Chess and Draughts

Scottish connections

Several notable figures in the world of draughts also played chess. The most significant were the world champions, Ferrie and Jordan. 

James Ferrie
4 December 1857, Greenock - 14 December 1929, Glasgow

Ferrie became the draughts (or checkers) World Champion in 1894 by defeating James Wyllie (the 'Herd Laddie') in a match which commenced April 17 at the Ramshorn Hall, Ingram Street, Glasgow. Ninety-four games were planned, but not all were played; the match ended after 88 games with Ferrie having won 13 games, lost 6 and 69 games drawn.

Ferrie lost the title two years later to the Edinburgh player, Richard Jordan.

From The Chess Amateur of October 1908, p2:

'The well-known champion draughts player, James Ferrie, has joined the Glasgow Chess Club.'

Ferrie played for Glasgow CC in several matches in the inaugural season of the Glasgow Chess League, 1908-09.

Ferrie died on Saturday, 14 December, 1929 at his home at 203 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow.

Further information about James Ferrie's draughts play can be found here.

James Ferrie, age 60, in the nursery gardens at Alexandra Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 1917.
Source: The Online Museum of Checkers History


Richard Jordan
4 November 1872, Edinburgh - 8 October 1911, Edinburgh

Jordan captured the World Draughts Championship from James Ferrie in 1896, scoring 4 wins, 3 losses with 33 games drawn.

Richard Jordan (left) and James Ferrie, during their 1896 World Championship match.

Jordan successfully defended his title against Robert Stewart, Charles Barker (USA) and Harry Freedman before retiring from match play in 1903. However, Jordan continued to play competitively and, along with James Ferrie and Robert Stewart, was included in the British team that defeated the USA in 1905.

Richard Jordan (left) defending his title against Charles Barker of the USA in a match played at Boston, Massachusetts in 1900. Jordan retained his title with 2 wins, 2 losses and 36 draws.
Source: The Online Museum of Checkers History

Jordan was active in Edinburgh chess circles, playing for the Edinburgh Chess Club and the Edinburgh Working Men's Club.

The Edinburgh Working Men's Club and Institute 1905. Club members are shown with the Spens Cup (upper) and Knight Cup (lower).

Standing, from the left: R.H. Smith, F. Cruickshank, A.D. Marshall, E.E. Parker.
Sitting, from the left: R. Jordan, H.H. Waight, W. Cruickshank, R. Boyd.

NOTE: This photo was made into a postcard, which was given to or delivered - there is no stamp - by H.W. (likely H.H. Waight in the photo) to 'Maggie', dated 30.6.05. The full details of the addressee on the card are: Miss M. Cockburn, 105 Giles Rd, Edinburgh. 
The club had a successful 1904-05 season, winning the first division of the Edinburgh League - the Knight Cup - and the Spens Cup. This, the original Spens Cup, was 'lost' during WW2.

For more information about Richard Jordan see the brief biography here, which includes a link to Geoff Chandler's more detailed article.

Further information about Jordan's draughts career can be found here.

Robert Stewart
31 August 1873, Kelty, Fife - 11 August 1941, Blairadam, Fife

Robert Stewart - portrait from the tournament book of the Stewart v Banks match.

Robert Stewart, a miner like many other draughts players in Scotland, became the first undisputed World Champion since Richard Jordan retired from match play. It is not known if he had an interest in chess, but he faced an experienced chess master in a world championship draughts encounter. He defeated the American Newell W. Banks of Detroit, Michigan, in a match which commenced on January 28, 1922 in Glasgow, at the Lesser City Hall. The result was a narrow victory to Stewart by 2 wins, 1 loss and and 37 draws.

Newell W. Banks
10 October 1887, Detroit, USA - 17 February 1977, Detroit, USA

Newell William Banks is one of the few masters who were recognised as equally competent at both chess and draughts, the most well known such player probably being another American, Harry Nelson Pillsbury.

In the case of Banks, he was acknowledged as a child prodigy at draughts, and although he continued to participate in chess events, as well as somtimes playing both games in simultaneous displays, it was his prowess at draughts that dominated.

Some examples of Banks's results in chess tournaments:

In the 1916 Rice Memorial Tournament in New York, he finished in last place in the 14-player event, scoring only four draws, albeit one was against Janowski.

In 1924 Banks took part in the Western Chess Association tournament at Detroit, his home city. The event was won by Carlos Torre with 14/16, followed by Faktor, Hahlbohm and Whitaker 11½, Reshevsky 11 with Banks scoring 10½.

In 1926 he again played in the Western Chess Association tournament in Chicago, scoring 4½/12, including wins against Frank Marshall (1st), and the up-and-coming Isaac Kashdan.

Another Visit to Scotland - 1939
Newell Banks returned to Scotland in 1939, visiting the Scottish Draughts Championship which were being held in the YMCA rooms at Eglinton Toll, Glasgow. At the formal opening of the championship on January 2, Banks was introduced as a distinguished visitor who was hoping to arrange an international match between Britain and the United States for 1940 [there had been earlier matches in 1905 and 1927-AMcG]. In the interval between sessions, Banks played 10 opponents simultaneously, winning 7 and drawing 3. (Glasgow Herald, January 3, 1929, p. 14.)

The Glasgow Herald chess column of January 6, 1939 (p. 19) commented:-

"...tomorrow [he] gives a chess and draughts display against all-comers in the room at Eglinton Toll. He is open for chess engagements also, simultaneous (ordinary or blindfold) displays, and so on. In this respect he is unfortunate in following so quickly on the visits of Koltanowski, Alekhine and Miss Menchik, and engagements already made for a visit very soon of Znosko-Borovsky."

However, Banks did receive a few more engagements. On Thursday, January 26, he played against a number of opponents at Dundee Chess Club.

Source: Evening Telegraph, Friday, January 27, 1939, p.8.

On Tuesday, February 7, at the Glasgow Jewish Institute on South Portland Street, he gave simultaneous displays at both chess and draughts. The display lasted 4½ hours, with the following results: Chess 8 wins, 7 draws; Draughts 10 wins and 8 draws. (Glasgow Herald chess column, February 10, 1939, p. 6.)

Other Scottish Draughts/Chess Players

One of the many focal points for draughts in Scotland was the Glasgow Central Working Men's Club and Institute, founded in 1865. In the early days of this club, draughts was the more important game. Slowly, however, the interest in chess was raised, mainly because of the efforts of John Court.

The names of several draughts players appear in reports of chess tournaments and matches over the years, including W. Bryden, A. Jackson and J.C. Semple.

William Bryden

Mr Bryden (or Brydon) was born in Glasgow in 1853. In the 1861 census he is shown at 10 Portugal Street, Glasgow. He was living with his mother, step-father and a half-sister. His mother Susan Goldie (Gouldie) had married George Knotts in 1858, her second marriage.

 In the 1871 census Mr Bryden was living at 10 Nicholson Street, a few steps from his previous address and close to Gorbals Cross. Other residents were Alice Gray, an aunt, and Elizabeth Goldie (Gouldie), his grandmother. He was employed as a 'hammerman.'

Bryden must have acquired his skill in draughts quite early; when only 18 he won a match against the noted Glasgow player George Stratton, and in 1875 he defeated Robert Frazer of Partick. There followed another match win in 1879, this time against Steele of Kilbirnie. Mr Bryden took possession of the first challenge medal of the Central Club, Glasgow, having held it against all comers for the stipulated three years.

Other successes included winning the Lanarkshire championship four times, in 1879, 1882,1886 and 1887. In 1893 he won the 1st Scottish Draughts Championship, defeating Andrew Jackson in the final

Taken from Draughts World.

 Bryden also played for Scotland in the international matches against England in 1884 (the first), 1894, 1903 and 1910. Andrew Jackson also played in that match; he represented England because he was resident there at the time. 

Other members of the Scottish team in the 1884 match included James Ferrie, mentioned above, and David G. McKelvie of Glasgow. D.G. McKelvie is not known as a chess player, but his grandson, Neil McKelvie, born in England in 1930, was well known in English chess, at one time playing on board 1 for Cambridge University. Mr McKelvie moved to the USA in 1954, where his successes included winning the Manhattan Chess Club championship twice.

Bryden and Chess

While progressing in the draughts world, Bryden was also taking part in chess events. He played for West of Scotland in matches against the East in 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1889. He also participated in the Central Club tournaments and represented the club in various friendly matches.

Mr Bryden attempted to be active right to the end; he had been expected to play in the Scottish championship in January 1924, but instead he had to go into hospital. 

Mr Bryden died 26 April at the Southern General Hospital, 1301 Govan Road, Glasgow. His usual residence was 6 McLellan Street, Govan.

Andrew Jackson
1852, Cathcart, Glasgow - 1939, Busby

 Mr Jackson's business as a contractor prevented him from participating in various tournaments.

Becaue he was residing in Manchester at the time, he played on the England team in the match against Scotland at the Ramshorn Assembly Rooms, 122 Ingram Street, Glasgow on April 14-16 1884.

In 1885 he reached the final of the 1st English Championship tournament in Manchester, but lost to James Smith. He then challenged Smith to match, which was held at Spennymoor, County Durham in January 1886. Smith won by 3-0 with 25 draws.

As noted above, he reached the final of the 1st Scottish Draughts Championship in 1893, when he lost to William Bryden.

At some point Mr Jackson returned to Scotland and it was then that he took up chess. First, he was with the Cabin Chess Club (named after tea rooms of the same name), playing top board for them in 1902. In 1903 the Cabin CC changed its name to the Central Chess Club, the third version of a club with this name. When the Central CC introduced a championship trophy Mr Jackson, the then club president, was the first winner of the cup in 1905. He also played for the West of Scotland against the East in 1905. In season 1907-8 he played for the Athenaeum CC (Glasgow) in the Richardson Cup.

Mr Jackson, then residing in Kirkintilloch, played for Scotland in the 1910 match against England, held at the Union Halls, West Nile Street, Glasgow.

The Scottish team for the 1910 match.
The photo is from the book of the match.

Mr Jackson died 12 May 1939 at his home, Wakefield Terrace, Sheddens, in the Busby district of Renfrew County.

John C. Semple
1857 Barrhead - 1941 Stockport

Mr Semple was associated with the St Andrew's Draughts Club, which met at Eglinton Toll, Glasgow. In 1885 he was part of a St Andrew's team that included William Bryden in a match against the South Side Club.

Mr Semple was associated with three chess clubs in Glasgow. In 1891 he represented the Central CC in local match play as well as in the 1892 West of Scotland v East match. He also played in the 1899 West v East encounter.

 Mr Semple was also a member of Glasgow and Queen's Park Chess Clubs. He is shown as playing in matches for the former club in 1895 and 1899.

The 1901 census shows Mr Semple and his family residing at 8 Lochiel Terrace, Thornliebank. He also had business addresses - he had a calico printing works - Glasgow city centre and in Manchester.

In November 1901 Mr Semple was elected president of the Scottish Draughts Association, a position he held until December 1903, when he became honorary president.

In the chess season for 1902-03 Mr Semple played top board for Queen's Park CC, helping them win the 1903 Spens Cup. This qualified the club for the premier team competition, and Mr Semple helped them reach the 1904 Richardson Cup final. He also represented Scotland in the 1904 match against the Northern Counties Chess Union, and he was part of the Queen's Park team that was the beaten finalist in the 1907 Spens Cup.

The 1911 census for England shows that Mr Semple and his family were now residing in Cheshire. Mr Semple died on 3 April 1941 in Stockport.


Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland

Updated 21/12/2019