Chess Journalists of America

The following "Letters to the Editor" were published in The Chess Journalist, Vol. XXXII, No. 3, Consecutive No. 109, September 2003 (Editor: John Hillery). One-time only publication rights have been obtained from the contributor. All other rights are hereby assigned to the author. Letters printed in the journal do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CJA, its offices or members. Copyright 2001 by the Chess Journalists of America.

[[Somewhat surprisingly the review in our last issue of Squares magazine aroused considerable controversy.]]


I was a surprised by the glowing review of Squares magazine in the June 2003 issue. Did Daren Dillinger read the same magazine that arrived in my mailbox?

First, let me state my agreement with Daren on a couple of points -- I applaud the crew that put it out and wish them well in the endeavor. Chess players should subscribe to the magazine, at merely $30 for four large issues it is hard to imagine you will go far wrong.

Having said that, the magazine seemed unbalanced to me. The article on Louis Paulsen was excellent. I considered it the best of the premier issue. However, it was previously printed in The Chess Correspondent (1958) and reprinted in The California Chess Reporter (1961). I would expect the first issue of a new magazine to be brimming with exciting material. It is a warning sign in my view if the best article has already been twice published. The annotated game by GM Rowson was nothing special. Presumably it was a platform for him to make a few comments on current events, as his opponent was an IM from Iraq. The other published games were a bit bizarre. I am probably wrong, but I could swear I had seen these games posted on the Internet earlier. They are from the 2002 Konig Memorial tournament in San Francisco. Nine games are given- most of them are draws. One is a 15 move draw and leads one to wonder if there was nothing else that could be used to fill the magazine. A review of a Raymond Keene book by the late Tony Miles is a reprint from Kingpin magazine. Again the question arises: if the material in the premier issue is the cream of the crop, what awaits us in future issues? The entire page 59 appears to be a copy of the Chronos clock user manual. I don't want to overstate the point. The issue also contains a number of articles that appear to be original work. Also, it is not unexpected that the first few issues would be a "work in progress." Squares is worthy of support but readers might, in my opinion, be misled by the Daren's rave review.

Best regards,
Jim Uren
Mountain View, CA

[[I too have some reservations about Squares, but to be fair, The Chess Correspondent from 1958 and The California Chess Reporter from 1961 are not sources likely to be familiar to many readers. -- ed]]

Dear Mr. Hillery,

I would like to correct a number of errors in the review of Squares in the June 2003 issue of The Chess Journalist. Daren Dillinger neglected to mention that many of the articles in the magazine are reprinted from other sources. Also, there is no mention that many of the original articles are disguised ads for Chessco and Thinkers' Press products. Dillinger also errs in describing John Hilbert as a contributor to the magazine. One looks in vain for the "selected segments from other great published works" in Squares, and the "piece" on the Konig Memorial consists of lightly reworked ChessBase magazine annotations to some of the games. And I am puzzled why Dillinger never mentioned that the photographs and illustrations in Squares are largely uncredited, and why he claimed such grainy photos were "well-done".

Aside from the above, Dillinger's review was accurate: Squares is a magazine, and is printed on slick paper.

Neil Brennen

[[Webmaster note: Mr. Brennen has written his own review of Squares magazine. It is available at: http://correspondencechess.com/campbell/articles/a030507.htm. Some of publisher Bob Long's comments addressing the reviews and these letters can be found in the "ChessCo News" section of his ChessCo web site at: http://www.chessco.com/. You can try this link dated Oct 6-12 to one news story titled "SQUARES ATTACKED AND DEFENDED" where CJA members are described as "allegedly reporters, writers, editors, and journalists for the chess scene (maybe even authors)." I wonder if I'm one of the CJA members Long characterizes as "just not too swift."]]

Daren Dillinger replies:

I am thankful to Pete Tamburro for sending me a copy of Mr. Brennen's critique of my published review of Squares magazine, which appeared in the June 2003 issue of The Chess Journalist.

This may be a text book example on how to NOT do a critique. Mr. Brennen loses credibility on his overall views, when he is so consistently off the mark.

Although this "text book" example of a poor critique may be instructive to a portion of our readership I do not know if it would be worth while to kill so much space to print much or any of this dialogue. It's your call.

I would say this, however. I almost (but not quite) feel bad that by me shooting so many holes in Neil's position, that I may have embarrassed him. Actually I think it is his own flawed presentation that really should embarrass him. In any case, I feel strongly that Neil should have the right to veto his name being used in any published piece. No need to create any ill will in the published pages of The Chess Journalist. Maybe Neil just had one of those days, where he missed his medication or something. Certainly if Neil is not embarrassed by his expressed opinions, then consider putting some edited for space version in The Chess Journalist.

I sure make my share of mistakes, but all of Mr. Brennen's references to my mistakes here, are in error. Indeed, he is mistaken about each and every mistake he "points out".

Certainly it is a matter of personal taste if one likes a magazine or not. But Mr. Brennen's effort to "point out mistakes" leaves me puzzled. The only polite assumption I can make, is that he must have received a copy of Squares magazine with a number of pages missing. I therefore have dropped into the US Postal service mailed to Neil, an envelope containing photo copies of the below enumerated pages he must be missing. Still, to not notice that many missing pages is not a good thing for his credibility either.

For why else would anyone look over the review and read the magazine and say: "One looks in vain for the "selected segments from other great published works" in Squares"

Certainly MY COPY OF Squares magazine, issue #1, had pages of "selected segments from other great published works" jam packed in Amatzia Avni's nice article on pages 42-45. Great segments from Korchnoi, Nunn, Suetin, etc. The article even included a Bibliography which listed all of the books that these segments were taken from. How could anyone possibly not see that! Only if the pages were missing, I can only assume. I got those missing pages in the mail coming to you Neil.

Then Neil says that I was "describing John Hilbert as a contributor to the magazine." He makes a double mistake. The only mention of John Hilbert in my review was to say: "... with segments by John Hilbert, John Donaldson and others."

To describe Hilbert as a contributor, was never said by me. That would imply he was a byline contributor of an article. Certainly on pages 53 & 54 is a two page article which give many synopses and quotes from seven of Hilbert's books published by four different publishing companies. For example, bottom of page 54, middle column, last paragraph is a synopsis quote: "... in Shipley (book title: Walter Penn Shipley) we read about (Norman) Whitaker getting kicked out of the Franklin club but still having the gall to show up for play at a championship event." etc. Both pages are full of this stuff. There is even a picture towards the top heading on page 53 entitled in about 30 point type face: John S. Hilbert. How could anyone miss this? Don't worry Neil, I'm sending you a copy of these two pages as well.

I note that Neil thought the photos were of poor quality. Yes I thought the photos and graphics were very well done. A lot of the pictures were very old. Also with my decades of experience, I recognize that many important photos of chess historical figures, are of poor quality to begin with. Like on page 36 take a look at the harsh shadow on the wall of Cecil Purdy's photo. This demonstrates excessive harsh, non-defused light from the front. I thought Squares did a wonderful job of compensating for all of the photo artifacts. As Bob Long clarified in issue #2, Bob stated on page 64 "The so-called "grainy" Photos were done on purpose. Photoshop for film and design was used to deal with the receipt of mediocre photographs. Many nice comments on paper quality, typography, and rare photos were received." Neil, you are entitled to your own opinion on this one, but I do not think you or anyone else could have done better.

Then Neil comments: "And I am puzzled why Dillinger never mentioned that the photographs and illustrations in Squares are largely uncredited"

There are many reasons why a magazine might not list all photo credits.

Neil, the copyright laws have changed a number of times by legislation and court interpretations many times over the last 40 years. Just publishing text and photos, is in itself copyright protection, without running any special credit line for photos. It used to be you had to publish a credit line notice with each item, to maintain copyright protection no longer.

A publishing house like Thinker's Press, with decades of publishing business under its belt must own the rights to hordes of photos, plus many of them must be in the public domain, plus they could have arranged to even acquire permission to run photos from another copyright owner, but had no understanding to run a credit line. Thus they would have no requirement to run credit lines on any of that stuff. With their experience, I suspect that the Photo credits issue is well under control.

My review was for the reading public. I chose not to insert the above noted issues, which may be completely resolved. Still, usual publishing conventions would suggest that Squares give more photo credits, even if not technically required . . . and I see that they did have a separate heading listing photo credits on page 1 of issue #2.

Still neither myself or Larry Evans, who did a nice review of Squares in his chess column back in his April 21, 2003 chess column, the full column is posted at: www.worldchessnetwork.com/English/chessNews/evans/030421.php --- Neither one of us, mentioned some of these issues that "puzzle" Neil.

Neil, as I critique your efforts I think you could put more work into being careful and correct. Other wise you will lose credibility for your views, altogether.

My opinion, apparently not yours . . . is that if I have input on someone's written work, as a matter of courtesy, I contact them as well. I do not just send negative stuff out unless I give my worthy adversary a chance to see my input, and perhaps reply. My postal mailing address has been on the CJA website for years.

Squares did win the best new magazine award in the latest CJA annual awards. Case closed.

Warmest regards,
Daren Dillinger
25+ year member,

Dear Mr. Hillery,

Before I address Mr. Dillinger's remarks, I'd like to state for Mr. Tamburro's benefit that writers of letters to the editor usually don't mass-mail them to people, and that he was only cc'd on that e-mail because I had failed to get a response from The Chess Journalist. Mr. Tamburro's comments are just another sign of how little the CJA lost when he left office.

Something is indeed "rotten in the state of Denmark" when Mr. Dillinger can claim that his phrase "selected segments" described the quoted game examples in an article by Avni. His writing carries the implication that the magazine published excepts from "great published literature", not quotations in an article. On the basis of his use of the word, I will claim that this email contains "selected segments" from "great published literature" such as Hamlet.

Ah, but we are not done with the Dillinger Dictionary yet. According to his response, the use of the word "segments" can encompass the paraphrasing (or, as Mr. Dillinger would have it, "synopses") of the words of another writer. Well, by this standard, we have no standard. Clearly, according to Dillinger's standards, I can safely advertise "segments by John Hilbert" in the next issue of The Pennswoodpusher should I include a one paragraph paraphrase of his Shipley biography.

I admit that Mr. Dillinger did not use the word "contributor" to describe Dr. Hilbert. However, I simply didn't have my Dillinger's Dictionary at hand, and interpreted "segments by John Hilbert, John Donaldson, and others", as meaning something more substantial than brief quotations or paraphrases. I daresay that any reasonable person, aside from perhaps Mr. Dillinger, who judging from this email is not in full possession of his reason, would interpret the term "segments" to mean "articles" and "segment by John Hilbert" to mean "article by John Hilbert". All Mr. Dillinger's written tap-dancing isn't going to save him here.

Speaking of Dr. Hilbert, this brings us to the photography issue. Dr. Hilbert is, or perhaps was, a Thinker's Press author. Squares was unable to obtain a usable photograph from Dr. Hilbert? Why did they use such an ugly and heavily processed photograph, one that looks a great deal like the photo posted (with credit to the photographer) at the CJA Website? If Thinker's Press has the "hundreds" of photos available to them Mr. Dillinger believes them to have, why were such ugly ones chosen?

As for the photography credit issue, I am pleased to see that Mr. Dillinger goes out of his way to agree with me while disagreeing with me. (Thinker's Press appears to have done so as well.) Since he agrees with me, his little sidetrip into copyright law is beside the point. At the time I wrote my response to Dillinger's highly inaccurate and misleading review, I was under the impression that it was written for The Chess Journalist. Bringing up the issue of the lack of photography credits as part of a review of a new chess magazine published in the CJA's house organ seems appropriate. At the time I didn't know Mr. Dillinger's review was being distributed free of charge to various and sundry chess magazines such as Iowa Chess News En Passant. Why Mr. Puff, err, Dillinger, is doing this I cannot say.

I'll close the case by noting Mr. Dillinger intends to close the debate with a resounding reference to Squares winning the Best New Magazine award at the recent CJA Awards. No doubt that was a fiercely competitive category. I'm (yawn) impressed.

Please feel free, Mr. Hillery, to use my letter in its entirety, or not at all. However, should you use it, please advertise it as containing "selected segments" from Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Dillinger.

Neil Brennen

[[We are pleased to see this sort of passion exercised over a question of literary criticism. However, as the level of personal invective is beginning to rise, we feel that Mr. Dillinger and Mr. Brennan have had enough to say on the subject. Comments from other readers remain welcome. -- ed]]

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