Walker, George (1803-1879) (DNB00)

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WALKER, GEORGE (1803–1879), writer on chess, born in London in March 1803, was the son of George Walker (1772–1847) [q. v.] After his father's death in 1847, George Walker went on to the Stock Exchange, where he practised until a few years before his death on 23 April 1879. He was buried at Kensal Green.

As a chess-player Walker was bright without being extremely brilliant. His recorded games with masters show that he was an adept in developing his men and making exchanges, but he admits that players of the force of Morphy or Macdonnell could always give him the odds of the pawn and move. He himself was a great laudator temporis acti in chess matters, and contended that a match between Philidor and Ponziani would surpass the play of any of his contemporaries. Among the latter his hero was Labourdonnais, whom he tended in his last illness, and buried at his own expense in Kensal Green cemetery [December 1840; see Macdonnell, Alexander]. Walker wrote a memoir of the ‘roi d'échecs’ for ‘Bell's Life,’ which was translated for the Parisian ‘Palamède’ (15 Dec. 1841) as ‘Derniers Moments de Labourdonnais.’ Other players celebrated by Walker are St. Amant, Mouret (the ‘Automaton’), John Cochrane, George Perigal, and Selous and Popert, the joint ‘primates of chess’ along with Walker himself between the death of Macdonnell and the rise of Staunton. From 1840 to 1847, when he ceased playing first-rate chess, he was inferior only to Buckle and Staunton among English players.

As a writer on the game, George Walker's reputation was European. His first publication, a pamphlet of twenty-four pages, on ‘New Variations in the Muzio Gambit’ (1831, 12mo), was followed in less than a year by his ‘New Treatise,’ which gradually supplanted the chess ‘Studies’ of Peter Pratt (1803, &c.) and the far from thorough ‘Treatise’ by J. H. Sarratt (1808) as amended by William Lewis in 1821; of the ‘New Treatise’ a German version went through several editions. Walker's style was bright and often witty. To later editions was appended an excellent bibliography; but this has been almost entirely superseded by the ‘Schachlitteratur’ of A. Van der Linde (Berlin, 1880; cf. however, Chess Monthly, iii. 43). Walker's fine chess library was dispersed by Sotheby on 14 May 1874 (Westminster Papers, 1 May 1874). He was also a benefactor to the cause of chess as a founder and promoter of clubs, notably the Westminster Chess Club (1832–1843), famous as the battle-ground of Macdonnell and Labourdonnais, and of Popert and Staunton, and its successor in reputation, the St. George's Club, which still flourishes.

A good black-and-white portrait of Walker is given in the ‘Westminster Papers,’ 1 Dec. 1876.

Walker's works comprise:

  1. ‘A New Treatise on Chess: containing the rudiments of the science … and a selection of fifty chess problems,’ London, 1832, 8vo; 3rd ed. 1841 (Era, 4 April); 4th ed. ‘The Art of Chess Play,’ 1846.
  2. ‘A Selection of Games at Chess, actually played by Philidor and his contemporaries … with notes and additions,’ London, 1835, 12mo.
  3. ‘Chess made Easy,’ London, 1836, 12mo; 1850; Baltimore, 1837 and 1839.
  4. ‘The Philidorian: a Magazine of Domestic Games,’ London, 1838 (chess, draughts, whist, &c.).
  5. ‘On Moving the Knight,’ London, 1840, 8vo.
  6. ‘Chess Studies: comprising one thousand games actually played during the last half-century,’ London, 1844, 8vo; new edition, with introduction by E. Freeborough, 1893.
  7. ‘Chess and Chess Players: consisting of Original Stories and Sketches,’ London, 1850, 8vo.

Among these papers (some of which had been contributed to ‘Fraser,’ the ‘Chess Player's Chronicle,’ and other magazines) are interesting sketches of the ‘Automaton,’ Ruy Lopez, the Café de la Regence, and stories of Deschapelles, Labourdonnais, and Macdonnell. Walker edited Philidor's well-known ‘Analysis of the Game of Chess … with notes and additions,’ in 1832 (London, 12mo); and three years later he thoroughly revised the ‘Guide to the Game of Drafts,’ originally published by Joshua Sturges in 1800 (another edition 1845). In 1847 he translated from the French the ‘Chess Preceptor’ of C. F. de Jaenisch. He managed the chess column for ‘Bell's Life’ from 1834 to 1873. He is to be distinguished from William Greenwood Walker who published ‘A Selection of Games at Chess’ in 1836.

[Chess Player's Chronicle, 1 June 1879 (notice by the Rev. W. Wayte); Bilguer's Handbuch des Schachspiels, Leipzig, 1891, p. 54; Westminster Papers, 1 Dec. 1876; Walker's Chess Studies, ed. Freeborough, 1893; Bird's Chess History, p. xii; Polytechnic Journal, May and September 1841; Brit. Mus. Cat.; notes kindly given by the Rev. W. Wayte.]

T. S.