Edgar Allan Poe and Chess

Edward Winter

From the June 1913 American Chess Bulletin, page 140:

‘Charles Henry Meltzer, writing in the May Cosmopolitan of Maurice Leblanc, the creator of the fictional character, Arsène Lupin, says that Monsieur Leblanc, when asked from whence he received the motif for the deeds of this famous criminal, replied:

“I have read Edgar Allan Poe and studied Balzac. All the romance of crime was suggested in Poe’s works. I don’t remember anything besides Poe and Balzac that could have helped me to work out my plots – unless my fondness for the game of chess was useful. Chess helps one to make plays. And why not novels?” – The Star of Hope.’


On page 238 of A Clerk of Oxenford (New York, 1954) Gilbert Highet commented that Paul Morphy ‘must have closely resembled Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire, proud, taciturn, brilliant, self-doomed’.


With regard to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49), it may recalled that he had two main connections with chess, his lengthy article ‘Maelzel’s Chess Player’ and his negative remarks about chess in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Below is a list of articles about Poe that we have noted in chess periodicals:


A volume especially rich in chess-related matter is The Mystery to a Solution (subtitled ‘Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story’) by John T. Irwin (Baltimore and London, 1994). Chess has 46 references in the index, and the illustrations include a photograph of the author in play against Jorge Luis Borges in 1983.


‘Maelzel’s Chess Player’ was reproduced on pages 170-183 of Lasker’s Chess Magazine, February 1906 and on pages 84-127 of The Art of Chess Playing by Edwin Valentine Mitchell (New York, 1936).

See too ‘Edgar Allen [sic] Poe on Chess, Draughts and Whist’ on page 190 of the 1 March 1872 issue of the Westminster Papers.

Some comments on Poe by B.H. Wood in the Birmingham Mail, 1949, were reproduced on pages 278-279 of The Treasury of Chess Lore by F. Reinfeld (New York, 1951) under the title ‘Poe’s Fallacy’.

Latest update: 30 April 2022.

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