The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Readers at this website need no introduction to John S. Hilbert, who has already contributed a number of outstanding and fascinating articles at this website discussing the history of American correspondence chess. Here Mr. Hilbert takes a unique approach to his historical researches by examining the games played by brothers. In the process he presents ten complete games and one fragment from our rich heritage showing that players from our past could create great moves and disasterous blunders, just as current competitors. He also points out a pitfall of awarding a creative special prize, such as longest announced mate.

I appreciate the careful research illustrated by John Hilbert's articles. He almost inspires me to visit the Cleveland Public Library and delve into the White Chess Collection to do a project of my own. He has inspired me to contribute my personal records of the poorly documented First National Team Championship (NTC-1) played a few years ago (and documented elsewhere at this website) ... if you have unique chess records you may want to consider doing the same to provide assistance to future chess historians. The author has expressed one concern about his interesting approach below, though. He commented, "One fear I have about the article is two years from now finding out some mega-database has games by A. Helms and B. Helms .....I sure hope this doesn't happen." Alas, not all people documenting our chess history are as careful as John Hilbert. Thanks for another great article, John!

--- J. Franklin Campbell

Oh, Brother: The Duffer's Guide to
Handicapping Correspondence Chess Siblings

By John S. Hilbert

I am not a gambler. But not because I'm unwilling to take risks. It's because I invariably lose. I couldn't win a toss with a one-sided coin. You might think the solution simple: just do my work as a handicapper (of horses, little league soccer, chess matches, or whatever), make my choice, and bet on the opposite. No good. When I follow my leads, I lose. When I switch sides, hoping to outwit fate, I come a cropper. You have no idea how sure I was Kasparov was going to clobber Anand, but then I switched my bet, trying to outwit fate …

But if anything, I am an optimist … hard as that might be to believe, given my record. So I set myself a little challenge. Not long ago I ran across a number of correspondence chess games played in the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament, the competition that originated in Philadelphia and began play January 1, 1894. Walter Penn Shipley, the Quaker lawyer from Philadelphia who loved chess in all its forms, was instrumental in the tournament's organization. Over seventy players, divided into five sections, entered the lists.

Small as that number may sound by today's standards—think, for example, of the size of typical Golden Knights events, sponsored by the USCF—it represented an enormous number for the time. And more significantly, the quality of players who entered was quite high. Mordecai Morgan, champion of the Franklin Chess Club, Philadelphia's finest, participated in Section II, as did C.W. Phillips of Chicago, eventual winner of the event and one of the finest correspondence chess players of the time. William Ferris, the strong Delaware player, was placed in Section I. Shipley himself competed in Section III, while Section IV was brimming with talent: Herman G. Voigt, many-times champion of Philadelphia and later member of the American team in the Cable Matches with England, J.L. McCutcheon, whose name now graces a rather well-known variation of the French Defense, his favorite opening, Hermann Helms, that year's champion of the Brooklyn Chess Club, and Edward Napier, future president of the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, forerunner of the Correspondence Chess League of America and brother of the later famous internationalist, William Ewart Napier. The latter played in Section V, along with S.W. Bampton and John Welsh Young, both prominent Philadelphia players, as well as Charles Helms, brother of Hermann.

Reviewing this listing of correspondence chess heavyweights, I couldn't help noticing the presence of two sets of brothers: Charles and Hermann Helms, as well as Edward and William Napier. That gave me an idea. What if I didn't check to see which games were played by which brother, and then tried to pick the one of each pair I would put on my correspondence chess "team?" How would I fair as a talent scout, handicapping nineteenth century correspondence chess players? Surely here was a bet I could win.

Covering up the names of the players was easy, once I had my wife compile the list of games I needed to play through. To recreate for the reader how I approached the games, I'll refer to "Helms A" and "Helms B," as well as "Napier A" and "Napier B" as we work through the handicapping strategy (or lack of it) I employed. Later, you'll see how I faired.

The games, unless otherwise indicated, are all taken from Bulletins I (July 1894) and II (July 1895) of the preliminary section battles in the Continental Correspondence Tournament. The brief notes appeared in the Bulletins, and were either by Arthur Hale or, on rare occasion, by one of the contestants. First prize in the event was fifty dollars, a not insignificant sum in those days. Some fairly typical, additional prizes were offered for the best game of the tournament as well as for the best score made by a non-prize winner against the regular prize winners, in the final round. One rather unusual prize, at least for today's eyes, was five dollars for the longest announced mate, offered by Dr. Edward Everett Hale. The good doctor's no doubt well-intentioned prize offer in all likelihood caused numerous headaches not only for the contestants, but for the poor judges who were required to plow through the analysis sent in my proud contestants. As will be seen, the other contestants were asked to help with the work required to give this prize.

It is unfortunate that it appears no more than the first two of the Bulletins have survived. They are available in the White Collection at the Cleveland Public Library, should any intrepid correspondence chess history buffs care to see them. I will run through the games played by this brace of brothers in the order they appeared in the Bulletins, though giving the game by Helms "A" and "B" before doing the same for the Napiers. Follow along, and handicap for yourself.

Helms "A" - H.N. Stone
Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament
Preliminaries, 1894

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bd6 This defense, used by Kieseritzky in the 1850s, is now chiefly played in Boston, where it is known as the "Stone-Ware" defense. 6.d4 Nf6 7.dxe5 The books give here 7. 0-0 and 7. Ng5. 7...Nxe5 8.Nxe5 Bxe5 9.f4 Nxe4 10.0-0 Bd6 11.Re1 f5 12.Qd5 Qf6 13.Nd2 c6 14.Nxe4 fxe4 15.Qxe4+ Kd8 16.Be3 Re8 17.Qxe8+ If 17.Bb6+ axb6 18.Qxe8+ Kc7 and Black will win another pawn, leaving him with bishop and two pawns against rook. 17...Kxe8 18.Bd4+ Qe7 Although this move gives up the important g-pawn, it is better than 18. ...Be5 19. Bxe5, followed by discovered check. 19.Bxg7 Bc5+ 20.Bd4 b6 21.Bd3 h6 22.g4 d6 23.f5 Bd7 24.Kg2 Bxd4 25.cxd4 Qxe1 26.Rxe1+ Kf7 27.h4 b5 28.Kf3 Re8 29.Rxe8 Bxe8 30.g5 hxg5 31.hxg5 a5 32.Kg4 a4 33.Kh5 Kg7+ 34.g6 c5 35.dxc5 35.Kg5 cxd4 (35...c4 36.f6+ Kf8 37.Be4 wins) 36.f6+ wins at once. Mr. Helms is, however, anticipating something much more brilliant. 35...dxc5 36.Kg5 Kf8 37.Kh6 Bf7 38.Bxb5 Bxa2 39.Bxa4 c4 40.g7+ Kg8

Helms(A) - H. N. Stone
Helms "A" - H. N. Stone
After 40. ... Kg8

And White announced mate in seven moves: 41.Kg6 c3 42.Be8 Bc4 43.f6 Bd3+ 44.Kh6 Bc4 45.Bg6 c2 46.f7+ Bxf7 47.Bh7 mate. A most original and brilliant ending. 1-0

The mating position, with Black's King's escape blocked by his own bishop on f7 and so little material on the board, is truly pleasing. Clearly Helms "A" was a player of some talent, especially if he indeed saw the developments leading to 47. Bh7 mate when he declined to play 35. Kg5. But was this Hermann or Charles Helms conducting the White pieces? Keep in mind that Charles Helms, according to his obituary in the American Chess Bulletin for 1947 at page 64, was born on November 11, 1868. Hermann Helms, according to page 1 of the 1963 volume of the same magazine, was not born until January 5, 1870, over thirteen months later. Perhaps not a great deal of difference between the two, but they were both young at the time this game was played, Charles being twenty-six and Hermann just twenty-five. Judgment withheld as to which brother played this game, for lack of information. Our second game is by the same Helms brother.

Dr. I. Ryall - Helms "A"
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1894

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 An old move, almost superseded by 3. ...d5, but adopted by Weiss at the Sixth American Congress [1889]. 4.d4 Nxe4 5.d5 Bc5 6.dxc6 Bxf2+ We do not consider this a sound sacrifice. 6. ...Nxf2 is better. 7.Ke2 d5 8.cxb7 Bxb7 9.Qa4+ c6 10.Nbd2 f5 11.Nxe4 fxe4 12.Kxf2 0-0 13.Be3 exf3 14.g3 Qd6 In a game with Mr. Wayte, Mr. Ranken here played. 14. ...Qc8. 14. ...Qe8 is certainly as good as the text move. 15.b4 d4?

Dr. Ryall - Helms(A)
Dr. I. Ryall - Helms "A"
After 15. ... d4?

16.cxd4 exd4 17.Qb3+ Kh8 18.Bd2 a5? 19.bxa5 Rab8 20.Rb1 Ba8 21.Qc2 Dr. Ryall felt 21. Bb4 looked tempting, but that it loses. 21...Rbe8 22.Re1 Now that the Queen is off the b-file it seems as if Bb4 could be played with advantage. 22...c5 23.Rxe8 Rxe8 24.Qf5 Be4 25.Qf7 Qc6 26.Qb3 Bd5 27.Qb5 Qxb5 28.Bxb5 Rc8 29.Re1 Kg8 30.Re8+ Rxe8 31.Bxe8 g6 32.Bd7 h5 33.a6 Ryall noted the a-pawn cannot now be stopped. 33...c4 34.Bc8 c3 35.Be1 1-0

Could the same fellow who gave us the variation leading to 47. Bh7 mate in the first game really be the same fellow who gives us 15. …d4? and 18. …a5? in this one? Apparently so. No, deciding which Helms was which would not be easy, if the first two games were any indication.

Helms "B"- J.I. Jellett
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1894

1.d4 d5 2.e4 The Blackmar Gambit, named after its inventor, Mr. A. E. Blackmar Jr., is not considered sound, but leads to many brilliant combinations. 2...dxe4 3.f3 e5 The invention of Mr. Chas. A. Maurian, the idea being that Black cannot safely accept the second pawn. 4.c3 c6 4. ...exd4 at once might be tried with advantage. 5.Be3 exd4 6.cxd4 c5 7.d5 exf3 8.Nxf3 Be7 9.Bd3 Nf6 10.Nc3 Ng4 11.Qe2 Nxe3 12.Qxe3 0-0 13.0-0 f5 14.Rae1 Bd6 15.Ng5

Helms(B) - J.I.Jellett
Helms "B" - J. I. Jellett
After 15. Ng5

An extraordinary blunder to occur in a correspondence game. 15...f4 Winning a piece and the game. The finish is very interesting. 16.Bxh7+ Kh8 17.Qd3 Qxg5 18.Ne4 Qh6 19.Nxd6 Qxd6 20.Qe4 Na6 21.Bg6 Bd7 22.Rf3 Rf6 23.Rg3 Bf5 24.Bxf5 fxg3 25.Qg4 Raf8 0-1

The notes to this game were in fact by John Welsh Young, a strong Philadelphia player. And here we have our taste of what Helms "B" was capable of. White's fifteenth move, of course, as Young commented, was a curious blunder for correspondence play (it must have been an "extraordinary blunder," if even I could see it coming!). This would suggest, of course, that the player of 15. Ng5?? could hardly be the stronger of the Helms brothers. As Hermann Helms was clearly the stronger of the two Helms brothers, devoting his life to chess and chess reporting, publishing his American Chess Bulletin from 1904 through 1963, for an amazing fifty-nine years, winning the New York State championship as late as 1925, and the like, and his brother Charles, though quite interested in the game, was not nearly so involved, it would seem logical to assume that Helms "A" was Hermann and Helms "B" Charles. Knowing my own record as a handicapper, however, I decided to still withhold judgment. After all, the games from the second Bulletin, published in mid-1895, the following year, still had to be examined.

W. C. Cochran - Helms "A"
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1895

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.d5 Nb8 6.Bd3 Nc5 7.Nxe5 Nxd3+ 8.Nxd3 Be7 9.0-0 d6 10.Nd2 0-0 11.Nf3 So far the moves are the same as in one of the Staunton games played by Tschigorin against Weiss in the Sixth American Chess Congress. Weiss played 11. ...Bf5. 11...Nd7 12.b3 Bf6 13.Bb2 Nb6 14.c4 Bxb2 15.Nxb2 Bg4 16.h3 Bh5 17.Nd3 Qf6 18.Nde1 Rae8 19.Qd4 Qxd4 20.Nxd4 Re4 20. ...Be2 looks better. 21.Nef3 Ree8 A clerical error, 21. ...Rfe8 was intended. The exchange of rooks would however have followed leaving the same position as was actually attained. 22.Rfe1 Nd7 23.Rxe8 Rxe8 24.Re1 Rxe1+ 25.Nxe1 a6 26.f4 White noted this was to drive the bishop into retirement. 26...f6 27.Nd3 Bf7 28.f5 g6 29.g4 h5 30.gxh5 gxh5 31.h4 Ne5 32.Nf4 c5 An unfortunate move which leads to unfavorable exchanges. 33.dxc6 Nxc6 34.Nxc6 bxc6 35.Kf2 Kf8 36.Ke3 Ke7 37.Kd4 Kd7 38.b4 Kc7 39.a4 Kb6 40.a5+ Kb7 41.Ne2 Kc7 42.Nc3 Bg8 43.Ne4 White overlooked the threat of the previous beautiful coup de repos. 43...Bxc4 44.Nxd6 Kxd6 45.Kxc4 Kd7 White notes this move is correct, as both Ke5 and Kc7 lose. 46.Kc5 Kc7 ½-½

A game that hardly helped me decide which Helms was which. While 42. …Bg8 is a nice touch, 32. …c5 does not speak well for its originator, and 21. …Ree8, clerical error that it might be, does not bode well for attention to detail. But how would Helms "A" fair against a player of some reputation? The notes to the following game were said to be chiefly from the Pittsburg Chronicle Telegraph, which no doubt published the game as McCutchen, a well established player, was a resident of that city.

J.L. McCutchen - Helms "A"
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1895

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 Now generally approved. Formerly 5. ...Be7 was preferred. 6.Bxc6 bxc6 Dr. Tarrasch has played here 6. ...dxc6 but the text move leads to a more interesting game. 7.Nxe5 Be7 8.f4 0-0 9.Nd2 Nf5 10.Ndf3 f6 11.Nd3 d5 12.Re1 Qe8 13.Nc5 Qf7 14.b3 Nd6 15.c3 Bf5 16.Nh4 Rae8 Initiating a remarkably fine combination. 17.Nxf5 Nxf5 18.Nd7 Bb4!

J. L. McCutchen - Helms "A"
After 18. ... Bb4!

19.cxb4 If 19.Nxf8 Bxc3 20.Rxe8 Qxe8 21.Rb1 Bxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qe4! 19...Rxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Qxd7 21.Qf2 Re8 22.Bd2 Re4 23.Bc3 Qe6 24.Kf1 Ne3+ 25.Kg1 Ng4 26.Qf1 Re2 27.Be1 Qe3+ 28.Kh1 Qd3 Arthur Hale noted that 28...Nf2+ 29.Bxf2 Rxf2 appears to win a pawn if not the game. 29.h3 Ne3 30.Qf3 Qc2 31.Bf2 Nd1 32.Bg1 White is agreeably impressed with the defensive power of his bishop. 32...Nc3 33.a4 Qxb3 Overlooking White's obvious rejoinder. 34.Rc1

J. L. McCutchen - Helms "A"
After 34. Rc1

34...Rc2 35.Qe3 h6 36.Re1 Kh7 37.Qd3+ Kg8 38.Qf5 Re2 39.Rxe2 Nxe2 40.Qe6+ Kf8 41.Qxe2 Qxb4 42.Qa6 Qb6 43.Qc8+ Kf7 44.f5 1-0

Once again an uneven effort on the part of Helms "A", this time leading to defeat. I would have been proud to play 18. …Bb4!, and no doubt would have blundered into 33. …Qxb3 myself. The year's passing in the tournament, at least if this game was any indication, had not noticeably improved the play of Helms "A". But what did 1895 bring us concerning Helms "B"? For starters, not a game, but the aftermath of a game.

E.R. Lewis - Helms "B"
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1895

E. R. Lewis - Helms "B"
White announced mate in twenty-one moves.

1.Rxe7 Kxe7 2.a4 a6 3.a5 bxa5 4.bxa5 Kd6 5.h4 h5 6.Kc4 Kd7 7.Kc5 Kc7 8.d6+ Kd7 9.Kd5 Kd8 10.Kc6 Kc8 11.d7+ Kd8 12.Kd6 g6 13.fxg6 f5 14.Ke6 Kc7 15.Ke7 Kc6 16.d8Q Kc5 17.Qd3 Kb4 18.g7 Kxa5 19.g8Q Kb6 20.Qgd8+ Kc5 21.Q8d6 mate 1-0

Given such horse-choker variations in search of the special prize for the longest announced mate, it is not surprising that the Bulletin deadpanned the following comment immediately after printing the variation above: "Contestants will kindly examine and report results to the chairman." I was getting near to making my choice between Helms "A" and Helms "B". There was, however, one last Helms "B" contest to examine.

W.A. Phillips - Helms "B"
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1895

1.d4 d5 2.e4 The Blackmar Gambit has been tried several times in this tournament. 2...dxe4 3.f3 e6 4.c3 Nf6 5.Nd2 exf3 6.Ngxf3 Bd6 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.0-0 Ne7 9.Ng5 Ng6 9. ...h6 and if 10. Nge4, Ned5 is better. 10.Nc4 Qe7 Necessary, for if 10...h6 11.Nxf7 Kxf7 12.Qh5 11.Qf3 h6 12.Ne4 Nxe4 13.Bxe4 Nh4 14.Nxd6+ cxd6 15.Qg3 f5 This compulsory advance disorganizes his game. 15. ...g6 was even worse. 16.Bc2 g5 17.Bd2 Bd7 18.Rae1 0-0 19.c4 Rac8 20.b3 d5 21.Bd3 Qf6 22.Qf2 dxc4 23.Bxc4 f4 24.Re4 Qf5 25.Rfe1 Rf6 26.d5 b6 27.Bc3 Rg6 28.Re5 Qf8 29.g3 fxg3 30.Qxf8+ Kxf8 31.Rf1+ Ke8 32.hxg3 b5 33.Bb4

W. A. Phillips - Helms "B"
After 33. Bb4

White forces the win of the piece in good style. 33...Rg8 34.Bd3 Kd8 35.dxe6 Too cautious. 35.gxh4 gxh4+ 36.Kh2 exd5 37.Ba5+ wins. 35...Bc6 36.Bxb5 Nf3+ 37.Rxf3 Bxf3 38.e7+ Kc7 39.Rc5+ Kb6 40.Rxc8 Rxc8 41.e8Q Rxe8 42.Bxe8 1-0

Helms "B" put up a fight, at least. Well, the exhibits were all accounted for. Now: which Helms was Hermann, the future "Dean of American Chess," and which was his older brother Charles? As after playing through all the games I was still very impressed with the concluding mate in the first game above, even though Helms "A"" had played some less-than-masterly moves in later efforts, it seemed to me that Helms "A" was probably the stronger player. But something seemed too simple here. I reconsidered. Charles was the older of the two Helms brothers. Charles Helms had a close affinity for correspondence chess even later in life (he lived until May 5, 1947). He had joined numerous chess clubs in New York City, including the Central YMCA Chess Club, the Brooklyn Chess Club, the Brooklyn Heights Social Chess Club, and even the Exchange Chess Club of the old Brooklyn Chess League. Heck, he had captained the Exchange team the year it won the championship trophy. Knowing all this, I decided to go against my instincts and picked Helms "A" as Charles.

Wrong. Helms "A" was Hermann Helms, Helms "B" his older brother Charles. Another bet lost. Helms "A"—excuse me, Hermann Helms—was in fact the much stronger player, and was in fact the author of the very nice mating line in the first game above (47. Bh7 mate). Although Hermann Helms did not become addicted to chess until 1887, when as a seventeen year old living in Halifax with his mother and brother he ran across a small book of Morphy's games, he progressed rapidly despite his late introduction. By 1893, the year before the Continental Correspondence Tournament began, he was writing his Brooklyn Daily Eagle column. Fifty years later his achievements in chess were honored at a testimonial banquet in Syracuse, New York, when the United States Chess Federation named him "Dean of American Chess" for his work not only as a writer but as a promoter of the game. And even after receiving such high praise at the age of seventy-three, he continued strong in chess for another twenty years.

Certainly this foray into handicapping correspondence chess playing brothers was an unmitigated disaster for me. My record for invariably buying stock days before the market was about to crash, deciding to buy a 1973 Pinto for a used car, and waiting to buy a house until prices had reached an historic high for my area was not threatened by my ability to distinguish an extremely gifted chess player from his less talented brother.

I would like to proudly relate I could easily identify the future internationally known William E. Napier, the original boy wonder from Brooklyn, with ease from the following two games. But it wouldn't be fair for me to take credit for something I didn't do. You see, I wrote a biography and game collection about William Napier, and so I am intimately familiar with his play. More than that, his game against DeArman, given below, was the earliest game I could locate during the course of unearthing over 320 of Napier's games. I certainly can't pretend I didn't know this game, or for that matter the effort by his older brother, Edward, against Whittingham.

But I can admit that if I had really not known which Napier brother played which game below, my pick would have kept pristine my record for handicapping failure. First, here are the games. Only two, one by each brother, have survived from the early preliminaries of the Continental.

Edward Napier - R.A. Whittingham
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1894

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Bxf6 This move and those following are backed by players of authority, but in our opinion they give Black a decided advantage. 5...Bxf6 6.e5 Be7 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nd7 8. ...c5 is more usual and better. 9.f4 c5 10.Qh3 g6 11.0-0-0 For White to castle on the Queenside in the French Defense is seldom good. Here White should have continued his kingside attack. 11...c4 12.Be2 b5 13.g4 Rb8 13. ...b4 at once was better. 14.Nf3 b4 15.Kd2? bxc3+ 16.bxc3 f6 16. ...Qa5, followed by 17. ...Rb2, looks preferable. 17.f5 fxe5 18.Qh6 exf5 19.h4 fxg4 20.Ng5 Bxg5+ 21.hxg5 Rf7 22.Bxg4 Nc5 23.Bxc8 Ne4+ 24.Ke3

Edward Napier - R. A. Whittingham
After 24. Ke3

Here Whittingham announced a mate in 12: 24...Qa5 25.Qxh7+ Rxh7 26.Be6+ Kg7 27.Rxh7+ Kxh7 28.Bxd5 Qxd5 29.Rh1+ Kg7 30.Rh7+ Kxh7 31.a4 Rf8 32.a5 Nxc3 33.Kd2 Qxd4+ 34.Kc1 Rb8 35.a6 Qd1 mate 0-1

J.W. DeArman - William E. Napier
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1894

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Bg4 3.e3 Nf6 4.Be2 e6 5.Nbd2 c6 6.0-0 Bxf3 7.Nxf3 Bd6 8.c4 Nbd7 9.c5 Be7 10.b4 0-0 11.Bb2 b6 12.Qc2 b5 13.a4 a6 14.Ra2 Qc7 15.Rfa1 Qb7 16.Bd3 Rfe8 17.h3 Nf8 18.Bc3 Ng6 19.Ne5 Nf8 Black should have here played the Re8 towards the Queen's side, followed by Ne8 and afterwards to c7, defending the Queen's wing although his position would still have been inferior. 20.Ra3 g6 The course pointed out, though very interesting, would now be ineffectual, as shown by the following variation: 20...Reb8 21.Qa2 Ne8 22.axb5 cxb5 23.Rxa6 Nc7 24.Ra7! Qc8 25.Nc6 Bd8 26.Nxb8 Rxb8 27.Qe2 Qd7 28.R1a5 Qc6 29.Rxc7 Bxc7 30.Bxb5 Qb7 31.c6 Qc8 32.Ra2 and with two passed pawns White wins easily--DeArman. 21.Qa2

J. W. DeArman - William E. Napier
After 21. Qa2

21...Rac8 22.axb5 If 22. ...axb5, then 23. Ra7 Qb8 24. Qa6 followed by Nxc6. 1-0

Neither brother won their game from this event, but my choice as to which Napier was which would have been decided with some pretense of surety. William Ewart Napier was known throughout his playing days as an aggressive, attacking player that liked wild complications. Consider, for instance, his incredible game with Emanuel Lasker from round three of Cambridge Springs 1904, a game more than one commentator has considered the game of the decade.

Here, though both Napier brothers lost, the first game at least showed a Napier attacking. The second game, rather, shows a tentative player pushed back on both the queenside and in the center, with almost no maneuvering room, and who misses his only opportunity for counterplay. Knowing William Napier was such an aggressive, attacking player, it is almost inconceivable that he played the game against DeArman. And hence I would have picked that game to have been played by Edward.

And as usual I would have been wrong. William Napier was only twelve years old when he started his game against DeArman, and can hardly be faulted for his tentative play. He was, at twelve, by far the youngest competitor in the field, and a photograph of him taken at this time shows him dressed as a choirboy. Young William Napier had hardly started to play chess when he was defeated in the Continental Tourney. His brother Edward, however, was over six years his senior and had already left the family home, then in Portland, Maine, to travel to Chicago to study music. By 1896 Edward Napier was corresponding secretary for the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, and before too long he was elected President of that group, though still in his mid-twenties.

That younger brother William quickly developed as a chessplayer is quite clear. By 1897 the sixteen year old had defeated a nineteen year old Frank Marshall in a match at the Brooklyn Chess Club by the lopsided score of seven wins to one, with three draws. He had also deprived Hermann Helms of his title of champion of that same club. By the end of August 1897, the youngster could add the scalp of Wilhelm Steinitz to his trophy case, having defeated the former world champion in a level tournament game during the midsummer congress of the New York State Chess Association.

If it is difficult to imagine William Napier losing the game above to DeArman, it is even harder to believe that the same boy who lost that game would, within five years, win the following correspondence game. Napier's own detailed notes appear in my book, Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster (Caissa Editions 1997) at pages 85-86 (Game No. 103). Originally published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of February 16, 1899, the game found more general exposure in the chess world through the pages of the March 1899 issue of the American Chess Magazine.

William E. Napier - C.W. Phillips
Brooklyn Chess Club - Chicago Chess and Checkers Club
Correspondence Team Match, Board 1, 1899

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Ne7 9.Ng5 Nxg5 10.Bxg5 c6 11.a4 Be6 12.axb5 axb5 13.Rxa8 Qxa8 14.c3 h6 15.Be3 Nf5 16.Qd3 Be7 17.Nd2 Qa6 18.Bc2 c5 19.b4 c4 20.Qe2 d4 21.cxd4 Bxb4 22.Ne4 Be7 23.Nc3 Qa5 24.d5 Bc8 25.Ne4 Nxe3 26.Qxe3 0-0 27.f4 b4 28.f5 Bd8 29.Qf4 b3 30.Bb1 Qxd5 31.f6 Be6 32.Kh1 c3 33.Qg3 g6 34.Nxc3 Qd2 35.Ne4 Qe2 36.Bd3 Qg4 37.Qe3 Kh7 38.Qc5 Kg8 39.Nc3 Qg5 40.Ne4 Qg4 41.Nc3 Qg5 42.Ne2 Bg4 43.Nf4 Bxf6 44.Nxg6 Rc8 45.Qf2 fxg6 46.exf6 Bf5 47.Qb6 Rf8 48.Qxb3+ Kh8 49.f7 Bxd3 50.Qxd3 Kg7 51.Qd4+ Kh7 52.Qd6 Kg7 53.Qe6 Kh7 54.g3 Kg7 55.Kg2 Qd2+ 56.Rf2 Qc3 57.g4 g5 58.Qd5 Qe3 59.Rf3 Qe7 60.Qd4+ Kg6 61.Re3 Qf6 62.Qd5 Qb2+ 63.Kg3 Qb8+ 64.Kh3 Qb1 65.Re6+ Kh7 66.Qf3 Qc2 67.Rf6 Kg7 68.Rc6 1-0

William E. Napier - C. W. Phillips
After 68. Rc6

Interestingly enough, William Napier's opponent in this game, C.W. Phillips of Chicago, was the ultimate winner of the very tournament of interest here, the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament, having scored twelve wins, one loss, and four draws in the Finals (see, for instance, the November 1898 issue of the American Chess Magazine at page 222). Phillips' nearest competitor finished one and a half points behind him. None of the Napier or Helms brothers made it to the Finals.

Charles W. Phillips was an extremely talented correspondence player, and it would be decidedly unfair to leave the reader only with his loss to William Napier given above. Here is one of Phillips' Preliminary round efforts against one of the strongest players in Philadelphia, one who won the championship of the prestigious Franklin Chess Club and who was feared by knowledgeable correspondence players of the time. Taken from the second Bulletin, the notes are again by Arthur Hale.

Chas. W. Phillips - Mordecai Morgan
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Preliminaries, 1895

1.c4 e6 2.e3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.b3 The forming of a Queen's fianchetto being a knight at c3 is objected to on principle by some authorities as the knight blocks the bishop. It sometimes leads however, as in this game, to highly interesting complications. 5...b6 6.Bb2 Bb7 7.Rc1 c5 8.cxd5 There is sometimes danger in isolating the opposing d-pawn in the close game but with the present and prospective development of Black's it seems advisable. 8...exd5 9.d4 0-0 10.Bd3 Nbd7 11.0-0 Rc8 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Bb1 Nfe4 14.Nd4 Nxc3 This seems questionable. The knight was well placed, and White was probably very glad to develop his rook. 15.Rxc3 Ba6 16.Qg4 The first move of a combination of unusual depth. 16...Bxf1 Black evidently does not appreciate the strength of White's following moves which practically win the game. 17.Nf5 Bf6 18.Rxc5 Rxc5 19.Nh6+ Kh8 20.Qf5 Bd3 21.Bxd3 Rc1+ 22.Bxc1 g6 23.Qf3 Kg7 24.Ng4 Bc3 25.e4 h5 26.Bh6+ Kg8 27.Ne3 dxe4 28.Bxe4 Bg7 29.Bxg7 Kxg7 30.Nd5 Re8 31.g3 Qd6 32.Nf4 Qd2 33.Bd5 Re7 34.a4 Qd4 35.Bc4 Qe5 36.h4 Qd4 37.Kg2 Rd7 38.Be6 Re7 39.Bxf7

Chas. W. Phillips - Mordecai Morgan
After 39. Bxf7

A beautiful end to a remarkably good game. Black resigns, White informs us, because if 39...Kxf7 40.Nd5+ Ke6 41.Nxe7 Kxe7 42.Qe3+ and wins. 1-0

Some very entertaining and attractive chess was played one hundred years ago by correspondence players of all ages and levels of experience—much like today. But don't ask me to guess which player was which, at least among the brothers present in such events. Or if you do, wait until I tell you my pick—and then name the other brother. That is, if you'd like to win the bet.

Copyright © 1998 by John S. Hilbert

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