Walter S. Franklin (18yo) – wins Mechanics Institute Handicap Tournament (April 1896)

One problem with doing chess research is that it’s very easy to go fractal, or rather, to find interesting side avenues. So, you’re exploring one avenue, and discover an interesting side avenue to follow, which then leads to yet another… etc. etc.

So, I was exploring the Steinitz–Zukertort WCC (1886), which got me interested in Zukertort’s early career, whereupon I found some newspaper articles about his experiences in the US, specifically a trip to San Francisco. Which in turn leads to some early history about the famous Mechanic Institute in SF, reminding me of a newspaper article I had early encountered and intended to write up, … etc., etc.

So, let’s just cut to chase, and present a very early success of one of a future MI champion:



Walter S. Franklin Carries Off the First Prize Gold Medal.


G. Thompson Succeeds in Securing Second Place After an Exciting

The handicap tournament which has been in progress for some time
at the Mechanics' Institute was concluded yesterday. There were
thirty-two contestants divided into four classes as follows:

First class, scratch — H. O. Chase, Thomas D. Condon,
F. H. Curtis, J. M. Durkin, S. Epstein, W. S. Franklin, J. Hirsch,
Thomas Martin, E. L. McClure, E. Nevill, Richard Ott, Oscar
Samuels, Rudolf Stein, G. R. Thompson.

Second class, at odds of pawn and move — Fred Burnett,
J. R. Chicton, E. A. Cutting, H. Epstein, R. J. Harding,
A. Schuman, C. W. Spalding, George Walker.

Third class, at odds of pawn and two moves —
I. Boxall. R. F. McLeod, John Newman, Charles Muller, C. Thomas,
J. M. Torres.

Fourth class, at odds of knight — George Burnett. I. Denton,
C. L. Miel, A. D. Reynolds.

Dr. Benjamin Marshall, the nestor and patron of chess on the
Pacific Coast, and Messrs. H. Hyneman, D. L. Lyons, Joseph
Sullivan and Joseph Waldstein acted as judges, and Richard Ott as
secretary. The tournament has been conducted under the rules as
given in Steinitz's Modern Chess Instructor. Time limit: Twenty
moves per hour. Winners of first two games in each round to
remain, losers to drop out entirely. Draws not to
count. Following were the results:

Winners of first round — Messrs. Boxall, Chase, Chilton, Condon,
Cutting, Denton, H. Epstein, Franklin, McClure, McLeod, Ott,
Samuels, Stein and Thompson.

Winners of second round — Messrs. Boxall, Condon, Denton,
Franklin, McClure, McLeod, Ott and Thompson.

Winners of third round — Messrs. Denton, Franklin and Thompson.

Winners of fourth round — Franklin and Thompson.

Winner of fifth and final round — Walter S. Franklin, who
consequently obtained first prize, a gold medal, and
G. R. Thompson, second prize, a silver medal.

The contest has been an exciting one throughout, and when it
finally settled down to between Franklin and Thompson the
incidents occurring in the chessroom during the past week will
long be remembered. C.[sic] R. Thompson has an international
reputation, while Walter Franklin is not yet 18 years of age, and
two years ago knew nothing about the game.

Walter Franklin is the son of Joseph Franklin, the well-known
merchant on Battery street. He was born in this City, attended
the public schools, and is now a student of Cooper's Medical
College. The moves were taught him by his father and by Oscar
Samuels, another of the youthful champions of the Mechanics'

Following is the score of one of the final games between Franklin
and Thompson [see end of post for PGN]:

White (Franklin). Black (Thompson).


1. P-K 4       	    P-K 3
2. P-Q 4       	    P-Q 4
3. Kt-Q B 3         Kt-K B 3 (a)
4. P-K 5            K Kt-Q 2
5. P-K B 4          P-Q B 4
6. PxP              KtxP
7. P-Q Kt 4         Kt-Q 2
8. P-Q R 3          Q-R 5 check (b)
9. P-Kt             Q-home
10. K B-Kt 2        P-K B 3 (c)
11. PxP             KtxP
12. Kt-B 3          Q-Kt 3
13. Q-K 2           Kt-B 3
14. B-Kt 2 (d)      B-K 2
15. Kt Q R 4        Q-B 2
16. P-Q 4           Castles
17. Kt-H Kt 5 (e)   K-R
18. Castles-K R     R-K
19. BxKt            BxB
20. K-Q Bsq         BxKt (f)
21. PxP             Kt-Q 5
22. Q-K 4           Q-Q 2
23. Kt-Q B 5        QxP
24. Q-Q 3           Kt-K B G check
25. RxKt            B-B 3
26. QxQ             PxQ
27. R-Q 3           P-Q Kt 3
28. BxP             B-K B 4
29. BxR             BxR
30. KtxB            RxB
31. Kt-K 5          K-Kt
32. K-B 2           K-K sq
33. K-K             BxKt (g)
34. PxB             K-B 2
35. K-B 3           K-K 3
36. K-K 4           B-Q B
37. B-Q             R-Q B 4 check
38. R-Q 4           R-B 7
39. R-Q 6 check     K-K 2
40. K-Q 5           RxP
41. K-B 6           P-Kt 4
42. B-Q 6 check     K-K 3
43. KxQ R P         KxP
44. KxP             K-B 4
45. K-Q B7          K-Kt 5
46. R-Q B 3         P-K R 4
47. P-Q 4           R-K Kt 7
48. P-R 5           BxP
49. RxR             KxR
50. P-R 6           P-R 5
51. P-R 7           P-Kt 5
52. P queens        P-K 6
53. K-Q B 5         K-B 7
54. Q-R 2 check     K-R 8
55. Q-Kt check      K-Kt 7
56. Q-Q B 2 check   K-B 6
57. Q-Q sq check    K-Kt 6
58. Q-K sq check    K-B 6
59. Q-B check       K-Kt 6
60. Q-Kt check      K-B 6
61. P-Kt 5          P-Kt 6
62. P-Kt 6          P-R 7
63. Q-R check       K-Kt 5
64. Q-Kt 2          Resigns


(a) It is generally conceded that (3) Kt K B 3 subjects the
defense to a difficult game. The best reply to (3) Kt Q B 3 is

(b) Loses valuable time by this sally of the queen and return.

(c) Again loss of time and weakening the K P ought to have
developed his king's bishop.

(d) The proper place for this bishop is at queen's third, but
owing to the forced advance of his king's knight pawn, is,
perhaps, best at knight's second.

(e) Q R-Q B square is certainly stronger at this stage.

(f) This move loses the game. Queen bishop to queen second would
still have given an even game.

(g) With this capture the last hope fades away. The pawn in the
center must win, play black as he might.

Presentation of prizes will take place on Friday evening next at
8 o'clock at the chessroom of the Mechanics' Institute.

Walter S. Franklin, Winner of the First Prize Gold Medal at the Recent Chess Tournament.

[Event "Mechanics Institute Handicap Tournament"]
[Site "San Francisco, CA USA"]
[Date "1896.04.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Franklin, Walter S. "]
[Black "Thompson, George R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C11g"]
[EventDate "1896.04.??"]
[Source "SF Call, v79, n150, 1896-04-28 p10"]
[Notes "One of final rounds, Franklin won 1st Gold Medal, players were 1st class, scratch (i.e. even) odds"]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.dxc5 Nxc5 7.b4 Ncd7 8.
a3 Qh4+ 9.g3 Qd8 10.Bg2 f6 11.exf6 Nxf6 12.Nf3 Qb6 13.Qe2 Nc6 14.Bb2 
Be7 15.Na4 Qc7 16.c4 O-O 17.Ng5 Kh8 18.O-O Re8 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.Rac1 
Bxg5 21.cxd5 Nd4 22.Qe4 Qd7 23.Nc5 Qxd5 24.Qd3 Nf3+ 25.Rxf3 Bf6 26.
Qxd5 exd5 27.Rd3 b6 28.Bxd5 Bf5 29.Bxa8 Bxd3 30.Nxd3 Rxa8 31.Ne5 Kg8 
32.Kf2 Re8 33.Re1 Bxe5 34.fxe5 Kf7 35.Kf3 Ke6 36.Ke4 Rc8 37.Rd1 Rc4+ 
38.Rd4 Rc2 39.Rd6+ Ke7 40.Kd5 Rxh2 41.Kc6 g5 42.Rd7+ Ke6 43.Rxa7 Kxe5
44.Kxb6 Kf5 45.Rc7 Kg4 46.Rc3 h5 47.a4 Rg2 48.a5 Rxg3 49.Rxg3+ Kxg3 
50.a6 h4 51.a7 g4 52.a8=Q h3 53.Kc5 Kh2 54.Qa2+ Kh1 55.Qb1+ Kg2 56.
Qc2+ Kf3 57.Qd1+ Kg3 58.Qe1+ Kf3 59.Qf1+ Kg3 60.Qg1+ Kf3 61.b5 g3 62.
b6 h2 63.Qh1+ Kg4 64.Qg2 1-0



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