The Chess Wit and Wisdom of W.E. Napier

Edward Winter

(2002)


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William Ewart Napier


Although W.E. Napier (1881-1952) was a highly quotable writer, he produced only one chess work, Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play (published in three ‘units’, the first two in 1934 and the third the following year). After his death they were adapted into a single volume entitled Paul Morphy and The Golden Age of Chess (New York, 1957 and 1971).

In the quotations below (some of which have entered chess lore) the figures refer to the item numbers in the Amenities work, the pages of which were unnumbered:

I saw him once at Simpson’s Divan but not to speak to. I brought away an impression of fulminating chess, of hearty laughter and liberty and beefsteak. He romped.

Once I asked Teichmann what he thought of Bird’s chess; “Same as his health”, he replied, – “always alternating between being dangerously ill and dangerously well.”

England will not know his like again.’

He is very unusual.’

The paradox is baffling.

The only theory I have adduced is that the social nature of mail exchanges quite subordinates mere winning to joyful, yawing chess.

In match games over the board, the killing instinct necessary to success is the same that men take into Bengal jungles, – for a day. A killing instinct which survives the day and endures month in and month out, is stark pantomime; and mail chess is the gainer by it.’

Said the enemy, “I’m not cut.”

And the knight of the razor replied, “Just wait till you turn yo’ head, before guessing at it.”’

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