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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Mark of a Scheming Mind

For better or (probably) worse, I’m playing chess again for the first time in too many years.

“Amberley excelled at chess – one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind,” Sherlock Holmes commented in “The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.” This quote lent itself to a group of chess-playing Sherlockians that Dr. R. Joel Senter and I started some time ago – the Scheming Minds of Sherlock Holmes.

We had these cool T-shirts and sweatshirts, designed by Gerald D. Stratton, associate professor emeritus of fine arts at the University of Cincinnati. We also had about six members. (All it took to become a member was to play a game of chess with another member.)
By the standard of the quote, I could never be accused of having a scheming mind. I’m a terrible chess player. But I enjoy it. I included a match in a chapter of The 1895 Murder, the third mystery in my Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody series. It was based on an actual game that I lost to an adult nephew in six moves.
W: e4
B: ef
W: Nf3
B: Nf6
W: Nxe5
B: Nxe4
W: Nxf7
B: Kxf7
W: Qh5+
B: Kg8
W: Qd5++

Sherlock Holmes played chess on a giant chessboard in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death with Basil Rathbone and against Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Morton Downey, Jr.

There’s no indication in the Canon that Holmes, like Josiah Amberley, was a chess master, though. But he could have been. His favorite restaurant, Simpson’s in the Strand, was chess center of London in the days when Howard Staunton and other greats played there in mid-19th century.


  1. Did you know that there once was a variation of chess called "Papal Chess"? There was an additional piece that was the pope, and the winner had to capture him. The game was a no-no with the Church, but that didn't stop people from playing it. Maybe Sherlock Holmes would like that one!

    1. Wow! I didn't know that. This reminds me, though, I should have noted that there are many versions of Sherlock Holmes chess boards with Holmes as the white king, Moriarty as the black king, etc.