1894-1895 Mechanics Institute Championship

by Neil R. Brennen

The Mechanics Institute Chess Tournament of 1894-1895 was a tourney that almost didn't happen. And as often is the case with a chess tournament, the primary stumbling-block was money. According to a report on the tournament that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle chess column of February 9, 1895, "the proposition was first discussed that a sum of money could be raised to purchase a number of prizes by charging the competitors a small entrance fee." However, most of the Institute's chess players objected to an entrance fee, and so the idea of a tournament was almost abandoned, until several members donated prizes for the event, "setting the project fairly on its feet." Club member J. Tittle contributed a "handsome" gold medal for first place, engraved with the words "Mechanics Institute Tourney 94 & 95" around a chessboard.

With the obstacle of a fee for participation removed and prizes to be awarded, the revived tournament soon drew twenty-five combatants from the chess room's habitants. While the 1894-1895 tournament was not billed as a club championship, the awarding of a gold medal to the winner as well as the sheer size of the event implies something more than just pride was at stake.

On December 8, 1894, play began in the Tournament. There were only two first class players among the twenty-five entrants, V. Q. Quiroga and the twenty-five year old Walter Romaine Lovegrove, already at the beginning of his lengthy career at the Chess Rooms considered a leading player. The remaining combatants were ranked from second to fifth class. The tournament was run as both a double round-robin and a handicap event, with higher classed players giving piece or material odds to the lower-ranked. The odds for the difference in class ranking broke down like this:

Difference of one class - higher ranked player gives odds of Pawn and Move Difference of two classes - higher ranked player gives odds of Pawn and Two Moves Difference of three classes - higher ranked player gives odds of Knight Difference of four classes - higher ranked player gives odds of Rook

What this meant for the tournament was that Lovegrove and Quiroga had to play forty-six of their forty-eight games with a material handicap, with no less than sixteen of them at Rook odds. Lovegrove was a strong master, capable of beating Harry Nelson Pillsbury and Emanuel Lasker during their visits to the Mechanics' Institute. However, his very strength told against him in the 1894 tournament; in the first of his two games below, Lovegrove successfully copes with odds of Pawn and two moves, but in the second game, a Rook was just too great a gift to make to his opponent.

The large number of games led to an additional problem, one common to many amateur tournaments today. Since chess was still a gentleman's game, the gentlemen of the Mechanics' Institute Tourney were allowed to schedule their games whenever they liked, rather than be required to be at the club at a stipulated hour to play. As a result, some players finished their schedule before others, and nine weeks later, there were still a great many unfinished games. The Chronicle reported that "an effort is now being made by the committee to bring the present tournament to a speedy termination, so as to allow of a new engagement being made, and the players are being urged to do their best to bring about this result."

Although the Chronicle's report on the event was only current into the ninth week of the tournament, it appears the tourney was eventually won by Lovegrove, according to a list of club champions published in a November 1905 Chronicle article and reprinted in the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter #36. The 1895 Chronicle article predicted Lovegrove as the eventual winner, although they thought second-class player George Thompson, originally from Los Angeles but in San Francisco the previous two years, was "running Lovegrove very closely for the gold medal." Thompson failed in this attempt, only to succeed in the following tournament, played later in 1895. Among the other players, "Senor Quiroga and Mr. Hallwegan have not fared as well as their abilities would warrant, but they will doubtless regain their lost laurels ere long."

One curious follow-up event was suggested for the Tournament players from a transplanted San Franciscan in New York. "Dr. Dewey, a familiar figure in local chess circles previous to his taking up his residence in New York a year ago", suggested that the Manhattan Chess Club would be willing to play a consultation correspondence match by postcard with the Mechanics' players. The Manhattan even offered to "bar any one of its players agreeably with the wishes of the San Franciscans." The Chronicle columnist suggested that "Steinitz, of course, would be a bad man to meet from a chess point of view, so he might with perfect propriety be discriminated against" when choosing the Manhattan's team. Even the presence of such players as Albert Hodges, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, and Eugene Delmar on the Manhattan roster failed to deter the Bay Area columnist from predicting that "a team could be made up from the local players who would at least render a good account of themselves."

Unfortunately, this proposed match appears to have never taken place. Had this coast to coast consultation postal match between the Manhattan and Mechanics' occurred, it would have capped "a very successful affair", as the Chronicle's chess editor described the Championship. "There can be no question respecting the fact that the tournament has been productive of a great amount of good, not only as regards the additional popularity the game has received and the impetus it has thereby gained in this city, but the competitors themselves have reaped no small advantage by reason of their enforced contest with each other." And truly, what more can you ask from a chess tournament?

The Chronicle columnist included eleven games from the tournament in his February 9 article; all these are given below.

Lovegrove,W - Lazarus 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1894

Remove Ra1. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.0-0 Be6 6.Bb5 a6 7.Ba4 b5 8.Bb3 Bxb3 9.axb3 b4 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 Ne7 12.c4 bxc3 13.dxc3 Ng6 14.h4 Nxh4 15.Nxh4 Qxh4 16.f4 Qd8 17.fxe5 dxe5 18.b4 Qd6 19.Qe1 Qxd5 20.Kh1 f6 21.Qh4 Qd7 22.Qh5+ Qf7 23.Qf3 Rb8 24.Rd1 Bd6 25.Qc6+ Qd7 26.Qd5 Rd8 27.Rd2 Bxb4 28.Qc4 Bd6 29.b3 Qe7 30.b4 f5 31.Qc6+ Rd7 32.Qa8+ Qd8 33.Qd5 Qh4+ 34.Kg1 Qe1+ 35.Kh2 e4+ 36.g3 Bxg3+ 37.Kh3 Rxd5 38.Rxd5 Qxc3 San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 0-1

Johnson - Coltz 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove pawn f7. 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Bd3 e6 4.e5 Ne7 5.h4 d6 6.h5 d5 7.Bg5 Nd7 8.hxg6 h6 9.Qh5 hxg5 10.Qxh8+ Bxh8 11.Rxh8+ Nf8 12.g7 Kf7 13.Rxf8+ Qxf8 14.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 15.Nd2 Nf5 16.Bxf5 exf5 and White wins. San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Samuels - Thomas 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove Nb1. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 6.0-0 Nf6 7.d4 d5 8.exd5 Na5 9.Qa4+ Bd7 10.Qxa5 Bd6 11.dxe5 Be7 12.exf6 Bxf6 13.Re1+ Kf8 14.Ba3+ Kg8 15.Nd4 h6 16.d6 cxd6 17.Qh5 g6 18.Qxg6+ Kf8 19.Qxf7# San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Nevill - Lovegrove,W 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1894

Remove pawn f7. White moves twice to begin. 1.e4 pass 2.d4 2...e6 3.Bd3 g6 4.h4 Nc6 5.e5 Nb4 6.Be4 d5 7.Bf3 Bh6 [7...Nh6 would have been a better move.] 8.Bxh6 Wins a piece. 8...Nxh6 9.Qd2 c5 10.dxc5 Qa5 11.c3 [If 11.Qxh6 Nxc2+ and wins the exchange.; or, if 11.a3 Black forces an exchange of Queens and wins the Rook.] 11...Qxc5 12.cxb4 Qf8 13.h5 Bd7 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.Qg5 Nf7 Forces the exchange and wins pawn. 16.Rxh8 Qxh8 17.Qe3 Qh2 18.Nh3 Rc8 19.Nd2 d4 20.Qxd4 Nxe5 21.Ke2 Bb5+ 22.Ke3 Rd8 23.Qxa7 Rd3+ San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895[23...Ng4+ mates in six. - Brennen] 0-1

Hirsch - Quiroga 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove pawn f7. White moves twice to begin. 1.e4 pass 2.d4 g6 3.Bd3 Bg7 4.e5 d5 5.Nf3 Nh6 6.Ng5 0-0 7.h4 Nf5 8.h5 Nxd4 9.hxg6 h6 10.Nf7 Rxf7 11.gxf7+ Kxf7 12.Qh5+ Kf8 13.Bxh6 Bxh6 14.Qxh6+ Ke8 15.Qg6+ Kd7 16.Qg4+ Ne6 17.Bf5 Kc6 18.Bxe6 Na6 19.Nc3 d4 20.Qe4+ Kb6 21.Nd5+ Kc5 22.Bxc8 Qxd5 23.Bxb7 Qxe4+ 24.Bxe4 Rb8 25.b3 Kb4 26.Bd3 Nc5 27.Rh4 Kc3 28.Ke2 a5 29.a4 e6 30.Rah1 Nxd3 31.cxd3 Rxb3 32.Rc1+ Kb2 and White wins. San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Neville - Hellwegan 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove pawn f7. 1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Bd3 Bg7 4.c3 Nf6 5.f4 e6 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nf3 0-0 8.g3 Ne7 9.Qe2 b6 10.h4 Bb7 11.h5 dxe5 12.hxg6 hxg6 13.Be4 Bxe4 14.Qxe4 Nd7 15.Be3 Nf5 16.dxe5 Qe7 17.Bf2 Nc5 18.Bxc5 Qxc5 19.Rh3 Rad8 20.Nbd2 Rd7 21.0-0-0 Rfd8 22.Nd4 Rxd4 23.Qe2 Rd3 24.Rdh1 Nd4 25.Ne4 San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Thompson - Quiroga 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove. pawn f7. 1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.h4 c5 4.d5 Qb6 5.Nc3 a5 6.h5 Na6 7.f4 d6 8.Nh3 Nh6 9.Nf2 Bd7 10.e5 0-0-0 11.e6 Be8 12.hxg6 hxg6 13.Bd2 Nf5 14.Rxh8 Bxh8 15.Ne2 Nb4 16.c4 Bf6 17.Qb3 a4 18.Qd1 Bh4 19.Nc3 Nd4 20.Rc1 Nxa2 21.Nxa2 Qxb2 22.Nc3 a3 23.Bd3 a2 24.Ra1 Kc7 25.Rxa2 Qb3 26.Qxb3 Nxb3 27.Nb1 Rb8 28.Ra3 Nd4 29.Nc3 b5 30.cxb5 Bxb5 31.Nxb5+ Rxb5 32.Bxb5 Nc2+ 33.Ke2 Nxa3 34.Bd3 c4 35.Bxg6 Nb5 36.Ba5+ Kb7 37.Ne4 Nd4+ 38.Ke3 Nxe6 39.dxe6 d5 40.g3 Kc6 41.gxh4 dxe4 42.Bxe4+ Kd6 43.f5 San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Martin - Thompson 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove pawn f7. White moves twice to begin. 1.e4 pass 2.d4 e6 3.Bd3 g6 4.e5 Nh6 5.Bxh6 Bxh6 6.h4 c5 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.g4 Nxd4 9.Nxd4 cxd4 10.g5 Bg7 11.f4 Rf8 12.Qg4 d6 13.h5 dxe5 14.Bb5+ Ke7 15.Nd2 Rxf4 16.Qg3 Qd5 17.Qa3+ Kd8 18.0-0-0 Qxb5 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Rh7 Bf8 21.Rh8 Qe8 22.Qa5+ b6 23.Qxe5 Qf7 24.Qd6+ Bd7 25.Ne4 Kc8 26.Nf6 Kb7 27.Qxf4 Bc5 28.Rh7 Qf8 29.Rxd7+ Ka6 30.Qf1+ b5 31.a4 Rb8 32.Rc7 Qd6 33.axb5+ Rxb5 34.Rd7 Qe5 35.Rb7 d3 36.Rxb5 Qxg5+ 37.Kb1 Kxb5 38.Qxd3+ Kc6 39.Qa6+ Bb6 40.Qc8+ Kb5 41.c4+ Ka5 42.Qc6 Qf5+ 43.Ka1 Ka6 44.Qc8+ Ka5 45.Qc6 Ka6 46.Nd7 Qc2 47.Nxb6 axb6 48.Qa8# San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Hallwegan - Flanders 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove Nb1. 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 d6 4.h3 Be6 5.Qf3 Bxc4 6.dxc4 Nc6 7.c3 Be7 8.Ne2 Qd7 9.Ng3 Qe6 10.b3 h6 11.Ba3 Nh7 12.Nf5 Qf6 13.Qd3 a6 14.Ne3 Qe6 15.0-0-0 Bg5 16.Kb1 Bxe3 17.Qxe3 0-0-0 18.Rd2 Rd7 19.Rhd1 Rhd8 20.f3 Nf6 21.g4 Nh7 22.h4 f6 23.Rd5 Nf8 24.Qe2 Ng6 25.Bc1 Nxh4 26.Be3 Ng6 27.Qd2 Nb8 28.Ra5 c5 29.Qe2 Nc6 30.Ra4 Kb8 31.a3 Nf4 32.Qa2 Ka8 33.b4 cxb4 34.axb4 Na7 35.b5 Nxb5 36.cxb5 Qxa2+ 37.Kxa2 Ne2 38.Kb2 d5 39.bxa6 d4 40.cxd4 exd4 41.axb7+ Kxb7 42.Bf2 Kc6 43.Ra6+ Kc5 44.Kc2 Nc3 45.Rda1 Nb5 46.Kd3 Rd6 47.Rc1+ Kb4 48.Rc4+ Kb3 49.Raa4 Kb2 50.Rab4+ Ka2 51.Rxb5 Ra6 52.Rcb4 Ra3+ 53.Kd2 Rxf3 54.Bxd4 Ra8 55.Rb2+ Ka3 56.Bc5+ Ka4 57.R5b4+ Ka3 58.Rb8+ Ka4 59.Rxa8# San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 1-0

Fairweather - Condon 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

Remove pawn f7. White moves twice to begin. 1.e4 pass 2.d4 e6 3.Nf3 g6 4.Bd3 c5 5.Bd2 cxd4 6.e5 Ne7 7.Nxd4 Bg7 8.f4 Qb6 9.Nb3 Nbc6 10.a3 d5 11.Nc3 Nf5 12.Na4 Qd8 13.Bb5 Qh4+ 14.Ke2 Bd7 15.Bxc6 Bxc6 16.Nac5 Bb5+ 17.Kf3 Qe7 18.g3 b6 19.Nd3 a5 20.Qg1 0-0 21.Qxb6 Rab8 22.Qc5 Bxd3 23.Qxe7 Nxe7 24.Nc5 Bxc2 25.Bxa5 Rxb2 26.Bc3 Rb5 27.Bd4 Bxe5 28.Bxe5 Rxc5 29.Kg4 h5+ 30.Kg5 Rf5+ 31.Kh6 Kf7 32.Bd6 Rc8 33.Be5 Ng8+ 34.Kh7 g5 35.h3 Rxe5+ San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895 0-1

Thompson - Hollwegan [C61] 1894 Mechanics' Institute Championship, 1895

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.0-0 c6 6.Be2 Bc5 7.Kh1 Nf6 8.e5 Nd5 9.Bc4 Nb6 10.Bb3 d5 11.d3 Be6 12.f4 g6 13.Nd2 Qd7 14.Nf3 h6 15.Qe1 Nc8 16.Qf2 Bb6 17.a4 a6 18.Bd2 Ne7 19.Qh4 0-0-0 20.a5 Ba7 21.Qf2 c5 22.Ba4 Qc7 23.b4 Bg4 24.bxc5 Bxf3 25.Qxf3 Bxc5 26.Be1 Kb8 27.Bh4 Ka8 28.Bf6 Rhg8 29.Rfb1 g5 30.f5 g4 31.Qf1 Rb8 32.Rb3 Nc6 33.Qf4 Nxa5 34.Rb2 h5 35.Rba2 Qb6 36.e6 fxe6 37.Be5 Nc6 38.Bc7 Qa7 39.Bxc6 bxc6 40.Rxa6 Rb1+ 41.Rxb1 Qxa6 42.Qf1 Qc8 43.Rb8+ Qxb8 44.Bxb8 Kxb8 45.fxe6 Kc8 46.Kg1 Re8 47.Qe1 Re7 48.Qa5 Rxe6 49.Qxc5 Kd7 50.Qxd4 Kd6 51.c4 Rg6 52.cxd5 c5 53.Qe4 Rf6 54.g3 Kd7 55.Qh7+ Kd6 56.Qxh5 San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895. 1-0

Mechanics' Institute Tournament 1894-1895 (Standings as February 8, 1895)

First Class



Walter Romaine Lovegrove



V. Q. Quiroga



Second Class

George Hallwegan



G. R. Thompson



Oscar Samuels



Thomas D. Condon



Third Class




E. A. Cutting









Wallace E. Nevill






Fourth Class
















Fifth Class

G. O. Johnson
























San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1895

Thanks to chess historian and International Master John Donaldson for assistance with this article.

© 2005 Neil R. Brennen. All rights reserved.

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