Galbreath Telegraphic

Mar 4, 2013, 3:19 PM |

     In my previous blog, Charles de Maurian, I gave an account of John Albert Galbreath. Jeremy Spinrad, a profuse writer on 19th century chess, apprised me of a telegraph match between Mississippi and New Orleans which included both Galbreath and de Maurian.

[I had written more on Galbreath in the following two articles: Three American Ches Editors and Morphy as a Chess Editor.]

     Galbreath wrote about the match in the July 1898 issue of the "American Chess Magazine," and I also found the game in the New York "Turf, Field and Farm," of June 10, 1870  (as mention by Dr. Spinrad).   Here, I'm combining the two articles in order to present not just the game, but the circumstances.

"American Chess Magazine," July 1898

Consultation Chess by Telegraph.
John A. Galbreath, in the New Orleans Picayune.

     Twenty-eight years ago on June 4 a wonderful performance took place between New Orleans and the three principal towns of Mississippi - Jackson, Natchez and Vlcksburg.
     A game of chess was played by telegraph, four players in New Orleans consulting against four players in the Mississippi towns, the latter consulting by telegraph.
     It is this feature which makes the affair little short of marvellous. Ever since the invention ot telegraphy, games of chess have been played by telegraph between distant points with almost the faculty of over the board play in the same room; and only a few weeks have elapsed since the whole world was an interested spectator of the chess match played by cable between teams of ten representing the United States and Great Britain. The game under consideration is the only instance on record where players in different places have consulted by telegraph against a body of players in another city.
     The Mississippi party were all practical telegraph operators, otherwise such an event would have been quite impossible.
     Mr. John A. Galbreath, who was at that time manager of the Western Union Telegraph at Jackson, originated the idea, and broached It to his friends, John D. Tlnney, of the Western Union at Vicksburg: Isaiah Hardy, operator for the Vicksburg and Meridian Railroad at Vlcksburg. and William E. Tinney, of the Western Union at Natchez.
     They indorsed the Idea with enthusiasm, and after very brief consultations, which, by the way were all by telegraph, it was agreed to leave the arrangements to Mr. Galbreath. That gentleman on Thursday, June 2, 1870, sent the following challenge by telegraph:—
                    Jackson, Miss., June 2.—To Chas. A. Maurlan. New Orleans, La.:
                    We challenge you and any other three players of New Orleans.
                    Mr. Morphy excepted, to play us a game of chess by telegraph,
                    on Sunday next, or Sunday a week, whichever Is most convenient.
                    If this game is played it will be something cut of the ordinary,
                    as two of us are in Vicksburg, one in Natchez and one in Jackson. 
                    All the arrangements are made. Please answer.
                                                                JNO. A. GALBREATH, Jackson.
                                                                JNO. D. TINNEY, Vicksburg.
                                                                ISAIAH HARDY, Vicksburg.
                                                                WM. E. TINNEY, Natchez.

     The following answer was promptly returned:—
                    To Jno. A. Galbreath, Jackson, Miss.:—We accept your challenge,
                    but prefer that you have three associates in Jackson, as otherwise
                    we will have the advantage.

     This was answered as follows:—
                    To Messrs. Maurlan. Blackmar, Tarrant and Strong, New Orleans:
                    —We will play as we challenged. It will not take us long, nor be
                    so difficult to consult as, perhaps, you think. Meet us next Sunday.

     On Sunday morning, June 5, the telegraph allies were all promptly on hand at their respective offices, and soon after word came up from New Orleans that the Crescent City allies were ready to begin the novel contest. On drawing for the first move fortune favored the Mississipplans, and they opened with the Evans Gambit, which was accepted by the New Orleans party. Play continued until 3 o'clock, when the game was adjourned until the following Sunday. The game, when adjourned, stood in favor of the telegraph combination. On resuming play the next Sunday the telegraph allies were enthusiastically jubilant, as it was almost certain that barring some great blunder they were bound to win the curious combination game. The second day's play, after a brief encounter, resulted as was expected, in favor of the Mississippians, and thus came to a successful termination the most extraordinary game of chess on record. Had it occurred in good King Arthur's time, it would have been deemed a miracle.
     It is sad to record that the players who met in intellectual combat on that June morning more than a quarter of a century ago are nearly all dead.
     Of the Louisiana allies Messrs. A. E. Blackmar, Walter Tarrant and Mr. Strong have been dead many years. Mr. Chas. A. Maurlan, the schoolmate of Morphy, alone survives, and now resides in Paris.
     Of the Mississippi combination, Mr. J. D. Tinney died about six years ago. Mr. Isaiah Hardy, the well known general freight agent of the Queen and Crescent, died in this city about eighteen months ago. Mr. William E. Tlnney is living somewhere in Pennsylvania; so that Mr. Galbreath, who originated the game, is left alone to tell the rising generation something which seems almost like necromancy.


From the "New York Turf, Field and Farm," June 10, 1870 (edited by Capt. G. H. Mackenzie):

     Chess by Telegraph. . . .The subjoined interesting game was played recently by telegraph, under the following circumstances:
     Messrs. Tinney and Hardly, of Natchez, Miss., together with Mr. Galbreath, of Jacson, Miss., and Mr. Tinney, of Vicksburg, Miss., consult together by telegraph against Messrs. Blackmar, Maurian, Tarrant and Strong, of New Orleans.
     As Jackson is 183 miles from New Orleans, Vicksburg 50 miles from Jackson, and Natchez 80 miles from Vicksburg, our readers will be able to appreciate the novelty of this singular game.

Mr. Galbreath, of Jackson, to whom we are indebted to the particulars of the above interesting contest, closes his letter as follows:
     "In the game, Jackson was the initial point from which the moves were sent to New Orleans, but Vicksburg and Natchez read their reply at the same moment I did, by connecting with the New Orleans wire."




     This wasn't Galbreat's only telegraphic match. Mostly notably, he had played on the American team in the 1898 United States vs. Great Britain telegraph match mentioned in the above article. He lost his game against Herbert William R. Trenchard:


The following telegraphic game, from the Dubuque "Chess Journal," January 1873, was played between Galbreath in Jackson, Miss. and Col. S.S. Hussey of Vicksburg, Miss. probably around 1872:

     Stepping back away from the telegraph, here is a game played face to face, probably in 1872, between Galbreath and Charles de Mauian. Ironically, according to the "American Chess Magazine," Feb. 1898: "Mr. Galbreath is fond of open games and hs a great liking for the Evans and Muzio; the latter, he says, he would play against any one. He plays from intuition rather than from calculation, and prefers the beauties to the hard-drawn lines of conservative play.":


     This next (non-telegraphic) game, an Evans Gambit, is simply marvelous, especially considering that Galbreath had only been playing chess for about 4 years:

     The final and non-telegraphic game, was played at odds of Rook and the move in 1881, and Galbreath employed a clever variation of a well-known trap/mating atack.