James D. Seguin

Jul 16, 2009, 4:07 PM |

James D.Seguin

            American Chess Editors.
        from the American Chess Magazine, 1898


     James D. Seguin was born in the city of New Orleans, September 11, 1853, a child, as it were, of the greatest of the great yellow fever epidemics, which formerly scourged the Crescent City, but to which, for more than a score of years past, she has fortunately been a stranger. At the age of  seventeen he entered into commercial pursuits, but seven years later began the study of law, graduating from the University of Louisiana in the class of 1880. Since that period he has been actively engaged in the practice of law in the city of New Orleans and throughout the State.
     He learned chess when barely twelve years of age, from the instructions of an aunt, and, though he never looked into a treatise on the game until ten years later, he had acquired a degree of chess strength that made him a respectable adversary in the old Orleans Chess Club, which he joined in
the summer of 1875 . Suffice it to say. that a very brief study of the books was. for him a chess revelation. The old Orleans Chess Club passed out of existence as a definite organization in the Spring of 1878,  but a number of its more enthusiastic members continued play inter sese, and contested two formal tourneys in the summers of 1878 and 1879. Mr. Seguin winning first prize in the latter. About a year later three of these gentlemen,  Hon. Chas. F. Buck (the referee and stake-holder in the great Steinitz-Zukertort match of 1886), Mr. Chas. A. Maurian and the subject of our sketch, conceived the plan of organization of the present famous New Orleans Chess. Checkers and Whist Club, secured its quarters and started it into active existence with a roll of twenty-seven members. In the course of two years and a half this number had grown to 630; it has since been as high as 1752. and now stands limited to 800 with normally about a couple of hundred applicants awaiting admission. Mr. Seguin and confreres regard their parentage, so to speak, of this unique organization as one of the most memorable events in their chess history.
     During the first nine or ten years of his connection with the club, Mr. Seguin participated in nearly all of its leading contests at chess. He won first prize in the tournament of 1880, with a score of 7½ wins to 2½ losses; in 1882 he did not play; in 1883 he won second prize with 20½ wins, 4½ losses (Mr. L. L. Labatt, first, with 22½ wins). In 1884 Mr. Seguin took first prize with 17½ wins to 4½ losses; in 1885 he did not play; in 1886, which year Mr. Seguin thinks marked the apex of his chess strength, after losing his queen, and thereby his initial game, through an oversight at his eighth move, he won twenty-four out of his succeeding twenty-six games and first prize against one of the strongest fields ever entered in a tourney of the club. In 1887, he did not play. In the tourney of 1888-1889, he won third prize with a score of 13½ wins to 3½ losses (Mr. C. O. Wilcox, first, with a score of 15½ wins; Prof. B. V. B. Dixon, second, with 14 wins). Mr. Seguin also participated as a player of Class I in a number of handicaps of the club, but survived through to first prize (in a tie match against Judge L. L. Labatt and Mr. F. Dameron. both also of Class I) only in that of 1890. Since that time Mr. Seguin has taken part in no more tourneys of the club, and. in fact, at the moment regards himself as quite a "back-number" in over the board play, although retaining his love and study of the analysis and literature of the game. His last appearance in public play was as one of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club team in the telegraphic match with the Manhattan Chess Club of New York on March 19, 1892, his opponent being Mr. D. G. Baird. The game was drawn by consent after nineteen moves, presenting a most curious quasi-block position in which not a piece or pawn on either side had been removed from the board.
     On February 4, 1883,  the initial number of the still existing chess column of the New Orleans Times-Democrat appeared, and although the names of its editors have never appeared in its columns, we violate no editorial confidences in saying that it is an open secret that its co-editors, during a period of nearly eight years, were Mr. Chas. A. Maurian, and the subject of our sketch, since which time the latter solely has borne the burden of its editorial labors. He is frank enough to say, however, that but for the admirable assistance and, indeed, training of his original coadjutor—the friend of Paul Morphy and the editor of the famous New Orleans Delta column of 1858-1860—the chess column of the Times-Democrat would never have attained such measure of prominence as now may be said to belong to it in both hemispheres.
     The Times-Democrat is now the third existing column in rank of seniority in the United States, being exceeded in point of time only by the venerable New York Clipper and the still sprightly Philadelphia Times.
     Although a lover of problems, Mr. Seguin has never composed but two during his chess career. One of these (hung around with black in a dark corner of his chess library), after its thirty days of incubation and its demolition within ten hours after publication, caused his permanent retirement from the field of problem composition.
     It may be added that during his chess editorship, Mr. Seguin has incidentally, as it were, formed one of the finest chess libraries and collections extant, special features being the collection of magazines approximating five hundred volumes and a unique section devoted to chess exchanges, all of which have been preserved during his sixteen years of editorship, and now aggregate about three hundred and fifty gr. oct. volumes.

     We append a specimen of Mr. Seguin's over the board play:
     An off-hand partie played at the New Orleans Chess. Checkers and Whist Club, March 14, 1892; after a capital dinner, be it observed, to which the Russian master had done capital justice. The notes are from the Deutches Wochenschach, of Berlin.