Out of the Blind Spot: More on Fritz Peipers

by Neil Brennen

"Perhaps someone in the San Francisco area could rescue the good Professor Peipers from the blind spot of history that he now occupies." So I wrote in my brief article "The Blind Spot" on the nineteenth century chessplayer Fritz Peipers, a member of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, in the September 2003 California Chess Journal, adding that "very little is known about Peipers, a fate he shares with many strong amateurs of the time."

Fortunately, chess historians have been busy attempting to uncover more about this forgotten minor master from San Francisco. This article summarizes all that has been recovered about Fritz Peipers to date.

The chess column of the San Francisco Chronicle, of April 21, 1894, states that Peipers was born in Germany. Geneological data found on the Internet offers 1844 as the date of his birth. Peipers first learned chess at the Conservatory in Cologne, "where he early showed an ability to excel." When he came to the United States is unknown, as is when he began to teach music and adopted the courtesy title of "Professor".

The earliest known game by Peipers was published in Brentano's Chess Monthly in August of 1881. The introduction to the game states it was one of four games played "simultaneously and without sight of the boards by Professor Fritz Peipers, of San Francisco, against four amateurs of that city." Peipers won all four games.

F. Peipers - Mr.__ C44
Blindfold simul, San Francisco, 1881
One of four games played simultaneously, and without sight of the board, by Professor Fritz Peipers of San Francisco against four amateurs of that city. The games were all won by the blindfold player.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Ne5
Well-known to be inferior to 5...Nh6.
6.Nxf7 Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d6
If Black's remaining Knight now stood at c6 instead of g8, he could play here 9...d5 with great effect.
10.Qxd4 Nf6 11.0-0 Re8 12.Nc3 Qe7 13.Bd2 Qe5 14.Qd3 Re7 15.f4 Qc5+
In these movements of the Queen Black has consumed valuable time which he might have devoted to bringing out the Queen's Rook and Queen's Bishop.
16.Kh1 b6 17.e5
A decisive blow.
If 17...Bf5 White wins by 18.Qf3
18.fxe5 Rxe5 19.Ne4
White plays the terminating moves in good style.
19...Bf5 20.Nxc5 Bxd3 21.Nxd3 1-0
Brentano's Chess Monthly, August 1881, p177

In the last issue of Brentano's published, Peipers' earliest dated chess problem appeared, a simple mate in two.

White: King b5, Rook c5, Bishops d3 and g5, Knight d5
Black: King e5
Brentano's Chess Monthly, September 1882

The next reference to Peipers is from reports of a Mechanic's Institute's chess tournament in 1885. According to historian John Donaldson, writing in the Mechanic's Institute Newsletter #36, the tournament was "won by J. Waldstein, with N.J. Manson 2nd and Fritz Peipers 3rd." Chess historian John Hilbert provided the following loss by Peipers from the tournament, which appeared in Mechanic's Institute Newsletter #132

N. Manson - F. Peipers [C30]
Mechanics' Institute Tournament, 1885
Played between Messrs. N.J. Manson and Fritz Peipers, in the recent tournament at Mechanics' Institute.
1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 d6 5.Na4 Nxe4 6.Nxc5 Nxc5 7.b4 Ncd7 8.Bc4 0-0 9.0-0 Qf6 10.Bb2 Qxf4 11.Nxe5 Qe4 12.Bxf7+ Kh8 13.Nxd7 Bxd7 14.Qh5 Nc6 15.Bxg7+ Kxg7 16.Qg5+ Qg6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.d4 Bf5 19.c3 Rae8 20.g4 Bd3 21.Rxf8 Rxf8 22.Re1 a6 23.h4 Rf7 24.h5 Kh7 25.Re8 Rf1+ 26.Kg2 Rf7 27.hxg6+ Bxg6 28.Qh4+ Bh5 29.Qxh5+ Kg7 30.Qg5+ Kh7 31.Qg8+ Kh6 32.Qxf7 1-0

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 2, 1885

During the 1880s Peipers was seemingly collecting the scalps of major players. The April 1894 article referred to above mentioned several wins against Zuckertort during the Polish master's visit to San Francisco in 1884. Other prominent masters allegedly defeated by Peipers include Von Scheve, Showalter, and Gossip. Peipers also traveled extensively, and allegedly defeated the Mexican players Rivas, Diaz, and Perez. The article claimed Peipers was "one of the leading chess problemists of the United States". The "alleged" and "claimed" in the sentences above are there for a reason; since a search of the major chess publications from 1881-1894 yielded a single chess problem, as opposed to dozens for leading American problemists such as Shinkman, Loyd, and Carpenter, it's probable the results of his over-the board play are likewise exaggerated. Neither the press reports on Zuckertort's 1884 visit nor Gossip's letter to the International Chess Magazine in 1888 mention Professor Peipers.

While the newspaper profile did contain what might be politely called a "stretcher" or two about Peipers' ability, it did have an offhand game against a "Mr. Bert, of this city, which will give an idea of the former's play." The date of the game and the circumstances of its play were not provided by the newspaper.

Fritz Peipers - Bert
San Francisco
Annotations by Fritz Peipers
Remove Nb1. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 d6 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.h3 Bd6 7.c3 0-0 8.0-0 Be6 9.Bg5 Qe7 10.Nh2 Rad8 11.g3 Bxh3 12.Re1 Be6 13.f4 Kh8 14.f5 Bc8 15.Ng4 Bc5+Playing White's game. 16.Kg2 Qd6 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Rh1! Qxd3 Had Black played 18...Rg8 , White plays 19.Rxh7+ Kxh7 20.Qh1+ and mate on h6. 19.Rxh7+ Kxh7 20.Qh1+ Kg8 20...Kg7 would give mate in two moves. 21.Nxf6+ Kg7 22.Qh7+ Kxf6 23.Qh4+ Kg7 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Rh1# 1-0

San Francisco Chronicle, April 21, 1894

"Some years" before 1894 Peipers had left the Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles. A genelogical source on the Internet shows Fritz Peipers dying there in 1918. We conclude with a mate in three problem from Peipers' Los Angeles residency, taken from the American Chess Magazine of 1898.

White: King a8, Rooks f6 and h3, Bishops a1 and c8, Knight d7, pawns e3 and h2 Black: King h5, Knights b2 and h4, pawn a3

© 2005 Neil Brennen. All rights reserved.

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