William Davies Evans

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William Evans

Captain William Davies Evans (27 January 1790 – 3 August 1872) was a seafarer and inventor, though he is best known today as a chess player. He is buried at the Belgian port of Ostend.

Early life[edit]

Evans was born at St Dogwells, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is almost certain that young Evans went to Haverfordwest Grammar School, the only school of any antiquity in Pembrokeshire. About the beginning of the century the family moved to Castle Pill, the name of an inlet of Milford Haven on the north side, just east of Milford town. By 1818, he had learned the moves of chess.

Early career[edit]

Evans Gambit
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
c5 black bishop
e5 black pawn
b4 white pawn
c4 white bishop
e4 white pawn
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
h1 white rook
Moves1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4

Evans served at sea in the navy from 1804, when he was 14, until the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815.

He was then transferred to the postal department. By 1819, he had reached the title of Captain of the sailing packet.

Around 1825–1826, on shore leave in London, Evans played Alexander McDonnell, beating the latter with what is now regarded in chess circles as the first Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4).[1] According to GM Andrew Soltis, Evans was "the first player to be widely honored for an opening we know he played".[2]


Evans is known for inventing tri-coloured lighting on naval vessels designed to prevent collisions at night. For this invention he was awarded £1500 by the British government and a gold chronometer and £200 from the Tsar of Russia.[3]



  1. ^ Tim Harding, ‘Evans, William Davies (1790–1872)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2012
  2. ^ Soltis, Andy (February 2022). "Chess to Enjoy". Chess Life: 10.
  3. ^ The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines and Peredur Lynch (2008) p. 274. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6, OCLC 1023231768

External links[edit]