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Monday, November 26, 2018

The Man Who Put the Dash in Chess Notation

     Once upon a time Miron James Hazeltine, chess authority and chess editor of the New York Clipper for more than fifty years invented a method to help beginners who were getting beaten too often at Rook odds, a popular handicap at the time. He called it “Miron's Odds.” White would remove his K-side B and N then castle. 
     When printing games he used the terms 2nd and 3rd for double and triple Ps because it was a typographical improvement.   Hazeltine's most important innovation probably was the use of the dash as a substitute for writing “to” when publishing games. We don't use the dash much anymore thanks the short algebraic notation, but if you grew up with descriptive and recording moves like 1.P-K4 then you can really appreciate his innovation. 
     Hazeltine was born of German ancestory in Rumney, New Hampshire on November 13, 1824. In the fall of 1847 he entered Amherst College, but while there he was severely injured in the gymnasium, causing him to leave college in the spring of 1849. The accident left him a semi-invalid the rest of his life. 
     Later he went to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he started to study law and where he remained for four years. He then went to New York City where, from 1859 to 1861, he was principal of the Clinton Institute, a classical private school. He was married in Waterville, New Hampshire, July 21, 1853, to Hanna M. Bryant, herself a poet and a relative of William Cullen Bryant, and they had seven children. 
     He began his first chess column in the New York Saturday Courier, February 3, 1855, a pioneer attempt and probably the first chess column in the United States. In August, 1856, he began his chess column in the New York Clipper and never missed a single issue until shortly before his death, a period of more than fifty years. 
     In the late 1860's he moved to Campton Village, New Hampshire, where he was a Justice of the Peace from 1871 on. Today a JP's powers are in two categories: ministerial and judicial and they can help with witnessing documents such as land transfer documents,certifying copies and taking declarations, affidavits and affirmations. In some cases they also hear minor civil matters and petty criminal cases, usually misdemeanors. They officiate at weddings, issue arrest warrants, deal with traffic offenses, and hold inquests. 
     Hazeltine was a classical scholar and made a translation of Anacreon from the Greek. He wrote the Dime Chess Instructor in 1860 and published his Brevity and Brilliancy in Chess in 1866. His collection of over 600 books and 100 scrapbooks on chess was one of the largest and most valuable in New England. 
     Beadle's Dime Chess Instructor was a short, 80 page book. In those days chess was mentioned in many boy's activity books and chess sets were widely advertised in newspapers. The book started with basic information about each of the pieces, terms, and the laws of chess. Then there was a discussion of more complicated moves and it concluded with a collection of openings. 
     In addition to chess, Beadle published dime books for young people on such subjects as etiquette for ladies and gentlemen, ladies' letter writing, gents' letter writing and a book titled Dime Lover's Casket, a book on friendship, love, courtship and marriage. It also included dictionaries on the use of florals, handkerchiefs, fans and rings. Other books included fortune telling, cookbooks and recipe books, a housewife's manual and first aid, curling and skating, curling and skating and dreams. 
     In 1857 he was co-editor with D.W. Fiske of Chess Monthly and in 1866-67 he did a series of sketches of prominent American players for the Macon, Georgia Telegraph News
     In 1861 he published Clipper Chess Problem Tournament. He helped edit a part of Marache's Manual of Chess and was hired to complete Morphy's Games of Chess when Charles Stanley was unable to finish the book. 
Marache's Manual of Chess showing how games were recorded before Hazeltine introduced the use of the dash.

     The odd thing is that Hazeltine's playing strength is unknown and none of his games seem to have survived. Sam Loyd wrote of him, “Mr Hazeltine is most lavish in his admiration for the work of others, but has never essayed to compose a problem nor to acquire fame as a player; he has been satisfied to earn for himself the widespread reputation of an honest, liberal and enthusiastic worker for the cause of chess, who is beloved by the entire fraternity.” Indeed. he was a rare bird in the chess world! 
     Politically he was a Democrat and practiced the Unitarian religion. He retired to Thornton, New Hampshire where he died February 24, 1907.

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