Robert D Yates (1857 - 1885)
by Roberto Waldteufel
Robert D Yates was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1857. His checkers
playing career, while tragically short, was spectacular. In 1873 at
age 15 he met the World champion James Wyllie
who was beginning his first tour of America, and impressed the "Herd Laddie" sufficiently that
a 50 game match for the World title was arranged when Wyllie again
passed through New York 3 years later in 1876 on the return leg of his tour. Everything hinged on the
last game, the score being 1 win each and 47 draws after the 49th game was concluded. It is one
of the most famous games in the history of draughts. Yates got into trouble, Wyllie missed a
forced win, then Yates turned the tables and won the game, thereby winning the match by the
score of 2 wins to 1, and so becoming World Champion at the age of 18. The following year 1877
he successfully defended the title in a 50 game match with Robert Martins,
and also defeated American champion WR Barker in a short match of 10 games.
Although there were negotiations for a return match with Wyllie,
Yates relinquished the title in 1878 in order to pursue his studies in medicine, which he duely
did, qualifying as a physician in 1883. After two years working at the Flatbush Hospital in New
York he accepted a post as ship's physician on the steamship Scheidam, but on his first voyage
in 1885 he died of typhus fever, probably contracted while he was working at the hospital.
He was buried at sea.