Porterfield Rynd 1846-1917

David McAlister and Richard Forster

Porterfield Rynd was the Irish chess champion for a period of over forty years, yet his name and achievements have all but disappeared without trace. Yet not only was he the best player of his time in Ireland, he also had a profound affect on the organisation of Irish chess.

Dublin Chess Congress 1865

There were three individual tournaments held at the 1865 Congress: an international tournament open to anyone, won by the future World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz; an international tournament open to British or Irish born amateurs, won by the Rev G.A. MacDonnell; and a tournament open to amateurs who had been resident in Ireland for at least a year, won by Porterfield Rynd, then referring to himself simply as A. Rynd. On page 113 of the 1913 British Chess Magazine there is quoted a note sent to the Weekly Irish Times by Rynd, looking back on the 1865 Congress and also forward to his imminent defence of the Irish title:

It was in the year 1865, at a Chess Congress held in Dublin, graced by the presence of Herr Lowenthal, Herr Steinitz, Rev G.A. MacDonnell, Mr Bolt of Dawlish, and many of our home talents - such as Rev Dr Salmon, Messrs George Frith, Sam Barry, Edward Cronhelm, Edmund (afterwards Sir Edmund) Bewley, Malcolm (afterwards Sir Malcolm) Inglis, Robert Collins, Richard Sidney, Thomas Long, and Peter Jones - that the Irish championship was first competed for, and it was then won by the present holder [Porterfield Rynd] with the score of 16 out of 17. In the intervening 48 years what changes have occurred! All the distinguished men just mentioned have disappeared. New men have taken their places. All the openings, all the methods of problem construction, all the principles, all the art, in fact, of chess will be found to have undergone evolutionary, if not revolutionary, modification. And yet the winner of that day is expected to be able to make a fight still against the ablest of the moderns in Ireland for the chess championship of the Green Isle.

The Irish Chess Association

Porterfield Rynd returned to the chess scene after a long absence in 1884 but it did not take long for him to become involved in more than just playing chess. He first raised in the public domain the idea of an Irish Chess Association in a letter to T.B.Rowland, then editor of the Irish Sportsman chess column (published in the column of the 17th January 1885):

Chess in Ireland sadly wants development. Hand-in-hand with physical gymnastics this great mental gymnastic should be practised in city, town and province; university, college and school; society, club and institute. Delightful as a pastime and healthy as an exercise. Chess plainly should be practised universally, and yet it is not. There ought to be an Irish Chess Association of Chessists, to which the subscription would be, say 2s 6d or 5s a year, and whose business it would be to look after chess in Ireland, endeavouring to secure facilities for practice all over the land. The association might arrange matches or tournaments in Ireland, and take part in the arrangement of international ones. The association might use its influence to obtain chess columns in various chess newspapers. I send you 5s as a subscription for such an association.

As to chess in Dublin, I know a great many players outside of the clubs, and of course there are a great many others whom I do not know. Now, to bring together as many as possible in Dublin, I propose that, through the medium of your paper, a chess conversazione should be organised for an afternoon or evening of one of the holidays at Eastertide. I enclose you £1 as a subscription for that object. I will also take part in any play that may be arranged to take place simultaneous games or matches. Some results of the conversazione might be (1) the holding of it periodically for the promotion of intercourse between the chess-players of Dublin; (2) the formation of another and more widely popular chess club in Dublin; and perhaps (3) the establishment of a couple of good cafes like Gatti's in London, one north city and the other south city, for the public practice of chess.

In the chess column of the Irish Sportsman two weeks later it was reported that a committee had been formed to receive subscriptions and suggestions. Rynd kept up the momentum by organising a chess party at Byrne's Restaurant, Nassau Street, Dublin on the 28th February, at which upwards of 100 visitors were present. One week later, again at Byrne's Restaurant, a general meeting was held for the purpose of arranging a programme for the chess meeting proposed to be held during Easter. On the 6th April the meeting was duly held resulting in the formation of the Irish Chess Association with its first annual congress being fixed for October 1885 in Dublin. A new Dublin chess club, the St Patrick's was also formed as a result of all this organisational activity. There were three ICA Congresses, but Porterfield Rynd only played in that first Congress of 1885. As a result of not playing in 1886 in Belfast and 1889 in Dublin he lost his Irish title first to Richard Barnett and then to G.D.Soffe.

Diamond Chess

Porterfield Rynd invented a variant of chess called Diamond Chess. The first article about it was in the Irish Sportsman chess column on the 20th February 1886 and subsequent articles appeared in the 1886 British Chess Magazine (page 97) and the 1886 Deutsche Schachzeitung (pages 127-8). The BCM explained the new variant in the following terms:

A new kind of Chess called Diamond Chess has quite recently been suggested by Mr Porterfield Rynd, the first game of which ever played took place on St Valentine's day between himself and the editor of the Irish Sportsman in Dublin. Diamond Chess is played with the ordinary men and board; but the board is placed diagonally between the combatants (a white corner being next to each) and the men are arranged [in this way: White King on h1, Queen on g2, Rooks on g1 and h2, Bishops on f1 and g3, Knights on f2 and h3 and pawns on e1, e2, e3, e4, f3, f4, g4 and h4; Black King on a8, Queen on b7, Rooks on a7 and b8, Bishops on b6 and c8, Knights on a6 and c7 and pawns on a5, b5, c5, c6, d5, d6, d7, and d8]. The pieces move as in ordinary Chess. The pawns, however, move quite differently. They march onward one square at a time towards the hostile camp, keeping (except in taking) on the diagonal lines like Bishops. In taking they diverge in a half forward direction, moving then laterally like Rooks, but always progressing. They "Queen" whenever they reach the edge of the board on either of the opposite sides.

The game mentioned above is given on page 114 of the BCM (it also was given in the original article and in the DSZ):

White: J.A. Porterfield Rynd
Black: Editor of the Irish Sportsman
Date: Dublin 14/2/1886

1.e2-d3 b5-c4 2.Bf1-e2 d7-e6 3.e3-d4 c4xd4 4.e4xd4 Bc8-d7 5.f3-e4 a5-b4 6.Be2-f3 d8-e7 7.e1-d2 Rb8-g8 8.Rg1-c1 e7-f6 9.d2-c3 e6-f5 10.d3-c4 b4xc4 11.c3xc4 d5xd4 12.e4xd4 f5xf4 13.Nh3xf4 Nc7-b5 14.Nf2-e4 Rg8-f8 15.c4xc5 Bb6xc5 16.Ne4xc5 Na6xc5 17.Qg2-g1 Nc5-b3 18.d4-c5 Nb3xc1 19.Qg1xc1 Nb5-d4 20.Rh2-b2 Nd4-b3 21.Qc1-b1 Ra7-a3 22.Nf4-d3 f6-g5 23.g4-f5 Rf8xf5 24.Bf3-g2 Qb7-a6 25.Nd3-b4 Qa6-a4 26.Nb4-c2 Qa4-g4 27.Nc2xa3 Qg4xg3 28.Rb2xb3 Qg3xh4+ 29.Bg2-h3 Qh4-h8 30.Na3-c4 Rf5-f1+ 31.Qb1xf1 g5-h4Q 32.Nc4-b6+ Ka8-b7 33.Nb6-d5+ Kb7-c8 34.Qf1-a6+ Kc8-d8 35.Rb3-b8+ Bd7-c8 36.Rb8xc8 checkmate.

Nottingham 1886

The one major international tournament that Porterfield Rynd played in was the Counties Chess Association Congress, Nottingham, August 1886. The highlights presumably were a very hard-fought game in the first round against the eventual tournament winner, Amos Burn, in which Rynd had winning chances; and a draw, in which he had the better of the game and could perhaps have played on in the final position, with Isidor Gunsberg. In the cross-table below, to show the strength of the tournament, the players' best 5 year average Ratings are given (taken from The Rating of Chessplayers, Past and Present by Arpad E.Elo, Batsford 1978).

Counties Chess Association Congress, Nottingham, August 3-10, 1886
A. Burn 2530 11½½111118
E. Schallop 24500 111101117
I. Gunsberg 256000 ½11111½6
J.H. Zukertort2600½0½ 0111116
H.E. Bird 2440½001 11½½1
J. Taubenhaus 248000000 11114
W.H.K. Pollock2400010000 0113
J.N. Hanham 23600000½01 0½2
E. Thorold 0000½001 ½2
J.A.P. Rynd 00½0000½½

Ability as a Blindfold Player

Porterfield Rynd regularly gave simultaneous exhibitions and these included blindfold play. This account of one such exhibition appeared in the International Chess Magazine, March 1887, at pages 69-70:

On the 22nd December [1886] Mr Porterfield Rynd gave a blindfold performance at the City [of London] Club which was very successful. Mr Rynd has long been known in the "Green Island" as an accomplished player sans voir but this was his first appearance to a London audience in that capacity and consequently a large gathering of spectators assembled to witness the performance. Now be it well understood, Mr Rynd does not in the least pose as a rival to Mr Blackburne or Mr Zukertort in blindfold play. He is simply an amateur who can play a few games without sight of board or men; but this being said I can safely state that his blindfold play is very good indeed. On this occasion he was opposed by 6 members of the fourth class who were selected from the strong team which had lately carried havoc into the ranks of the Oxford University Club. Now to meet six of this redoubtable band would have been no mean task for any player even with men and board before him, in fact a greater task than meeting a team where the two top men were good thirds or even seconds, but where the bottom men fell off very much, for the six here were so close in strength that they may be said to have fought literally shoulder to shoulder which certainly is much against the single player's chances. This being so the more credit to Mr Rynd who met them without sight of board or men and who certainly came out of the struggle with honour. Mr Rynd's play was very fast as well as being generally accurate and sound. The first nine rounds were played at the rate of 36 moves an hour. By this the positions on nearly every board had become more or less complicated (generally more, for these Knight players are "dawny" birds and it takes a huge pinch of salt to cover their tails) and the blindfold player was compelled to slow down to 20 moves an hour for the next nine rounds. But now Mr Rynd had resolved most of the complications and he therefore "forced the running" and played the 19th, 20th and 21strounds at the rate of 40 moves an hour and so brought the end in view. On the 23rd round Mr W. Gurner struck his flag and his example was followed on the next round by the Rev Mr Sumner. On the 25th round Messrs Ridpath, Coldwell and E. Bailey each offered a draw which the single player accepted, at the same time resigning his game with Mr H. Bailey. The score at the finish therefore stood, Rynd won 2, drew 3, lost 1. Mr Gastineau (Vice President) proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Rynd for his performance and this was carried amidst loud cheers.

The Armstrong Cup

The Armstrong Cup is the oldest Irish team league competition and Porterfield Rynd was involved in the first ever Armstrong Cup in 1888 when he beat G.D.Soffe on top board for the City CC against the Phoenix. The trophy had been presented by W. Armstrong BL to be competed for annually by teams selected from Dublin chess clubs. The Dublin Evening Mail for 25/10/1888 reported that the match was played "last Saturday evening at the Chess Divan, 79 Grafton Street, Dublin, and was witnessed by a large number of interested spectators. At the last moment it was found that the City Chess Club could not have the services of its strongest combatants - Messrs D. Middleton, jnr and F. Woodham - and to Mr P. Rynd and Mr Prentice, both also members of the Phoenix, the duty fell of filling the vacant places. On the other hand, some strong members of the Phoenix were likewise compelled to find substitutes." Despite Rynd's victory in this game the City CC lost by 2½ to 3½.

Temporary Retirement

Rynd announced his retirement from the game on health grounds in early 1889. This tribute appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail chess column for 21st February 1889.

With regret we learn that Mr Porterfield Rynd, whose suburban residence is in Clontarf, has given up chess. In 1865, as a raw recruit of the previous year, he surprised the veteran chessists of the day by taking first place in the Irish tournament at the Dublin Congress, and with almost a clean score 17 [sic] to 1. Professional work some time later absorbed him from the chess world, and it was not till 1884, after a retirement of many years, that he was "called back" by an appeal of Mrs T.B. Rowland (then Miss F.F. Beechey) for funds to erect a tablet to the late Cecil de Vere a chess genius too early eclipsed, whose acquaintance he had made in London. The mere fact of a lady of Mrs Rowland's accomplishments, being engaged in good work in Ireland, and of thus having an opportunity of showing his regard for the "great departed" by subscribing to the tablet, brought Mr Rynd once more into touch with chess. He did not merely re-enter the arena as a competitor, he lent all his talents to the promotion of the game. And, although his before-tried prowess enabled him easily to gain in contests such distinctions as: 1st prize in the Handicap Tournament Dublin Congress 1885; 2nd prize Even Tournament Dublin Congress 1885; 1st prize Morphy's Divan Tournament 1888; 1st prize Dawson Street Tournament 1888; yet it was even more by the assistance he gave to the development of chess that he is to be remembered. His time was always too fully occupied to permit of much real practice or match play. He did, however, last year find time to play out a little match with Mr Amos Burn, the renowned English champion, and won it by three to one; and he also found time to play five games of a match with Mr James Mason, winning two to two, and a draw. We believe that, in practically abandoning his favourite pastime, he is simply, though reluctantly, yielding to the admonitions of his doctors and friends in order that his leisure time may be devoted to something less sedentary than chess. Mars in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News wrote in 1885:- Mr Porterfield Rynd, of Dublin, who is likely to win the second prize in the principal tourney of the Irish Chess Association is a player possessed of fine genius for chess. He is deep in combination, elegant in construction, and brilliant in imagination. If he were to devote more time to the practice of the game, and had the opportunity of contending with the masters, he would quickly win a high rank amongst our strongest amateurs. Mr Rynd, however, I am happy to say, is a sensible, practical man who devotes much of his time to his profession, and has proved himself second to none of the junior members of the Irish bar. Furthermore, Mr Rynd is renowned as an athlete, an oarsman, an accomplished pianist, and popular composer of original melodies. His many friends, we know, will join with us in wishing him a full restoration to good health, and a speedy return to the Irish chess world for which he has done so much.

Rynd therefore did not compete in the March 1889 Irish Chess Association Congress in Dublin, but his retirement turned out to be neither permanent nor lengthy. On his return he won first prizes in the Championship Section of the Hibernian Chess Association Congress in Dublin 1892 (thus regaining the Irish Championship title) and the first Congress at Craigside Hydo Llandudno 1893 (with a score of 8 out of 8.)

He retained the Irish title until 1913 when he agreed to put the title at the disposal of the Irish Chess Union. He faced a challenge from John O'Hanlon and, as the Belfast News-Letter put it, "though long out of practice, made no difficulty about arranging a match, as a result of which the title passed to the younger man".


The Irish Times of Monday 19th March 1917 carried this obituary to Rynd, who had died two days earlier:

His many friends in both branches of the legal profession, and many outside the ranks of that profession, will read with feelings of deep regret the announcement of the death of Mr J.A. Porterfield Rynd, barrister-at-law, which occurred on Saturday morning in a nursing home in Dublin. Mr Rynd was a son of the late Mr James G. Rynd, a solicitor in good practice for a considerable period at Inns Quay, Dublin. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1874, and appeared as junior in a number of important cases. The last case of more than ordinary local interest in which he held a brief was the Coleman divorce suit, his appearance in that case being on the side of the petitioner. Mr Rynd excelled in different branches of sport - lawn tennis, racquets, boating, swimming and billiards, and for more than forty years he was the amateur champion Irish chess player. He was called to the English Bar in May of last year. In recent years much of his time was spent in England, where his services were devoted to promoting the Unionist cause.

Created 2000-06-01 ◦ Last updated 2014-07-23 ◦ Editor MO

New Search
© 2004-2023 Irish Chess Union ● Contact UsPrivacy Policy