Napier: The Forgotten Chessmaster

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Author: John S. Hilbert (1953- )

Year: 1997

Publisher: Caissa Editions

Place: Yorklin, DE


v+354 pages with diagrams, plates and indexes. Royal octavo (9 1/4 x 6 1/2") issued in original publisher's red cloth with gilt lettering to spine and front cover. First edition.

William Ewart Napier (17 January 1881 in East Dulwich, Surrey - 6 September 1952 in Washington, D.C.) was an American chess master of English birth. His parents emigrated to the United States when he was five years old. From 1895 he lived in Brooklyn and came into contact with some of the best chess players of the country. He had his first successes with simultaneous games, among other things winning in December 1894 versus the acting United States Chess Champion Jackson Whipps Showalter. At the beginning of 1896 he, despite his young age, became a member of the Brooklyn Chess Club and won the club championship later that year, at the age of 15. In the same year he defeated the later grandmaster Frank James Marshall in a match, winning 7:1 with 3 draws. 1897 saw him win a tournament game against ex-world champion Wilhelm Steinitz. At the beginning of 1899 Napier traveled to Europe, in order to study music there, and visited the chess clubs of London, Paris and Berlin. In 1900 he returned to the USA and established himself in Pittsburgh. There he wrote the chess column of the newspaper Pittsburgh Dispatch. In 1901, he won a master tournament in Buffalo versus Eugene Delmar, placing behind tournament winner Harry Nelson Pillsbury, but still above Marshall. This success encouraged him to participate in the following years in some international master tournaments. He played in Monte Carlo and Hanover in 1902 as well as in Cambridge Springs in 1904. He won none of those tournaments, but in each case received a special prize for brilliantly played games, for example winning the Rothschild Brilliancy Prize for his game against Mikhail Chigorin. In July 1904, he visited Great Britain and won a well-attended tournament in London against Richard Teichmann, Joseph Henry Blackburne and Isidor Gunsberg. Subsequently, he participated in the British championship in Hastings, where he was, because of his English birth, entitled to take part, and won the tournament against Henry Atkins, whom he defeated in the pass fight with 2.5-1.5, to become the first British Chess Federation Champion. Thereafter, Atkins became the most dominant player in the history of the British Championship, winning the next nine championships in which he competed. In 1905 Napier played two matches: against Jacques Mieses the match was undecided (4-4 with 2 draws), against Teichmann he lost 1-5 with 4 draws. Afterwards Napier withdrew from the international tournament arena. He gained American citizenship in 1908 and began a career at an insurance company, becoming vice president of the Scranton Insurance Company. He married Florence Gillespie (Pillsbury's niece), with whom he later had two daughters. Although he still participated in chess, he played no more important tournaments. When he died at the age of 71, his chess career was nearly forgotten.


Front head corner bumped else a near fine lacking dust jacket as issued.