Chess and the Blue Laws

Historical knowledge and information regarding our great game.
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John Upham
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Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by John Upham » Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:05 am

Whilst reading The English Chess Scene (Chapter 3 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, Edward Lasker, Hollis & Carter, 1952) on page 150 I found
On Saturdays we would play all afternoon an evening. On Sundays we had an enforced rest, because the English "blue laws" banned even chess on Sundays
This is the first time I have encountered such an assertion.

Can you shed light on this?
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Roger Lancaster
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Roger Lancaster » Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:43 am

Wikipedia, first paragraph - Blue laws, also known as Sunday laws, are laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious or secular reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. Blue laws may also restrict shopping or ban sale of certain items on specific days, most often on Sundays in the western world. Blue laws are enforced in parts of the United States and Canada as well as some European countries, particularly in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Norway, keeping most stores closed on Sundays.

John Upham
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by John Upham » Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:55 am

Roger Lancaster wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:43 am
Wikipedia, first paragraph - Blue laws, also known as Sunday laws, are laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious or secular reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. Blue laws may also restrict shopping or ban sale of certain items on specific days, most often on Sundays in the western world. Blue laws are enforced in parts of the United States and Canada as well as some European countries, particularly in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Norway, keeping most stores closed on Sundays.
Apologies Roger : I meant to write that I knew what the Blue Laws were. The substantive query was if they were the cause of the banning of chess on Sundays.

Also, I meant to add that Lasker was discussing the period of around 1912 when he visited England, the City of London Chess Club and played his famous game with Sir George Thomas ending with 18.Kd2, checkmate.
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Tim Spanton
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Tim Spanton » Thu Dec 24, 2020 8:30 pm

A list of chess bans, including on Sundays in Massachusetts, here:
http://www.chessmaniac.com/chess-condem ... lic%20park.

Richard Bates
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Richard Bates » Fri Dec 25, 2020 9:07 am

John Upham wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:05 am
Whilst reading The English Chess Scene (Chapter 3 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, Edward Lasker, Hollis & Carter, 1952) on page 150 I found
On Saturdays we would play all afternoon an evening. On Sundays we had an enforced rest, because the English "blue laws" banned even chess on Sundays
This is the first time I have encountered such an assertion.

Can you shed light on this?
From such limited basic research as is possible on the internet it sounds as if this may have been a bit of artistic licence/hyperbole. In the sense that the restrictions were caused by the Sunday Observance Act of 1780 which banned the use of buildings/rooms etc for public entertainment etc with the payment of a fee. Presumably/possibly chess would have fallen within this - but/and more relevantly the venues where chess would have been commonly played would i guess have been shut. But no prevention of the playing of chess per se.

John Upham
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by John Upham » Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:46 pm

Richard Bates wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 9:07 am
John Upham wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:05 am
Whilst reading The English Chess Scene (Chapter 3 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, Edward Lasker, Hollis & Carter, 1952) on page 150 I found
On Saturdays we would play all afternoon an evening. On Sundays we had an enforced rest, because the English "blue laws" banned even chess on Sundays
This is the first time I have encountered such an assertion.

Can you shed light on this?
From such limited basic research as is possible on the internet it sounds as if this may have been a bit of artistic licence/hyperbole. In the sense that the restrictions were caused by the Sunday Observance Act of 1780 which banned the use of buildings/rooms etc for public entertainment etc with the payment of a fee. Presumably/possibly chess would have fallen within this - but/and more relevantly the venues where chess would have been commonly played would i guess have been shut. But no prevention of the playing of chess per se.
Are you suggesting Richard that Lasker would have written that chess was banned on Sundays in England in 1912 despite evidence that it wasn't and that nobody had told him it was banned? Perhaps he saw publicly displayed posters?

Are there any chess historians out there who can shed light on this mystery?
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Richard Bates
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Richard Bates » Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:25 pm

John Upham wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:46 pm
Richard Bates wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 9:07 am
John Upham wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 11:05 am
Whilst reading The English Chess Scene (Chapter 3 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, Edward Lasker, Hollis & Carter, 1952) on page 150 I found



This is the first time I have encountered such an assertion.

Can you shed light on this?
From such limited basic research as is possible on the internet it sounds as if this may have been a bit of artistic licence/hyperbole. In the sense that the restrictions were caused by the Sunday Observance Act of 1780 which banned the use of buildings/rooms etc for public entertainment etc with the payment of a fee. Presumably/possibly chess would have fallen within this - but/and more relevantly the venues where chess would have been commonly played would i guess have been shut. But no prevention of the playing of chess per se.
Are you suggesting Richard that Lasker would have written that chess was banned on Sundays in England in 1912 despite evidence that it wasn't and that nobody had told him it was banned? Perhaps he saw publicly displayed posters?
No i'm suggesting that it would have fallen within the range of activities made more difficult by the laws which limited communal use of buildings, and public activities which regularly occurred within them, on Sundays. So if it was within such a venue that he "played all afternoon and evening" on Saturdays, then he would have been forced to stop on Sundays.

But welcome for a chess historian to provide a more knowledgeable and less speculative interpretation.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:33 pm

Richard Bates wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:25 pm
But welcome for a chess historian to provide a more knowledgeable and less speculative interpretation.
Sergeant's book on 100 years of British chess was published in the 1930s, so conditions up to 1914 would have been recent memories. Is there anything there about restrictions on playing on Sundays, other than the point that venues might be closed? I believe Sunday shutdowns of licensed premises came in during the Great War but coffee houses and the like may have shut on Sundays anyway.

I don't know when the British Championship Congress first had Sunday play, 1970s probably, but Sunday play was already established for weekend tournaments.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by David Sedgwick » Fri Dec 25, 2020 5:52 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:33 pm
I don't know when the British Championship Congress first had Sunday play, 1970s probably, but Sunday play was already established for weekend tournaments.
I don't recall there being any Sunday play at Brighton 1980. I think that it might have been introduced by Stewart Reuben the following year.

Roger Lancaster
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Roger Lancaster » Sat Dec 26, 2020 2:42 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:33 pm
I don't know when the British Championship Congress first had Sunday play, 1970s probably, but Sunday play was already established for weekend tournaments.
In the 1960s, for sure, there were 11 rounds - 6 [Monday to Saturday] in the first week, 5 [Monday to Friday] in the second.

Richard Bates
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Dec 26, 2020 2:55 pm

Roger Lancaster wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 2:42 pm
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:33 pm
I don't know when the British Championship Congress first had Sunday play, 1970s probably, but Sunday play was already established for weekend tournaments.
In the 1960s, for sure, there were 11 rounds - 6 [Monday to Saturday] in the first week, 5 [Monday to Friday] in the second.
That has always been the case for the British Championship proper (until the recent switch to 9 rounds). I assume the reference is to other Congress events?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Chess and the Blue Laws

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Dec 26, 2020 4:32 pm

Richard Bates wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 2:55 pm
I assume the reference is to other Congress events?
David Sedgwick suggested it may have been 1981. Those would have been a rapidplay and weekenders. I think also there would always have been adjourned games played out on the Sunday.

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