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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Edith Baird...an Extraordinary Problemist

    Edith Elina Helen Baird (née Winter-Wood) (1859 – 1924) was a British problem composer who published under the name Mrs. William James Baird. She was the daughter of poet Thomas Winter Wood. In 1880 she married the Deputy Inspector-General W.J. Baird, MD, of the Royal Navy. She was also a good archer and dabbled in painting and poetry.
     She began playing chess at the age of 5 and in her career composed more than 2,000 problems. Her brothers, E.J. Winter Wood and Carslake W. Wood were also chess composers. 
     Her brother, E.J. Winter-Wood (1847 - 1920) was also taught to play chess by his father at the age of 8. By the time he was 11 he was playing, with Rook odds, against the strongest members of the Boulogne Chess Club and in 1868 became a member of the London Chess Club. He played in several tournaments and in blindfold simuls he drew two games against Lowenthal and one against Blackburne. In 1878 he joined the Croyden Chess Club and once in one of their tournaments scored 23-7. He also enjoyed success in many other club tournaments, correspondence chess and problem solving tournaments. Many of his problems appeared in leading publications of the day. 
     Her other brother, Carslake W. Wood (1849 - 1924), lived with his mother's brother, Major Sole of the 5th Militia of West York, in Torquay. While traveling Europe with the Soles, he also developed a taste for painting and on many occasions donated his paintings as prizes in chess tournaments. 
     As for Mrs. Baird, at the time, she was without rival in British ladies chess. Her first problem was composed at the age of 8 and was published in the Western Magazine and Portfolio. It was not deep or brilliant, but editors were attracted to her quaint notes that accompanied her submissions. One such note to the editor of Pictorial World read, “I like composing very much and do my problems all myself; in fact I would rather my mother never saw them, for she generally cooks them and that gives me a lot of trouble.” 
     She very quickly progressed and was soon producing problems that were described as being “exceedingly pretty” and which “displayed unmistakable aptitude for the intricacies of chess.” Her work 700 Chess Problems was published in 1902 and took her 14 years to complete. You can download an electronic copy of her book HERE.
     Mrs. Baird was described by Frederick Gittins in his book The Chess Bouquet as one of the marvels of the chess world. Gittins wrote: 

"A child of thirteen, with long sunny golden hair falling back from a fine and lofty forehead, thoughtful eyes, and all the shy grace of childhood, she has already, in some mysterious intuitive way, learned the secret of problem-composing, and, absolutely unaided, has produced upwards of seventy compositions which have excited the admiration of the most critical judges. Some of the first composers of the day have dedicated problems to her honour, editors of chess columns are continually asking her to contribute, and people have asked her for her autograph - one of the surest evidences of fame. Like a wise mother, however, Mrs. Baird seeks to keep her back rather than to press her forward, so she is now being kept mainly to her lessons and those natural pleasures of childhood to which even the most gifted boy or girl turns with joy. Like her mother, she writes verses quite charmingly and draws beautifully; but, with all her gifts, she remains a child and the happiest and mist industrious of schoolgirls. A childhood of such exceptional promise, and so wisely and affectionately guided and tended, can scarcely fail to lead up to a womanhood of rare fruition". 

Here is one of her problems. White to mate in four moves: 

1 comment:

  1. Once again, thanks for continuing to come up with these fascinating items