Daily Rome Shot 776

Terrific NEWish restaurant very high on my list of favorites, near Ss. Trinità.

Please remember me when shopping online. Thanks in advance. US HERE – UK HERE  These links take you to a generic “catholic” search in Amazon, but, once in and browsing or searching, Amazon remembers that you used my link and I get the credit. Even if you use SMILE, don’t worry! SMILE still gets the donation. [Discontinued]

Meanwhile, black to move and quickly force mate.

NB: I’ll hold comments with solutions ’till the next day so there won’t be “spoilers” for others.

On my desk I have small statues of St. Joseph, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri. I know St. Teresa played chess. Did St. Pippo? In a search on the interwebs I found something that mentioned chess and St. Philip in something called Curiosities of London published in 1855. There is a note that the Oratory of St. Philip Neri moved to a new place in Brompton. On that same page was a description of the The Cigar Divan, at No. 100 Strand where the “leading Chess publications are accessible to visitors, and where as many as twenty Chess-boards may often be seen in requisition at the same time.”

People wrote with style back then.

I looked up the Cigar Divan on the Strand.    This is a fascinating place!

At this site, there was the Fountain Tavern, home of the Kit-Cat Club (a political and  literary club and not a strip joint, for sure, HERE . A modern American version might be the Algonquin Round Table but more political by far. Whigs.).


In 1828 the Grand Cigar Divan opened here: coffee, cigars, journals, and chess while sitting on divans.  Sounds like pre-Heaven.  Regulars paid 1 guinea (21 shillings = 1 pound + 1 shilling) annually for the use of the facilities and for coffee. In 1828, £1 = £139 today so 1 guinea would be about £146 today).  Not bad.  The daily entrance fee for non-members was sixpence (6d = 2.5 new pence) or a shilling and sixpence (1/6d = 7.5 new pence) with coffee and a cigar.  There were, I think, 20 shillings/pound and 1 shilling was 12 pence, so 240 pence in a pound.  So the daily entrance fee for the Cigar Divan was about £7.73 in today’s money.  So next time you go to the Cigar Divan in 1828 and want coffee and a smoke and just plop down your 3 tanners and, Job’s a good’un, you’re in. And the GCD will be hoppin’ during your visit.  There are lots of matches, often between different coffee houses, and runners with white hats scurried around announcing the moves.

In 1948 the proprieter Samuel Reiss was joined by a caterer John Simpson, and they expanded and called the place Simpson’s Grand Cigar Divan.  It became hugely popular with its great silver trolleys of meat f

or carving at the table… which is still going on today! Simpson’s-in-the-Strand Grand Divan Tavern. is still around.  One of the last times I was in London, I met a friend there, Rev. Stephen Morgan, for lunch.  He’s now in Macao at the Catholic University.

The “Immortal Game” of Adolf Anderssen v. Lionel Kieseritzky was played at Simpson’s.  Kieseritzky usually played at the Cafe de la Regence in Paris.  Kieseritzky sent the moves to Paris via telegraph (which means Morse!) and it was published.  The game started with the King’s Gambit and involved dramatic sacs.

There’s a video explaining The Immortal Game by Sam Copeland, but this is shorter.

Once upon a time, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short wound up with a key position from this famous battle.

Chess ceased at Simpson’s in 1903, alas. One of the original Simpson (incomplete) chess sets is displayed in the elegant Bishop’s Room.

You can purchase for me… er um… for yourselves a replica HERE.  Hmmm. Here’s what they look like.  A video about the pieces HERE

Nice.  I do like the Staunton better for everyday play.

So, this is the sort of place I’d like to open in Rome.

Welllll… maybe not quite as large.

BTW… does anyone out there have a copy of Steinitz in London?  If so, could you get in touch?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you! The things I did not know about Simpson’s – wow!

    I seem to remember that in Dicken’s novel, Nicholas Nickleby (1839) got paid five pounds per annum: if so, I suppose there were a lot of people who could not have afforded an annual subscription in 1828. I do remember in chapter 16 of Trollope’s novel, The Warden (1855), Mr. Harding goes to a much less impressive London cigar divan where it is a shilling for a cigar and coffee and he is able to pass several restful hours, and is offered a game of chess…

    In case it is not only news to me, I note that I just checked the Internet Archive and found scans of Chess Match Between Steinitz & Blackburne: Played at the West End Chess Club, London, February 17 to March 2, 1876 Annotated by W. Steinitz (1876) and A Memorial to William Steinitz; containing a selection of his games chronologically arranged with an analysis of play, edited by Chalres Devidé (1901).

    [Thanks for the mention of that moment in the novel by the great Trollope, such an engaging writer and interesting person. It is fun to make these connections. They bring a vibrancy to the mere facts. I maybe 2+2 does equal 5.]

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Oops – f0rgot to mention that Games played in the London International Chess Tournament, 1883. Edited by J. I. Minchin, With the assistance of the English Masters, Zukertort, Steinitz, Mason, and Bird is also scanned in the Internet Archive (where the title is bizarrely jumbled, but searching for Steinitz in London turned it up!).

  3. VForr says:

    Chess has become hugely popular in my workplace which is a welcome break from the demands of criminal prosecution (and the dependency on cell phones.) My coworkers stop to play games throughout the day and I figured you would be pleased.

  4. waalaw says:

    Slow, but sure, never givimg White to unleash its Queen on Black’s pinned Bishop.
    1. . . . B-g4+
    2. R-f3 Bxf3+
    3. b2xf3 R-b2+
    4. K-f1 Q-a1#
    4. K-d1 R+d2+
    If then:
    5. K×d2 Q-f2+
    6. K-d1/c1 Q-f1#
    Or if then
    5. K-c1 Q-e1#

  5. amenamen says:

    1. … B e6 to g4 check
    2. R f1 to f3, B e4 to f3 check
    3. P g2 to f3, R g8 to g2 mate

  6. From The Warden by Anthony Trollope. This is the first “Barsetshire” novel. US HERE – UK HERE. Emphases mine:

    Mr Harding had not a much correcter notion of a cigar divan than he had of a London dinner-house, but he was desperately in want of rest, and went as he was directed. He thought he must have made some mistake when he found himself in a cigar shop, but the man behind the counter saw immediately that he was a stranger, and understood what he wanted. ‘One shilling, sir–thank ye, sir–cigar, sir?–ticket for coffee, sir–you’ll only have to call the waiter. Up those stairs, if you please, sir. Better take the cigar, sir–you can always give it to a friend, you know. Well, sir, thank ye, sir–as you are so good, I’ll smoke it myself.’ And so Mr Harding ascended to the divan, with his ticket for coffee, but minus the cigar.

    The place seemed much more suitable to his requirements than the room in which he had dined: there was, to be sure, a strong smell of tobacco, to which he was not accustomed; but after the shell-fish, the tobacco did not seem disagreeable. There were quantities of books, and long rows of sofas. What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee? An old waiter came up to him, with a couple of magazines and an evening paper. Was ever anything so civil? Would he have a cup of coffee, or would he prefer sherbet? Sherbet! Was he absolutely in an Eastern divan, with the slight addition of all the London periodicals? He had, however, an idea that sherbet should be drunk sitting cross-legged, and as he was not quite up to this, he ordered the coffee.

    The coffee came, and was unexceptionable. Why, this divan was a paradise! The civil old waiter suggested to him a game of chess: though a chess player he was not equal to this, so he declined, and, putting up his weary legs on the sofa, leisurely sipped his coffee, and turned over the pages of his Blackwood. He might have been so engaged for about an hour, for the old waiter enticed him to a second cup of coffee, when a musical clock began to play. Mr Harding then closed his magazine, keeping his place with his finger, and lay, listening with closed eyes to the clock. Soon the clock seemed to turn into a violoncello, with piano accompaniments, and Mr Harding began to fancy the old waiter was the Bishop of Barchester; he was inexpressibly shocked that the bishop should have brought him his coffee with his own hands; then Dr Grantly came in, with a basket full of lobsters, which he would not be induced to leave downstairs in the kitchen; and then the warden couldn’t quite understand why so many people would smoke in the bishop’s drawing-room; and so he fell fast asleep, and his dreams wandered away to his accustomed stall in Barchester Cathedral, and the twelve old men he was so soon about to leave for ever.

    He was fatigued, and slept soundly for some time. Some sudden stop in the musical clock woke him at length, and he jumped up with a start, surprised to find the room quite full: it had been nearly empty when his nap began. With nervous anxiety he pulled out his watch, and found that it was half-past nine. He seized his hat, and, hurrying downstairs, started at a rapid pace for Lincoln’s Inn.

    It still wanted twenty minutes to ten when the warden found himself at the bottom of Sir Abraham’s stairs, so he walked leisurely up and down the quiet inn to cool himself. It was a beautiful evening at the end of August. He had recovered from his fatigue; his sleep and the coffee had refreshed him, and he was surprised to find that he was absolutely enjoying himself, when the inn clock struck ten. The sound was hardly over before he knocked at Sir Abraham’s door, and was informed by the clerk who received him that the great man would be with him immediately.

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    Simpson’s? The Strand?

    Is that the Simpson’s where Holmes & Watson ate (more than once) in the canon? Holmes would take a cigar once in a while, too, as I recall.

  8. JonPatrick says:

    Yes 20 shillings to a pound and 12 pence to a shilling. I am old enough to have grown up in the UK before “decimalisation” when there were all these exotic named coins such as ha’pennies, thruppeny bits, and half crowns, not to mention the ten bob note (10 shillings). Imagine being a store clerk and making change – quick, someone bought 2 items for 7/6 each and one for 1/8 and handed you a pound note, how much change does she get back?

    Tomorrow is the second meeting of our new chess club in town. While I enjoy playing with my family members using chess.com, there is nothing like playing over a real board with real pieces.

    [Let’s see.. that’s a total of 200 p. A pound is 240 p. So you would get back … a half crown, a tanner, thruppence, a ha’penny and 2 farthings?]

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I was lucky enough to visit England and Wales just before “decimalisation” when there were splendid huge pennies – some with Queen Victoria on them – and penny arcades where there were mechanical scenes played out for a penny and even gambling did not seem so wicked since you could try your luck with a penny (and the exchange rate happened to be one US cent to one penny, so the math was easy), and I got a high-quality Sherlock Holmes paperback for 3/6.

  10. cmfzed says:

    I thought I saw that the SMILE program had been discontinued. Can’t give too much of that money away, I guess.

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