Yorkshire Chess History
1861: George Lumley in Yorkshire
George Lumley was a Manchester-born player who didn’t learn chess until after him went blind as a result of being struck on the head by a cricket ball at the age of roughly 10 to 13, going on to acquire a level of skill which enabled him to achieve a plus score in a simultaneous display over four or so boards in most provincial chess clubs.
In 1861, while travelling around the country, he visited Yorkshire chess clubs in York, Hull, Settle and Sheffield.
George Lumley visited York, at the invitation of Ebor Chess Club (as the chess club in York was then known) in April 1861. He put in an appearance on Tuesday 16/04/1861, and his main display was given at the Adelphi Hotel, York, on Thursday, 18/04/1861. George took on six of the York players, simultaneously. Play lasted for six hours. The first game to finish was lost by George, due to an oversight, in 20 moves. In the second game to finish, George forced a draw by perpetual check, after 37 moves. The third game to finish was resigned by the York player, after 38 moves. The fourth and fifth were resigned by the York players, after 41 moves. The final game to finish was drawn. George thus won three games, drew two and lost one.
The report in the Leeds Mercury of 20/04/1861 mentioned none of the York players’ names. It concluded, “These games excited considerable interest, and there was a numerous attendance of members and their friends.”
George Lumley gave a display to Hull (or Beverley?) players on Tuesday, 23/04/1861. He took on eight opponents, beating five of them.
George Lumley gave a display to Settle (?) players on Monday, 13/05/1861.
George Lumley visited Sheffield, in May 1861, at the invitation of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. On Thursday, 25/05/1861, George gave a blindfold simultaneous display in which he took on five members, named as Messrs. Greening, Birchall, Marshall, Boss, and E. Barlow. Play lasted four hours, and George won three games and last two. One of his losses arose “from inadvertency in announcing an unintended move. The other loss was in a game which was still in progress when the playing session came to an end, and which George resigned as the position was apparently in his opponent’s favour.
The report in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 25/05/1861, which had chosen the spelling Lumbley”, concluded, “The precision and accuracy with which the games were conducted was greatly admired, and the scientific manner in which his three skilful antagonists were placed hors-de-combat, elicited the applause of the whole assembly. Five years ago, Mr. Lumbley knew nothing about chess, and being then, as now, entirely deprived of sight, obtained his knowledge of the game, by means of a raised board and pieces.”
The final sentence seems to refer to the now-standard blind player’s board, with the squares of one colour raised relative to those of the other colour. It didn’t explicitly mention that the pieces had pegs which fitted into holes in the squares, nor did it specified what feature differentiated, by touch, white pieces from black, but one imagines George Lumley used a set and board much like the one used by modern-day blind chess-players, though not, of course, when playing “blindfold”.
The identities of the Sheffield opponents would appear to be as follows:
Stephen John Mann