Monday, July 12, 2010
IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS USING OLD CHESS SOURCES
Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time going through James Mason's annotations of several of Lasker's and Pillsbury's games from the St. Petersburg 1896 tournament as found in the February issue of The British Chess Magazine.
It really shows one how much can be learned and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. They didn't have computers nor huge databases of games then but Mason was a thoughtful man, a man with "no name" when he emigrated from Ireland to the USA. Chessmetrics calculated his peak rating at 2701 which I think might be asking too much from the mid 1870s (by working backward). He was second only to Steinitz (nice Trivia Question for you.)
Mason had several successful books but he was also known as a "drinker" as many were then (and now). I am not sure what drinking does to help one play better chess since I have beaten strong players who like to drink, several times. It seems to give them a "devil may care" attitude, but in Mr. Mason's case his notes from the game Pillsbury-Lasker where Lasker sacked two Rooks? Well, they are mildly notable. Of all the notes for that game, 4-5 of them were severely unreliable. Close, but granting "no cigar."
Of course Kasparov annotated that game in His Predecessors book and took big flak for some misjudgments, so Mason was in good company. Yet there was at least one place where Mason missed a perpetual check that it looked like Pillsbury had against Lasker but didn't play. It was noted in that issue of BCM that the players were in severe time trouble and I am thinking perhaps the annotator was also.
Still, the game, as it sat, was a jewel. Even the redoubtable Ray Keene featured it in his hilarious video series titled The 12 Best Games of Chess. There WERE some dandies on that list.