The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

John S. Hilbert has previously contributed two articles here, "Two Generations, Generations Ago" and "Stalking the Blue-Eyed Chess Score." He is the author of Buffalo Chess Tournaments, 1901 and 1894 (Caissa Editions 1996) and Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster (Caissa Editions 1997) and edits Lasker & His Contemporaries, a journal of chess history (Issue 5 is now available and Issue 6 will be coming out soon). Through his writings John demonstrates the joys of chess historical research and brings to life our rich chess past. His careful attention to detail in his thorough research is evident in the following entertaining article. He can be reached at jshchess@aol.com.

A Century Ago in Correspondence Chess
By John S. Hilbert

Those reading this article who have not had the opportunity to examine actual chess columns from nearly one hundred years ago or more may well be in for a surprise. The game featured at the end of this article, for example, appeared in Kenneth S. Howard's Rochester Herald column for Saturday, December 5, 1903. While this may not appear notable on its own merits, take a quick glance down at the score. Look at the notes, both the detail of the points raised, using words, not Informant symbols, and their length. This annotated game appeared in a typical Herald column with brief reports of other events local, national, and international in scope, along with a diagrammed chess problem as well as two other problems given via notation. An incredible amount of material was packed into this local paper's column, which appeared each Saturday, edited by a twenty-one year old University of Rochester graduate. (For more information about Kenneth S. Howard, who would become a noted problemist, see my previous article at this website, "Two Generations, Generations Ago.") And Howard's column was hardly unique. If anything, it was closer to typical of the times in terms of richness, depth, and sheer space.

Howard wrote his reason for presenting the Narraway - Shipley correspondence game: "There is much more in the game than would appear on a casual examination, White's handling of the attack showing a thorough mastery of the opening." The game might well be of interest today for the chess historian for a number of reasons. Indeed, to mimic Howard's words in a different context, the student of chess history, too, can find "much more in the game than would appear on a casual examination."

The organization holding the masters' tournament, for instance, is of significance to any lover of correspondence chess and its development in the United States. The July 1897 issue of American Chess Magazine, a beautifully done and richly packed chess magazine that unfortunately had a short run, noted the formation of a new organization devoted to the interests of correspondence chess players. It's name was the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, and annual dues were a mere fifty cents. It was not until the December 1898 issue of the same magazine, however, that the story of the origin of the group was given: "The honor of originating the Pillsbury National Correspondence Association belongs to a small coterie of Chicago players, headed by Edward T. Runge. Influenced by the success of the American champion at Hastings in 1895, they were led to follow the footsteps of Caissa, and in order that they might have some special plan of work in the interest of the game, they decided to form a correspondence association, which might take in members in all parts of the country. Deciding that the name of the champion would give force to the organization more than any other they could adopt, they wrote to Mr. Pillsbury for permission to use his name, which was, of course, immediately given." And so began the chess organization, international in composition through its inclusion of Canadian players, that would host numerous correspondence tournaments at the turn of the last century. By 1898 dues for the PNCCA had doubled, to one dollar annually, and a new president, Edward J. Napier (older brother of the future internationalist, William Ewart Napier), was at the organization's helm.

The protagonists in the featured game below were known to one another from play previous to their meeting through the PNCCA. Nor were they unknown to correspondence chess players of the time. James Ephraim Narraway was born on June 11, 1857, and so was forty-six years old when his victory was published by Howard in his Rochester Herald column. Narraway had long developed a reputation as a chess player, as the following entry from the American Chess Magazine for August 1897, quoted in its entirety, relates: "Mr. J.E. Narraway was born in Guysboro, Nova Scotia, in 1857. He held the championship of St. John, New Brunswick, for several years until 1887, when he removed to Ottawa. Mr. Narraway has taken part in seven tourneys of the Canadian Chess Association, winning first prize twice (in 1893 and this year), second prize three times (in 1889, 1892, and 1894), and third prize twice (in 1888 and 1891). In the Hamilton Correspondence Tournament of 1886, he won third prize. In the Cincinnati Commercial Correspondence tourney of 1882, Mr. Narraway won a special prize for the best Petroff Defense. In the International Correspondence Tournament between the United States and Canada, he played at board number one, and won his game for Canada against Sam Loyd, the famous problem composer. He is at present playing in the finals of the great Continental Correspondence Tournament." (It should be noted Jeremy Gaige in his Chess Personalia gives instead Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, as Narraway's birthplace. The discrepancy between this location and the Guysboro, Nova Scotia, reference given by the American Chess Magazine, could not be resolved here.) Narraway would live to celebrate his ninetieth birthday, dying on June 16, 1947 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Narraway finished his schedule in the Continental Tournament by November 1898, having won seven, lost four, and drawn six games for a 10-7 record, good enough at the time to place him in the top eight finishers. (The American Chess Magazine for November 1898 unfortunately butchered his name in the tournament table at page 222, giving it as "J.E. Nanawag, Ottawa, Can." Earlier reports in the same magazine make clear this curiously jumbled name in fact was J.E. Narraway of Ottawa.) According to the same tournament table, his opponent in the following game, G. A. l'Hommede, was then a resident of Chicago and was no chess slouch himself, with nine wins, four losses, and two draws, thus already scoring ten points, like Narraway, but with two games still to play.

The game that follows most likely appeared in the North American, where Emil Kemeny had a chess column, but the score was taken from an unidentified clipping appearing in one of Walter Penn Shipley's scrapbooks. It gives a fine example of Narraway's depth of conception: Narraway - l'Hommedé, Continental Correspondence Tournament, Final Round, 1898 Queen's Gambit Declined 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.c4 Be7 5.Nc3 0-0 6.a3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 c5 8.0-0 b6 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.b4 Be7 11.Bb2 Qc7 12.Qb3 Ba6 13.Nb5 Qb7 14.Rac1 Bxb5 15.Bxb5 a6 16.Bd3 Nbd7 17.Nd4 Rac8 18.Nxe6

Here Emil Kemeny, annotating the game, wrote the following: "Brilliant and sound play. White gets the e-pawn and f-pawn for the knight, and he will win the a-pawn. In addition to this, White's attack becomes almost irresistible, and, to escape immediate defeat, Black will be obliged to give up the piece. The play bears evidence that White has seen through the combination to the end. Since it covers a good many moves, it is a creditable performance, even for a correspondence game, where ample time is given. 18...fxe6 19.Qxe6+ Rf7 20.Rxc8+ Qxc8 21.Rc1 Qe8 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Bxa6 Kf8 24.Bb5 Bd8 25.Qc6 Qe5 26.Rd1 Bc7 27.Rxd7 Rxd7 28.Qxd7 Qxh2+ 29.Kf1 Qe5 30.Bc4 Qe7 31.Qxe7+ Kxe7 32.f4 Kd6 33.Ke2 Bd8 34.Kf3 Ke7 35.Kg4 Kemeny also wrote that "After this move Black surrendered. White threatens Bg8, winning the h-pawn. To stop this Black must move Kf8. White then continues Kf5, eventually Ke6-d7, and he will force a win on the queenside." 1-0

Narraway's opponent in the PNCCA tournament game below was, of course, the well-known Walter Penn Shipley, many times champion of the Franklin Chess Club, champion of Philadelphia, champion of Pennsylvania, and friend and confidant of world champions Steinitz, Lasker, and Capablanca. Long a fixture in American chess, Shipley was born on June 20, 1860 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would spend his life, dying there on February 17, 1942. Shipley was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, specifically a member of the Germantown Monthly Meeting. He was also a Philadelphia lawyer who, as a chess player, refused all money prizes. Shipley edited a chess column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pillsbury had started the column but quickly found his deteriorating health prevented him from fulfilling his duties. Shipley would write the column for thirty-four years.

Shipley not only participated in the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament with results similar to Narraway's, but in fact had been a key figure responsible for the conception of the tournament. Interestingly enough, the committee coordinating the tournament was composed of Shipley, John Welsh Young, and Arthur Hale, the latter being Shipley's victim in the following game, one played in the very tournament they had organized: Hale - Shipley, Continental Correspondence Tournament, Final Round, 1898 Dutch Defense 1.d4 f5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bg5 c5 6.Qc2 Nc6 7.e3 h6 8.Bf4 d6 9.Rd1 Qe7 10.Be2 g5 11.Bg3 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Nxd4 13.Rxd4 Bxc3+ 14.Qxc3 e5 15.Rxd6 Qxd6 16.Bxe5 Qe6 17.Bxf6 0-0 18.Bg7 Rf7 19.Bd4 b6 20.0-0 Bb7 21.Bh5 Rc7 22.b3 Rac8 23.f3 Rf8 24.g4 fxg4 25.Bxg4 Qg6 26.e4 Rcf7 27.Qe3 Bxe4 28.Re1 Bf5 29.c5 Bxg4 30.fxg4 Rf4 31.h3 Rd8 32.cxb6 Rfxd4 33.bxa7 Qb6 34.Qe6+ Qxe6 35.Rxe6 Rd1+ 36.Kf2 R1d2+ 37.Re2 Kf7 38.a4 Rxe2+ 39.Kxe2 Ra8 40.Kd3 Rxa7 41.Kc4 Ke7 0-1 Kemeny ran the game in his column, providing some notes as well. The score, however, is taken from one of Shipley's own scrapbooks and, unfortunately, does not identify Kemeny's column further. While not a great example of Shipley's playing strength (White's mistake on move twenty-seven lost a pawn in a relatively even position), the game is given here as, in effect, a companion piece to the Narraway effort above, as both were played in the Continental Correspondence Tournament's final round.

Examination of another of Shipley's scrapbooks, this one entitled "Steinitz 1892-1893" (though in fact including various chess columns running through 1903), at page 273 held a clipping of the game score below. Written in Shipley's own hand on the clipped column is the fact that the game ended in September 1903, a bit of information not given with any published score of the game. The notes below, however, by Kenneth S. Howard, then a young player and problem composer, appeared in Howard's Rochester Herald column for December 5, 1903.

Narraway - Shipley
Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association
Masters' Tourney 1903
French Defense
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 The value of this move is still in dispute. Its weakness lies in the fact that there is danger that Black will be enabled to institute an attack before White can free himself from the temporary cramping of his position which 3. Nd2 involves. On the other hand Paulsen's move, 3. Nc3, which is customarily played, leaves the knight in a position which becomes awkward as the play proceeds, while the text move allows the Queen knight to be deployed on the kingside or to be located at b3 where it will bear on d4 and a5, two exceedingly important points in the typical French Defense. 3...c5 4.dxc5 This exchange, no matter in what variation of the French the opportunity for it occurs, is now recognized as essential in the maintenance of the integrity of White's attack. Even after dxc5, d4 remains the pivotal square, as is finely illustrated by this very game. 4...Bxc5 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.Qe2 An extremely powerful "binding" move. 6...Nc6 7.Ngf3 Nb4 This move wastes too much valuable time. 7. ...Ng4 would be equally futile. 7. ...b6 blocks a square which it is important to have left free. 7. ...Bd7 would lead to a badly congested game for Black, White's best reply probably being 8. Nb3. The only other move of importance, 7. ...0-0, seems somewhat precarious, but would doubtless have been the best play. 8.0-0 Nxd3 9.Qxd3 9. cxd4 would have led to a rather even game. The text move keeps the Black center still under pressure and incidentally leaves the three White pawns on the queenside to battle against Black's two if the fight is prolonged to an endgame struggle, a point not to be lost sight of. 9...0-0 10.e5 Still keeping prominent the proper idea of attack against the French Defense, that of paralyzing the Black kingside and then coming the coup de grace before Black can smash up things on the other side of the field. 10...Nd7 11.Nb3 Be7 White threatens Ng5. 12.Bf4 b6 This leaves an ugly hole at a6. 12. ...f5, which will have to come sometime anyway, might be considered here. If White should respond with Nfd4 attacking the e-pawn, Black could continue Nc5. Black, however, seemed to desire to save this knight for defensive purposes on the kingside. 13.Nfd4 Bb7 13. ...Nc5 appears preferable. The following continuation is suggested: 13...Nc5 14.Nxc5 bxc5 15.Nc6 Qc7 16.Nxe7+ Qxe7 17.Qg3 Kh8 etc. 14.Rad1 Re8 Black's play is too tame, his King is already safe enough. Why not assume the aggressive on the queenside by playing 14. ...a5? 15.Qh3 Nf8 16.Bd2 f5 This move now simply furnishes White an object of attack. 17.g4 fxg4 18.Qxg4 Qd7 19.f4 Bc5 20.h4 a5 21.Bc3 a4 Black has at last awakened to the fact that unless he can assume the aggressive his chances will be slim indeed. 22.Nd2 Ng6 23.N2f3 Ne7 24.Kh2 Nf5 25.Nxf5 exf5 26.Qg3 Qf7 27.Bd4 No, sir, you cannot come in here! 27...Ra7 28.Rg1 Bc6 29.Qf2 Qf8 30.Rg3 Re6 31.a3 Rh6 32.Kh3 Rb7 33.Rd3 Be7 34.Rc3 34. Bxb6 would be answered by 34. ...Qb8. 34...Bd8 35.Ng5 Qe8 36.Qe2 Bxg5 37.Rxg5 Rg6 38.Rxg6 Qxg6 39.e6

This knockout blow has been menacing Black for the last four moves, but was wisely held in abeyance until its paralyzing effect would be decisive. Numerically the forces are still equal, but Black's pieces are about as uselessly placed as could be conceived. The trouble with Black's game is that he did not carry out the idea of the opening, dallying too long before making the counter attack, and the chance that the French gives for a prompt counter attack is the only adequate compensation for the cramping of the center which it involves. 1-0

Copyright © 1998 by John S. Hilbert, all rights reserved

Home On the Square Menu Previous Article Next Article
Webmaster: J. Franklin Campbell
Contact Webmaster