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Theophilus Thompson
Theophilus Thompson 
Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  
Number of games in database: 5
Years covered: 1874 to 1875
Overall record: +3 -2 =0 (60.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games.

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(born Apr-21-1855, 163 years old) United States of America

[what is this?]
Theophilus Augustus Thompson was born a slave on April 21, 1855 in Frederick, Maryland. He is considered the first recognized African-American chess player in the United States. Thompson was famous not only for his tournament play, but also his highly acclaimed 1873 book on endgame positions, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate.

His chess playing career was short as he disappeared almost as abruptly as he arrived. It has been rumored that he may have fallen prey to a racial lynching at a young age, but his disappearance remains a mystery.

1 - The Chess Drum 2 - The book, "Chess Problems", 3 - Wikipedia article: Theophilus Thompson

 page 1 of 1; 5 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Theophilus Thompson vs C H Blood 1-0241874corr.C45 Scotch Game
2. C H Blood vs Theophilus Thompson 0-1251874Corr.C51 Evans Gambit
3. W Shinkman vs Theophilus Thompson 1-0151875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC33 King's Gambit Accepted
4. Theophilus Thompson vs L Bertolette 1-0201875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC52 Evans Gambit
5. Theophilus Thompson vs R Willing 0-1161875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC58 Two Knights
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Theophilus Thompson wins | Theophilus Thompson loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-25-05  WorldChampeen: Born April 21, 1855 in Frederick, Maryland, Theophilus Thompson is identified in various sources as being the first Black chess player of note. One may call him the first Black master except that such a titles associated with rating didn't appear until 1950. One could imagine the challenges that Mr. Thompson faced in such an era since he lived during the American Civil War, and in an area that was reputed to be a KKK stronghold. As a domestic servant, he managed to learn chess from John K. Hanshew, the publisher of The Maryland Chess Review in 1872. Mr. loaned the 17-year old a chessboard and several chess problems to solve. Not only did he solve those ones assigned, but began composing his own which he later contributed to The Dubuque Chess Journal. - biography from under the section of Drum Majors and there is additional reading material there as well as the above game.
Apr-21-09  myschkin: . . .


Book (1873, Preface):
"Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, Or Compel Self-mate in Four Moves":


Apr-25-05 <WorldChampeen> Reference:

Jan-18-10  blackburne: Theophilus Thompson


Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Wow. Wouldn't you love to have a biography about his life?
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Here's a problem from Thompson. Hardly up to modern standards, but intereseting anyway:

click for larger view

White to play and mate in 2

Premium Chessgames Member
  Annie K.: <blackburne: Theophilus Thompson >

Here's a link to a Google translation to English of the same page:

May-22-10  Egghead: What's the solution to the problem?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Egghead> Looks like 1.Ne4, threatening 2.Qa8#. 1...Kxe4 2.Bc6#, or 1...d3 2.Qxd3#.
May-22-10  Egghead: Thanks!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Nightsurfer: THE CHESSDRUM Dr. Daaim Shabazz has put forward some interesting comments on the important role that Theophilus Thompson has played with regard to the emancipation of Afro-American chess players in the United States - on the occasion of a (German-language) interview, please compare .
Jan-21-13  TheTamale: Too bad more of his games didn't survive. At least he won the one we have.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <TheTamale> Pity Thompson did not survive as well.

On an unrelated subject, if tamales are your bag, check out this place if you ever make it down to the Mississippi Delta:

Some good stuff!

Premium Chessgames Member Thanks to Neil Brennen's article at the Chess Drum ( we were able to gather four more of Thompson's games.

W Shinkman vs T Thompson, 1875 is particularly curious, first in that we have a new rare game by the famous "Wizard of Grand Rapids" William Shinkman, but moreover Thompson had a very comfortable position at the point where he reportedly resigned. Perhaps the game score is not transcribed faithfully, or maybe there were additional moves.

Jan-22-13  IndigoViolet: If Obama had a son...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Nightsurfer: Thank you so much, dear people of, that you have paid respect to <Theophilus Thompson> by making him <The Player of The Day January 21st, 2013> - on that very day that is <Martin Luther King Day 2013> ( ... and, BTW, just one day after <President Obama> has been sworn in for his 2nd term as President of the USA on January 20th, 2013 ...).

That tribute to <Theophilus Thompson> has been a great gesture!

Jan-23-13  MountainMatt: As a Christian, I can't help but smile at his first name. It is the name (or perhaps honorary title) of the addressee of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, and it literally means "friend of God" or "lover of God".


Jan-23-13  TheTamale: <perfidious>: Maybe on a road trip sometime. Thanks for the tip!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Nightsurfer: With regard to the date of <Theophilus Thompson> leaving this world: the author <Neil Brennen> has pointed out to the fact that <Theophilus Thompson> might have lived until 1880 at least - based on the US Census 1880 that shows <Theophilus Thompson> being employed as an oysterman in Maryland.

Maybe <Theophilus Thompson> has even lived until 1920+ - based on the US Census 1920 that shows <Theophilus Thompson> being still alive at age 64, with a wife and a child, please compare !

Aug-09-13  Gallicrow: I found a reference to a Theophilius Thompson, born ~1849 in Maryland and living in Anne Arundel, Maryland in 1935!

This could well be the right person as the 1880 census has Theophilius Thompson living in Anne Arundel (his occupation then being an "oysterman").

Aug-09-13  DoctorD: <Gallicrow> - Theophilus or Theophilius?

For others interested, there are some articles I have written on his problems at the Chess Drum site. Unfortunately illness and other pesky issues have prevented me from making a full analysis of his problems. Some, especially, his selfmates, are quite good.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I found a casual reference to Thompson in 1887 which seems to indicate he was still alive and living in Frederick City, Maryland:

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I found another Thompson game. I'll just leave a link for now and submit it as a new game after I enter it into my database:

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Theophilus Thompson.
Aug-13-17  KnightVBishop: Did he ever face Morphy?
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