Sarah's Chess Journal
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The History and The Culture of Chess
An American Tragedy
February 25, 2004
Paul Morphy has been called "The Pride and Sorrow of Chess" and for obvious reasons. But the wonderment that Morphy inspired had the unfortunate effect of shadowing out the great accomplishments and the perhaps greater tragedy of his predecessor.
Charles Henry Stanley was born in Brighton, England in 1819. When he was about 20, around 1840, he lived in London where he met H.W Popert, a strong chess player from Hamburg, Germany. Popert was just visiting London at the time, but suffered a stroke while there. Not long afterwards, he collapsed outside of Simpson's Divan and was transported back to Hamburg where he died in 1844. But Stanley learned a lot about chess in that short time. He was able to hold his own against Staunton at "pawn and 2" odds, beating him in such a match in +3=3-1 in 1841.
Then in 1843, Stanley moved to America. In New York City he beat all the strongest players. But 1845 might be accurately called the "Stanley Year."
The next year, 1846, Staney published America's first book of a match, "Thirty-one Games at Chess."
In 1848, after his chess column in "The Spirit of the Times" ended, he began a new one in "The Albion." This was lasted until 1856. Through this chess column, Stanley met a penniless Hungarian
In 1850 Stanley got married and also drew a match with L÷wenthal (+3 -3) In 1852 he drew a match with Saint-Amant (+4 -4).
By 1857, the year of the First American Chess Congress, Stanley was considered the U.S.Champion but he was also quite destitute as a result of his drinking problem. Paul Morphy won the tournament effortlessly and after the tournament beat Stanley +4-1 in a casual match while giving Stanley the odds of "pawn and the move." There was no doubt that there was a new U.S.Champion. Morphy, knowing the Stanley family's dire straits, gave his winnings to Mrs. Stanley, claiming he couldn't give it to Charles because "he would have drunk it all up."
Mrs. Stanley named her next child Pauline after Paul Morphy and Charles Stanley was so impressed that he wrote and published "Morphy's Match Games" in 1859.
He returned to America in 1862 and after losing a match to George Henry Mackenzie (+1-2), he retired from chess. From 1880 until he died in 1901, this former U.S. chess champion and innovator lived in institutions in the Bronx and on Ward's Island State Emigrant Refuge and Hospital.
Ward's Island 1880's
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