The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Neil Brennen

Following is an article written by Neil Brennen for the publication Texas Knights, the official journal of the Texas Chess Association. With permission it is republished here, due to its correspondence chess content.

Neil Brennen is quickly catching up to the most prolific author at these pages John S. Hilbert, who has 12 articles published here. This will make number ten for Neil. Thanks for providing all these interesting articles, Neil! To view his other articles please reference the article index.

Both Neil and John, for the most part, have addressed the history of our fair game. The chess community owes a great debt of gratitude to the chess history enthusiasts who are documenting our heritage. Without them so much would be lost to us, buried in old newspaper files or forever lost as old magazines are destroyed or discarded. The games and annotations may seem quaint or naive by today's standard, but they contain the seeds of the game as it exists and is appreciated today. Just as handwriting of past centuries can be truly beautiful, the language of chess retains a kind of beauty seldom seen in today's chess writing.

-- Franklin Campbell

[Note: this article was recognized by the Chess Journalists of America with an Honorable Mention for "Best Historical Article" for the 2004-2005 competition. Lat year Neil's article The Champion of the North: James Jellett's Adventures in American Chess won the Best Historical Article category for 2003-2004.]

The Process of Creation:
Correspondence Play and the
Growth of Chess in Texas a Century Ago

by Neil R. Brennen
(posted 9 May 2005)


For Javascript Replay of all the games (in a separate window) click here

You can't give enough praise to the accomplishments of the Texas Chess Association and its officers in promoting the Royal Game in the Lone Star State. One glance at an issue of Texas Knights will show the health of chess in Texas. Attendance at tournaments is up, clubs are flourishing, scholastic chess is booming, and correspondence chess continues popular among the chessplayers of Texas. The state has its own respected home-grown master chessplayers such as Selby Anderson and David John. The chess fan, be he hardened tournament warrior, casual player, or scholastic tyro, has a wide range of activities from online play to over-the-board championships to satisfy his chess needs. In short, the game of chess is doing well in Texas. But it wasn't always prospering so, and more than a century ago most Texas chessplayers were limited to one form of the game - correspondence chess.

In 1900, the population of Texas was approximately three million, spread out over more than 267 thousand square miles. That means there were fewer than twelve people per square mile in Texas a century ago. In an age when transportation was by rail and horseback, chessplayers were few and far-between. The larger population centers, such as San Antonio and Houston, had active chess clubs. Often the local newspapers had chess columns. But for the average Texas chess enthusiast not living within a few miles of a chess club, his only way of getting serious competition was by means of correspondence play. The Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, a forerunner of the present-day Correspondence Chess League of America, had several Texas players among its members within a couple of years of its founding in 1896.

Win or lose, Texas correspondence players were delighted with their experiences in the PNCCA, and they desired a state organization to promote both postal chess and what they called "board chess." Eventually the scattered correspondence players came together in Dallas and formed the Texas State Chess Association on June 24, 1898. The first President of the TSCA was Otto Monnig, Sr, and L. R. Walden, founder of Walden's Commercial College in Austin, became Vice-president. A musician with the melodious name of W. B. Schimmelphennig was elected Secretary. Both Walden and Schimmelphennig were correspondence chess enthusiasts. In an article titled "Chess in Texas" by "a Texan" on page 171 of the 1898-1899 volume of American Chess Magazine, the Texas Pillsbury contingent was recognized for their efforts in starting the TSCA, with Walden and Schimmelphennig being given "first credit." Another correspondence player and TSCA founder, Thomas J. Middleton, publisher of the Ellis County Mirror, was particularly cited in the article for being "very original in his games, always seeking new lines of play. He has originated a reply to the King's Gambit, wherein Black sacrifices a Bishop on the sixth move, that has attracted some notice among Texas players."

The first activities for the new Association were holding an over-the-board Championship and advertising a correspondence tournament for Texas players. The Texas State Fair donated a loving cup worth $50.00 for the first Texas Championship, and the tournament was held on the Fair grounds from October 11-14, 1898. The tournament, apparently an eleven player round-robin, was won by Otto O. Ballard of Dallas, a transplanted Texan hailing from Indiana. According to the tournament report on page 200 of the 1898-1899 American Chess Magazine, L. R. Walden then issued a challenge to the newly-crowned champion to play a match by correspondence.

While the over-the-board championship was in its planning stages, the TSCA's first correspondence tournament was in full swing, with eighteen players in four sections sending moves back and forth. Thomas Middleton was the first player to score blood. His miniature win over J. Bundy was published on page 125 of the American Chess Magazine for 1898- 1899.

Thomas Middleton - Bundy [C50]
TSCA Correspondence Tournament, 1898
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.Bg5 d6 6.h3 h6 7.Bh4 0-0 8.Nbd2 Be6 9.c3 Bxc4 10.Nxc4 b5 Black's tenth move was ill-advised, and lead to defeat. 11.Ne3 Bxe3 12.fxe3 g5 13.Nxg5 d5 14.0-0 hxg5 15.Bxg5 dxe4 16.Bxf6 1-0
American Chess Magazine 1898-1899, p. 125

Two games from the second Texas correspondence tournament appeared in a later issue of the American Chess Magazine. They appeared in the "Notes and Comments" column, designed for amateur players, and they appeared with brief comments by the magazine's editors. The notes originally appeared in paragraph form, but have been incorporated into the gamescores for this article. The opening of the second game will look familiar to the students of Henri Grob and Michael Basman, although it was played before both these theorists were born.

Dickason - L. Walden [D35]
TSCA Correspondence Tournament, 1898
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bf4 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.c5 White's move is unusual and too conservative. 6.cxd5 is more effective. 6...Nh5 7.Bg3 Nxg3 Black erred in opening the h file after castling, and in giving up the d pawn. 8.hxg3 Bf6 9.Qd3 h6 10.g4 Nd7 11.Rh5 Premature; he should have played 11.0-0-0 and advanced his Kingside pawns. 11...e5 12.Nxd5 Re8 Black should have played 12...c6 and if 13.Nxf6+ (if 13.Ne3 exd4 etc.) 13...Nxf6 etc. 13.dxe5 Bxe5 14.Ng5 g6 15.Nxf7 Kxf7 16.Rxh6 Qg5 Black would have done better by 16...Nf8 , which might have won. 17.Rh7+ Kg8 18.Qh3 Nf8 19.Rh4 Bxb2 20.Qb3 Qxh4 Black's 20th should have been 20...Be6 and White would have had three pieces en prise. 21.Nf6+ Kg7 22.Nxe8+ Kh6 23.Qxb2 Bxg4 24.Qg7+ Kh5 25.Qxf8 Rc8 26.Ng7+ Black should have won after 16th move of White. 1-0
American Chess Magazine 1898-1899, p.234

W. Schimmelphennig - Waddell [B00]
TSCA Correspondence Tournament, 1898
1.e4 g5 Black evidently was not acquainted with the openings, or he would not have played so compromising a move as his first. 2.Bc4 Bg7 3.d4 h6 4.Qf3 e6 5.e5 d5 6.Bb3 c5 7.c3 c4 8.Bc2 Ne7 9.Na3 a6 10.Ne2 Ng6 11.Ng3 Rf8 12.Nh5 Bh8 13.g3 f5 14.g4 White overlooked the winning of a piece, 14.exf6 winning the Knight. There were too many possibilities in the middle game, and the positions were frequently of the kind that make players desire to sacrifice something. 14...b5 15.h4 Nxh4 16.Rxh4 gxh4 17.Bxh6 Rg8 18.g5 Ra7 19.Nf6+ Bxf6 20.exf6 Kd7 21.Qh5 Kc6 22.f7 Rh8 23.g6 Qf6 24.g7 The winning of the two Rooks for pawns in the ending was very clever, and thereafter Black should have resigned. 24...Rxf7 25.Qxf7 Qxf7 26.gxh8Q Kc7 27.Qg7 Qxg7 28.Bxg7 Bd7 29.0-0-0 Be8 30.Rh1 Kd7 31.Rxh4 Ke7 32.Rh7 Kf7 33.Bh6+ Kf6 34.f4 Nd7 35.Bg5+ Kg6 36.Rh6+ Kf7 37.b3 Nb6 38.Bxf5 1-0 American Chess Magazine 1898-1899, p.235

The organ of the PNCCA in 1900 was Hermann Helms' weekly chess column in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and games by some of the Texas members were published in the Eagle's pages. Among the regular Texas correspondents with Helms was L. R. Walden of Austin, who was playing in the Southern Division section of the club's Grand National tournament. In a game against a fellow Texan, T. Hyde of Hyatt, Walden announced a mate in 34 moves, and submitted the game for the special prize for the longest mate. This sounds like an odd practice to modern chessplayers, but it was common in the 19th century; as Helms' observed in his column, "Every well-regulated tournament by correspondence has its announced prize set aside" for the longest announced mate. However, the committee that had to examine such tortured analysis was oftentimes driven "frantic," as Helms put it, at finding the announcement was not correct. According to Helms, these frequent stumbles in calculating the mate made "the trophy to be acquired a sort of will-of-the-wisp affair." As was often the case in such long variations, there was a slip in Walden's analysis, as pointed out by annotator C. S. Howell in Helms' Brooklyn Daily Eagle column of May 27, 1900.

T. Hyde - L. Walden [C51]
PNCCA Grand National, 1900
Notes by C. S. Howell
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 6.0-0 6.d4 is generally played nowadays. 6...d6 7.d4 Bb6 Lasker's Defense, a refutation of his dictum, "The best defense to the Evans Gambit is to decline it." 8.dxe5 This recovers the pawn, but his Queenside pawns remain weak for the ending. 8...dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Nf6 11.Ba3 Rather a doubtful sacrifice. 11...Nxe4 12.Nd3 Nd6 13.Re1+ Be6 14.Bxe6 fxe6 15.Nd2 0-0 16.Nf3 Rf6 17.Nde5 Ba5 18.Bb4 Bxb4 19.cxb4 a5 20.bxa5 Rxa5 21.Nd4 Rd5 22.Rad1 c5 23.Ndf3 Rxd1 24.Rxd1 N6f7 25.Nxf7 Nxf7 26.Rd7 e5 27.Rxb7 Rd6 28.Kf1 g5 29.Ke1 Ra6 30.Rc7 g4 31.Nd2 Rxa2 32.Rxc5 Kg7 33.g3 White now confines his own King and his pawns. 33...Kf6 34.Rc1 Kf5 35.Nc4 h5 36.Ne3+ Ke4 37.Rc2 Rxc2 Black here announced mate in 34 moves. He may possibly get a mate within that number of moves and certainly should win the game, owing to the adversary's weak 33.g3, but it is equally certain he cannot win on the play which he outlines in his main variation, herewith given: 38.Nxc2 Ng5 39.Kf1 Nf3 40.Kg2 Kd3 41.Nb4+ Ke2 42.Nd5 Ng5 43.Nf6! Nh3 44.Nxh5 Nxf2 45.Nf6 Ke3 46.Nh5 Ne4! 47.h3 gxh3+ 48.Kxh3 Kf3 49.Kh4 Nd2 50.Kh3 White can now draw easily by 50.Nf6 as can very readily be seen. White's g pawn, which is fully as valuable as the other's e pawn, is in a position to be quite troublesome. Several sub-variations are submitted but these cannot be given consideration while the trunk-line is impaired. 50...e4 51.Nf4 e3 52.Ne6 Ne4 53.Nd4+ Kf2 54.Nc2 e2 55.g4 Ng5+ 56.Kh4 Nf3+ 57.Kh5 Nd4! 58.Nxd4 e1Q 59.Nf5 Qh1+ 60.Kg6 Kf3 61.Nd4+ Kf4 62.Ne6+ Kxg4 63.Kf6 Qe4 64.Kf7 Kf5 65.Ng7+ Ke5 66.Ke7 Qb7+ 67.Kf8 Qd7 68.Ne8 Kf5 69.Ng7+ Kg6 70.Ne8 Qf7# 0-1
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 27, 1900

Although his mate announcement was flawed, Walden still managed to win the game against Hyde. However, he was less fortunate in two games with O. Wiggers of Nashville, Tennessee. The annotations to the first game were by Wiggers, with additional comments by Brooklyn chessplayer A. E. Swafield.

O. Wiggers - L. R. Walden [C45]
PNCCA Grand National, 1900
Annotations by O. Wiggers and A. E. Swafield
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qe7 5...Qf6 or 5...Qh4 are the usual moves. 6.Nf5 Qxe4 7.Nxg7+ Kd8 8.Nd2 Qe5 9.Nc4 Bb4+ 10.c3 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qxc3+ 12.Bd2 Qxg7 13.g3 Qd4 14.Ne3 Ne5 If 14...d5 15.Bg2 Be6 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.Bxd5! and Black cannot play 17...Qxd5 on account of 18.Bg5+!; But 14...d6 or; 14...Nf6 was preferable to the move made. - Swafield 15.Be2 Nd3+ 16.Bxd3 Qxd3 17.Qf3 Ke8 18.Qd5 A curious position! White is two pawns down, and yet courts an exchange of Queens, and whether Black accepts or not, he must lose in material! - Swafield. 18...Qxd5 19.Nxd5 c5 19...Rb8 20.Nxc7+ Kd8 21.Bf4 and White will win another pawn; nevertheless, we think it better than giving up the exchange. - Swafield 20.Nc7+ Kd8 21.Nxa8 b6 22.0-0 Bb7 23.Nxb6 axb6 24.Rfe1 h5 25.Bf4 Bc6 26.Rab1 b5 27.Bd6 c4 28.a4 Rh6 If 28...bxa4 29.Rb8# 29.axb5 White outplays Black and wins extra pawns back. 29...Bd5 If 29...Rxd6 30.bxc6 Rxc6 31.Rb8+ Rc8 32.Re8+ Kxe8 33.Rxc8+ winning the Knight and can in time prevent the pawn on the c file from queening. 30.Bc5 Re6 31.b6 Kc8 32.Red1 Bb7 33.Bd6 To foil pawn strengthening in the center. 33...Nf6 34.Rb4 Nd5 35.Rxc4+ Kd8 36.Bc7+ Kc8 If 36...Nxc7 White wins in a few moves. 37.Rdc1 Bc6 38.Bf4 Kb7 Black plays stubbornly and hopes to draw, as Bishops are of opposite colors. 39.Rb1 Ne7 40.Rc5 d5 41.Ra5 Nc8 42.Be3 f5 43.Rba1 43.Ra7+ seems a quicker way to win. For instance, 43...Nxa7 (If 43...Kb8 44.b7!) 44.bxa7+ Kc7 45.Rb8 d4 46.Bd2 (Better than 46.Bf4+ as Black replies 46...Kd7 and then ...Re8.) 46...Re2 47.Ba5+ Kd7 48.a8Q Bxa8 49.Rxa8 d3? 50.Rd8+ and wins. 43...Kb8 44.Bf4+ Kb7 45.Ra8 Nd6 45...Re1+ seems better than the text move. 46.Be3 Nb5 47.R1a7+ White now wins by force. 47...Nxa7 48.Rxa7+ Kc8 49.Rc7+ Kd8 50.Bf4 Bd7 White threatened Rxc6. 51.Bg5+ Ke8 52.b7 Re1+ 53.Kg2 1-0
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 11, 1900

Hermann Helms noted in his introductory description of the second encounter between Wiggers and Walden that the players followed the opening of a recent tournament game of Pillsbury's against Didier in the Paris 1900 tournament, although in this correspondence battle White managed to keep his Queen and scored the point.

O. Wiggers - L. R. Walden [C67]
PNCCA Grand National, 1900
Annotations by A. E. Swafield
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Re1 6.Qe2 is a stronger continuation. 6...Nd6 7.dxe5 Nxb5 8.a4 d6 If 8...Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Nd6 10.Bg5 f6 11.Bxf6 0-0 (or if 11...gxf6 12.Qh5+ Kf8 13.Ng6+ hxg6 14.Qxh8+ Kf7 15.Qh7+ Kf8 16.Re3 etc.) 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Ng6 losing the Exchange. 9.axb5 Nxe5 10.Nd4 If 10.Nxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8+ Bxd8 12.Rxe5+ would virtually draw. 10...0-0 11.f4 Ng4 12.f5 Nf6 13.Bg5 Re8 14.Nc3 Bd7 15.Nce2 Ne4 15...c5 seems better and frees Black's game. 16.Bxe7 Rxe7 16...Qxe7 followed by Qg5, should have been played, a favorable position resulting therefrom. 17.Nf4 Nf6 18.Qf3 Rxe1+ Allowing White control of the e file and giving Black a cramped game. 19.Rxe1 Qc8 20.Nd5 Nxd5 21.Qxd5 Kf8 To prevent 22.Re7. 22.f6 A move which ultimately wins; Black's counter attack comes too late. 22...c6 23.Qg5 gxf6 24.Qxf6 Kg8 25.Re3 Bg4 26.Rg3 Kf8 27.Qxd6+ Ke8 27...Kg8 would have prolonged the game somewhat, but would not have changed the result, as after 28.bxc6 Black seems to have nothing better than 28...f5 or(28...h5 , giving up the Bishop. If Black plays; 28...Qd8 White plays 29.Rxg4+ Kh8 30.Qh6 Qxd4+ (best) 31.Rxd4 Rg8 32.Qf6+ and mates next move. If Black plays; 28...bxc6 29.Nxc6 is sufficient.) 28.Re3+ Be6 29.Nxe6 fxe6 30.Rxe6+ Kf7 31.Re7+ 1-0
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 24, 1900

Another Texas player, Thomas Middleton of Waxahachie, avenged his fellow Texan's loss to Wiggers in the following game. It was an uphill struggle for Middleton. Hermann Helms presented the game as a "turning of the tables" and made it a cautionary tale of winning a won game for his Eagle readers: "An apparently beaten player should not be treated too lightly by an opponent on the eve of victory. When about to wind up the contest, the prospective winner should exercise as much circumspection as he does while handling his most difficult combination. This is a maxim it is well to bear in mind on all occasions, as many are the games lost as a result of neglecting to do that very thing." The columnist noted that Black "pull[ed] the game out of the fire through his opponent's failure to fully realize his peril." Middleton himself annotated the game for the readers of the Eagle, and it appeared in the July 8, 1900 issue of the column.

O. Wiggers - Thomas Middleton [C00]
PNCCA Grand National, 1900
Annotations by Thomas Middleton
1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg2 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.e5 Nd7 8.0-0 0-0 9.c3 b6 10.d4 a5 This move and the one preceding were merely made on the chance of gaining the exchange, but later on they lead to the loss of both pawns. 11.Re1 f5 12.exf6 Rxf6 13.Bg5 Rg6 14.Bf4 Nf8 15.Nbd2 cxd4 Following F. K. Young's advice to capture opponent's d pawn with c or e pawn, as the case might be. 16.Nxd4 Nxd4 17.cxd4 Bd6 18.Be5 Rg5 19.Rac1 Bxe5 20.dxe5 Qd7 21.Nc4 A neat move that immediately turns the scales in his favor. 21...Ba6 22.Qd2 Qd8 The position has become quite complex, the pinning and counterplay of the pieces being very interesting. 23.Nxb6 The Knight, of course, cannot be taken, because of the isolated Rook on the Kingside. 23...Rb8 24.Rc6 The same objection still holds good. 24...Bb7 25.Rd6 Qe7 26.f4 Rg6 27.Qxa5 h5 28.Re3 h4 29.Qc3

29...d4 With two pawns down Black must resort to desperate measures. He sacrifices another pawn, but exposes the adverse King thereby, besides ridding himself of a piece that has been sadly out of play since the start. 30.Qxd4 Bxg2 31.Kxg2 Qb7+ 32.Qe4 Qc7 33.Qc4 Qb7+ 34.Qc6 Qf7 Still avoiding the exchange of Queens, which he cannot afford. 35.Qe4 hxg3 36.Rxg3 Rh6 37.b3 Qh5 38.h3 Ng6 39.Nd7 Rc8 40.Rd2 Nh4+ 41.Kh2 Kh8 42.a4 Nf5 43.Rc3 Realizing the perilous state of affairs, including the two hostile passed pawns, Black accepts the situation philosophically. 43...Rxc3 44.Qa8+ Kh7 45.Nf8+ Kh8 46.Nxe6+ Kh7 47.Ng5+ Qxg5 48.fxg5 Rhxh3+ 49.Kg1 Rc1+ 50.Kg2 Rch1 51.Rd8

51...Ne3+ Black here offered the following demonstration of a perpetual check and consequent draw: 51...Ne3+ 52.Kf2 Ng4+ 53.Ke2 Re3+ 54.Kd2 Rh2+ 55.Kd1 Nf2+ 56.Kd2 Ng4+ and draws. White accepted the moves up till his fifty-fifth where he played Kc1. The latter's next move, overlooking the check on e3, of course loses the game. 52.Kf2 Ng4+ 53.Ke2 Re3+ 54.Kd2 Rh2+ 55.Kc1 Rc3+ 56.Kd1 0-1
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 8 and August 19, 1900

Tennessee players in addition to the amusingly-named Mr. Wiggers were causing problems for the Texas PNCCA members a century ago. Middleton's French defense was destroyed by A. T. McQuigg Jr. of Lynneville in a PNCCA game. According to Helms, White sacrificed his weak d pawn on the seventh move. Black accepted the sacrifice, but forfeited his right to castle. "The King thus exposed forthwith became sport for the White forces and was quickly humiliated" as Helms wrote in his June 10, 1900 column.

A. T. McQuigg - Thomas Middleton [C02]
PNCCA 4th Grand National, Southern Div., 1900
Notes by Hermann Helms
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Nbd2 Allowing the d pawn to go, presumably with premeditation. 6...cxd4 7.cxd4 Nxd4 8.Nxd4 Qxd4 9.Bb5+ Bd7 Better than moving the King at once. 10.Bxd7+ Kxd7 11.Qe2 Bb4 He must develop the Kingside at any cost; 11...Nh6 is the alternative. 12.0-0 12.Qb5+ would not do, for after 12...Kd8 13.Qxb7 Qxe5+ 14.Kf1 Qb8 with the better game. 12...a6 Black would be safer by 12...Bxd2 exchanging his Bishop for the Knight, even though by doing so he brings the White Rooks more quickly into action. Then might come ...a6, followed duly by ...Ne7 and ...Nc6. White would still have fine opportunities for attack, but he would find the defense more difficult to negotiate than appears at first sight. 13.Nb3 Qh4 14.Rd1 Qd8 A reversal of moves now proves at once fatal. He should have retreated the Bishop by 14...Bf8 before bringing the Queen home.; Curiously, if 14...Be7 then 15.Rd4 corners her majesty. Qg4 should not have been permitted at the time. 15.Qg4 Bf8 16.Rxd5+ Ke8 17.Rxd8+ And White won after 30 moves. 1-0
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 10, 1900

Middleton disagreed with Helms' assessment of the opening in his game with McQuigg, and submitted a challenge to the Eagle readers: "If any of the players are sufficiently interested in this opening, I would take the position at my eleventh move and play it into the mid-game to beat this sacrifice of the d pawn." The historical record is silent regarding any acceptance of Middleton's challenge.

The second TSCA over-the-board Championship was held in San Antonio in October 1899, and the winner was a "young Dallas grocery-merchant" named John Ford. Originally from Mississippi, Ford had moved to Texas in 1898, and like most TSCA members, he was also active in the PNCCA. And like his fellow Texan L. R. Walden, he also submitted a gamescore for the special prize of longest announced mate in the PNCCA's second Grand National tournament. Ford's mate was five moves longer than Walden's, and more importantly, it was grudgingly accepted as sound by the annotator. This game from the Southern Division of the Grand National helped secure Ford the championship of the division.

R. A. Hart - John Ford [C55]
PNCCA Grand National, 1900
Annotations by C. S. Howell
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 We consider the conservative 4.d3 better. The sacrifice of the pawn, entailed by 6.O-O, is not sound. 4...Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.0-0 d5 6...Nxe4 can be played with safety. The text move, we believe, is novel, and of doubtful efficiency. 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Bg5 Qd7 10.b4 Be7 11.b5 Bxg5 11...Nd8 is better. The text loses. 12.bxc6 Qxc6 13.Nxg5 13.Qb3, threatening Bb5, Bxd5, and Nxg5 would have won a piece and the game. 13...Qxc4 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Rxe6+ Kf7 16.Re4 Rhe8 17.Rxd4 Qe2 By this clever move Black more than equalizes the position. 18.Qxe2 Rxe2 19.Kf1 Rae8 20.Rd1 Rc2 21.Na3 Rxc3 22.Nb5 Rc5 23.Rxd5 Clever play that should have drawn. 23...Rxd5 24.Nxc7 Red8 25.Nxd5 Rxd5 26.Rb1 b6 27.f4 Rd4 28.g3 Rc4 29.Rb2 Rc5 30.Kf2 b5 31.Kf3 a5 32.h4 h5 When your opponent has the majority of pawns on one side, and you on the other, the correct principle is to establish your majority, and bring your King to the side of the board on which he has the majority. By violating this principle, White loses this game. White's 32nd move, h4, allows Black to play ...h5 and thus hold three pawns with two. His two pawns to one on the other side then determine the issue. 33.Rg2 b4 34.Ke4 Rc3 35.Kf5 a4 36.Kg5 Rc5+ 37.f5 b3 38.axb3 axb3 39.Kxh5 Rxf5+ 40.Kg4 Rb5 41.Rb2 Kg6 42.Kf3 Kh5 43.g4+ Kg6 Of course 43...Kxh4 loses the Rook to 44.Rh2+ Kg5 45.Rh5+ 44.Ke4 Kf6 45.Kd4 Rb4+

46.Kd5 Black announced mate in 39 moves, as follows: 46...Rxg4 47.Rxb3 Rxh4 48.Rf3+ Kg5 49.Ke5 Kg4 50.Rf1 g5 51.Rg1+ Kh5 52.Kf5 Rf4+ 53.Ke5 Kg6 54.Ra1 Rb4 55.Ra6+ Kh5 56.Kf5 g4 57.Ra1 Kh4 58.Rh1+ Kg3 59.Rg1+ Kf3 60.Rf1+ Kg2 61.Ra1 g3 62.Ra2+ Kh3 63.Ra3 Kh2 64.Ra8 g2 65.Rh8+ Kg3 66.Rg8+ Kf2 67.Rg7 g1Q 68.Rxg1 Kxg1 69.Ke5 Kf2 70.Kd5 Ke3 71.Kc5 Rd4 72.Kb5 Kd3 73.Kc5 Kc3 74.Kb5 Rd5+ 75.Kb6 Kb4 76.Kc6 Kc4 77.Kb6 Rd6+ 78.Kb7 Kb5 79.Kc7 Kc5 80.Kb7 Rd7+ 81.Kc8 Kc6 82.Kb8 Rd8+ 83.Ka7 Rf8 84.Ka6 Ra8# 0-1
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 5, 1910

However, the effort of trying to bust two such long-variation mates as those announced by Walden and Ford wore on the temper of C. S. Howell, and prompted some sour remarks in the annotations to Ford's win. "This has been the second announced mate of over thirty moves that it has been our pleasure (?) to examine." Howell wrote. "In the other one we demonstrated not only that the mate could not be accomplished, but that the game could be drawn. In this case we will not attempt to cook the mate, for Black can probably win in thirty-nine moves, but we wish to state that we do not believe such a position as this can be analyzed to a mate within the time limit allowed by the association, unless the player went without sleep and food, and moreover we consider the entire task a futile one. The object of a chess game is to win, not to make it a problem. The composers give us enough trouble in that line. Did anyone ever hear of Morphy or Lasker or any of the really great masters announcing a mate in thirty moves? … The rule is not conducive to good chess."

Ford "consider[ed] himself aggrieved" by Howell's remarks, according to Hermann Helms, and so the Eagle published a letter from the Texan. "From the tenor of Mr. Howell's notes," Ford wrote, "his attempt to cook the mate has evidentially spoiled his temper. As for overstepping the time limit, Mr. Hart can testify that I always answered on time. In none of my correspondence games have I ever taken over the limit. As for Morphy and Lasker never announcing mate in thirty moves, Morphy did not play correspondence chess and neither does Lasker…. The mate was really very easy and took only a few hours' time, as the position is a simple endgame, a win for Black. All you have to do is to see how long White can prevent the queening of the pawn. When it queens, it must be taken with the Rook. That leaves Black with King and Rook versus King, and in such positions the Rook can always mate in sixteen moves, as Mr. Howell will find if he will study some good elementary work on the endings."

This little donneybrook between Howell and Ford ended quickly when a third chessplayer, G. A. L'Hommede of Chicago, submitted a cook of Ford's analysis to the Eagle. It appeared in the same column as Ford's letter, immediately beneath it.

R. A. Hart - John Ford [C55] Analysis
PNCCA Grand National, 1900

After 51.Kf6 (Ford gave 51.Rg1+ in his analysis) Kh5 52.Kg7, "Black will have some difficulty in winning at all", according to L'Hommede. And there the matter stopped.

Chance was to reunite Ford and Howell a year later, when the PNCCA held an East versus West match. The Texan and the New Yorker played into a line of the Ruy Lopez that was the subject of much debate at the time. Harry Nelson Pillsbury, the United States Champion, publicly disputed analysis by Boston players John Barry and Franklin K. Young that 4. 0-0 was a "weak" move, and Howell sided with Pillsbury. Hermann Helms stated in his column that Howell had "assailed the Boston contingent in hammer and tongs fashion" over the opening analysis.

And hammer and tongs is a good description of the Howell-Ford game. The twenty-year old Clarence Seaman Howell, although forgotten today, was one of America's top players at the start of the twentieth century. Earlier in 1901 he had played in the New York State Chess Association tournament in Buffalo, New York, and had held US Champion Pillsbury to a draw in one of their two games. Howell would in future years play in the annual cable matches between the United States and Great Britain, win the championship of the Brooklyn Chess Club, and capture the New York State championship. He wasn't as easy for Ford to deal with as the local Dallas players or his usual correspondence opponents had been.

C. S. Howell - John Ford [C67]
PNCCA East vs West Match, 1901
Annotations by C. S. Howell
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 I am quite prone to making this "weak" move. 4.d4 was analyzed to some extent by Messrs. Napier, Chadwick, and myself at the Brooklyn Chess Club about a year ago. It is undoubtedly strong, but personally I prefer castles. There is one point strongly in favor of d4, however, and that is that for several moves Black's replies are almost forced, but even with this advantage it is difficult to see how White can do more than get the customary Ruy Lopez bind. 4...Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.dxe5 Played to in some measure test the value of this variation. It has been said that the defense to the Ruy Lopez stands or falls on 5...Nd6, and as it seems likely it stands against 6.Bxc6, new developments in the attack are worth studying. From a personal standpoint I prefer 6.Bg5 , but as I may be saving some of my knowledge on that variation for a subsequent cable match, I refrained from playing it in this game. 6...Nxb5 7.a4 d6 8.e6 Bxe6 It is pretty nearly settled that 8...fxe6 is better than ...Bxe6. Against the text White's attack with the f pawn on Knight and Bishop is likely to become irresistible. 9.axb5 Ne5 10.Nd4 c5 Probably not best, but it is difficult to see what is good. White threatens to push the f pawn down rapidly, and something must be done to stem the tide. 10...Qh4 , followed by ...Ng4 and ...Nf6 in reply to f4, might have been tried. 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.f4 Nf7 13.Re1 e5 14.Nc3 Be7 15.Nd5 Playing directly for an ending and preparing to demolish Black's Queenside. If Black now castles, b6 gives White a promising game. The solidity with which this Knight occupies d5 shows that Black's development has been faulty. 15...b6 16.b4 Endgame tactics in the opening. 16...cxb4 If 16...0-0 17.bxc5 bxc5 (if 17...dxc5 18.fxe5 etc.) 18.b6 Qd7 (obviously 18...axb6 loses a piece.; if 18...a6 19.Nc7 followed by Rxa6; or if 18...a5 19.Nc7 Rb8 20.Rxa5 Rxb6 21.Na6 etc.) 19.Nc7 Rab8 (19...Rac8 20.Rxa7 with good chances.) 20.bxa7 etc. 17.Be3 0-0

18.Bxb6 axb6 19.Rxa8 Qxa8 20.Nxe7+ Kh8 21.Qh5 Nh6 22.fxe5 dxe5 23.Qxe5 Qa2 Not good, in view of subsequent events, but attractive on the face of it. 23...Qa4 , a much worse looking move, was probably better. It is possible that I have overlooked better moves for Black throughout this annotation, but I believe his game is logically lost in the opening, owing to the holes which exist at d5 and e6, and the weak point on the c file, as well as owing to the fact that White can disintegrate his Queenside pawn position. After 24.Qd6 Black might have played 24...Qxc2 25.Ng6+ hxg6 26.Qxf8+ Kh7 27.Qxb4 and White's win is very difficult. 24.Qd6 Qf7 25.Qxb6 Nf5 A peculiar feature of the position is that after 25...Re8 26.Qe3 Black must move his Rook away on account of Ng6+. 26.Nxf5 Qxf5 27.h3 Although White has steadily played to demolish Black's Queenside pawns and establish a winning ending, the position may be said to illustrate "luck in chess". Material becomes even, Queens are on the board, and, under ordinary circumstances, the result would be a draw. But it happens that Black's King is behind pawns in a mating position, and although he may advance his b pawn first, owing to White's remarkable command of the board with his Queen at d6, Black's game is irretrievably lost. Another lucky circumstance- it happened that I could take the b6 pawn and guard the f2 square. Again, after Qd6, which attacks Black's Rook and covers b8, I also cover all checks. Really, it is not luck, but it is the nearest thing to it that can be met in chess. 27...Qxc2 28.Qd6 Qf2+ 29.Kh2 h6 30.b6 1-0 The act of a gentleman who knows when he is beaten. Black might have continued for some time, but must ultimately lose. If 30.b6 Rf6 31.Re8+ Kh7 32.Qd3+ Rg6 (if 32...g6 33.b7 Qf4+ 34.Qg3 etc.) 33.Rh8+ Kxh8 34.Qxg6 followed by Qg3 and Qc7 winning. Mr. Ford wrote that he saw that I was determined to push on the b pawn and not send my Queen pawn hunting, so he gave up. My opponent also wrote, "To your Qd6 I have no adequate reply."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 6, 1901

While this was a one-sided loss for Ford, it was just such experiences as this that the Texas players had been seeking in correspondence chess - the chance to meet "foemen worthy of their steel." And it was Ford's fellow Texan Thomas Middleton who summed up the feelings of the correspondence players in the Lone Star State. As a newspaperman he was used to speaking his mind on paper, so when Middleton sent a letter to Helms' chess column on the origins and future of Texas chess in January 1900 it had all the punch of a newspaper editorial: "I have at all times realized that the Pillsbury National Correspondence Association was the great force to popularize the game away from the established chess centers, and with the Eagle to spread the work of the association, we may expect big results. Here in Texas we already have a fine state interest which we attribute primarily to the Pillsbury Association. True, we have no 'masters', but we have the material of which they are made, and let us hope they are already in the process of creation."

And Texas chess today owes much to this "process of creation." The excitement for chess created by the correspondence players such as Walden and Middleton led over time to the diversity and richness of the current Texas chess scene. Chess breeds chess, it seems, to judge from the examples of these long-forgotten correspondence players and their desire to found a state association. Despite their limited access to over-the-board chess, Texas chessplayers of a century ago managed to practice, and perfect, their pastime with all the enthusiasm shown by TCA members today. With a little help from the US Postal Service, of course.

© 2005 Neil R. Brennen. All rights reserved.
This article was first published in the January-February 2005 issue of Texas Knights.

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