Thomas Frère and the Brotherhood of Chess

A History of 19th Century Chess in New York City


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About the Book

The 19th century in the United States saw the evolution of a leisure society. Enjoying numerous technological advances, people had free time to indulge in a variety of pursuits. An assortment of board games flooded American homes. By mid-century, chess had surpassed all others in popularity. The author of three important chess texts, Thomas Frère was instrumental in the growth of chess in America. This work reveals the 19th century development of chess through the writings of Thomas Frère: books, letters, chess columns and scrapbooks, illuminating important players of the time and their games. The main text is divided into four sections covering 1827–1900. The first looks at the early years as chess moved from private to public venues, and formal chess clubs were established such as Frère’s Brooklyn Chess Club in 1856. The second section deals with the First American Chess Congress and the advent of Paul Morphy and the third is on Frère’s role in the first formal world chess championship, thoroughly documented in his letters. The fourth section examines the last decade of the 1800s as chess moved into the 1900s.

About the Author(s)

Martin Frère Hillyer, a descendant of Thomas Frère, lives in Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Martin Frère Hillyer

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, diagrams, appendices, notes, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2013 [2007]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7508-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations      ix
Acknowledgments      xi
Introduction      1

Part I: 1827–1856
1. The Early Years      5
2. Manhattan, 1854–1856      16
Selected Games from Frère’s Chess Hand-Book      21
Challenging Problems from the Chess Hand-Book      27
Chess Hand-Book Problem Solutions      33

Part II: 1857–1865
3. Manhattan, 1857      37
Morphy’s Games in America      46
Frère’s Problem Tournament      61
Frère’s Problem Solutions      68
4. “It smells like a Fiske”      71
5. 1861–1865: Conflict and Tragedy      95
Morphy’s Games in Europe      100

Part III: 1877–1886
6. 1877: The Manhattan Chess Club      111
7. 1879: Living Chess      125
8. 1880: The Fifth American Chess Congress      142
9. 1883–1884: Welcome Steinitz! Farewell Morphy!      160
10. 1885–1886: The First World Championship      171

Part IV: Through 1900
11. The Final Years      181

Appendix A: A Chess Collector’s Tale      195
Appendix B: Morphy and Steinitz      197
Chapter Notes      199
Selected Bibliography      203
Index of Games and Openings      205
General Index      207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “a leading organizer and writer of the day and is given credit for codifying competition rules at the time…also left behind a great deal of chess notes and memorabilia…impressively detailed picture of the era…delightful, well-researched…has obviously been produced with loving care”—British Chess Magazine
  • “another brick in the McFarland wall of American chess history. I commend this publication to anyone interested in chess history”—David Geoffrey Mills, Yorkshire Chess Association
  • “the book offers a unique look at chess life in this country in the 19th century”—The Washington Post
  • “well researched and well written book…strongly recommended”—IM John Donaldson (
  • “a must buy”—Chess Horizons
  • “strongly recommended”—Chess Today.