Chess in 1858

by Bill Wall



In 1858, the Boston Chess Club was founded.


In 1858, a chess club was formed in Augusta, Maine.


In 1858, the “Chess Players” painting by Meissenier was exhibited in the French Gallery in Broadway in New York.  The painting was then purchased by Mr. Belmont for $4,000. (source: New York Times, Feb 24, 1858)


In 1858, the Morphy Chess Club was formed in Petersburg, Virginia in honor of Paul Morphy.


In 1858, Carl Friedrich Heinrich Werner (1808-1894) painted “The Chess Players.”   It is a watercolor painting.


In 1858, chess telegraph matches were being played between Philadelphia and New York.


In 1858, Louis Paulsen was the first US opening theoretician.  He was the first to analyze the Goring Gambit.


In 1858, Daniel Fiske edited a chess column in the New York Saturday Press.


In 1858, Paul Morphy played the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard at the Paris Opera.


In 1858, The Life of Philidor by George Allen was published.


In 1858, a chess club was formed in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  The president of the club was General B. S. Tappan.  The secretary was A.E. Blackmar. (source: The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Aug 22, 1858)


In 1858, Frere's Chess Handbook was published.  He described 4-handed chess.


In 1858  Robert Houdin wrote a chapter in his magic book about chess Automata.


In January 1858, Paul Morphy was chosen President of the Chess Club of New Orleans, headquartered at the Mercantile Library.  (source: New York Times, Jan 20, 1858)  He gave blindfolded simultaneous exhibitions at the club.


In February 1858, Louis Paulsen played 7 opponents blindfolded in Dubuque, Iowa, winning all 7 games.  At the close of the games, Paulsen told the position of every pieces on all 7 boards.  (source: Davenport Daily Gazette, Feb 25, 1858)


In February 1858, the Duke of Brunswick brought legal action against the Gazette-de-Paris for censuring his practice of playing chess in his opera box.  He sued for 10,000 francs.  (source: McArthur Democrat, McArthur, Ohio, Feb 18, 1858)


In March 1858, a committee of the New Orleans Chess Club sent Howard Staunton a challenged for a match to be played between himself and Paul Morphy for $5,000 a side (over $100,000 in today’s money) in New Orleans.  Staunton would be reimbursed $1,000 for his traveling expenses.

In March 1858 there was a California Chess Congress (also called the Pacific Chess Tournament or Grand Chess Tournament).  It was the first major chess tournament in California.  Three San Francisco chess clubs joined together to host the Congress: the Mechanics’ Institute, the German Chess Club of San Francisco, and the Pioneer Chess Club.  The entrance fee was $5.  The spectator fee was $2.50.  Ladies accompanied by subscribers were admitted free.  On fair days, there were nearly 400 spectators for this tournament.

On March 22, 1858, the California Chess Congress began at the Hall in Hunt’s Building in San Francisco, at the corner of Sacramento and Kearny Streets with 46 players.  There were 8 players in the First Class, 26 players in the First Division of the Second Class, and 12 players in the Second Division of the Second Class.  Selim Franklin won 1st prize, a gold watch.  Edward Jones took 2nd prize, an inlaid rosewood chess table.  John S. Ellis won 1st prize in the First Division of the Second Class, a chess set.  R. H. Bacon won 2nd prize, a gold specimen watch seal.  J.H. Gardiner won 1st prize in the Second Division of the Second Class, a quartz specimen seal.  George F. Sharpe won 2nd prize, also a quartz specimen seal.   The problem solving tournament was won by William Wheaton, a Staunton chess set.

In May 1858, Louis Paulsen played 10 opponents blindfold in Chicago.  He won 9 and drew 1.


On May 10, 1858, Louis Paulsen played 10 games blindfolded in Davenport, Iowa.


In June 1858, Louis Paulsen played 12 games blindfolded in St. Louis.


On June 9, 1858 Paul Morphy left New York and went to England on the steamship Africa to challenge their best chess players. The New Orleans chess club suggested paying Morphy the amount needed for him to participate in the Birmingham tournament, to be held in England, but Morphy declined the offer, as he did not want to be considered a professional chess player. On June 21, 1858, Paul Morphy first landed in England (Liverpool).  He stayed in England for 3 months trying to arrange a match with Staunton. But Staunton claimed he had more serious things to do. Staunton also continued to smear Morphy in his newspaper chess column, claiming Morphy was chasing money, among other things. In the last letter that Morphy send to Staunton, he writes "Allow me to repeat, what I have constantly declared in all the chess circles I have had the honour to participate. That I have never wanted to make any skill I may possess, a tool for making a profit."  


On July 19, 1858, the first Australian telegraph match was played, between the Hobart Town chess club and George Town chess club.

On August 16, 1858, the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid across the floor of the Atlantic ocean from western Ireland to eastern Newfoundland (1,600 miles).  Messages could now be sent in a matter of minutes instead of 10 days – the time it took to deliver a message by ship.  The first cable was a telegram from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan, congratulating him on such a cable.  The first cable on worked for three weeks ($100 per message), until someone applied too much voltage to it trying to achieve faster operating.  After the first cable was laid across the Atlantic, Howard Staunton (1810-1874) of London offered to play Paul Morphy (1837-1884) in New York by the new transatlantic cable. The stakes were to be 500 pounds a side.  However, the transatlantic cable failed and was not successfully replaced until 1866.

On August 27, 1858, Lowenthal won the 2nd British Chess Association Congress knockout, held in Birmingham.  2nd place went to Ernst Falkbeer.

In August 1858, Howard Staunton played in the Birmingham International tournament, defeating H. Hughes in the 1st round (2 wins) but losing to Johann Lowenthal (1810-1876) in the 2nd round (2 losses).  This was to be Staunton’s last public chess competition.


Paul Morphy had to give up the idea of a match against Staunton and went to Paris, where he defeated Lowenthal (in London), Harrwitz, and Anderssen within a space of six months. Having defeated Harrwitz, he even rejected receiving the prize of 290 francs. But he was forced to, and later used the money to pay Anderssen's journey to France.   During that time, the greatest living French sculptor, Lequesne, made a bust of Morphy and had it exhibited at the Exhibition des Beaux Arts.  Before Paul Morphy arrived on the scene, dealers in chessmen and boards sold perhaps 1 or 2 chess sets a year.  Now they were selling 20 times as much.

In October 1858, a chess club was organized in Downieville, California (population 5,000).

In October 1858, a chess column appeared in the Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia.


On October 9, 1858, Howard Staunton told his readers that a match between him and Morphy could not take place because Morphy couldn't come up with the stakes required by Staunton. This turned out to be a lie and was an excuse so that Staunton would not have to play Morphy.


On October 10, 1858, the German writer, diplomat, and soldier, Vanhargen von Ense (born in 1785), died while playing a game of chess with his niece. (source: New York Times, Nov 3, 1858)


In 1858, Paul Morphy played 8 opponents blindfold simultaneously. The 8 players were the strongest players in Paris. The games were played in the Cafe de la Regence. The players were Baucher, Bierwith, Guibert, Lequesne, Morneman, Potier, Pret, and Seguin. The exhibition lasted 10 hours. Morphy won 6 and drew 2.


In December 1858, Louis Paulsen played 10 games blindfolded in Pittsburgh.  He won 6 and lost 4.

In December 1858, the Shasta Chess Club challenged the Yreka Chess Club in a correspondence game.  Well Fargo was used to bring the moves each trip.

On December 25, 1858 Anderssen went to Paris to play Paul Morphy. He lost the match of 11 games (he won 2, drew 2, lost 7) in 9 days. Anderssen had not played a chess match in 6 years and travelled to Paris on his vacation time, even though it had been stipulated earlier that the match was to be held in Breslau. After this official match, the two players played 6 offhand games. Anderssen won 1 and lost 5 of these games.