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1st American Chess Congress (1857)

  PARTICIPANTS (sorted by highest achieved rating; click on name to see player's games)
Louis Paulsen, Paul Morphy, Charles Henry Stanley, Alexander Beaufort Meek, Theodore Lichtenhein, William James Appleton Fuller, Daniel Willard Fiske, Hardman Philips Montgomery, Benjamin Raphael, James Thompson, Napoleon Marache, Samuel Robert Calthrop, Hiram Kennicott, Hubert Knott, Frederick Perrin, William S Allison Chess Event Description
1st American Chess Congress (1857)
The first American Chess Congress (1) was held in New York City from October 6th to November 10th, 1857. Daniel Fiske and Thomas Frere were the organizers, and the tournament was designed with similarities to the London (1851) format, with the provision that draws did not count and had to be replayed. The first prize was $300. The 16 best American masters were invited to participate in the event, including Paul Morphy and Louis Paulsen. Morphy dominated the event, sweeping each of his opponents until Paulsen in the final. Despite dropping one game in the final match, Morphy finished the tournament with an astounding 14 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss.

Not one to accept money for chess, Morphy turned down the cash prize in exchange for a silver tray, pitcher, and four goblets in its place. His victory cemented him as one of the best players in the world (if not the best), and prompted his tour across the Atlantic where he faced the best Europe had to offer in a series of matches, winning each and every one of them. Not long after his return to America, Morphy would retire from chess.

New York, 6 October - 10 November 1857


+Morphy 3/3 1 1 1 -Thompson 0/3 0 0 0 +Meek 3/5 1 1 0 0 1 -Fuller 2/5 0 0 1 1 0 -Knott 3/7 1 0 ˝ 1 ˝ 0 0 +Perrin 4/7 0 1 ˝ 0 ˝ 1 1 +Lichtenhein 3/5 1 0 0 1 1 -Stanley 2/5 0 1 1 0 0 +Raphael 3˝/6 0 1 ˝ 0 1 1 -Kennicott 2˝/6 1 0 ˝ 1 0 0 -Fiske 2/5 1 1 0 0 0 +Marache 3/5 0 0 1 1 1 -Calthrop 0/3 0 0 0 +Paulsen 3/3 1 1 1 -Allison 1/4 0 1 0 0 +Montgomery 3/4 1 0 1 1


+Morphy 3/3 1 1 1 -Meek 0/3 0 0 0 -Perrin 0/3 0 0 0 +Lichtenhein 3/3 1 1 1 +Raphael 3˝/6 1 ˝ 1 0 0 1 -Marache 2˝/6 0 ˝ 0 1 1 0 +Paulsen 2/2 1 1 -Montgomery 0/2 0 0


+Morphy 3˝/4 1 1 ˝ 1 -Lichtenhein ˝/4 0 0 ˝ 0 -Raphael ˝/3 0 ˝ 0 +Paulsen 2˝/3 1 ˝ 1

Third place playoff:

3rd Lichtenhein 3/3 1 1 1 4th Raphael 0/3 0 0 0

Final match:

1st Morphy 6/8 1 ˝ 0 ˝ 1 1 1 1 2nd Paulsen 2/8 0 ˝ 1 ˝ 0 0 0 0

Missing information: First eight games in list do not have full dates. Photo:

Fourteen years later, the 2nd American Chess Congress (1871) was held.

Original collection: Game Collection: New York 1857, by User: suenteus po 147. (1) Wikipedia article: American Chess Congress.

 page 1 of 3; games 1-25 of 68  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. B Raphael vs T Lichtenhein 0-132 1857 1st American Chess CongressC33 King's Gambit Accepted
2. T Lichtenhein vs B Raphael  1-029 1857 1st American Chess CongressC48 Four Knights
3. T Lichtenhein vs B Raphael 1-025 1857 1st American Chess CongressA43 Old Benoni
4. Paulsen vs B Raphael  ½-½47 1857 1st American Chess CongressC47 Four Knights
5. F Perrin vs T Lichtenhein  0-129 1857 1st American Chess CongressB44 Sicilian
6. B Raphael vs Paulsen 0-125 1857 1st American Chess CongressB40 Sicilian
7. D W Fiske vs N Marache 0-135 1857 1st American Chess CongressA84 Dutch
8. T Lichtenhein vs F Perrin 1-030 1857 1st American Chess CongressB00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
9. S Calthrop vs Paulsen 0-130 1857 1st American Chess CongressB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
10. H Montgomery vs W S Allison 0-152 1857 1st American Chess CongressC44 King's Pawn Game
11. Paulsen vs S Calthrop 1-042 1857 1st American Chess CongressC44 King's Pawn Game
12. N Marache vs D W Fiske 0-148 1857 1st American Chess CongressB44 Sicilian
13. W S Allison vs H Montgomery 0-120 1857 1st American Chess CongressC53 Giuoco Piano
14. A Meek vs W Fuller 1-026 1857 1st American Chess CongressC20 King's Pawn Game
15. Morphy vs J Thompson 1-048 1857 1st American Chess CongressB44 Sicilian
16. F Perrin vs H Knott 0-139 1857 1st American Chess CongressC01 French, Exchange
17. J Thompson vs Morphy 0-121 1857 1st American Chess CongressC50 Giuoco Piano
18. B Raphael vs H Kennicott 0-136 1857 1st American Chess CongressC44 King's Pawn Game
19. H Montgomery vs W S Allison 1-030 1857 1st American Chess CongressC51 Evans Gambit
20. S Calthrop vs Paulsen 0-122 1857 1st American Chess CongressC40 King's Knight Opening
21. H Kennicott vs B Raphael 0-134 1857 1st American Chess CongressC42 Petrov Defense
22. H Knott vs F Perrin 0-139 1857 1st American Chess CongressD35 Queen's Gambit Declined
23. W S Allison vs H Montgomery 0-123 1857 1st American Chess CongressC50 Giuoco Piano
24. D W Fiske vs N Marache 1-042 1857 1st American Chess CongressD40 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
25. J Thompson vs Morphy 0-146 1857 1st American Chess CongressC53 Giuoco Piano
 page 1 of 3; games 1-25 of 68  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Some popular side-events at the Congress including various blindfold sessions.

The first mentioned in the tournament book took place on the afternoon of Sat, Oct 10th, and the main feature was that of Paulsen playing Morphy, who accepted the challenge only on the condition that he play blindfolded as well.

From p78 of the tournament book:

<Mr. Paulsen and Mr. Morphy sat back to back on the platform at the end of the hall. The four boards were arranged across the room, and besides Mr. Morphy the opponents of Mr. Paulsen were Mr. W.J.A Fuller, Mr. Denis Julien, and Mr. C.H. Schultz. The contests began at half-past four, and Mr. Paulsen's accuracy astonished the numerous lookers-on. His vast powers of memory seemed never to fail him, and he retained throughout an unerring knowledge of the positions of the pawns and pieces on each board. At twelve o'clock Mr. Morphy had won his game, having announced, at the twenty-eight move, checkmate in five moves; Mr. Schultz had resigned, and the remaining two games were adjourned, on account of the lateness of the hour, until Monday the twelfth, Mr. Paulsen calling off the positions of the men on each board in succession with almost incredible rapidity and precision.>

Of note to the dating of the games is this...

<No progress was made in the Tournament to-day, the games being suspended a little after midday to make room for the necessary arrangements in connexion with the blindfold play>

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <p79 Oct 12>

<Playing was immediately commenced, but was partially suspended during the evening, to witness the conclusion of Mr. Paulsen's blindfold match, which terminated in his drawing the game with Mr. Julien and winning the one against Mr. Fuller>

* * * * *

<p86 Oct 21>

<In the afternoon of this day Mr. Paulsen commenced the unparalled feat of playing five games at once without seeing any of the boards. His opponets were Mr. Thomas Frere, Mr. Robert J. Dodge, and Mr. S. Heilbuth of New York, Dr. A.C. Hawes of Providence, and Mr. C Oscanyan from Constantinople. [...] The arrangements in connexion with this affair, were the same as on the occasion when Mr. Paulsen played four games. At a late hour, the games not having been finished, it was decided to complete them the next evening. [...]>

<p87 Oct 22>

<In the evening Mr. Paulsen finished his admirable exhibition of blindfold play by winning of Mr. Frere, Mr. Heilbuth, Dr. Hawes, and Mr. Oscanyan, and by drawing the game with Mr. Dodge. This was the first authenticated instance in the hisotry of chess, of so large a number of games being simultaneously played by one man without sight of the boards.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: The Sacramento Daily Union game has this interesting position after Black's 16th move:

Pre-moves: 15.Rf1-e1 Qe4-g6

click for larger view

Paulsen played the reasonable looking rook lift, 16.Re3, but the engine claims there's a different move which wins. A nice lesson.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Here's the published game. I couldn't match it up with any of the blindfold scores in the tournament book (though not even all the games from the simul-blindfolds were published).

But I would like to suggest the possibility that this is the missing <Paulsen--Raphael> game.


[Event "?"]
[Site "New York USA"]
[Date "1857.10.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Paulsen, Louis"]
[Black "Raphael, Benjamin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B44g"]
[EventDate "1857.10.06"]
[Source "Sacramento Daily Union 1857-12-23 p4"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Be3 Nge7 6.Bd3 d5 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Bxd4 Nc6 9.Bb5 a6 10.exd5 axb5 11.dxc6 bxc6 12.O-O Bd6 13.Ne4 Bxh2+ 14.Kxh2 Qh4+ 15.Kg1 Qxe4 16.Re1 Qg6 17.Re3 f6 18.Rg3 Qf7 19.Bc5 e5 20.Qd6 Qd7 21.Qxd7+ Bxd7 22.Rxg7 Rb8 23.a4 bxa4 24.Rxa4 Bf5 25.Raa7 1-0


Remember, you heard it here first!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: >But I would like to suggest the possibility that this is the missing <Paulsen--Raphael> game.>

In what sense missing? Don't we have all 3 match games?

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Yes <Calli>, as <crawfb5> pointed out, Raphael resigned the match, so there isn't a third win by <Paulsen>.

Actually, I'm taking his word for it, I missed the ref in the tournament book.

This should be explicitly mentioned in the intro, with the ref, to help people like me not to get confused.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: On, the other hand see this:

Biographer Bistro (kibitz #11914)

So, in the sense that there were four games in the match (3 wins by Paulsen + 1 draw), and <CG> only has three (2 wins + draw).

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Also, exploring further I found another valuable source outlining the New York Tribune sources:

<Oct 29, 1857 pg 5: Paulsen wins hard game vs Raphael who resigned 3d game of his section, will start playing Lichtenhein for 3d/4th.>

Remember, this could be the 4th game, as draws didn't count.

There's also this:

<Nov 9, 1857 pg 3: Publish 2 games, 1 by hot blood of Southern sky, other by phlegmatic Teuton blind vs Raphael. Paulsen sure could play 8 would not be surprised if someone plays 20. Many feel Paulsen better blind than OTB, he feels so himself and is curious for Morphy's opinion; self-taught. Morphy native genius plus study; horrible wit of supporter called him "nascitur non fit, w heaps of the fit piled on the nascitur. Tnmt book to be ed well-known Scandinavian scholar and ed Chess Monthly Fiske and Morphy; has photo Morphy playing Paulsen Morphy combines brilliance McDonnell, soundness Philidor. Game Paulsen-Morphy 4N B28 2:55. 1 of 3 blind Game Paulsen-Dr BI Raphael Scotch W25 3:30; Raphael had to leave Paulsen willing to cont, Perrin came forward but decided clear win for Paulsen did not cont>

which mentions a <Paulsen--Raphael> blindfold game.

I never said this is an easy business...

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: But this post by me,

1st American Chess Congress (1857) (kibitz #9)

is just plain wrong, and should be discarded.

I'll make an excuse about being confused reading some of the debate mentioned here:

<According to the Prospectus, the contestants were to meet Monday, October 5, at 3:00 p.m. where they would be paired of by lot. The eight players who won three out of five games would proceed to the next phase, the losers would drop out. The eight winners would be paired off, then the four winners. The two who won the final phase would play a match to determine first and second place, while the two who lost would play a match to determine third and fourth place. However, at the meeting on Monday, there was some debate about whether this was a desirable format. It was finally agreed to let the stated format stand and the lottery would take place on Tuesday, October 6.>

But really, I should have double-checked before posting. Here, is a very good intro to the tournament:

Edochess chess being one of the best sites when it comes to accuracy and proper referencing. Period.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: (Even if the actual page I just gave was written by batgirl and not Rod Edwards)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: The blindfold game was one of three given ib the NY Trib on Nov 9

I don't know the date of the simul though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Right. I covered the earlier simul/blindfolds starting with this post:

1st American Chess Congress (1857) (kibitz #12)

Paulsen gave a 4-board blindfold on Oct 10 (one against Morphy, himself blindfolded). Then a record-breaking 5-board blindfold simul on Oct 21).

1st American Chess Congress (1857) (kibitz #13)

Both of these two sessions featured adjournments, when Paulsen was reported to accurately record the positions of all the pieces on each board at the adjournment.

* * * * *

But are we agreed that there is a missing game from the third section match between Paulsen--Raphael?

I have to check back in with <crawfb5> over on the Bistro to make sure I didn't miss a mention later in the tournament book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: I think there is no missing game. They played three and Raphael resigned the match being down 2-0-1.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Yes, but I'm looking for an explicit ref... which I found as I wrote on the Bistro:

<OK, I found the ref and notice in a footnote at the bottom of page 235 of the tournament book at the end of the third game which came at the end of the Third Section(*)

<(*) Time, seven hours and a half. The second player, although his opponent had only scored two games, resigned the match at this stage.>>

This kind of info explicitly belongs in the intro, imo.

Sep-10-15  The Kings Domain: One of the most notable and memorable tournaments.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Batgirl's write-up on the various players:

(The link on the wiki page is stale)

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: RE: <Color trivia>

The lots were drawn with this:

<The Lottery - Eight white and eight yellow stubs were numbered 1 through 8 and placed in a box. The white ticket had "Choice of Chessmen and first move" written on it. Whoever chose #1 white would play whoever chose #1 yellow. Whoever picked a white stub had the choice of color and the first move.>

Since the winners of the lottery were published (p74/tb), and we have R1.1 from <CG> we can determine which players choose Black(*) to start their first round matches:

Kennicott, Hiram
Fiske, Daniel

(*) Two notes:

(a) Black has contemporary meaning, i.e. gave the move to their opponent. The actual color of the pieces chosen is never recorded afaik.

(b) Julien was originally paired against Paulsen, as recorded in tb. Calthrop substituted for him.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Actually, Calthrop was a late arrival on the first day. Julien apparently was the substitute, he withdrew from play when Calthrop arrived (p74/tb).
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Louisville KY Evening Bulletin 1857-10-09 p2(?)

<[From the New York Express (1857-10-04)]

NATIONAL CHESS CONGRESS — <Extraordinary Chess Playing> — The New York Chess Club hold regular tri-weekly gatherings at the house of E. Perrin, its Secretary. On Saturday evening a sociable party, composed of distinguished chess players from all parts of the Union, was present, the occasion being a remarkable match to be played between a German and three of the best players in these parts. Mr. Louis Paulsen, a German, living at Dubuque, Iowa, who comes as a contestant in the great Chess Congress, which commences its session to-morrow, at Descombe's rooms, No. 765 Broadway, performed the wonderful feat of playing, while blindfolded, three games at once, without having any board before him, or seeing the boards of his three opponents or keeping any memorandum except in his mind. His opponents were W. J. A. Fuller, of this city, an honorary member of the N. Y. Chess Club; T. Frere, secretary of the Brooklyn Chess Club, and Dr. Raphael, who obtained a national celebrity as a chess player in Kentucky.>

At least one of the games (<Paulsen--Ralphael>) is known to exist.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <
So the year 1857 found us. It was some relief,
looking at tbe daily papers, to tarn from the
failure of A, B, k Co., for $150,000, and from
the suspension of specie payments by the banks,
except the glorious old Chemical, to the unruffled
proceedings of the first American Chess
Congress, then in session, admission for the
week, to lookers-on, one dollar. But that dollar?
Was it prudent, with bank account at low water,
and slim prospect of a flow, and on the edge of
a long winter, with others dependent, was it
prudent so to bestow—to throw away—a dollar?
After hearing counsel before ourself three
whole days, we held a family council with "die
frau" who at once decided that we mast go.
And "went" we did. And the officers of the
Chess Congress, with nobler instincts of gentlemen
than the New York Academy of Medicine[ff unreadable]
did not hesitate or refuse to admit a
negro, even with the high-bloods from the South
in their midst, and the danger of the dissolution
of tbe Union before their eyes.

Having seen their portraits in Frank Leslie,
we instantly singled out Paulsen and his great
antagonist, and a little skillful elbowing found
us seated beside their board. There was Louis
Paulsen, with his vast head, sanguine temperament,
but coarse fibre, indicating his rough,
almost pure-Bersekir blood; and as we gazed
at Morphy, with his fine, open countenance,
brunette hue, marvellous delicacy of fibre,
bright, clear eyes, and elongated submaxillary
bone, a keen suspicion entered our ethnological
department that we were not the only Cartha-
ginian in the room. It might only be one drop,
perhaps two—God only knows how they got
there—but surely, beside the Tria--mulattin who
at present writes, there was also a Hekata-mu-
lattin in that room!
-- Jame M'Cune (?) Smith

Washington DC National Era Sept 29, 1959 p1, quoting from the "Anglo-African Magazine for September".

Unbelievable that wiki has no page for this publication.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <HARD ON THE EDITOR,—Herr Lowenthal in answering a correspondent, has dictated the following very pithy and very suggestive paragraph:—"It was, no doubt, a source of great regret to many American amateurs that the article on the 'Pawn and move opening,' contributed by Herr L. to the American Chess Congress should have been published in foreign notation. It was, certainly, strange that the Editor of the book of the American Congress should have taken so much trouble in translating it from the English. To Herr L, <this was a great disappointment>, he having bestowed much time in its preparation. <"The article, in its present form, is utterly useless to American Chess Amateurs."> The italicising is our own. Many reminiscences of that singular discussion over the "German Notation" in this country are awakened, and comments suggested by the above.<<>>>

NY Clipper, Sat. May 30, 1863

Probably the most worthless section of Fiske's tournament book was the section on new notation. The actual games were given in the then traditional Descriptive notation.

NY Clipper May 30, 1863 p2(?)

May-02-16  Chesstorian72: <zanzibar> Kill yourself
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <chesstorian72> what's that supposed to mean?
May-29-16  Adriano Saldanha: I was intrigued for a long time why it was considered a "best of 7 games" the Morphy Paulsen final, in which there were actually 8 games.

As a result of a quick ressearch in the internet, i found an excellent book on the tournament which explains the rules. The winner of the intermediary rounds is determined by the "3 wins" rule, not by the "best of 3" rule. In the same way, in the final round the winner is determined by the "5 wins" rule, not by the "best of 7". Here is the source:
"The contestants shall
meet on Monday, the fifth of October, at three p.m. Should the number of entrances amount to any even and easily divisible number, say thirty-two, they shall then be paired off by lot, and commence their games simultaneously. The sixteen players winning three out of five games, are to be declared victors in this first section of the Tournament, and the sixteen losers excluded from all further share in the contest. The sixteen winners are then to be paired ofi* by lot as before, the eight couple beginning their matches simultaneously. The eight winners of the first three games are to be declared victors in this second section of the Tournament, and the eight losers excluded from all further share in the contest. The eight winners are then to be paired off by lot as before, the four couple beginning their matches simultaneously. The four winners of the first three games are to be declared victors in this third section of the Tournament, and entitled to the four prizes. To determine the order in which the prizes shall be distributed, the four prize-bearers will then be paired off against each other as before, each couple to play the best of five games. The two winners in this fourth section of the Tournament shall then play a match for the two highest prizes, and the player winning the first five games shall be entitled to the fiy^st prize—the second prize going to the loser." (in "The Book of the American Chess Congress", New York, Rudd & Carleton (Ed), 1859, p60)

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: The tournament schedule above lists 70 games of which 68 are in this collection. Missing are Game 2 of the Meek-Fuller match, and Game 5 of Perrin-Knott (which is accounted for in the tournament book, p.197, with "The fifth game between these players was recorded in such a way as to be wholly unintelligible. It was drawn.").

But two other games are apparently missing, meaning that 72 games were played in total. The Raphael-Marache match was of 7 games, not the 6 given in the games' section. It was won +3 -2 =2 by Raphael, as confirmed by both the tournament account on p.87, and the results' table on p.259. So far, I haven't been able to determine where in the schedule the extra draw occurred, so the current numbering of games is in doubt.

The second omission is a fourth game in the semi-final match, Paulsen-Raphael. The results' table gives the victory +2 =1 to Paulsen, and the games' section lists only three games, but that's flatly contradicted by the account on p.88, and there's no evident reason why the first-to-three rule wouldn't have applied. Again, there's an issue in determining the correct sequence of games.

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