The Art of Chess

The Art of Chess

36 | Chess Players

James Mason was born on the 19th of November 1849 in Kilkenny, Ireland. His real name is unknown; it seems James Mason was adopted by his father to avoid prevalent anti-Irish prejudice when they arrived in New Orleans in early 1861. There he learnt to play chess; the environment was suitable by reason of Morphy's conquests!


Like other Irish people they moved to New York to seek fame and fortune. Then James Mason becomes the strongest player of New York and champion of the old New York Chess Club, the precursor of the Marshall and Manhattan clubs! Also he won first prizes at the 4th American Chess Congress in Philadelphia and then at the New York Clipper tournament.


He was challenged by Henry Bird to a match which was played in New York, won convincingly by Mason by a score of 13-6 (+11 =4 -4).


In 1878 he moved and settled in England, believing correctly that the opportunities to play chess were better in Europe than America. In the coming years Mason played in all the top international tournaments and by the early 1880's he was one of the best half dozen players in the World! His best tournament results were Vienna 1882, the strongest event held up to that time, where he was third behind Steinitz and Winawer, third at Nuremberg 1883, and second equal with Blackburne at Hamburg 1885.


Although Mason was always an opponent to be reckoned with, no matter whom he opposed, where he really he excelled was writing. The books that he wrote “The Principles of Chess” (1894) and “The Art of Chess” (1895) still remain classics of lucid chess exposition. Both were immediate best sellers with thousands of copies sold within a few years! Other popular books he wrote were “Chess Openings"  (1897) and “Social Chess” (1900).


Lasker wrote: "Mr. Mason's play as a player was very high, but he could have achieved the highest place of all, had he not possessed characteristics that unfit anyone for the attainment of success".


He died in Rockford, England in 1905.


Here is a sample of his play:













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