a blistering attack by Kanowski.
Lasker-Showalter: Interesting maneuvering game which reaches a point where the endgame battle consists of two knights versus two bishops!

The game Janowski-Marshall has long been a favorite of mine.  It is an epic clash and one has to admire the relentless determination of Janowski on the attack.



The other game I really enjoyed was the clash between Janowski and Lasker


Story of the Tournament
There is absolutely nothing!  This is borderline tragic as the games and annotations are very well done.  I do have to wonder if the story and biography portions of the book were victims of unfortunate circumstances.  In the brief foreward, the author Fred Reinfeld states, “I have been somewhat handicapped in the production of this book by the shameful apathy of those from whom I had every reason to expect some interest in such a volume (bolding is mine).  He then goes on to thank a few friends for contributing notes.  Did someone leave Reinfeld holding the bag?  I did some research and could not find any explanation of what happened.

This is the heart of the book.  All 120 games are annotated which is great!  However, the moves are all in descriptive notation, old school descriptive meaning that KT is used for knight!  And moves where pieces to go the first square are written R-B leaving off the one!!( and no, I don't know why that was done) So readers who may not have much experience with this style of recording moves may be put off (older players like myself who cut their teeth on this type of game recording should not have much trouble). 

The annotations are a mixture of both variations and words.  Sometimes the analysis is woven into a narrative style with the moves other times the games are recorded in the more conventional double column method with notes following a series of moves making study a lot easier.

The book contains annotations from twelve different people including the author.  As such, this makes for an interesting mix of styles and approaches to analyzing the games which led me to break down the style of each individual.

Tarrasch: Very candid, witty and, at times, even biting in his comments.
Napier: Excellent at explaining ideas and plans for each player.
Chernev: Analysis focuses more on the word type.  Explains ideas/plans well.
Fine: Ranges from a lot of positional notes one time to a lot of variations the next
Janowski: Very heavy in his notes.  He has a good mixture of both styles
Marco: Heavier on variations
Marshall: Very light notes.  He does his own games so it gives a personal account.
Reti: Extremely detailed. 
Schlechter: Very heavy on variations with emphasis on the opening.
Tchigorin: He only did one game with very extensive analysis (#56)
Reinfeld: He did most of the games (65%) and has a wide range of words and variations.

It should be noted that Reti’s contribution came from his classic book Masters of the Chessboard which was used with special permission(he analyzes the famous Lasker-Napier game) which explains his comprehensive notes.  Why Tchigorin did only one game is a mystery. 

This is nonexistent which again detracts from the value of the book.  Perhaps this section was also a victim of “…shameful apathy…”?

Coverage of Games
This is very good with a few hiccups.  Although all 120 games are present there are some mistakes (moves 21-26 from the Janowski-Lasker are plain missing!) to what appears to be either editorial choice or lost moves as in the game Delmar-Pillsbury where the game score ends at move 18 but there is a note informing the reader that Delmar played on until move 54!

Production Value
 This was really hard to evaluate as on the one hand, it is a very simplistic, no nonsense book but on the other hand I do sympathize with Reinfeld and commend him for publishing the book even though he was let down by others.
Overall I would rate this as adequate.  There is a nice cross table that not only gives results but also the wins, losses, and draws for each player.  There is also a chart organized by game number that allows the reader to look up any game between two players.  There is also an opening table that lists the opening by name (no ECO) and gives the results of wins for white and black as well as the number of drawn games.
Diagrams are placed sporadically throughout the book (some games have none).  There is no index and, unfortunately, the pages have become fragile over time which I am sure is related to the quality of paper used back then.

Final Evaluation

This was a tough call but, given the lack of tournament history in the book, I had to go with aficionado rather than recommended.
The heart of the book, the games, are great.  They are mainly complete, richly annotated and very combative (only 30% of the games were drawn) and going over the games of a great attacking player like Marshall (who was in peak form) is worth the cost of the book alone.  Being the first volume of the Modern Chess Library makes it a rare bird ( I paid three figures for my copy) so only those deeply interested in the history of chess might want to invest that kind of money.
Of all the tournament books in my collection this is the most disappointing in that if time and effort had been made to do a section on the tournament as well as adding substantial biographical information, this book could’ve been among the pantheon of great tournament books.  As it stands, it fills a great historical need in giving us the great games of this powerful American tournament.

Bottom Line: If you love the history of chess, especially of American chess, you simply must have this volume in your library.  Playing over the games will give hours of enjoyment from this little, thin red book on what still remains one of the greatest American Chess Tournaments.