‘Alexandre’s 2020 and American Chess Nuts’

28 Apr. 2019 | by Peter Wong

Bob Meadley’s research on chess problem history isn’t confined to Australian materials and in a new interesting article he examines The Beauties of Chess (1846) and American Chess Nuts (1868), two immense problem anthologies that were standard reference works of their times. The former, edited by A. Alexandre, consists of 2020 positions, mostly directmates of a pre-modern style. The latter, edited by E.B. Cook, W.R. Henry, and C.A. Gilberg, contains some 2400 problems of greater variety, some illustrating early themes. Bob provides background information for the two volumes and discusses their contents in detail. He compares the two collections, and concludes that “[The Beauties of Chess] deals with the formative years of problem composition whereas [American Chess Nuts] is about first class composers such as Loyd and Cook. The books deal with different eras.” The article includes 24 selections of problems from these important texts, and below I quote an example from each. Here’s a link to download the article: Alexandre’s 2020 and American Chess Nuts.

Baron Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa
No.291 in The Beauties of Chess 1846

Mate in 5

1.Qc8+! Rb8 2.Qc6+ Rb7 3.Qe8+ Rb8 4.Qe4+ Rb7 5.Rc8. The queen zigzags to clear the c-file for the rook. Bob’s summary of Alexandre’s collection seems appropriate here: “The problemists of today have moved well away from these game positions with checking keys mostly but some are very good and come from a time before the great divergence into themes when the problem was very close to the game.”

Sam Loyd
The New York Clipper 1856, 1st Prize

Mate in 4

1.Qg1! ~ 2.Bf2 ~ 3.Bxb6 (threats: 4.Sb4/Qc5) Kd5 or Sxb6 4.Qc5. The eponymous Loyd-Turton theme problem. The queen crosses over the critical square f2, which is then occupied by the bishop, so that the two pieces are lined up with the weaker one at the front. The bishop then moves along the line traversed by the queen, but in the opposite direction.