Black History Chess Reflections for 2019

Was this an aged Theophilus Thompson?

This year Black History commemorations highlighted the events of the day including a rare photo of Theophilus Thompson, a chess icon known mostly for this book of chess problems, Chess Problems: Either Play or Mate. Until recently, the only photo known of Thompson is one as a teenager who had just published the aforementioned book. Thompson is considered a “Master Emeritus” of The Chess Drum community and made an indelible mark.

While public records showed that Thompson died in his 90s, he disappeared from the chess scene primarily because (according to his great-niece) he didn’t have worthy opponents to play in his area. She also supplied the photo above. How could it be that he would disappear without a trace? It would have been interesting to see what would have become of his career had he pursued chess more seriously. Did Thompson leave Frederick, Maryland and migrate somewhere else?

{Update (4-18-2020): Groundbreaking news about Theophilus Thompson! The person pictured above is not the Theophilus Thompson from Frederick, Maryland, but a different Theophilus Thompson from Anne Arundel, Maryland. I have found out a few days ago that the chess problemist died at the age of 26 after a battle with tuberculosis. The other namesake was an oysterman and lived into his 90s. It was ironic because both were Black, born around the same time and shared the name. See “Theophilus Thompson Revisited (2020)” for details.}

Mate in two
Chess Problem by Theophilus Thompson (1873), #10

This video covers a variety of topics including the rediscovery of Thompson, Oleiny Linares’ 3rd national crown in Cuba and a new version of Triple Exclam. The new paperback edition of Triple Exclam is now available in black and white for $20/copy. Maurice Ashley’s 20th anniversary of earning the GM title is mentioned and will precede the commemoration to take place later in the month. Also in this segment are a couple of puzzles to solve.


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