The diagrams, up until about a month ago, were created through the web Chess Diagram Editor provided by Apronus. But the accumulated size of the diagrams is getting fairly large.
I’m also trying to make it easier to get lists of tourneys done automatically, rather than the manual (and error-prone) page list that is used to day.
The first sign is the appearance of a tag for the 1850’s, under which a list of the tournaments will be generated automatically. At present the tag is in place, but the generated list will need some additional TLC to be reasonably useful.
I’ve also taken this opportunity to check earlier tournament pages for editorial consistency: things have changed since I started, and I omitted things like honorary awards and non-announced prizes in early pages that I now include; I also hesitated to document incompletely known tourneys in the hope I would be able to complete them first – I’ve decided to document all such tourneys, but to tag them as Incomplete (another new tag). Any substantive updates will be noted in the Disqus pages to relevant tourneys.
Lessons of History
At the moment, more than 100 tourneys from 1850-1879 have been collected and documented. (My computer-based counts say 115, but I suspect they include some things that shouldn’t be included.)
I’ve been fairly strict, doing tourneys by decade. Although I’m planning to go on into the 1880s, I’ll probably do tourneys more as I like this time: If I find a good source that goes all the way to 1900, I’ll be more likely to go through that in one go, than to save parts for later.
As I began to go through old sources in preparation for the 1880s, I stumbled on the following comment in Chess-Monthly (v. 2, p. 200 (March, 1881)), in an article on the recent American Chess Tournament:
…, it would certainly baffle the most assiduous efforts and the most laborious researches of any one bold enough to undertake to give to the Chess community a complete history of all the Problem Tourneys which Chess associations, Chess periodicals, and Chess columns have arranged during the last twenty-five years.
Things have probably become easier since the early days of the 1880s: sources that editors mentioned as inaccessible then are surprisingly often available on the Internet, and remarkably many nations have library programs in place to digitize old newspapers for more-or-less general access. And still further sources can be obtained through libraries subscribing to services provided by Proquest, Readex, Gale, EBSCo and others.
Still, I can’t claim to have complete coverage – who can ever? – but I hope that it is somewhat easier to find basic information about some old tourneys.
But in order to keep things in perspective, I should mention that Sir Leslie Stephen, first editor of Dictionary of National Biography, in one of his books complained about researchers of the Dryasdust school, who delve into minutiae of little or no interest:
What do we care whether one or another obscure country squire in the sixteenth or seventeenth century had the merit of being progenitor of Washington? Can it really matter whether a particular volume was printed at Rotterdam or at Venice—in the year 1600 or ten years sooner or later? […]
At any rate, one may perhaps urge, it is better than spending brain-power upon chess problems.
(For more of that, see Sir Leslie Stephen: Studies of a Biographer, v. 1)