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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

George N. Cheney – Killed in Battle

    Cheney was born in Syracuse, New York on Sunday, April 2, 1837. As a child his school teachers found that he possessed an unusual talent for mathematics. At the age of 13 he he quickly mastered elementary algebra and at the age of 18 he entered an academy connected with New York Central College where there were two algebra classes; one for beginners and one for advanced studies and he joined both. In the advanced class his ability was exceeded by only one student and the president of the academy dubbed Cneney a natural mathematician.
     Cheney and one of his older brothers learned to play chess in 1854 from a book titled Chamber's Information for the People. His eldest brother and a sister also learned how to play, but of the four of them George was the best. While at college he defeated a faculty member who was considered very strong...it was said that Morphy could not have given him Queen odds. In the latter part of 1855 Cheney discoved the chess columns in a couple of newspapers and was inspired to try his hand at composing problems which he began publishing under various nommes de plume.
     In 1856, through his sister Nellie, he became acquainted with Daniel W. Fiske while Fiske was on a visit to his family in Syracuse. At the time Fiske wasn't all that strong, but he was by far the strongest player Cheney had ever encountered and Cheney lost about 18 out of the 20 games they played. But it was through Fiske that Cheney made the acquaintance for several other players and began to delve into problem solving with more earnest. 
     Solving problems helped his progress and when Fiske returned the following year Cheney had improved considerably. It was this visit that resulted in the organization of the chess club in Syracuse. The club members were mostly wealthy, but had little interst in the game because when Fiske returned tp New York the club was mostly deserted. It wasn't until Fiske returned a year later in 1858 and he persuaded the owner of the Syracuse Standard to put a chess column in the paper. The local chess club supplied the type for the column and Cheney was in charge of it for a while until he no longer had the time and W.O. Fiske took over. Fiske held that position until the summer of 1859 when Cheney again took over the chess column, but it lasted only a few more weeks.
     In August of 1858 Syracuse received another visit from Fiske and by this time Cheney succeeded in winning the majority of their games. In 1859 Cheney was in ill health, but made a short visit to New York City and played some 20 games against the city's best player, Theodore Lichtenhein, against whom he was evenly matched, even winning most of their later games. Later, when he was in better health, Cheney played Morphy at Knight odds, winning one and losing one. In the meantime he had also won three prizes in problem solving tourneys.
     When the Civil War broke out in 1861 and President Lincoln called for volunteers Cheney enlisted in the Oonodaga volunteers. Cheney was one of a very small number selected from his regiment to do skirmishing duty at the Battle of Bull Run. He was last seen considerably in advance of his party of skirmishers in a fight in which it was every man for himself. One of Cheney's companions observed him loading his rifle out in the open and called out to him to get behind a tree to which Cheney replied, “Well!” He was soon obscured by the smoke and it was later discovered that he had been killed in battle. The day was July 21, 1861; Cheney was 24 years old.
     It was said that Cheney possessed a “true spirit of chess” to a greater degree than any player except Morphy. He labored under the disadvantage of having had few opportunities play strong opposition, but those that knew him believed he had a natural genius for chess and regarded him as a player with a future. His untimely death was considered a great loss to the chess world.
     Cheney is primarily remembered for his problems, of which he left about 125 to 150. any of them were remarkably original and beautiful and all of them possessed a lot of subtlety that left most solvers puzzled.
     One of Cheney's favorite ideas is shown in this two-mover: White interferes his own pieces in order to prevent stalemate. From this idea derives the Cheney-Loyd theme: piece A makes a critical move and the piece B of different color goes to the critical square and interferes.
White to mate in two
Highlight for solution: 1.Qg3! 1...Bxe7 2.Qxc7# 1...Rb5 2.Rxb5# 1...dxc3/d3 2.Qe3# 1...Rxc3 2.Rxa5#

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