Howard Staunton
by Bill Wall

Howard Staunton
Howard Staunton was born in April, 1810 in Westmoreland, England. He may have been the illegitimate son of the Frederick Howard (1748-1825), fifth Earl of Carlisle, but there is little evidence to support this claim. This was first mentioned by William Wayte in the Dictionary of National Biography. There is no mention of Staunton in Frederick Howard's will. It appears that Howard Staunton was not his real name. He started out as an actor in Shakespeare's plays and may have used this name as a stage name.

He spent some time at Oxford, but was never a member of the University. When he turned 21, he inherited a few thousand British pounds, but soon squandered all of it. He may have tried to become an actor.

In 1836 Staunton came to London at the age of 26 and was a subscriber to William Greenwood Walker's (1785-1839) collection of chess games of Alexander McDonnell (A Selection of Games at Chess). He learned chess at the Divan and played chess at Giddon's Divan, The Shades, Huttman's Garrick Chess Divan, and Goodes.

In 1838 he joined the Old Westminster Chess Club and lost chess matches to Captain William D. Evans (1790-1872) and Aaron Alexandre (1765-1850). He also played and lost to Pierre Saint-Amant (1800-1872) and George Walker (1803-1879).

In 1840 he defeated William M. Popert (1797-1846) in a match at the London Chess Club. At the time, Popert was considered the strongest player in London. Popert was formerly from Hamburg, but was a temporary resident of London as a merchant.

From May to December, 1840, Staunton wrote a chess column in the New Court Gazette. He was elected Secretary of the Westminster Chess Club.

In 1841 he became the editor of the British Miscellany which became the Chess Player's Chronicle, England's first successful chess magazine. He was the editor until 1854. The Chronicle was issued regularly until 1852. A new series lasted from 1853 to 1856. A third series lasted from 1859 to 1862.

In April 1841 he played a match with Adolf Zytogorski (1806-1882), a Pole who fled to England after the 1830 Polish revolution. Staunton also played matches against J. Brown and Charles Stanley (1819-1901). In late 1841 Staunton met and played John Cochrane (1798-1878).

In 1842-43 he played several hundred games with John Cochrane, a barrister who was on leave from India. They may have played 600 games together.

In early 1843 he played a match against Thomas Taverner and won.

In April-May 1843 Staunton lost a match to France's leading player, Pierre Saint-Amant. Saint-Amant (1800-1872) was a wine merchant. Staunton won 2 games, drew one game, and lost 3 games. The match was held in London. Staunton then prepared for a rematch with training games against Cochrane and Popert. Staunton played a serious match with Cochrane, but lost 2-4. In 1843 Staunton played a match against Brooke Greville and Henry Buckle.

In November, Staunton, who had been in poor health, traveled to Paris and on November 14, 1843, he began another match with Saint-Amant. The match was held at the Cafe de la Regence and lasted until December 20, 1843. During the match, Staunton developed heart trouble. Staunton won the 21-game match with 11 wins, 4 draws, and 6 losses. In the first 8 games, Staunton had won seven and drawn one. Staunton's prize money was 100 British pounds. Staunton was successful with the opening 1.c4 against Saint-Amant (Staunton played it 6 times), and the opening became known as the English opening. This was also the first match that used seconds. Staunton used Harry Wilson, William Evans, and Thomas Worrell (1807-1878) as his seconds. There was no time limit in those days, and play was very slow (Saint Amant was the worst offender). Although the official World Chess Championship was not declared until 1886, this match was as close to a world championship match as could be. He was probably the strongest chess player in the world until 1851, when Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879) won the London International.

In early 1844 a dinner was given in Staunton's honor. At that dinner, Elijah Williams (1808-1854), President of the Bristol Chess Club, hailed Staunton as the 'Champion of Chess.' However, some writers suggested that Henry Buckle (1821-1862) or Tassilo von der Lasa (1818-1899) were stronger.

In September, 1844 Staunton won a match against William Tuckett (1800?-1854).

In 1844 Saint Amant deposited the stakes for a 3rd match. He wrote in a letter that his loss had been a mere accident and wanted another match.

In October 1844 Staunton travelled to Paris for a third match. On October 14, the day before the match, he caught pneumonia and the match was cancelled. Staunton almost died and left his heart in a permanent weakness; the match was postponed and never took place. Staunton was unable to return to London for 3 months.

In 1844, the first chess match by telegraph took place between Washingtom, DC and Baltimore. On April 9, 1845 Staunton and Captain Hugh Kennedy (1809-1878) traveled to Gosport to play two games against a group (Buckle, Perigal, Tuckett, Walker, Evans) in London by telegraph. He was the first player to recognize the potential of the telegraph as a medium for playing chess and played several games by telegraph in April, 1845.

In February 1845 he became the chess columnist for the Illustrated London News. He was a columnist for 29 years, until he died in 1874. His chess column was the most influential chess column in the world. He wrote over 1,400 weekly articles.

In 1846 he defeated Bernhard Horwitz (1807-1885) (14 wins, 7 losses, 3 draws) and Daniel Harrwitz (1823-1884) (7 wins) in matches. Staunton introduced the Staunton Gambit (1.d4 f5 2.e4) against Horwitz.

In July, 1847 he published the Chess-Player's Handbook in London. It was published in Bohn's Scientific Library series. The book had over 300 pages of opening analysis and almost 100 pages of endgame analysis.

In 1849 he published the Chess-Player's Companion and Chess Player's Text Book.

On July 23,1849, he married, at age 39, to Frances Carpenter Nethersole, a widow of a London solicitor who had 8 children from her previous marriage. His marriage certificate says that he was the son of William Staunton, gentleman. They were married in Brighton.

On September 8, 1849 Staunton endorsed the chess set design by Nathaniel Cook and manufactured by his brother-in-law, John Jacques. He recommended the sets in the Illustrated London News and it became known as the Staunton pattern. Later, each chess box that the chessmen came in was signed by Staunton and Jacques stamped upon each set.

In 1851 he organized the world's first international chess tournament during the "Great Exhibition of Art and Industry" in London. Adolf Anderssen of Germany was invited, but did not have the travel costs. Staunton offered to pay Anderssen's travel expenses out of his own pocket if necessary.

Staunton was knocked out in the 3rd round by Anderssen, who won by the score of 4-1. He defeated Brodie (2 wins) in the 1st round and Horwitz (4 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw) in the 2nd round. He also lost to Williams in a playoff game (3 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw). Anderssen won this 16-player knockout event and the 500 pound first place money.

In 1851, Staunton tried to arrange a chess match of 21 games with Adolf Anderssen for 100 pounds. Anderssen accepted, but the match could not be arranged. Staunton became ill and Anderssen had to return to Breslau to work.

In 1851 he defeated Carl Jaenish (1813-1872) in a match with 7 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw.

In 1852 he published The Chess Tournament, about the 1851 tournament.

In 1853 he travelled to Brussels to meet with Tassilo von der Lasa, the German leading chess authority, to standardize the rules of chess. He lost a match to von der Lasa (4 wins, 5 losses, 3 draws). The match was supposed to last longer, but Staunton started having heart palpatations.

In 1854 Staunton sold his Chess Players Chronicle to R.B. Brien.

In 1856 he began work on an annotated edition of Shakespeare's plays. This was published in monthly installments by Routledge from November 1857 to May 1860. Staunton's work was praised by experts.

In 1858, Staunton received a letter from the New Orleans Chess Club, inviting him to that city to play Paul Morphy (1837-1884). Staunton replied that he had not competed in a few years and he was busy with his Shakespeare work. Staunton may have invited Morphy to come to England to play. Staunton also offered to play Morphy by telegraph, but Morphy had already left for Europe. Morphy arrived in England in June 1858. Staunton was working on a tight schedule to publish his works on Shakespeare. His publishers would accept no breach of contract.

In August 1858, 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.

On October 9, 1858, 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.

In 1860 he published Chess Praxis, which includes 168 pages devoted to Morphy's games. It also included a code of chess rules. In the same year, he wrote Unsuspected Corruptions of Shakespeare's Texts.

In 1865 he published Great Schools of England. In March, 1865 he edited a monthly chess magazine called The Chess World. He continued to publish this magazine until March, 1869.

On June 22, 1874 Staunton was working on papers about Shakespeare when he suffered a fatal heart attack and died in his library chair in London. At the same time, he was working on his last chess book, Chess: Theory and Practice, which was published posthumously in 1876.

Staunton's grave is located at Kensal Green in London, England. The tombstone simply says Howard Staunton 1810-1874 and has a large knight on the headstone (added in 1997). Previously, his grave was unmarked and neglected.

Staunton was the first British player to be honored with a memorial chess tournament.

A memorial plaque hangs at his old residence of 117 Lansdowne Road in London.

In 1964 Bobby Fischer said that Staunton was the most profound opening analyst of all time.

Here are some of Staunton's games.

Unknown - Staunton, London 1841
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 c6 6.d3 Bd6 7.dxc6 Nxc6 8.Nf3 O-O 9.O-O Bg4 10.Ne2 Bxf3 11.gxf3 Nh5 12.d4 Qh4 13.c3 Rae8 14.Rf2 Ne7 15.Qd3 Qh3 16.Rg2 Nf6 17.Kh1 Rxe2 0-1

Cochrane - Staunton, London 1842
1.e4 c5 2.c4 e6 3.Bd3 Ne7 4.Ne2 Ng6 5.O-O Be7 6.f4 d6 7.Nbc3 Nc6 8.a3 Bf6 9.Ng3 Bd4+ 10.Kh1 O-O 11.Qh5 e5 12.Nce2 exf4 13.Nxf4 Nce5 14.Nge2 Bg4 0-1

Cocharne - Staunton, London 1842
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 Nxd4 4.Nxe5 Ne6 5.Bc4 c6 6.O-O Nf6 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.f4 Qa5 9.Nxf7 Kxf7 10.f5 Qc5+ 11.Kh1 Qxc4 12.fxe6+ Qxe6 13.Qh5+ g6 14.Qh4 Bxc3 15.bxc3 Rf8 16.Bh6 1-0

Staunton - Cochrane, London 1842
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Qe7 5.d4 Bb6 6.O-O d6 7.a4 a5 8.Be3 Nd8 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Bxb6 cxb6 11.Na3 Bd7 12.Nb5 Bxb5 13.Bxb5+ Nc6 14.Qd5 1-0

Cochrane - Staunton, London 1842
1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e5 Nge7 5.Nc3 Ng6 6.Qe2 Nf4 7.Qe4 g5 8.g3 d5 9.exd6 f5 0-1

Cochrane - Staunton, London 1842
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd1 Bc5 6.Nf3 O-O 7.O-O Nxe4 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Bg5 Nxg5 10.Nxg5 Ne5 11.Re1 d6 12.h4 h6 13.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 Qxh4+ 15.g3 Qh2+ 16.Ke3 Qxg3+ 0-1

Staunton - Horwitz, London 1846
1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 Bxg5 10.Nxg5 Qxg5 11.Nc7+ Kd8 12.Ne6+ 1-0

Harrwitz - Staunton, London 1846
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.b4 Bb6 6.b5 Na5 7.Bd3 d5 8.Qe2 O-O 9.O-O Re8 10.h3 Nh5 11.Qd1 Nf4 12.Qc2 f5 13.Nxe5 Rxe5 14.exf5 Qg5 15.g4 Qh4 0-1

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