Mate in 35


John Hatfield Gossip, if you recall, was a rather minor chess master of limited abilities. He was also a chess writer who produced an instructive manual and contributed to chess columns. His contemporaries, such as Steinitz and Zukertort,  didn't care for him much and ridiculed he pretentiousness, even to the point of accusing him of fabricating facts as well as farbricating games. They even disliked him on a personal level, leading the Oxford Companion to Chess to write: "Gossip 'had an unusual talent for making enemies....disliked in England, he travelled to Australia, the United States and Canada where he also became unpopular.'"


 The truth of the matter seems to be that Gossip was less talented than he presented himself to be, but more talented than his contemporaries would likely admit. I don't have to remind you that all this took place a long time ago - in the late 1800's. However, one thing is for sure, Gossip played some fine correspondence chess and even won first place in the 1873-1874 Correspondence Tournament of the "Chess Player's Chronicle."

  Hartford Times publisher John G. Belden, the organizer of the 1877 International Postal Card Chess Tourney which pitted England against America, was severely criticized for his pairing up of the experienced Gossip, playing for England, against a relatively unknown homebody, worse yet, a woman, from Hartford Connectitcut, named Mrs. J. W. Gilbert. Gossip himself probably relished the idea of an easy 4 game whitewash.

 Ellen E. Strong was born the same year as Paul Morphy. She married a local builder named John W. Gilbert who encouraged her chess play. As a lady, and wife and a mother, chess played a secondary role in her activities, but she nonetheless aquired a remarkable understanding of known theory coupled with a natural talent for the game. Most notably, she excelled in correspondence chess. In her middle years, she would lose her eyesight and apparently give up chess. In fact, her match with Gossip, when she was in her early 40's, marked the apex - even the precipice - of her chess involvement. But her stellar chess went out like supernova.

Mate in 11; mate in 12.

The year before the England-America tournament, Gilbert played A. Hood, the 1875 Canadian correspondence champion, in 2 games. She won both.









In writing an article on Mrs. Showalter vs. Mrs. Worrall in 1894, Gossip had alluded to Mrs. Gilbert: "...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."  Gossip failed to mention not only that he was her opponent but, in fact, he left out the most amazing allusion of all - her announced mate in 35









As I understand it, when a player announced such mate, an analysis would be provided demonstrating the assertation, allowing the other contender to play on, or resign. How believable were these announced mates? I've learned that subsequent computer analyses have tended to agree with her, even finding minor improvements.  Other than that, I can't say - I don't write the music, I just play the tunes.



I had written my original posting on Gilbert in 2004.

The wonderful chess historian, Neil Brennen wrote a much better article on Gilbert in 2005.