Franklin Knowles Young

Edward Winter


George Stern (Canberra, Australia) writes:

‘When I came across the following passage about F.K. Young by Lawrence J. Fuller on page 503 of Volume I of The Best of Chess Life and Review, my eyebrows went up in disbelief:

“Mr Young was a contemporary of Steinitz, Zukertort and the American champions Mackenzie and Pillsbury, from all of whom he won games which he credited to his system.”

Can it really be that F.K.Y. defeated Steinitz, Zukertort, Mackenzie and Pillsbury? If he did, why is the fact not better known? Why, indeed, did Young himself not boast about it – as a success of his system – in the lattermost of his “Strategetics” series, Chess Strategetics? There are all sorts of other puffery in the “Introductory” to that book, but no mention of victories over world-class contemporaries. Incidentally, I notice that in that book Young made this claim:

“The synthetic method of chessplay ... early received the indorsement [sic] of Emmanuel [sic] Lasker, who, in a personal letter to Mr Edwin C. Howell, collaborator in Minor Tactics, stated that the new method of chess play ‘was replete with logic and common sense’.”

I wonder too whether Young’s claim about Lasker is true. Can you or your correspondents shed any light on either of these matters?’

Finding victories by Young is not easy, though his obituary on page 10 of the January 1932 American Chess Bulletin said that ‘in the middle ’80s, contemporary with George Hammond [sic –G.H. died in 1881], Preston Ware, C.F. Burrille [sic] and Charles B. Snow, he was one of the finest players in America’. In an off-hand queen’s knight odds game in Boston in April 1885 Young was defeated by Steinitz. The game appeared on pages 217-218 of the July 1885 issue of the International Chess Magazine. Steinitz described his opponent as ‘one of the strongest local players’ and believed that he ‘would be too strong for such odds in a serious contest’.

None of the standard sources seems to contain any games between Pillsbury and Young, but, by coincidence, Richard Lappin (Jamaica Plain, MD, USA) has just sent us a copy of a 1972 booklet Chess Was Front Page News ... 80 Years Ago, subtitled ‘A Salute to Harry N. Pillsbury’. This gives the following game, played before Pillsbury ‘found himself’:

Franklin Knowles Young – Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Boston, 1893 (exact occasion?)
Ruy López

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 d6 4 d4 Bd7 5 O-O f6 6 c3 Nge7 7 Nh4 g6 8 f4 Bg7 9 f5 gxf5 10 exf5 O-O 11 Qg4 Kh8 12 Rf3 Rg8 13 Rh3 Bh6 14 Qh5 Bxc1 15 Ng6+ Kg7 16 Qxh7 mate.

Not exactly the kind of game with which Young could have propagated his singular teaching system.

The booklet also reproduces an article by John Barry entitled ‘Chess in Boston 1857-1937’ which has a couple of paragraphs on Young:

‘Then entered Franklin K. Young, who developed until he defeated Ware in a match and claimed the championship of New England. I believe this is the genesis of the title.

In later years, when somewhat retired from chess in 1892, Young began his famous series of books on [sic] the vocabulary of military terms – a science in which he was notably skilled for a layman. Of these books, his first Minor Tactics is one of the finest contributions to the literature of chess and the most orderly guide for a tyro student.’


Richard Lappin writes that a search of Young’s The Grand Tactics of Chess (Boston, 1905) turned up numerous Young victories, including the following:

‘1) Mackenzie-Young, Boston Chess Club, 16 June 1884.

2) P. Ware and Young-Zukertort, Boston Chess Club, 17 January 1884.

3) Young-PilIsbury, Boston Press Club, 26 January 1893 (C.N. 1886) ... as well as draws (?) as follows:

4) Steinitz-Young, Boston Chess Club, 9 July 1886.

5) Young-PilIsbury, Boston Press Club, 13 January 1893.

The Field Book of Chess Generalship (New York and London, 1923) also contains many Young victories (unfortunately mostly undated and unplaced):

6) Young-Zukertort.

7) Mackenzie-Young, Boston Chess Club, exhibition game.

Also, the following game fragment is found:

8) Steinitz-Young (an alternate finish, this time victorious, to the afore-mentioned 9 July 1886 game ...).

It seems clear that these were exhibition games, which might account for F.K.Y.’s reluctance to broadcast his success. I have no insight, however, into the alternative finishes to the Steinitz-Young game.’

This last point is a curious matter. Here is the game as given on pages 443-444 of The Grand Tactics of Chess:

Wilhelm Steinitz – Franklin Knowles Young
Boston, 9 July 1886
King’s Gambit Accepted

1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 Bc4 g4 5 Ne5 Qh4+ 6 Kf1 Nh6 7 d4 f3 8 Nc3 fxg2+ 9 Kxg2 Qh3+ 10 Kg1 Nc6 11 Bf1 Qh4 12 Bf4 d6 13 Bg3 Qg5 14 Nc4 Bg7 15 Bf2 f5 16 Nd5 O-O 17 Nxc7 Rb8 18 c3


18...g3 19 hxg3 Ng4 20 Qd2 f4 21 gxf4 Qe7 22 Nd5 Qxe4 23 Bg2 Qg6 24 Re1 Be6 25 Nde3 Rxf4 26 Bg3


26...Rxd4 27 cxd4 Bxd4 28 Rh4 h5 29 Rxg4 Qxg4 30 Bf2 Qf4 31 Nd5 Qxf2+ 32 Qxf2 Bxf2+ 33 Kxf2 Rf8+ 34 Kg3 Nd4 35 Nxd6 Rd8 36 Ne4 Kg7 37 Nec3 b6 38 Nf4 Bf7 39 Kh4 Kh6 40 Re5 Rg8 41 Bd5 Rg4+ Drawn.

But on pages 138-139 of Field Book of Chess Generalship it is claimed that there was a much prettier finish and a different result:

26...Nge5 27 dxe5 Qxg3 28 Qe2 Rbf8 29 exd6 Bxc4 30 Nxc4 Nd4 31 cxd4 Bxd4+ 32 Ne3


32...Rf1+ 33 Rxf1 Bxe3+ 34 Qxe3 Qxe3+ 35 Kh2 Qe5+ 36 Kh3 Rxf1 37 Rxf1 Qxd6 and Black won.


Consultation games often lack sparkle, but the next game is a definite exception.

Preston Ware and Franklin Knowles Young – Johannes Hermann Zukertort
Boston, 17 January 1884
Evans Gambit Accepted

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Ba5 6 d4 exd4 7 O-O dxc3 8 Qb3 Qf6 9 e5 Qg6 10 Nxc3 Nge7 11 Ba3 O-O 12 Rad1 b5 13 Bd3 Qg4 14 h3 Qe6 15 Bxh7+ Kh8 16 Nd5 b4 17 Ng5 Nxd5 18 Nxe6 fxe6 19 Bb1 bxa3


20 Qd3 (‘The allies had intended to play 20 Qc2, and upon Black’s replying ...Rf5, which is forced, 21 Rxd5, winning easily. One of them, however, nervously called out Qd3.’ – C.E. Ranken.) 20...Rf5 21 g4 Nxe5 22 Qe4 Nf3+ 23 Kh1 Ng5 24 Qg2 Rf3 25 Rxd5 exd5 26 Rd1 Rxh3+ 27 Kg1 Nf3+ 28 Kf1 Ba6+ 29 Bd3 Nh2+ 30 Kg1 Rxd3 31 Rxd3 Bxd3


32 Qxd5 (‘Black must have overlooked this move, by which, curiously enough, every one of his pieces is attacked, and he must lose two of them.’ – C.E. Ranken.) 32...Rf8 33 Kxh2 Rxf2+ 34 Kg3 Bb6 35 Qxd3 Rxa2 36 Qxd7 Rf2 37 Qe8+ Kh7 38 Qh5+ Kg8 39 g5 Kf8 40 g6 a2 41 Qh8+ Ke7 42 Qxg7+ Kd6 43 Qc3 Ke6 44 Qh8 Rf6 45 g7 Rg6+ 46 Kh3 Kd7 47 Qh7 Rh6+ 48 Qxh6 a1(Q) 49 Qd2+ Ke7 50 g8(Q) Qh1+ 51 Qh2 Qf3+ 52 Qhg3 Qh1+ 53 Kg4 Qd1+ 54 Kg5 Qc1+ 55 Kh5 Qd1+ 56 Q8g4 Black resigns.


(‘The whole game is one of the most interesting that we ever played over.’ – C.E. Ranken.)

Source: BCM, July 1884, pages 275-276.

Concerning move 20, in a footnote on page 81 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves we commented:

‘A different version was given by Young on page 440 of The Grand Tactics of Chess. He referred to ‘the miscalling, by the teller, of White’s 20th move.’


Discussing the Ruy López on page 359 of The Grand Tactics of Chess, Franklin K. Young had the following to say about 3…a6:

‘…bad, inasmuch as the left minor crochet is of no utility in a minor right oblique refused, nor in a full front unopposed by the major oblique echeloned.’

We have seen the light.

(KCK, page 168)

‘A preface is sometimes the best part of a book’, wrote E.J. Winter-Wood in his preface (page iii) to Chess Souvenirs (London, 1886). Those words came back to mind as we were leafing through Field Book of Chess Generalship by Franklin K. Young, whose preface (page v) begins:

‘For some years past, I have had frequent requests from chessplayers to write a little book, giving in simple language a clear and easy method for utilizing in practice the theory of chessplay laid down in my previous works on the game.’

A measure of how Young fared is provided by the following (wholly typical) passage on page 119:

‘The normal formative processes of a Logistic Grand Battle consist, first, in Echeloning by RP to QR4 and then in Aligning the Left Major Front Refused en Potence by the development of QKtP to QKt5, followed by Doubly Aligning the Left Major Front Refused and Aligned by developing QRP to QR5.

The final and decisive development in the formative process of a Logistic Grand Battle is the transformation of the Left Refused Front Doubly Aligned into a Grand Left Front Refused and Echeloned by the development of QRP to QR6.’


Tartakower is one of the most difficult chess writers to translate into English (among others are A. Nimzowitsch and F.K. Young).


Henrique Marinho (Curitiba, Brazil) notes that Chapter X of Modern Chess by Barnie F. Winkelman (Philadelphia, 1931) has a discussion of Franklin K. Young and that in Chapter XX (page 180) the following paragraph appears:

‘In the work of Mr F.K. Young mentioned in a previous chapter, certain recognized formations were advocated by him, but the principles underlying the proper co-ordination of the pieces were never touched on. Mr Harold Perrin, a strong amateur of Boston, sensed the real situation when he stated that chess is not a status, but a flux, and this emphasis upon the ever-changing relations of the forces rightly describes the real situation.’

Information about the relevant writings of Perrin would be welcomed.


From page 106 of Winkelman’s above-mentioned book:


As regards the reference to Réti, see Breyer and the Last Throes.

The following notes by Young to the Janowsky v Showalter match-game (concerning, respectively, 1 d4, 1...d5 and 2 c4) appeared on page 362 of the February 1899 American Chess Magazine:



A staunch defender of Franklin K. Young was Charles W. Warburton, in his book My Chess Adventures (Chicago, 1980). See, in particular, pages 2, 13-14, 42 and 94-96. Below is a sample passage from page 95:


Warburton did not name the Englishwoman, but she was Eileen Tranmer, on page 187 of Chess Treasury of the Air by Terence Tiller (Harmondsworth, 1966):


This photograph of F.K. Young comes from page 71 of The Rice Gambit (souvenir supplement to the 1905 American Chess Bulletin):




Another sample page, from The Major Tactics of Chess (Boston, 1909):


Page 10 of the January 1932 American Chess Bulletin:


A parody of Young from pages 74-77 of Chess Chatter & Chaff by P.H. Williams (Stroud, 1909):






From page 345 of The Fireside Book of Chess by I. Chernev and F. Reinfeld (New York, 1949):

‘Some players talk a better game of chess than they play. In Young’s case the reverse was true.’

Latest update: 20 May 2017.

To the Chess Notes main page.

To the Archives for other feature articles.

Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.