“IT IS ONLY A MAN OF SMALL MIND WHO IS TOTALLY INDIFFERENT TO THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF HIS ACTIVITIES.” –Henry A. Davidson, A Short History of Chess.
Various chess historians have made contributions for our enjoyment. But little was known except perhaps by conjecture about how the game migrated to the New World of the Americas. Neither van der Linde (1883), T. H. von der Lasa (1897) nor H.J.R. Murray (1913) had made such a study. We contribute to the Italian professor at Uppsala University Bruno Bassi who made available to us through the efforts of R.N. Coles and the British Chess Magazine Yearbook 1966 such detailed research. In fact, both D.W. Fiske (1859) and A. Klahre (1934) both dealing with the development of American chess excluded mention of both South and Central America where the Spanish introduced chess to the New World. H. A. Davidson (1949) merely mentions it in passing. Certainly the developmental period of origin in South America was the 16th and 17th centuries.
Certain facts emerged through the writings of scholars who often used the pen to record events of the day. Such events recorded show the following:
- Peruvian chieftain Atahualpa was taught chess by the Spanish during his imprisonment in Cajamarca, Peru in 1533.–Ltr from Don Gaspar de Espinosa (1533) and autobiography of Don Alonso Enriquex de Guzman (1518-43).
- The Bishop of Nicaragua, Don Antonio de Valdivieso, was assassinated while playing chess at his palace in Leon (1550).
- The 3rd decade of the 17th century the famous Italian theorist Gioachino Greco settled in the West Indies where he lived until his death.
Of course American writers refer to chess as American pertaining to the North American colonies and later the USA. Such briefs as, “The earliest written mention of chess in America was unquestionably made in what is now the State of New York”–Alfred C. Klahre, Early American Chess, New York, 1934. To be fair, his topic was centered on North American development. The writings of Benjamin Franklin related to chess is well-known and those coming to the continent either to settle or for military duty brought the game to our own shores. It is likewise understandable that access to distant lands in days prior to our modern high-tech societies was difficult and most writers were interested in sales to the residents of NA of chess materials that obviously pertained to them.
Once again I ask if anyone knows how the name The Worrall Attack originated in the Ruy Lopez: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Qe2.
Again, BCMY notes that The Westphalia Defense was named after the lliner Westphalia which, in 1927, carried a number of masters to the New York tournament where the defense was analyzed during the trip. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 Bb4 6.cxd5 exd5 7.e3 c5 and according to Reti more accurate than the Cambridge Springs Defense.
Chess Play Alone, Enough?
If one examines the writings of all the great players it is clear that they as a body researched and/or understood the history of the game. The purpose of my writings is to entertain, educate and inform both players of WCL and the general audience to tune in to my site or hit on links of others. Chess is ancient and yet the lack of interest shown chess other than an occasional game or learning how the pieces move is universal. Little importance is given the game and for many assume it to be “just a game.” I hope, of course, to fill in some stories, facts, tidbits of news mixed with humor from time to time and entertaining games that might appeal to all novices to put some effort into understanding the mysteries of the game, and to better enjoy the aesthetic beauty that those little statues on the checkered board unleashed the symbolic power in the hands of devotees.
I invite you to come share the walk down my chess path!! I am ever reminded of the song made famous by Sinatra “I did it my way.” I cannot promise you GM wisdom but one who cherished the introduction to chess by my oldest brother, Raymond, one of the finest gentlemen and strongest players I have had the privilege to occasionally cross swords.