Yorkshire Chess History



Johann Jacob Löwenthal











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



15/07/1810, Pest, Hungary



24/07/1876, St. Leonards‑on‑Sea, Sussex








Johann Jacob Löwenthal was born to Jewish parents on 15th July 1810 at Pest in Hungary, before it joined with Buda on the other side of the river Danube to form Budapest.  He was destined to become an important figure on the English chess scene in the second half of the 19th century.  His arrival in England was an unexpected consequence of his taking a new job.


The Kossuth Regime in Hungary


Following revolution in France, Lajos Kossuth stirred up nationalism in Hungary in 1848, in an attempt to establish a degree of independence from Austria.  The result was a Hungarian government with Lajos Batthyány as prime minister, and Kossuth Finance Minister.  Because Kossuth was the primary mover in this surge of Hungarian/Magyar nationalism, the new regime was dubbed the “Kossuth regime”.


Johann Jacob Löwenthal got a job working for the new government, which might have been the start of a promising career, but that was not to be.  The Austrian Emperor Ferdinand, who had made concessions to the Kossuth regime, abdicated in favour of Franz Joseph, who rescinded Ferdinand’s concessions, and outlawed Kossuth and his originally-legitimate regime.  In time, with assistance from Russia, Austria prevailed by military force, and Kossuth fled from Hungary to find popularity and acclaim on the after-dinner-speech circuit in the world outside Hungary.  Others in his government similarly had to flee.  His private secretary, Lichtenstein fled first to Königsberg, but settled in Edinburgh, where he became prominent in the city’s musical life.


Life in England


Löwenthal went initially to America, where he played Morphy.  Then in 1851 he travelled to England to play in the Staunton’s London Tournament of 1851.  He stayed in England, where he resided for the rest of his life.  He supported himself as a chess professional, playing and writing, until his health gave out.


In 1851-52 Löwenthal toured England, playing chess against members of the local clubs.  This included a tour of Yorkshire clubs.


At the first meeting of the (later “British”) Chess Association, being the Northern and Midland Chess Association under a new guise, in 1857, at Manchester, Löwenthal won the eight-player knock-out, beating Horwitz in round one, Adolf Anderssen in round 2 (the crunch encounter), and Boden in the final.  The other competitors were Pindar, Harrwitz, Soul and Brien.


This success was repeated at the 1858 meeting in Birmingham, where he won 60 guineas (£63) by beating J. S. Kipping in round one (+2, =0, -0), Howard Staunton in round 2 (+2,=0,-0), Rev. John Owen in round 3 (+2, =1, -0), and then beating Falkbeer (+3, =4, -1) in the final, which was played in London.


He didn’t attend the Chess Association meeting in Cambridge.


During a visit to Bristol Chess club in 1860, he suggested that Bristol be the venue for the next Chess Association meeting, in 1862, and Löwenthal became “manager and foreign correspondent” of the exercise, and edited the book of the congress, published in 1864.


He had published Morphy’s Games of Chess in 1860, but was more prominent as the editor of chess magazines and columns in more-general periodicals, than as a writer of books.  He edited The Chess Player's Magazine from 1863 to 1867, wherein his umlaut seems not to have been printed.  He was editor of important chess columns in The Illustrated News and The Era.


In 1866 he applied to become a British citizen, apparently giving his age as 60, suggesting he was born about four years earlier than is generally thought..


Less visibly he served as secretary to the St. George's Chess Club in London.  After his death, this club instituted The Lowenthal Cup as its club championship trophy, in memory their former secretary.  This in 1922 became the English Counties Championship Trophy, and was retrospectively engraved with the winners from 1908.




He died, after a couple of years’ illness, at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, on 24th July 1876.  In the final years he’d been dependent on the charity of others, due to his ill health.  (An 6-page biographical article by Geoffrey Harber Diggle, which appeared in the British Chess Magazine of 1976, page 306, says the date of death was 21/07/1876.)


He was buried in Hastings Cemetery, and a gravestone was erected by the St. George’s Chess Club of London.  The gravestone was renovated by the British Chess Federation, and a ceremony held at the grave on 21/07/1926 marking the fiftieth anniversary of his death.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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