KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: More Chess & Checker Stars

My earlier column noted the exploits of Newell Banks who was a splendid player of both chess and draughts. Another star who had championed the art of both games was Harry Nelson Pillsbury. He was of course more famous as a great chess player and his relatively early death most likely shadowed his potential for setting new records in both games. Here I give an example of his checker talent. The game was one of 12 played simultaneously blindfold.

  1. 11-15  ….  23-19
  2. 7-11    ….  22-17
  3. 11-16  ….  26-23
  4. 8-11    ….  17-14
  5. 9-18    ….  23-7
  6. 16-23 ….  27-18
  7. 15-22 ….  25-18
  8. 3-10   ….  29-25
  9. 5-9     ….  25-22
  10. 12-16….  31-26
  11. 4-8    ….  26-23
  12. 16-20…. 22-17
  13. 20-27…  18-14
  14. 9-18  ….  23-7
  15. 11-16 …  32-23
  16. 2-11  ….  23-18
  17. 16-19…. 30-26
  18. 8-12  …. 17-14  ?  Scully misses a possible draw by 18-14.
  19. 1-5    ….. 21-17
  20. 12-16…. 28-24
  21. 19-28…. 26-23
  22. 28-32…. 17-13
  23. 5-9    ….. 14-5
  24. 6-10  ….  5-1
  25. 10-15….  18-14
  26. 32-27….  B-wins

One critic reported to have  said of Pillsbury that his draughts play was as pretty as a pink shirtwaist on a handsome woman.

Like chess finally recognizing the title of World Chess Champion, checkers took its time to establish a World Checker or Draughts Champion.  The lst World Champion was Andrew Anderson who defeated James Wyllie in 1847 in a match organized for that purpose. The score was 9-wins, 6-losses, 31-draws.

Along came Robert D. Yates, who in 1876 dethroned the mighty Wyllie and successfully defended his title until his early death at age 28 while on a sea voyage. The title then reverted back to Wyllie.

Of the early age of checker players, besides Banks probably the most interesting character was Robert D. Yates.  He was born at Blairadam, Scotland on August 31st 1873.  He learned to play at an early age and at age 18 managed to draw a match with Wyllie, each winning one game and drawing the rest. Like Earl Anthony in bowling, Stewart set records in Scottish play that will likely never be equalled. After losing one game in the 1901 Scottish Championship, he went 21 years without losing one game. That event occurred in the match with Banks which Stewart won 2-1-37.  He excelled at blindfold simultaneous play and never lost a single game in exhibition play. What was most remarkable was the brilliant tactics unfolding in combinations that sparkled and seem to give life to the men on the board!

In future columns I hope to provide you with interesting facts and data that should raise your spirits to try this mentally stimulating game and of those players who have been bitten by the checker-bug.

Adios for now!


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