‘Esling’s Memories Expanded’ and ‘Ken Fraser – A Quiet Achiever’

18 Apr. 2018 | by Peter Wong

Bob Meadley has sent me two splendid e-books that he published some years ago. Although their problem contents are somewhat peripheral, anyone keen on chess and especially its historical aspects will find much of interest in these well-researched documents. The first is Esling’s Memories Expanded (2009), which Bob compiled with the late Ken Fraser. Frederick Karl Esling (1860-1955) was the first official Chess Champion of Australia. He was also a railway engineer in charge of many important projects in Melbourne, Victoria, including the rebuilding of the Flinders Street Railway Station. Both of his careers, chess and professional, are covered in this comprehensive biography. Esling also composed some good problems that are tough to solve, and a small (incomplete) selection of his works is included. Below I quote one of his easier but appealing three-movers. At a sizable 268 pages, this document is divided into four PDF files which you can download here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

The second e-book is Ken Fraser – A Quiet Achiever (2014). Ken Fraser was the curator of one of the greatest collections of chess books in the world, the M.V. Anderson Chess Collection in the State Library of Victoria. Under the main heading, “The Letters from Ken,” Bob chronicles Fraser’s work as a chess researcher and the invaluable assistance he gave to other chess writers and historians, including Bob himself. “Problems are mentioned quite a lot in the pages,” wrote Bob, who indicated that the State Library intends to add the document (in whole or part) to its website.

Frederick Esling
The Leader (Melbourne) 1941

Mate in 3

The diagram position contains a short set line, 1…f4 2.Rxf4, but most of the black rook’s moves – including some strong captures – are not prepared with white continuations. The key-move 1.Bf4! (waiting) removes the set variation but provides for 1…R~file by crossing over d6, so that 2.Rd6 (short mate) no longer interferes with the bishop’s control of e5. (An unimportant dual follows 1…Rc5 with both 2.Rd6+ and 2.Re6 working.) The main variations occur when the black rook stays on the 6th rank. After 1…Rxf6, 2.Sg7 puts Black in zugzwang as the rook cannot maintain its focus on the knight’s mating squares: 2…R~rank 3.Sxf5 and 2…R~file 3.Se6. If 1…Rb6, then 2.Sc7 brings about similar focal play: 2…R~rank 3.Sb5 and 2…R~file 3.Se6. Accurate by-play follows the remaining rook defences: 1…Re6 2.Rxf5 (threat: 3.Rd5) Re5/Rd6 3.Be5, and 1…Ra6 2.Bxa6 Kd5 3.Rd6.