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These Women Can Play Chess

While helping me try to hunt down the elusive 4th game of the Mrs. Showalter vs. Harriet Worrall match, my dear friend, Deb, found this article. As the "The End of the Century Women" banner and the sketches reveal, it was a very poor quality scan. However, she managed to transcribe it so I could present it here.

 

The Washington Times  July 15, 1895

 



These Women Can Play Chess

AMERICAN AND ENGLISH QUEENS OF THE BOARD

Three Generations, Mother and Grand-Daughter Famous as Players


The idea that proficiency in chess is beyond the power of a woman’s brain capacity has been disproved of late years by the success many ladies have attained in the various branches of the game. These include problems, originated or solved, games by correspondence or telegraph, and match games.

No woman has as yet tried the marvelous tour de force, known as the “blindfold,” when the player , with bandaged eyes, plays a number of games simultaneously with opponents.

Isidor Gunsberg, one of the chess experts of the day, asserts that “in all branches of the game ladies have given proof that they possess both talent and ability to master chess, and to excel in it. Ladies are expert problem solvers, and few have shown themselves to be good composers.”

William Steinitz, who held the championship of the world for nearly thirty years, speaks enthusiastically of women entering the lists of the game, saying that, “ undoubtedly there is a great field for women in this science.” He thinks she has shown great aptitude for problems, and will, without a doubt, become in time a good player, ranking with the second-class player of the opposite sex when she acquires her fullest capacity.

WHY WOMEN SHOULD SUCCEED

Mr. Steinitz says that “ to play chess the organs of numbers and order must be developed, and that as music springs from the same source, women who are capable musicians may have every reason to think they possess a latent talent for chess.”

He is teaching his daughter, Miss Hedwig Steinitz to play, and she is now able to compete on equal terms with ordinary drawing-room players, among whom she says she “has never yet met a lady.” Not long ago she had the honor of drawing a game against Mr. Showalter at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York, when he played against thirteen opponents.


Comparatively few American women take enough interest in the game to acquire celebrity, though several have played correspondence games with Mr. Steinitz. Mr. Showalter , and others. Only two this far have come before the public. These are Mrs. Thomas H Worrall, of Brooklyn, and Mrs. J. W. Showalter, the wife of the champion of the Manhattan Chess Club, mentioned above. On November 5 of last year they began a match of seven games for the ladies’ chess championship of the United States, which was conducted in the professional style with umpires.

Although the final game is still to be played, next autumn, Mrs. Showalter accomplished decided victories. She is a native of Lexington, Ky, and only developed her talent after marriage. Although she is but twenty-four, her caution and intelligence would do credit to a veteran. Her most striking success has been in winning a victory over Lasker, the champion of the world, receiving from him the odds of a knight, and scoring five games to two. On even terms, she defeated Mr. Baz, a strong second-class player of the Manhattan Club. Mrs.
Showalter says she is “not very exhausted after a game, because she prepares for it by plenty of exercise several weeks beforehand and judicious food.”

MRS. SHOWALTER’S OPPONENT

Mrs. Worrall, an English woman by birth, is much older, and was taught chess by her brother, The Rev. H. Jonah, an amateur of reputation. Her husband was also a chess enthusiast, and they associated with many of the celebrities of the day.
 
In 1866, she played with the famous Paul Morphy , receiving the odds of a rook, and scored an occasional draw from him. In 1885 Steinitz gave her the odds of a knight at the Manhattan Club, and she vanquished him. She has played against Capt. Mackenzie, Walter Frere, Delmar, Doyle, Fraukenberg, and others, and once played a game with Mrs. Gilbert, of Hartford Conn., now dead, but considered then one of the finest correspondence players in the world. She vanquished her completely. When the final games are played next autumn the victor will be prepared to defend the title of lady champion of the chess world against all who challenge her. Mrs. Showalter, who is termed the “American queen of chess,” has already received invitations to play match games in England, and it is more than likely that she will accept them.

The English women have gone still further than Mrs Showalter and Mrs. Worrall, for on the 23rd of May the newly established Ladies’ Chess Club fought a match game by their club team. Their opponents were a third-class team of the Metropolitan Chess Club of London, who yielded the odds of a knight at each board. After an informal tea, they began to play at 8 o’clock in the evening on their fourteen boards. The contest was interesting and exciting. Some of the ladies had to surrender early in the games, owing to errors in their openings .
Others defended their pieces with highly creditable persistence and intelligence. The fair sex was defeated by a score of 9 to 5 , which was not considered a bad result for a first combat.


THREE GENERATIONS OF CHAMPIONS.

Mrs. W.J Baird, whose picture is given here, ranks not only as a brilliant composer of problems, but is famous as one of the best composers of the world. Not many years ago, the Illustrated London News printed the following: “Your successes, Mrs. Baird, in solving problems are getting monotonous. It will soon be something rare to find a competition in which you are not first.” Although it is only, comparatively speaking, of recent date that Mrs. Baird began to
compose, she has achieved phenomenal success, and she has constructed no less than the astonishing number of 700 problems, which have been published in the principal chess columns throughout the world.

Mrs. Baird’s genius at chess- for the English public styles her “the queen of chess” – is inherited. Her mother, Mrs. Winter Wood, is a player of noted ability, who was taught by her husband, and quickly developed such proficiency that her reputation became extended and she received many challenges. She has played Mortimer Collins, the famous poet, Dr. Bromby, George Maud, William Hampton and other noted players, generally taking the honors of the game. She is still actively interested in her chosen pastime, and justly proud the
reputation in the chess world of her husband, her two sons , her daughter and her grandchild. Miss Lillian Baird, who is perhaps the youngest chess player in the world having been born in Tynemouth in 1881.



A PRODIGY AT THE BOARD.

Owing to her extreme youth and her studies at school, where she has distinguished herself by bearing off prizes, Miss Lillian Baird has not devoted much time to the pursuit for which she has evinced such precocity. At the age of four she knew the moves, and four years later composed her first problem, sending it to the Western Magazine. It was copied in thirty papers in England and abroad, and since that time seventy problems have originated with her. A list of English players is not complete without the name of Miss Rudge, who prefers play to problems, takes great interest in all the tournaments and matches of
men and women, and is probably better versed in the literature and technique of chess than any of her fair sisters. The professional players regard her as a bookworm rather than a knight errant, who jousts upon the chessboard; but her performances are held in high esteem. Mrs. T.B. Roland is a capable chess editor and player and so is Mrs. Isidore Gunsberg both residents of London. And quite a number of books and articles in current English magazines have come from the
pens of women devotees of the noble game.

 

 

Comments


  • 3 years ago

    Badgal4ever

    I have found the answer to my question, at least my answer. I could almost kick myself for even asking that question, hense the search for this article again. I have a lot to learn when it comes to history period, let alone chess history. Any oppressed group needs to prove them selves 10 times over and have so many opsticles in their way that the playing field is never level. I like your answer in regards to when there were many women playing chess back in the day there were no ratings. This just signifies to me that we can't judge present day ratings due to the uneven ratio of male and female players. My new questions are why do we even class players as male and female? Aren't we all players? Don't we all share the love for chess? I am by no means a strong player yet, however the majority of players I do play are male and I tend to be kicking their ass, which upsets them for some reason. I just won my first tourny and I don't look at it as being a female player that beat all the male players, I look at it as being the best player of that group period.

    Thank you Batgirl, you enlighten me every time I get to read one of your articles.

  • 3 years ago

    batgirl

    Thanks That was an exhibution game played on June 25, 1896 at the Brooklyn Chess Club.

  • 3 years ago

    gretagarbo

    I found this game between Mrs Showalter and Mrs Worrall that was played in 1896 where Mrs Worrall was the winner. I don't know if you have already posted this somewhere though. Both sides made  mistakes but Mrs Worrall pulled through. 

    I think it's a pretty exciting game.

  • 3 years ago

    aansel

    Mrs Baird wrote two of the most attractive chess problem books ever produced: The 20th Century Retractor and Novelties  and 700 Chess Problems. Another early famous chess woman was FF Rowland who wrote Pollack Memories. Also GA Thomas mother was a strong British player as well.

  • 3 years ago

    Badgal4ever

    A question I have asked myself…  I wonder if women are not higher rating chess players due to the fact they have a maternal instinct to keep our species alive and therefore do not isolate and dedicate their lives to chess as a man can.  

  • 3 years ago

    batgirl

    "Not trying to be sexist or anything, but I don't think it's fair to call women equal to men when no woman has ever passed the 2700 rating barrier."

    Trying not to be picky, but in 1895, ratings didn't exist.

  • 3 years ago

    Deranged

    Not trying to be sexist or anything, but I don't think it's fair to call women equal to men when no woman has ever passed the 2700 rating barrier.

  • 3 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Very cool. 

  • 3 years ago

    batgirl

    Anybody who would like to add games by Worrall, Showalter, Mrs. Eliza Ann Winter-Wood, or problems by Edith or Lilian Baird, feel free.

  • 3 years ago

    Writch

    Ditto Archaic's comment. I savor your traipses into the past.
  • 3 years ago

    Archaic71

    Good stuff as usual Sarah Beth.  Keep mining the dusty corners of chess lore.

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