Howard Staunton (1810-1874)

Biography by Bill Wall

(Return to Main page)

    Howard Staunton was born in April, 1810 in Westmoreland, England. He may have been the illegitimate son of the Frederick Howard, fifth Earl of Carlisle. It appears that Howard Staunton was not his real name. He started out as an actor in Shakespeare's plays.

    In 1836 Staunton came to London and was a subscriber to William Walker's collection of chess games og Alexander McDonnell. He learned chess at the Divan.

    In 1838 he joined the Old Westminster Chess Club and lost chess matches to Captain W.D. Evans and Alexandre.

    In 1840 he defeated Popert in a match. From May to December he wrote a chess column in the New Court Gazette. He was elected Secretary of the Westminster chess club.

    In 1841 he became the editor of the British Miscellany which became the Chess Player's Chronicle, England's first successful chess magazine. He was the editor until 1854. The Chronicle was issued regularly until 1852. A new series lasted from 1853 to 1856. A third series lasted from 1859 to 1862.

    In 1842 he played several hundred games with Cochrane, who was on leave from India.

    In 1843 he lost a match to France's leading player, Saint-Amant. Staunton won 2 games, drew one game, and lost 3 games. The match was held in London in April-May. In November, Staunton traveled to Paris and on November 14, 1843 he began another match with Saint-Amant. The match was held at the Cafe de la Regence and lasted until December 20, 1843. Staunton won the match with 11 wins, 4 draws, and 6 losses. Staunton's prize money was 100 pounds. Staunton was successful with the opening 1.c4 against Saint-Amant, and the opening became known as the English opening. This was also the first match that used seconds. Staunton used Wilson, Evans, and Worrell as his seconds.

    In October 1844 he travelled to Paris for a return match. The day before the match he caught pneumonia and the match was cancelled.

    In February 1845 he became the chess columnist for the Illustrated London News. He was a columnist for 29 years, until he died in 1874. On April 9, 1845 Staunton in Gosport played players in London by telegraph.

    In 1846 he defeated Horwitz and Harrwitz in matches.

    In July, 1847 he published the Chess-Player's Handbook in London. It was published in Bohn's Scientific Library series. Staunton introduced the Staunton Gambit (1.d4 f5 2.e4) against Horwitz.

    In 1849 he published the Chess-Player's Companion and Chess Player's Text Book. That year he married, at age 39.

   On September 8, 1849 Staunton endorsed the chess set design by Nathaniel Cook and manufactured by his brother-in-law, John Jacques. He recommended the sets in the Illustrated London News and it became known as the Staunton pattern. Later, each chess box that the chessmen came in was signed by Staunton and Jacques stamped upon each set.

    In 1851 he organized the world's first international chess tournament during the "Great Exhibition of Art and Industry" in London. Staunton was knocked out in the 3rd round by Anderssen, who won by the score of 4-1. Anderssen won this 16-player knockout event.

    In 1852 he published The Chess Tournament, about the 1851 tournament. He tried to arrange a chess match with Adolf Anderssen, but Anderssen retired from serious play at this time.

    In 1853 he travelled to Brussels to meet with Lasa, the German leading chess authority, to standardize the rules of chess.

    In 1850 Staunton sold his Chess Players Chronicle to R.B. Brien.

    In 1856 he began work on an annotated edition of Shakespeare's plays. This was published in monthly installments from November 1857 to May 1860.

    In 1858 Staunton was challenged to a match by Morphy, but Staunton was working on a tight schedule to publish his works on Shakespeare. His publishers would accept no breach of contract.

    In 1860 he published Chess Praxis, which includes 168 pages devoted to Morphy's games. It also included a code of chess rules.

    In 1865 he published Great Schools of England. In March, 1865 he edited a monthly chess magazine called The Chess World. He continued to publish this magazine until March, 1869.

    On June 22, 1874Staunton was working on another chess book when he suffered a fatal heart attack and died in his library chair in London. Staunton's grave is located at Kensal Green, England. The tombstone simply says Howard Staunton 1810-1874 and has a large knight on the headstone.

(return to top of page)

©Copyright 2000 , Abbey Chess Products