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Past Pieces

Olimpiu G. Urcan

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Adolf Albin in America

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Charles Seymour Taber
1916 – 1862

by John S. Hilbert

And in each game we see the counterpart
Of that brief tragedy that we call 'life' ...

From "The Queens County Chess Club,"
Read by its author, Charles S. Taber
January 29, 1901
American Chess World, February 1901, pp.24-25

The dates above are no error. Our usual understanding of a life follows our thinking in terms of beginning, middle, and end – in that order. Yet how often do we recognize beginnings, looking forward? More often we find meaning, impose meaning, only long after beginnings have faded far behind. How many of us, those who find the lure of chess irresistible, imagine from the very start the role the game will play in our own lives? Each of us saw a chess set for the first time, yet how many among us can place that moment with certainty? Only many years later, when the yoke of passion diminishes and reflection expands, do we become curious to seek the start. So too might a life be considered. Especially one given greater depth and pleasure through chess.


Interment took place at the Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island. The honorary pallbearers included Charles Broughton, then secretary of the Staten Island Chess Club. Broughton, fifty-two, a Canadian, had been active in the club for more than a decade. He would live a long life, dying in Los Angeles in the waning months of World War II. But on this day, February 29, 1916, with the United States not yet officially entered in an earlier World War, he and other members of the chess fraternity, Hermann Helms included, attended the burial of their friend, Charles Seymour Taber. Taber lived his last years at 104 St. Mark's Place, West New Brighton, Staten Island, only six miles north of his final resting place. At his death he was president of the Staten Island Chess Club. He died unexpectedly on February 26, 1916, following an operation, a little more than a week before his fifty-fourth birthday.

Friends were shocked at his sudden passing. Just a day or two before he died, Taber had been out coasting with his children. Just four days before his death, on Washington's birthday, February 22, he visited the Staten Island Chess Club. The long-time lawyer, who practiced in his beloved Brooklyn, was taken in his prime.

Taber's second wife, Genevieve, and many friends, drawn largely from his legal practice, his Brighton Heights Church affiliation, and his chess activities, gathered at 2:00 that Tuesday afternoon, to participate at his funeral services. A soloist performed, and as Helms shortly afterward told his readers. "Quite a number of prominent chess players journeyed down the bay to pay a last tribute to the memory of one who had been successful in his profession, an earnest friend of the Church, a keenly appreciative chess amateur and an American citizen of the soundest type." Most assuredly, one of his oldest friends, Hayward Cleveland, a chess player as well, and secretary of the Queen's County Chess Club, attended. Taber, too, had been a member of the Queen's County club.

The Eagle's file picture used for Taber's non-chess obituary survives in very poor condition, but suggests something of the well-known attorney's dapper appearance: his pocket handkerchief showing, his starched collar, compact mustache and wire rim glasses, all no doubt familiar to chess players, judges and fellow counsel:

Charles S. Taber
Charles S. Taber
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 27, 1916

Like so many successful men of the period, Taber was a joiner. Unlike some chess players, he was extremely social, with much of his leisure time devoted not only to chess play, but also to chess organization. He belonged to the Brooklyn Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Brooklyn League, the Staten Island Association of Arts and Sciences, and the Freemasons.

The closure of Taber's life was conducted by the Rev. E.J. Russell, pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church of West New Brighton. He referred to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's obituary of the man in his remarks. He almost certainly did not know the details of Taber's chess life, as did Helms. Six honorary pallbearers along with the crowd of friends and family made their way to the grave, then departed in their own directions, carrying with them, to one degree or another, memories of the departed's life and love of chess.

The Eagle ran a brief notice of Taber's death on February 27, 1916, the day after he died. The Eagle had run many happier notices about the Brooklyn-born attorney, almost all of them placed there by Hermann Helms. Helms had, for instance, recorded Taber's last statewide chess event, the New York State Chess Association meeting held in Utica, New York, August 2-7, 1915, at the Hotel Utica. Taber was not strong enough to compete in the Masters' event (won by Charles Jaffe), and played instead in the General Tournament, Group A. Although he finished with an even 3½-3½, Taber had the satisfaction of going 1½-½ against the winner and runner-up. In the Genesee Cup competition, which also took place at Utica, Taber aided his team (Richmond County – Staten Island) by collecting a full point over his contemporary, Syracuse resident George N. Cheney. Cheney was named after his uncle, one of the nation's, and his generation's, brightest chess lights, who died fighting for the Union on July 21, 1861, at First Bull Run. The game is Taber's last known published effort:

Charles S. Taber – George N. Cheney [C44]
Richmond Co. (Staten Island) vs. Onondaga Co.
Genesee Cup Competition (NYSCA)
Utica, New York
August 1915

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Nxf7 Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d5 10.Qxd5+ Qxd5 11.exd5 Re8+ 12.Kd1 Nb4 13.Na3 Nxd5 14.Bg5 Bg4+ 15.f3 Bd7 16.Kd2 Re5 17.Bh4 Rae8 18.Rhe1 c5 19.Nc4 R5e6 20.Bg3 Rxe1 21.Rxe1 Rxe1 22.Bxe1 b5 23.Ne5+ Ke6 24.Nxd7 Kxd7 25.Bf2 Kc6 26.g3 Nb6 27.b3 Kd5 28.c3 dxc3+ 29.Kxc3 b4+ 30.Kc2 Nd7 31.f4 Ke4 32.Kd2 a5 33.Ke2 Kd5 34.Be3 Nf6 35.Kd3 Ne8 36.Bc1 Nd6 37.a3 Nf5 38.axb4 axb4 39.Bb2

Past Pieces
[FEN "8/7p/6p1/2pk1n2/1p3P2/1P1K2P1/
1B5P/8 b - - 0 39"]

39...Nd4 A terrible blunder that gives White the game. With a line like 39...h5 40.Ba1 Nd6 White can do nothing, and the likely outcome would be a draw. – jsh 40.Bxd4 cxd4 41.g4 h6 42.h4 g5 43.fxg5 hxg5 44.h5 Ke5 45.h6 1-0 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 5, 1915]

Taber also lost to one of his future pallbearers, Charles Broughton, although the game has not survived.

Earlier in the year, Taber enjoyed success at a highly popular attraction: a simultaneous exhibition Capablanca held in Brooklyn against no fewer than eighty-four official opponents playing at sixty-five boards. Not only did Helms report the event in his Eagle column, but the exhibition itself was held in the newspaper's auditorium. The Cuban's feat caused pandemonium in the building. So many people crowded in the afternoon of February 12, 1915, in anticipation of the performance, that the performer himself squeezed into the building only with difficulty. Once the simul began, the eighty-four opponents soon found themselves victims of a crowd of "insistent volunteers," as Helms called them, aggressive kibitzers who swelled the number of actual players closer to 200, wanted or not. Capablanca did not care as long as the pieces were not shifted on the boards. Helms claimed in all roughly 500 enjoyed the sight of Capablanca vanquishing forty-eight individuals and teams, while drawing twelve and losing only five.

Capablanca Simul
Capablanca at his Brooklyn Daily Eagle Auditorium Simultaneous Exhibition.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 14, 1915
[Click to enlarge image.]

Among those five victors was the president of the Staten Island Chess Club. Taber's game appears in Rogelio Caparrós's The Games of José Raul Capablanca (Caissa Editions 1991) as Informal Game Number 282, but only the most fanatically driven will find it, unless they know its date of play. Caparrós identifies the game as Capablanca versus "Staten Island C.C.-Taber, S. [sic]" Taber's victory is buried even further in the Index of Informal Games, which lists it only under "Staten Is. CC":

Capablanca – Charles S. Taber [B18]
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Auditorium Simul (1:65)
Brooklyn, February 12, 1915

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 e6 7.h4 h6 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Be3 Nf6 10.c3 Nbd7 11.Nxd7 Qxd7 12.Bd3 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 Qd5 14.0-0 Be7 15.c4 Qd7 16.Ne4 Ng4 17.g3 f5 18.Nd2 0-0-0 19.Nf3 g5 20.hxg5 hxg5

Past Pieces
[FEN "2kr3r/pp1qb3/2p1p3/5pp1/2PP2n1/
3QBNP1/PP3P2/R4RK1 w - - 0 21"]

21.Kg2 The losing move – could Capa have really missed seeing his queen was unprotected? – jsh 21...e5 22.Rh1 e4 23.Qe2

Past Pieces
[FEN "2kr3r/pp1qb3/2p5/5pp1/2PPp1n1/
4BNP1/PP2QPK1/R6R b - - 0 23"]

23...exf3+ Expecting Black to forgo this capture, placing him immediately a piece ahead, is probably unrealistic under the circumstances. The computer, however, prefers a line like the following, which exposes White's king completely: 23...f4! 24.Nxg5 Bxg5 25.Bxf4 Bxf4 26.Qxe4 Nxf2! 27.Kxf2 Bxg3+! 28.Kxg3 Rhg8+ 29.Kf3 Rdf8+ 30.Ke3 Re8 etc. – jsh 24.Qxf3 Bf6 25.d5 Kb8 26.Rad1 Rxh1 27.Kxh1 Rh8+ 28.Kg1 Qh7 29.dxc6 Qh2+ 30.Kf1 Qh1+ 31.Ke2 Qxf3+ 32.Kxf3 Ne5+ 33.Ke2 Nxc6 34.Rd6 Be5 35.Re6 f4 36.gxf4 gxf4 37.Bc5 Nd4+ 38.Bxd4 Bxd4 39.Re4 Bxb2 40.Rxf4 Re8+ 41.Kd3 Kc7 42.Rf7+ Kc6 43.f4 Re6 44.Rh7 Rf6 45.Ke4 a5 46.f5 a4 47.Re7 b6 48.a3 Bxa3 49.Ra7 Bb4 50.Rxa4 Kc5 51.Ke5 Bc3+ 52.Ke4 Rd6 53.Ra8 Kxc4 54.Rc8+ Kb4 0-1 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 14, 1915]

For many years Taber frequented Brooklyn and Staten Island chess circles. He played for Staten Island in the Metropolitan Chess League, which was quite active in the years before and during World War I. For instance, in May 1914 he played board seven for his club against the highly regarded Progressive Chess Club team. That Staten Island lost 6-2 came as little surprise, given the Progressive fielded players like Charles Jaffe, Oscar Chajes, Jacob Bernstein, and Taber's own opponent, Philip Lipschütz. Brother of the well-known, deceased master S. Lipschütz, Philip Lipschütz was considered a fairly accomplished player in the metropolitan area. That Taber drew his team match game with Lipschütz suggests the former took his chess quite seriously.

Taber moved to Staten Island in 1910, about the time he married his second wife, Genevieve S. Hayward. The couple had no children themselves, but Taber's two children from his first marriage, Edith G. and Donald C. Taber, may well have lived with the couple. With his home life reestablished, Taber spent less time with his friends at the Brooklyn Chess Club, and concentrated more of his energy playing chess in Staten Island. His first wife, Grace Cleveland, had died on April 27, 1907, leaving the forty-five-year-old lawyer a widower with two children.

His legal career flourished over the years, and in 1902-1903 he served as one of Brooklyn's Assistant Corporation Counsel, a position that resulted in him being placed in charge of the Bureau of Street Openings in the borough. His private practice, located at 44 Court Street, prospered for years, and it was his habit to visit his office daily. There he spent much of his time practicing in the area of Brooklyn real estate and municipal improvement, interests that resulted in his association with the city's legal governance.

Taber and his first wife lived with their children in Jamaica, Long Island, and it was there that he became friends with a number of local chess players. He was active in the Queen's County Chess Club, an organization that celebrated the anniversary of its first organizing meeting on January 29, 1901. During the dinner, the more than forty members fondly reviewed the previous year, including the delight they had experienced in having so many of the best Brooklyn club players provide entertainment for their young club in the form of simultaneous exhibitions. Players as well known as Jackson Whipps Showalter, Frank Marshall, William M. De Visser, and William E. Napier had provided club members the fun. No less a chess personage than Henry Chadwick, known as the father of baseball, and an early and faithful reporter and booster for chess, wrote up the anniversary material for the club, which appeared in the February 1901 issue of the American Chess World. Chadwick remarked on the entertainment given the club members that night, which included a singing quartette, a mandolin solo, and the recitation of a poem written by Taber and appropriately enough entitled "The Queens County Chess Club," two lines of which appear at the beginning of this article. Though Taber was no more a poet than a grandmaster, his fellow club mates appreciated his efforts – or at least endured them. Added entertainment throughout the evening was provided by "a large graphophone from the Columbia Phonograph Company." (The Columbia Phonograph Company later became Columbia Records.)

While living on Long Island, Taber took time out from his many commitments to family, work, community and clubs to indulge another of his passions: postal chess. Chess by mail was an ideal forum for a man heavily committed to a busy schedule, and Taber became a member of the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association, named with permission of the American champion, and whose host organ was, not surprisingly, Helms's Eagle. Taber gave Helms some light comments on his game against E.L. Massett, of Manhattan, which Helms noted involved "a unique Queen sacrifice" of a temporary nature.

Charles S. Taber S – E.L. Massett [C65]
Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association
Eastern Division Finals 1900

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Ne7 5.Bc4 If 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Bc4 (or 6.Ba4) 6...Qa5+ winning a piece. 5...Ng6 6.Ng5 d5 7.exd5 h6 8.Nf3 Nxd5 9.Nxe5 White is sure to regain the piece with a good attack. 9...Nxe5 10.Qe2 f6 11.f4 Bg4 12.Qe4 c6 13.d4 White wishes to retain the pawn as well as win back the piece. 13...Ne7 14.fxe5 Bf5 15.Qf4 Qd7 16.exf6 gxf6 17.0-0 0-0-0 18.c3 Rh7 19.Nd2 Rg7 20.Ne4

Past Pieces
[FEN "2kr1b2/pp1qn1r1/2p2p1p/5b2/
2BPNQ2/2P5/PP4PP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 20"]

20...Rg4 A tempting opportunity that Black cannot resist. 21.Nxf6 Rxf4 22.Bxf4 The Queen cannot escape, else White would have lost a piece. 22...Bd3 23.Nxd7 Bxc4 24.Nxf8 Rxf8 25.Bxh6 The quickest way to force the win, as it gives White three [sic] passed pawns and compels Black to exchange his strongest pieces. 25...Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 Bxf1 27.Kxf1 Kd7 28.h4 Ke6 29.g4 Kd5 30.Bg5 Ng6 31.h5 Nf8 32.Bd2 Ke4 33.Ke2 b5 34.g5 Kf5 35.g6 Nxg6 36.hxg6 Kxg6 37.Kd3 1-0 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 4, 1900]

Taber, along with Henry L. Norton, W.D. Showalter, and Hayward Cleveland, the last Taber's friend, brother-in-law, and the driving force in the quartet, formed the nucleus that organized the Queens County Chess Club. The four were mentioned as a group in Chadwick's report of the club's first anniversary dinner, but it was not until many years later in Helms' obituary notice for Taber that the four were identified by name. The men had meet on January 29, 1900, just six days before Helms published Taber's win over Massett.

Before Taber directed most of his chess energies to the Staten Island and Queens County clubs, he played extensively at the Brooklyn Chess Club, the organization most often associated with Herman Helms and, of course, sponsor of the long-running series of cable chess events forming the nationally prominent Anglo-American Cable Matches. Taber's own role in the club was much smaller, but as an active enthusiast he frequently encountered younger players out to make a name for themselves. Taber was interested in testing the strength of one fifteen year old, who quickly gave him a drubbing. His youthful opponent became known as Brooklyn's Boy Wonder of chess, soon won the club championship, and went on to have a short but brilliant international career, winning several international tournaments, including the British Chess Federation title in 1904, as well as multiple brilliancy prizes over players as strong as Chigorin. At the time Taber played the game below, his opponent was so new to the Brooklyn club that even Helms, the boy's personal friend, still referred to him as "of" the Brooklyn YMCA club:

William Ewart Napier – Charles S. Taber [C62]
Third Match Game
Brooklyn Chess Club
February 29, 1896

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nc3 Be7 9.Nh4 Nh5 10.Nf5 Bf6 11.Qe3 0-0 12.g4 Bxc3 13.bxc3 Nf6 14.f3

Past Pieces
[FEN "r2q1rk1/ppp2ppp/2bp1n2/5N2/4P1P1/
2P1QP2/P1P4P/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 14"]

14...Bb5 The error that allows the young Napier to show his tactical acumen. – jsh 15.Qg5 g6 If 15...Ne8, then 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Qxb5 – jsh 16.c4 Bxc4 17.Bb2 1-0 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 1, 1896]

A final, sad curiosity associated with the game above is its date: the game was played on leap year day, February 29, 1896. Exactly twenty years to the day later, on February 29, 1916, Taber's funeral took place.

Taber and Hayward Cleveland enjoyed correspondence chess, and so it is not surprising to learn they both entered the preliminary tournaments of the grandest correspondence chess event in the United States during the nineteenth century, the Continental Correspondence Chess Association Tournament. Walter Penn Shipley with other Philadelphia players had organized the tournament, which attracted many of the strongest correspondence players in the Western hemisphere. Although Cleveland eventually withdrew from Section 4 due to poor health, Taber continued to play in Section 2. He was unsuccessful in reaching the finals, but did manage to win the following game, which Helms published only a few months after the preliminary tournaments began.

Charles S. Taber – W.D. Kennard [C80]
Continental Correspondence Chess Association Tournament
Preliminary Section 2
1894

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 Nc5 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Rxe5+ Ne6 9.d4 Bd6 10.Re1 0-0 11.Nc3 Re8 12.Ne2 Nf8 13.Be3 Bg4 Black has attained at least an equal development. 14.Nd2 Qh4 15.Nf1 Ng6 16.f3 Rxe3 Not necessarily unsound as he wins a pawn for the exchange and gets a good entrance into his opponent's quarters. 17.Nxe3 Bxh2+ 18.Kf1 Bxf3 Going too far. 18...Bd7 would have left him with fair chances for an attack. 19.gxf3 Qh3+ Hoping for him to interpose the knight. 20.Kf2 Nh4

Past Pieces
[FEN "r5k1/1pp2ppp/p1p5/8/3P3n/
4NP1q/PPP1NK1b/R2QR3 w - - 0 21"]

21.Ng1 This kills his attack entirely. 21...Qg3+ 21...Bg3+ followed by 22...Qh2+ would have won back the exchange, leaving him with knight against two pawns. 22.Ke2 Re8 23.Kd3 Qg6+ 24.Kc3 Rd8 25.Qe2 Bd6 26.Nc4 Bf8 27.Rad1 b5 28.Qe4 Qxe4 29.Rxe4 g5 Almost time to resign, Brother Kennard. 30.Ne5 Rd6 31.f4 f5 32.Re2 g4 33.Rh2 Be7 34.Ne2 c5 35.Rdh1 cxd4+ 36.Nxd4 c5 37.Ndc6 Bf6 38.Kb3 Ng6 39.Rh5 Nxf4 40.Rxf5 Ne2 41.Nxg4 Bg7 42.Ne7+ Kh8 43.Rxc5 Rd8 44.Rch5 Nd4+ 45.Kb4 Nxc2+ 46.Ka5 h6 47.Nxh6 Bxh6 48.Rxh6+ Kg7 49.Rg6+ And Black resigns, for mate follows in four. 1-0 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 19, 1894]

Shortly before playing in the Continental, Taber and Hayward Cleveland met in the handicap tournament of the Brooklyn Young Men's Christian Association Chess Club. As both men were rated in the first class, no handicap was given or received. Cleveland proved too tough for his brother-in-law. Helms annotated the game for his chess column, which had begun only the preceding October.

Hayward Cleveland, – Charles S. Taber [C41]
Brooklyn YMCA Chess and Checker Club Handicap Tournament
Brooklyn 1894

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nd7 5.Bd3 Ne5 6.0-0 c5 Poor on general principles, since it leaves the d-pawn very weak. 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Nf5 Nf6 10.f3 g6 11.Ng3 h5 This attack seems ill advised on account of the weak condition of his own queenside where he must now castle if he does so at all. 12.Bg5 Nh7 13.Bf4 Bg7 14.Nc3 h4 15.Nge2 g5 16.Bxe5 Bxe5 17.f4 Apparently inviting disaster by giving Black an open line, which, if properly utilized, should prove of some advantage. 17...gxf4 18.Nxf4 0-0-0 19.Ncd5 Bxf4 20.Rxf4 Ng5 21.Qd3 Rdg8 Threatening ...Nh3+. 22.Kh1 Qe6 23.a4 Qe5 24.c3 Kb8 25.Raf1 Re8 This move proves quite unfortunate for Taber. – jsh

Past Pieces
[FEN "1k2r2r/pp3p2/3p4/2pNq1n1/P3PR1p/
2PQ4/1P4PP/5R1K w - - 0 26"]

26.Nf6 Qe7 He could not avoid losing the exchange, because if he played ...Rd8 or ...Re7 to prevent Nd7+, White would win the knight by Rf5. 27.Nxe8 Rxe8 28.Re1 Neither side plays accurately now, although White eventually prevails. – jsh 28...Ne6 29.Rf5 Ng5 30.Rf4 Ne6 31.Rf3 Nf8 32.Qd5 Ne6 33.Rfe3 Nf4 34.Qf5 Ng6 This knight is certainly doing a lot of work, but little execution. As Black has already the worst of the game he is satisfied to remain idle and let his opponent do the work necessary to bring about a win. 35.b4 c4 36.Qd5 Ne5 37.Rd1 Nd3 A threatening move, which requires careful handling. 38.Rd2 Qf6 39.Kg1 The only move to save the exchange. 39...Qxc3 40.Qxd6+

Past Pieces
[FEN "1k2r3/pp3p2/3Q4/8/PPp1P2p/
2qnR3/3R2PP/6K1 b - - 0 40"]

40...Kc8 Poor, as White's ingenious continuation demonstrates. Had he instead played 40...Ka8 White would have been compelled to sacrifice the exchange to avoid serious loss, as the following continuation shows: 41.Rd1 Qc2 42.Rf1 Rg8 43.g3 h3 and wins. However, White would probably have won anyhow after the sacrifice of the exchange on account of the weakness of Black's pawns. The struggle would have been a long and severe one. 41.Qc5+ Mr. Cleveland immediately seizes the opportunity and cleverly neutralizes the advantage of Black's position. 41...Nxc5 Forced; if the King moves, then White replies with R3xd3! 42.Rxc3 Nxe4 43.Rxc4+ Kb8 44.Re2 Nd6 45.Rxe8+ Nxe8 46.Rxh4 1-0 [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 31, 1894]

The year before Taber lost to his brother-in-law in the game above, he moved to Jamaica, Long Island. The year before that, in 1892, he moved to Hempstead, having dissolved his legal partnership with George C. Case. After four years association, Taber & Case no longer held out its shingle.

In 1890, long before Taber crossed the threshold of the Brooklyn Chess Club, Taber and Hayward Cleveland had been attracted by events sponsored by a much smaller organization, the Brooklyn Young Men's Christian Association Chess Club. The Brooklyn YMCA started a chess club in 1888, and by 1892 devoted a room to its use on the third floor of its building on Fulton Street. What distinguished the Brooklyn YMCA club from others in the area – and in all likelihood we can read between the lines to find Helms's influence here – was its focus on teaching chess. As an unsigned article in the Eagle elaborated, at the YMCA, "The game is taught the beginner just as a schoolboy is taught how to handle x's and z's in Algebra or the conjugations of some foreign language. The board, the pieces, the moves, the values of exchanges, the openings and gambits are explained in an attractive and lucid manner, until the broad expanse of the chess field is opened to the comprehension of the beginner." Players, no doubt Taber and Cleveland included, were beneficiaries of a club where "Blackboards are used very generally to explain the knotty positions in which a player frequently finds himself. Lectures by eminent chess players incite interest, and exhibitions by leading chess experts in simultaneous games bring the beginner to a point where he is qualified to play a strong game for himself." (BDE Dec. 20, 1892) Helms was one of the original organizers of the Brooklyn YMCA chess and checkers organization, and was himself by 1892 also a member of the Brooklyn Chess Club. Undoubtedly he helped funnel Taber through the ranks of YMCA players on to the stronger fields of Brooklyn's premier club.

Taber and his future brother-in-law, Cleveland, found themselves taking what for most today would be considered "extreme" vacations. As Helms wrote after Taber's death, the two, "invariably accompanied by their pocket chessboards, played together under all sorts of conditions. They were fond of taking 100 and 150-mile tramps, which took them to the top of mountains in the Berkshires, where they were wont to indulge in friendly chess contests while munching sandwiches." When no less a player than Blackburne gave a thirty-board simultaneous exhibition at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1889, Taber was one of the three victors against the Englishman, "winning his game handily in twenty moves."

Blackburne's presence at the Manhattan that day long ago, as indeed Taber's as well, stemmed from the former's play at New York 1889, the Sixth American Chess Congress, and the latter's emerging interest in the "outside" chess world, stimulated by the grand tournament. Taber had closely followed the masters as their long tournament unfolded. Only the year before he had begun his partnership in law with Chase, after having graduated in 1885 from the New York University Law School. Taber had the best written examination in his class of twenty-six graduates, for which he won a $100 prize.

Taber taught his boyhood friend, Cleveland, how to play chess. The young Charles first saw the game played at home, learning chess from his father. Franklin W. Taber likely passed along not only his interest in chess to his second son, Charles, but also his interest in law. The elder Taber's law office stood at 219 Montague Street, Brooklyn. Charles was born to Franklin W. and Elizabeth Van Dusen Taber in Brooklyn on March 6, 1862.

And with his birth, we end.


A Note on Sources

Jeremy Gaige's Chess Personalia lists Taber's place of birth as New York City, but Brooklyn was a separate city at the time. Brooklyn was given as his birthplace in his non-chess obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (BDE) on February 27, 1916. Biographical information regarding Taber appeared in both the non-chess and chess sections of the Eagle. (BDE February 27, 1916, and BDE March 2, 1916, respectively.) Information regarding Taber's law school success and his father's business as a lawyer appeared in The Long Island Traveler (Southold, N.Y.), June 5, 1885. Information on Taber's second marriage appeared in the New York Herald, February 27, 1916. Additional information appeared in Taber's obituary in the New York Times, February 27, 1916. Other sources made use of for this piece include the American Chess Bulletin for 1915 and 1916. Taber's poem and information on the Queen's County Chess Club appeared in the American Chess World, February 1901, pp.23-25. Taber's draw against Philip Lipschütz is mentioned in the BDE, May 4, 1914. Information about Hayward Cleveland withdrawing from the Continental Correspondence Chess Association comes from the Hermann Hesse Files, courtesy of Neil Brennen. Thanks are given, once again, to John Blackstone, for his highly useful database of games from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.


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Olimpiu G. Urcan is the author of Arthur Kaufmann: A Chess Biography, 1872-1938 (2012) and other books by McFarland Inc. Publishers. Follow his chess history updates on Twitter: @OlimpiuUrcan.


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Magnus Force (Ebook)
by Colin Crouch

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