Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The Best of Fred Reinfeld
In his lifetime Fred Reinfeld wrote over 100 chess books, more than any other author in history. He also wrote books on geology, history, numismatics, checkers, and astronomy.
Most chess players snicker when you mention that you read a Reinfled book and they have often been derisively referred to as "potboilers." That's not entirely true. Maybe his later books aren't so great, but his early ones were really very good. In 1950 Reinfeld said, “In those early days I played and wrote seriously – and got nothing for it. When I pour out the mass-produced trash, the royalties come in.” The mass produced trash allowed him to earn a living so he abandoned tournament chess and writing serious books. Those early books were written in the pre-engine days and the annotations may not always be accurate, but overall, they were excellent...and the games? Reinfeld was always careful to choose good ones.
Reinfeld began writing on chess in 1932 while working as a part-time chess instructor for the adult-education sections of Columbia and NYU and in 1933 started a publishing business out of his apartment that was called the Black Knight Press; he printed correspondence courses and pamphlets for beginners. A lot of his early books were typewritten then duplicated and stapled together and during the Depression he peddled them to bookstore.
In 1933, Reinfeld became a contributor to Chess Review, annotating games and doing book reviews. He also wrote his first serious books, Book of the Bled Tournament (with Isaac Kashadan) and Chess Strategy and Tactics with Irving Chernev.
In the 1930s, Reinfeld was also running ads in Chess Correspondence magazine offering to annotate any chess game for a dollar, or about $15-20 in today's currency. In 1941, Reinfeld ghosted My Fifty Years of Chess by Frank Marshall for which he was paid $100 ($1,600 today). It took him three weeks and, if you ever read the book, it's a real delight! Besides Marshall's book, it's well-known that he also ghost wrote the book of Reshevsky's games along with several other popular books where he was assisted by Irving Chernev.
Occasionally you will see a chess book, Chess: the way to win, Pocket Guide to Chess Openings for example, authored by Edward Young...that was a pseudonym used by Reinfeld. Why? Who knows?
Here is my list of Reinfeld books that ARE worth reading. I haven't included any of his instructional books because the only two I can remember reading are Attack and Counterattack in Chess and a book of miniatures, the name of which I have forgotten.
Tarrasch's Best Games
Keres' Best Games
Lasker's Greatest Games
Colle's Chess Masterpieces
British Chess Masters Past and Present
The Immortal Games of Capablanca
The Human Side of Chess the Great Chess Masters and Their Games - idiosyncrasies of Anderssen, Morphy, Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Euwe.
Great Games By Chess Prodigies - 50 early games of Morphy, Capablanca, Reshevsky and Fischer
Prize Games of Chess Masters - 50 games brilliant games spanning nearly 70 years
Great Short Games of the Chess Masters - 80 brilliant miniatures
Development of a Chess Genius - 100 Alekhine games
Great Moments in Chess - Collections of games
The Fireside Book of Chess - enjoyable reading about the history of chess.