Richard Jordan (1872-1911)
by Norrie Reid


Richard Jordan The greatest draughts player of all time was probably Richard Jordan who was born in Edinburgh on the 4th of November 1872. Like Ferrie, Jordan came from an Irish family recently domiciled in Scotland. His study of the game began when he was 15, and within three years he won the championship of his native city. He was challenged by Mr P Scott in 1889, with the result Jordan 4, Scott 0 and one draw. In the Wyllie handicap medal competition, one open to all players who had played Mr Wyllie, Jordan defeated W Porte, an internationalist, by 2-0-4. His abilities were recognised by Mr J Whyte, the then enegetic secretary of the Edinburgh Draughts Club, who arranged a match of twenty games and 20 with James Wyllie, the "Herd Laddie". Richard surprised the World, but not Mr Whyte, by defeating the old master 2-1-17. This took place in Edinburgh during May of 1892. His next match was against Mr Robert Fraser, champion of Dundee, again for 20; played at Dundee in November 1892, Jordan won 6-2-9 (wins-losses-draws).

At the first Scottish Championship Tournament of 1893 he suffered the only setback of his playing career when he was eliminated in the second round by Robert Stewart by 1-2-9. This stung Richard into an immediate challenge to Stewart. This lead to a match for 50 in the Cooperative Hall, Dunfermline, during 1893, Jordan winning easily 4-0-13. The same year he played JC Brown the "Border Champion" in a match for 50, best of thirty games. This he won brilliantly 7-2-17.

Richard won the Scottish Tournament of 1896, the second and last time he entered, norrowly defeating the then World Champion, James Ferrie; so a match between the two was arranged. From this Jordan emerged with the title by 4-3-33. The photograph on the left is taken from this match and shows Jordan seated on the left. He successfully defended the title against Robert Stewart, Charles Barker of America, and Harry Freedman of Glasgow before retiring from the World Championship matches in 1903. This did not however mark the end of his career, for in 1905 he played against the USA, achieving the outstanding score of 13-0-27 better than any of the other competitors. The match was won by the British team, 74-34-283, and this magnificent result was mainly due to the Scottish group of six out of the ten players: R Jordan (Edinburgh), J Searight (Glasgow), R Stewart (Kelty), G Buchanan (Glasgow), J Ferrie (Glasgow) and A Hynd (born in Dunfermline Scotland and a relation of Robert Stewart, although an emigre to England).

Jordan was a slightly built, dark eyed and dark haired man. He was swift, intuitive and aggressive in his movements. He was also a fine chess player and often represented Edinburgh. This chess playing ability is common among draughts players; James Ferrie was also a first rate player - he represented Glasgow against Edinburgh! Other notable chess/draughts players included AB Scott from Govan, Glasgow and the Americans Harry Pilsbury and Newell Banks. After retiring from match play Richard Jordan toured the World, like James Wyllie before him, where in exhibition play he showed himself to be at the peak of his powers.

During April and May of 1911 we find him touring the North of England giving simultaneous displays as follows:-

29th April at Dinnington (52-1-11)
29th April at Shields (40-0-8)
3rd May at the Pillars Cafe in Newcastle (26-0-11)
6th May at Stanley (83-2-14)
6th May at Throckley (41-0-4)
9th May at the Black Bull Hotel in Wallsend (58-0-11)
9th May at the Pillars Cafe in Newcastle (24-0-6)
9th May at Stanley (23-1-8)
13th May at Mickley (53-1-10)
13th May at the King Edward Hotel in Newcastle (28-0-12)
13th May at the Working Men's Club in Newcastle (16-1-9)
20th May at Shields (28-3-6)

Total score: 472-10-110

The rest of May saw lesser engagements at Birtley, Newcastle and Sunderland. In June he would be in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Morley.

It was a tragedy that while still young and a wonderful player he was accidentally struck by a tram-car near his home in Edinburgh. Seemingly not seriously injured, he was released from the Infirmary but suffered a relapse shortly after and died after an operation in September 1911. After a funeral service at his home at 33 Buccleuch Street, he was buried at the New Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh. His family having been left destitute, there is no headstone, but his grave can be found in the bottom corner, immediately behind the stone marked Mrs C Finniegan, by the hedge on the wall.