The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Wanted: Opponents
by Neil R. Brennen
(posted 15 November 2005)

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Chess is a game of two sides. Unless he wishes to devote his time with the Royal Game to the composition of chess problems and studies, a chessplayer needs an opponent to struggle against in a game. And usually chessplayers manage to find competition "worthy of their steel" in their communities.

But what do you do if you live in a locale where there are few or no skilled players? Or if your work, social, and family commitments prevent you from spending time engaged in an over the board struggle?

Correspondence chess players know the best solution to these problems. But stating the answer is "correspondence chess" doesn't solve the problem of finding an opponent. Of course, that dilemma is easily solved today, with the existence of organized correspondence clubs, national correspondence federations, the International Correspondence Chess Federation, and web-based servers. And correspondence players have been spoiled for choice for a long time. For well over a century there have been official correspondence chess bodies that allow chessplayers to meet other chessplayers in mock-combat.

But this wasn't always so. In the United States, for example, the earliest major correspondence organization, the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, didn't come into existence until 1896. Before then, there were occasional correspondence tournaments and matches in the 1880s and 1890s, but nothing like the abundance of choice today. And in the 1870s, there was even less. So, again, what was the prospective postal player to do for opposition?


For example, Daniel Jaeger, a chessplayer in New York City, perhaps the last place on Earth one would expect a chessplayer to lack opposition, found himself needing people to play postal chess with him. So one day in 1876 he sent the following notice to Miron Hazeltine, chess editor of the New York Clipper:

CHESS BY CORRESPONDENCE - Any amateur who would like a match by correspondence the coming season can hear of an antagonist by addressing Daniel Jaeger, Box 197, New York City.

The notice appeared in Hazeltine's December 9, 1876 column.

Jaeger was not the first person to use a chess column in this way, nor was he the last. But regardless, Jaeger's little notice in the Clipper began to garner returns as chessplayers who desired a game by mail wrote to him. And the Clipper column itself saw a return on the investment in space for the notice, as Jaeger began to send Hazeltine games he had played with other postalites. Among the first was a game played at odds of the Knight against J. W. Belcher of Providence, Rhode Island.


Daniel Jaeger - J. W. Belcher
Correspondence, Knight odds, 1877
Annotations by Miron Hazeltine.
Remove Nb1. 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.b4 Bxb4 4.c3 Bc5 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb6 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.0-0 d6 9.Bb2 Nge7 10.d5 Na5 11.Bxg7 Rarely adopted; the threatening position of the adverse Rook rendering this gain a loss. 11...Rg8 12.Bf6 Qd7 He "fraids easy"; should take off that evil minded churchman and then display all his skill and energy in reinforcing and rendering operative the formidable position of the Rook on g8. 13.Bd3 c5 14.Qe2 a6 15.e5 Nxd5 16.Bg5 Qe6 17.Rfe1 f6

18.Bxf6 The attack finishes up his little game in the style of a veteran strategist. 18...Nxf6 19.Qb2 Kd7 20.Qxb6 d5 21.Bf5 Qxf5 22.Qd6+ Ke8 23.exf6+ Kf7 24.Ne5+ There are so many ways of winning, almost anything will do. 24.Re7+ is also conclusive. 1-0
New York Clipper, July 28, 1877


Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and soon Mr. Belcher was no longer receiving the Knight from Jaeger. In their second published encounter, they began with even material. A faulty conditional sequence on Belcher's part allowed Jaeger to sacrifice an exchange. Eventually he rounded off a fine game with a spectacular finish and announced mate in eight moves. In fact, Jaeger was impressed enough with his own play to annotate the game for the Clipper column. Students of the history of chess theory may find it curious that an unknown correspondence chess player in 1877 would show a fondness for the Bishop pair, supposedly a teaching of Steinitz.


Daniel Jaeger - J. W. Belcher [C39]
Correspondence, 1877
Annotations by Daniel Jaeger
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 What Mr. Potter calls the "mildewed defense". 6.Bc4 Nh6 7.d4 d6 8.Nd3 f3 9.g3 d5 10.exd5 Nf5 11.Kf2 Be7 12.Bf4 Kf8 13.c3 Rh7 14.Nd2 Nxh4 Very hazardous. 15.gxh4 Bxh4+

16.Rxh4 Mr. Belcher sent the following moves: (if) 16.Bg3 Bxg3+ , (and if) 17.Kxg3 h4+ , overlooking the sacrifice of the exchange. This variation would, no doubt, give Black the advantage. 16...Qxh4+ 17.Bg3 Qd8 18.Nxf3 Qf6 19.Bh4 I could have taken 19.Bxc7 , but being a little afraid of those pawns, tried to stop them in this manner. 19...Qxf3+ 20.Qxf3 gxf3 21.Kxf3 Bf5 22.Re1 Nd7 23.Ne5 Nb6 24.Bb3 Re8 25.Kf4 Bg6 26.c4 Kg8 Necessary, on account of 27.c5 Nc8 28.d6+. 27.c5 Nc8 28.Ba4 c6 Loses a pawn; why not 28...Re7 at once? 29.dxc6 bxc6 30.Bxc6 Re7 31.Bd7 Could have won the exchange, but I have a fancy for two Bishops in the endgame - when I can preserve them. 31...f6

32.Bxc8 Could have played 32.Nxg6 , but in addition to my fancy for two Bishops, I like to remove the adverse Knights. 32...fxe5+ 33.Rxe5 Ref7+ I think to check with the other Rook would have been more to the purpose. 33...Rhf7+ 34.Kg5 Rxe5+ 35.dxe5 separates my pawns. 34.Ke3 Kf8 35.b4 Rf1 36.d5 Rh1 37.Bg5 h4 38.d6 h3 39.Bxh3 Compelled, though I did not like it. 39...R1xh3+ 40.Kd4 Rd7 41.Be7+ Kf7 42.a4 Rb7 43.b5 Ra3 44.c6 Rxa4+ 45.Kc5 Rb6 46.d7 Ra5

New York Clipper, January 5, 1878


In this position, Jaeger announced mate in eight moves. Lengthy announced mates were popular in the nineteenth century, particularly in correspondence chess, where many lampfulls of midnight oil were spent in analysis of endings. Hazeltine, when he published this game, called it "a magnificent end-game, whether we consider the remarkable elegance of the position, or the problem-like subtlety of its execution."

The Vermont chessplayer W. H. Palmer fared little better than Jaeger's Rhode Island antagonist Belcher had, although he was spared the possible affront of an offer of material odds. In his case, the game was over much sooner, as Palmer fell to a sharp, and dubious, variation in the Philidor Countergambit.


W. H. Palmer - Daniel Jaeger [C41]
Correspondence, 1877
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6 Nh6 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Qh5+ Kf8 9.Nf7 Qf6

10.Bd2 Nxf7 11.Qxf7+ Qxf7 12.exf7 Kxf7 13.0-0-0 Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Be6 15.Be2 Rd8 16.f3 e3 17.Bd4 Nc6 18.a3 Nxd4 19.Rxd4 c5 0-1
New York Clipper, October 6, 1877


Mr. Palmer, according to Hazeltine in the Clipper, blamed "the loss of the partie solely on his faulty tenth move", and requested what was often called a "back game", a replay of the game from a specified position. In this case Jaeger and Palmer resumed play at White's tenth move, and extended the contest to the twenty-second move. Hazeltine published the replayed game alongside the first.


W. H. Palmer - Daniel Jaeger [C41]
Correspondence, 1877
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6 Nh6 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Qh5+ Kf8 9.Nf7 Qf6 10.Qxd5 Nxf7 11.exf7 Bxc3+ 12.bxc3 Qxc3+ 13.Kd1 Bg4+ 14.Be2 Nc6 15.Rb1 Rd8 16.Qxd8+ Nxd8 17.Bxg4 Kxf7 18.Bb2 Qc4 19.Kc1 Nc6 20.Bh5+ Ke7 21.a3 Qc5 22.Bd1?? Black mates in two moves. 0-1
New York Clipper, October 6, 1877


Speaking of openings, among the invitations showing up in Jaeger's mailbox was one from Alonzo Wheeler Jerome of Paxton, Illinois, with an offer to test by mail a gambit variation of the Italian Game he had analyzed. The so-called Jerome Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+), with its showy but unsound Bishop sacrifice by White on the fourth move, has never had a good reputation, despite the effort Jerome put into his brainchild. Jerome's gambit was no more successful against Jaeger. Hazeltine called the first game between the two a "tremendous battle" and complimented its "many interesting passages", but pleaded it was too long to annotate for his column. He also added it was the first game "at this opening ever given in the Clipper."

A. W. Jerome - Daniel Jaeger [C50]
Correspondence, 1878
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Qf6 9.fxe5+ Qxe5 10.Qf3 Ne7 11.c3 Ng6 12.d4 Bxd4 13.cxd4 Qxd4 14.Nc3 c6 15.Bg5 Kc7 16.Rd1 Qe5 17.Nd5+ Kb8 18.Bf4 Nxf4 19.Nxf4 a5 20.Nd3 Qd4 21.Qg3+ d6 22.Nf2 Qc4 23.Rxd6 Ka7 24.Rd3 Qxa2 25.0-0 Qxb2 26.Ra3 b6 27.Qc7+ Ka6 28.Rfa1 Qb5 29.Nd3 Bb7 30.Qg3 Rad8 31.Qe3 Rhe8

32.Rb3 Rxe4 33.Qg3 Qd5 34.Rab1 Qd4+ 35.Kh1 b5 36.Ra3 Rd7 37.h3 Re3 38.Nc5+ Qxc5 39.Rxe3 Qc2 40.Qe1 Rd6 41.Re2 Qg6 42.Ra1 a4 43.Qb4 Qd3 44.Qe1 c5 45.Kh2 g5 46.Raa2 Qg6 47.Re7 Bd5 48.Rd2 Re6 49.Qf2 Rxe7 50.Rxd5 Rc7 51.Qf8 Ka5 52.Qd8 Qb6 53.Rd6 Qb7 54.Rd7 Kb6 55.Rd6+ Ka7 56.Qxg5 a3 57.Qc1 b4 58.Qc4 Rc6 59.Rd2 b3 60.Rd3 a2 61.Qc3 Qc7+ 62.g3 c4 63.Rd5 Ka6 64.h4 Rc5 65.Rd1 Qe5 66.Qc1 b2 67.Qh6+ Kb5 68.Rd7 Qe2+ and Mr. Jerome struck his colors. 0-1
New York Clipper, November 22, 1878


A rematch in the opening was no more successful for Mr. Jerome. By now Hazeltine had recovered from the shock of the opening, and found space for some annotation to the game in his column.


A. W. Jerome- Daniel Jaeger [C50]
Correspondence, 1879
Annotations by Miron Hazeltine
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qxe5 Qe7 8.Qf4+ Nf6 9.e5 Re8 10.d4 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Qxe5+ 12.Qxe5 Rxe5+ 13.Be3 Ng4 Clearly a lost move. 14.0-0 d5 15.Nc3 c6 16.Bd4 Re7 17.h3 Nh6 18.g4 b6 19.f4 Bb7 20.b4 Rc8 21.Na4 Re4 22.c3 Ba6 23.Rf2 Bb5 24.Nxb6 What he wished is pretty evident; what he can gain (except a loss) is invisible. 24...axb6 25.Bxb6 Rce8 26.Kg2 Ke6 27.a4 Ba6 28.Bc5 Kd7 29.Rb1 Rb8 30.Kg3 Rc4 31.Rc1 Ng8 32.f5 Nf6 33.Ba7 Mr. Jerome must have wholly overlooked the neat and telling reply. 33...Rbxb4 34.Kg2 Ne4 35.Rf3 Rb2+ 36.Kh1 Rxa4 37.fxg6 Raa2 38.Bg1 His only move. 38...hxg6 39.Re1 Nf2+ 40.Bxf2 Rxf2 41.Rg3 Be2 42.Kg1 Bf3 43.Re3 Be4 44.c4 Rh2

45.Kf1 0-1
New York Clipper, November 1, 1879


Jaeger announced a mate in three at this point. He had "sent some conditional moves showing that 45.Rxe4 was the best reply, and that then I force mate in about fifteen moves", as he wrote to Hazeltine.

All of his correspondence play had helped Jaeger become a stronger player, and the public notice his games achieved in the Clipper helped him secure a board in the great International Postal Card Tourney of 1877, playing for the American side against Great Britain. His teammates for the match included such noted over the board players as Eugene Delmar and Max Judd, and Mrs. John W. Gilbert, perhaps the strongest female chessplayer in the world at that time. Distinguished company indeed, and company he would probably not have kept had Jaeger not sent his notice for publication in Hazeltine's column.

And still the games came in the post. A week after Hazeltine published his second win over Jerome and his odd gambit, Jaeger appeared in the Clipper column with a miniature game scored against another of his correspondents, this time J. A. Kinnier of Virginia.


Daniel Jaeger - J. A. Kinnier [C80]
Correspondence, 1879
Dash short and sharp between our contributor Daniel Jaeger and J.A. Kinnier.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 Nf6 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Nxe5 Be7 9.d4 0-0 10.c4 Be6 11.Nc3 h6 12.Qd3 Qc8

13.d5 The "sharp" now comes in. 13...cxd5 14.cxd5 Rd8 15.Nxf7! Kxf7 16.Rxe6 Nxd5 17.Qg6+ Kg8 18.Bxh6 and wins. 1-0
New York Clipper, November 8, 1879


Jaeger may have had some personal motivation to display this "dash" in print. Readers of the Clipper had by now discovered that Jaeger wasn't always on the winning side of the chessboard; and in fact Kinnier had scored a spectacular win over the New Yorker, capped with an announced mate in thirty-four moves. The game was published in the Greenville, South Carolina, News, with annotations by A. F. Wurm, a strong over-the-board player in the South, and was reprinted by Hazeltine in the Clipper.


J. A. Kinnier - Daniel Jaeger [C38]
Correspondence, 1879
Annotations by A. F. Wurm

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.0-0 d6 6.c3 h6 7.d4 Ne7 8.Qb3 0-0 A model debut, on which many fine games can be based. 9.g3 Nbc6 We should have adopted the usual 9...g4 10.gxf4 Na5 11.Qa4 Nxc4 12.Qxc4 g4 13.Nh4 d5 14.Qe2 dxe4 15.f5 Nd5 16.Qxg4 All well played, and very instructive. 16...e3 17.Qg3 Kh7 To protect his h pawn. 18.Ng2 e2 19.Rf3 Rg8 20.Qf2 a5 21.Qxe2 Ra6 22.Nd2 Ne7 23.Qf2 Rf6 24.Ne4 Rxf5 25.Bf4 Ng6 26.Bg3 Rxf3 27.Qxf3 The endgame is now pushed with great vigor by Mr. Kinnier. 27...Be6 28.Ne3 c6 29.Nc5 Qc8 30.Qh5 Bf8 31.Ne4 Be7 32.Rf1 Qd8 33.Ng4 Bxg4 34.Rxf7+ Rg7 35.Rxg7+ Kxg7 36.Qxg4 Qd5 37.a3 Bf6 38.Nc5 h5 39.Qd7+ Qxd7 40.Nxd7 b5 41.Be5 Bxe5 42.Nxe5 Nxe5

43.dxe5 White announced mate in 34 moves. 1-0
New York Clipper, September 6, 1879


When Hazeltine published this game, he added a note that "Mr. Jaeger is so confident that the position can be drawn that he offers a copy of Morphy's Match Games to the first amateur who will send him an analysis demonstrating a draw from the above position. Address Daniel Jaeger, 129 Forsythe Street, New York City."

We don't know if anyone took up Jaeger's offer, and if there's a draw in that ending, no one has pointed it out. All we know is that Daniel Jaeger played a great deal of correspondence chess, at odds and with even material, in both sound and unsound openings, during the infancy of organized correspondence chess. Jaeger reaped plentiful returns from his investment of a letter to Miron Hazeltine back in 1876, returns paid in the wealth of pleasure that only correspondence chess can bring. And, perhaps more importantly, he learned a great lesson as well.

It pays to advertise.

© 2005 Neil R. Brennen. All rights reserved.

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