Zukertort was the main rival to the first official world chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz. Reading a bit of the history of the Mechanics’ Institute chess club in San Francisco, where I sometimes play, I came across a reference to Zukertort’s visit to the western United States in 1884. It is reported in Volume VI of The Chess-Monthly, edited (and presumably written) by Zukertort himself:
Salt Lake City was reached on the 26th of June, and Zukertort found to his pleasure that Caissa’s hosts had invaded even the City of the Saints. True, it were not Mormons but Gentiles who received him shortly after his arrival. The hospitable rooms of the Alta Club furnished a capital chess centre, and the usual programme of single, simultaneous and blindfold play was duly executed. Out of the six blindfold games the single player won five and lost one to Mr. H. Pratt. He and his two brothers, Apostates as they are called by the Saints, are the best players in Salt Lake City, and probably the Territory of Utah. These three gentlemen and Mr. Barrett in consultation won two games of Zukertort, one on even terms, the other at the odds of a Knight. Before leaving Salt Lake Zukertort had an interview with J. Taylor, the Mormon President, and continued on the 30th of June his westward journey.
An interview and report of the games at the Alta Club from the Tribune are at the end of this post.
Mormon chess history enthusiasts would be interested to learn more about that interview. Can anyone find reference to it in the Church’s papers, or President Taylor’s diaries? Or references to any other meetings between other Church presidents and chess champions?
By the way, the fact that the chess-playing Pratts were apostates is consistent with my observation on the paucity of grandmaster-level players in modern Mormondom.
Any chess player that visits San Francisco should definitely see the Mechanics’ Institute chess room, which is now the oldest continuously operating club in the United States, frequented by a convivial group of regulars, and a fair number of very angry old Russians.