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  • Writer's pictureAdam Porth

A Christmas Chess Story

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

source: Russel Ramsey's chess column in the Philadelphia Sunday Item, December 20, 1908.

It was a snowy, blustery Christmas Eve, and the Chess Player was glad to be indoors, sitting by the roaring log in the fireplace, with his beloved chessmen and board before him. During the evening he had been playing over some of his favorite selections from the immortals--Horwitz, Staunton, Lowe, Anderssen, Lowenthal, and Kieseritsky--he had mulled over and over the masterpieces of problem-lore, and now, half lazily but with full interest, he was examining the sub-variations of one of Morphy's brilliant endings. As he fondly pushed the pieces to and fro at the close of such an evening as many a chess player has spent, he was startled by a noise at his side, and turned in time to see Santa Claus emerge from the chimney place.

"Why, hello Kris!" greeted the Chess Player, springing to his feet and extending his hand. "I caught you this time. Hey?"

"I must admit it," replied the merry fellow as he drew himself to his full height, shook the snow from his immense coat, and warmly returned the hand-clasp. Then he turned and spied the chessmen.

"Ho! So you play the royal game, do you?" exclaimed Santa.

"Oh yes, sometimes," modestly returned the Chess Player.

"Good!" cried the old man. "I do myself--when I have the time."

"Perhaps you'd enjoy a game now," invited the Chess Player with a sweep of his arm towards the board.

"Well," deliberated the newcomer, "I've a busy night before me, and the traveling's bad, but I'll play you one, provided, win or lose, you don't ask me to play another."

"I see you know the failings of the elect," laughed the Chess Player. "I agree to the terms."

They settled themselves comfortably at the board and filled their pipes. The Yule-tide king picked a white pawn and a black one from the board, shuffled them behind his back, and held them in his huge fists towards the Chess Player. The latter tapped the left hand and luckily drew the White pieces. The men being arranged, the Chess Player opened with his favorite debut...

[Editor's note: open NN-Santa in another window to follow along with the game while you read the story!]

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nf3

Disdaining the counter attack, Kris played:

3...Nxe4 4.Nxe5 d5 5.Bb3 Be6 6.O-O Bd6 7.d4

With scant respect for the books--with which he may or may not have been familiar--Santa began thus early to unlumber his heavy artillery:


These moves having been made rapidly, the Chess Player paused a moment to consider the innovation, and then continued:

8.f4 c5

"Is that good?" inquired the Chess Player from mere force of habit acquired at the chess club. "Oh, I guess it's good enough," rejoined Kris, showing he knew the answer.

9.Ba4+ Ke7

"Ha ha! Now where will he castle?" impersonally asked the Chess Player, shoving another pawn into the fray:


"Maybe we won't need to castle," replied the other contestant, making the pieces click as he chopped the pawn.


"Take it away!" sternly commanded the Chess Player, as he attacked the Black Knight:


"Oh, I guess we won't have to--yet," answered Santa:


These pleasantries having been exchanged, the contestants settled down to more serious play.

12.Qxc4 cxd4 13.Qb5 b6 14.Re1 Bc5 15.b4 a6 16.Qc4 b5

This last move was made with the physical emphasis customary under the circumstances. "Not so swift," cautioned the Chess Player, neatly side-stepping with the royal consort:

17.Qd5 Bxb4 18.Rxe4 Bxe4 19.Qxe4 Rc8 20.Qb7+ Kd8 21.Nxf7+

"Give it up," suggested the Chess Player, while Santa blew huge clouds of smoke through his shaggy beard and carefully considered the next move. After some pause he replied, "Oh, I guess we don't have to give it up yet," and boldly essayed the sacrifice.


"Oh, we have him beaten to a pulp now," exclaimed the Chess Player, gleefully pouncing on the Queen:


"Well, get out of check!" roared Santa:

22...Rxc1+ 23.Kf2

"Oh yes, we'll get out of check," smoothly replied the Chess Player, and again the players quieted into silent maneuvering.

23...Nd7 24.Bb3 Kc7 25.Qxg7 Bc5

"Now see what he wants to do," laughed the Chess Player at the masked battery. "Oh well, we'll go right on down the pike."

26.f5 Re8 27.Be6 Re7 28.Qg3+ Kb7 29.Qd3 Kb6 30.a4 Ne5

"Don't stay there," cautioned Kris. "All right, but move your King first," rejoined the Chess Player.

31.a5+ Kc7 32.Qe4 d3+ 33.Kg3 Bd6 34.Qa8 Nc6+ 35.Kh4 Be5

"Which do you like best?" good naturedly taunted Santa. "Why," answered the Chess Player, "if you get out of check first, maybe I'll let you take your choice!"

36.Qc8+ Kd6 37.Nd2 Bxa1 38.Ne4+ Ke5

"Going on down the pike," announced the Chess Player as he played:

39.f6 Rxe6 40.f7 Rh6+ 41.Kg5 Rg6+ 42.Kh5

Kris wrinkled his grizzly brow and studied the portentous position for several minutes while he vigorously puffed on his great pipe and finally played:


"This is like taking pennies from a blind man's tincup," exclaimed the Chess Player as he improvised a second Queen with an inverted rook:

43.f8=Q Be5 44.Qf3+ Kd4 45.Qcf5 Rc3 46.Q3e4+ Kc5 47.Qf8+ Rd6 48.Qf2+ Rd4 49.Qf8+ Bd6 50.Qf2 d2

The Chess Player regarded this threatening advance for a moment. "Well, it comes high, but we must have it regardless of expense," he explained as he executed the following exchange:

51.Qxc6+ Kxc6 52.Qxd4

Kris now deliberated for some time, being finally urged to action by the impatient stamping of the reindeer on the roof. "Let's give him a l-i-t-t-l-e check," he mused, suiting the action to the word:

52...Rc5+ 53.Kh6 Rd5

Again the Chess Player paused at the new change in the situation. "Well, now we'll keep the Black man jumping for a while," he said as he planned his next few moves.

54.Qb6+ Kd7 55.Qb7+ Ke6 56.Qc8+ Ke5 57.Qh8+ Kf4 58.Qf6+ Ke4 59.Qf3+ Kd4

"Now I guess we have time for some sparrow-shooting," concluded the Chess Player, chopping the h-pawn:

60.Kxh7 Kc4 61.Qe4+ Rd4 62.Qc2+ Kd5 63.Qf5+ Be5 64.Qf3+ Kc4 65.Qd1

"That will hold the Black baby till we Queen one ourselves," commented the Chess Player, poking down the ashes in his pipe with the head of a pawn.

65...Rd3 66.h4 Bc3 67.h5 Re3 68.Qf1+ Kb3 69.Qd1+ Kb2

The Chess Player pondered long and earnestly. Nothing seemed promising. Everything was hopeless.

"Hurry up," urged the triumphant elf, "It's getting late."

"Gee, I thought I had you, but you got away!" announced the Chess Player. "I resign."


As old Kris disappeared in the fireplace, the Chess Player's wife shook him by the shoulder.

"Come, come, dear," she exclaimed. "Wake up and trim the tree, or the children will think Santa forgot them."

"I thought he had," replied the Chess Player, rising and knocking ashes from his pipe, "but I guess I was only asleep."

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