The Man Chess Made
By John S. Hilbert and Peter P. Lahde
McFarland & Company
Who was Albert Beauregard Hodges, and why is he deemed a worthy subject for such a detailed biography? His name isn’t so well known outside of America.
Ajeeb and the ‘Snugs’
New York, 1890-1892
1893: A Year of Achievements
1894: A Year of Champions
1895: A Year of Team Play
Anglo-American Cable Matches
Tournaments - Too Late
Towards an Ending
The Final Years
Hodges was born during the American Civil War and his early life shows typical features of the time; his middle name was chosen after a Confederate army General, Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and the Hodges household had a black slave.
American chess received a big boost during the rise of Paul Morphy but entropy set in after his early retirement.
Hodges played a large number of chess giants, including Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Pillsbury, Chigorin, Marshall and Janowski. The vast majority of the games - and annotations - will be fresh and new to all readers (only 130 are included in ’Big Database 2008‘).
Steinitz - Hodges
Blindfold Game, 1891
Not the best game from the point of view of Hodges, but it features a typically picturesque finishing stroke by the First World Champion.
17 Qxh6+ 1-0
Lasker - Hodges
This position is from his famous win against the future Second World Champion.
34 …Nxh3+ Black lights the touch paper and gains a decisive advantage (0-1, 43)
Hodges - Halpern
New York, 1893
Here’s another well-calculated finish:
48 Rxe6+ Qxe6 49 d7 Qxa6 50 d8=Q+ Kg7 51 Qee7+ 1-0
Hodges died aged 82 in 1944, with an angry war burning away just as there was when he was born. His life was long and - chess wise, at least - very eventful. ‘The Man Chess Made’ is indeed a very accurate subtitle to his life story.
As usual with McFarland books, extra space is devoted to special features. There are four appendixes featuring a variety of material, including a full tournament and match record, the chess problems of Hodges, three obituaries and a small feature on ‘The 1897 Staats-Zeitung Cup Fiasco’.
Six indices complete an extremely fine work. The Selected Bibliography lists close to 150 sources, many of them obscure newspapers. The authors have dug very deep indeed and their efforts are highly commendable.
John S. Hilbert and Peter P. Lahde are ideal authors for such heavyweight historical chess biographies. Both have proven track records and the latter has a book on another American chess hero, Isaac Kashdan, due out very soon (published by McFarland, of course).
Production-wise, this book displays all the hallmarks one has come to expect from McFarland: beautiful hardback binding, quality paper (with that special McFarland smell), large page count (542) and extremely good attention to detail.
Line drawings and photographs augment the text, depicting a plethora of chess personalities, some famous and some more obscure.
2008 has been a good year for chess books but very few can hold a candle to this one.
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