The Turk v Mephisto

Historical knowledge and information regarding our great game.
Craig Pritchett
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Craig Pritchett » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:12 am

First, the 'Companion' was an excellent work, in my view, if extraordinarily ambitious, as Whyld/Hooper recognised themselves. They undoubtedly sought to be meticulous and any question I raise accords with their own words (Preface): '... our best efforts will not have not freed us from all error and amendments from readers will be welcome'.

Second, although I can't believe that such meticulous bibliophiles and plain, passionate chessplayers were not aware of another (excellent) Batsford work 'The Scotch' (Botterill, Harding, 1977), 'they' nevertheless 'ignored' that book's use of the term 'Steinitz Variation' (others have later transmuted this on occasion into 'Steinitz Attack'). That's puzzling as that book includes copious amounts of sensible discussion about the 4...Qh4 line and its substantial and significant history (although unless I missed it, they don't seem to mention Pulling ... and maybe that played a part in Whyld/Hooper's entry in 'The Companion'!?).

Third, while Whyld/Hooper (Appx 1) were (also) concerned, again extraordinarily ambitiously, to include a list of all 'named' openings, they had a difficult choice here: should it be Steinitz Variation (or Attack) or just plain 4...Qh4 line (i.e. no name) or this curious Pulling Counterattack? Personally I prefer, as Lev Gutman, no name (4...Qh4 in The Scotch), which, by the way, is how Steinitz, the line's most important adherent, appeared to consider it ... he never 'claimed' it by name, but neither did he appear ever to use the term 'Pulling Counterattack' (though this would be a huge job to corroborate fully).

Fourthly, by 1983/4 (and increasingly subsequently), there was a very clear 'claim' to name the line after Steinitz, yet Whyld/Hooper were apparently insufficiently persuaded by this, so named it after Pulling, but with no apparent games or analysis by the worthy gentleman at hand to indicate that he developed any or many of the line's key ideas, one has to wonder whether that was justified.

Fifthly, Whyld/Hooper do cite Walker's Treatise in Chess (1841) in their entry on the 'Pulling Counterattack', in which they state that the 'variation [was] first published'. I don't have a copy to hand to check. Maybe someone else has?

Tim Harding
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Tim Harding » Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:19 pm

Craig Pritchett wrote:First, the 'Companion' was an excellent work, in my view, if extraordinarily ambitious, as Whyld/Hooper recognised themselves. They undoubtedly sought to be meticulous and any question I raise accords with their own words (Preface): '... our best efforts will not have not freed us from all error and amendments from readers will be welcome'.
Perhaps we should start a separate thread about the Oxford Companion as it's a big subject and discussion will get lost below the heading "The Turk v Mephisto."

On the Scotch 4...Qh4 I will reply separately.
Tim Harding
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Tim Harding » Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:59 pm

Craig Pritchett wrote:...
Second, although I can't believe that such meticulous bibliophiles and plain, passionate chessplayers were not aware of another (excellent) Batsford work 'The Scotch' (Botterill, Harding, 1977), 'they' nevertheless 'ignored' that book's use of the term 'Steinitz Variation' (others have later transmuted this on occasion into 'Steinitz Attack'). That's puzzling as that book includes copious amounts of sensible discussion about the 4...Qh4 line and its substantial and significant history (although unless I missed it, they don't seem to mention Pulling ... and maybe that played a part in Whyld/Hooper's entry in 'The Companion'!?).

Third, while Whyld/Hooper (Appx 1) were (also) concerned, again extraordinarily ambitiously, to include a list of all 'named' openings, they had a difficult choice here: should it be Steinitz Variation (or Attack) or just plain 4...Qh4 line (i.e. no name) or this curious Pulling Counterattack? Personally I prefer, as Lev Gutman, no name (4...Qh4 in The Scotch), which, by the way, is how Steinitz, the line's most important adherent, appeared to consider it ... he never 'claimed' it by name, but neither did he appear ever to use the term 'Pulling Counterattack' (though this would be a huge job to corroborate fully).

Fourthly, by 1983/4 (and increasingly subsequently), there was a very clear 'claim' to name the line after Steinitz, yet Whyld/Hooper were apparently insufficiently persuaded by this, so named it after Pulling, but with no apparent games or analysis by the worthy gentleman at hand to indicate that he developed any or many of the line's key ideas, one has to wonder whether that was justified.

Fifthly, Whyld/Hooper do cite Walker's Treatise in Chess (1841) in their entry on the 'Pulling Counterattack', in which they state that the 'variation [was] first published'. I don't have a copy to hand to check. Maybe someone else has?
Thanks, Craig, for the interesting contribution and mention of the old book which was largely written by George Botterill with some input from me. (The Italian Game was largely the other way about: it was originally envisaged as one book but Batsford split it.)

On your Fifthly, please look back to my post of Feb 26, 2017 10:03 pm, where I confirm that Walker (1841) was the first mention of the move in print, mentioning Pulling but giving no continuation. Yes it's in the Oxford Companion first ed page 269.

As has been pointed out, Staunton would appear to have played the move 4...Qh4 before the 1841 book was published (though perhaps not before Walker's MS went to press). So we can, I think, safely assume that there was a smallish circle of London players in the late 1830 and early 1840s who knew of Pulling and his idea against the Scotch but it got little attention because 4 Bc4 and not 4 Nxd4 was the usual move in those days.

However Wormald's Chess Openings (1st ed of 1864 page 44), while giving 4...Bc5 5 Nxc6 Qf6 as the recommended defence to 4 Nxd4 does say:
R. B. Wormald wrote:"We cannot, however, pass over the variation springing from 4 Kt takes KP [sic], without calling attention to Mr. Pulling's move of 4... Q to KR5, and the beautiful rejoinder of 5. Kt to Q Kt5, invented by Mr. Horwitz, which, however, was first theoretically developed in the 'Handbook', p. 170..."
This was a reference to Staunton's Handbuch and he in turn cited analysis in the Berlin Schachzeitung of October 1846. I don't have access to that at home.

Steinitz probably never mentions Pulling because he was not acquainted with him and there were no extant Pulling games with 4...Qh4.

It would perhaps have been G. B. Fraser who got him interested in the move, as Steinitz spent quite some time with him in Scotland (in 1867 and later) as Craig is doubtless aware, and some early books tend to mention Horwitz and Fraser's ideas for White against 4...Qh4 without attributing that fourth move to anyone.

On the naming of the variation as Pulling or Steinitz or whatever, maybe George and I were guided by the general view held by Bob Wade (as editor of the Batsford opening series) that opening variations should not be named after random amateurs who may have come up with the move on some vague occasion (or even in a competitive game, which is not the case here) but rather attributed to a master who developed it and made it suitable for serious competition.
It would perhaps have appealed to Hooper & Whyld to show off their historical knowledge by rehabilitating Pulling and of course it's possible that they didn't read the Botterill/Harding book.
I think this post is getting too long, and it's late and I have a match tomorrow, so in a few days I will add my recollections of how 4...Qh4 was (re)discovered by Botterill and myself in the early 1970s.
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Tim Harding » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:28 pm

Ian Kingston wrote: Having once worked at OUP and had a discussion about the Companion with the in-house editor (I was trying to get him to commission more chess books - I failed), I can confidently state that the editor concerned did not have sufficient knowledge about the game to make the above scenario plausible.

I think Hooper and Whyld were pretty much left to their own devices, but there must have been some external review of the content. For a typical academic work, reviewers in the 1980s were paid £50-£100 (or books worth about twice that amount), so there probably wouldn't have been any detailed study of the text.

All this with the caveat that someone on this forum may well know who reviewed the book and be able to contradict me.
The OUP chess list was an initiative by Adam Hart-Davis after he (returning from Canada) took up a position as a science book editor. So it was presumably he who commissioned the first edition of the Oxford Companion to Chess but he wouldn't have been around to edit it when the MS was delivered in the 1980s. He had left (to work for Yorkshire Television, if I recall correctly ?) in late 1978 or early 1979, and his successor (presumably before Ian's time) was not very interested in chess. I don't recall his name.
Tim Harding
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Ian Kingston
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Ian Kingston » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:00 am

Tim Harding wrote:
Ian Kingston wrote: Having once worked at OUP and had a discussion about the Companion with the in-house editor (I was trying to get him to commission more chess books - I failed), I can confidently state that the editor concerned did not have sufficient knowledge about the game to make the above scenario plausible.

I think Hooper and Whyld were pretty much left to their own devices, but there must have been some external review of the content. For a typical academic work, reviewers in the 1980s were paid £50-£100 (or books worth about twice that amount), so there probably wouldn't have been any detailed study of the text.

All this with the caveat that someone on this forum may well know who reviewed the book and be able to contradict me.
The OUP chess list was an initiative by Adam Hart-Davis after he (returning from Canada) took up a position as a science book editor. So it was presumably he who commissioned the first edition of the Oxford Companion to Chess but he wouldn't have been around to edit it when the MS was delivered in the 1980s. He had left (to work for Yorkshire Television, if I recall correctly ?) in late 1978 or early 1979, and his successor (presumably before Ian's time) was not very interested in chess. I don't recall his name.
I've been trying to remember the name ever since I posted, but it just won't come to me. There was no active chess publishing going on during my time there (mid-1984 to early 1988).

Craig Pritchett
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Craig Pritchett » Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:51 pm

Many thanks, Tim, for such a fulsome and interesting reply. I think I (continue to) draw the conclusion that while Pulling was certainly worth a mention in 'The Companion', along lines ... a strong London amateur, who seems to have been especially active in the 1830s; who had a reputation for brilliance and dash in his best games (although very few have survived on record), including a flair for blindfold chess; and whose name was widely associated with the original introduction of the sharp 4...Qh4 riposte to the (modern) main line Scotch Game, which was one of the most significant opening discoveries in the 19th century, later taken up and developed into a highly dangerous weapon, especially by Steinitz, at the very top.

But I'd have baulked at giving the latter line the name 'Pulling Counterattack' (not least, but not just, if no one can actually confirm that that name was actually in use at the time, which seems likely). It remains a relatively minor point and I still hold 'The Companion' in high repute. I don't expect such ambitious projects to get everything 'right' and I certainly expect such meticulous and painstaking authors to exercise their own judgement ... with which one can differ, of course.

I'm not sure that a separate thread on this single book would be appropriate on this (wide-ranging) Forum. I certainly think that it was unfortunate that Adam Hart-Davis departed OUP at the end of the 1970s as, although I only met him once, he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about chess and such titles. These were, I also seem to recall, times of severe editorial cuts at the publishing house. We are probably lucky simply to have been able to see 'The Companion' through into print! Thanks, Ian!!

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:17 pm

It is interesting to see Adam Hart-Davis mentioned in this thread in connection with chess. I first encountered him and knew of him through his television work, and then later through his photography work (he sometimes visits where I work), and it was only much later that I realised he was also active in the chess world.

There is a brief mention of him here (I thought there was more, but cannot find it right now):

http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php ... 81#p139776

That says he was a regular at the Scarborough Congress for a while, but presumably this is before 1994 - maybe those with old copies of the grading lists could look up when he first appeared there?

Is this grading record him or someone with the same name?

http://www.ecfgrading.org.uk/new/menu.p ... de=295297L

That Adam Hart-Davis played in a county match for Cornwall B here:

http://www.cornwallchess.org.uk/html/ar ... 2016.shtml

The description is a bit confusing though, as the match card gives him beating one person, but the text report states he lost to someone else.

Anyway, it almost certainly is him, and he is actively playing chess, which is good. :D

According to this:

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=147468

He wrote a personal recollection of Irving Chernev in the December 1981 CHESS:
Adam Hart-Davis in 1981 on Irving Chernev wrote:I have met many chess players, and many chess writers, but never have I met anyone who had the same enthusiasm. I edited three of his books; I know how much time, care, patience and love he put into them. Every letter from Irving bubbled with life. He always carried a battered leather wallet set, with pieces designed by Marcel Duchamp, and was ever ready to show you a position, to play a game, or to recount another anecdote.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:32 pm

"That says he [A Hart-Davis] was a regular at the Scarborough Congress for a while, but presumably this is before 1994 - maybe those with old copies of the grading lists could look up when he first appeared there?"

I played him in a British Rapidplay in Leeds in 1991 (unless there's another A H-D!)

Matt Fletcher
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Matt Fletcher » Wed Mar 08, 2017 9:37 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote: Is this grading record him or someone with the same name?

http://www.ecfgrading.org.uk/new/menu.p ... de=295297L
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the somewhat unusual name, it is the same person:
Keverel Chess Blog wrote:This was also the debut for former presenter of TV science programmes, Adam Hart-Davis, who is now a regular at the Plymouth Chess Club.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Mar 08, 2017 9:45 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:maybe those with old copies of the grading lists could look up when he first appeared there?
He's in the 1988 list under Barnsley and Dewsbury with a grade of E156 (unchanged). There's also a J Hart-Davis, flagged as a junior of unknown age, who is E172 up from 150.

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John Clarke
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Re: The Turk v Mephisto

Post by John Clarke » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:17 pm

Adam Hart-Davis had an unpromising start to his competitive chess career, according to Volume 2 of The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters.

p56 (letter dated 10 Feb 1957): " ... Adam has been asked to play chess for the School! Fred [AH-D's housemaster at Eton] rightly forbade it, since the match was scheduled to last four hours."

p71 (17 March): "My youngest was eventually allowed to play chess for the School, but was defeated by an elderly lady in a basement off High Street Kensington!"

Wonder who she was , and where they played?
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

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