Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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EVANS , WILLIAM DAVIES ( 1790 - 1872 ), inventor of a chess gambit ;

eldest son of John Evans , of the parish of St. Dogmaels and Mary Davis of the parish of Nevern , who, according to the parish records of Nevern , were married on 12 April 1787 . They started life at the farm of Musland , St. Dogmael's . William Davies Evans was born on 27 January 1790 .

It is almost certain that young Evans was educated at Haverfordwest Grammar School . Unfortunately the school records have been destroyed. In 1804 he went to sea and served in the navy until the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815 . Transferred to the postal department , in 1819 , he was the captain of a sailing packet , the Auckland , running between Milford Haven and Waterford . During this period he played a great deal of chess with a distinguished chess-player , Lieut. Harry Wilson , R.N. It was about 1824 , in a steam postal packet, that he invented a game opening that is known the world over and in all the game's literature as ‘The Evans Gambit’ .

About 1826 Evans created a sensation in the chess world by introducing his opening in a famous game in London when he defeated Alexander McDonnell , the strongest player that Ireland ever produced.

In January 1840 Evans retired on a pension and spent his time at London chess clubs and travelling abroad. He died on 3 August 1872 at 29, Rue Christine , Ostend , Belgium , and is buried in the old cemetery in the town. The inscription on his gravestone reads: ‘To the sacred memory of William Davies Evans , formerly Commander in the Post Office and Oriental Steam Services ; Superintendent in the Royal Mail Steam Company , and inventor of the system of tri-coloured light for shipping . Also well known in the chess world as the author of the Evans’ Gambit .’

Unfortunately, his age is wrongly given as ‘eighty years and six months’.


  • Personal research and researches of W. R. Thomas , British Chess Magazine , 1928 .


David James Morgan (1894-1978), Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001