Monday, May 25, 2015

Edward Lasker in Memphis–Roaring 1920's Western Championship

 (2016 Issue of Chess Advocate Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 1–Available at this Link: ------- Chess_Advocate__Vol._3__No._1__2016_Detective_Edition___Portable_Document_Format_.pdf)

Edward Lasker

by Rosa Jefferson

The Commercial Appeal, Sunday Morning, September 19, 1920

The annual championship tourney of the Western Chess Association will start tomorrow promptly at 9 o'clock at the Chamber of Commerce.

Edward Lasker of Chicago, the present holder, will arrive in  the city today.  Lasker is one of the strongest players in the west and has made a most excellent record in the arena of chess.  He holds one of the handsome Western Chess Association cups, the highest honor a player can win in the West.  Before coming to America, Lasker had made a national reputation, owing to his record in tourney play and champion of the city of London Chess Club.  He has undoubtedly sustained his good play in this country both in the East and the West.

Jackson W. Showalter, ex-champion of the United States and for years regarded as one of the shining lights in American chess, will be one of the most interesting participants.  This will be Showalter's first visit to Memphis, and his coming hailed with genuine pleasure.

J. T. Becker, the other player, from Kentucky, was in Memphis the summer of 1914 and took part in the big western tournament held here.  Becker plays a stubborn game and well may be regarded as a formidable rival for the other players.

Texas sent E. M. Cobb to represent the Lone Star chess.  Mr. Cobb's home is in Austin.  He is well known to players in Memphis.

J. H. Norris is of Hoopeston, Ill, is another entrant, whose name will give strength to the meeting of 1920.

The local players so far who have put their signatures to the entry list are:  B. B. Jefferson and Robert Scrivener; Dr. Gilbert Dobbs and David Cummins should also join the ranks.

Memphis should be represented by the "great quartet," Jefferson, Dobbs, Scrivener and Cummins, as the eye of American chess will be centered upon us this week.

So far B. B. Jefferson has been 100 percent strong in western tourney play.  He has only competed twice and each time came off with the first prize and Oliver cup.  His first victory was in Chicago in 1913, and in Memphis the summer of 1914.  For winning two tourneys in succession he won the silver cup for life.

Local players are counting strong on Robert Scrivener to come off with big honors this week.  Scrivener's record will be watched with great interest.

Dr. Gilbert Dobbs is secretary of the association and with the co-operation of the local players, he has arranged a most attractive programme for the entire week.

Play will continue each morning and afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce.  The tourney will be open to the public and not only chess players, but all those who are interested in the game are cordially incited to visit the club this week.


The News Scimitar, Monday, September 20, 1920

This building was also known as "The Business Men's Club."
Opening play in the Western Chess Association championship tournament began Monday in the chess and checker rooms of the Chamber of Commerce, with nine entrants, three of whom are champion players.  The play will continue throughout the week, ending Saturday, when the five prizes, ranging from $10 to $100, will be distributed to the winners.

Edward Lasker, secretary of the Western Chess association and present champion of the association of Chicago, arrived in Memphis Saturday and was entered in the tourney Monday.  Lasker is considered one of the best players in the country and is the strongest card of the Memphis play.

R. L. Eisenberg, also of Chicago, is a player of international reputation and is considered a strong contestant in the local tournament.

Marvin Palmer, Chicago, is the youngest player in the tournament but regardless of this is considered a probable winner.  Jackson Showalter is another of the Chicago players and is the former champion of the United States.  Other out-of-town players in the tournament are J. T. Beckneer of Kentucky; E. M. Cobb of Austin, Texas and J. H. Norris of Hoopeston, Ill.

The Memphis players entered in the play are R. S. Scrivener and B. B. Jefferson.  Both Scrivener and Jefferson are well-known throughout the country as experts in playing with the knights, bishops and kings.  Jefferson is two times winner of the Western association, having taken the honors both in 1913 and 1914.

Chess enthusiasts of this city are invited to attend the tournament at any time.  Play begins at 9 o'clock.  At that time they adjourn for lunch and take up the play again at 3 o' clock and continue until 5 o'clock.


The News Scimitar, Tuesday, September 21, 1920

Edward Lasker of Chicago, present Western Chess association champion, defeated B. B. Jefferson of Memphis in the opening play of the Western Chess association's championship tournament which opened at the Chamber of Commerce Monday.  The success of Lasker was not made without a struggle according to enthusiasts who watched the game, and the Memphis man is credited with an excellent showing.

R. L. Isenberg also of Chicago and a player of international repute defeated J. H. Norris of Hoopeston, Ill.  J. T. Beckner, representing the Blue Grass state in the Memphis tournament, defeated E. M. Cobb of Austin, Tex.

The pairing Tuesday is:  Palmer vs. Beckner;  Lasker vs. Cobb;  Isenberg vs. Jefferson;  Scrivener vs. Norris.  Afternoon play–Jefferson vs. Scrivener;  Norris vs. Palmer;  Cobb vs. Isenberg;  Beckner vs. Lasker.

Jefferson vs. Lasker
American Chess Bulletin, Vol. 17, No. 8, November, 1920


The Commercial Appeal, Tuesday Morning, September 21, 1920

Championship Play Begins at Memphis C. of C.

The championship tourney of the Western Chess Association opened yesterday morning at 9 o'clock at the Chamber of Commerce with a strong entry list.

It was regretted that Jackson Showalter at the last moment was unable to attend the meeting.  A wire was received yesterday from the veteran player expressing his regrets.

Chicago is represented by Edward Lasker, Marvin Palmer and L. R. Eisenberg;  J. T. Becker hails from Kentucky;  E. M. Cobb, Austin, Texas;  J. H. Morris, of Hoopeston, Ill.  The local players are B. B. Jefferson and Robert Scrivener.

Play has been divided into two sessions for each day.  The first, from 9 a.m. to 1 o'clock to 7 p.m.  The time limit is fixed at 15 moves an hour.

In the opening round yesterday, Jefferson was pitted against Edward Lasker,  E. M. Cobb against Eisenberg, Scrivener against Palmer.

Lasker won over Jefferson in a center counter game;  J. T. Beckner defeated E. M. Cobb and J. H. Norris lost to Eisenberg.  Scrivener and Palmer did not begin their game until the afternoon session.

In the pairings today Palmer will meet Beckner;  Lasker will play against Cobb, Eisenberg against Jefferson and Scrivener against Norris.  In the afternoon Norris will play Palmer;  Jefferson and Scrivener will clash swords,  Cobb and Einenberg, and Beckner and Lasker.

The game below occurred yesterday between J. H. Norris and Eisenberg.

Among the victories that Eisenberg is able to recount was at Monte Carlso in 1902, when he defeated Harry N. Pillsbury.  The score of the game follows.

Play will continue throughout the week.  Dr. Gilbert Dobbs, as secretary of the association, is keeping record of all the games.  The player who wins the first prize will receive the handsome Western Chess Association silver cup and $100 in money.  The second prize is $50;  Third is $30;  fourth, $20, and fifth, $10.  The tourney is open to the public.  All players are cordially invited.


The Commercial Appeal, Wednesday Morning, September 22, 1920

The 21st annual championship tourney of the Western Chess Association is attracting many visitors to the Chamber of Commerce.  The scene of the action is located on the third floor.

The third round opened yesterday morning and before the afternoon recess at 1 'o clock several clashes had resulted.  Jefferson defeated Eisenberg, and Lasker won over Cobb.  The Beckner and Palmer, Scrivener and Norris games were adjourned.

In the playoff between Scrivener and Palmer on Monday's adjourned game, Scrivener won but not without a hard struggle.  With the resuming of play at 3 o'clock, Cobb had to face Eisenberg;  Palmer, Norris;  Jefferson, Scrivener;  Lasker, Beckner.

At 5:30 two games had been finished–Cobb defeated Eisenberg and Palmer beat Norris.  Scrivener and Jefferson were still struggling.  Also Lasker and Beckner were having a heated encounter.  The game had reached the stage where Beckner was bending every effort for a victory while Lasker was working for a draw.  Becker made an excellent showing in last year's tourney, coming off close upon the heels of Lasker, winning second place with 7 ½ points to his credit.

Monday Lasker started off with great promise for the premiership of 1920 but yesterday afternoon the outlook was not that encouraging.

Lasker has so far been one of the greatest "stars" in the west.  His first grandstand play was in the tourney of 1916 held at the Kenwood Club in Chicago.  With 20 entrants he won first place with the score of 16 games won with one game lost and three draws.

In the 1917 tourney Lasker won with the loss of only one game.  The western championship went to Boris Kastics in 1918.  Lasker's score tallying with three other players–Halbohm, Morrision and Whitaker.

The fall of 1919 however, Lasker came into his own again and captured first prize in brilliant style.  His total score was 8 ½ out of 11 entries.

Play today will begin promptly at 9 o'clock.  There will be only one session, as the adjourned games will occupy the entire afternoon.

The pairings already scheduled are Palmer vs. Lasker;  Eisenberg vs. Beckner;  Scrivener vs. Cobb;  Norris vs. Jefferson.

The score to date is as follows: Lasker 2 games won, 1 draw, with possibly another draw;  Scrivener, 1 game won, 1 draw;  Beckner, 1 game lost;  Jefferson, 1 game won, 1 lost and 1 draw;  Cobb, 1 game lost, 2 draws;  Palmer, 1 game lost;  Eisenberg, 1 game lost,  2 draws;  Norris, 1 game lost, 2 draws.

Scrivener, is at present, occupying the center of the stage.  Becker and Palmer are also attracting great interest.  Lasker and Jefferson however, are the principals in the match on account of their supremacy in the west.  Jefferson won first place in the two tourneys in which he participated.  As previously stated, the tourney is open to all visitors.  Chess players are cordially incited to attend.

Chess News

The Commercial Appeal, 10-17-1920
by Rosa Jefferson
Ruy Lopez

This partie took place in the fourth round of the championship tourney of the Western Chess Association between J. H. Norris of Hoopeston, Ill, and B. B. Jefferson, champion of the Memphis Chess Club.  The score follows:


The Commercial Appeal, Thursday Morning, September 23, 1920

The fifth round of the championship tourney of the Western Chess Association will be played this morning at the Chamber of Commerce.

The players are entering upon the fourth day of their match, and so far have stood the heavy strain of tourney play remarkably well.  In yesterday's series Lasker beat Palmer, Jefferson defeated Norris, Eisenberg beat Beckner and Cobb beat Scrivener.

The latter game held one of the surprises of the day, when the Lone Star champion in brilliant fashion sacrificed knight and pawn, forcing Scrivener to resign.

This game will undoubtedly stand a good chance for the brilliancy prize.

In addition to the prize offered for the most brilliant game there is also one for the best played game.

In the pairings today Lasker will come up against Eisenberg, Jefferson will face Palmer, Cobb is scheduled to meet Norris and Scrivener will clash with Beckner.
Rev. Gilbert Dobbs, TD

One of the adjourned games still hanging fire and which players are eagerly awaiting the result in the Lasker - Beckner partie.  The Kentuckian has a winning position which he is expected to "carry on" to victory.  In this event Lasker's ranks will be reduced a point.  Then Lasker, Jefferson and Beckner will be tied for first place.

Interest, increases daily as the time draws near for the close of the match.  Dr. Gilbert Dobbs, secretary of the local club and tournament director, is keeping a tabulated record of all the games, which will be turned over to the chess world at an early date.

The score at present stands as follows:


Lasker...................... 2 ½ - ½
Jefferson ..................2 ½ - 1½
Beckner .....................1 - 1
Scrivener .................1 ½- ½
Palmer .....................1 - 2 
Cobb ........................2 - 2
Eisenberg .................2 - 2
Norris ......................½ - 3


The Commercial Appeal, Friday Morning, September 24, 1920

The fifth round of the championship tourney of the Western Chess Association played yesterday at the Chamber of Commerce was not only one of the most interesting, but probably the most heated affray of the series.

Edward Lasker administered "knockout drops" to Eisenberg, his fellow townsman, in his usual fashion.

B. B. Jefferson also felt Palmer a series of hard blows which gave him the final decision.  Also Cobb had succumb to the superior strength of Norris.  The Scrivener - Beckner game was adjourned.

The strong feature, however, of yesterday's play was the renewal of hostilities between Lasker and Beckner.  What was supposedly a victory for Beckner at last accounts was gradually turning in favor of a drawn battle.

This will cause Lasker's star again to be in the ascendants with strong chances for supremacy when the curtain drops tomorrow on the tourney of 1920.

An enjoyable feature of the week has been the noonday lunches enjoyed by the eight participants and the patrons of the tourney.

Among the out-of-town visitors is J. Witherspoon of Jackson, Tenn, a veteran of 1865.  Mr. Witherspoon's account of his famous briarroot men that went though the Civil War and helped many of the boys to while away the hours was enjoyed by the visiting chess players.  The score to date stands:


Lasker...................... 3 ½ - ½
Jefferson ..................3 ½ - ½
Scrivener .................1 ½- ½
Beckner .....................1 - 1
Cobb ........................3 - 2
Eisenberg .................2 - 3
Palmer .....................1 - 3 
Norris ......................½ - 4

Robert Scrivener vs E.M. Cobb (1920 Brilliancy Prize game)
American Chess Bulletin, Vol. 18, No. 6 July-August 1921

The Commercial Appeal, Saturday Morning, September 25, 1920

At the conclusion of today's play the 1920 tourney of the Western Chess Association will be brought to a brilliant close, unless Jefferson, who is pitted against Beckner wins his game.  In that event there will be a tie between Lasker and Jefferson for first prize, necessitating a play-off for the championship.

This is considered the feature game of today's play, around which the interest will center.

Lasker has finished all of his sittings, and has made the score of five and one-half games won and one and one-half lost.

The great game in yesterday's play was the Lasker-Scrivener partie.  Scrivener held his own with Lasker from start to finish, and finally broke even with the champion.  The Lasker-Beckner adjourned game, which had created so much interest, also resulted in a draw.

Jefferson won over Cobb, but not without a hard fight.  At one time the odds were very much against him, but somehow he managed to wiggle out of the tense position and got the drop on his opponent.

An item of interest regarding Cobb's chess record, which leaked out yesterday, was his connection with the mysterious Ajub, which he operated for several years.

"Terible Turk" (Ajeeb) occupied a lone sequestered spot in the Eden Musee, in New York City, and held his own with all comers.  Cobb also took the mysterious automaton on tour, including several southern cities in his itinerary.

Palmer and Eisenberg drew their game yesterday, and Beckner won over Norris.  It is to be regretted that on account of a nervous breakdown Norris had to withdraw from the tourney, and left yesterday for his home in Hoopeston, Ill.

Dr. Gilbert Dobbs has made an excellent tourney director, and it is largely due to his management that the battle royal of 1920 will go on record as one of the most interesting in the history of the association.

The score today stands:


Lasker...................... 5 ½ - 1 ½
Jefferson ..................4 ½ - ½
Scrivener .................4 - 2
Beckner .....................½ - ½
Cobb ........................3 - 3
Eisenberg .................½ - ½
Palmer .....................½ - ½ 
Norris ......................½ - ½

A History of Tennessee Chess, page 8
by Peter Lahde


The Commercial Appeal, Sunday Morning, September 26, 1920

The final round in the 21st annual championship tourney of the Western Chess Association at the present writing is still hanging fire on account of the Jefferson-Beckner game.  The championship title the entire day hung on this engagement.  After six hours of hard play the two were still clinched in the most concentrated affair of the entire series.

This game comes as an excellent finale to the week of splendid play.  If Jefferson wins he will tie Lasker for first place.  If Beckner scores ten he and Jefferson will tie for second place.

Becker has made it warm for the two principals–Lasker and Jefferson.  Scrivener also drew his game with them.  Lasker has made an excellent record in western tourney play.  He is stilling and the future undoubtedly holds even greater victories for him.

Naturally local interest has been keen for Jefferson and Scrivener.  Both players have sustained in brilliant as well as strong play the reputation of Tennessee chess.  Every one of the participants, however, played splendid games and each state has a right to feel proud of its representative.

Norris made a low record, but this was attributed to his nervous collapse.

The championship entry list in these annual matches has been eliminated to 12 participants, to emphasize quality instead of numbers.  Heretofore, with a force of some 20 entries, the tax has been too severe for the best players.

The tourney created widespread interest and has already helped to stimulate interest in the royal game, especially in the territory surrounding Memphis.

The prizes are as follows:  First prize, $100 and the silver cup for one year; second prize, $50; third, $25; fourth, $15; fifth, $10.

There is also a prize for the most brilliant game and the best played games.  These prizes will be awarded as soon as Dr. Gilbert Dobbs and Dave Cummins make a careful analysis of the 49 games.

Dr. Dobbs, as tournament director, had a strenuous week.

His accuracy and efficiency in keeping the scores of all games were, in a large measure, responsible for the great success of the tourney.


1920 Western Cup

The handsome silver tourney cup, which arrived yesterday, is large and massive.  It was on exhibition at the Chamber of Commerce.  There are new rules now governing the cup.  Until recently the trophy became the permanent property of the man who succeeded in winning two tourneys in succession.  The new ruling calls for supremacy in three tourneys, whether or not won in succession.  Jefferson holds the original western championship cup, which was fought for 15 years.

The names of all the former champions of the association up to the time the cup was captured by the Memphis are engraved upon the outside, which adds to its interest and value.

At the business meeting held yesterday Edward Lasker was chosen as president and Dr. Gilbert Dobbs, secretary, for the ensuing year.

When the curtain dropped yesterday upon the final game the score stood as follows:


Lasker...................... 5 ½ - 1 ½
Jefferson ..................4 ½ - ½
Scrivener .................4 3
Beckner .....................½ - ½
Cobb ........................4 - 3
Eisenberg .................½ - ½
Palmer .....................½ - ½ 
Norris ......................½ - ½

Chess News, The Commercial Appeal, 10-17-1920
by Rosa Jefferson

The game below was played in the fifth round of the Western Chess Association between J. S. Beckner of Winchester, Ky., and Robert S. Scrivener, the local expert.

Beckner won second prize in the 1919 tourney ...

French Defense


The Commercial Appeal, Sunday Morning, October 3, 1920

The recent meeting of the Western Chess Association in Memphis at the Chamber of Commerce was decidedly one of the most interesting of the 21 annual battles yet held by the organization.

Edward Lasker, the Chicago expert, captured the first prize, but not without a hard struggle.

Lasker's seat for supremacy for a while rested with the Jefferson–Becker game.

This game occupied the center of the stage the last day of the tourney and Beckner deserves high praise for his stubborn fight.

This was Jefferson's third entrance in western open play.  He won first prize in the other two.  In addition to capturing first prize, $100, and the handsome cup for one year, Lasker was made president of the association for 1920 - 1921.  Jefferson and Beckner tied for second place.

Becker won second place last year at the tourney held in Cincinnati.  The Kentuckian is recognized as one of the strong players of the association.

In the final round Cobb of Austin, Texas, tied with Robert Scrivener for third place.  Both Cobb and Scrivener have a national reputation in  chess circles.  Eisenberg's score was next and then Palmer.  Norris made the lowest score.  His play was not up to the standard, owing to the condition of his health.

Dr. Gilbert Dobbs was elected secretary of the Western Association for the ensuing year.  Dr. Dobbs made an excellent tourney director and his efficiency all during the week was heartily appreciated by the players.

Aside from playing a very stubborn game Dr. Dobbs has an international reputation as a composer of intricate problems.

The tourney games will be printed next Sunday.  The final score stood as follows:


Lasker...................... 5 ½ - 1 ½
Jefferson ..................4 ½ - ½
Beckner .....................½ - ½
Scrivener .................4 3
Cobb ........................4 - 3
Eisenberg .................½ - ½
Palmer .....................½ - ½ 
Norris ......................½ - ½

Chess News

The Commercial Appeal, October 10, 1920

Center Gambit

Played in the seventh round of the Western Championship Tourney between E. M. Cobb of Dallas, Texas, and M. Palmer of Chicago.

Double Ruy Lopez

The game below is an interesting partie played between E. Lasker, first prize man, and J. H. Norris of Hoopeston, Ill.

The time Norris consumed in this game was two hours and ten minutes; Lasker's time was one hour and 35 minutes.  The score follows:

American Chess Bulletin, Volume 17, 1920 (Solutions to Rev. Dobb's problems are at the end of this blog post.)




Problem 1389

Key Move:


Problem 1398

Key Move:


Problem 1404

Key Move:


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