The German Mail Steamer Seydlitz arrived in Melbourne from Antwerp on 30 May 1910.
Aboard was 39-year-old tobacconist and champion draughts player of England, Alfred Jordan.
Alfred Jordan’s visit to Melbourne was the beginning of a long professional tour in Australia and New Zealand where he would visit and play individual matches as well as provide exhibitions of simultaneous matches of draughts in a number of cities and towns. In Victoria these include Melbourne and suburban locations, Ballarat, Leongatha, Korumburra, Birregurra, Cobden, Noorat, Warrnambool, Charlton, and Bendigo. At the Federal Parliament House in Melbourne he was entertained by Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, and at other locales he was met by Mayors, Shire Presidents and others, besides his hosts as well as draughts players and fans.
Numerous newspaper articles were published concerning the man himself, his visit, achievements and the games he played against local contenders. Several examples of these are reproduced on this page, including:
THE DRAUGHTS CHAMPION.
EXHIBITION OF PLAY.
Melbourne draught players are just now deeply interested in the exposition of the latest forms of play by Mr. Alfred Jordan, who holds the draughts championship of England for the fourth time. Under the auspices of the Victorian “Draughts Association Mr. Jordan gave an evening’s play at the Temperance Hall on Saturday, and any budding champion could try conclusions with him at the rate of 1/ a game. To throw a little sporting clement into the proceedings anyone who could win a game against the champion was offered 10/. It is evident, therefore, that the game of draughts possesses no more of the gambling clement of poker or bridge than it does the intellectuality of chess. Two long tables were arranged, the players sitting on the outside of each, while Mr. Jordan walked up and down the inner side, making his moves in turn.
In the course of two hours the champion played 28 games. At the beginning of the play twenty games were proceeding at once, but some of the competitors soon dropped out, and the vacant places at the tables were filled by others. In addition to the twenty players who started there were about 40 spectators. The occasion was regarded as a solemn one. Onlookers spoke in whispers, while the players looked as serious as if the fate of the nation depended upon their moves. The champion started at the top end, made his move, and passed thus from board to board, giving each opponent time to think of his next move while the nineteen other players were being attended to. At the commencement the champion only required two or three seconds for his move. Most of the players, grey beards though they were, looked most self-conscious as the champion stepped before them. Among the players was one youth who began with great confidence, but who had not made many moves when he found his men being taken by fours at a time and he gave up. As the evening progressed some of the games became interesting, and instead of a quick glance and a move the champion would stand for several minutes in front of one board. This was a great honor to the opposing player. For over two hours the players sat moving their men, most of them with the strained expression of persons making great mental calculations; but there was one exception — a Hindu gentleman, who sat with Oriental impassivity, his eyes fixed upon the board. His game lasted the whole evening, and ended in a draw.
Those who met Mr. Jordan included the champion of Victoria, Mr. H. Egan. and the ex-champion of Victoria, Mr. F. T. Best. In no case was Mr. Jordan beaten. He won fifteen games, while thirteen games were drawn. Those who secured draws were Messrs. W. H. Dew, J. Hornby, J. P. Bell, A. H. Shaw, W. Houston, W. H. Tew, J. B. Chalmers, G. Richards, W. Whitfield, J. Boyles, F. T. Best, H. Egan and J. Piper.
The Age, Monday 6 June 1910, page 10
From Melbourne he departed by the ss Moeraki for New Zealand on 13 July. There, draughts matches and exhibitions were played in numerous locations throughout both the South and North Islands, including Dunedin, Mosgiel, Balclutha, Romahapa, Clinton, Riversdale, Gore, Tuturau, Mataura Island, Wyndham, Invercargill, Woodlands, Highcliff, Palmerston, Leith Valley, Waikouaiti, Oamaru, Geraldine, Ashburton, Christchurch, Lyttelton, Wellington, Wanganui, New Plymouth, Huntly and Auckland.
His final round matches in Auckland were played at the Working Men’s Club on the evening of Saturday 1 October 1910.
At the completion of his tour he boarded the ss Wimmera in Auckland as a steerage passenger for Sydney where the ship arrived on Friday 7 October 1910. His arrival there was reported in the press:
Following his arrival in Sydney matches were again played in that city, at Glebe, Rozelle and Newcastle.
He took his departure from Sydney for a return visit to Melbourne in late October where further matches and exhibitions took place. It was also an opportune time for Jordan to take a break and enjoy a visit to the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday 1 November.
A “complimentary farewell smoke concert” was held in honour of the draughts champion at the Warehouseman’s Club, Flinders Lane on Saturday 12 November prior to his last exhibition matches on the following Monday. He departed Melbourne aboard the Bremen for Sydney on 16 November.
Further matches were played in the Sydney area including at Bowral. A dinner was held for the Englishman at the Grand Hotel, Bowral on Saturday 19 November, on this occasion presided by the town’s Mayor, Alderman J. Stokes.
Leaving Sydney aboard the Levuka Jordan arrived in Brisbane on 1 December. Here he was met by local draughts champions and players, introduced to the Lord Mayor and had a number of rounds of matches and exhibitions, primarily at the Carlton Club Hotel on Queen Street. Further games were also played in Ipswich.
Alfred Jordan’s tour of Australasia and final matches came to an end on Monday 20 December 1910. The following evening he departed Brisbane aboard the ss Makura bound for Vancouver from where he would begin his tour of North America.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021