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Theophilus Thompson
T Thompson 
Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  
Number of games in database: 9
Years covered: 1874 to 1875
Overall record: +5 -4 =0 (55.6%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games.

Most played openings
C33 King's Gambit Accepted (2 games)
C53 Giuoco Piano (2 games)

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(born Apr-21-1855, died Oct-08-1881, 26 years old) United States of America

[what is this?]

Theophilus Augustus Thompson is considered the first recognized African-American chess player in the United States. Thompson was famous not only for his tournament play, but also as a problem composer.

<T. A. Thompson (Colored) was born in Frederick City, Maryland, on the 21st. day of April, 1855. At 13 years of age he left his native city and went to live with a family in Carroll County, in the capacity of house servant. In 1870, he returned to Frederick where he has been ever since. He saw a chess board and men used for the first time in April 1872, when he witnessed a contest between Mr. S. of Ohio, and Mr. H. of Frederick City; although he could not understand the game and dared not ask questions for fear of annoying the players, he watched every move with the closest attention. The partie finished he went home fully determined to learn the game. Mr. H. having heard of this ardent desire loaned him a chess board and a set of chess men, gave him some instructions, and left him a few two-move problems to solve. Thus thanks to the kind assistance of John K. Hanshew our hero became possessed of the open sesame to Caissa’s gardens of ever increasing intellectual delights. Hearing last summer of the Dubuque Chess Journal, he soon become a subscriber a student and a contributor thereto, accumulating the following rich store of Chess Compositions that are offered for perusal to the general chess reader, with great pleasure and much confidence by the proprietors of the Dubuque Chess Journal.
Dubuque, June 1st. 1873.>

Source: Thompson’s Chess Problems, Dubuque, Iowa, 1873, pp3-4 (n. pag.)

<Death of a Noted Chess Player.—We were pained to learn of the death of Theopilus [sic] A. Thompson, colored, who died at his residence, on Ice street, this city, on Saturday morning last, after several years illness, of consumption, aged 25 years. Mr. Thompson was a young man of considerable prominence among the chess players of this country and Europe. During the Centennial at Philadelphia, he was brought in contact with most of the champion chess players, and in games at the Philadelphia club houses showed his ability as a player. For several years he tought [sic] school in this city. He was a good mathematician, and a young man highly respected by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. His funeral took place from his late residence on Monday afternoon, attended by the order of Nazarites, and Asbury Sunday School of which the deceased was a member. His remains were taken to All Saint’s P. E. Church were the funeral discourse were delivered by Rev. Dr. Stevenson, of New Market. The interment took place at the Institution burying ground, East Fifth street.>
Source: Frederick Examiner, 1881.10.12(1)

(1) The Mystery of Theophilus Thompson Solved!!,

Additional Material:
Thompson’s Chess Problems,

Last updated: 2020-05-19 19:52:32

 page 1 of 1; 9 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. C H Blood vs T Thompson 0-1251874corrC51 Evans Gambit
2. T Thompson vs C H Blood 1-0241874corrC45 Scotch Game
3. T Thompson vs F W Martindale  1-0201874corrC77 Ruy Lopez
4. T Thompson vs F W Martindale  0-1241874corrC53 Giuoco Piano
5. T Thompson vs C H Blood  1-0221874corrC33 King's Gambit Accepted
6. T Thompson vs C H Blood  0-1341874corrC53 Giuoco Piano
7. T Thompson vs R Willing 0-1161875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC58 Two Knights
8. T Thompson vs L A Bertolette 1-0201875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC52 Evans Gambit
9. W Shinkman vs T Thompson 1-0151875Maryland Chess Review Postal Card TournamentC33 King's Gambit Accepted
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Thompson wins | Thompson loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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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?
May-22-10  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:

Apr-21-16  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Theophilus Thompson.
Aug-13-17  KnightVBishop: Did he ever face Morphy?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

A genteel mate in three from Theophilus.

click for larger view

White to play and mate in three (1873)

'Genteel' I like it when composers slip one of these confidence boosters into their collections which any reasonable player should be able to solve in their head. It shows they have compassion for those new to solving and a wee sense of humour.

Clue: Just keep leaving Black with only one legal move.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: Updates: (with a new photo)

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I finally got the Thompson-Martindale game submitted and I've also updated Thompson's bio with the information posted at The Chess Drum blog on April 19th. The article is worth a read at the source (see link in our bio).

It is now clear that Reichhelm was just working with the biographical information found in <Thompson’s Chess Problems> to calculate what his age would be in 1887.

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