From Western Recreation, issue 1, April 1897; the image is reproduced courtesy of University of British Columbia Library, Rare Books and Special Collections [spam 9031]

Victoria Chess Team
C. SchwengersB. WilliamsT.H. PiperW. ChapmanC.A. Lombard



By Thomas H. Piper

The recent hard fought and interesting contests between the chess players of Victoria and those of San Francisco have deveIoped a reawakened interest all along the Coast in chess – the most ancient of all games and the greatest of all if the verdict of the sages of many centuries speaks the truth with regard to it. Almost every city and town in British CoIumbia now has its chess club, more or less humble, and there would undoubtedly be many more of these beneficial organizations but for the mistaken idea, that appears to prevail that no pleasure is to be derived from the game of kings by any save those who make its intricacies a life study.

There never was a more mistake conception.

The central idea of a pastime is that it is so positively agreeable that it lets time slip by unnoticed. In the rebound from work the human mind seeks amusement – this appetite is natural, and its gratification is essential to health. After the Iabors of the day are over, whether they consist in the hard drudgery of physical toil or the constant exercise of the mental faculties, if pleasure be not provided for the hours of relaxation life becomes a burden. We might as well have a world without foliage or flowers as life without pleasure; moreover, the joylese epochs of our race have ever been fruitful of morbid fanaticism.

To provide for this recreative and playful side of our nature art has exhausted itself in the creation of innumerable amusements, and in this realm, as elsewhere and everywhere, mind is the dominant factor. Mere physical pleasure unaccompanied by mental exercise or relief is wasting and worthless. It is when our pleasures enlist the heart and interest the mind that they minister to true happiness. In the sphere of pleasure there is a constant rivalry and conflict between the good and the evil. If men do not have innocent amusements they yield to those which are harmful. The birth of one is the death of the other. Every innocent amusement supplants a guilty one, and through this process of evolution social life progresses towards the ideal and the true, the beautiful and the good.

The game of chess comes to us with every dignity that antiquity and importance can give – a game that has kept pace with a rapidly advancing civilization for five centuries, and whose origin, interwoven with fable, carries the mind far beyond the time when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon. Some of the foremost thinkers have spoken in the highest terms of chess as an intellectual amusement and as a mark of great capacity, and many of the greatest celebrities of different nations have devoted time and attention to the study of its intricacies. Goethe, in his translation of Le Neveu de Rameau, endorses the opinion of the celebrated French philosopher who describes it as "the touchstone of the human brain."

And one of its greatest living exponents, Mr. Steinitz, asserts that it is almost universally recognized as a healthy mental exercise, which, in its effects on the intellectual faculties, is akin to that of physical gymnastics in the conservation and development of bodily power. The cultivation of the game, too, seems to exercise a direct influence on the physical condition of chess players and on the prolongation of their lives, for most of the celebrated chess masters and authors on the game have reached a very old age and have preserved their mental powers unimpaired in some instances up to their very last moments. It has also been computed that the average length of life of the general devotees of the game is the highest in comparison to that of any other class of men whose duration of life has been subjected to statistical observation.

Once a player becomes initiated in the elements of the game he derives an extraordinary amount of entertainment and pleasure from pursuing it, and a healthy spirit of emulation stimulates his ambition to become proficient in the noble pastime – a pastime which has for a long succession of centuries been pre-eminently the game of great men and of celebrated characters, both civil and military, both secular and clerical, among whom may be mentioned Leibnitz, Voltaire, Leessing, Mendelssohn, Frederick the Great, Napoleon 1, Marshal Saxe, John Ruskin, and His Holiness Leo XIII.

Four hundred years ago Caxton gave forth, as the first specimen of the noble art of printing, Ye Booke of the Chesse, and a literature such as no other game and hardly any science may presume to boast, has arisen as its own actual creation, "a contribution," says Howard Staunton, "which no philosophical critic can ignore, to the humanities, civilities and amenities of peaceful life, and of social or sociable refinement."

It is one of the characteristics of chess, that it takes firm root in every soil where it is once established. It found its keen and zealous votaries not only in the splendid palaces of Chosroes, of Harun, and of Timur, but in the rude and primative tents of the pastoral Calmuc, the roving Tartar, and the Bedouin Arab. We are not aware of a single instance of any people, worthy of the name and designation of human beings, that once got a knowledge of this mimic warfare, and afterwards forgot or neglected so attractive an acquisition. From the luxurious court of Byzantium, to the sterile rocks of the Hebrides, and the ice-bound region of the Ultima Thule, the game appears to have spread with the rapidity of light, and to have flourished with vigor, without ever losing ground, for nearly the space of a millennium.

It promotes a taste that can only be elevating. It is a game of skill exclusively intellectual, and not such as allows a sound calculation to be overthrown by any material of physical circumstance – by the eye, or example, or the hand, or the table. A game which affords so much proper or intrinsic interest, that if not the only game at least the best and most satisfactory one to play without pecuniary stakes, is surely worthy of even move consideration than it now receives in this western country.

That it is difficult we admit, but what other game or accomplishment will so well repay the labor expended in its acquisition – besides, the greater the labor the more we value the acquirement. We might add the degree of skill it admits is so high that Leibnitz declared it to be far less of a game than a science.

Who in view of these facts, possessing the slightest claim to culture, can afford to neglect so fascinating an accomplishment?

*    *    *    *    *    *

If by science we mean knowledge coordinated, systemized and arranged, then in view of the mighty tomes, in many languages, by authors of the literary standing of Der Lasa, Von Jaenisch, Howard Staunton, and Buckle, it may safely be affirmed that chess has been scientifically written upon. Some of these able writers have attempted to deal with all parts of the game of chess by the aid of general principles of strategy as laid down by the highest military authorities, and indeed the Traite de Grand Tactique of General Jomini expresses with singular clearness the broad morals of opening a game in its first combination called the “art of disposing the lines of operation in the most advantageous manner.”

Moreover, how appropriately might the second and third combinations of the same able strategist describe the magical effects of the wizard Morphy – first “the skillful concentration of the forces with the greatest possible rapidity upon the enemy’s line of operations;” second, “the combining the simultaneous employment of this accumulated force upon the position against which it is directed.”

These are also the chief factors of all strategy. No player of great skill can fail to see that we have here the key to the basis of offensive movements in the game of chess.

For the neophyte many principles have been formulated deduced from the experience of masters of the art, all having a remote Iikeness, and it is the opinion of the greatest exponents of the cult that they may ultimately be united in one single leading principle, which is the germ of the theory of chess. The embodiment of this principle is the art of gaining TIME upon the opponent.

Take as an example the position assumed by White in the French defence after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4. White's object is to gain TIME by creating a congestion on his opponent's Q side, and the plan of attack is in accordance with the principles. First, when you have a pawn at e5 support it by f2-f4; second, the pawn/f4 occupies the best post for offensive purposes; third, a supporting pawn at d4 is especially weak, being open to attack from many points, i.e., by c7-c5, Nc6 and Qb6, therefore White in playing f2-f4 is enabled to answer c7-c5 with dxc5; fourth, try to create strong points as near the opponent's camp as possible.

In further elucidation of our main principle, we submit a beautiful example of chess strategy, namely, Morphy's famous game with Louis Paulsen in the New York tournament:

[Event "1st American Congress"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1857.??.??"] [Round "4.6"] [White "Paulsen, Louis"] [Black "Morphy, Paul"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C48"] [PlyCount "56"] [EventDate "1857.10.05"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventRounds "4"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "ChessBase"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bc5 5. O-O O-O 6. Nxe5 Re8 7. Nxc6 dxc6 8. Bc4 b5 9. Be2 Nxe4 10. Nxe4 Rxe4 11. Bf3 Re6 12. c3 Qd3 13. b4 Bb6 14. a4 bxa4 15. Qxa4 Bd7 16. Ra2 Rae8 {Black's opening moves are a vivid exemplification of the "art of disposing the lines of operation in the most advantageous manner," and his last few moves illustrate "the skillful concentration of the forces with the greatest possible rapidity upon the enemy's line of operations."} 17. Qa6 Qxf3 {Black's seventeenth move is perhaps the highest development of the art of gaining time, and this with the following moves, all in Morphy's happiest vein, will afford to students much pleasure and profit, and we know of no better example of "combining the simultaneous employment of accumulated force upon the position agaisnt which it is directed."} 18. gxf3 Rg6+ 19. Kh1 Bh3 20. Rd1 ({If White plays} 20. Rg1 { Black answers} Bg2+ 21. Rxg2 Re1+ {mating in two moves.}) 20... Bg2+ 21. Kg1 Bxf3+ 22. Kf1 Bg2+ 23. Kg1 Bh3+ 24. Kh1 Bxf2 25. Qf1 Bxf1 26. Rxf1 Re2 27. Ra1 Rh6 28. d4 Be3 (28... Be3 {Resigns, for if} 29. Bxe3 {Black mates in two moves. }) 0-1

The following game between Messrs. Tarrasch and Eckart illustrates a device of experts to gain time, called the sacrificing block; it occurs at White’s twenty-first move – Re7.

[Event "Nuremberg club"] [Site "Nuremberg"] [Date "1892.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Tarrasch, Siegbert"] [Black "Eckart, K."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C31"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "1892.??.??"] [EventType "game"] [EventRounds "1"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2002.11.25"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe5 Bd6 5. d4 exd3 6. Bxd3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O 8. Nc3 Bxe5 9. fxe5 Qd4+ 10. Kh1 Qxe5 11. Bf4 Qc5 12. Bxc7 Bg4 (12... Qxc7 {If Black plays} 13. Rxf6 {then} gxf6 14. Qh5 Rd8 {(best)} 15. Qxh7+ Kf8 16. Re1 { and wins.}) 13. Qd2 Qxc7 14. Rxf6 Qa5 15. Rf4 Be6 16. Rh4 f5 17. Re1 Qd8 18. Qf2 Bc8 19. Nd5 Nc6 20. Bc4 Kh8 21. Re7 Nxe7 22. Rxh7+ Kxh7 23. Qh4+ Kg6 24. Nf4# 1-0

The distribution of pieces in the diagram illustrates part of a game between Max Weiss, White, and W.H.K. Pollock, Black. In the opinion of the editor of the Chess Monthly, “the latter part is worthy to rank amongst the few immortal games we possess.”

[Event "6th American Congress"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1889.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Weiss, Miksa"] [Black "Pollock, William Henry Kraus"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3r1k1/2p1qppp/p7/1pb4Q/1P6/2Pn4/1P1N1PPP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "1889.??.??"] 17... Bxf2+ {White cannot capture the two pieces on account of the mate by Qe3+ to Qe1#.} 18. Kh1 Qe1 19. h3 Nxc1 20. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 21. Kh2 Bg1+ 22. Kg3 Re3+ 23. Kg4 ({If} 23. Nf3 Ne2+ 24. Kg4 Re4+ {etc.}) 23... Ne2 24. Nf1 g6 25. Qd5 h5+ 26. Kg5 Kg7 27. Nxe3 ({If} 27. Qxa8 f6+ 28. Kh4 Bf2+ 29. g3 Rxg3 {winning easily.}) ({If} 27. Qd7 Re5+ 28. Kh4 Kh6) (27. Nxe3 f6+ {and mates in two moves after White's} 28. Kh4 {by} Bf2+) 0-1

The following disposition of pieces and accompanying moves illustrate a fine combination by Blackburne (blindfold) against one of eight opponents.

[Event "London"] [Site "?"] [Date "1896.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Blackburne, Joseph Henry"] [Black "Barrett, R.H.."] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rnbk3r/ppp2p2/3p1p2/7p/3PP2q/4BQR1/PPP4P/2KR1B2 w - - 0 13"] [PlyCount "21"] 13. Bg5 fxg5 14. Qf6+ Kd7 15. Qxf7+ Kd8 ({If} 15... Kc6 {White moves in three [actually two].}) 16. Qf6+ Ke8 17. Qxh8+ Ke7 18. Qg7+ Ke8 19. Bb5+ c6 20. Rf1 Nd7 21. Qg8+ Ke7 22. Rf7+ Ke6 23. Qe8# 1-0