Pretoria News - - THE X-FILES -

The Ir­ish-born mas­ter, James Ma­son (1849-1905), was one of the world’s best half-dozen play­ers in the early 1880s. Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, he adopted the name James Ma­son (his orig­i­nal name is un­known) to avoid dis­crim­i­na­tion against his Ir­ish back­ground when he and his fam­ily im­mi­grated to the United States in 1861. He be­came a shoe-shine boy in New York City and fre­quented a Hun­gar­ian cafe where he learned chess. Com­ing to the no­tice of J. Gordon Ben­nett of the “New York Her­ald,” Ma­son was given a job in the news­pa­per’s of­fices, a start in life that both suited his lit­er­ary as­pi­ra­tions and gave him the chance to study chess. In 1876, he made his mark, win­ning first place in the 4th Amer­i­can Congress in Philadel­phia. He even­tu­ally set­tled in Eng­land in 1878 and was a regular tour­na­ment par­tic­i­pant in that coun­try. Fond of drink, Ma­son is al­leged to have lost many games when in a ‘hi­lar­i­ous con­di­tion.’ Although con­sid­ered by his peers to be a jolly good fel­low first and a chess player af­ter­wards, he never ful­filled the prom­ise of his first years in Eng­land. In­stead, he wrote books on the game, in ex­cel­lent style, no doubt as a re­sult of his jour­nal­is­tic back­ground. His two most pop­u­lar text­books, “The Prin­ci­ples of Chess in The­ory and Prac­tice” (1894) and “The Art of Chess” (1900) both ran to sev­eral edi­tions and have been pub­lished in nu­mer­ous lan­guages. An­other of his books, “So­cial Chess” (1900), con­tains many short and bril­liant games. (Ge­orge Mir­i­ja­nian –‘ Sen­tinel & En­ter­prise’)

Steinitz, the first world champion, in The Field, 24 June 1882:

‘The game be­tween Ma­son and Wi­nawer be­longs, to quote an ex­pres­sion of Herr Falk­beer, to the “finest gems in the jewel box of Caissa”. On the 40th move Ma­son ini­ti­ated one of the finest and most orig­i­nal com­bi­na­tions that has ever been pro­duced in prac­ti­cal play.’


'In chess, as im much else, good judg­ment comes from ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­pe­ri­ence comes from poor judg­ment. Never make the same mis­take twice. Make a new one.’

–D.J Mor­gan

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