Chicago (1874) – 3rd American Chess Congress — a first look

3rd American Chess Congress – Chicago (1874)

     6-player RR2  July 7-16, 1874 in Chicago, at the Chicago Chess Club.    

     Time control: 15 moves/hour, sealed envelop adjournments.

     Entrance fee $20, ~$650 prize money given.

     CG tournament page: 3rd American Chess Congress (1874)           Wikilink          EDOchess:  link

     Tournament PGN: (stubified/normalized)


It is significant that the Congress was held in Chicago, not even three full years after the Great Fire of 1871. Some of the story of how the Congress came together is told here:  (scroll down to <“Red Monday” and the Chicago Chess Club>).

The organizers finally did put the Congress together, and gave 114 East  Madison Street as the street address for correspondence. Of course street addresses change over time, but this address appears to be right in the heart of the destruction of the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871. The path of the destruction overlaid on a street map is shown below:

Madison runs E-W into the larger yellow colored damaged section, and has a railroad track on it as well. (As does Randolph St. just to its north). I believe East Madison refers to the section East of the Chicago River, placing it squarely in the path of destruction. Likely, the club located themselves in a recently rebuilt part of the city where rents were more affordable.

Here’s where the address is located as of today, immediately to the West of Millenium Park:,+Chicago,+IL+60602/@41.8821115,-87.6266992,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca4380e55e9:0xd17732b26b8353f7

This is close to Dearth School on the 1869 map. Another view, from a map of a 1874 fire also shows the downtown, with the Chess Club presumably adjacent to the rail-yards in the loop:

As for the Congress, it took place between July 6th to July 16th, with the first round play of the tournament beginning Monday July 7th. Originally, 8 players signed up, though two, Kennicott and Elder, dropped out so early as to have all their games nullified. Here is a list of players, with links to <CG>:

  1. Mackenzie, George Henry
  2. Hosmer, Henry
  3. Judd, Max
  4. Bock, Frederick
  5. Congdon, James Adams
  6. Perrin, Frederick
  7. Elder, Frederic
  8. Kennicott, Hiram

There was a tournament book actually published, but it is somewhat scarce, and not available on google. A cover page is all that I could find:

American Chess Congress (1874)

In fact, the 5th American Congress book is what I’ve used as a proxy tournament book (that, and some contemporaneous reporting from Brownson’s <The Chess Journal (1874)>).

(As mentioned in a comment beyond, there is an OLM Edition of the tournament available, bundled together with 2nd and 4th American Chess Congress, see Amazon: The Second, Third and Fourth American Chess Congress. It’s not authored by Mackenzie though, certainly not all of it, even if his portrait is on the front cover.)

Let’s turn to the tournament itself. A table of results of all the played games, including those nullified, is as follows (taken from the retrospective in the…):

5th American Chess Congress book, p98:

Chicago (1874) xtab - from 5th American Chess Congress (1880) tb p98

Again, the results for Elder and Kennicott were nullified, and must be subtracted from the final six to get the correct tournament results. In the PGN download shown above, the nullified games are put into an auxiliary tournament, by appending “+” to the Event tag.

Again, from the same source is the corrected leaderboard (p99):

Chicago (1874) final standings - from 5th American Chess Congress (1880) tb p99

and prizes (ibid):

Chicago (1874) prizes - from 5th American Chess Congress (1880) tb p99

More about the players can be found on the <CG> bio pages. But I do recommend reading a little more about Hosmer here:

Now, the <CG> tournament page gives four games as missing, but I would instead draw the distinction between a missing game (one played, but whose score is lost/unpublished), and a forfeit (a game not played). According to the retrospective, four forfeits occurred during the tournament, in addition to the dropouts. Again, from the retrospective (p98-99):

Mr. Bock, who had been playing under the disadvantages attending ill-health, resigned his two games to Mr. Hosmer, and on the last day of the tournament General Congdon resigned his games to Captain Mackenzie.

The <CG> tournament page can be found here: 3rd American Chess Congress (1874)

As is usual, in order to get a complete and accurate representation of the tournament, stubs have been added to the PGN.

SCID - RR xtab

All the games have not been sourced, instead the games were collected and compared between <365chess> and <CG>. At the time, the organizing committee was rather strict about publishing the games, saving them to recoop finances via a tournament book. The Westminster Papers commented on this:

Westminster Papers v7 (1st Aug 1874)

America.— The Chicago Committee have resolved to publish the games after the tourney in Book form. We can assure them that, in our judgment, this is not wise policy. The games should be published at once, and whilst the players are interested in the subject. We believe that those games of the Baden Tourney and the Vienna Tourney that were published by us as quickly as we could get them were more played over than all the games that have been published since. The games of the last tourney are still being published in the Continental Chess papers, but we never see any one playing over the games, nor do we see them quoted in this Country, Australia or America. Besides all this, is there a body of men so greedy for news as the Americans? Do they not buy more papers than all the rest of the world? and who amongst them cares for the news of the day before yesterday? The Americans buy, the English borrow, and the Continental nations read the papers at the Cafe, or go without. We are improving; but give the Americans the news of the day before yesterday and they will neither buy nor read.

We can only repeat that when the book is published no one will read it, except those who have to do so as a matter of business; whereas, if the games had been sent to the journals at once, the whole of them would have been played over by the end of next month.

Lyons – Chess Requisites and Works on Chess (1909) p12

Lyons - Chess Requisites and Works on Chess (1909)

Note the comment “The scarcest of the American Chess Congress Books”. Unfortunately, it still remains scarce.

As for the rules, the retrospective says they followed those of <London (1862)>. This isn’t strictly correct, for draws were replayed with the same colors in the earlier tournament. In Chicago, draws were treated in the modern sense, scored as 1/2 point and alternating colors. Only if a game was annulled, and replayed, would a pairing repeat colors.

The full details of all the rules can be found here:

The Chess Journal v8 N59-69 (1874-75)    ed-Brownson, p9-14

The retrospective can be found here:

The Fifth American Chess Congress (1881) ed-Gilberg, p90-100/113-123

Thanks to <stonehenge> and other diligent biographers at <CG> for obtaining some hard-to-find info on the many otherwise obscure or forgotten players of the past.



5 thoughts on “Chicago (1874) – 3rd American Chess Congress — a first look

  1. There is an OLMS edition of the tournament books of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th congresses that can often be bought used at a reasonable price. It has the game scores (all 36 in the CG tournament page) with light notes, the rules, and a brief summary of the results.

  2. Pingback: First Look – look here first | Zan Chess

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