Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Historical knowledge and information regarding our great game.
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John Saunders
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by John Saunders » Sun Jun 09, 2024 8:21 am

Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2024 10:54 pm
A general point - if you can find a library that is still open, my experience is that the staff tend to love it if you ask them questions, that gets them searching archives instead of doing the boring stuff. Local history centres are really helpful too.
Yes, that's been my experience too, Kevin. I recall going to Richmond Library to research the 1912 British Championship (which was held just over the road from the library) and they couldn't have been more helpful.

While on the subject of libraries, they can be very useful to join as they often provide free access to subscription archives, which you can access from home. Richmond Library's online service gives me access to the Gale Databases, via which I can access the Times and Sunday Times, which are of course a treasure trove of chess material. You don't necessarily have to live in a particular area to join their online library in order to take advantage of other facilities. In order to access the Guardian and Observer newspapers, I joined the Manchester Online Library.

Until recently, I was able to access the Times Literary Supplement (Gale Database) via the Richmond Online Library. Back in the day it had a very useful chess column. However, for some reason access via Richmond Library was withdrawn. If anyone knows how it may still be accessed, I would be glad to know.
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by John Saunders » Sun Jun 09, 2024 8:55 am

Jon D'Souza-Eva has already given us some very useful tips for using the General Register Office upthread, and he has also cited the FreeBMD website as an excellent place to research individuals for full names, birth and death dates.

On another thread we've already discussed FindMyPast. I'll give my personal view on subscription family history sites (I have long subscribed to both FindMyPast and Ancestry.) FindMyPast is my preference as it is more effective at finding people when you've only got forename initials to work from and (a big plus point) it allows you to access newspapers as well. In that respect it is a major rival to the British Newspaper Archive, to which I also subscribe. In future I may well cancel my subscription to British Newspaper Archive since, as far as I can see, it offers little or nothing extra to what you get from a FMP subscription. Does anyone know of any way in which the BNA is better than FMP? I suspect the underlying database is identical and the FMP interface seems cleaner and more responsive. I will retain my Ancestry sub as it does seem to offer some extra data which is not discoverable via FMP. Once you have the first forename it works pretty well. However, another area in which FMP scores is that it is the only site currently offering the 1921 census, though that is a paid-for extra.

Searching newspapers for chess references via FindMyPast is straightforward. You type in a name (can just be a surname) and then in the keywords field you simply type "chess" or maybe you want to search for a locality of tournament identifier e.g. "Hampshire, chess" or perhaps you are looking for game scores, e.g. "chess, kt, Hastings". I have found the keyword 'kt' to be the best way to find game scores from way back (though it obviously becomes less effective as the switch to 'N' for knight kicked in, from the early 1960s - maybe try 'k4' or something of that ilk).
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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sun Jun 09, 2024 10:16 am

I used to access the Gale databases through a subscription to Westminster Libraries (as I worked in an area near Paddington and that was the borough the local library was in). That might still work (not sure). It is frustrating when local libraries change their subscription levels (though understandable in an era of budget cuts).

I then found I had access to a wide range of academic databases when doing a postgraduate degree a few years ago. That ended when I graduated, but it is always worth bearing those in mind when doing research.

The British Library (despite its recent travails) will have access to a number of sources (some you have to go to one of their physical sites, and access to many of those services and the online ones are still being rebuilt following the cyberattack).

Another physical site/archive that is worth considering is The National Archives in Kew, as this is quite accessible (particularly from John's neck of the woods). The public terminals there would likely allow access to the TLS and most of the Gale databases. If you get a Reading Room ticket then the joys of looking through physical documents awaits (unsure how much chess material there, but there must be lots and not all already looked at).

There are some databases that even university libraries don't always subscribe to, unfortunately. Sometimes you need to ask around to see who has access, or to see if authors of papers can be contacted via something like Researchgate or Academia.edu or similar. They will often be willing to share their papers if asked. JSTOR is also good.

Some universities provide their alumni with (limited) access to academic databases. Cambridge University do that, and I am fortunate enough to be able to access a lot of the CUP ebooks and journals that way.

There is also Senate House Library just off Russell Square, which is very accessible for a small fee and has a labrythine warren of books on its upper floors. Like the Institute for Historical Research next door, it has many obscure books, most likely not of interest but undoubtedly some chess treasures in there. If you know where to look, numerous small libraries and archives across London (and the rest of the country, everywhere will have its local archives, some are nationally important ones).

Others will have looked at the rare books in the British Library before, but always worth looking yourself if there is a reason and they are available to the public. Researchers such as Tim Harding will be able to say more about the Dutch chess archives (and those elsewhere in Europe). I am sure lots has been written about the US archives.

There are societies for chess history as well. They should be mentioned in any listing as well. It is surprisingly easy to get started in researching chess history in other countries, but some basic knowledge of the language does help (I know the focus here is mostly on British chess).

There are online newspaper archives covering other Anglophone countries. The 'Papers Past' site for New Zealand is particularly good. There is an Australian one as well. You may find trails from British chess leading you there and to other former (some less former than others) 'British' locations around the globe.

Others from those countries may be researching the same periods or people. It is always worth making contact if they have an online presence or contact address, as some (not all) will be willing to share and collaborate.

One final thought. Unpublished theses often contain information that is, well, not published! But will contain the fruits of diligent research varying from Masters level to doctoral (PhD) level, and may also help. The British Library eTHOS service is probably still down, but most good universities will have their own academic repository.

To finish away from the slight bias towards academic sources I am betraying here, there are many, many wonderful image sources out there where typing in "chess" brings up a cornucopia of wonders. Getty Images (you need to select the 'editorial' ones) and places like the Maria Evans Picture Library, and some others I have forgotten right now. Oh yes, British Pathe have great cine-reel content. Many of these places have their own (searchable) channels on YouTube and Flickr.

I'll stop there (as I have run on a bit) other than to say that it is always worth keeping careful notes of the searches you do and going back some years later to see if new content has been added. And knowing which sites come up in Google searches and which need to be interrogated separately (there are some specialist search engine, some integrated into browsers , that aggregate such searches, but I am not terribly familiar with those).

PS. The most useful systematic searching may be to pull together (from existing lists) all known newspaper chess columns. There were so many local newspapers I am sure lots remains to be researched here (Gerard Killoran and others will know more here).

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by David Sedgwick » Sun Jun 09, 2024 4:12 pm

Dear All,

My post is not really to do with Chess History Research, but it seemed to belong here.

I have been struggling to use this Forum, but Nick Faulks has visited me this afternoon and is helping me.

If I should vanish again, please send me a PM if you wish to contact me.

David

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by James Pratt » Sun Jun 09, 2024 6:20 pm

J. N. Pope of the Chess Archaeology website
Wasn't this buried years ago?
James

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Jun 09, 2024 7:05 pm

It was still active until earlier this week, there's a separate thread about it! It is hoped its absence will only be temporary.
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Geoff Chandler » Sun Jun 09, 2024 9:27 pm

Hi John,

"You might also have some old chess material of your own..."

By chance glancing through a March 1962 CHESS an article (page 198) referred to a game
given in September 1960 Chess (page 229). D. Drimer v K.D. Sales, Student Olympiad 1960.

CHESS originally had Driemer as White, Megabase have Drimer but Sales as Sails. :?

Here (Jon D'Souza-Eva) and Britbase confirmed Keith for me. Chessgames gave me Dolfi. (they do not have the game)

The game is from the famous Student event where USA came first ahead of the USSR
the quirk is Keith resigned when he had no need to. All White has is a perpetual.
(Chess 1960 are using the old Spelling Rumania for Romania )

D. Drimer (Romania) - K.D. Sales (U.K. University) U26 Ch. or Student Olympiad 1960 (1-0)




The Bxh6 idea crops a few times in that variation, though not always in the exact same position.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander - Alberic O'Kelly de Galway, 1954 Amsterdam Olympiad (½–½)
Same position crops up without Rb8 and b3. White takes the perpetual



I'll submit Drimer - Sales to chessgames they are using the tag; WchT U26 07th (1960), Leningrad URS

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Sun Jun 09, 2024 10:49 pm

Geoff Chandler wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2024 9:27 pm
Here (Jon D'Souza-Eva) and Britbase confirmed Keith for me. Chessgames gave me Dolfi. (they do not have the game)
Keith Donald Sales - born in 1936 and quite possibly still living. See https://www.bemrose.derby.sch.uk/news-a ... ts/alumni/

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Sun Jun 09, 2024 10:52 pm

John Saunders wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2024 9:15 pm
Consider digitising it (in my ideal world every chess player would be a dab hand at using a scanner)
Do you have any hints on how to do that, John? I have a perfectly functional flatbed scanner which is OK for my needs (mostly scanning single A4 page documents) but it's not much use at scanning old magazines or books as an open A4-sized magazine or large book doesn't really fit properly. I've got quite a lot of old magazines and scarce books that I'd like to scan in if I could do it at a faster rate than 1 page every 15 minutes.

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Geoff Chandler » Sun Jun 09, 2024 10:58 pm

Thanks Jon,

When chessgames post the game I give them the extra info. I have smashing scanner, my daughter picked it up at car boot sale
for...and this is 100% true. 20p. It was late the owner did not want to take it home. I told her she could have haggled down to 15p.
Last edited by Geoff Chandler on Mon Jun 10, 2024 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by John Saunders » Sun Jun 09, 2024 11:56 pm

Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2024 10:52 pm
John Saunders wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2024 9:15 pm
Consider digitising it (in my ideal world every chess player would be a dab hand at using a scanner)
Do you have any hints on how to do that, John? I have a perfectly functional flatbed scanner which is OK for my needs (mostly scanning single A4 page documents) but it's not much use at scanning old magazines or books as an open A4-sized magazine or large book doesn't really fit properly. I've got quite a lot of old magazines and scarce books that I'd like to scan in if I could do it at a faster rate than 1 page every 15 minutes.
I have a Canon flatbed scanner which can scan A4 documents. It's a dedicated scanner rather than a three-in-one printer/scanner/copier. I can't tell you the exact model as I'm not at home currently; besides which, it's about 15-20 years old and probably long out of production. Not hugely expensive, maybe 100 quid when I bought it.

It comes with some fairly decent utility software which I sometimes use for photos, but I prefer to use ABBYY Fine Reader 12 (no doubt other brands are available) for scanning and OCR-ing documents. For BritBase I sometimes create readable PDFs to post online but more often simply copy the text generated by the OCR component into an HTML page. The text then has to be checked for OCR errors, of course, but it's pretty good apart from 'half' characters which it is incapable of getting right, even though the software is supposed to allow you to 'teach' it how to interpret such characters. This is annoying as the material I scan for BritBase tends to be littered with 'half' characters, of course.

I agree, it's not easy or quick scanning pages from particularly fat or tightly-bound volumes, which you have to press down on the platen in order for the text nearest the 'gutter' to scan effectively. But for slimmer or looser A4 material I don't have too many problems. I can certainly do better than 1 scan every 15 minutes. The utility software allows you to set a time gap between scans - say 20-30 seconds - during which you can turn the sheet over or get the next page onto the platen - before the next scan triggers automatically. That way you can get a 40-50 page scan done in a reasonable time (and it doesn't really matter if you miss an iteration - the blank scan can be deleted later). It doesn't matter which way up you scan a page and it can also adjust automatically if it is slightly skewed on the platen. Foolscap pages (e.g. some old SCCU grading lists) are more of a problem and take longer. If you were to scan a copy of BCM, you place the double spread of two pages on the platen at 90 degrees so that they fit and scan: the software is clever enough to divide this into two A5 pages and correct the orientation.

In theory it should be possible to OCR-scan games in algebraic notation from publications and then copy & paste straight into a ChessBase/HIARCS/SCID new game window, but my advice is - don't bother! It works sometimes but not enough to make it quicker/more accurate than manual input. For a start, if the notation has figurines it doesn't work at all because of all the preparatory work you have to do. You have to 'teach' the software the symbols but it never learns them sufficiently well to be worth the bother. Even if the publication being scanned uses KQRBN, it's not much better: for example, you can't trust it not to mix up Re4 and Rc4, particularly if you are scanning from old typewritten, cheaply reproduced bulletins. Absolute non-starter, I'm afraid. Maybe other OCR software might do it, with a newer, snazzier scanner, but not the hardware/software set-up I have.
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Mon Jun 10, 2024 10:07 pm

This is more of a general genealogy tip than specifically one for chess research.

Sometimes when you're researching a woman you completely lose sight of her after her marriage, particularly if she marries someone with a common surname. What has often worked for me is to look for children born of that marriage.

So, if the subject of your research is Jane Bowdidge and she goes and marries John Smith in 1852, go to the GRO index and enter "Smith" for the surname, "Bowdidge" for the mother's maiden name, 1854 (with +- 2) for the year of birth and search for both male and female births. You might strike lucky - perhaps they gave their child an unusual name, for example Thomasina, and searching for a Thomasina Smith is going to be more fruitful than searching for John or Jane Smith.

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John Saunders
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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by John Saunders » Tue Jun 11, 2024 7:00 am

Geoff Chandler wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2024 9:27 pm
Hi John,

"You might also have some old chess material of your own..."

By chance glancing through a March 1962 CHESS an article (page 198) referred to a game
given in September 1960 Chess (page 229). D. Drimer v K.D. Sales, Student Olympiad 1960.
Geoff,

I wrote about this game in the March 2023 CHESS Magazine. Below, the score of the game with my notes, plus sources. Incidentally, when posting game scores here, it's easier for readers if you put the header info between the PGN tags. That way, if the reader wants to add the game score to their database, all they have to do is click on the c8 square which triggers a window with the complete PGN for the game, and it becomes a simple copy and paste into their database.

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by Geoff Chandler » Tue Jun 11, 2024 10:46 am

John Saunders wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2024 7:00 am
Thanks John,

All the way through it I was thinking I've seen this before. I even searched some old 'Chandler Corners' It never twigged it was recently. I'll use PGN tags from now on. I also messed up my search on chessgames when looking for 'Sales' thinking he never had a C.G. page.
I used that top left search box and all I got was 'Jesse Noel Sales' I should have used the advanced search thing. chessgames have this game now.

They do not have the Edmund MacDonald v George Bellingham game from your latest piece in CHESS. I was thinking of submitting but you will have the bare score and the all important full source. I actually went through it the day the mag arrived, I play out the games at the back of the issue first, these are often 'Corinthian' and IMO more enjoyable. I do not mind admitting am losing touch with modern chess at the higher level and 90% of the games I play over these days on my board are from the 1950's to the 1990's. The Golden Decades of Chess.

I can confirm 'White's small force commando force.' does look good. I tried a few lines without a computer was happy with what I was seeing.

BTW I was going to post the score here via the PGN download as advertised in the latest CHESS (page 45) but I cannot see it on the the website. What am I doing wrong this time :( or is it just not there.

Edit: I've broken one of my forum rules. Mentioned a game without posting it.

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Re: Resources and Tips for Chess History Research

Post by John Saunders » Tue Jun 11, 2024 4:28 pm

Yes, I enjoyed working on the Macdonald-Bellingham game (which ended 0-1, BTW).

Here's the full score that was published by CHESS. Notes in quotes were by Hoffer, others by me)...

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