Cambridge Springs 1904
1904 Cambridge Springs International Chess Congress
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Cambridge Springs 1904

Welcome to my web site dedicated to the Cambridge Springs 1904 chess tournament and related topics. Comments are appreciated.
Feel free to email me at etz1450@yahoo.com.


The tournament site... The Hotel Rider in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.

The Participants

In the spring of 1904 Americans and Europeans squared off in a single round-robin tournament, where each of the 16 players played each other player one game. Seven of the world's top ten players participated, including the following:

However, the young American, Frank J. Marshall of Brooklyn, NY won the tournament by going undefeated, winning the first prize of $1,000. Marshall went on to become the official U.S. champion for 26 years (1909-1936). Marshall also founded the Marshall Chess Club which is still in operation today in New York City.

Participants on Hotel Rider Steps
Larger Picture

The story of the tournament was captured in a nice article in Pittsburgh History magazine.

See my Links page for more information about the tournament and the town of Cambridge Springs.

Cambridge Springs 2004

Thanks to the efforts of the members of the Erie (PA) Chess Club, an event was held in Cambridge Springs, PA during the weekend of May 15-16, 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this great chess tournament. GM Larry Evans was the featured speaker. Activities included a chess tournament and various discussions/lectures on historical topics related to chess, Cambridge Springs, and the 1904 tournament. Pictoral highlights of the event are available by clicking on: CS2004. In addition, page 11 of the August 2004 issue of Chess Life has a nice article on the Centennial Celebration and the original event. The issue also contains CS1904 material in the Chess to Enjoy and Solitaire Chess departments on pages 24 and 30, respectively. The newsletter of the PA State Chess Federation, The Pennswoodpusher, also had a feature article on the event.

In the months leading up to the event, it was featured in the local press, including a nice article in the Erie Times-News on February 1, 2004. I do not believe an on-line version of the article is available any longer.

New York - Chicago Halfway Marker

Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania

Cambridge Springs is located in Northwestern Pennsylvania about 30 miles south of Erie, PA and east of Cleveland, Ohio. map

Cambridge Springs was conveniently located on the Erie Railroad line exactly halfway between New York and Chicago. During the early 1900's, affluent, health-conscious people flocked to Cambridge Springs by rail and carriage to partake of the mineral water and to enjoy a resort environment.

For more information on Cambridge Springs, click here.

Follow this link to a nice source of historical information and a great collection of Cambridge Springs pictures: Click here.

You may also want to check out the brand new book entitled, "Around Cambridge Springs." It contains numerous historical photos and informative text.


Erie RR advertisement

The Sponsors

The brainchild for the 1904 tournament was William D. Rider, Jr., who was the guiding force behind the construction and management of the Hotel Rider (see below). Most of the support for the tournament was provided by Rider and the directors of the Erie Railroad Company. Additional support was received from chess clubs around the country in the form of subscriptions to the Daily Bulletin for the tournament. Rider died in 1905, ending all hope of a repeat of this famous tournament.

Reportedly, another key financial backer for the tournament was Isaac Leopold Rice, a millionaire who had made his fortune as a corporate lawyer. See Rice Gambit for more information. Baron Albert de Rothschild (1844-1911) of Vienna provided $100 for "brilliancy prizes".

Pre-Tournament Activities

The European participants traveled to the U.S. via ship (the S. S. Pretoria). Before coming to Cambridge Springs, they toured New York City. Prior to their arrival, it was reported that they would visit Washington, D.C. and would attend a reception on April 19 with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. Research indicates that this reception did not actually occur. After months of preparation, the town was ready to receive the visiting masters.

Altoona Mirror April 23, 1904
Newspaper clipping from the Altoona Mirror April 23, 1904. Provided courtesy of
Lawrence Totaro. More clippings.

The Hotel Rider

The Hotel Rider was constructed in 1895-1897. The Rider was the "king of the hill" among several fine hotels in the town including the Riverside and the Bartlett. The Rider had 500 rooms, each equipped with a telephone. The hotel was later renamed the Vanadium and subsequently was sold to the Polish National Alliance in 1911 to house Alliance College. The building burned to the ground in the winter of 1931. I was told that insufficient water pressure was a problem in fighting the fire, due to the hotel being located at the top of the hill. Someone told me that the fire was so bright that one could read a newspaper by it from blocks away. I was also told that students saved their clothes and bedding but priceless items from Poland perished in the flames. Alliance College rebuilt its campus on the site and operated there until it closed in 1987. The buildings now house a correctional facility for women. Click here for the Alliance College Alumni Association web site.

The Missing Chess Sets

The American Chess Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 1, published in June 1904, was essentially the first "book" written about the tournament. The Bulletin mentions that "The eight sets of boards, pieces and clocks used by the competitors in the tournament, each accompanied by a certificate bearing the signatures of the sixteen players, were purchased by the following gentlemen:"

I asked an expert in chess collectibles about these sets. To his knowledge, the whereabouts of these sets is not known. How unfortunate. (I have a personal connection to three of these cities; I was born in Oil City, have lived in Pittsburg(h) and now live in the Milwaukee area. As an aside, Titusville is the site where the first oil well was drilled in 1859, launching a booming oil industry that was a focal point of the region's economy for years to come.) In December 2003 I uncovered some information about some of these people (click here). Of particular note is McCutcheon, for whom the McCutcheon variation of the French Defense is named.

In the December 1995 issue of Chess Life, page 14, GM Andrew Soltis states "After the great tournament at Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, in 1904, the organizers tried to recoup some of their expenses by selling boards and sets, at $15. That stunned Mikhail Tchigorin who complained the cheap pieces weren't worth more than $2.50 -- and the poorly made paper boards only 10 to 15 cents. They sold out anyway."

Recently, a collector purchased a set that he believes has a very high likelihood of being one of the original CS1904 sets. Click here to view his photo album.
Cambridge Springs Today

Cambridge Springs is now a charming, quiet town surrounded by farmland. The former City Hall preserves the ambience of the town's glory days as the home of the Cambridge Springs Area Historical Museum on Federal Street in the middle of town. The Riverside Inn is the only one from that era still in operation, although the Bartlett building still stands. The Riverside was also the location of the 1988 U.S. Chess Championship.

On July 4, 2003 I made a return visit to Cambridge Springs with my patient son and parents. I was able to take several photos, which I have added to my Gallery. These provide a nice "then and now" view of the town. I had a nice chat with the current proprietor of the former Hotel Bartlett. In my experience, the residents of Cambridge Springs are proud of the town's history. (See interesting commentary in rec.games.chess.misc.)


January 1989 Chess Life

I had the pleasure of having lunch with my parents at the Riverside Inn on a fine summer day in 1998, just before moving away from Pennsylvania. With a little imagination, I was almost able to be transported back to the turn of the century.

Comments or questions? E-mail me at etz1450@yahoo.com. I would love to hear from you.

"...I enjoyed your brief but accurate historical notes on the town... thank you for the fine page you have published..." K.V.
"I enjoyed your website on Cambridge Springs a great deal. I think it is an asset to the chess history community." - N.B.
"This is a wonderful chess Website... The human side of the tournament was very interesting." - A.K.
"Thank you for doing chess enthusiasts a great service..." - M.P.
"The highlight is the historical photos... This is a first rate production." - R.S.
"Thank you for your wonderful site..." - M.G.
"...I found [your site] very enjoyable and informative. It's well crafted and researched." - S.B.C.
"Like it or not, you are now a chess historian..." - N.B.
See other comments in the Guestbook archive.

Note: This site is intended to stimulate interest in the Cambridge Springs 1904 chess tournament. I am not a professional historian. However, I have tried to be as accurate as possible. Your understanding and feedback is appreciated. Click on References for information on sources used.

Attribution
Links to this site are welcomed and attribution is appreciated (though not always given on some sites).

For a blatant example of Internet theft, click here. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!?

Also take note of this well done blog post by Kevin Spraggett: Link. Notwithstanding the nice workmanship, I am a little disappointed that two of my photographs were lifted from this site without my permission and without any acknowledgement. At least a link back to this site would have been nice.


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Last updated: July 30, 2012.

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© Copyright 2001-2012 Steven W. Etzel, Mequon, Wisconsin.

In memory of one of my chess friends, I offer you one of his quotes: "Without Knights, chess would be nothing."

This page is dedicated to the memory of Keith Moyar, who lived in Cambridge Springs for a time and who departed this world much too soon.