SHEFFIELD Chess History



Chess Column in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent

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The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent was established in 1819.  During the 1840s to early 1880s it sometimes carried items of local chess news.  In the earlier years such news was scant, due to the relative lack of newsworthy chess activity.  The sort of items covered included:

1852, Staunton’s trip to Sheffield;

1863, 8th West Yorkshire Chess Association Meeting in Sheffield;

1868, 13th West Yorkshire Chess Association Meeting in Sheffield;

1873, Blackburne’s trip to Sheffield.


By the early 1880s there were a number of chess clubs in Sheffield, busily playing informal matches between each other, and these matches were covered by the Independent.


Chess columns in newspapers and magazines were becoming increasingly popular.  Ideally they were written by a local chess-player with the necessary ability and enthusiasm, an example being James White’s chess column which first appeared on Saturday 27th September 1879 in the Weekly Supplement, published with the Saturday editions of the Leeds Mercury,.  A second option, less satisfactory in some ways, was a syndicated column produced by a professional chess writer and sold to various newspapers round the country.


On 25th November 1882, the Weekly Supplement to the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent carried a notice advising that a weekly chess column would start appearing in the Weekly Supplement, which was published on Saturdays.


This chess column was a “syndicated” chess column by H. E. Bird.  Its primary content was not locally oriented, though local news was appended.


Local chess-player, Dr. Joseph Law, seems to have initially entered into communication with Bird, judging by the cryptic “Replies to Correspondents” appearing in the column, and on 3rd March 1883 there started to be appended to Bird’s column each week an article by “Dr. Law” carrying a chess problem for solving by the readers.  This was in addition to those problems which were an integral part of Bird’s column, appearing at its head.


In this way “Dr. Law” published a number of his own problems.  There was more than one Dr. Law in Sheffield at the time, but we can identify this one from the address contained in instructions such as:

“Solutions of his problems, and his problems only, to be sent to Dr. Law, Devonshire Street, Sheffield.”


Clearly Dr. Law had a problem with people sending solutions to problems in the main column to him rather than the main column’s address.


Bird’s column continued every week to 24th November 1883.


From 1st December 1883, it Bird’s column was replaced by a similar syndicated column by Miss Frideswide Fanny Beechey, who in 1884 married fellow chess-player and chess promoter Thomas Benjamin Rowland.  The identity of the columnist was not expressly stated, but it was revealed by the address in the notes it contained such as the following:

All communications for the Chess Department of the Sheffield Independent should be addressed to “Chess Editor, Victoria Terrace, Clontarf, Dublin.”


Dr. Law’s chess problem article continued as before.


From 12th June 1887, the Weekly Supplement to the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent was published under a new name, “Sheffield Weekly Independent”.  The main chess column by Mrs and/or Mr. Rowland, and Dr. Law’s problem article, are assumed to have continued, as the columns of 5th June 1887 gave no indication that they wouldn’t, but microfilms of the Sheffield Weekly Independent aren’t available at Sheffield Reference Library.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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