Herbert George (H. G.) Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England on September 21, 1866. He was a prolific chess writer and a bad chess player. He included chess in many of his stories and wrote an essay called Concerning Chess in the late 19th century, which was published in 1897 in his book Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.
H. G. Wells became a famous English novelist and social commentator, chiefly known as a founder of the science fiction genre. Many of his stories mention chess or have a chess theme. Besides his novels, he wrote 87 short stories. In his science fiction, Wells predicted trench warfare, aerial bombardment, poison gas, the atomic bomb, and world war.
In 1890, Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology (he studied under T.H. Huxley) and taught biology at Henley House School.
He seems to have learned chess around 1891 and played with his father, Joseph, and brother, Fred.
In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells. The couple agreed to separate in 1894 when he fell in love with one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins (later known as Jane) whom he married in 1895. They played chess together according to his autobiography.
In the early 1890s, Wells wrote a humoresque chess story, which he contributed anonymously to the Pall Mall Budget.
In 1894, Wells' essay, "Bleak March in Epping Forest," was first published in the Pall Mall Gazette on March 16, 1894. It was later published in Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical in 1897 as part of a collection of 39 essays. Wells writes of playing chess at a hotel until a train arrives.
His essay, "Concerning Chess," published in Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical in 1897, was first published in the Pall Mall Gazette on February 12, 1895. Wells wrote:
"The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations, the least satisfying of desires, an aimless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist, that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic, clumsy, and unreliable--but teach him, inoculate him with chess! It is well, perhaps, that the right way of teaching chess is so little known, that consequently in most cases the plot fails in the performance, the dagger turns aside. Else we should all be chess-players--there would be none left to do the business of the world. Our statesmen would sit with pocket boards while the country went to the devil, our army would bury itself in chequered contemplation, our bread-winners would forget their wives in seeking after impossible mates. The whole world would be disorganised. I can fancy this abominable hypnotism so wrought into the constitution of men that the cabmen would go trying to drive their horses in Knights' moves up and down Charing Cross Road. And now and again a suicide would come to hand with the pathetic inscription pinned to his chest: "I checked with my Queen too soon. I cannot bear the thought of it." There is no remorse like the remorse of chess. Only, happily, as we say, chess is taught the wrong way round. People put out the board before the learner with all the men in battle array, sixteen a side, with six different kinds of moves, and the poor wretch is simply crushed and appalled. A lot of things happen, mostly disagreeable, and then a mate comes looming up through the haze of pieces. So he goes away awestricken but unharmed, secretly believing that all chess-players are humbugs, and that intelligent chess, which is neither chancy nor rote-learned, is beyond the wit of man. But clearly this is an unreasonable method of instruction. Before the beginner can understand the beginning of the game he must surely understand the end; how can he commence playing until he knows what he is playing for? It is like starting athletes on a race, and leaving them to find out where the winning-post is hidden.In March 1895, "Of Cleverness: Apropos of One Crichton," was first published by HG Wells in the National Observer on March 9, 1895. It was later published in Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical in 1897 as part of a collection of 39 essays. Wells doubted the value of cleverness, as exemplified by his friend Crichton, who pleads for a return to dullness. Wells mentioned that Crichton "invariably beats me at chess, invariably."
In March 1895, Wells published The Moth (aka "A Moth — Genus Novo" [new genus]). It was first published in the March 28, 1895, edition of Pall Mall Gazette, a London evening newspaper, and collected in The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, also published in 1895. The story was a satire of two biologists in the discovery of a new species of moth. Wells wrote, "So Hapley turned to chess, and found it a little more soothing. He soon mastered the moves and the chief gambits and commoner closing positions, and began to beat the Vicar. But then the cylindrical contours of the opposite king began to resemble Pawkins standing up and gasping ineffectually against checkmate, and Hapley decided to give up chess." In the novel, Wells describes a new moth as "Something about the head and body of the insect became singularly suggestive of Pawkins [a rival professor to Hapley], just as the chess king had been." Etymologist Paul Hapley was bothered by a moth while thinking about a chess problem. Wells wrote, "But half-way over the down, by the chalk pits, the moth came upon Hapley again. He went on, trying to keep his mind upon chess problems, but it was no good."
In April 1895, HG Wells wrote Wayde's Essence, which was first published in New Budget on April 18, 1895. Manningtree (who sells a phony elixir to Wayde) tells Wayde the politician, "You know, I take rather an interest in you, Wayde. You're curious. That Botch, for instance, wasn't your master at chess. I've studied his games." Wells then wrote, "Manningtree remained sitting on the board and seemed to meditate chess for a moment."
In August 1895, H.G. Wells wrote The Wheels of Chance; A Bicycling Idyll. The story is about a humorous account of a man's cycling holiday in the south of England. Wells wrote that there was horse that looked like a long-nosed chess knight.
In September 1895, Wells wrote the novel The Wonderful Visit. It tells how a fallen angel who spends time in Victorian England. In chapter 18 ("After Dinner") Wells mentions that the English vicar, Rev K. Hilyer, who shot the angel in the wing, plays chess. The vicar tells the angel, "I live, I am afraid, a quiescent life, duties fairly done, a little ornithology, and a little chess..."
In his essay "The Pleasure of Quarrelling," Wells wrote that quarrelling was like chess. The essay was published in Certain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical in 1897.
In 1895, Wells wrote The War of the Worlds, the first alien invasion story, which was serialized in 1897 in the UK by Pearson's Magazine and in the US by Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1898, the novel appeared in hardcover. In chapter 7, a couple of his characters (the unnamed protagonist and an artilleryman) played chess during the Martian invasion near Surrey, England. He wrote, "Afterwards he taught me poker and I beat him at three tough chess games. ...After an interminable string of games, we supped, and the artilleryman finished his champagne."
In 1898, Wells wrote When the Sleeper Wakes (rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes in 1910). It was originally published in The Graphic from 1898 to 1903. It is about a man who falls asleep and wakes up 200 years in the future. Wells wrote that players were learning chess faster while they were in trances. Wells wrote, "Instead of years of study, candidates had substituted a few weeks of trances, and during the trances expert coaches had simply to repeat all the points necessary for adequate answering, adding a suggestion of the post hypnotic recollection of these points. In process mathematics particularly, this aid had been a singular service, and it was now invariable invoked by such players of chess and games of manual dexterity as were still to be found."
In 1901, Wells wrote Anticipations of the Reaction to Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought. The chapters of Anticipations appeared in Great Britain in the Fortnightly Review (April-December 1901) and in the North American Review (Jun-November 1901) in the United States. It was published as a book on November 1901, which became Wells's first non-fiction bestseller. The book was an explanation of Wells' vision of the New Republic. There were several references to chess in the book. He wrote that Napoleon I was a "speedily futile chess champion." He wrote that "kingcraft" and "priestcraft" were "an equality as little affected by colour as the equality of a black chess pawn and white..." Wells compared sexual relations with chess. He wrote, "...sexual questions become no more importance than the morality of one's deportment at chess..."
In 1903, Wells wrote Twelve Stories and a Dream. In the 9th story, called "Mr. Ledbetter's Vacation," Wells wrote that Mr. Ledbetter was a sacerdotalist (priest) and a chess player.
In April 1905, Wells published A Modern Utopia in book form. It had been serialized in the Fortnightly Review from October 1904 to April 1905. He compared a Utopia without rulers to chess. He wrote, "And the difficulty in this question is not simply the difficulty of a complicated chess problem, for example, in which the whole tangle of considerations does at least lie in one plane, but a series of problems upon different levels and containing incommensurable factors."
In 1906, Wells wrote the science fiction novel In the Days of the Comet. A societal transformation occurs that results from an altering of the earth's atmosphere after a comet hits the earth. He talked about playing chess full of foul air. He wrote, "Try to play chess under such conditions and you will play stupidly and lose your temper." He wrote that chess was a very good pastime. He wrote Jews turned "life into a sort of mercantile chess..."
In 1907, Wells wrote the military science fiction novel The War in the Air, which was published in 1908. One of his characters, Graf von Winterfeld, plays chess problems in his head to while away the time.
In 1910, Wells wrote The New Machiavelli, which was published as a novel in 1911. It was serialized in The English Review in 1910. He wrote that one of his characters, Lord Arthur Cossington, played chess very well. He also mentions a men's club that have a group of "highly specialized chess-players."
In 1913, Wells simplified the game of Kriegspiel (a chess variant), added a mechanical cannon, and sold the toy soldier package as Little Wars. He included an appendix on the game of Kriegspiel. He mentioned that that his game of Little Wars was different than chess because you had five minutes or less to make a move (before blitz chess became popular).
In September 1913, Wells wrote The Passionate Friends. He writes of Justin, "In that queer big brain of his there is something of the calculating boy and not a little of the chess champion."
In September 1916, Wells wrote Mr. Britling Sees It Through. Mrs. Britling plays a chess game with Mr. Britling and beats him. Wells wrote, "It was over the chessboard that they first began to discover their extensive difficulties of sympathy. Mr. Britling's play was characterized by a superficial brilliance, much generosity and extreme unsoundness; he always moved directly his opponent had done so — and then reflected on the situation. His reflection was commonly much wiser than his moves. Mrs. Britling was, as it were, a natural antagonist to her husband; she was as calm as he was irritable. She was never in a hurry to move, and never disposed to make a concession. Quietly, steadfastly, by caution and deliberation, without splendour, without error, she had beaten him at chess until it led to such dreadful fits of anger that he had to renounce the game altogether."
In 1916, Wells wrote What is Coming? A Forecast of Things after the War. He compared chess to learning a language. He wrote, "Learning a language is one thing and memorizing an illogical system of visual images — for that is what reading ordinary English spelling comes to — is quite another. A man can learn to play first chess and then bridge in half the time that these two games would require if he began by attempting simultaneous play, and exactly the same principles applies to the language problem."
In 1917, Wells wrote the novel The Soul of a Bishop. Two of the characters, Phoebe Walshingham and Mr. Blent, play chess.
In 1918, Wells wrote Joan and Peter. When Oswald talked to Jane, Wells wrote, "She was no more deeply interested than if he had been discussing some problem at chess..."
In 1919, Wells wrote Undying Fire. He has God and Satan playing chess together, but on a different scale. He wrote, "But the chess they play is not the little ingenious game that originated in India; it is on an altogether different scale. The Ruler of the Universe creates the board, the pieces, and the rules; he makes all the moves; he may make as many moves as he likes whenever he likes; his antagonist, however, is permitted to introduce a slight inexplicable inaccuracy into each move, which necessitates further moves in correction. The Creator determines and conceals the aim of the game, and it is never clear whether the purpose of the adversary is to defeat or assist him in his unfathomable project. Apparently the adversary cannot win, but also he cannot lose so long as he can keep the game going. But he is concerned, it would seem, in preventing the development of any reasoned scheme in the game."
In 1920, an H.G. Wells played for the Middlesex Chess Club on Board 31 and lost his match with a player from the Surrey Chess Club. It is not clear if this is the Herbert George Wells the science fiction writer. He would have been 53 when the match was played and he did live in Essex, which might have made him eligible to play for Middlesex.
In 1922, Wells wrote A Short History of the World. An article called 'A Wolf on the Fold' that appeared in the March 30, 1938 issue of Australasian Chess Review, mentioned that Wells was a chess player and that he mentions the eminence of the Jewish race in chess. The article had the following: "He [Wells] appears to attribute it entirely to an innate sense of values — a capacity for judging between relative gains and losses with utmost subtlety. This is almost certainly a factor, but one could also argue from the fact of racial oppression. The reaction to the oppression has been a tendency among Jews to strive to excel in whatever they take up, whether it be commerce, mathematics, chess or purely artistic spheres in which H.G. Wells' ideas would not apply." (source" Edward Winter's article on Chess and Jews).
In 1934, H.G. Wells wrote Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866). He wrote, "I lose at chess to almost anyone..." He wrote that his mother was never able to master the mysteries of chess. He mentioned that one of his teachers "was like some very ordinary chess player who had undertaken to play thirty games of chess simultaneously." He wrote that his father "was playing chess, by correspondence, with my mother-in-law when he was in the late seventies..." H.G. Wells mentions that he played chess with his father, a cricketer in his early days. Wells wrote, "We began chess together in these days but while he went on to a sound game, I found it too exacting and irritating, and gave it up." In 1893, he got sick and was confined to bed. He wrote, "I amused myself in my convalescence by playing chess with brother Fred. Hitherto he had always been the better player and I had been hasty and inaccurate. Now for a time I found all round him and he hadn't a chance with me."
He died in London, England on August 13, 1945.
In 1951, Vincent Brome wrote H. G. Wells: A Biography. Brome wrote that Wells was "bad, very bad, at chess."
H.G. Wells wrote the following:
1884, "A Family Elopement"
1887, "A Tale of the Twentieth Century"
1887, "A Talk with Gryllotalpa"
1887, "A Vision of the Past"
1888, "The Chronic Argonauts"
1888, "The Devotee of Art"
1893, Text-Book of Biology
1893, Honours Physiography
1893, "The Flying Man (The Advent of the Flying Man)
1894, "Aepyornis Island"
1894, "A Deal in Ostriches"
1894, "The Diamond Maker"
1894, "The Strange Orchid"
1894, "The Hammerpond Park Burglary"
1894, "The Lord of the Dynamos"
1894, "How Gabriel Became Thompson"
1894, "In the Avu Observatory"
1894, "In the Modern Vein: An Unsympathetic Love Story" ("A Bardet's Romance')
1894, "The Jilting of Jane"
1894, "The Man with a Nose"
1894, "A Misunderstood Artist"
1894, "Mr. Ledbetter's Vacation" — mentions chess
1894, "The Stolen Bacillus"
1894, "The Thing in No. 7"
1894, "Through a Window" ("At a Window")
1894, "The Thumbmark"
1894, "The Treasure in the Forest"
1894, "The Triumphs of a Taxidermist"
1894, "A Family Elopement"
1895, The Time Machine
1895, The Wonderful Visit — mentions chess
1895, "The Argonauts of the Air"
1895, "A Catastrophe"
1895, "The Cone"
1895, "How Pingwill Was Routed"
1895, "Le Mari Terrible"
1895, "The Moth" ("A Moth — Genus Novo') — mentions chess
1895, The Wheels of Chance — mentions chess
1895, "Our Little Neighbor"
1895, "Pollock and the Porroh Man"
1895, "The Reconstruction" ("The Bulla")
1895, "The Story of Davidson's Eyes"
1895, "The Sad Story of a Dramatic Critic" ("The Obliterated Man")
1895, "The Temptation of Harringay"
1895, "Wayde's Essence" — mentions chess
1895, Select Conversations with an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences
1895, The Stolen Bacillius and Other Incidents — mentions chess ("The Moth")
1896, The Island of Doctor Moreau
1896, "The Apple"
1896, "In the Abyss"
1896, "The Plattner Story"
1896, "The Purple Pileus"
1896, "The Rajah's Treasure"
1896, "The Red Room" ("The Ghost of Fear")
1896, "The Sea Raiders"
1896, "A Slip Under the Microscope"
1896, "The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham"
1896, "Under the Knife"
1896, The Red Room
1897, The Invisible Man
1897, Certain Personal Matters
"The Wheels of Chance; A Bicycling Idyll" — mentions chess1897, "The Crystal Egg"
1897, "The Lost Inheritance"
1897, "Mr. Marshall's Doppelganger"
1897, "A Perfect Gentleman on Wheels"
1897, "The Presence by the Fire"
1897, "The Star"
1897, "A Story of the Days to Come"
1897, "A Story of the Stone Age"
1897, Thirty Strange Stories
1897, The Plattner Story and Others
1898, The War of the Worlds — mentions chess
1898, "Jimmy Goggles the God"
1898, "The Man Who Could Work Miracles"
1898, "Miss Winchelsea's Heart"
1898, "The Stolen Body"
1899, When the Sleeper Wakes — mentions chess
1899, "Mr. Brisher's Treasure"
1899, "A Vision of Judgment"
1899, Tales of Space and Time
1899, A Cure for Love
1900, Love and Mr Lewisham
1901, The First Men in the Moon
1901, Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought — mentions chess
1901, "A Dream of Armegeddon"
1901, "The New Accelerator"
1902, The Sea Lady
1902, "The Inexperience Ghost"
1902, "The Loyalty of Esau Common"
1903, Mankind in the Making
1903, "Mr. Skelmersdale in Fairyland"
1903, "The Land Ironclads"
1903, "The Magic Shop"
1903, "The Truth About Pyecraft"
1903, "The Valley of Spiders"
1903, Twelve Stories and a Dream — mentions chess
1904, The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth
1904, "The Country of the Blind"
1905, A Modern Utopia — mentions chess
1905, "The Empire of the Ants"
1906, In the Days of the Comet — mentions chess
1906, The Future in America
1906, "The Door in the Wall"
1907, The Misery of Boots
1907, Will Socialism Destroy the Home?
1908, The War in the Air — mentions chess
1908, New Worlds for Old
1909, Ann Veronica
1909, "The Beautiful Suit" ("A Moonlight Fable")
1910, The History of Mr Polly
1910, The Sleeper Awakes (revised edition of When the Sleeper Wakes) — mentions chess
1910, "Little Mother Up the Morderberg"
1910, "My First Aeroplane"
1911, The New Machiavelli — mentions chess
1911, The Country of the Blind and Other Stories — mentions chess in the story "The Moth"
1911, the Door in the Wall and Other Stories
1911, Floor Games
1912, The Great State
1912, Great Thoughts from H. G. Wells
1912, Thoughts from H. G. Wells
1913, the Passionate Friends — mentions chess
1913, Little Wars
1913, The Star (story collection)
1914, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman
1914, The World Set Free
1914, The War That Will End War
1914, An Englishman Looks at the World (Social Forces in England and America)
1915, Bealby: A Holiday
1915, The Research Magnificent
1915, The War and Socialism
1915, The Peace of the World
1915, "The Story of the Last Trump"
1915, "The Wild Asses of the Devil"
1916, Mr. Britling Sees it Through — mentions chess
1916, What is Coming? — mentions chess
1916, The Elements of Reconstruction
1917, The Soul of a Bishop — mentions chess
1917, God the Invisible King
1917, War and the Future (Italy, France and Britain at War)
1917, Introduction to Nocturne
1918, Joan and Peter: The Story of an Education — mentions chess
1918, In the Fourth Year
1918, "Peter Learns Arithmetic"
1919, The Undying Fire — mentions chess
1919, The Idea of a League of Nations
1920, The Outline of History
1920, Russia in the Shadows
1920, Frank Swinnerton
1921, The Salvaging of Civilization
1921, "The Grisly Folk"
1922, The Secret Places of the Heart
1922, A Short History of the World
1922, Washington and the Hope of Peace (Washington and the Riddle of Peace)
1922, Tales of the Unexpected
1923, Men Like Gods
1923, Socialism and the Scientific Motive
1923, Tales of Wonder
1923, Tales of Life and Adventure
1924, The Dream
1924, The Story of a Great Schoolmaster
1924, "The Pearl of Love"
1925, Christina Alberta's Father
1925, A Year of Prophesying
1925, A Short History of Mankind
1925, The Empire of the Ants and Other Stories
1926, The World of William Clissold
1926, Mr. Belioc Objects to "The Outline of History"
1927, Wells' Social Anticipations
1927, The Short Stories of H. G. Wells
1927, Selected Short Stories
1928, Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island
1928, The Way the World is Going
1928, The Book of Catherine Wells
1928, The Open Conspiracy (What Are We To Do With Our Lives?)
1929, The Adventures of Tommy
1930, The Autocracy of Mr. Parham
1930, The Science of Life
1930, Divorce As I See It
1930, Points of View
1930, The Valley of the Spiders
1931, The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind
1931, The New Russia
1931, Selections From the Early Prose of H. G. Wells
1931, The Stolen Body and Other Tales of the Unexpected
1932, The Bulpington of Blup
1932, What Should be Done-Now: A Memorandum of the World Situation
1932, After Democracy
1932, "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper"
1933, The Shape of Things to Come
1934, Experiment in Autobiography — mentions chess
1935, The New America: The New World
1936, The Croquet Player
1936, The Anatomy of Frustration
1937, The Camford Visitation
1937, "Answer to Prayer"
1937, The Famous Short Stories of H. G. Wells
1938, Apropos of Dolores
1938, The Brothers
1938, World Brain
1939, The Holy Terror
1939, The Fate of Homo Sapiens (The Fate of Man)
1939, The New World Order
1939, Travels of a Republican Radical in Search of Hot Water
1939, "The Country of the Blind" (revised)
1940, Babes in the Darling Wood
1940, All aboard for Ararat
1940, The Common Sense of War and Peace
1940, The Rights of Man
1940, Short Stories by H. G. Wells
1941, You Can't Be Too Careful
1941, The Pocket History of the World
1941, Guide to the New World
1942, The Outlook of Homo Sapiens
1942, The Conquest of Time
1942, Modern Russian and English Revolutionaries
1942, Phoenix: A Summary of the Inescapable Conditions of World Reorganization
1943, Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church
1943, The Inexperience Ghost (story collection)
1943, The Land Ironclads (story collection)
1943, The New Accelerator (story collection)
1943, The Truth About Pyecraft and Other Short Stories
1944, '42 to '44: A Contemporary Memoir
1944, Reshaping Man's Heritage
1945, The Happy Turning
1945, Mind at the End of Its Tether
1945, Marxism vs Liberalism
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