January 30, 1852

Chess

Jan 1852

Jan 30th  Friday  Have commenced making a flannel

skirt for self & finished Susans dark print apron.

Mother [and] self passed the afternoon at Edwins.  Mr

Ames came to tea. Mrs S Ames called there with Mrs

Holmes. Mrs Witherell and the others returned to 

night  She has not her teeth but is to send for them

Oliver & Fred went to James Mitchell and called at

several other places  had a fine time Oliver played

chess with Judge Mitchell

Oliver Ames (3), Evelina’s middle son and a future governor of Massachusetts, was still home from college, as was his first cousin, Frederick Lothrop Ames.  The two young men were having “a fine time” on their winter break.  Chess was just one of the games they might have played to while away the dark evenings, another being whist.

Chess had been around for centuries, having first developed in India and the Islamic world.  It had evolved over time; dark and light squares on a chessboard were first introduced in the 10th century, for instance, rules for a stalemate or draw in the 15th, and so on.

By the nineteenth century, chess was really coming into its own.  In 1802, one J. Humphreys published a book called Chess Made Easy.  In 1830, the first known female chess player was acknowledged (though probably not encouraged.)  The first international chess tournament was held in London in 1851, won by Adolf Anderssen, and in 1852, the year we find Oliver Ames (3) playing the game on a winter’s night in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, sandglasses were first used to time a game.

Before the decade was finished, an American prodigy name Paul Morphy came to fame, winning nearly every game he played and defeating most of the older expert players. In the United States, a chess “epidemic” was born.

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