Thursday, January 24, 2013

Henry Hosmer: A forgotten western player

  The January 3rd 1892, Chicago Tribune obituary of Henry Hosmer  made mention of his career as a grain buyer, his membership since 1858 in the Chicago Board of Trade. Nowhere is there a reference to Hosmer as one of the strongest chess players of the American west.  Hosmer's fondness for chess and his membership in the Chicago Chess and Checker Club was noted by Josiah Seymour Currey in his book Chicago: It's History and Builders (1912). Currey writing that:

 " He [Hosmer ] was particularly fond of a game of chess or checkers and displayed a notable skill in the handling the pawns, being regarded as one of the best chess players of this section of the country."

   Hosmer was a native of Concord, Mass.where he was born in 1837. He came west sometime in the early 1850s. Hosmer settled in Chillicothe Ill. near Peoria shortly thereafter; moving to Chicago not until 1877 where he passed away on New Years Day in 1892.

   Although Hosmer tournament play was limited to only two tournaments; playing in both the Second and Third American Chess Congresses his chess skill was apparent by his placing second to George Henry Mackenzie at both tournaments.

The Second American Chess Congress was held in Cleveland on December 4th thru 15th 1871. George Henry Mackenzie winning the Congress with 14 points, Hosmer with 12 points coming in second ahead of Fredrick Elder (11), Max Judd (10) and five others. Drawn games were replayed.

The Third American Chess Congress was held in Chicago on July 7th thru16th, 1874. Mackenzie repeating as the winner with 10 1/2points, Hosmer again finishing second with 10 points ahead of Judd (7) and five others.

   " Mr. Hosmer and Mr. Judd yesterday morning returned their match, of which Mr. Judd won the first game. He had the attack int he second game and played the King Knight's  opening, castling on the forth move. Mr Hosmer played the recognized defense and for a few moves it seemed as though the game was not likely to be a very interesting one. In a few moves afterward, however, Mr, Judd played his Bishop To Queen's second, locking in his Queen, which was standing at queen's Bishop second. the cramped position thus entailed upon him Mr. Judd never recovered from. Mr. Hosmer took prompt advantage of the situation, offered to sacrifice a Bishop, and thereby won a pawn, and kept up such a  fierce assault upon Mr. Judd's entrenchments that the latter surrendered at the twenty-first move. The game was certainly one of the most elegant yet played in the Congress."

( Chicago Tribune; July 10, 1874)

It was hoped that Hosmer would take part in the Fifth American Chess Congress but that was not to be. The tournament book of the Fifth American Chess Congress lamented that the Chicago's  formidable champion Hosmer did not take part.

 Besides his participation in the two Chess Congresses Hosmer played in various chess matches, the Chicago Tribune of June 15th 1870 reported that Hosmer had played a three game match with Max Judd in Detroit. Hosmer winning two of the games the result of the third game is not known. I have been unable to locate any of the games scores from this match.

Hosmer also played a match with the New York player Edward Alberoni on February 1876 at Hosmer's home in Chillicothe. Hosmer ably winning the match, Hosmer 5, Alberoni  0, drawn  2.

There were reports that a match between Hosmer and Capt. Mackenzie was likely, in fact the Chicago Tribune of July 20th, 1879 reporting that, "unless some unforeseen contingency should arise the match may be considered a settled fact." If in fact the match did indeed take place, I have been unable to locate any of the games.

Hosmer also played a number of games giving odds, which was quite common at the time, he also played a number of blindfold games, a sample of which I include below.

In a fact unrelated to chess, Hosmer's father Edmund Hosmer was a intimate friend and financial advisor to Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps Hosmer's father and the great man played a game chess while young Henry looked on.

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