Howard Staunton (1810-1874) is the only British player who can legitimately lay claim to being world champion and is the man after whom the pieces in current use are named.
In Staunton’s day the world champion title was not officially recognised. However, by the time of his match victory over the French champion St. Amant at Paris in 1843, Staunton had not only laid the pattern for future championship matches but had also established himself as the strongest player of his day.
He was also the organiser of the first international tournament and was widely regarded as the champion during the 1840s as a result of an overwhelming series of victories against the European masters Saint Amant, Horwitz and Harrwitz.
Staunton was a towering figure, a polymath who edited an entire edition of Shakespeare’s plays, commenced a history of the public school system in Britain, wrote numerous books on chess, organised the first international chess tournament at London in 1851 and lent his name to the Staunton patent pieces which are now the standard in international play. Staunton was an archetypal symbol of the heights of Victorian imperial grandeur and optimism.
A considerable amount of material about Howard Staunton can be found on the net and we refer you to our links page.
Of special interest is the book ‘Staunton’s City’, a book celebrating Staunton and the heritage of chess in London:
Readers can read a large extract from the book about the history of chess at Simpsons online (click on the image below):
The same publisher also publishes Staunton’s book on the Great
Schools of England:
'This book promotes remarkable and advanced theories on education, many of which seem revolutionary even today. Demonising learning by rote and excoriating the traditional British neglect of science, Howard Staunton, noted primarily as the only British chess master who could lay claim to being world champion of his day, claims that learning can only take place successfully if the active interest of the student is engaged. The classics must not be taught for their own sake - the living force of Greek and Roman civilisation must be invoked - corporal punishment is to be avoided at all costs and fagging should be abolished.Mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a healthy body is Staunton's ideal.Yet this book was published in 1865! Howard Staunton was a superb example of High Victorian self-confidence, a polymath who in turn acted on stage, became a noted chess writer and champion, edited an edition of Shakespeare and, in this volume, scrutinised the educational system at the core of the British Empire. Staunton organised the first international gathering of chess masters for the inaugural tournament of London in 1851,and for many years his works were the standard teaching tools for generations of aspiring chess players.’
It is fascinating to observe the general handling of the chess openings exhibited by Staunton in the 1840‘s, typified by ‘flank’ openings and the indirect control of the central squares that became so popular a 100 years later. Bobby Fischer described Staunton as the ‘first modern player’ of the openings. It seems Staunton was considerably ahead of his time in more than one field.