Monday 20 April 2020

William Greenwood Walker - going round the houses.

This is a typical example of the meandering journeys that chess books can take you on....

Reading Brian Gosling's book; John Brown: The Forgotten Chess Composer?, (see my article J. B. of Bridport), I noticed that the correspondent who proposed publishing a collection of Brown's problems was WGW, and I wondered if this could be William Greenwood Walker, author of the book of games between de la Bourdonnais and McDonnell, published in 1836. 

The first port of call was Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia, to check if William Greenwood Walker was still around in the 1860s. However, this disclosed no date of birth and only 1834+ as a vague date of death. Interest is already aroused. The only source listed by Gaige is Chess & Chess-Players, by George Walker, London 1850.

Chess & Chess-Players includes a long article by George Walker; The Battles of M'Donnell and de la Bourdonnais, and on page 381 he commented that William Greenwood Walker had "shuffled off this mortal coil since the year 1834".  Now, this is before the publication of WGW's book in 1836; is this another candidate for the series on books published posthumously?  

Noting that George Walker's article had originally appeared in The Chess Player's Chronicle for 1843, perhaps there had been an error in transmission. However, CPC volume IV page 379 confirms the date of 1834. Earlier in this article (page 369 of Chess & Chess-Players, page 372 of CPC)  George Walker also comments that his namesake had "died full of years". It is now looking very unlikely that he could have survived into the 1860s.

Time to have a look at William Greenwood Walker's book; A Selection of Games at Chess, Actually Played in London, by the Late Alexander M'Donnell, Esq...., London 1836, to see if there is any indication that it had been published after the author's death. 

This clearly shows that he was alive in July 1836, the date that he signed The Preface.

A quick check in The Oxford Companion to Chess, 1984 first edition and 1992 second edition, revealed no separate entry for WGW, just a note at the end of George Walker's entry that WGW had died soon after the Bourdonnais - McDonnell matches in 1834 "full of years". Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850, by K. Whyld and C. Ravilious, which includes birth and death dates of authors where known, also has no dates for W. Greenwood Walker.

A Century of British Chess, by P. W. Sergeant, London and Philadelphia 1934, has several mentions of W. Greenwood Walker but no birth or death dates; Gaige would surely have spotted these anyway. 

Next stop; Chess Notes by Edward Winter who loves to grapple with questionable birth and death dates; had he researched this mystery? Alas no; there are no entries for William Greenwood Walker in the very extensive Factfinder index, and a custom search brings up four hits in Chess Notes but no new information on Walker's birth or death dates.

Right, there is a McFarland book on the de la Bourdonnais - McDonnell matches which must have been extensively researched, does this have any information on William Greenwood Walker? De la Bourdonnais versus McDonell, 1834 by Cary Utterberg, Jefferson 2005, has 13 references to WGW in the index but these reveal nothing more then the "died full of years" quote on page 33. 

Timothy Harding specialises in exploring 19th-century British chess so let's check his deeply researched and detailed works; Eminent Victorian Chess Players, Jefferson 2012, and British Chess Literature to 1914, Jefferson 2018.

The first of this pair, on chess players who flourished from the 1840s onwards, has no mention of WGW, and although A Selection of Games at Chess Actually Played... is briefly mentioned on page 246 of British Chess Literature to 1914, there is no new information about the author. The latter book has an Appendix listing over 100 amendments to Gaige's Chess Personalia, but nothing for W. Greenwood Walker.

Finally, I turned to John Townsend's two absorbing works: Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, Wokingham 2011, and Historical notes on some chess players, Wokingham 2014. A constraint for researchers is that only 100 copies of each book have been printed.

John Townsend is an authority on genealogical and biographical research with a particular interest in 19th-century chess personalities, and, lo and behold, on pages 1 to 4 of Notes on the life of Howard Staunton he provides substantial biographical information on William Greenwood Walker, including details of his death on 24th June 1839 aged 53. Townsend also notes that WGW was a native of Leeds but does not provide a birth date.

Notes on the Life of Howard Staunton, page 3

Notes on the Life of Howard Staunton, page 4

So, several hours and 14 books later, I have finally discovered William Greenwood Walker's date of death, but I still don't know the identity of the WGW who wrote to Staunton in 1863.


Postscript: I should have turned to the internet at the outset as a quick search finds the following information on the website:

John Townsend has cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the above information, believing that the marriage to Mary Ann Dodd and stated occupation of silk manufacturer are both incorrect. 

Further update: Richard James has provided a copy of the Baptism register for St. Peter's Leeds for December 1785, stating that William Greenwood Walker was born on 5th November 1785 and baptised on 9th December. His father was William Walker of Park Row.

Finally, William Greenwood Walker's book not only provides us with the most complete 19th-century record of the matches between de la Bourdonnais and McDonnell, but it also has one other claim to fame in that it includes the very first reference to Howard Staunton, who is listed as a subscriber to the book. 

Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, page 3 
© Michael Clapham 2020

Thursday 16 April 2020

Chess and Draughts

Many authors have combined the teaching of chess and draughts in one book. Here are brief details of a few of these in the English language:

Chess: its Theory and Practice; to which is added a Chapter on Draughts, by Captain Crawley, London 1858. Betts 10-11

This book by Captain Crawley, pseudonym of George Frederick Pardon, went through thirteen editions up to 1880, but the first edition of 1858 is particularly hard to find. Douglas Betts could find nothing earlier than the 4th edition for his Bibliography, and the LN catalogue of 1955 also only lists the 4th edition onwards. (Probably the book examined by Betts). The Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague still does not have the first edition of this book.

Betts's Bibliography states that the 4th edition has 191 pages and includes 32 games; the first edition has 180 pages and 31 chess games and was one of the first books to include games by Morphy.

The examination of chess takes up 163 pages while the final chapter on draughts is just 17 pages long.

Captain Crawley's book was substantially revised and brought up to date in 1876 for the 10th edition onwards and the treatise on draughts was entirely new. Chess 156 pages, draughts 32 pages.


Everybody's Guide to Chess and Draughts, by Henry Peachey, London 1896. Betts 10-57.

The author devotes 208 pages to chess but only 18 to draughts.

The book was reprinted in 1899 by a new publisher W. R. Russell.

In addition to the usual history/rules/instructions/openings/endings/problems, the chess section of this book includes a chapter on the author's personal observations of contemporary chess masters, taking as his subjects fifteen of the leading players from the Hastings Chess Tournament of 1895.

An Elementary Guide to the Scientific Games of Draughts and Chess, by Albert Belasco, London 1912. Betts 10-83.

The first six editions of this work included draughts only. Seven of the 38 pages in this book are full-page adverts, page one is the title page, leaving 18 pages for draughts and 12 for chess. The book includes brief biographies of Emanual Lasker and Joseph Blackburne, and the draughts players James Wyllie and Alfred Jordan.

In 1916 Belasco brought out a revised work; Chess & Draughts: A Complete Guide, and this was published in at least 38 editions into the 1960s with updated material. The 60 pages were divided approximately equally between draughts and chess.  


A Complete Guide to the Games of Checkers and Chess, by Maxim La Roux, Baltimore 1916. Betts 10-93.

Maxim La Roux's book has a heavy emphasis on the game of draughts which is discussed in the first 95 pages, with coverage of Polish, Spanish, Italian and Turkish draughts, in addition to the standard game. The final 32 pages deal with chess.


Chess and Checkers: the way to Mastership, by Edward Lasker, New York 1918. Betts 10-97.

The extensive chess tutorial occupies the first 222 pages, while the section on checkers covers the final 62 pages and was written in collaboration with Alfred Jordan, world champion from 1912 to 1917. 


Chess and Draughts: How to enjoy them, by Charles Platt, London 1933. Betts 10-131. Chess - pages 1 to 114, draughts - pages 115 to 130.

Note the randomly placed draughts pieces which should all be on squares of the same colour.

This book was re-issued in 1941 with minor revisions and a new title: Complete Guide to Chess and Draughts. In this edition, chess takes up 107 of the 125 pages.


Thanks to Owen and Kathy Hindle for the image of Chess and Draughts: How to Enjoy them.

Other books combining chess and draughts include the following: (up to 1950)

The Whole Art of Chess & Draughts (Draughts and Chess for the Millions), London circa 1844.

Chess & Draughts Made Easy, by J. Bishop, London circa 1855.

The Hand-book of Chess and Draughts, by R. Wormald, London 1866. 

How to Play Checkers and Chess by S. Walker, Cleveland circa 1920s.

Guide to Chess and Checkers: A Complete Course of Instruction for Beginners, by D. Mitchell and L. Held, Cleveland 1941. 


                                          © Michael Clapham 2020


Monday 13 April 2020

J. B. of Bridport

Chess Strategy. A Collection of the Most Beautiful Chess Problems Composed by "J.B., of Bridport", London 1865. 

Within just over a decade, John Brown (who styled himself J. B. of Bridport to avoid confusion with other chess composers of the same name), became a prominent, and even pre-eminent, composer of chess problems, and his compositions were regularly featured in the chess periodicals of the period. Staunton included over 100 of Brown's problems in his Illustrated London News columns.   

Brown died of tuberculosis aged just 36 on 17th November 1863, and 16 months later a collection of his best problems was published, primarily for the benefit of his wife and children. The book was one of the first devoted to the problems of an individual composer; Josef Kling's The Chess Euclid (1849) and Robert Wormald's The Chess Openings (1864), which includes 50 of the author's problems, being other early examples, although neither was dedicated solely to chess problems.

Staunton was instrumental in the conception of Chess Strategy, having access to so many of Brown's compositions, but the main task of collecting, editing and preparing the material for publication was undertaken by Frederick Rainger who had edited a chess column in the Norfolk News from 1859 to 1863. However, Rainger's considerable efforts were not acknowledged in the Preface to Chess Strategy, a matter raised by I. O. Howard Taylor on page vi of his book Chess Skirmishes, Norwich 1889. 

Chess Skirmishes, page vi

(See also Eminent Victorian Chess Players by Tim Harding, page 72, and the same author's British Chess Literature to 1914, pages 259 and 327).

Chess Strategy includes 174 problems, arranged on diagrams, two to a page, with solutions at the end. The problems range from two-movers to five-movers with over two-thirds being three-movers.

A few problems were repeated in error; nos. 73 and 77 are identical, as are nos. 39 and 132. 72 is a mirrored version of 32, and 102 is 35 mirrored and translated.


Nearly 150 years after the death of John Brown, his life and chess career were revisited by Brian Gosling in John Brown: The Forgotten Chess Composer?, Leicester 2011.

This extensively researched work (and very reasonably priced at just £10), includes substantial biographical information on John Brown and the history of his family in Bridport in the West Country of England. The book also constitutes an easy introduction to the chess problem composer's art and a brief history of problem composition in the 19th century. The author traces Brown's development as a problem composer and presents 50 problems from Chess Strategy with more detailed solutions and explanations than were included in the original collection.

Gosling's book opens with a photographic portrait by Lewis Carroll and closes with an item on Lewis Carroll's appearance at the Redcar Chess Tournament in 1866. John Brown and his contemporary Lewis Carroll had a number of similarities including their religious vocations and enjoyment of chess problems. Lewis Carroll had a copy of Chess Strategy in his library which he probably purchased at the Redcar Chess Tournament in support of Brown's family.  

The book has the following poor image of John Brown which may well be the only known portrait of him:


This is taken from opposite page 28 of The Chess Problem by H. Weenink, Stroud 1926, an invaluable work on the history of chess problems and problemists. This, in turn, was taken from the photographic chess board; Chess Champions of England, published by H. F. L. Meyer in 1871.

The Chess Problem by H. Weenink, opp. page 28.

Brian Gosling devotes a chapter to Howard Staunton and the ILN, highlighting Staunton's popularisation of chess problems through his column in the widely circulated Illustrated London News and, in particular, his promotion of the compositions of John Brown of which over 100 appeared between 1853 and 1863.  This was a major factor in developing the reputation of Brown as a problemist.

Staunton included a brief mention of Brown's death in his column for 28th November 1863 and published a long review of Chess Strategy in November 1865.  A two-page review of Chess Strategy had earlier appeared in The Chess World, May 1865, pages 70-71. Probably written by Staunton, the unnamed editor of this periodical, the review affirms that the book "has been produced under the supervision of an eminent English amateur". Was he referring to himself or Rainger? 

The Chess World, May 1865 page 71.

Gosling does not mention F. G. Rainger in his book and was seemingly unaware of the latter's participation in Chess Strategy. Chess Skirmishes is not listed in the fairly extensive bibliography of 54 chess works. 

The author summarises his researches into John Brown as follows:

The book has six Appendices beginning with The Problems of J. B. by J. Beasley.
This reproduces a lecture given to the British Chess Problem Society by John Beasley in November 1990 and includes 25 problems taken from Chess Strategy, although 14 of these are already included in Gosling's choice of 50. 

There are a few historical inaccuracies, and the odd typographical error, but the book is generally very well researched and produced. Gosling gives an enjoyable account of the life and family of J.B. of Bridport, his influence on the art of chess problem composition and the general development of chess problems in the 19th century.

                                                      © Michael Clapham 2020

Sunday 5 April 2020

American Chess Magazine 1897-1899. Part 5

Volume II of American Chess Magazine has a frontispiece illustration on page 2 which, unfortunately, has not been included in the Moravian Chess reprint. This illustration, showing the covers of nine American chess periodicals, is listed in the index for volume II and was intended for a forthcoming book on American Chess Literature. Even more unfortunately, that tantalising tome was never published.

An announcement of this book appeared on page 36 of the July 1898 magazine:

The promised illustrations did not appear and there was no further mention of this potentially extremely interesting work.  


Another planned book that never saw the light of day was a second edition of Chess Harmonies by Walter Pulitzer. The following full-page advert appeared on the reverse of the final page of the Index to volume I; again this is absent from the Moravian Chess reprint:

A second edition of Chess Harmonies had been touted in the very first issue of American Chess Magazine in June 1897 on page 15:

... and the July 1898 magazine included the following notice in the Literature section on page 28:


                                     ©  Michael Clapham 2020

Friday 3 April 2020

Double Diagrams in the Chess Openings by Thomas Long

I wrote about Thomas Long's four 19th century books on the chess openings on 17th March 2016 and included illustrations from Key to the Chess Openings and Positions in the Chess Openings.

I have now acquired Double Diagrams in the Chess Openings, Huddersfield 1894, which is much the scarcest of Long's books.

This book has 92 very thick pages and, naturally, was written to supply a long-felt want; in this case to show the openings from both sides of the board on one page. 

Long ends his Preface by acknowledging the various sources consulted for this book:

The author employs his unique method of highlighting the last move played by turning the piece moved on its side. 

The material is divided into King's pawn and Queen's pawn openings and several very obscure lines are included such as the Fyfe Gambit, Fraser-Ensor Gambit, Prince Ouroussof's Attack and Van't Kruyz Opening.

                                      © Michael Clapham 2020