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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joseph Redding

     In 1884 Johann Zukertort spent July 2nd to July 25th in San Francisco giving simultaneous chess exhibitions and his visit was arranged by Joseph D. Redding and J. E. Tippett. 
     At the time Redding was a young lawyer and Zukertort played a 5-game match against him on even terms. The conditions were that Redding played white in all five games and the opening was the Evans Gambit. Zukertort wrote that he considered Redding to be the strongest player in San Francisco and though he (Zukertort) won all five games the match “was a hard tussle.”
     Redding was born in Sacramento, California on September 13, 1858. Redding, California was named after his father. In 1871 he entered the California Military Academy at Oakland and graduated in 1873. From there he entered the Urban Academy which was a college prep-school. After graduating in 1876 he entered the scientific department of Harvard University, but attended lectures at the Harvard Law School. 

     In August, 1879, he took employment in the law offices of McAllister & Bergen in San Francisco and passed his law exams that same year. Besides practicing in San Francisco, Redding also appeared before the US Supreme Court to argue cases. In 1881 e also represented the Southern Pacific Railroad Company specializing in the land departments
     One of his more important legal cases argued before the Supreme Court was when the US government attempted to arrest and try one Indian for killing another Indian when both of them were on the reservation. Redding represented the Indian who was acquitted by the jury because the US government did not have jurisdiction on the reservation, at least at that time. Redding's legal practice was large and very lucrative for the day. It was estimated that his practice raked in somewhere close to half a million in today's currency. 
     Redding also had a passion for music and he began composing at an early age and successfully published numerous compositions. At the age of thirteen, he was was considered a “phenomenon” and accompanied the pianist Hugo Mansfeldt on a concert tour.   While in college he wrote several comedies which were produced in many of the colleges societies of New England. Later Redding collaborated with operetta writer Victor Herbert on a grand opera called Natoma, set in California in the 1820s. The opera has been called the greatest flop of all time. 
    One of Redding's major passions was pisciculture...yes, there really is such a thing...it's the controlled breeding and raising of fish. As a result, he was appointed special agent of the United States Fish Commission for the Pacific coast. He was instrumental in the passage of an act of Congress in getting the services of a ship to investigate the marine fisheries. Redding's attempt to change the fish-eating habits of Americans were immortalized in verse by Ambrose Bierce - Here lies Joseph Redding, who gave us the catfish. He dined upon every fish except that fish. 'Twas touching to hear him expounding his fad. With a heart full of zeal and a mouth full of shad. The catfish miaowed with unspeakable woe. When Death, the lone fisherman, landed their Jo. 
     Another major area of interest was charitable aid and he often contributed income from his plays to charity.  He frequently spoke to audiences on a variety of subjects and contributed articles to the leading magazines and literary journals of the day on a variety of subjects. 
     Redding was a social animal and was elected president of the Bohemian Club in 1885.  He appreciated art and was elected president of the San Francisco Art Association as well as being an esteemed member of several other clubs. 
     Redding was clearly a decent chess player. In addition to his games against Zukertort, in 1888 won a San Francisco tournament ahead of W.R. Lovegrove, a strong master Redding beat visiting G.H.D. Gossip in a match for a purse of $50. Jackson W. Showalter was impressed with Redding’s play during his 1891 visit to San Francisco, and delayed leaving the city to try to arrange a match against Redding, the results of which seem to have been lost. 
     In his later years Redding split his time between New York and San Francisco, appearing in various events at the famous Manhattan Chess Club. He played games with world champions Steinitz, Lasker, and José Raúl Capablanca and once gave a speech at the annual Manhattan Chess Club dinner in 1907. 
     Few of his games have survived. In spite of his accomplishments, what's he best remembered for?  His association with the Bohemian Club of San Francisco.  The Bohemian Club was envisioned as a place where interesting people could have fun without a lot of social rules. The club motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", a line taken from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The motto implies that outside concerns and business deals are to be left outside. Nowadays the club has been involved in controversy. See the Washington Post article Bohemian Grove: Where the rich and powerful go to misbehave.
     The following game is very instructive because of the K and P ending.  Studying it will pay dividends!

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