Campbell, Joseph Graham (1830–91), chess player, also known as ‘J. G. C.’, and called ‘James G. Campbell’ by G. A. Macdonnell, who knew him, was born in May 1830 either in Belfast or in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, and moved to London during childhood.
Honing his skills in the Chess and Coffee Rooms of Josef Kling (1811–76) in New Oxford St., London, he became one of London's strongest players from the 1850s to 1862. He played against such eminent players as Daniel Harrwitz (1823–84), E. K. Falkbeer (1819–85), and K. E. A. Anderssen (1818–79). One of his most remarkable matches was against T. W. Barnes (1825–74) in 1861, when Barnes, having won six games to one, was defeated by Campbell, who equalised the score and then won the match with the seventh game, an achievement unequalled by any player; in the face of this triumph an observer noted his ‘modest demeanour’ (Macdonnell, 65).
He won first prize in the problem tourney run in connection with the London international tournament (1862) at the British Chess Association, but when faults were found with one of his compositions, his prize was downgraded to second place; again faults were discerned and he was struck off the prize list. Campbell refused to return the prize money and withdrew from the chess world. A distinguished problemist of depth and great originality, he devised the ‘Campbell variation’, published in Chess World (1865), a reply (also known as the ‘Brentano defence’ or ‘Morphy variation’) to the ‘Kieseritzky gambit’. He was a regular contributor of problems to the Illustrated London News and other chess columns.
Reentering the world of chess in the 1880s, he was a member of the City of London Chess Club, and a committee member of the British Chess Club. Nothing is known of his family life. A genial companion, gentle, courteous, and extremely modest – in later life, he never mentioned his earlier achievements – he died suddenly 2 January 1891 in London from an attack of pleurisy.