William Lewis (chess player)

English chess player and author

William Lewis (1787–1870) was an English chess player and author. He is best known for the Lewis Countergambit and for being the first player ever to be described as a Grandmaster of the game.[1]

Life and worksEdit

Born in Birmingham, William Lewis moved to London where he worked for a merchant. He became a student of chess player Jacob Sarratt. In later years he showed himself to be very unkind to his old teacher. He said Sarratt's Treatise on the Game of Chess (1808)[2] was a "poorly written book". But in 1822 three years after Sarrat died, Lewis published a second edition of it. This was in competition with a much better revision by Sarrat published in 1821 by Sarratt's poverty-stricken widow. In 1843, many players gave money to help the old widow, but Lewis' name is not on the list.

Around 1819 Lewis was the hidden player inside the Turk, a fake chess playing machine. He told Johann Maelzel that Peter Unger Williams, also a student of Sarratt, should be the next person to operate inside the machine. Maezel took his advice and Williams replaced Lewis.[3]

Lewis began writing books including translations of the works of Greco and Carrera, published in 1819[4] and 1822.[5]

He was the leading English player in a game played by letters sent between London and Edinburgh in 1824, won by the Scots. He wrote a book on the match with analysis of the games.[6] In 1834–36 he was on the Committee of the Westminster Chess Club. They lost games played by letter with the Paris Chess Club. The other players were his students McDonnell and Walker, while the French team included Boncourt, Alexandre, St. Amant and Chamouillet.[7] When De La Bourdonnais visited England in 1825, Lewis played about 70 games with the French master.[8]

Lewis was known as a famous chess player in his time. The weekly magazine Bell's Life in 1838 called him "our past grandmaster", the first known use of the term in chess. In 1825 he began a chess club where he taught people to play the game. He wrote two books on how to play chess, the Series of Progressive Lessons (1831) and Second Series of Progressive Lessons (1832). 

Lewis's books, and those of his teacher Sarratt, were based on reworking Philidor's ideas to those of the Modenese[9] school of Del Rio, Lolli and Ponziani.[10] Lewis gradually stopped playing competition chess. 

After his retirement he wrote other chess books, but he was no longer up to date with new ideas. The Oxford Chess Companion said his last book, A Treatise on Chess (1844),[11] was already "out of date when published".

References and notesEdit

  1. Hooper & Whylde 1992. Oxford Companion to Chess. 2nd ed, p224–5, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866164-9
  2. J. H. Sarratt, A treatise on the game of chess containing a regular system of attack and defence (1808)
  3. B. Ewart Chess, man vs. machine (1980) page 84.
  4. Gioachino Greco on the game of chess, translated by William Lewis (1819)
  5. P. Carrera and W. Lewis, A treatise on the game of chess: Containing... (1822)
  6. W. Lewis, The games of the match at chess played between the London and the Edinburgh chess clubs (1829).
  7. The City of London chess magazine, ed. by W. N. Potter vol. 1 (1875) page 83.
  8. F. M. Edge, The exploits and triumphs, in Europe, of Paul Morphy (1859) page 38.
  9. From Modena, on the River Po in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy.
  10. The British chess magazine, vol. 26 (1906) page 189.
  11. W. Lewis, A Treatise on the Game of Chess: containing an introduction to the game, and an analysis of the various opening of the game with several new modes of attack and defence (1844)

Other websitesEdit