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Howard Staunton

     Harold James Ruthven Murray was possibly the greatest and most influential chess historian ever born.  His monumental work, "A History of Chess," published in 1913, is still valid and quite useful in its centennial year. While researching for his book, Murray published articles in German and English magazines, particuarly the "British Chess Magazine."  His impartial style coupled with his extensive knowledge and understanding cover his articles with an aura of credibility.  Here is Murray's article on Howard Staunton.
















Comments


  • 11 months ago

    batgirl

    This seems as good a place as any to put this:

    from the "Dictionary of National Biography"

    STAUNTON, HOWARD (1810-1874), chess-player and editor of Shakespeare, born in 1810, was reputed to be the natural son  of Frederick Howard, fifth earl of Carlisle [q.v.l He was neglected in youth, and received little or no education. He is said to have  spent some time at Oxford, but was never a member of the university. On coming of age he received a few thousand pounds  under his father's will. This money he rapidly spent. He was devoted to the stage, and claimed to have acted in his early days  Lorenzo to the Shylock of Edmund Kean. When thrown upon his own resources, he sought a livelihood from his pen. The main  subjects of his literary labours were chess and the Shakespearean drama.

    Staunton played chess from an early age and soon acquired a skill in the game which has not been equalled by any British-born  player. Alexander Macdonnell (1798-183.')) q. v.], who could alone be regarded as his rival, is now regarded as his interior by  competent critics. For some twenty years a great part of Staunton's time was spent in playing the game and in writing upon it.  From 1836 he frequented the Divan, Huttmann's, and other public chess resorts. Four years later he first became known as a  player of distinction, and between 1840 and 1851 he made his reputation. During 1841 and 1842 he engaged in a long series  of matches with Cochrane, and in the majority was victorious. A match at Paris with the champion of Europe, St. Amant,  followed in 1843, and Staunton's victory gave him a world-wide fame as a chess-player. Carl Meier, among others, published an  account of this engagement (Zurich, 1843). In 1846 Staunton defeated the German players Horwitz and Harrwitz. An account of  his match with Mr. Lowe in 1848 was published by T. Beeby. In 1851 his powers showed signs of decay, and in the great  international tournament of that year he was beaten by Anderssen and by Williams; to the latter he had given odds not long  before. In 1852 he met one of the greatest players of any period, Baron von Heydebrand und der Lasa of Berlin, and was  defeated by a small number of games. He rarely played in public matches again. George Walker, a rigorous critic, credited  Staunton's play with 'brilliancy of imagination, thirst for invention, judgment for position, eminent view of the board, and untiring  patience.'

    Meanwhile Staunton was energetically turning his knowledge of the game to account as a journalist. In 1840, the year in which  his supremacy as a player was first recognised, he projected the monthly periodical, 'The Chess Player's Chronicle," which he  owned and edited till he sold it in August 1854. About 1844 he took charge of the chess column in the 'Illustrated London News,'  which had been commenced two years earlier, and he conducted it till his death. For some time he also edited a chess column  in the 'Era' newspaper.

    Staunton compiled for Bonn's ' Scientific Series ' some valuable manuals on the game. Of these 'The Chess Player's  Handbook' (1847; 2nd edit. 1848) long deserved, and still longer retained, the reputation of being the best English treatise on  its subject. 'The Chess Player's Companion' (1849) included a treatise on games at odds, and so far was supplementary to the  'Handbook." but it was mainly devoted to the record of his own games. 'This still remains a work of the highest interest, and a  noble monument for any chess-player to have raised for himself. The notes are in general as much distinguished by their good  taste as by their literary talent and critical value.' 'The Chess Tournament' (1852) contains the names of the international  tournament of 1851 and some others; of this a German rendering appeared at Berlin. A defence of (he London Chess Club (by  'a member') from the strictures passed on it by Staunton in this volume was issued in 1852. 'The Chess Praxis' (1860) was  another supplement to the 'Handbook,' carrying on chess theory for some twelve years later, and containing many well-selected  games.

    Staunton's name was conferred on the set of chessmen which are recognised as the standard type among English-speaking  peoples. His 'Chess Players Text-book' was issued in 1849, without date, to be sold with the Staunton chessmen.

    Staunton's ' Chess: Theory and Practice' was left in manuscript at his death, and was edited in 1876 by R. B. Wormald, who  succeeded him as editor of the chess column of the ' Illustrated London News.'

    From 1854 Staunton largely devoted his attention to the study of Shakespeare, of whose works he had been from youth an  enthusiastic admirer. Between November 1857 and May 1860 he issued, with Messrs. Routledge, a new edition of  Shakespeare in monthly parts, with 824 illustrations by Sir John Gilbert. The parts were bound up in three volumes. A reissue  without the illustrations followed in 1864 in 4 vols. Staunton's text was based on a collation of the folio editions with the early  quartos and with the texts of modern editors from Rowe toDyce. The conjectural emendations, which were usually sensible,  were kept within narrow limits, and showed much familiarity with Elizabethan literature and modes of speech. The general notes  combined common-sense with exhaustive research. In 1804 Staunton issued a photo-lithographic facsimile of the 1000 quarto  of 'Much Ado about Nothing ' from the copy in the Ellesmere collection. In 1866 he edited a photolithographic facsimile of the  first folio edition of Shakespeare's works of 1623. Subsequently, between October 1872 and his death, he contributed a series  of nineteen articles on 'Unsuspected Corruptions of Shakespeare's Text' to the 'Athenreum' (cf. Notes and Queries, 6th ser. iv.  264). His only other literary undertaking was a carefully compiled account of the ' Great Schools of Engd'(1865; 2nd edit. 1869).  Staunton was a brilliant talker in congenial society, prolific in anecdote and in apt quotation from Shakespeare. He died  suddenly from heart disease at his house in London on 22 June 1874. He married, about 1854, Frances, widow of W. D.  Nethersole, a solicitor, who was some years his senior. She died about 1882.

    The St. George's Chess Club possesses a medallion-portrait, as well as a lithograph depicting the match in 1843 between  Staunton and St. Amant.

    [Information kindly furnished by the Rev. W. Wayte; Chess Player's Chronicle, 1874-5, pp. 117, 161-2 ; Athenaum, 1874, i. 862 ;  Illustrated London News, 4 July 1874, with portrait-]

  • 11 months ago

    batgirl

    Mr. Spinrad,

    That's a good point about not recording the times during the part of the match in which Staunton was losing.  Staunton has a history of selective publishing. So, even if he was aware of slowing down when losing, he probably would never mention it without the evidence available to contradict him.  It's really intiguing that this match, occuring so soon after the other France-England match with La Bourdournais and M'Donnell, caused such public interest. Matches today, ven when there are any other than WC matches, generate almost no public interest.  I guess chess at that time so focused in a small area - even modern German chess was just beginning - highlighted and magnified the matches. Shrug....or maybe it some nationalist thing.  Soviet chess which was highly nationalistic, had wide public interest and when Fischer was portrayed as a defender of Democracy, the American public was suddenly spelbound by his chess'

     

    Just for the record, here's a passage from "Harry Wilson, Umpire of the lat Great Chess Match, Bellevue House, Isle of Wight, Jan. 23, 1844,"  published in the "Chess Player's Chronicle "(the same idea was iterated by Geo. Walker, who mentions Delannoy's remark about the unweildy chess pieces in "The Late Grand Chess Match," and claimed that St. Amant had previously admired those same chess-men).



  • 11 months ago

    manitari

    Actually, they had a post-match quarrel about the set used as well. French commentators blamed the loss on the strange set used, but Staunton said that St Amant had praised the same set when he was in England.

     

    It was a certainly a good match for inventive excuses.

  • 11 months ago

    melvinbluestone

    This is slightly off-topic, but I found this interesting paragraph in Wikipedia's entry on the Staunton Chess Set, the design being credited to Nathaniel Cook and made by Jaques of London: 

    "Staunton not only endorsed the product for Jaques of London but promoted it to an extraordinary degree including the lambasting and derision of any other design of chessmen then proposed. This may have been the first time that a celebrated name was used to promote a commercial product. The Staunton, as it became known, became available to the general public on September 29, 1849. The Staunton style was soon the standard on which most tournament playing pieces have been made and used around the world ever since. The low cost of the Staunton set allowed the masses to purchase sets and helped to popularize the game of chess." 

    So I guess, technically, the St. Amant and Staunton matches were not actually played with 'Staunton Design' chess pieces, as they were not yet being produced. Maybe they played on The Mandarin Chess Set...... Wink

  • 11 months ago

    manitari

    I have one observation of my own on one part of the Staunton vs St Amant dispute. Each accused the other of taking much more time to move. Most people seem to feel that Staunton won this part of the argument, because his second (IIRC Harry Wilson but I could be wrong) recorded times, and St Amant was slower.

     

    However, Staunton's second did not stay for the later part of the match. It is my theory, which seems to hold in later matches when times of all games are recorded, that the losing player generally takes significantly more time, desperately looking for a saving resource. Therefore, Staunton's second could have been correct for games he observed, yet Staunton may have been irritatingly slow in games he lost almost all of which were later in the match.

    Incidentally, I feel Staunton was significantly stronger than St Amant, but was much more odious as a human being.

  • 11 months ago

    batgirl

    You can also read Geoge Walker's, The Late, Grand Chess Match, for a version of the events.

  • 11 months ago

    batgirl

    Oh, and by the way, I have a book by David Levy called "Howard Staunton 1810-1874."  The book focuses on the Staunton-St.-Amant matches in a very concise and well written manner without sparing any details. If the match with all its vitriole interest you, this book might be right up your alley.

  • 11 months ago

    batgirl

    Another interesting aspect of this match was given Frederick Edge of all people. I haven't tried looking to see if any contemporary writers mention this:

    It was in this locale that Mr. Staunton played his first match with Saint Amant, and, losing it, took his revenge by winning in his turn at Paris. For some reason or other, the French amateur displayed unaccountable nervousness during the progress of the match in his own capital. The Baronne de L——, who is well known in Parisian salons as an excellent player and firm supporter of the game, assured me but lately that she had no easy task in instilling courage into her countryman, startled as he was by Mr. Staunton's winning game after game from him. Warming up under the merry rebukes of his fair inspirer, Saint Amant began to turn the tables upon his antagonist, and it seemed as if he would anticipate the result of the contest between Löwenthal and Harrwitz.  Mr. Staunton, however, eventually won, and the stakes were deposited for the third and deciding match, but Mr. S. was taken ill, and it was never played. It is unfortunate for Mr. Staunton's reputation that the plea of bad health was so frequently used by him when opponents appeared, more especially as he is the first to ridicule such an excuse when coming from others. And it is more than ever unfortunate in this instance, because the French players declared that, judging from the later games of the match in Paris, it was obvious that Mr. Staunton would have succumbed to their champion if the third and deciding heat had not been prevented by the Englishman's indisposition. And many of them even affirm that Mr. S. felt this and acted in consequence.

  • 11 months ago

    melvinbluestone

    Wonderful article! I couldn't stop reading it, like a John Le Carre thriller!

    What an astonishing story: the contentious relationship between St. Amant and Staunton, and the petty squabbles and bickering accompanying their 'matches' and characterizing their publications. Hard to believe these are adults, much less somewhat intelligent ones, as we may surmise from their chess prowess. Sounds like St.Amant edges out Staunton as 'chess-fathead-of-the-period' thanks to his bad-loser behaviour after the second contest. But clearly, Staunton is no angel, either. Fortunately, beyond the amusing failings of human behavior when the brain's ego gets fired up, we have the games themselves on record, to be reviewed and enjoyed today as a window into the past, and a glimpse of chess history. 

    BTW, St. Amant, for all his shortcomings, was no pushover at the board.......

  • 11 months ago

    MomirRadovic

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 11 months ago

    adamstask

    another great read batgirl. I love this style of writing. 

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