A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

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  • A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

    A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

    June 10, 2021

    On the Sothebys site:


    there is an 8.40 minute video of the DeLucia collection. This consists of cabinets of books, sets and ephemera. David is the host.

    The site says this:

    To David DeLucia, chess is not just a game, it’s a sport – and collecting is not only a pastime, it’s a passion. Over the past 35 years, DeLucia has built an incredible library of chess books, manuscripts, documents and ephemera that’s unlike any other collection in the world, either publicly or privately. Included are rare objects, including first editions of foundational chess books dating to the 15th-century, in addition to historically significant primary source documents and ephemera from great chess masters. In building his collection, DeLucia discovered more about his own love of chess and learned that collecting is about the thrill of the hunt. Join DeLucia in a tour of his magnificent library and learn more about the thrill of collecting.

  • #2
    Since Lothar Schmid passed away, David DeLucia's collection is the top of the collecting world. Amazing to see it.


    • #3
      Wayne, what were your impressions on seeing this collection? Was there a tingle down your spine? Would you like to see it in person? Would you like to talk to David DeLucia?


      • #4
        A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

        June 11, 2021

        I was aware of David’s collection by the article in New in Chess, 2010#5. Dale Brandreth occasionally mentioned him when we got together to talk about chess books.

        In April of 2010, I went to Buffalo for an auction of chess books from the estate of Jack O’Keefe, a Michigan chess collector (1930-2008). There were a couple of dealers there, a couple of collectors and a chess historian. Among them was David DeLucia but I did not introduce myself.

        The books I was most interested in were several of Edward Winter’s volumes called Chess Notes and the big two-volume catalogue of the John G. White, Chess Collection at the Cleveland Public Library.

        I was rather intimidated and finally did not bid and went off to the Anchor Bar for chicken wings after. I asked Dale to go along but he had bid on boxes and boxes of books and had to load them into a rented van and drive them back to Delaware.

        In the next couple of months the Chess Notes volumes and the Cleveland catalogue were up on eBay and I got them by paying a premium over what I could have had them at the auction.

        In the next few years I bought several duplicates by mail from David and he told me not long ago that he was down-sizing his household.

        So, I have never seen his collection nor been invited to do so. That is all right because if I see a book I am curious about, I like to sit down and leaf through it.
        When I was at the Cleveland Public Library, Special Collections, I expected to sit among the shelves of chess books and read them all day. Instead, I had to fill out request forms and when the books were brought to me, had to wear latex gloves to look through them and no photo-copying was allowed.

        Here are a few excerpts from an article about the collection by Harry Schaak in Karl:

        “David DeLucia possibly owns the most beautiful chess-collection in the whole world. Until now only a few have been granted access to this collection of exquisite valuables with their own eyes. Yet during the World Championship in New York the multi-millionaire from Connecticut allowed KARL a tour through his very personal realm, one in which the past comes back to life.

        In the past 200 years, there have been chess-collections that were far greater than David DeLucia’s collection. When one would consider just books, the collections of John Griswold White, J. W. Rimington-Wilson, Meindert Niemeijer and Lothar Schmid were more comprehensive. If on the other hand one would consider the quality instead of the quantity of the single objects, the distance with DeLucia’s collection becomes considerably smaller. But what really distinguishes the collection of the American and in that regard, surpasses all the other collections, are the manuscripts, the autographs, the memorabilia and the, as DeLucia characterizes them, “ephemera” like letters, game scores, postcards and the like.

        The most valuable items are gathered on the first floor, which one can access over a small wooden staircase. So far not more than a dozen people (with the exception of DeLucia’s family) have set eyes on this extraordinary collection. Every visitor immediately notices, through the diligence with which everything is displayed, as if in a museum, that DeLucia loves what he has.

        From the previously two roomed space, DeLucia had a wall removed. Now there is an L-shaped hall, which has a surface of around 90 m2. An air-conditioning unit regulates the temperature and humidity, an ingenious lighting concept provides a warm atmosphere. In the front part (of the hall) are multiple tables with chess sets, some of which used to belong to Bobby Fischer. The walls are composed of dark wood, in which shelves and cabinets are built-in. In showcases, items are arranged in a special way. Each specific composition tells a small story, establishes an interconnection, a link, which is maybe not always immediately deduced by the unfamiliar observer, but is obvious to the owner. Some items have small notes with explanations and comments attached to them, and many books are covered in mylar. In between the chess objects are private items: the shoes of DeLucia’s daughter when she was young, a Chucky doll of his sister and the fishing knife of his father. This place is a very private area, a retreat, a place for contemplation.

        The 63-year old started collecting when he was working 80-90 hours a week for the investment bank Salomon Brothers in London. A colleague, who was an art-collector, advised him to start collecting something as well. And as his only interest was chess, the choice was not hard to make. He obtained his first set of books at an auction in 1985. But he only established himself as a “true” collector a few years later when he started working for Goldman Sachs and moved back to the U.S. At the New York antiquarian book fair of 1988, he found “a wonderful copy” of Ruy Lopez’s 1561 book and this further spurred his interest in old books.

        Because he had bought this prized book, a dealer drew his attention to a special collection on the West Coast. Reginald Hennessey had died in 1982 and had left his comprehensive collection of 3,000 books to his wife, including a Ruy Lopez first edition and some Damianos from the 16th century. Renowned collectors like Lothar Schmid were interested as well. However, after a meticulous inspection, DeLucia acquired the entire collection for 85,000 dollars. Mrs. Hennessey sent the volumes, meticulously packed, at no charge to New York. For weeks, his apartment was packed with boxes. Every evening he opened another box, it was like Christmas. To this day, these books are the core of DeLucia’s collection.

        Several chess cabinets display items of Bobby Fisher, his bible, his wristwatch and his wallet, a children’s book, an inscribed copy of his work “I was tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!”, a 15 puzzle and five pocket chess sets. A downright odd combination. In another showcase are Fischer’s copies of My 60 Memorable Games along with the manuscript that originally only contained 52 games. And a worn- down book about the World championship-match between Karpov and Korchnoi which Fischer clearly had held in his hands regularly. Along with it, over a hundred Fischer game scores among which was Bobby’s original game score of the Game of the Century against Donald Byrne. In another corner stand many large- sized photos of the American world champion.

        I wonder how much material DeLucia owns of Paul Morphy. He comments he almost has everything that still exists of it (There are obviously Morphy items owned by others). Most of it comes from David Lawson, author of The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, the single most important Morphy biography. Among these things is one of the highlights of the collection: the chess board from the first great American chess hero, which Morphy got as a birthday present on his twelfth birthday. A whole shelf is loaded with his signed books, a sculpture of his hand done by Lequesne (only one in existence), his walking cane with the name Morphy engraved on the handle. Another highlight is an original photograph of Morphy, taken by the famous photographer and chronicler of the civil war Matthew Brady in 1859. Morphy has written an inscription underneath the photograph to W.J.A. Fuller, “As a souvenir and a small token of our friendship.” Fuller was one of the contestants of the first American Chess Congress in 1857 in New York, of which DeLucia owns multiple score sheets with comments hand-written by Morphy.

        In another corner is the trunk of Capablanca and within it his top hat. His game scores from New York 1924, including his famous defeat against Reti. At yet another spot lie his golden pocket watch and recordings of his visit at the NBC studios in 1942.

        A cabinet is devoted to Lasker. Next to an oil painting and the personal books of the world champion, of which most are signed, are lots of boxes filled with postcards and manuscripts and also game scores. The 1,000+ Lasker letters are stored away in a multitude of albums. Back then, DeLucia paid 250 dollars per letter.”


        • #5
          As for auctions:

          There is a German one will happen soon. Only Canadian chess content I see the Bohatirchuk letter.

          All other stuff at or around


          • #6
            A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

            June 12, 2021

            Klittich-Pfankuch Auction

            The auctions of chess material take place twice a year – in June and in November. There is a listing online and a catalogue is issued to prospective buyers.

            The one this June has extra interest in that Edward Winter is selling off a good part of his collection there.

            This is what he recently wrote:

            On Saturday, 26 June 2021 a large on-line chess auction is being held which will include a substantial number of books and periodicals from our collection.

            Details are available on the website of the auctioneer, Antiquariat A. Klittich - Pfankuch, Brunswick, Germany (antiquariat@klittich-pfankuch.de). The 266-page printed catalogue also features non-chess items, which are being auctioned on 24 June 2021.

            The chess-related categories are:

            Chess pieces (special sets)
            Other chess pieces
            Memorabilia, photographs and postcards
            German books (1)
            German books (2)
            English books
            French books
            Italian books
            Dutch books
            Russian books
            Czech books
            Books in other languages
            Tournament books
            Periodicals (1)
            Periodicals (2)


            The items up for bid are usually gathered in lots of related material.

            For example in Tournament Books, Lot 1129 consists of three items:

            The Candidates, Holland 1956 by Wood

            World Chess Championship 1954 by Golombek
            European Team Championships in Hungary 1992

            The starting price for the whole lot is 30 euros.

            Now, the letter of Dr. Bohatirchuk is dated July 7, 1962 from his address at 500 Driveway, Ottawa 1, Ont. concerning photos which will be sent by Frank Anderson from his address at The Brentwood, Apt. 1112, 25 Lascelles Blvd, Toronto 7, Ontario.

            Normally, I would bid on this item alone but it is just one item in Lot 438 which has letters from : Fedor Bohatirchuk, Max Euwe, Sonja Graf, Klaus Junge, Paul Keres, Jacques Mieses, Friedrich Sämisch, Richard Teichmann and postcards from Efim Bogoljubow, Klaus Darga, Walter von Holzhausen, Geza Maróczy, Rudolf Spielmann, Wolfgang Uhlmann and signatures of Alexander Aljechin, Juri Awerbach, Arthur Bisguier, Isaak Bolewlawski, Michail Botwinnik, David Bronstein, E. Bykowa, Esteban Canal, Carl Carls, Erich Eliskases, Ernst Grünfeld, Reuben Fine, Bobby Fischer, Nona Gaprindaschwili, Robert Hübner, Boris Kostitsch, Miguel Najdorf, Bruno Parma, Tigran Petrosjan, Helmut Pfleger, Vasja Pirc, Samuel Reshevsky, Kurt Richter, Adolf Seitz, Lothar Schmid, Wassili Smyslow, Viktor Soultaneieff, Boris Spasski, Paul Schmidt, Leonid Stein, Michail Tal, Wolfgang Unzicker and Milan Vidmar.

            The shipping weight is 12 kg and the starting bid is 6000 euros or 8830 Canadian dollars!

            Pocket change for David DeLucia perhaps!


            • #7
              A Tour of David DeLucia’s Chess Collection

              June 27, 2021

              Klittich-Pfankuch Auction

              Just a note on Lot 438 that went under the hammer yesterday at the Klittich-Pfankuch Auction. You’ll recall it had the handwritten signatures of a number of chess celebrities, including Dr. Bohatirchuk.

              It went for 11,600 euros. At today’s rate that is $17,020 Canadian Dollars.


              • #8
                There is a lot of money in chess collections (including memorabilia and pictures etc) these days.