To Checkmate the Kaiser:
American Correspondence Chess at the Conclusion of
the Great War
by John Hilbert
| Chess players and their families are as patriotic
as anyone else. Just because we prefer to fight our battles within
the confines of sixty-four squares doesnt mean we forget the
board of world history. The brilliant tactician, Albert Whiting
who played so well against the foreign contingent assembled at Cambridge
Springs 1904, defeating Janowski, Schlechter, Chigorin, Teichmann and
in the process, learned of the death of his younger brother, Franklin
a soldier during the Great War. At the time Albert Fox was a
correspondent with the Washington Post, as he had been since 1916
(personal communication to the author by Isabel Fox, daughter of
Fox). Sergeant Benjamin H. Marshall, a younger brother of
James Marshall, United States chess champion, was with the
Corps in Bordeaux in September 1918, two months before Armistice
Daily Eagle, September 26, 1918). Even Newell W. Banks, of Detroit,
American checker champion and noted chess player, was reported to have
left recently for the front with the 310th Ammunition Train,
| Though America avoided entry in the conflict
April 1917, when President Wilson, in asking Congress to declare war on
Germany, declared that the world must be made safe for
response then was certain and swift. American soldiers landed in
France on June 24, 1917 under General John J. Pershing, commander of the
American Expeditionary Force. By July 4, 1917 Colonel Charles E.
Stanton, speaking at the tomb of Lafayette, French hero of the American
Revolutionary War, could announce with feeling, Lafayette, we are
Into the next year Americans both at home and abroad would become
all too familiar, with sites of fearsome carnage: Cantigny, Bouresche,
Belleau Wood, and St. Mihiel, to name but a few.
| And obviously it wasnt just well-known
and their family members who responded to the call to duty during World
War I. Judge Isaac Franklin Russell of Brooklyn may have held a
for his familys interconnectedness of chess and the war
His oldest son, William M., had been drafted in the fifth
class, as it
was called, and was sitting on the Local Advisory Board of District No.
62. William was known in the city as a player and organizer.
Franklin F., another son, who also happened to be a Rhodes scholar, and
was known too to be an avid fan of chess, was in London serving with the
Railway Transportation Corps. George, the judges third son,
in Europe at the start of August as a soldier serving in the 315th
And his youngest boy, Austin A., was in training school for electrical
engineers. Helms wrote in his August 15, 1918 column that the
clearly was doing their bit in this crisis of the worlds
| Members of the Ocean Hill Chess Club of Brooklyn,
New York, would also be written up in Hermann Helmss Brooklyn
Eagle column for August 29, 1918, under the heading To
Kasier. In addition to writing of the club officers being
Helms noted that four of the members are at the front, including
Sims, who has been with the Canadian forces for a year, and H.
J. J. Curtin and E. Taylor Jr., who left six months ago with the
Expeditionary Forces as part of the 77th Division from
| Yet here, across the water from the fighting,
continued, though in somewhat limited fashion. The Eagle
September 19, 1918 informed its readers that Frank Marshall had faced
opponents at the opening exhibition of Marshalls Chess
the champion won fourteen, he lost two, including one to
Harold M. Phillips, who thirty-three years later, and at the robust age
of seventy-seven, would be elected president of the United States Chess
Federation. But perhaps even more tantalizing for chess history
of today is the remark by Helms that a draw game was also scored
Landis of Memphis, the originator of Trench, the new war
Apparently even the tragedy of war was not immune from appropriation by
gamesters of imaginative turn of mind.
| For indeed, Americas position far from the
of conflict allowed her the luxury of continuing the small pleasures of
a free and peaceful nation in addition to assuming her role in the
Chess clubs did not close. And even postal chess continued to
| William P. Hickok of Mount Vernon, New York, was
looking to retire from the duties of secretary of the Correspondence
League of America. He had been secretary of the older Greater New
York League, and it was he who Helms reported was largely
in amalgamating that organization with the National Association, the
Chess Bureau and the Canadian Branch of the Amateur League.
J. Howard Longacre, a Philadelphia resident and also the new tournament
director of the CCLA, proudly announced early in September 1918 that
had defeated New York 34 to 16 in a twenty-five board, two round
postal match. The result was impressive, though the match itself
was but a pale reflection of the gargantuan, 254 board (!) match won by
Pennsylvania against the same neighbor to the north fourteen years
Helmss column for September 5, 1918 included this postal effort by
new CCLA tournament director. In its own small way the game was as
hard fought as any fighting taking place.
Annotations by J. Franklin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 f5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.Nxe5
Bd6 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6 9.Qh4 Rg8 10.e5 Rxg6 11.exf6 Be6 12.d4 Qd7
0-0-0 14.Nd2 h6 15.Be3 f4 16.Bxf4 Rg4 17.Qxh6 Bxf4 18.Qh5 Bxd2+ 19.Kxd2
Spanish: Classical (Cordel)
Preliminary Round, Class A, Leadership
Sixteenth Tournament, CCLA
20.Ke3 Rd2 21.f3 Qd3+?
|Whites position is destroyed, with his king about
mated. How does he survive...and even win this game?
|21...Re2+ leads to mate.
23.Rae1 Qd2+ 24.Re3 Re2 25.Qe5 Re8 26.Qd4 Qxd4+ 27.cxd4
Rxb2 28.h4 Kd7 29.Rg1 Rf8 30.Rg6 Rh2 31.Rh6 Kd6 32.Kg3 Rh3+ 33.Kf2 Bc8
|22...Qc4+ also leads to mate.
35.Kg2 Kd8 36.Rg6 Rxf3 37.Rxf3 Ke7 38.Rg8 Be6 39.Rxf8
Kxf8 40.Kg3 Bxf7 41.a3 Kg7 42.Kf4 b5 43.Kg5 Bd5 44.Re3 Kf8 45.h5 a5
|How depressing...Black used his last two moves to place
his bishop on c8 and king on d7 throwing away his advantage.
does not allow this opportunity to escape him! He quickly picks up
a rook and then the game.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
| The CCLA was not just handling its main business
of correspondence chess tournaments. On September 19, 1918 Helms
announced that Jose R. Capablanca is scheduled to make his second
appearance since his return from Havana, next Saturday afternoon at 2
under the auspices of the Correspondence Chess League of America.
The Cuban champion on that occasion will be pitted against forty
in the rooms of the National Tuberculosis Association, 381 Fourth Ave.,
Manhattan, with which William P. Hickok, secretary of the league, is
Z. Leslie Hoover, president of the league, will make the preliminary
and introduce the young master to the audience, which, it is expected,
will include quite a number of women players. Among the
of the reception committee would be Stanley H. Chadwick, a prominent
chess player long associated with the Brooklyn Chess Club, which only a
generation before had been the home of the likes of Napier, Marshall,
| Of course, the CCLA continued to sponsor a host
of correspondence events. Here is a game won by a Richmond,
resident over a player from Tampa, Florida.
Annotations by J. Franklin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5
7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Qd3 Bb6 11.Be3 Nc5 12.Bxc5 Bxc5 13.Nbd2
Ne7 14.Nd4 Qd7 15.N2f3 c6 16.Bc2 Ng6 17.Nxe6 Qxe6 18.Nd4 Bxd4 19.Qxd4
20.f4 g6 21.Rf3 0-0 22.Raf1 f6 23.exf6 Rxf6 24.Re3 Qd6 25.Re5 Raf8 26.b4
Qc7 27.g3 Nc8 28.Kg2 Qd7 29.f5 Qg7 30.g4 Nd6 31.Kh1 gxf5 32.gxf5 Rg6
Spanish: Open (Motzko)
Preliminary Round, Fifth National
34.f6 Rxf6 35.Bxh7+ Kxh7 36.Rxf6 Ne4
|With his next, White starts a nice little
37.Rxe4 dxe4 38.Qxe4+ Kh8 39.Qh4+ Kg8 40.Rf1 c5 41.Rd1
|36...Qxf6 37.Rh5+ wins immediately.
42.Qxg4 Qxg4 43.Rg1 Qxg1+ 44.Kxg1 1-0.
|Now White follows the age-old custom of simplifying to an
easy endgame win.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
| Though Nestor Hernandez lost the game above, he
clearly played some very interesting chess at other times. Two
later Helms would write the following: When the fourth annual
of the National Correspondence Chess Association, now a part of the
Chess League of America, was started, in 1917, the Muskogee Chess Club
of Muskogee, Oklahoma, represented by some players, made a unique offer
of twenty-five dollars, to be divided as special brilliancy
Nestor Hernandez of Tampa, Florida, who is one of a quartet, with Edward
Lasker, playing in the final round, has submitted the following game,
from D. R. Wyeth of Philadelphia, for consideration in the distribution
of those prizes. The win over Wyeth certainly places the
named Nestor Hernandez in a finer light:
Annotations by Hermann
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6
Bb4 7.Qd4 Qe7 8.f3 d5 9.Bg5 c5 10.Bb5+ Kf8 11.Qd3 dxe4 12.fxe4 Bxc3+
Bb7 14.0-0 Qxe4 15.Qh3 Qg4 16.Qxg4 Nxg4 17.Rae1 Nf6 18.Rxf6
Four Knights: Scotch (Paulsen)
Fourth Annual Championship Tournament,
19.Rc6 hxg5 20.Rxc7 Bd5 21.Rxa7 g6 22.Rxa8+ Bxa8 23.Re5
Kg7 24.Rxc5 Rd8 25.Bd3 Rd5 26.Rxd5 Bxd5 27.a4 f5 28.a5 Kf6 29.Be2 Ke5
Kd6 31.c4 Bc6 32.Bf3 g4 33.Bxc6 Kxc6 34.c5 1-0.
|If 18...gxf6 19.Bh6+ Kg8 20.Re3, forcing checkmate.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
| And so from Brooklyn, New York, to Muskogee,
Americans continued their passion for correspondence chess. At
a penny a postcard, even family members on the home front could enjoy a
break from the terrible mayhem and tragedy of war. And tragedy
was enough. In the brief time America was actively fighting during
World War I, from June 1917 through November 1918, over 130,000
would die and another 200,000 would be wounded. Yet such terrible
figures are but a small portion of the crushing loss of life suffered in
Europe as a whole during that time. What a horrible pity that
cannot be confined to the chessboard.