Meeting in a Chess Collector's Paradise
Pictorial report on the Cleveland meeting 2011
KWA General Meeting at Cleveland, Ohio
19-21 August, 2011
Before Andy Ansel goes into the events at Cleveland, Michael Negele reports on his Fiske research and adds some photos from his stopover in Iceland (outward flight) and from the visit to the Niagara Falls / Toronto subsequent to the Cleveland meeting:
Those who remember my contribution THE KING OF COLLECTORS AND HIS PEERS in KARL 4/2004 know that I had already dealt there with Daniel Willard Fiske.
Meanwhile I have succeeded to acquire a number of works published by his literary executor Horatio S. White and to immerse myself deeper in this exciting life. You may assign many titles to Fiske: "Book collector, librarian, linguistic genius, writer, chess player, chess organizer, chess author, journalist, university professor, unsettled traveler, disputatious citizen".
In the a.m. KARL I wrote (the original quotation is given on our corresponding German page):
Prof. Daniel Willard Fiske (*11/11/1831, †17/09/1904 in Frankfurt on the Main), a man of unusual energy whose life should be outlined briefly.
Due to his enthusiasm for Nordic legends, Fiske had studied at Copenhagen and Uppsala in his very young days and returned to New York in 1852. He was a real chess enthusiast; so he edited together with Paul Morphy and later on also with Sam Loyd the “Chess Monthly” from 1857 to 1860. Arguably it was Fiske’s merit as well that the "First American Chess Congress New York 1857" came a reality, the tournament book written by him is a bibliophile tidbit. Later on Fiske’s interest in chess waned considerably, he travelled a lot through Europe and allegedly disbanded his (first) extensive collection of chess literature. (Von der Lasa reported on that in DSZ, April 1864, p.99.)
From 1868 to 1883 he was a lecturer for Nordic languages at the newly founded Cornell University at Ithaca, N.Y., and at the same time he was recorded as their first librarian. In July 1880 Fiske married the tuberculous millionaire heiress Jennie McGraw who died barely two years later after travelling together to Italy. Caused by a seemingly only formal obstacle in the university statutes, there developed a long lasting acrimonious legal dispute between the widower and the Cornell University about the considerable part of her inheritance (about one million US$) that Mrs McGraw-Fiske had donated to the university.
In conflict with the Cornell University, already in 1883 the excellent Dante expert Fiske had gone to Italy near Florence to pursue his research there. Again he built up a large chess library which he later donated to the Icelandic national library (Landsbokasafn) at Reykjavík. 1901-02 he published a chess magazine in Icelandic (I Uppnami = En prise), 1905 his work “Chess in Iceland” was posthumously published. But Fiske bequeathed the Cornell University his great Dante collection (7000 volumes) together with his remaining library (10000 titles on Iceland, 1200 volumes of Rhaeto-Romanic literature, more than 3500 volumes on Petrarca) as well as a considerable estate (about 500 000 US$); apparently Fiske’s grudge had passed after more than 20 years.
This time I got myself in the right mood, so to speak, with a short visit to Iceland (Unfortunately there was no time to make a detour to Reykjavík which is about 50 km away from the airport Keflavík.) in order to immerse myself particularly in the mystery of the so-called Rou(x) manuscript afterwards at the Cleveland Public Library. For a "Hunter of the lost books" this manuscript – allegedly written in 1734 – would of course be a special tidbit, but maybe Fiske has actually "invented" it as the Messrs. Eugene B. Cook, John G. White and John Keeble persistently affirmed. You can learn more about that from my presentation, and in the CPL you will find the reasoning (from 1925) elaborated handwritten by John Keeble why such a manuscript couldn’t have existed. J.G. White's letter to Keeble (dated March 1926) is linked in the following:
Michael Negele’s presentation at our general meeting: Daniel Willard Fiske - An American Pioneer of Chess Book Collecting (PDF, in the member section; 5.5 MB)
But not only about Daniel Willard Fiske, also about Emanuel Lasker as well as about another "lost book" I found new, up to now undiscovered material in this treasure trove for each chess researcher.
From Cleveland I went via Toronto to Niagara Falls, whereby my childhood dream could came true. Next afternoon I met our member Ken MacDonald in the Canadian metropolis on Lake Ontario – what more could I expect?
There is more to learn about the Niagara Falls at Wikipedia (for instance).
Below our deputy chairman Andy Ansel gives his personal depiction of the Cleveland meeting.
But beforehand we would point to the greeting of our chairman Guy Van Habberney to the members which you will find in our member section – please read the Cleveland Intro (PDF).
Friday afternoon August 19th I showed up at the Special Collections room of the Cleveland Public Library. I found many old chess friends frantically doing chess research before the official start of the KWA Annual meeting. Lunch? Are you kidding – everyone was engrossed in books, papers, magazines. At around 3:30 I was able to head people into the room that Kelly Ross had prepared for our meeting. The room had several large tables as well as about 15-20 chairs. Also on the side were bottles of water as well as some snacks. Let the KWA 2011 meeting in Cleveland begin.
Our members are"absorbed" by their work -
The room had about 13 KWA members but we were joined by many Cleveland chess regulars as Friday’s meeting was about chess in Cleveland with three different perspectives. To start off, David Presser, a local master who has been active in Cleveland chess since the 1960’s regaled us with stories of the chess personalities and the chess scene in Cleveland. With many interesting and quite amusing tales we were all entertained. He also had a small handout which had some games and other jottings from this very personal look at local chess.
He was followed by KWA member Lary Rust, a long time Cleveland chess player and retailer who told us about the local chess club scene and the people who ran them. While I can’t speak for everyone, I was amazed at how little I knew about the working of chess in Cleveland.
Finally John Donaldson shared with us one of Cleveland’s contributions to US chess history, the 2nd US Junior Championship 1947. He even had a nice booklet produced for the guests on this important chess event. Not only telling up about where the games were played, the conditions, and the personality of the players, John was able to get some amazing photos of the event. The winner was of course a local player, Larry Friedman, who is virtually unknown among chess players, in fact none of his games are in ChessBase Mega Database 2011.
After three plus exhausting hours of chess, where better to go than to one of Cleveland’s finest restaurants, Lola, where we all could relax and talk among ourselves in a private dining room. Not only did almost all members join us but we were fortunate to have three people from the Special Collections room join us (actually one ex-person). The meal and company were great and we all headed back to our rooms late that night.
The next morning we were all part of the queue as the library opened at 10 AM. Again we had around 13-15 members and the first part we covered was the annual meeting. The meeting room was refreshed with plenty of nice breakfast snacks. There was some lively debate but important issues were decided such as
- That we should create a Junior Membership for any person under the age of 25 would be free as we need to encourage young members to join and participate in our chess culture.
- The board can decide to offer some free memberships to people who will contribute to our group’s success but have some financial hardships.
- When we redesign the web site we should allow for the introduction of member profiles to make it easier for existing (and new) members to contact others with similar interests.
- There was some lively debate on the infamous Bibliography project and how we should resurrect it. It is unclear what scope this should take as different members have different ideas on the scope of details of such a project. We are going to form a committee to look at our options and see how we can finally proceed on this very important topic. We are looking for people with computer expertise and time to join in this effort. The first two members to volunteer are Per Skjoldager and Andreas Saremba.
- There was some discussion of using social media to try and increase KWA’s exposure.
- It was agreed that there will not be another annual meeting in the US until at least 2014 and if so St. Louis should be heavily considered.
- Finally it was agreed on the proposal to name Roger Klittich an "Honorary Member of the Board".
All topics of the general meeting are listed in this pdf file: Topics member assembly (in the member section!).
So running behind, Michael Negele gave us a talk on Daniel Willard Fiske and the lost chess manuscript of Louis Rou(x). This lecture was filled with many pictures and stories on this very important American chess figure that is not well known by most of us. (See first page of this report.)
We then had a brief break for lunch though many stayed in the library to sneak in some last research.
After lunch we had a very nice talk from Per on Nimzovich and the meaning of Hypermodern. Per’s new book on Nimzo’s early life is due to be published by McFarland early next year. There was some lively debate and interesting discussion on the subject.
Next Bob van de Velde talked about Lasker and bridge. Again the things one learn from such a learned expert is quite amazing. This talk was very interesting as he greatly expanded upon from the great Laker book project in which he contributed a chapter.
Finally Martin Frère Hillyer (our newest member) joined up. As many may know, Hillyer wrote about his relative Thomas Frère and at the 2007 meeting in NYC showed us some amazing pictures and other little known memorabilia about early chess in the US.
Now he explained to us about this latest amazing family find - a chess board - his relatives made. That board Paul Morphy used to play on in the 1st American Chess Congress 1857 and also during the World Championship 1886. Furthermore the pieces he has set up on the board were the actual pieces used at the 6th American Congress. Quite an amazing historical find!
The last speaker for Saturday’s meeting was John G White’s Special Collections Librarian, Kelly Ross. Kelly (who along with the rest of the staff) did an amazing job both before and after the meeting in getting research material and other artifacts available for a large number of members who spent extra time at the library. Here she pulled out some special JGW artifacts and arranged them on a table and was able to explain not only their origin but their importance to White. Also we were told quite a bit about JGW the man, as well as the history of his collection. This talk left us all not only inspired but feeling a little inadequate about our own collections.
So you think that would be it? Not at all, after a very short break we all adjourned to a local Spanish Tapas restaurant Mallorca and hung out and talked about …chess. Finally around 9:30 or so this weary writer returned to his hotel room, totally drained from a very intellectual day devoted to chess.
Sunday morning we had arranged transportation to Lary Rust’s chess shop where he agreed to host the book exchange as the Library was closed. Lary’s shop may be unique in the US as it is situated in a large shopping mall. Lary gave a brief talk on how he decided to locate his shop in a mall and how he operates it. Also both Maurice Carter and Lary Rust had some very nice gifts for us. Then the meeting deteriorated as everyone started combing Lary’s extensive books looking for wants. I am still not sure if Jurgen Stigter has left Lary’s shop till now!
Everyone found some great little treasures, there was some friendly blitz games played and we were lucky to have local writer Bob Basalla there with us to talk about chess and the movies. I left with fellow US member Robert Coffman to the airport but I know others continued with some more chess activity.
In concluding, I think we all owe CPL a huge thanks not only for hosting our meeting, but going way beyond that in terms of friendly help in finding and copying items, and being so supportive of our needs. This was the third US meeting I have organized and it may have been the best. I only wish more of us could have attended. There were extensive pictures taken by Michael Negele which should give you a great idea of what this meeting was like.
A later letter by Michael Negele (dated 03/09/2011) to the director of the CPL, Felton Thomas, Jr. is readable for our members as well: Letter to the CPL (PDF, in our member section).
The simultaneously (Friday/Saturday) held world title match of checkers which took place in the auditorium of the CPL and which was accompanied by an exhibition should be mentioned shortly. Unfortunately the general interest was very poor, apart from the two players and five officials only five spectators could be spotted. We offer a selection of photos in this picture gallery.
A short picture series is devoted to the Eastman Reading Garden of the library which shows all kinds of chess relations as well. You will find more information about this original garden on the pages www.cpl.org/TheLibrary/... and www.clevelandpublicart.org/....