Editor: Dr Tim
© Dr Tim Harding
30 August 2019
Dr Tim Harding's entertaining and instructive book, Eminent Victorian Chess Players is still in print, priced at about 45 US dollars.
Below are some excerpts and some website links to full reviews. Lower on the page are reviews from 2012.
IM Jeremy Silman summed up his review by saying "Surely this is one of the best and most accessible pieces of chess history ever written."
The most recent review I have seen was posted early in December 2013 on Carl Portman's website.
Here is a quotation from his enthusiastic review:
This is a major work on the history of the top personalities from the period... Full of human interest ... I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time and I really did learn so much. The games themselves are of great interest and show chess as it was played at the time..."
British Chess Magazine reviewed the book in its July 2013 number, but it is not online. Among other favourable comments, they sais:
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Staunton - no saint - about whom much humbug, if not actual rubbish, has been written... This book is bursting with good things. What a brilliant book...
John Watson's review on the new TWIC website includes quotations that give a good flavour of the book. Among other things, IM Watson says:
Beyond the assiduous research, an outstanding feature of this book consists of the original portraits and 'major reassessments'... I've always been interested in Steinitz, and Harding's portrait of the first world champion is very original... The chapters on Evans and Gunsberg are incredibly well-researched and readable; I'm not a chess historian, but they strike me as the first time anyone has examined these players' lives and careers in anywhere near this detail... Surely this is one of the best and most accessible pieces of chess history ever written.
Well-respected sports and chess historian Adrian Harvey has written a lengthy review of the book, published in April 2013 on the Kingpin magazine website. While disagreeing with some of the author's viewpoints, Dr. Harvey sums up:
Harding has produced an excellent book that will be of immense assistance to scholars for a long time. Thorough research has created this richly footnoted text that is a delight to read. Generously illustrated and packed with source material... the book also contains entertaining annotated games... The book is written in an accessible style that is likely to appeal to the general reader.
Another, shorter,review was posted on 2 May by Manchester Chess Federation website. Paul Kane of Salford writes:
A book that transports you back to the nineteenth century, to a time when London was the centre of the chess world... One does get here a very real sense of the tension between the British players...and the immigrants who had newly arrived from Europe... It is an excellent book, and an important one too.
The Chess Cafe website posted last year a lengthy review which can be found in its archives. In his final assessment, reviewer John D. Warth, said:
These sketches of nineteenth century British chess players should both enlighten and enthrall... Readers with a penchant for chess history and historic games will gain respect for the vast information contained in these four hundred pages...Tim Harding is a fine researcher, author, and an eminent historian. This book is a fine guide to British Victorian chess and honors the contributions of these ten men immortalized between its covers.
"Certainly one of the most interesting chess books of the last 25 years!" wrote John Elburg in his review.
IM John Donaldson, for Chess Today, wrote:
This book is not only meticulously researched but reads well. London was the center of the chess world from the 1850s to 1880s, aided in no small part by arrivals from foreign shores, and Harding does an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of the time... Readers of this volume will likely learn much that is new to them... Harding has dome a particularly good job of capturing the tumultuous life of world championship challenger Isidor Gunsberg... [the book] features many interesting documents, photos and sketches... Tim Harding has written many fine books, but this may be his best. Eminent Victorian Chess Players: Ten Biographies is warmly recommended to all those with an interest in 19th century chess.
"Magnificent new book" said The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog on 28 July 2012. A series of their articles locates some of the haunts of the eminences in the book.
In his review for the Nederlands Dagblad newspaper, Bab H. Wilders wrote that:
'Tim Harding has written a beautiful big-size book... with lots of details about the lives of gentlemen when they did not play chess... The chess fan will naturally enjoy most the many nice games from an era in which the world's top players...liked to play hazardous attacking positions with all associated risks.'
(kindly translated by Bert Corneth from the original Dutch language text)
Further quotations and links will be gradually added to this page.
Back to the introductory page about the book.