Theophilus Thompson (1855-1903) was an African-American chess player who is recognized as the first known African-American chess master. He was born in Frederick, Maryland, in the United States. Thompson learned to play chess while working as a janitor at the Columbia Institute in Washington, D.C. He quickly developed his skills and gained recognition for his talent. In 1873, he won the championship of the Columbia Chess Club, establishing himself as a formidable player in the local chess community.
In 1874, Thompson published a book titled “Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate,” becoming the first African-American to author a chess book. The book featured a collection of chess problems and puzzles for enthusiasts to solve. Thompson’s chess career was relatively short-lived, as he faced financial difficulties and health issues later in his life. He passed away in 1903 at the age of 48.
Although his chess career was limited, Theophilus Thompson holds a significant place in chess history as a trailblazer for African-American players. His accomplishments as the first known African-American chess master and his contribution to chess literature have been recognized and celebrated within the chess community.