Serious devotees of chess knew the name of Crewe in another capacity—as the name of a man who might have aspired to great deeds if he had but taken the game as his life’s career. He had flashed across the chess horizon some years previously as a player of surpassing brilliance by defeating Turgieff, when the great Russian master had visited London and had played twelve simultaneous boards at the London Chess Club. Crewe was the only player of the twelve to win his game, and he did so by a masterly concealed ending in which he handled his pawns with consummate skill, proffering the sacrifice of a bishop with such art that Turgieff fell into the trap, and was mated in five subsequent moves. Crewe proved this was not merely a lucky win by defeating the young South American champion, Caranda, shortly afterwards, when the latter visited England and played a series of exhibition games in London on his way to Moscow, where he was engaged in the championship tourney. Once again it was masterly pawn play which brought Crewe a fine victory, and aged chess enthusiasts who followed every move of the game with trembling excitement, declared afterwards that Crewe’s conception of this particular game had not been equalled since Morphy died.
They predicted a dazzling chess career for Crewe, but he disappointed their aged hearts by retiring suddenly from match chess, and they mourned him as one unworthy of his great chess gifts and the high hopes they had placed in him. But, as a matter of fact, Crewe’s intellect was too vigorous and active to be satisfied with the triumphs of chess, and his disappearance from the chess world was contemporary with his entrance into detective work, which appealed to his imagination and found scope for his restless mental activity. But if detective work so absorbed him that he gave up match chess entirely, he still retained an interest in the science of chess, reserving problem play for his spare moments, and, when not immersed in the solution of a problem of human mystery, he would turn to the chessboard and seek solace and relaxation in the mysteries of an intricate “four-mover.”
He had once said that there was a certain affinity between solving chess problems and the detection of crime mystery: once the key-move was found, the rest was comparatively easy. But he added with a sigh that a really perfect crime mystery was as rare as a perfect chess problem: human ingenuity was not sufficiently skilful, as a rule, to commit a crime or construct a chess problem with completely artistic concealment of the key-move, and for that reason most problems and crimes were far too easy of detection to absorb one’s intellectual interests and attention.