January 6, 2012

History of Chess in Saint Louis

Posted in History

The History of Chess in Saint Louis

The success of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and the opening of the World Chess Hall of Fame have received international attention from the chess community, making Saint Louis the premiere chess destination worldwide. The city of Saint Louis, however, is not without a lengthy chess heritage.  

In 1886, Saint Louis hosted a segment of the first World Chess Championship, which culminated with Wilhelm Steinitz defeating Johannes Zuckertort to become the first world champion. Benjamin Foster, a Saint Louis resident and the editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat chess column, published Chancellor Chess: or the New Game of Chess three years later in 1889. 

The 1904 World’s Fair drew national and international visitors to Saint Louis. It also served as an occasion to hold the Seventh Annual Chess Congress in the city. Frank J. Marshall, founder of the Marshall Chess Club in New York City, was named tournament champion. Saint Louis resident and founder of the St. Louis Chess Club, Max Judd, was awarded second prize.

Eveline BurgessEveline Burgess (1856-1936) of Lamoni, Iowa, who won the U.S. women's chess title in 1907

Another Saint Louis chess notable was Mrs. Eveline Allen Burgess, named Woman’s Champion of the United States in 1907. Samuel Burgess, husband of Eveline, was also actively involved in the local chess community, serving as president of both the St. Louis Chess Club and the West End Chess Club.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, Robert Steinmeyer was Missouri’s premiere chess talent, consistently winning the St. Louis District Championship. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Reuben Fine, Larry Evans, Victor Korchnoi and Tigran Petrosian were among those visiting Saint Louis to challenge Steinmeyer and other local chess players. 

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis opened its doors in 2008 and shortly thereafter became the new home for U.S. Championship Chess. More than a century after the World Championship match in 1886, Saint Louis has again caught the worldwide attention of the chess community.

Stop by the World Chess Hall of Fame to view objects from Saint Louis’ chess heritage.