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Monday, September 8, 2014

James M. Hanham

   American Master James M. Hanham (January 4, 1840 Woodville, Mississippi – December 30, 1923 New York, New York) played in many American and international tournaments between 1884 and 1889. Although originally from Mississippi Hanham fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. He saw action at Fort Pickens and Baton Rouge, and was promoted to the rank of Major. For most of the Civil War Hanham commanded “Colored” troops.
     Here is an account from the Florida Historical Quarterly dated October, 1957 which describes Hanham’s actions during the battle at Fort Pickens, Florida in 1861.

     The sleeping members of the 6th New York were instantly aroused. Colonel Wilson turned out his command. He was in the process of forming his unit on the drill ground, fronting the camp hospital, when Lieutenant Moore Hanham, officer of the guard, rushed up to the colonel and excitedly informed him "that about 2,000 armed men in two columns were marching upon us; that the pickets were all attacked about the same time." Upon hearing this intelligence Wilson dispatched his orderly to inform Colonel Brown of the situation. Skirmishers were thrown out and the New Yorker ordered his men to deploy to the left.
     Upon hearing the shot that had aroused the Federal camp Colonel Jackson personally led his men to their assigned position. The dense bush in the center of the island somewhat retarded this advance. Nevertheless Jackson urged his men forward and they arrived before Camp Brown somewhat ahead of the other two battalions. In the irresistible forward surge of the Southerners additional Federal pickets were flushed and either died in their tracks or sought safety in flight. Jackson, without a moment's hesitation, ordered his men to charge the Federal cantonment. Before the élan of Jackson's men the New Yorkers bolted for the beach. The deserted camp was captured. Many of the Confederates, believing the battle was won, now began to plunder the foe's tents.
     Colonel Wilson, aided and abetted by Lieutenants Christian, Kraell, and Hanham, now endeavored to rally his panic stricken men. They had succeeded in reforming about 60 of them behind the first ridge west of the drill field when a few stragglers came in and informed Wilson "that his second in command Lieutenant-Colonel Creighton, Captains Hazeltine, Hoelzle, and Henberer with the balance of the 6th New York had retreated toward Fort Pickens." On hearing this the men, in spite of appeals to their patriotism by their commander, resumed their flight, only halting when they had reached the safety of Battery Totten.
     After the war, he moved to New York City.
     A writer in the New York Times, describing the players in the Sixth American Chess Congress (1889), portrayed him as follows: "Major Hanham is a little, nervous man, who hates to sit still. He won his title during the war of the rebellion. He was one of the dudes of the tournament, and was always dressed in the latest style, with a carefully polished silk hat and neatly trimmed beard."
     At American tournaments, he finished second to Eugene Delmar in the 8th and 9th championships of the Manhattan Chess Club, both held in 1885, and at an 1886 New York Chess Club tournament.
     At Cincinnati 1888, the first United States Chess Association tournament, he tied for 2nd–3rd with 5.5 out of 10, far behind winner Jackson Showalter. He finished 3rd with 3/6 at Lexington 1891, the fourth United States Chess Association tournament. He won two tournaments at Skaneateles, New York in 1891.
     At international tournaments, Hanham performed respectably but not spectacularly, usually finishing in the bottom half. In 1886 at London finished 12th out of 13 with 3.5 out of 12 and at Nottingham he finished 8th out of 10 with 2 points.
     At the Sixth American Chess Congress at New York 1889, a double round robin that was one of the longest tournaments in history, Hanham scored 14/38, finishing 16th out of 20 players; Mikhail Chigorin and Max Weiss tied for first with 29 points, edging out Isidor Gunsberg (28.5). At New York 1894, Hanham tied for 7th–9th with a 4 points.
     One of Hanham's best results was at New York 1893, where he scored 7.5 – 6.5 and finished 6th out of 14 players. In the process he defeated Pillsbury who finished ½ point ahead of him.
     According to Prof. Arpad Elo's calculation, Hanham's strength during his five-year peak was equivalent to an Elo rating of 2360.
     He is remembered today for several opening innovations, particularly the Hanham Variation of Philidor's Defense. Authors Hooper and Whyld also credit Hanham with introducing a number of other opening lines, including the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian Defense, the Indian Opening (1.e4 e5 2.d3), and the Hanham Variation of the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d3), often referred to today as the King's Indian Attack.

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