the Violet
David Lindsay’s Chess Game

Alongside further entries in its chess-problem tourney and some international chess news, the regular Friday chess column of The Kentish Mercury for 17th March 1899 included the following item:

We are indebted to Mr. D. Lindsay, of Blackheath-rise, for the following game. “It was played by two amateurs, and appears to be a variation of the Jerome Gambit.” :—

  White Black
1 P—K 4 P—K 4
2 Kt—K B 3 Kt—Q B 3
3 B—B 4 B—B 4
4 P—Q 4 P x P
5 B x P ch (a) K x B
6 Kt—Kt 5 ch K—K sq
7 Q—B 3 Q—K 2 (b)
8 Castles Kt—K 4
9 Q—Q Kt 3 P—K R 3
10 Kt—R 7 P—K Kt 3
11 P—K B 4 P—Q 6 dis ch
12 K—R sq Kt—Kt 5
13 P—B 5 Q x Kt
14 P x P Q x P
15 Kt—B 3 Q—R 4
16 B—B 4 Kt—B 7 ch
17 R x Kt B x R
18 R—K B sq B—Q 5
19 Kt—Q 5 B—Kt 3
20 B x P P—Q 3
21 B x P Q—Kt 3
22 R—B 8 ch (c) K—Q 2
23 P—K 5 Kt—K 2
24 Q—Kt 5 ch Kt—B 3
25 Kt—B 6 ch K—K 3
26 Q—Q 5 ch K—B 4
27 P—K 6 dis ch Resigns

(You can go through the game on the board below. Click the board to advance a move, use the buttons, or click a move in the above list to display it.)

Move: 0

The column compiler adds the following notes (click a note letter to jump the board to the move referred to):

(a) It is interesting to meet with these variations from the ordinary dull methods. But this line of play cannot be commended.

(b) If now Q—R 3 all White’s attack (?) vanishes. Black might even play Kt—K 4 at once.

(c) Much easier and simpler was 22 Q—Kt 5 ch, and mate in two moves.

Lindsay would have been 23 years old in 1899, and living at Blackheath Rise, Lewisham. The following year he appears again in the Kentish Mercury’s chess column (21st December 1900), this time in the results table for a series of matches played as part of the Kent County Cup, with eight players from Lewisham taking on eight from Goldsmiths (presumably The Goldsmiths Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute, which took in students from the “industrial and working classes” of the New Cross area, and later became part of the University of London — see its history here). “D. Lindsay” is listed as winning his match, while “A. Lindsay” (probably Alexander Lindsay, David’s brother), also playing, lost his. “D. Lindsay” appears in another match for the Kent Cup, again playing for Lewisham against Goldsmiths, in the 11th January 1900 Kentish Mercury, again winning his game.

In his biography of Lindsay, Bernard Sellin says Lindsay went through a period of interest in chess, “to which he devoted himself with so much fervour that it brought on a nervous breakdown.” (p. 16) In the Translator’s Preface to Sellin’s book, Kenneth Gunnell describes how he played a few games against a much older Lindsay, now living in Hove, but found his abilities “at best, no more than that of a very average club player” (page xxii). After winning two games, Gunnell thought to flatter his host by letting him win the next, but Lindsay saw through the attempt.

The Kentish Mercury’s chess column was compiled by “S. Tinsley”, who I guess is the same Samuel Tinsley (Wikipedia page here) who ran The Times’s chess column until his death in 1903. (He was buried in Lewisham Cemetary.) After that, his three sons took over the work, one of whom was also an S. Tinsley, who once gave a presentation on chess on the BBC. (See Chess for more on the Tinsleys.)

I can’t help feeling Tinsley’s comments on Lindsay’s game amount to a bad review, though they could also be taken as educational, of course. The Jerome Gambit mentioned in the quote (which I presume is from Lindsay himself, who I’d guess is one of the “two amateurs” that played the game), is, as its Wikipedia entry has it, an “unsound chess opening”, though one that “has the saving grace of leading to a lively game”, which had some currency in the last quarter of the 19th century. It was first published in the Dubuque Chess Journal in 1876, which is also David Lindsay’s birth year.

© Murray Ewing 2019