According to Chessbase Sam Loyd was at one time the 15th best chessplayer in the world. Not bad going for someone who as far as I can tell played in one tourney (Paris 1867 – he finished 10th out of 13 with a score of +6 =1 -17) and played one match (in 1879 against Eugene Delmar, scoring +1 =2 -5). Chessbase appear to have obtained their information from Loyd’s entry on that well known monument to accuracy Wikipedia, where the ranking is attributed to chessmetrics. If this is true I’d say that chessmetrics is an example of the stuff that makes splendid fertilizer. (I hope the phrase does not offend the sensitive soul who complained about my use of the word “nonsense” in a previous post).
Incidentally the Wikipedia entry says that on its first publication in 1861 Loyd’s Excelsior had the stipulation that white mates with “the least likely piece or pawn”. I examined Lowenthal’s column in the Era years ago and recall it being presented as a straight “Mate in 5”.
A.C.White writes (in his delightful book on Loyd) that Loyd composed that five-mover to challenge one of his Problemist friends (Dennis Julien) who used to claim that he can always spot in any problem the piece which will deliver mate. Loyd showed him this problem and asked to him to name the piece that will NOT give mate in this. Dennis promptly selected the highly improbable WPB2! The problem was therefore indeed presented even at first as a 5-mover only.