Theophilus A. Thompson
Either to play and mate, or compel self-mate in four moves
Theophilus A. Thompson, a freed black slave, had no formal
education and first learned chess in April 1873 from observation only.
14 months later he will have composed enough chess problems of such
outstanding quality to have his book published. His talent was recognized by
John K. Hanshew when Thompson traveled to Philadelphia to show him his
artistic endeavors. Hanshew first had Thompson's work published in the
Dubuque Chess Journal, a periodical owned by John J. Brownson and edited
by Orestes A. Brown, also a composer.
Below is the book's
T. A. Thompson (colored )
was born in Frederick City, Maryland, on the 21st day of April 1855. At 13th
[sic] years of age he left his native city and went to live with a family
in Carroll County in the capacity of house servant. In 1870, he returned
to Frederick, where he has lived ever since. He saw a chessboard and men
used for the first time in April, 1872, when he witnessed a contest
between Mr. S. of Ohio and Mr. H. of Frederick City. Although he could not
understand the game and dared not ask questions for fear of annoying the
players, he watched every move with the closest attention. The party
finished, he went home, fully determined to learn the game.
Mr. H. having heard of
his ardent desire loaned him a chessboard and a set of chess men, gave him
some instructions, and left him a few two-move problems to solve. Thus,
thanks to the kind assistance of John K. Hanshew, our hero became
possessed of the open sesame to Caïssa’s gardens of ever increasing
Hearing last summer of the
Dubuque Chess Journal, he soon be came a subscriber, a student, and
a contributor. Hereto, accumulating the following rich store of chess
compositions that are offered for perusal to the general chess reader with
great pleasure and much confidence by the proprietors of the Dubuque Chess
Journal— Dubuque, June 1st 1873
Besides being a problemist, Thompson
was also a strong player of Correspondence chess. Below is a game against C.
Solution to Frontispiece:
I- White (W) or Black (B) to mate:
(W) 1. NxQ B-N5ch; 2. K-K2 RxN;
3. R-B7 and mate next move cannot be prevented. If 2 ... R-B7ch; 3 NxR and 4
Q-N8 mate. If 1 … R-B8ch; 2. KxR P-K7ch; 3 KxP any 4. Q-N8 mate. (b) 1.
R-B8ch KxR; 2. Q-B6ch K-K1; 3. Q-B7ch and 4. Q-Q7 mate.
2- White (Q) or Black (B) to
(W) 1. Q-N8ch QxQ; 2. O-O-O
R-Q5; 3. R-B8ch RxRch; 4. N-B6ch RxN mate. (b) 1. B-N5ch R-B3
(if I . . . RxB; 2. R-B8ch KxR; 3. Q-Q8ch RxQ mate) 2. BxRch PxB; 3. R-B8ch KxR;
4. Q-Q8ch RxQ mate.
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