Yorkshire Chess History



1834-1835 Doncaster-Leeds Correspondence Match











Made in Yorkshire



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One of the first external activities undertaken by the newly-formed Leeds Chess Club and the (newly-formed?) Doncaster Chess Club, if not the first external activity, was instigated by the agreement on Friday 14th March 1834 to conduct a correspondence match with between consulting committees from the two clubs.  The first move in the first game was made by Leeds.  While Doncaster replied to that first move they made the first move in the second game.  Thereafter each side would make a move in both games, while both were still in progress.


Game 1


The Doncaster, Nottingham, and Lincoln Gazette of Friday 14th November, 1834, reported the result of the first game in an article which started as follows:





On the 14th March, 1834, it was agreed that the Doncaster and Leeds Chess Clubs should play a match by correspondence, to consist of two games, to be conducted simultaneously.  These games were to be regulated by the laws of chess as laid down by the Westminster Chess Club, and the conditions were nearly the same as those decided on by the Paris and Westminster Clubs in the match now pending between them.  G. Walker, Esq., secretary to the Westminster Chess Club, was named as referee; in case any disputed point should arise.  The game, No.1, was declared won by the Doncaster club, 11th Nov. 1834.  No. 2 is still in progress.


It then gave the first eighteen moves of the first game, and then said that Leeds had resigned on 11/11/1834.  The article then gave the first 18 moves of the second game, which was still in progress, and concluded with the comment “To be continued.”  (Click here for the full text of the article, which illustrates the long-winded notation used.)


Transcribed into modern algebraic notation the first game was as follows:

Leeds and Doncaster correspondence match 1834-35, game 1 (Click here to play through the game on screen.)

White: Leeds Chess Club, Black: Doncaster Chess Club

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. O-O d6 5. c3 Nf6 6. d3 O-O 7. Be3 Bb6 8. Nbd2 Be6 9. b4 Ne7 10. Bb3 c6 11. h3 h6 12. Qe2 Ng6 13. Bc2 Nh5 14. Rfe1 Nhf4 15. Qf1 f5 16. Nc4 fxe4 17. dxe4 Nxh3+ 18. gxh3 Rxf3 “19. QB-QN3” (illegal); Doncaster requested that Leeds move of king, and Leeds resigned; 0‑1


What the article didn’t tell the reader was exactly how the first game ended.  This was revealed to the reader in a subsequent article of Friday 20th March 1835, which repeated the text of the first game using a more abbreviated system, and continued after move eighteen with “19.  Q B to Q Kt 3d square”, which is an illegal move, and then said, “In accordance with the rules, the Doncaster club requested the King to be moved instead of the bishop.”  The intended move was clearly by the KB.


The type of notation used meant one had to keep track of which side of the board each bishop, knight and rook started from, to which end old chess sets frequently had “K” or “Q” marked on them.  The origins of bishops, but not knights or rooks, are in fact identifiable by the colour of the square on which they stand, so Leeds’s mistake was less excusable.  Doncaster, on the other hand, might be thought of as a little mean, but they merely invoked the rule regarding illegal moves as it stood at the time.  Modern English descriptive notation permits legality of moves to determine which piece is being moved, thus “19.  B-N3” would have been acceptable in recent times.


In the town of the losing side, the Leeds Mercury of 15th November 1834, page 5, col. 4, gave essentially the same piece as the Doncaster paper, but omitted the moves of the games.  The same article had clearly been submitted simultaneously to both the Doncaster and Leeds papers, and probably elsewhere.


Game 2


The Doncaster, Nottingham, and Lincoln Gazette of Friday 20th March 1835, page 3, column 4, carried a follow-up article, as promised, which started as follows:


TERMINATION OF THE MATCH AT CHESS BETWEEN THE DONCASTER AND LEEDS CLUBS. – This match was commenced by the Leeds Chess Club on 14th March 1834, and the first game was declared won by the Doncaster Club, on 11th November last. – The second game was resigned by the Leeds club (after a severe contest), on the 17th of March, 1835; the Doncaster Club winning the match in two successive games.  The following is a correct statement of the moves in each game:


There followed a reiteration of the moves of the first game, and the moves of the second game, concluding after the second game with the words: “The Leeds Club resigned the game, and lost the match.”  (Click here for the full text of the article.)


Transcribed into modern algebraic notation the second game is a follows:

Leeds and Doncaster 1834-35, game 2 (Click here to play through the game on screen.)

White: Doncaster Chess Club, Black: Leeds Chess Club, 1834-35

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. c3 Qe7 4. d3 d6 5. Nf3 c6 6. O-O Be6 7. Bxe6 fxe6 8. Bg5 Qf7 9. Be3 Nd7 10. Qb3 Bxe3 11. fxe3 Nc5 12. Qc2 Nf6 13. Nbd2 Qh5 14. d4 exd4 15. exd4 Ncd7 16. Qb3 O-O-O 17. Qxe6 Kc7 18. Qb3 g5 19. e5 dxe5 20. Nxe5 Rhf8 21. Ndc4 Nb6 22. Qa3 Nc8 23. Nxc6 bxc6 24. Qa5+ Kd7 25. Qf5+ Kc7 26. Qe5+ Kb7 27. Rxf6 Rxf6 28. Qxf6 Rd5 29. Re1 g4 30. Re5 Rxe5 31. Nxe5 Qe8 32. Qg7+ Kb8 33. Qxh7 Ne7 34. Qxe7, 1-0


The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 28th March 1835 also carried the above article, but without the last sentence or the moves of the second game.


In Leeds, the local paper was even briefer than before when reporting the conclusion of the second game.  In a round-up of snippets of local news, the Leeds Mercury of 21st March 1835, page 8, col. 2, gave this statement, without any heading of its own: “The Doncaster Chess Club has just won the second game from the Leeds Club.”


Dramatis Personae


Neither the Doncaster &c. Gazette nor the Leeds Mercury seemed anywhere to mention the names of the players concerned.  However, the referee appointed for the match, George Walker, happened to be the chess columnist in Bell’s Life in London, and in the issue of 15/02/1835 (unseen), he named the Doncaster participants as including Morey and Pearson, and the Leeds players as Muff, Cadman and Wilkinson (pointed out in Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824 -1987, by Tim Harding, published McFarland 2011).


The identity of these players would appear to be as follows;



John Egleton Morey


John Pearson


Joshua Muff


Robert Cadman







Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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