Yorkshire Chess History



1824-25: Liverpool-Leeds, Correspondence Game











Made in Yorkshire



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This game predates the establishment of the Leeds Chess Club by about nine years, so suggesting that, prior to the existence of a formal club, there had been for some time a less formal group of chess-players who might have been regarded as constituting an informal Leeds chess club (with lower-case c’s).


This Leeds chess fraternity seems to have engaged in correspondence chess with other such groups, with the players of each club acting in consultation rather than each player having his own opponent.  One such correspondence encounter was reported in the Leeds Mercury of 15/10/1825, p. 2, as follows:


GAME AT CHESS.-The match, which has been for some time pending between Leeds and Liverpool, has at length terminated in favour of the Leeds players.


Unfortunately, the Leeds Mercury, which in years to come was to be a reliable source of information on such things, gave no more detail whatsoever in this report.  Maybe there had been a mention of the players involved, at the start of the match.  For more detail we seem to need to travel to Liverpool.


The Kaleidoscope; or, Literary and Scientific Mirror, was a weekly publication produced in Liverpool.  At the time in question, at least, the Kaleidoscope consisted of eight pages among which was a usually small article entitled “The Beauties of Chess”, typically, though not always, including of a chess diagram (using somewhat unfamiliar figurines) representing a chess problem or puzzle for solution by the reader.  There were occasional snippets of chess news.


One such snippet was carried by the Kaleidoscope of Tuesday, 11/10/1825, pp 116-117.  It contained the moves of a correspondence game, which had presumably recently concluded, and had ended in a win for Leeds.  The side which moved first was termed “White”, though White having the first move was by no means standard at that time.  The moves were recorded in a form of algebraic notation in which captures were not recorded as such; a piece making a capture was merely recorded as moving to a square which happened previously to have been occupied by an opposing piece, without the latter fact being indicated.


The covering letter, whose signatory’s name was printed as “X. Y. Z.”, makes it clear that Liverpool felt entitled to a return game, and adopted a somewhat acrimonious stance when Leeds declined to play a return game.  The article commenced as follows:






SIR,-Being one of the numerous readers of your Tuesday’s publication, and having derived much pleasure from studying the beautiful positions which you weekly favour us with on the chess board, I have taken the liberty of enclosing you all the moves that have been made by the amateur chess players of Leeds and Liverpool, in a game that has been for some time playing between the respective parties, and which has been determined in favour of the former.

It was expected that the rubber, and not the game, would have decided which of the parties were the most skilful players; but, on the Liverpool amateurs challenging their opponents for a second game, they received an [illegible]ing letter, declining the challenge, assigning, as their reason, that, “unless a game is well contested there is no pleasure in playing; and we think another would be uninteresting to us”.  The modesty of the Leeds amateurs is not less conspicuous in this instance than it was when they ventured to praise themselves in the London Courier of the 9th Sept. last; and the “laurels of victory” that they seemed to be preparing themselves to wear they are now by no means inclined to risk on the decision of a second game.  No doubt they act wisely; perhaps they may call it honourable, too.  In conclusion, having seen the letter in which the Leeds amateurs decline accepting the challenge, I should advise, that, whenever they have occasion again to hold a correspondence, they would appoint a gentleman to conduct it.

I am yours &c

X. Y. Z


There followed the record of the game, reproduced here in modern algebraic notation.


Played by correspondence, 1824-1825

White: Liverpool, Black: Leeds

1. d4 d5 2. e3 c5 3. dxc5 e5 4. b4 a5 5. c3 b6 6. Bb5+ Ke7 7. c6 axb4 8. a4 f5 9. cxb4 Nf6 10. Nf3 Ke6 11. Ng5+ Ke7 12. Qc2 Qc7 13. Bd2 Ke8 14. O-O Bd6 15. g3 h6 16. a5 bxa5 17. Nf3 Kf7 18. bxa5 g5 19. a6 Qb6 20. Qb2 Bxa6 21. Rc1 Nxc6 22. Rxc6 Qxb5 23. Qc1 Rc8 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Nc3 Qc6 26. Qa3 Ra8 27. Nb5 Ke6 28. Qb2 Bxb5 29. Rxa8 Be2 30. Rh8 Bxf3 31. Rxh6 Qa4 32. Qc1 Qd1+ 33. Qxd1 Bxd1 34. e4 fxe4 35. Bxg5 Be7 36. Kf1 Kf7 37. Bd2 d4 38. h3 Bc5 39. g4 e3 40. fxe3 dxe3 41. Bxe3 Bxe3 42. Rh8 Bf3 43. Rc8 e4 44. Rc3 Nd5 45. Rb3 Ke6 46. g5 Bd1 47. Rb1 Bc2 White gives up the game, 0-1





Stephen John Mann

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