Chess Panorama
by Bill Wall

In 1975, the late grandmaster William Lombardy (1937-2017), along with chess master David Daniels, wrote "Chess Panorama." It contained some chess trivia, chess history, and a several chess games (see my pgn list of games). Here are a few items and stories from the book.

On page 4, Lombardy describes the first chess tournament, held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. He says it was called a tournament because it was analagous to the medieval institution in which armored knights clashed in combat. The tournament was supposed to be a meeting of gentlemen amateurs.

On page 10, Lombardy desribes chess titles. He says that the Germans were the first to formalize a system through which players could earn the master's title, which then served as a kind of union card to secure them admittance to international events. Players like Tarrasch and Emanuel Lasker worked thier way up through the German ranks and finally secured their master's title in a Hauptturnier (candidates tournament).

On page 11, Lombardy tells the story of Richard Reti's debut in international chess. In 1908, a huge chess tournament was held in Vienna. One of the international players dropped out at the last minute, so the tournament organizers allowed the strong local player Reti to enter in the event. Reti did very poorly. He only drew 3, lost 16 games, and not winning a game. He was so discouraged that he almost gave up chess. Fortunately he persevered, to become one of the most original thinkers in the game of chess. Reti took last place at Vienna 1908 with 1.5 out of 19 (the next to the last person had 6 points). There was a 3-way tie for 1st place with Schlechter, Maroczy, and Duras. By the way, Reti took 1st place in his next tournament in Vienna in 1909.

On page 13, Lombardy describe the rise of the Soviet Union and chess. He states that in 1922 there were about 1,000 officially registered chess players in the USSR. In 1929, there were 150,000 registered players. In 1934, there were 500,000 registered players. In 1966, there were 3,540,000 registered chess players throughout the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, a candidate master, in order to earn the master's title, had to win a chess match against a recognized master.

On page 19, Lombardy described the evolution of the Chess Olympiad. By 1972, at the Skopje Chess Olympiad, six of the world's seven continents were represented. Lombardy wrote that the penguins of Antarctica too were anxious to come, but could not raise the necessary funds in time (the penguins' opponents were fish).

On page 20, Lombardy describes the rise of Paul Keres, born in Parnu, Estonia. Paul's only chess opponent growing up was his older brother. He couldn't obtain any chess books, so he copied over 1,000 chess games by longhand from newspaper columns. He soon began to play postal chess, and, at one time, he had 150 postal chess games going on at the same time. Keres died too early. He had a heart condition. He won his last tournament be beating Walter Browne at the Vancouver Open in 1975 (I played in the event and ran the demo board for them). He died of a heart attack on the way back to Estonia.

On page 68, Lombardy discussed a chess ending between Tchigorin and Tarrasch at the 1898 Vienna tournament. Their game came down to an ending with a symmetrical pawn formation and bishops of opposite colors. Lombardy wrote, "Tchigorin got fed up and offered a draw. Tarrasch refused. Tchigorin knew Tarrasch well, and was half expecting that; he calmly removed his bishop from the board and said, in broken German, ‘Go ahead. Win.’ Tarrasch proceeded to reappraise the position in the light of this startling development, and then tamely agreed to a draw."

On page 77, Lombardy discusses the chess clock and how it became needed in chess. There were no chess clocks or time limit during the 1851 London international chess tournament. In that event one player in particular, Elijah Williams, took so long between his moves against Howard Staunton that Staunton protested in a loud manner and later forfeited a playoff match against Williams out of sheer frustration. Williams sometimes spent over 2 hours on a move. Staunton is quoted as remarking while playing against Williams, "... Elijah, you're not just supposed to sit there — you're supposed to sit there and think!"

On page 80, Lombardy describes a match between Samuel Reshevsky and Donald Byrne. In the first game, there was a dispute as to whose flag fell first in a time scramble. Neither one claimed a flag fall right away. In the second game, neith player notices their flag down. Seated in the front row of spectators was Mrs. Reshevsky who jumped up from her seat and shouted, "I claim the game on behalf of my husband." Sam Reshevsky then claimed that Byrne's flag was down, and Bryne claimed that Reshevsky's flag was down. The matter was referred to an arbitration committee - a procedure to which Byrne objected so strongly that he temporarily resigned the match. Play eventually resumed, and Reshevsky won.

Starting on page 101, Lombardy wrote a chapter about scandals in chess and described the antics of Nelson Treysman (1881-1959), who Lombady called the greatest coffeehouse player of all time. Treysman earned his livelihood in the dingy cafes on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In one game, he was losing. At the critical moment of the game a waiter came by that had a salt shaker on the tray. Treysman captured the salt shaker and slammed it down on the appropriate square, and shouted "Mate!" Before his startled opponent could protest, Treysman had pocketed the stakes and begun to set up the pieces for the next game. Sometimes he grabbed an unmoved rook from an adjacent board. Treysman (age 55) tied for 3rd place in the 1936 US championshhip. In 1950, when the first USCF rating list appeared, he was one of the highest rated players in the US, rated 2531.

On pages 104-105, Lombardy relates the anecdote about Aron Nimzovich (1886-1935) who abhorred tobacco smoke. His opponent took out his pipe and began to fiddle with it. Nimzovich then went to the tournament director to complain. But the TD told Nimzovich that he was not actually smoking. Nimzovich replied, "I know, but he threatens to smoke and you know as well as I that in chess the threat is often stronger than the execution." Lombardy then writes that this was one of the basic principles elaborated in Nimzovich's work "My System." However, this principle is not in "My System."

On page 105, Lombardy wrote that American master Arthur Dake was once forfeited against then world champion Capablanca for repeatedly offering a draw. Lombardy noted that Dake was a fine sportsman, but he was reacting to the severe pressure of competition.

On page 192, Lombardy described an incident of a grandmaster trying to play blindfold chess. Yugoslav GM (1957) Miro Udovchich (Mijo Udovcic) agreed to give a 10-board simultaneous blindfold exhibition in a village in Yugoslavia. At one point, he could no longer remember the positions on the boards. He then excused himself to go to the bathroom, found an open window, climbed out of it, and went as fast as he could back to his home town in Zagreb. Udovcic (1920-1984) was the first Croation GM and was Yugoslav chess champion in 1963.

Click here for all the chess games in the book in pgn format.

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