George H. Derrickson

Edward Winter

Wanted: games played by George H. Derrickson of Philadelphia, USA, who died on 16 April 1862 at the age of 17 and whom several nineteenth-century sources referred to as a potential second Morphy. His only widely-published game is a 17-move brilliancy played in Philadelphia in 1860 against an amateur (identified as J. Smith on pages 41-42 of America’s Chess Heritage by Walter Korn):

1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 O-O Bc5 5 d3 d6 6 Bg5 Bg4 7 h3 h5 8 hxg4 hxg4 9 Nh2 g3 10 Nf3 Ng4 11 Bxd8 Bxf2+ 12 Rxf2 gxf2+ 13 Kf1 Rh1+ 14 Ke2 Rxd1 15 Nfd2 Nd4+ 16 Kxd1 Ne3+ 17 Kc1 Ne2 mate.

A problem by Derrickson, composed circa 1861, was printed on page 366 of the December 1881 issue of Brentano’s Chess Monthly:


Mate in two


It is unclear whether Korn was using the term ‘J. Smith’ as a synonym for N.N.

The game was annotated by Emanuel Lasker on pages 168-170 of the London Chess Fortnightly, 30 July 1893.

The problem was originally published in M.J. Hazeltine’s New York Clipper column (page 373) of 10 March 1860, dedicated to Hazeltine’s wife, ‘Pfania’. Regarding the Hazeltines, see, in particular, C.N. 5456.

George H. Derrickson was described on page 73 of G.C. Reichhelm’s Chess in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1898) as ‘a remarkably brilliant player’. We now note that another game by Derrickson (a loss) and a mate-in-four problem were given on pages 137-139 and 244 of Brevity and Brilliancy in Chess by M.J. Hazeltine (New York, 1866). [Concerning the game, see too the New York Clipper column of 12 November 1859, page 237.]

Jeremy Gaige (Philadelphia, PA, USA) informs us that according to contemporary reports Derrickson died at the age of 17, whereas official records gave his age as 18. His death certificate stated that he died of rheumatism, suggesting rheumatic fever. Mr Gaige also sends us a copy of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin of 26 April 1862 (page 7), which announced the death of a player whose mental gifts had ‘promised very high rank for him in the future’, and he points out that there is a photograph of Derrickson in the scrapbooks of George Allen at the Library Company of Philadelphia.


Below is the material that Mr Gaige sent us at the time (in 1998):

derrickson gaige


Neil Brennen (Norristown, PA, USA) has found a number of games played by the ill-fated American George H. Derrickson, from which we pick one which is rather similar to his famous miniature mentioned above:

J. Rowand – George H. Derrickson
Philadelphia, 1860
Giuoco Piano

1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Bg5 d6 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 O-O Bg4 7 h3 h5 8 hxg4 hxg4 9 Nh2 g3 10 Ng4 gxf2+ 11 Nxf2 Nxe4 12 Bxd8 Ng3 13 d4 (Instead, 13 Bxf7+ Kxd8 14 Bh5 Rxh5 15 Qxh5 would have put Black off his stroke.) 13…Nxd4 14 Bxf7+ Kxf7


15 Nh3+ Nf3 mate.

Source: Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 23 December 1860.


We now note that half a dozen or so of Derrickson’s problems were included in The Clipper Chess Problem Tournament by Miron J. Hazeltine (New York, 1860). The one presented below is from page 74:


Mate in six


When the position was discussed again on page 1 of Chess Facts and Fables, the white pawn on g2 was misplaced on f2. The correction was given by Elmer Sangalang (Manila, the Philippines) in C.N. 4269.

In C.N. 2320 Jeremy Gaige reported that there was a photograph of Derrickson in George Allen’s scrapbooks, and we now present that portrait with the permission of the Library Company of Philadelphia:



An extract from an article by Miron Hazeltine reproduced on pages 365-370 of the December 1881 issue of Brentano’s Chess Monthly:

‘That young gentleman as tall as Kappner [also of the Morphy Chess Rooms], but something heavier and evidently not yet physically developed who looks always “as trim as though just out of a band-box” is Geo. H. Derrickson of Philadelphia. He is in New York a good deal, and spends his leisure and loose change at “The Morphy”. Very handsome is he; matured, his will exceed the beauty accorded to most men. And this outward seeming is the true semblance of his mind. Gentle as a girl, sympathetic, affectionate. Large hazel, thoughtful eyes; plump red cheeks, round, full forehead, and a well-balanced head. Grave and judicial in manners and speech – too much so, we think, for one of his years. Was it in sad prescience of his early departure from among us? In everything he does you will observe this one controlling motive, always – an eager ambition to excel. This insures him, to a marked degree, a rapid rise in everything he undertakes. In chess, both in play and as a problematist, he already stands high, with the most honorable aspirations for the future.’

From page 71 of the above-mentioned book by Hazeltine, The Clipper Chess Problem Tournament, we select a further intricate composition by Derrickson:


Mate in three


Pages 229-230 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves and pages 343-344 of A Chess Omnibus discussed George H. Derrickson and his famous miniature, dated 1860. Now, Marc Hébert (Quebec, Canada) points out that the same moves were given on page 231 of the November 1939 Chess Review as having occurred in an offhand game Amateur v L. Newman, Chicago, 1939:


The gallery of the Cleveland Public Library’s digital chess collection now has two photographs of George H. Derrickson.

It was gratifying to be able to show in C.N. 3263 (see pages 1-2 of Chess Facts and Fables) a full-length portrait of Derrickson from the scrapbooks of George Allen, with the permission of the Library Company of Philadelphia:


From the privately-circulated 1994 edition of Chess Personalia by Jeremy Gaige:


Hazeltine’s obituary of Derrickson on page 44 of the New York Clipper, 24 May 1862:


The two Cleveland Library photographs of Derrickson referred to in C.N. 11283 are now reproduced here, with permission:


Three light games won by Derrickson:

George H. Derrickson – Amateur of Philadelphia
Philadelphia (exact occasion?)
(Remove White’s rook at a1)

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 f6 4 Bc4 Nge7 5 dxe5 fxe5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 a6 8 O-O b6 9 Bd5 Bb7 10 Nc3 Na5 11 Bxb7 Nxb7 12 Nxe5 Qc8 13 Bxe7 Bxe7 14 Qh5+ g6 15 Qxg6+ Kd8 16 Nf7+ Ke8 17 Nd6+ Kd8 18 Qe8+ Rxe8 19 Nf7 mate.

Source: New York Clipper, 19 May 1860, page 37.

George H. Derrickson (blindfold) – Amateur of the Philadelphia Chess Club
Exact occasion?
King’s Gambit Accepted

1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 Be7 4 Bc4 Bh4+ 5 g3 fxg3 6 O-O gxh2+ 7 Kh1 Qe7 8 d4 Qxe4 9 Nc3 Qe7 10 Nd5 Qd8 11 Nxh4 Qxh4 12 Qe2+ Ne7 13 Rxf7 Kxf7 14 Nxe7+ Kf8 15 Bg5 Qxg5 16 Rf1+ Ke8 17 Ng8+ Kd8 18 Rf8 mate.

Source: New York Clipper, 4 May 1861, page 20.

George H. Derrickson – N.N.
Morphy Chess Rooms (exact occasion?)
King’s Gambit Accepted

1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 Bc4 Bg7 5 d4 Nc6 6 Nc3 d6 7 O-O Na5 8 Bxf7+ Kxf7 9 Nxg5+ Ke7 10 Nd5+ Kd7 11 Ne6 Kxe6 12 Qg4+ Kf7 13 Qh5+ Kf8 14 Rxf4+ Nf6 15 Rxf6+ Bxf6 16 Bh6+ Kg8 17 Nxf6+ Qxf6 and White mates in two moves.

Source: New York Clipper, 31 May 1862, page 56.

Latest update: 31 August 2021.

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