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Mandarins of the Yellow Buttons
February 24, 2005


In what might have been  unintentional imitation of the German Pleiades, in the latter part of the 19th century, a group of Boston chess players and theoreticians formed a loose chess association they called the Mandarins of the Yellow Buttons.

Supposedly, Mandarin points toward China where the Yellow Button was an insignia denoting rank in the Chinese civil service.

Some known members were G. P. Ware, H. N. Stone, F. K. Young, J. F. Barry, C. F. Burille
and L. Dore, F. H. Harlow, Dr. E. M. Harris, C. F. Howard, Major Otho E. Michaelis,
Gen. W. C. Paine, Dr. H. Richardson and Charles B. Snow.

These men were amateurs who had won their game on even terms against a professional international champion. The members of this group met on Saturday afternoons to play and discuss chess after which they would dine together in the evening.

The most well-known is G. Preston Ware, Jr.
born on Aug 12, 1821 in Wrentham, MA - died on Jan. 29, 1890 in Boston. MA

Ware was well know in Morphy's time and, in fact lost 2 games to Morphy in N.Y., 1859. One was at queen's knight odds and the other was a consultation game. Ware became president of the American Chess Foundation and played in the US Championship tournament (the 5th American Chess Congress of 1880).

He was idiosyncric in his approach to chess. According to the tournament book of the 5th American Chess Congress, Ware opened every game, as white, with 1 P-QR4 and "and consistently answered 1 P-K4 with 1 P-QR4." His claim to fame was, indeed, the Ware Gambit: 1.a4 e5 2.a5 d5 3.e3 f5 4.a6

His claim to infamy, however, was also at the 5th American Chess Congress. Ware, by his own admittance, accepted a $20 bribe offered by James Glover Grundy (1855-1919) to draw a game. According to Ware,  "As I was walking down the Bowery with Mr. Grundy, on Sunday 25 January, he remarked that he was poor and really needed the second prize." The prize was $1,000. But, much to Ware's shock, Grundy didn't follow the planned scenario and "'Grundy was making desperate efforts to win, and finally did so, perpetrating an infamous fraud on me." Rather than winning second place, as a draw would have accomplished, Grundy was now tied with George Henry Mackenzie for first place when Ware blew the whistle. I've read two opposing accounts on what happened next.  One states that the tournament committee was unable to do anything about the allegations of cheating and Grundy played Mackenzie in the required 2 game play-off, losing both games. The other more reliable (and satisfying) account states that the committee decided to award Mackenzie first place but that Mackenzie, a most honorable and courageous man, knowing about the scheme, insisted that the play-off take place and went on to beat Ware decisively.

Ware vs. Grundy


Henry Nathan Stone 
born on April 20, 1823 in Boston, MA - died on Dec.10, 1909 in Ashmount,  MA.

Stone was a Harvard graduate and a member of the New England Labor Reform League.
Along with Ware, he helped develop and analyze the Stone-Ware Defense - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bd6 (first played by Kieseritzky, it went generally unplayed anywhere other than Boston)

Franklin Knowles Young vs. Henry Nathan Stone

Franklin Knowles Young
born on Dec. 21, 1857 in Boston, MA - died on Dec. 19 1931 at Winthrop,  MA

Franklin Knowles Young, a lawyer, developed a theory dubbed the Synthetic Method of Chess-play which espoused the belief that chess was the exact equivalent of war and developed a detailed and intricate system of adapting the movements of armies to the chess board. Referred to as "His Generalship", Chess Review commented that one would first need a degree from a military school before learning chess.

      Young mates Harry Nelson Pillsbury in 16 moves                       Young beating Zukertort



John Finan Barry
born on Dec. 12, 1873 in Boston,  MA - died on April 9, 1933 in  West Roxbury, MA

Barry beating Pillsbury

Constant Ferdinand Burille
born on Aug. 30, 1866 in Boston, MA - died in 1914 in Boston, MA

Burille and Young vs. Ware and Snow

The Mandarins of the Yellow Buttons eventually became the Deschapelles Chess Club of Boston.


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