Chess Archaeology HomeChess is a scientific game and its literature ought to be placed on the basis of the strictest truthfulness, which is the foundation of all scientific research.W. Steinitz

Gallery of Chess Portraits - No. II.
Researched by Nick Pope

    JAMES THOMPSON, ESQ. - This player is well and favorably known to all New-Yorkers, especially to the disciples of Epicurus [sic; Epicures], as the famous Restaurant-keeper, on Broadway.  As a general thing we do not intend to make any allusion to the occupation of the individuals whose chess-portraitures will find a place in our gallery, but the question is so often asked in chess-circles by young players, who hear of the prowess of Mr. Thompson at the game, whether it is the Mr. Thompson - i.e. the caterer - that we make an exception to our rule in this instance.  The subject under notice ranks deservedly high at the club, having won more matches there, we believe, than any other member.  He is perhaps the most attacking player we have - often giving away a clear piece - and without positive advantage to himself sometimes - rather than be foiled in an attack, or act on the defensive.  With players a shade weaker than himself he is very successful in this species of tactics, frequently winning by intimidation, - his adversary fearing that “if it be madness” thus to throw away his game, “yet is there method in it,” and believing half the time that is only some latent mine or battery, masking a mate.  The Evans Gambit is his favorite opening and he manages it with remarkable skill and variety.  In the hands of a finished player this gambit affords great facilities for carrying on the kind of warfare we have indicated.  He prosecutes the attack at any and every hazard.  The celebrated phrase of Danton applies well to him - better indeed than to any other player of our acquaintance ;- de l’audace, el encore de l’audace, el toujours de l’audace!  His defence is always the strongest - counter-attack.
    Mr. Thompson is a very interesting player, and his board usually has as many lookers-on as any other in the room, because original, complicated and beautiful positions and combinations are likely to be found there if anywhere.  He frightens his opponents out of their victory, not unfrequently, [sic] not only by his bold play, but also by talking confidently of his own game and disparagingly of theirs - a sort of bullying one’s adversary, as it were.  This last peculiarity, however, is not idiosyncratic with Mr. Thompson.  We know several others that indulge in the vile habit (for we cannot otherwise characterize it) whose force as players and instincts as gentlemen should teach them to forbear its use.   We make this remark abstractly and impersonally, and not with reference to any particular individual, certainly not to Mr. Thompson, who is now in Europe, where he has been for a long time, and where he designs remaining for a year or two to come.  He has recently written from Paris that the average play of our best twenty club players is much above that of the same number picked from the Cercle des Echecs of that city.  Our Minister to Portugal, Mr. J. L. O’Sullivan, played a match at Paris, last summer, with St. Amant, winning three and drawing three out of twenty-seven.  Rather a great disparity, to be sure, but Mr. T. can beat the plenipotentiary easily.  We expect to hear some match, creditable to Americans, before Mr. Thompson returns.  We are quite willing to exhibit him to our neighbors over the Atlantic Ferry as a fair specimen of our players, and are fully confident that they will find him a pretty tough American (chess) nut to crack.  We trust that he will favor is with some chess correspondence during his sojourn in Europe.  We regret that we have not any game of Mr. Thompson’s to publish with this notice.  It is our intention to give with each portraiture, a game played by the party sketched, to verify our statements in regard to their skill as players or problem makers.
    We must not forget to state that, although Mr. Thompson’s general play is such as we have described, yet no man is more careful than he in a set match; then he plays for victory, not brilliancy, and is an ugly customer to deal with, as our old Boston opponent, of ten years agone, Mr. Hammond can testify.  By the way, can any of our Boston readers tell us whether Mr. H. is in the land of the living?  We intend to sketch him, and would like some fresh material.  He was a most promising and indefatigable player.  But of him more anon.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, New York, 1856.01.19

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