Most people even remotely interested in 19th century chess know about Mrs. John W. Gilbert and her extremely long announced mates. What seems to be less appreciated today is the sheer strength of this lady chess player. Part of the problem lies in the fact that so few of her games are available. So, I scoured old newpapers and magazines for her games and transposed them from descriptive to digital. I've managed to assemble 24 of Mrs. Ellen Gilbert's games which, mixed in with a little history, I want to offer in a series of presentations.
In 1872-3 Mrs. Gilbert contested a few games with Mr. Samuel B. Weld of Connecticut, formerly of the Boston Chess Club. I couldn't ascertain whether these were postal games or over-the-board games (though most likley postal). Mr. Weld was a frequent contributor to Mr. Belden's chess column in the Hartford Weekly Times. Sadly, Mr. Weld died in early 1873.
Here are two of those games:
Mrs. Gilbert played an interesting pair of games against three men from Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Weston, Mr. Robbins and Mr. Farnum weren't particularly strong players and being in consultation didn't seem to help.
Mrs. Gilbert's next opponent is one of those intriquing men chess seems to attract. Since he performed the surprising task of beating Mrs. Gilbert in two of the three games I found, he deserves some attention. William Henry Harrison Hotchkin was presumably named after the man who was running for the president at the time of Hotchkin's birth, and who eventually won though he only survived a month in office. Maybe this burdensome name guided Hotchkins towads his future law career. On that road he had been a quartermaster during the Civil War serving at the First Battle of Manassas, a Keeper at Auburn State Prison, a reporter for the World and finally, at age 32, a lawyer. He was elected Justice of the Peace in Watertown, N.Y. in 1879 and served in that capacity until 1883.
An odd thing happened in 1883. Mr. Hotchkins, who had been in ill health, left his home allegedly to take a train to NYC to collect a debt. He was never heard from again.
Looking for examples of Hotchkin's play, I found a game in the The City of London Chess Magazine in 1876 which Hotchkin won against the Iowa College Chess Club in consultation. According to The Chess Journal, edited by O. A. Brownson, Mr. Hotchkin offered his services to make all the arrangements for the Correpondence match between Canada and the US. in which he was a contestant (and in which Mrs. Gilbert played Mr. A. Hood of Wroxeter, Ontario in the games shown in Part I). Mr. Hotchkins was also the chess editor of the Watertown Reunion.
In the first game, Mrs. Gilbert found herself on the wrong side of an announced mate:
Mrs. Gilbert's win:
Mrs. Gilbert's last opponent for this section is one of the strongest players in South Carolina, Isaac Edward Orchard. An impressive name to be sure, but his friends just called him Eddie.
-The Salt Lake Herald, May 17, 1891 -
I. E. Orchard of Atlanta is said to be the ablest chess player in the south. One critic even asserts that he is the legitimate successor from that section of the great Paul Morphy. He is at present chess champion of the south having defeated Professor A. F. Wurm, a well known player who had defended the championship for five years. Young Orchard was born thirty us ago at Columbia S. C. He Showed a wonderful aptitude for chess early in life and when only fifteen years of age could blindfold himself and play a number of games simultaneously. He entered a great tournament conducted by McKenzie in 1876 and
creditably acquitted himself, although very young, by defeating a number of experts including Bird, Easor, Delmar andothers. Orchard is a newspaper man.
Orchard was born around 1853 and died suddenly on May 8, 1908. Most places list his age at that time as 54. He died in NYC and the NYTimes gave his age as 55.
I'd written two short articles on Orchard - here and here.
Here the Champion of the South loses to the Queen of Chess:
This concludes Part II.
Mate in 35
The Indominatable Ellen Gilbert