Lord Dunsany, chess player
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Nf6 6. Ng5 d5 7. exd5 Ne7 8. d6 Ned5 9. dxc7 Qxc7 10. Nc3 Bb7 11. a4 b4 12. Nxd5 Bxd5 13. Bxd5 Nxd5 14. O-O Be7 15. d4 O-O 16. dxe5 Qxe5 17. Re1 Qd6 18. Ne4 Qc6 19. Bg5 Bxg5 20. Nxg5 Rac8 21. Qf3 Nf6 22. Re2 h6 23. Qxc6 Rxc6 24. Nf3 a5 25. Nd4 Rc5 26. Nb3 Rd5 27. Rae1 Nd7 28. Re4 Nb6 29. Re5 Rfd8 30. Rxd5 Rxd5 31. Kf1 Nxa4 1/2-1/2
”Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (24 July 1878 – 25 October 1957) was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work, mostly in fantasy, published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes many hundreds of published short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays.Dunsany Castle near Tara, worked with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, was chess and pistol-shooting champion of Ireland, and travelled and hunted extensively. He died in Dublin after an attack of appendicitis.”
Lord Dunsany was also a gifted amateur chessplayer and a keen composer of chess puzzles. Much of his work was published in newspapers of the day, including The Times (London). He won the championship of Ireland atleast once and was president of both the Irish Chess Union and the Kent County Chess Association, and of Sevenoaks Chess Club for 54 years!
In 1942 Lord Dunsany developed a chess variant in which The player with the black pieces starts with the usual complement of pawns and pieces and the player with the white pieces starts with 32 pawns. All rules of chess are followed. White wins if he can checkmate the king. Black wins if he can capture all of white’s pawns. It is a draw if white has pieces left but can make no legal move.
Object of the game:
• The standard pieces win by capturing all 32 pawns before the pawns run out of legal moves.
• The pawns win by checkmating the king. This is far easier if they first get at least one pawn promoted to queen.
• The pawns can also accomplish a draw, which for them is almost as good as a win, by running out of legal moves.
Piece movement is the same as in regular chess, except that only the eight pawns from the standard side (second row) have the option to move forward two spaces on their first move.
Like Nabokov, Lord Dunsany was fond of composing chess problems. This example was published in Hubert Phillips’ Week-end Problems Book of 1932:
Two eccentric gentlemen abandoned this position at a chess club — White had announced mate in four. What was the mate?
The key is to notice that Black’s king and queen have changed positions. This is not possible if the black pawns are on their home squares. And this means that we’ve been viewing the position upside down:
Now it’s clear that Black is hemmed in by his own pawns — White can mate him in four moves with the b8 knight, e.g. by 1. Nc6 Nf3 2. Nb4 (threatening Nd3#) Ne5 3. Qxe5 (any) 4. Nd3#.
More of Dunsany’s chess problems can be found at the following link: http://alangullette.com/lit/dunsany/chess/problems.htm___
_______________________________________________________Imperial Chess Club in London on 22 November 1928. He lost. But he managed to draw the second time, a year later.
”Lord Dunsany wrote an account of the contest on pages 112-113 of his autobiography While the Sirens Slept (London, circa 1945):
‘Early that same spring  Capablanca, perhaps the greatest chessplayer the world has ever known, and at that time Champion of the World [sic], came to London and gave a display at Selfridge’s. He played simultaneous chess against three representatives from each of the seven counties that are nearest to London, which means roughly the seven strongest counties in England, and Mr Selfridge offered a prize to whatever county did best against him.
I was asked to be one of the players from Kent. We sat at a row of tables in a long room with a large crowd leaning over us, and Señor Capablanca walked along the row. I was rather anxious that it should not be thought that I had been chosen to play merely because I was president of the Kent Chess Association, and the only way of showing that was to hold out for at least half an hour. I have mentioned earlier my ignorance of the openings, and Capablanca, who of course had first move on every board, chose the opening that probably corresponds with whatever is the most complicated theory in any science, that is to say the Ruy López.
I made for my fourth move one that should have come later, not realizing how much it mattered. Of this simple blunder Capablanca naturally took immediate advantage, and I looked very unlikely to hold out for half an hour.
But then I began to play, and by sacrificing a pawn got out of the muddle into which I had strayed, though playing with a pawn down against Capablanca did not seem a very hopeful proposition. Curiously enough my blunder saved me, for in the complications of an ordinary Ruy López as played by Capablanca I should no doubt have been easily beaten; but the clock went on and I was still playing, and at last I got the pawn back, and at the end of four hours when play ended, I had an obvious draw, and Capablanca conceded rather reluctantly a draw to my neighbour on my left, so that Kent had scored one point against him, a draw being half; and a player from Hertfordshire had won his game, and, these two counties being equal, the man who had won and we two who had drawn were all given a prize by Selfridges.
For Capablanca had beaten all the rest. As the prize was handed to me the representative of the firm who gave it said “And if there is anything you would prefer, do let us know.” The prize was wrapped up in a box, and I said I was sure that there would not be anything that I should prefer to it. But when I got home and opened the box, I found that the prize was a cocktail-shaker; a very handsome one, but still to a chessplayer as useless as reindeer-harness to anyone in a Southern country.
So in spite of what I had said, I wrote asking if, with the exception that I have mentioned, I could be given anything else, and I was kindly given, duly inscribed, the largest and most useful thermos flask that I have ever had, and after nearly 15 years it is as good as ever. My game with Capablanca was recorded in The Times, in the Chess Column, that year.’
For any of my readers interested in exploring some of Lord Dunsany’s short stories about chess, here is the link to one–Three Sailors Gambit–that you might enjoy!
JUST A SAMPLE OF DUNSANY’S PUBLISHED WORKS