The Lion Who Ate Kings.

The Lion Who Ate Kings.


Morning everyone.

Before I start, a big thank you to the inimitable @batgirl for providing some photographs and allowing me to link to a couple of her articles.

So, in the comments to one of my posts a few weeks ago, I mentioned that a good subject for one of these small game collection and picture articles would be 'The Kentucky Lion', Jackson Whipps Showalter.

Apologies for this being a little longer than my normal articles of this type, but I wanted to get everything in to one article whilst I had the time - I had actually planned two smaller - less intimidating  - ones, but life is what life is, and things are not great here at the moment

Apart from the usual sources for biographical stuff and career details, there is a nice article here  

The main part of his chess career lasted around a dozen years - from 1889 - 1900, although he did play in the odd event after that  time. In fact Showalter was the central figure in the U.S.A. Championship for 20 years or so.

For example, matches with Samuel/Salomon/Soloman Lipschutz, - a debate in itself -  -  from which we have a couple of nice images.

1890, courtesy batgirl. Thank you - I had not seen this before! What a wonderful picture.

At first sight, his chess style gives the impression of being quite simplistic - Develop the pieces then try to move them up the board - usually in the direction of the opposing King. However, there was rather more to his game than that. In his time he made important contributions to opening theory - in the Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit Declined, for example, as well as the French Defence and the Petroff.

Although he was never among the highest prize winners in big international events, he was quite capable of beating anyone. I have chosen some games which illustrate that, rather than a 'best games of' selection, to show how strong he really was.

Before I forget - his wife  was a player of some repute - and something of a character too, by all accounts.

A.C.B. 1904

New York Sun. 05/11/1894

You can find more in a couple of @batgirl articles:-  

as well as the above link.

Enjoy the games and the pictures!

Before the heavyweight battles, I will throw in the 'bit of fun' that I like to include in these selections.

The match between Showalter and Lasker was quite an important step on the ladder to the World Championship for the latter, and he didn't have things all his own way.

The two players facing each other at the board at the New York Tournament of 1893, via  Note  the characteristic Lasker pose of his left hand on his left thigh!

Showalter played a lot of games with the legendary Harry Nelson Pillsbury - including two matches of importance. Pillsbury found - as Lasker had - that 'The Kentucky Lion' had pretty sharp teeth. 

As a self-styled 'Chess Evolutionist', I find these matches hugely significant. In them Showalter demonstrated some fundamentally important ideas in defending the Queen's Gambit. He took a couple of  ideas of Lasker's and developed them into a system that is now linked to the name of Capablanca. Often this happens in chess. the greats get all the credit, whilst the lesser lights who did all the spade-work are conveniently overlooked by lazy authors. ( Imre Konig being an honourable exception, in his outstanding 'Chess from Morphy To Botvinnik'. )

And yes, I am on a bit of a mission in that regard!!! In this particular example, I would suggest that anyone who wants to put the time in should go look at the relevant games - this article will be too long anyway!

An image of the young Pillsbury, from 'The Philidephia Public Ledger', 31/05/1893. that you won't find with a google search!! 

new York Sun. 18/08/1894.


Showalter's most famous 'anthology piece'. 

There is an old 'cheap and cheerful', as we say in England, chestnut - 'The greatest/strongest etc. player never to become world Champion. One name that comes up - deservedly so in terms of historic rating and status - is Pillsbury. The following game is one that I love. 

To humiliate one of the all time greats in such a fashion! As Walter Browne used  to say 'go figure!'. Showalter could seriously play.

The great David Janowski - a much underestimated and misunderstood player - similarly found himself crushed by Showalter. Tarrasch's notes are worth reading too!

A photograph that I assume was taken at the time of the Nuremburg 1896 tournament - I haven't looked into it!

The next game is an extraordinary one - full of blunders, imagination, and unusual positions. It took me longer to annotate than any other here, and then checking with the engines forced some changes.

I can only imagine how the players felt during this insane battle. Sometimes when you're at the board the love of the fight just takes over!

The great Mikhail Chigorin also found himself on the sharp end of the lion's teeth. It is a rather spotty game, but an interesting one.

And on to Steinitz. I recently published a beautiful Steinitz win against Showalter, (as well at at least one Schlechter one) so this is a chance to redress the balance.

First of all a game from Cologne 1898.

Another picture. Steinitz is far right, and I think that it is Showalter centre of picture, but have no more details than that.

You can learn a lot about these two players from studying this game. The game is not 'perfect', but amazingly, the players weren't perfect either!!

Vienna 1898, just because I have it to hand.

Showalter and Steinitz, from Vienna 1898 - one of my all time favourite tournaments, and the occasion of the game in the Steinitz post.

 And finally a game from Steinitz's last tournament.

A couple of photographs to finish.

New York Daily Tribune. !895
courtesy batgirl - I do not know the primary source.