Brenzinger the Forgotten

Brenzinger the Forgotten

| 28 | Chess Players

Francis Eugene Brenzinger has been mostly forgotten. 

      It's true that he wasn't even close to being a world champion contender, maybe not even a likely U.S. champion, but during his chess-playing days, he was one of the strongest players in New York and played against some of the better players with decent results.  He also holds a record in chess for which his name is sometimes recognized.
     E. F. Brenzinger was an accomplished problemist and blindfold player.  He had been a member of several chess clubs including the informal "Morphy Rooms," the Brooklyn Chess Club, the Paulsen Chess Club and the Staten Island Chess Club.
     His personal life is somewhat of a mystery to me.  He lived from 1835 to 1910.  I know he was a baker and at one time had a bakery shop in Staten Island. He had at least two children, a boy, referred to in the chess press simply as Brenzinger Jr., and a daughter, Eva, both of whom played chess. His likeness appeared in the "Scientific American" in June 15,1878  with the accompanying text (seemingly written by Miron Hazeltine) below:


     VERY recently we gave an account of a consultation match played at the Cafe International, and gave the portraits of the gallant Captain [MacKenzie]  and victorious allies. Having given a likeness of Mr. Mason [James Mason], we now give that of his right hand man in this memorable contest, Mr. F. E. Brenzinger, well known in chess circles as one of our leading metropolitan players. Mr. Brenzinger, as his name would indicate, is of German extraction, and is in all probability the strongest German player in the country, having been a most, remarkably successful tournament and match player. He came to New York when quite a lad and learned the moves young, and has practiced the game continuously for a quarter of a century, his skill being greatly -if not entirely- due to his practice with problems, in which he is quite adept.
     We were cronies together at the old Morphy Chess Rooms some twenty years ago and spent much of our time in problem building. At that time we expected great things of him as he was looked upon as one of our most ingenious and clever composers. We remember his making the following little problem at that time, which will compare favorably with his more recent works:

He has recently patented a portable chess companion in the shape of a folding board, that is very handy for traveling and preserving the position of a game.


The same article gave an 1876 game between Brenzinger and Alber W. Ensor.

[Albert Ensor, who had won the championship of Canada in 1873 was a rather shady character and scam artist.]


          Below is another problem by Brenzinger from American Chess-Nuts:

Brenzinger is mostly remembered, when remembered at all,  for winning the record length correspondence game against Dr. Karl  Brenzinger (presumably a relative- Chernev claims reasonably his brother, but I couldn't determine anything conclusively ). The earliest mention of this game I could find was in the "Huddersfield College Magazine," Sept. 1875. Hudderfield College, founded in 1839, renamed Hudderfield New College in 1958, is located in West Yorkshire, England.  Interestingly enough, Henry Ernest Atkins ,the "little Steinitz," was principal from 1909-1936. The magazine had a rather good chess section called, "Chess Jotting," which informs us:

Begin While You're Young. — Dr. Brenzinger, of Pforzheim, Baden, and Mr. F. E. Brenzinger, of New York, began a game of Chess by correspondence in 1859 which came to a somewhat premature conclusion on the 18th of March last [1875] by the resignation of the Baden player. His opponent, it seems, had taken seven months for the consideration of his forty-fifth move, and this naturally irritating the Dr. , who moved hurriedly and lost the game. The game itself, surely the longest on record, appears with elaborate notes [by Steinitz] in the Field of April the 24th.

The game,  K. Brenzinger vs. F.E. Brenzinger, can be viewed at

     Brenzinger's stint as a blindfold player started in the early 1860's and was probably inspired by that of James Leonard. Jeremy Spinrad gives an articulate summary in his article, "When Blindfold Chess Became Easy."  
To illustrate Brenzinger's blindfold ability, Mr. Spinrad noted that Brenzinger had a proposed six or seven board blindfold exhibition at the Morphy Rooms in Feb. 1863.  I'd like to add that  the exhibition took place of Feb. 14 and consisted of six boards. Brenzinger won three and lost three. Later on the 28th of that month he gave another exhibition, this time at the Brooklyn Chess Club where he played five games. On March 7 he played eight games, again at the Morphy Rooms. The scores for the last two exhibitions weren't given in the March 14th  "New York Clipper"  article.
     The following article puts Brenzinger in the peculiar position of being 2 out of 6 players not playing blindfold in a curious exhibition game:

"Westminster Papers," June 1, 1871
We learn from The Brooklyn Index that an interesting exhibition of blindfold play took place recently at the Brooklyn Club. The game was played by six players, three on each side, two of whom were without sight of the board, and each player moved alternately, without consulting his partners. The game was a good one, considering the novel conditions under which it was contested. The players were Messrs. Mackenzie, Delmar and Ware on the one side, and Messrs. Gilberg, De Con and Brenzinger on the other, the two first-named on each side being the blindfold players.

        Below is one of the rare preserved examples of Brenzinger's excellent blindfold ability.

      Not only was F.E. Brenzinger a member of several clubs, he served as an officer in most of them and contributed much to their success, possibly even to their continued existence.  For instance, the Feb. 12, 1863 "NY Times" article that announced his proposed blindfold exhibition also informs us that Brenzinger was the president of the Paulsen Club.  Earlier, as the following article attests, he had been secretary of that club:

"NY TImes," Nov. 9, 1861
THE PAULSEN CHESS CLUB. -- This is the name of a chess association recently organized among the German chess-players of this City, who have named their club after the noted chess champion PAULSEN, now in Europe. The first meeting of the club was held at their rooms, which are located at No. 189 Bowery, last evening. Quite a number of our leading players were present on the occasion, and a very agreeable evening was spent in trying their skill in chess strategy. The officers of the club are as follows: President, E. BORCH; Vice-President, M. SPINDLES; Secretary, E. BRENZINGER; and Treasurer, C. FEHRER, The evenings of meeting during the week are Wednesdays and Fridays. Among the prominent players present last evening, who are members of the club, we noticed Messrs. Droege, Charnier, Hallerbach, Beneke, Bausing and Walthisins. On Saturday evening next our young New-York champion, Mr. JAMES LEONARD, will undertake the difficult task of playing ten games of chess against first-class players, without seeing the boards or men. This interesting mental feat will take place at the Morphy Rooms, Broadway, commencing at 7 P.M.

      The following article demonstrates Brenzinger's position and contribution to the Brooklyn Chess Club:

"NY Times,"  April 24, 1870
     The Brooklyn Chess Club, which holds its meetings at No. 304 Atlantic-street, the residence of the Treasurer, Mr. F. E. BRENZINGER, will follow him, and move on the 1st of May next to No. 280 Fulton-street, between Clinton and Pierrepont, where spacious and elegant apartments are provided for the accommodation of the club. 
     Yesterday being the last evening of the Brooklyn Chess Club at No. 304 Atlantic-street, invitations were sent to all its members to take part in a convivial meeting. A sumptuous entertainment was prepared and partaken of by about 35 members of the club and several invited guests.  Toasts were drunk and several very good speeches were made.  Music on the guitar and violin closed the proceedings.

     A "NY Times" article on April 1, 1906  mentions Eva Brenzinger as a competitor in the  first women's open tournament in the U.S., noting further that she is the daughter of the secretary of the Staten Island Chess Club.

      As mentioned, Brenzinger was a baker. The Book of the Fifth American Chess Congress tells us:
     Mr. F. Eugene Brenzinger, an artist as skilled in confections as in chess, contributed to the festival an enormous cake, upon whose broad surface was beautifully delineated in sugared frost work of various colors an original chess problem by Mr. Eugene B. Cook, encircled by an appropriate inscription from the donor to the Fifth American Chess Congress. This chess-nut bearing cake was placed before the Chairman, and it is feared that the determined efforts of that gentleman to unravel the mystery that haunted his vision like an evil spectre induced more fasting than feasting.
     To sympathizing friends who could not attend the festal ceremony, we offer this delectable little morsel from the dessert, as a bride distributes her wedding cake in commemoration of the joyous event.


      Now comes the fun part where we examine some of Francis E. Brenzinger's games. While they should probably be viewed chronologically, we're going to start with one of his games from an odds match he played against a Mr. Todd probably around 1870.  Brenzinger gave Todd, who doesn't seem a total novice, the great odds of the QR + QN.


An early game circa 1860 played against a Mr. Brisbane.

     The forced mate is 20 ... Qxh3+   21. gxh3  Be4+   22. Bf3  Bxf3#

     The next game is also from around 1860 against the young but strong player, Otho Michaelis (for a bit about Michaelis, see  Playing the Odds).

     Now we'll scoot up to 1870 where Brenzinger plays Max Judd's brother Morris.


     Although there had been a Brooklyn Chess Club since the 1840's, and, although there had been a tourney going on towards the end of the Civil War, even before it's completion, the club seems to have disappeared without explanation.   On Monday, December 7, 1868, the Brooklyn Eagle ran an announcement:
Another Chess Club.- Another organization styled the Brooklyn Chess Club, was formed at Brenzinger's Rooms, No. 304 Atlantic Street, Saturday evening.  The club-room will be opened to the public every evening, and the monthly assessment will be one dollar.
     In 1869  F.E. Brenzinger won
the first newly-formed Brooklyn Chess Club championship tournament  (Perrin was second, Delmar third).  Here is his win over Eugene Delmar.


Brenzinger scored well in the Brooklyn Chess Club tournament of 1870. Here is a win against the soon-to-be legendary James Mason.


     In 1863 Brenzinger played a match with Capt. George H. Mackenzie who would become the U.S. champion in 1871. Of the 13 games played, Brenzinger won 6 and lost 7.  (Three of those games, 2 wins by Mackenzie and 1 by Brenzinger, can be found at Chess Archeology ).   Discussing this matter with Rod Edwards of Edo Historical Chess Ratings, he responded to a query of mine, "Brenzinger did indeed do very well there (Brooklyn Chess Club Tournament 1870), as in a number of other events, such as losing only 7-6 to Mackenzie in a series of games in 1863, though Mackenzie was probably not as strong then as a few years later."  This being true, I found an off-hand game played between the two men seven years later in which Brenzinger make winning look easy.

     In the same tournament at the Café International  where Brenzinger played Albert Ensor, he also had the distinct honor of playing Henry Edward Bird, the honorable distinction of beating him.  Brensinger only placed ninth. Mackenzie won, Bird was third. Curiously enough, Bird won the first brilliance prize ever given at this tournament for his Queen sac victory over James Mason.


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