Sam Loyd


United States – Inducted 1987

Dubbed “The Puzzle King,” Sam Loyd was already a brilliant and prolific puzzle-writer and chess composer by age 16. He attained a fair amount of success as a player; at his peak, he was one of the best in the United States and among the top 20 players in the world. His use of fantastic combinations prevented him from rising higher but would serve him well in his true calling, that of a chess composer and “puzzler.” In a career of barely four years, he raised the composition of chess problems to a complex art. His best-known problems include Excelsior and the Steinetz Gambit. Loyd’s reputation spread worldwide in 1857, when he became problem editor of Fiske’s Chess Monthly. His strikingly original themes and staggering output attracted broad readership.

His serious chess composing ended when he was hired by P.T. Barnum to create diverting puzzles of other types, including the Three Donkeys problem, Back from the Klondike, and hundreds of Tangram designs. He produced numerous puzzle books, but his avid interest in chess remained: in 1877 and 1878, he wrote a weekly chess column for the Scientific American Supplement, which would form the basis for his 1878 book Chess Strategy. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1987.