| 20 | Chess Players

1892 "BCM"



     In 1894 Nellie Love Marshall Showalter, the wife of then U.S. Chess Champion, Jackson Whipps Showalter, played Mrs. Harriet Worrell, the wife of the renowned chess player who had died in 1878, Thomas Herbert Worrall, also known as The Mexican Amateur" in London circles,  a match for the U.S. Women's Championship.  The match ultimately was left unfinished due to Mrs. Showalter's illness, but with Mrs. Showalter leading with a decisive score of 3½ to 1½.

     In the 1894 "American Chess Magazine," G.D.H.Gossip wrote:

"Mrs. Showalter, the wife of the present American champion, whose portrait we give, is the present lady champion, and although only twenty-two, has signalized herself by beating Lasker in a match at the odds of a Knight by five to two games. In a subsequent match at Kokomo, Ind., she easily defeated Mr. C.O. Jackson, drawing the first game and winning the next three games right off. She also won a majority of games of Mr. Arthur Peter, who took first prize in the "Free-for-all" Tourney at Kokomo. She has now been challenged by Mrs. Worrall; but at present holds the title of "queen of chess", abdicated by Mrs. Gilbert, of Hartford, Conn., who once immortalized herself in the Correspondence Match America vs. England by announcing a mate in twenty-three moves in one game, and also a mate in eighteen in the other companion game, to her astonished opponent across the Atlantic."

from "The Intelligencer,"  December 18, 1894

For a summary and all the games from the Harriet Worrall - Nellie Showatler match see:
America's First Women's Chess Championship

      The "American Chess Bulletin" of 1904 gives the following photo and information:

"Mrs. Showalter comes of a prominent Kentucky family, but was born in the state of Missouri in 1872 ; although her maiden name was Nellie Love Marshall, she claims no 'family relationship with the new champion bearing the same surname. This fair devotee is a natural player, never having studied the books. Instead she picked up the rudiments of the game easily and rapidly and improved by imitating the methods of leading experts, especially those of her husband, playing purely by common sense and intuition."



     Nellie Love Marshall was born in Brookfield, Linn County, Missouri on August 19, 1870.  She died at age 76 in Scott Co., Kentucky on March 25 of 1946. Her husband, whom she married on Feb. 28, 1887 (she was 16), was Jackson Whipps Showalter, born in Minerva, Kentucky on Feb. 4, 1860. He was 14 years older and died in 1935. They had three children, all sons: Freeman Benoni Showalter (Aug. 16, 1895), John William Showalter (Aug. 16, 1904), and James Watterson Showalter (Dec., 1906).

     January 1894 (page 7) of the "British Chess Magazine" informs us that:

"She is only 22 [sic] years of age and was married to him [Jackson Whipps Showalter] at 16. Soon after this event her husband taught her the moves, and then gave her the odds of the queen; but she progressed so rapidly that he cannot now give her the knight, and she has won two games of Mr Lasker at that odds. Not long ago, at Kokomo, Indiana, she played four games on even terms with Mr Jackson, the champion of that State, with the result that she won three and the other was drawn. She is said to be very handsome but, if so, the portrait of her in the New York Recorder does not do her justice … "

     The 1899 publication, "Schach-Jahrbuch,"  by Johann Berger  had a curious mention (in German):

"Showalter, Mrs. Nellie, b. 1872 married name, as she was the daughter of Chief Justice Marshall in the state of Kentucky, at age 16 years with JW Showalter, is considered one of the strongest chess players who won a match at Knight's odds against Lasker (+5-2=0); and  Ms. Worrall in  1894 (+3-1=1)"

    There were some relatives of Chief Justice Marshall from Mason Co. Kentucky (where Jackson Whipps Showalter was born and raised). But I wasn't able to uncover any connection between Nellie Love Marshall and the Chief Justice (nor was I able to find any Kentucky Chief Justice named Marshall).

     This little article was published in the "The New Review," 1894


       IN all branches of the game, ladies have given proof that they possess both the talent and ability to master Chess, and to excel in it. Ladies are expert problem solvers, and a few have shown themselves to be good composers, as may be seen from the two accompanying pretty problems by Mrs. Baird and Mrs. Rowland. Nearly everyone has seen ladies playing chess in drawing-rooms.
     Few of us may know that in connection with the Counties Chess Association there are tournaments for ladies, which are usually well attended. There is a ladies' chess circle in Brighton, and occasionally a lady has sufficient fortitude to brave the smoky atmosphere and the sullenness of temper inseparable from chess matches, and grace such an event with her presence as a player. But to see two ladies engaging in a right down serious set match, recorded regularly by the Press, and to see these ladies play the close openings usual in match play, as if to the profession born, is indeed an advance in the practice of the game by lady enthusiasts. Such a match is now being played at New York, the combatants being Mrs. Worrall and Mrs. Showalter. The first game of this noteworthy contest is a careful, deliberate, and hard-fought battle, which would do credit to many a minor master, Mrs. Worrall certainly showing greater enterprise and readiness. She obtained the best game by very fine play, but rather hurriedly gave up the exchange on her thirtieth move. Mrs. Worrall lost simply because her opponent possesses greater capacity for taking pains. This is evident from comparing the time used by both ladies—Mrs. Worrall, two hours ; Mrs. Showalter, four hours ten minutes. An extra hour's deliberation devoted to the game would, no doubt, deservedly have secured the victory for Mrs. Worrall. It must not be forgotten, however, that the latter, lady is by a great many years the senior of Mrs. Showalter, and youth will tell—especially in procuring mates.
   First game of a match of seven games up, played November 5th, at New York, between Mrs. Worrall and Mrs. Showalter :—

 I. Gunsberg.          





1. Nellie mention that she won a game off the "famous chess player," N. Jasnogradsky.  This member of the Manhattan Chess Club isn't a commonly remembered player. Here is an article about him from the "Oswego Daily Times," March 6, 1896:





2.  Nellie also mentined her game with Professor Louis Schmidt, Jr.,  the well known composer and concert violinist (born in Manhattan in 1855 and dying in 1938, he was the second head of the violin department at the Metropolitan Conservatory, following the death of his brother Clifford, who originally held that position. Another brother, Ernst was also a violinst/cellist for the Boston Symphophy which he also conducted and where Louis also had played for a period of time) and, of course, chess player. 

"Brookly Daily Eagle," June 11, 1938


Schmidt was also a member on the Manhattan Chess Club.  Below is the game referenced in the article. The note are by Schmidt himself (4...Nf6 is actually called the Schmidt variation of the Scotch Game - Chess Player's Compendium, 1907, says about this move, "Dr. Schmidt's Defense, which simplifies the game" ).

3. In her article, Nellie states that when her match against Worrall was abandonned, she led 3-2=1.  I could only find five games. "The American Chess Bulletin" in Oct. 1904 says the match was 3-1 with no mention of a draw.  The 6th game was scheduled for Nov. 26, but was then postponed.  On the day where it was rescheduled, no game is shown to have been played.  I found no instance of another game appearing later. As late as October the following year, the match was still called "pending," but it was never resumed.

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