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The first Irish postal tournament

By Tim Harding

The story of the first Irish postal chess tournament has at last been pieced together from a combination of English and Irish sources.

The competition, as reported in my Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824–1987 was associated with the City and County of Dublin Chess Club (founded 1867) and most of the 16 entrants were members of that club.

The tournament was organised under the auspices of the Irish Sportsman and Farmer weekly newspaper, where early reports about it appeared. There was no byline on the column, which was announced in the 12 November 1870 and commenced the following Saturday. The first public mention of the competition was when the following paragraph appeared in the 17 December issue:

Players wishing to join in a Correspondence Tourney, in connection with our Chess Column, will please communicate with the Chess Editor, who will be happy to furnish any information on the subject. Five or six names are still required to complete the list.

Who was the Chess Editor? Dr. A. A. Luce, in his centenary history of the Dublin chess club, wrote (pages 6-7) that: ‘our first Secretary undertook to edit a chess column…’ On page 9 of the same work, Luce stated that Thomas Long was ‘our first Secretary and Treasurer’. Luce evidently believed that the Sportsman columnist was Long. Somehow he must have overlooked that the club minutes, which were at his disposal while compiling the history, show that the original office holder Thomas Long had resigned on 16 November 1869 due to pressure of work. Long, a civil servant at the Board of Works (who later rose to become its principal officer), had been principal organiser of the 1865 Dublin Chess Congress and was the author of various small works on chess openings for novices.

James Alexander Rynd was elected in his place, by acclamation. Rynd (now about 22 years old) was a law student who at the age of 18 had won the third tournament at the first Dublin chess congress of 1865, the competition restricted to Irish residents. Thanks to this victory Rynd is often named as first Irish chess champion, and later writings by him certainly show that he regarded himself as such.

It was only until the autumn of 1870 that the possibility of a second Dublin Chess Congress was mooted, to be held in 1871. This event never took place but there are references to plans for it in several sources. One of these is in the club minutes, in Rynd’s first report as secretary and treasurer, which is dated 31 October 1870. That includes the following statement:

In conjunction with the various other means adopted for the successful maturation of the projected Tourt., the Hon Secy has taken upon himself the editorship of a Chess Column (shortly to appear in the Irish Sportsman and Farmer)…

From all this, it appears clear that the ‘Hon Secy’ in that paragraph refers to Rynd although Luce took it to refer to Long. Therefore one may conclude that the correspondence tournament was organised by Rynd, who did not play in it, while Long was a competitor. In the absence of Rynd, George Frith Barry was certainly favourite to win the event. Not only had he been the first winner of the Dublin club’s Cordner Cup competition, he also had in 1867-68 won a match of two games against the strong English amateur Thomas Bourn of Whitby.

On 7 January 1871 the conditions for the first Irish correspondence tourney were published in the Irish Sportsman and Farmer column. It was organised on what they said was known as the ‘pairing system’ but which would nowadays be called a knock-out tournament. This was the normal system for postal tourneys in those days The entry fee was five shillings, to be paid by 12 January, and there were to be two ‘substantial and suitable’ prizes. Rules of play were those for correspondence game as published in Staunton’s Chess Praxis, with the addition of a time limit. For the first move players were allowed three days, but thereafter were expected to reply the day following the receipt of a move, Sundays excepted.

The column of 21 January stated that the pairings would be made that evening and communicated to the players on the following Monday, but there would appear to have been a one-week delay, either in the pairings or in the publication of them. There was nothing about the tourney in the Irish Sportsman and Farmer column on 28 January, but that of Saturday 4 February said on page 13 that: ‘The pairing took place in the City and County of Dublin Chess Club, 3 Grafton-street, on last Saturday,’ implying 28 January, though it is just possible that the paper’s editors had held out this paragraph for one week because of space considerations.

Some of the names were not given in full. The pairings, as printed, read as follows, White named first: ‘Mr. G. F. Barry, having first move, to play with Mr W. R. Larminie.’ The others were: A. Belas v. R. F. Hunt; Rev. Mr B— v. Rev. Mr D—; T. S. Cranwill v. W. Lawless; F. Daunt v. S. Barry; W. Keating v. T. Long; Rev Mr. M— v. R. Goodbody; Mr F. Pim v C. Carroll. Then the following paragraph appeared in the column on 18 February.

CORRESPONDENCE TOURNEY. From all accounts which have reached us play seems to be progressing satisfactorily. As great interest will attach to the game which is first concluded, we request the players to lose no time in communicating such a result to us, and forwarding a copy of the Game.

Unfortunately no games from the competition were ever published in the newspaper, since there was now a lengthy hiatus. Then on 8 April the final column appeared, without any mention of the tournament. Although the column ended, the competition did continue, and to look for further information one must seek elsewhere. It was to be another 11 years before the newspaper, now just entitled the Irish Sportsman, launched a revived chess column.

After the tournament ended, somebody (probably Rynd, but perhaps Long) “communicated” a report about it, which the Westminster Papers published in its October 1872 issue (volume 5, pages 81-82). “The Correspondence Tourney, set afloat about 18 months ago, in connection with the Irish Sportsman and Farmer, has just terminated.” Curiously, one of the names was different.

In Round 1, said the Papers, G. F. Barry won of W. R. Larminie; F. Daunt won by walkover against Sam Barry (entry withdrawn); Lintscrawl beat W. H. Lawless; R. F. Hunt beat A. Belas; F. R. Pim beat C. Carroll; the Rev. E. Buckley beat the Rev. W. V. G. Dudgeon; the Rev. M. Meehan beat R. Goodbody; T. Long beat W. Keating. This report provides the full names of the clergymen who were previously identified only by initials. “Lintscrawl”, as we can see from the original announcement, must have been T. S. Cranwill and indeed the pseudonym is an anagram of that name.

Only a little is know about the players defeated in the first round. Sam Barry, who withdrew, was the brother of George Barry, and they had both played in telegraph matches a few years earlier for Dublin against both Belfast and the St. James’s Club of Dublin. They were also both cricketers who had played on the Irish team that defeated the M.C.C. at Lord’s in May 1861. (See my article in History Ireland, September-October 2011.)

William Larminie (1849-1900) was quite well-known in Ireland as a poet and folklorist. He was the author of West Irish folk tales and romances. More than a decade later, Barry had a column in the Irish Fireside and on 12 January 1885 he published his win. ‘The following was played by correspondence between Messrs GF Barry and W. R. Larminie, and was one of the games in a Tourney started by The Irish Sportsman, in the year 1871.’


George Frith Barry – William Larminie

Ruy Lopez (C73)

Irish Sportsman correspondence tourney round 1, 1871

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 5 Bxc6+ bxc6 6 d4 Bg4 7 dxe5 Bxf3 8 Qxf3 dxe5 9 0–0 Bd6 10 Qc3 Qd7 11 f4 f6 12 f5 Ne7 13 Nd2 0–0 14 Nb3 Rfb8 15 Be3 Rb4 16 Rad1 a5 17 a3 Rb5 18 Nc5 Qe8 19 Ne6 Qh5

19...Qf7 would have been somewhat better, but Black's game is woefully cramped in any case.

20 Bc1

A decisive move, threatening to win a piece and making the road clear when the White Rook is played to Q3.


This loses a piece at once.

21 Qg3 Rg8 22 c4 Nxf5 23 exf5 Rbb8 24 c5 Be7 25 Rd7 Qf7 26 Qf3 g6 27 Rxc7 gxf5 28 Qxf5 Bxc5+ 29 Kh1 Be7 30 Ng5 1-0.

Resigns. If Black play 30...Qg7 then 31 Qxe5 etc. (TH: if then 31...fxe5 32 Nf7+ Qxf7 33 Rxf7 Rbd8 34 Be3 Rd1+ 35 Bg1 and Black either loses his B or is mated on h7.)

Carroll was Coote Carroll, who continued to be an Irish club player for many years, and played in the Ireland versus Sussex correspondence chess match in the mid-1880s. R. Fitzmaurice Hunt (who died in 1907) was an experienced player and founder member of the City & County of Dublin Club. The Field in 1882 reported that Hunt was one of the people who had travelled a long way to see the great Vienna tournament, won by Steinitz.

In round 2, G. F. Barry beat Meehan; ‘Lintscrawl’ beat Daunt; Pim beat Hunt (said to have ‘resigned’); and Long beat Buckley. Barry published his win against Meehan in The Irish Fireside, on 6 April 1885 identifying it as ‘one of those played for the Prize, offered some years ago by the Irish Sportsman.’

George Frith Barry – Rev. M. Meehan

Ruy Lopez (C60)

Irish Sportsman correspondence tourney round 2, 1871.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Qf6

Not a good defence; the Q Kt can attack the Black Queen in two moves for one thing.

4 Nc3 Bc5 5 0–0

If 5 Nd5 Qg6 and White could not with advantage we think take the BP.

5...Nge7 6 d3 0–0

P-R3, or Kt to Kt3, would have been better.

7 Bg5 Qg6 8 Bxe7 Bxe7 9 Bxc6 dxc6 10 Nxe5 Qh6 11 Ng4 Qg5 12 Ne3 f5 13 f4 Qg6 14 e5 Be6 15 Rf3 Bf7 16 Ne2 Qe6 17 Qe1 Bh5 18 Rh3 Bg4 19 Nxg4 fxg4 20 Re3 Rad8 21 Qc3 b6 22 Re4 Qd5 23 Qb3 Kh8 24 Qxd5 cxd5 25 Re3 g5 26 g3 Bc5 27 d4 gxf4 28 gxf4 Be7 29 Rf1 c5 30 c3 h5 31 f5

The two Passed Pawns must win.

31...Bg5 32 Rd3 Kh7 33 Kg2 Kh6 34 f6 h4 35 Nf4 Bxf4 36 Rxf4 Kg5 37 Rf2 Kg6 38 h3 gxh3+ 39 Kxh3 Rh8 40 e6 Rd6 41 f7 1–0.

In the other game from Round 2, Long beat Buckley and this was probably that game although it was not explicitly identified as such.

Thomas Long – Rev. E. Buckley

Ruy Lopez (C77)

Irish Sportsman correspondence tourney round 2, 1871.

From the Westminster Papers March 1872; the anonymous and unreliable notes are included for historical reasons only.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6

This is not so safe a defence as 4..Be7. 5 d3 The authors of the Grosses Schach Handbuch recommend 5 0–0 and give the following variations in support of their view:

5...Be7 6 Nc3 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 d3 0–0 9 Be3 and White has the better game.

5...Nxe4 6 Re1 Nf6 7 d4 e4 8 d5 Ne7 9 d6 cxd6 10 Bg5 exf3 11 Bxf6 gxf6 12 Qxd6 Rg8 13 Nc3 Rxg2+ 14 Kh1 Rg5 15 Nd5 Rxd5 16 Qxd5 and White wins by playing next move 17 Bb3.

5...Bc5 6 Be3

An unusual move.

6...Qe7 7 Bxc5 Qxc5 8 c3 b5 9 Bc2 d5 10 exd5 Qxd5 11 0–0 0–0 12 Nbd2 Bg4 13 Qe1 Rfe8 14 Ng5 Bh5

White threatened Bb3 next move, winning the exchange, and this is Black's best reply.

15 Qe3 Ne7 16 Nge4 Rad8

If (16...)Nf5 White plays (17) Qg5, but we think Black might have taken off the Kt with Kt safely.

17 Nxf6+ gxf6 18 Ne4 Qc6 19 f4 f5 20 Ng3 Nd5 21 Qc1

With the view of maintaining an attack on the advanced f-pawn.


21...Bg4 looks stronger, and indeed Black's 26th move shows that the Bishop is required to co-operate in the attack he is now preparing.

22 fxe5 f4 23 Ne4 Rxe5 24 Kh1 f5 25 Ng5 Ne3 26 Rf2 Bh5

If 26...Nxg2 then 27 Rxg2 Re2 28 Qf1 (But then comes 28...Rxc2 so presumably the note should have read 28 Bb3+ followed by 29 Qf1.)

27 Bb3+ Kh8 28 d4

White has now repelled the short attack, and pursues the game with vigour.

28...Re7 29 d5 Qb6 30 Ne6

Better than 30 Rxf4 to which Black could reply by 30...Nxg2 etc

30...Rxe6 31 dxe6 Nd1 32 Rxf4 1-0.

Resigns, for if 32...Nf2+ 33 Rxf2 Qxf2 34 Qg5 Rg8 35 Qf6+ Rg7 36 Bd5 etc.

In Round 3 Barry beat Long and Pim beat “Lintscrawl”. Wins by Barry against Long were published many years later in a revived Irish Sportsman chess column on 11 and 25 October 1884. Possibly one, or both, was played in this tournament, but were not identified as such, and the two may have played many friendlies.

George Frith Barry – Thomas Long

Petroff Defence (C42)

From the Irish Sportsman, 11 Oct, 1884: 'Correspondence game played some time ago...'

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 Be7 6 Bd3 d5 7 0–0 Nc6 8 Re1 Nd6 9 c3 0–0 10 Bf4 Be6 11 Qc2 h6 12 Nbd2 Bf6 13 Nf1 Ne7 14 Ng3 Kh8 15 h3 Ng8 16 Nh5 c6 17 Be5 Re8 18 Rad1 a6 19 Qc1 Bxe5 20 dxe5 Nf5 21 Bb1 Nh4 22 Nxh4 Qxh4 23 Nf4 Qg5 24 Rd3 h5 25 Rf3 Qh6 26 g4 h4 27 Kh2 g6 28 g5 Qg7 29 Ng2 Bd7 30 Qf4 1–0.

Thomas Long – George Frith Barry

Three Knights Game (C46)

Notes by Barry in the Irish Fireside, 20 Oct. 1884 page 1135: ‘'Correspondence game played some time since...’

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Bc5 4 Nxe5 Bxf2+

4...Nxe5 is the best move, then 5 d4 Bd6.

5 Kxf2 Nxe5 6 d4 Qf6+

I consider this move better than Kt to Kt 3, as recommended by Gossip, because in this case the White King will be enabled presently to retire into safe quarters, and an open file will be secured for the King's Rook.

7 Ke1

The Book of the Tournament, 1883, p. 72, gives 7 Kg1 Ng4 8 Qd2 followed by 8 h3, with an excellent game.

7...Ng6 8 Bc4 Qc6 9 Bd5 Qa6 10 Rf1 Nf6 11 Bg5 Nxd5 12 Nxd5 0–0 13 Qf3 Qc4 14 c3

Mr Long, decidedly, has the advantage in the opening. At this point I think, if he had played 14 Bf6 he would have had a strong attack. Black obviously could not have captured the Bishop (see line)... And suppose 14...Qxc2 (14...gxf6 15 Nxf6+ followed by 16 Nh5+ or 16 QH5, according to circumstances) 15 Bxg7 Qxb2 (15...Kxg7 16 Qf6+ or Rf2) 16 Nf6+ Kxg7 17 Nh5+ Kg8 18 Qf6 Qxa1+ 19 Kf2 and wins]

14...f6 15 b3 Qc6 16 Rf2 d6 17 Bf4 Be6 18 Nb4 Qe8 19 Kf1 a5

Black has now gained the attack, which he retains to the end.

20 Nd3 a4 21 b4 Qb5 22 Kg1 Rae8 23 Rd1 Bc4 24 Bg3 Qc6 25 d5 Qb5 26 Rfd2 Rf7 27 h4 Bxd3 28 Rxd3 Ne5 29 Bxe5 fxe5 30 Qe3 Qc4 0-1.

Resigns. The White Pawns are not happily situated. Black must win one Pawn at least, for if the RP be defended, R to B5 follows.

The tournament did not have a satisfactory conclusion. Barry published the moves of the final game, shown below. Little is known about his opponent, who was possibly distantly related to the Irishman Dr. Joshua Pim, Wimbledon tennis champion 1893–1894.

George Frith Barry – F. R. Pim

French Defence (C01)

From the Irish Fireside, 1 July 1885, page 31. ‘The following game was played by correspondence between Messrs G. F. Barry and F. R. Pim, being one of those played in a tourney started by the Irish Sportsman some years ago.’

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 exd5 4 Nf3 Bd6 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 0–0 0–0 7 Nc3

Major de Jaenisch considers 7 c4 the best continuation. The move in the text, often made by Morphy, is, we think, fully as good.

7...c6 8 Bg5 Bg4 9 h3 Bxf3 10 Qxf3 Nbd7 11 Bf5 Qc7 12 Rae1 Rae8 13 Re3 h6 14 Bh4 Bf4 15 Re2 Bd6 16 Bxd7 Nxd7 17 Qf5

We cannot see the force of this move, unless, perhaps, to prevent Black playing his R to e6.

17...Rxe2 18 Nxe2 Re8 19 Qd3

We believe White might have ventured19 Ng3, then if 19...g5 20 Nh5 gxh4 21 Qxd7 Qxd7 22 Nf6+ winning back the Q.

19...Qa5 20 a3 Nb6 21 Bg3 Bxg3 22 Nxg3 Nc4 23 Nf5 Qd2 24 Qxd2 Nxd2 25 Rd1 Nc4 26 Ne3 Nd6

If 26...Nxe3 then 27 Re1.

27 Rd3 f5 28 Kf1 f4 29 Nd1 g5 30 Nc3 Kg7 31 Ne2 Kf6 32 b3 Ne4 33 g3 Kf5 34 g4+ Kf6 35 Ng1 a5 36 Nf3 Ke6 ½–½.

Barry did not explain what actually happened at the end. He said this game was drawn. The Westminster Papers account explains.

It is right to state that when the game between Messrs. Barry and Pim had reached a stage presenting all the appearances of a ‘draw’, the players applied for permission to relinquish the contest, and divide the prize money; and when they found such an arrangement to be contrary to the principle, and calculated to defeat the object of the tourney, it was decided by lot between them which should formally resign to the other, for the purpose of bringing about a legitimate conclusion. The result showed itself in Mr Pim’s obtaining first place, and Mr Barry second, the prize money being divided between them.

This was the first tourney of its kind in Ireland. The players being all Irish, and the moves (with the exception of a few posted in England and Scotland) transmitted through the Irish post offices. It was one of a few well-directed efforts to foster chess in Ireland made some time ago, when there were too many counteracting influences at work, but which would at another time have been attended with material success. Is it not a source of regret, in considering the effects of this tourney, to find that the few players it brought, for the first time, into prominence have since relapsed into obscurity and perhaps inactivity.

At the end of the Westminster Papers report, it was stated that ‘an interesting little match is taking place between Dynari and Lintscrawl, two well-known Dubliners.’ Victorians often used the initials I and J interchangeably so ‘Dynari’ was also an anagram: J. A. Rynd became I. A. Rynd and hence the pseudonym. Rynd was married to a member of Cranwill’s family, probably a daughter or sister. Further research into the family continues. It is unknown what was the result of this private match, and soon afterwards Rynd ceased to be a member of the Dublin club following a dispute. He only returned to chess in the mid-1880s.

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