STAUNTON, Howard (1810-1874)
Plaque erected in 1999 by English Heritage at 117 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2LF, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
HOWARD STAUNTON 1810-1874 British World Chess Champion lived here 1871-1874
Howard Staunton is considered to be the first and only British-born world chess champion. A significant chess writer as well as player, he helped change the game from a leisure activity to a competitive sport.
On his plaque at 117 Lansdowne Road in Notting Hill, Staunton is described as ‘British World Chess Champion’. While an official world chess championship did not then exist, Staunton was regarded as such in the years following his defeat of the French master Pierre Saint-Amant in 1843. Bobby Fischer, a more recent world champion, has called him ‘the most profound opening analyst of all time’.
The English Opening (given in chess notation as 1. c4) was named in Staunton’s honour after he used it with great success. He also gave his name to the ‘Staunton pattern’ of chess pieces, designed by his friend Nathaniel Cook in 1835, and still the set most commonly used in the English-speaking world.
Staunton was a prolific writer on the game. Between 1840 and 1854 he owned and edited the monthly periodical the Chess Player’s Chronicle, and from about 1844 until his death edited the chess column of the Illustrated London News. His most famous publication is The Chess Player’s Handbook (1847), which for many years was widely regarded as the best English chess manual.
In 1851 he organised the first truly international chess tournament, which took place in London and established the capital as the world centre for chess. Staunton played little chess after 1854, devoting his time instead to writing critical studies of Shakespeare.
Staunton lived for some time at 8 Sydney Place in South Kensington, but the house already bore a plaque to the composer Béla Bartók, and the owners did not want another. Staunton’s plaque was therefore erected at 117 Lansdowne Road, where he lived from late 1871 until spring 1874, shortly before his death. The distinctive terrace has Dutch gables and a pierced parapet, and is unlike any other building in the area.