William Norwood Potter (27 August 1840 – 13 March 1895) was an English chess master and writer. He is primarily remembered for the quality of his chess journalism, and for his association with Wilhelm Steinitz, the first winner of a world chess championship match.

Life and career

Potter was born in London on 27 August 1840[1] to William and Mary Anne (Martin) Potter. He had three brothers and a sister, Mary Potter.[2][3]

A barristers' clerk by trade, Potter first appeared in London chess circles in 1867 and rose quickly from obscurity, winning the 1870 City of London Chess Club handicap tournament, in which he defeated Joseph Henry Blackburne and Cecil Valentine De Vere on even terms.[4] From 1872 to 1874 the City of London Chess Club contested a two-game correspondence chess match with Vienna: the other London team members eventually dropped out, leaving Potter and Steinitz to continue the match by themselves, which they ultimately won by a score of 1.5–0.5. Steinitz would later point to this match as the beginning of the "systematic analytical development of modern ideas" in chess.[4] In 1875 Potter lost a hard-fought match against Johannes Zukertort, scoring two wins and four losses with eight draws.[5] In 1879 he drew a match against James Mason, both sides scoring five wins apiece with eleven draws.[4]

Potter was a chess columnist for the Westminster Papers from 1868 to 1879.[6] From 1874 to 1876 he produced his own periodical, the City of London Chess Magazine, which featured contributions from Zukertort and Steinitz.[7][8] Subsequently, he became the last chess editor at Land and Water from 1877 to 1885.[4] He also contributed the well-reviewed article on chess in the ninth edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.[4][9][10]

After 1885 Potter retired from the London chess scene.[11][5][12] He died in his home in Sutton on 13 March 1895.[6]

Assessment and legacy

In Potter's obituary, the British Chess Magazine noted that though "his record of first-class play is not a long one", "the quality of his best play entitles him, we think, to rank as the equal of any British-born master of his time, with the single exception of Blackburne."[6] Regarding Potter, Steinitz once said: "Put all the pieces into a hat and shake them out on to the board, and you have Potter’s style exactly"; but nevertheless acknowledged him as "a very fine player of the modern school, as well as unquestionably the ablest analyst in England next to Zukertort."[13] Emanuel Lasker claimed in his Manual of Chess that Potter "had influenced Steinitz greatly" but subsequent commentators have cast doubt on this assessment.[13] For his part, Steinitz claimed that Potter "was my pupil direct for some time."[14] Potter's chess writings are praised for their mastery, liveliness and wit.[6][5][4]

The Oxford Companion to Chess records two opening variations bearing Potter's name, one in the Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nb3) which he introduced in the 1870s and which was revived in the 2000s by Vassily Ivanchuk and Magnus Carlsen,[15] and one in the Compromised Defence to the Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0 dxc3 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.e5 Qg6 10.Nxc3 Nge7 11.Rd1) which he gave in his Land and Water column.[16]

The Saavedra position, one of the best-known endgame studies in chess, originates from a game of Potter's against Richard Fenton in 1875.[5]

Notable games

Potter vs. Matthews, London 1868

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8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
d6 black pawn
c5 black pawn
e5 black knight
c4 white bishop
g4 black bishop
c3 white pawn
d3 black pawn
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white rook
g1 white king
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Potter–Matthews, London 1868. Position after 8...Nxe5
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
d8 black queen
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 white knight
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black king
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
d6 black pawn
f6 black pawn
b5 white bishop
c5 black pawn
g5 white bishop
c3 white pawn
d3 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
d1 black bishop
e1 white rook
g1 white king
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Final position after 13.Nxh8#

This frequently published miniature, which features a knight delivering checkmate from a corner of the board, was played between Potter (White) and Matthews (Black) during a "meeting of the British Chess Association" in 1868.[5]

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Bc4 c5 4.Nf3 d6 5.0-0 Nc6 6.c3 d3 7.Re1 Bg4 8.e5! Nxe5? (see diagram) 8.Nxe5! Bxd1 10.Bb5+! Ke7 11.Bg5+! f6 White keeps an extra piece after 11...Ke6 12.Nxd3+ Kf5 13.Bxd8.[5] 12.Ng6+ Kf7 13.Nxh8#.

Zukertort vs. Potter, London 1876

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
e8 black queen
c7 white knight
f7 black bishop
h7 black king
b6 black pawn
c6 white knight
d6 black pawn
h6 black pawn
d5 white pawn
f5 black pawn
g5 black pawn
b4 white pawn
c4 white pawn
f4 black knight
f3 white queen
a2 white pawn
f2 white king
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Zukertort–Potter, London 1876. Position after 36.Nxc7
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
h8 black king
c7 white knight
d7 white queen
b6 black pawn
c6 white knight
d6 black pawn
g6 black bishop
h6 black pawn
d5 white pawn
g5 black pawn
b4 white pawn
c4 white pawn
f4 black knight
a2 white pawn
f2 white king
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
h1 black queen
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Final position after 40...Kh8

In a difficult position, Potter (Black) finds a remarkable queen manoeuvre to save this game against Zukertort (White) in an 1876 tournament at Simpson's Divan.[13]

1.e3 e5 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 Be7 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Be2 0–0 7.0–0 Bd7 8.d5 Nb8 9.Nd2 Ne8 10.f4 exf4 11.exf4 f5 12.Nf3 g6 13.Bd2 Ng7 14.Qc2 Be8 15.Rae1 Bf7 16.Rf2 Nd7 17.Bd3 Re8 18.Rfe2 Nf8 19.Qb3 Rb8 20.Be3 b6 21.Nd4 Qd7 22.Nc6 Ra8 23.Nb5 Bf6 24.Nbxa7 h6 25.Nb5 Kh7 26.Bd4 Rxe2 27.Rxe2 Bxd4+ 28.Nbxd4 Re8 29.Rxe8 Qxe8 30.Kf2 Nh5 31.Nb5 Nd7 32.Qc2 Nc5 33.b4 Nxd3+ 34.Qxd3 Nxf4 35.Qf3 g5 36.Nxc7 (see diagram) 36...Qh8! Threatening 37...Qb2+. 37.Qb3 Qa1!! 38.Qc2 Qh1!! Forcing White to give perpetual check. 39.Qxf5+ Bg6 40.Qd7+ Kh8 Draw agreed. Avoiding the draw with 41.Qg4? would lose after 41...Nd3+ 42.Ke3 (or 42.Kg3 Qe1+ and wins the queen) Qg1+ 43.Kd2 Qc1+ 44.Ke2 Qe1+ 45.Kf3 Qf2 mate.

Potter vs. Mason, London 1879

abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
d8 black queen
f8 black rook
g8 black king
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
d7 black knight
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
c6 black pawn
d6 black bishop
f6 black knight
h6 black pawn
c4 white bishop
d4 white pawn
g4 black bishop
e3 white bishop
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white queen
d2 white knight
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
e1 white rook
g1 white king
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Potter–Mason, London 1876. Position after 13...Nbd7
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
f8 black rook
h8 black king
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 white bishop
c6 black pawn
f6 white rook
h6 white queen
a5 black queen
d5 black knight
g5 white knight
d4 white pawn
e3 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
g1 white king
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Final position after 24.Rxf6

This fine sacrificial attack by Potter (White) against Mason (Black) from their 1879 match was annotated by Steinitz in The Modern Chess Instructor,[17] from which the following quotes are taken.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Qc2 Nf6 10.Bg5 h6 11.Be3 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Bg4 13.Nbd2 Nbd7? (see diagram) 14.Bxh6! "Sound and brilliant." 14...Bxf3 15.Nxf3 gxh6 16.Qg6+ Kh8 17.Qxh6+ Kg8 18.Rae1! "An important move for the attack and one of great depth and insight into the game." 18...Nb6 19.Bd3 Nbd5 20.Ng5 Bf4 21.Re3! "An exceedingly beautiful coup which wins by force." 21...Bxe3 "If for instance 20...Nxe3 21.fxe3 Bxe3+ 22.Kh1 Bxg5 23.Qxg5+ Kh8 24.Rxf6 and wins. Of course, if 21...Bxg5 22.Rg3 and wins." 22.fxe3 Qa5 23.Bh7+ Kh8 24.Rxf6 Black resigned "for if after 24...Qe1+ 25.Rf1 Qxe3+ 26.Kh1 Black must give up the queen for knight and his game is then hopeless."

References

  1. ^ Cunningham, J. G. (1895). "The Late Mr. W. N. Potter". British Chess Magazine. 15 (5): 228.
  2. ^ "Mary Potter: Her Story". Sisters of the Little Company of Mary Australia. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  3. ^ Winter, Edward. "5936. William Norwood Potter". Chess Notes. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Harding, Tim (2012). Eminent Victorian Chess Players: Ten Biographies. USA: McFarland. pp. 170–173. ISBN 978-0786465682.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Forster, Richard (May 2000). "Five Reasons for Remembering William Norwood Potter". Late Knight. ChessCafe.com. Archived from the original on 7 January 2001.
  6. ^ a b c d "Obituary". British Chess Magazine. 15 (4): 180. 1895.
  7. ^ Harding, Tim (May 2000). "A History of The City of London Chess Magazine (Part 1)". The Kibitzer. ChessCafe.com.
  8. ^ Harding, Tim (June 2000). "A History of The City of London Chess Magazine (Part 2)". The Kibitzer. ChessCafe.com.
  9. ^ "Chess". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 5 (9th ed.). 1876. pp. 592–603.
  10. ^ "Chess". 1902 Encyclopedia. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  11. ^ Harding, Tim (2012). Eminent Victorian Chess Players: Ten Biographies. USA: McFarland. p. 371. ISBN 978-0786465682.
  12. ^ Edwards, Rod. "Potter, William". Edo Historical Chess Ratings. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Forster, Richard (June 2000). "More About Potter". Late Knight. ChessCafe.com. Archived from the original on 22 August 2000.
  14. ^ Winter, Edward. "Steinitz, Lasker, Potter and 'Modern Chess'". Chess Notes. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  15. ^ Dembo, Yelena; Palliser, Richard (2011). The Scotch Game. Everyman Chess. pp. 320, 329. ISBN 978-1857446326.
  16. ^ Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992). "Potter Variation". The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280049-3.
  17. ^ Steinitz, Wilhelm (1889). The Modern Chess Instructor, Part I. London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 132–133.