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John S. Hilbert has appeared in these pages before with his article "Stalking the Blue-Eyed Chess Score." His biographical information appears there. To summarize, his degrees include a BA, MA, and Ph.D. in English, and a J.D. with practice experience in environmental and Social Security law. He is the author of Buffalo Chess Tournaments, 1901 and 1894 (Caissa Editions 1996) and Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster (Caissa Editions 1997). He also edits a revived journal of chess history, Lasker & His Contemporaries (Issue 5 is now available through its publisher, Chessco). John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John S. Hilbert
Those who have read my article "Examining the Past: Essential Tools for Exploring Chess History" (Lasker & His Contemporaries, Issue 5, pp.52-58; Thinker's Press 1997) might recall my interest in exploring local chess history. Those who have read my earlier contribution to this site, Stalking the Blue-Eyed Chess Score, have seen my interest in Buffalo, New York chess history. The Buffalo area has been my home for the past twenty years. Just down the road, though, and certainly not to be slighted, is Rochester, New York.
Much like Buffalo, Rochester has a fine chess history in its own right. Just as Buffalo hosted a number of New York State Chess Association mid-summer meetings, generally including three or more round robin tournaments, ranging from master class to experts to class play, Rochester has done so as well. Where as Buffalo hosted the 1901 event, won by Pillsbury over Delmar, Napier, and others (with a young Frank Marshall finishing next to last), Rochester can brag of the 1924 event, won after a delayed playoff by a young man by the name of Carlos Torre.
Rochester in 1924 already had a rich history of chess events, having hosted the NYSCA mid-summer tournament in 1910, for example. That event, a double round, round-robin tournament with five participants, including Roy T. Black, who would defeat Capablanca in their game the next year at New York 1911, resulted in twenty games being played. And all twenty were published in Hermann Helms' American Chess Bulletin (October 1910, pp. 240-245). Rochester also hosted the 1917 event, won by Oscar Chajes, as well as a very small, three-man, double round-robin tournament in August 1918, won by Kenneth S. Howard.
Born in LeRoy, New York on April 12, 1892, Howard of course is best remembered today for his extensive work with chess problems. His books, for instance, include How to Solve Chess Problems and Classic Chess Problems by Pioneer Composers, both of which have been reprinted by Dover Publications. Unknown to almost everyone, however, are his books written in conjunction with his vocation in advertising: How to Write Advertisements (1937) and Methods of Sales Promotion (1940). Some of us may be thankful the good folks at Dover have at least spared us reprint of such non-chess works, but no one will deny Howard's lasting contributions to the field of chess problems, both in his books and, for instance, during his tenure as Problem Department Editor for the American Chess Bulletin, a position he held for many years.
Howard graduated from the University of Rochester. He lived in the Rochester area for twenty-three years, married there, and raised his daughter in that city. Those interested in reading more about his life should turn to the American Chess Bulletin for 1941, at pages 66 through 71. Those interested in the young Howard's earlier contributions to chess journalism are encouraged to explore his chess column in the Rochester Herald, which ran from 1903 through 1905, when he was only in his early twenties.
Howard's Herald column, like a number of chess columns from the age when newspapers were king, was relatively extensive, often offering its readers two or more chess games weekly. While Howard tried to give his readers some sense of international chess events, he of course also offered games of more local interest, and at times even offered his own. And what many people don't recall today is that Howard enjoyed correspondence chess, publishing correspondence games authored, for instance, by his own University of Rochester chess club against other schools. One example, taken from Howard's column in the Rochester Herald for July 18, 1903:
University of Rochester - Cornell University
Howard noted the game was from a correspondence match with Cornell "played during the past spring," thus identifying play as having taken place during the spring semester of 1903. As Howard was just turning twenty-one at the time, it is likely he was still a student at the University of Rochester himself, and that he had a hand in the game's unfolding. No identification of players on either team, however, appeared in the column, and thus it would be unwise to assume that Howard himself was on the Rochester team, however likely that might be. The second game, Cornell - University of Rochester, a twenty-six move victory for Black with the French Defense, gave the University of Rochester a 2-0 match victory.
Of more historical interest, however, was Kenneth Howard's two game correspondence match testing the McCutcheon Variation of the French Defense. And why is this of some historic interest? His opponent's name was John Lindsay McCutcheon.
The two game match resulted in two victories for McCutcheon's pet variation. I have in passing written elsewhere of the development of McCutcheon's 4. Bb4 in the French Defense, including what appears to be one of his earliest successes with that move in a simultaneous display against a rather well-known opponent: Steinitz - McCutcheon, French Defense, New York Simultaneous Display, 1885, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 f5 8.Bd3 c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.0-0 Nc6 11.Qd2 Qe7 12.Qf4 Bd7 13.Nb5 0-0-0 14.c4 Be8 15.Rfc1 Kb8 16.a3 a6 17.Nc3 dxc4 18.Bxc4 Nd4 19.Ne2 Nxf3+ 20.Qxf3 Bc6 21.Qh3 Ka7 22.b4 Bb6 23.Nc3 Rhg8 24.Bf1 Rd2 25.Nd1 Qg5 26.Rxc6 bxc6 27.Qc3 Qf4 28.Qxc6 Rxd1 0-1. See Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster (Caissa Editions 1997, pp.96-98). McCutcheon, a Pennsylvania native, would die in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 17, 1905, less than two years after his correspondence games against Howard.
According to Jeremy Gaige's wonderful Chess Personalia, McCutcheon was forty-five years old at the time of his correspondence match with Howard. He was thus twenty-five years older than his Rochester opponenta true battle of the generations, generations ago.
Here are the two games from the match. Both were given by William Ewart Napier, the original Brooklyn boy wonder, in his chess column published in the Pittsburg Dispatch. (Pittsburgh, as it is now spelled, for a time dropped the "h" to its name). The notes to the first game are entirely Napier's. Howard also published the second game in his Rochester Herald. I have given the date of play as 1903, though the games could well have started in 1902, as suggested by their earliest publication. Napier published them both in his March 23, 1903 column. Howard, however, did not publish his win against his older opponent until December 12, 1903. The attentive reader will be pleased to learn that even the great Emanuel Lasker showed interest in these games. See the comment at move seventeen of the second game.
Howard - McCutcheon
It is very much to Black's advantage to exchange his dead bishop for White's live one. 12.Bxd7+ Nxd7 13.Qd3 Nxc3 Black played keenly in making these exchanges; his ending is vastly superior. 14.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 Nb6 16.Rb1 0-0-0 17.h4 Kb8 18.Ke2 Rc8 19.Rhc1 Na4 20.Kd2 cxd4 21.cxd4 Nc3 22.Rb3 Ne4+ 23.Ke3 Rc4 24.c3 Rhc8 25.hxg5 hxg5 26.Bh2 Rxc3+ 27.Rbxc3 Rxc3+ 28.Rxc3 Nxc3 29.Kd3 Nb5 30.a4 Na3 31.g4 Nc4 32.Kc3 a5 33.f4 gxf4 34.Bxf4 Kc7 0-1
White resigns because Black will have no trouble in establishing a passed pawn on the a-file, after which it can be used as a decoy. Pittsburg Dispatch, March 23, 1903 (notes by Napier)
19.g5 It is a question whether or not this attack is not irresistible. We believe 19. h5 to have been the proper continuation: 19.h5 g5 20.gxf5 gxf4 21.f6+ Kh8 22.Rag1 and White has a promising game, play as Black may. At all events, it would have given more trouble than the move actually played.Napier. 19...dxc3+ 20.Ke2 h5 21.Qf3 Kg7 22.Nxh5+ White being two pawns behind wants the attack at any price.Howard 22...gxh5 23.Qxh5 Rh8 24.Qf3 d4 25.Qg3 Bd7 Threatening Be8 and then Bh5 ending immediately the attack of the pawns. White is practically forced to reply with h5.Howard 26.h5 Bc6 To break up the mutual support of the rooks, and leave White's b2 as a soft place for Black's Queen to occupy if she can get a chance to do so. If Bb5 had been played at once, White could have played Rhb1 if Black subsequently attempted Qb2.Howard 27.Rh2 Bb5 28.f4 Bxd3+ 29.Qxd3 Ng6 30.Qg3 Qd5 0-1
And White resigned, for if 31.hxg6 Qe4+ 32.Kf2 (32.Kd1 Rxh2 33.Qxh2 Rh8; 32.Kf1 Rxh2 33.Qxh2 Rh8 34.Qg2 Rh1+) 32...Rxh2+ 33.Qxh2 Qxc2+ 34.Kg3 Qxh2+ 35.Kxh2 c2, winning. Notes attributed to Napier are from the Pittsburg Dispatch, March 23, 1903; Notes attributed to Howard are from the Rochester Herald, December 12, 1903.
While I certainly wouldn't pretend to try and explore how the games fit into opening theory, those interested in such matters will find the position in Game 1 after 8. c5 to be said to give Black "good counterplay" by Lev Psakhis in his The Complete French (1992) (American Edition), at p.165. Howard, Napier, and Psakhis agree that White's 7. Bxc3, as played in Game 2, is less than the best, though White's subsequent 8. Qg4 is not among the four alternatives at White's eighth move given in the 7. Bxc3 line in the same book.
Copyright © 1998 by John S. Hilbert, all rights reserved
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