Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Archive Online

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archive is one of the best resources for classic American chess games and history, thanks mostly to Hermann Helms's chess column that it published every Thursday in the Sports section.  But, until recently, it has only been accessible at a few libraries (including the Rutgers Alexander library just down the street from my office), and only using increasingly outdated and frustrating microfilm technology.  Yesterday, however, I discovered that the 1841-1955 Brooklyn Daily Eagle is available completely online (has been since 2010 in fact), even if without a full index -- or, at least, none I can discover. I hope it will eventually be as accessible as the 1841-1902 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which served as the basis for a nice CD collection that Bob Long assembled of Hermann Helms's chess columns of that period (see image to left).  But until then, it is still a huge leap forward for amateur chess history buffs, and another sign that we are entering a golden age of access to the historical chess record (thanks especially to Google's books and magazines in which you can easily immerse yourself).

I have often heard from chess historians that they had not been able to check Helms's columns because they had no easy access to the Eagle.  For example, after I wrote a review of Bob Sherwood's excellent book on the Chicago and Lake Hopatcong tournaments of 1926, I did a little search in the Eagle on microfilm and turned up three complete scores that he did not have.  Finding the Eagle from the 1920s online has revived my interest in the theme tournaments organized at the Marshall Chess Club between 1921-1926, and I hope to return to that long incomplete project, which should now be significantly easier to research.  It was in the Eagle and in Helms's American Chess Bulletin that I found the games from the  Urusov Gambit Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924, the Greco Gambit Dimock Theme Tournament of 1921 (download PGN), and the Vienna Gambit Alrick Man Theme Tournament of 1924-1925.   Today I tracked down the Giuoco Piano Dimock Theme Tournament of 1925 (download PGN), which you can read about on the following pages:
Recognize that you may have to wait for the giant PDF file to load -- and then scroll around the big page a bit (or shrink it to 50% or so) to find the chess column.  Though others have already gathered these scores up and made them available in some databases, it was still great to see the originals.  Here is an image of one of the games, which is much more legible than those I used to get through copying the microfilm:

Tracking down those Thursday columns (which ran in the sports section) is a bit hit-or-miss, but using the same logic I use to win at "Battleship" I can usually nail one in under six tries.  There are generally two Thursday columns per index page, and the Sports section is near the end, right before the classifieds.  If you are interested in exploring, as I am, and searching for the "usable past," here are some links to get you started:

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