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A. D. Petroff

  • batgirl
  • | Aug 14, 2013
  • | 3274 views
  • | 10 comments

     Ivan Alexandrovich Butrimov, who was born in St. Petersburg March 7, 1782, produced Russia's first chess book, "Chess Play,"  in 1821.
                                                      Below is the title page-


     Interesting enough is that the book employed algebraic notation very much like we use today.  The frontispiece shows the board and below that is a page from the book showing the notation itself:


     According to Butrimov, "chess is not merely a pleasant pastime, it also promotes, as mathematics does,  the habit of logical thought."  In that, he sounds like Ben Franklin. 

     Butrimov, who died on Jan. 31, 1851, was married to the sister of one D.O. Baranov, a fellow senator at St. Petersburg. While I haven't been able to ascertain whether this D.O. Baranov is also the Russian poet of the same name who lived during that same time,  we do know Baranov was acquainted with Alexander Pushkin.  Baranov was one of the strongest chess players in St. Petersburg at that time. Another fellow senator was Ivan Alekseyevich Sokolov, whose grandson, Alexander Dmitrievich Petroff (Petrov),  would grow into the greatest Russian player until Tschigorin.

     Petroff learned chess from his father at age 4.  By age 7, he could play against his grandfather at Rook-odds but soon they were playing even. When Petroff was 10, his family moved from the Tver Oblast to St. Petersburg where there was a large English social club involved in chess of which Baranov  was not just a member, but the best chess player.  When Petroff was 15, he beat Baranov in a short match, +4-1 [this match is unsubstantiated]. Petroff also played a match with another leading St. Petersburg player,  A. D. Kopev or Kopyev. (Alexander Danilovichem Kopev is a name given by one source - however, there was a writer named Aleksei Danilovich Kopyev living at that time in Nikolskoye, about 25 miles south of St. Petersburg, who was active in St. Petersburg society. His name fits into the literary circles associated with Petroff)  and beat him  +4-2=1. 

     In 1924 Petroff published his chess manual, "The Game of Chess Systemized with the Addition of Philidor's Games with Accompanying Notes."  Below is the title page to his book-

 


    The notation in Petroff's book was also algebraic:

 

     However, his graphics left something to be desired:

     Petroff was not only the greatest Russian player of his time, he was also a highly considered analyst and problemist.  His followers consisted of such highly regarded players as Carl Jaenisch, the Princely brothers Urusoff, and Ilya Schumoff.  Petroff moved to Warsaw around 1840. Between 1850 and 1859, Petroff visited Vienna and Paris.  He returned to Paris in 1863 where he met with Paul Morphy on at least three occassions. Though they aren't recorded as having played any chess, it was no fault of Petroff who had on many occassions expressed intense desire to test himself againt the American master.

     In 1859 Prince Sergie Urusof wrote to Morphy trying to persuade him to visit Russia and to play Petroff.  Morphy, of course, couldn't accomodate him, but Petroff created a chess problem with White pieces arranged in the shape of "M" in Morphy's honor and sent time to the "Chess Monthly."  It was published in the July 1858 issue.

 


Petroff died in Warsaw on April 22, 1867.

    Below are two articles written about the "Northern Philidor."

 

"The Chess Player's Magazine"
August 1, 1867
edited by Johann Lowenthal

PETROFF.

     The great Russian master, whose superiority over all other Chess players in the Northern Empire was asserted with unhesitating unanimity by his countrymen, has lately died, much to the regret of the Chess community throughout the world. It is true that he did not enter into international contests, but his reputation in Russia was so high, and the pupils of the school which looked up to him as its legitimate head were so able and accomplished, that Europe was content to allow that Petroff must have been a Chess player of the first order. The Princes Ouroussoff, of whom, for the interests of Chess, we wish that we could hear again, Janisch and Schumoff were disciples of whom any master might justly be proud. But we had also evidence in our hands enough to convince the most prejudiced opponent of the general opinion that Petroff was really first-rate. His magnificent problems, of an entirely original character, contributed to the early volumes of England's fiist Chess Magazine, his able articles in the Schachzeitung, the invention which he displayed in the development of theoretical knowledge, spoke strongly in his favour. Few, unhappily, are the games of his played over the board which have been preserved, but those few, with exceptional instances, attest the hand of a perfect artist.

     If he did not travel out of his country to encounter foreign players—and from this he was debarred by his official duties—he was ready to do anything in his power towards the improvement of his native school. When in 1854 the Chess Club of St. Petersburg was formed under the happiest auspices, Petroff left Warsaw on purpose to attend the meeting, and we can well imagine the pleasure with wh.ch Prince Sergius Ouroussoff, whom similar enthusiasm had drawn from Moscow, would greet the veteran. The 1st of June, so glorious in the annals of the British navy, was the brightest day in the history of Russian Chess. Alas that war should to a great extent have dispersed that band of fine players who had already begun to influence the Chess play of Europe!

     The countrymen of Petroff almost idolised him; he was coupled with Marshal Paskiewitch as one of the first two honorary members of the St. Petersburg Chess Club. That old Marshal was also a Chess enthusiast, though we have never heard that he attained the skill of a Suxe. Petroffmust indeed have considered it an honour to have his name mentioned in connection with the greatest Russian commander of his time. We wish that we were in a position to give a sketch of Petroff's career in his own country, but we are unaale to do so. One fact may, however, be mentioned; although officially dependent on the Government of Warsaw, he does not seem to have aroused any personal hatred; for, when he fell into the hands of the Polish insurgents, naturally embittered as they were in the late abortive attempt at insurrection, he was dismissed unharmed. We may conclude, therefore, that he was of gentle demeanour, and not unpopular even amongst the Poles. But it is with Petroff as a Chess player that we have especially to deal. As the best souvenir to his memory we reprint two games played by him against the Princes Ouroussoff. It is, indeed, not without some feelings of a painful nature that we place the three names together. We continue to hear of Janisch and Schumoff, but where now is the veteran teacher, where the pair of gallant young cavaliers who promised to raise the Chess play of the Russian Empire to a higher pinnacle of fame than it has ever yet attained ?

 

     Petroff had a running series of 200 games against his friend, F. Alexander Hoffmann, a teacher.  Petroff's Immortal, also against Hoffmann, was played in Warsaw in 1844:

m


"The Chess-Monthly" 1880

edited by L. Hoffer and J.H. Zukertort

RECOLLECTIONS OF PETROFF.
By D. M. Salter.

     On a blazing afternoon in the summer of 1863 the inhabitants of Dieppe were flocking to the port to assist at the blessing of the fishing boats and nets by the bishop of the diocese. But attracted by the elegance and tastefulness of a charming caff, we entered there instead of attending the ceremonial, and found it temporarily deserted by all save two occupants. One of them was, as we learned afterwards, the daughter of the house left in charge. She was a maiden of some eighteen summers, remarkable for strangeness of appearance. She was rather tall, and had abundant black hair brushed clean off from her forehead and hanging down her supple back in an enormous plaited tail, so long that it all but reached her pretty feet and ankles. Her face was oval, delicately chiseled, her eyes were almond-shaped, lustrous, and dark, her nose was well cut and rather long, her mouth and teeth were perfect, and the complexion was a clear olive. Altogether she was such a vision, as one rarely sees and never forgets. While she was arranging on a tray tho coffee in its white cup with the inseparable small glass of brandy and the five lumps of sugar in a little dish, we observed some Chess apparatus on a shelf, and on our asking, if there were any tolerable players in Dieppe, she replied, "S'il y en a, mais oui, mon Dieu, il y en a Un et il est d'unc telle force que personne ne pourrait lutter contre lui. Il t'ecrasera comme une puce," sharply snapping between a delicious finger and thumb an imaginary insect, and then waving her tawny hand dramatically in the direction of the third occupant of the cafe", she exclaimed, "Le voila." In an undertone we then arranged that she should go as our ambassadress to say that a member of a London Chess Club requested the honour of playing a game of Chess with him.

     While she is gone on her mission let us take the opportunity of saying who and what "he" was.

     Our reader has already guessed that it was Petroff. He was rather a tall man, with a broad and well-developed forehead, large grey eyes and well-shaped features. His head was snowy in the early winter of his age, and goodness and sagacity dwelt on his face, so that though at the time we did not know bis name, it was easy to perceive that he was somehow a man of mark. Let us present you with a brief biography of him.

     The Right Honourable Alexander Petroff was born at St. Petersburg while the Reign of Terror was raging in Paris. His maternal grandfather, who was a Senator, placed him, when a youth, in the Russian Civil Service, where he rose rapidly in grade. In 1841, at the request of the Viceroy of Poland, Petroff was made an Under-Secretary of State, and he filled many important offices at Warsaw. Finally he was promoted to the dignity of a Senator of the Empire. On his private card he described himself as " Conseiller d'Etat," ( A title in the Russian service, which may mean nothing or very much; e.g.: a contractor may get it for robbing the Treasury in the accustomed way, while its second class carries with it already the distinction of excellency, and the first is coveted by Cabinet Ministers.) which we may venture to translate as Privy Councillor, and that is why we have termed him the Right Honourable. So much for his official career. It will be remembered that Paul Morphy learnt Chess from his uncle, Ernest Morphy. Petroff learnt it from his grandfather, the Senator. Happily these men, who possessed natural aptitude for the game, had their attention turned to it when they were young. Else probably they had never played. They are samples of determinism. What productions are we and slaves of antecedents and environments! How wonderful does Nature seem to us, when we reflect that this Chess capacity was not only potential, but was necessary and latent in the Fiery Mist, the Mother of the Globe! That Petroff impoverished the world by his death a few years since will be fresh in the memory of all (He died in Nov., 1867) Limits permit us to add nothing more except that our ambassadress was successful in her mission, and that we played more than two hundred games with him at the odds of Pawn and two moves. All who knew him, loved him living and remember him dead with affectionate regret.
 

 

Comments


  • 13 months ago

    yureesystem

    Batgirl a wonderful article, I always enjoy reading them. Smile

  • 13 months ago

    cimzowitsch

    great article,,,a self mate in 40 moves,,Surprised,Cry

  • 13 months ago

    batgirl

    Radioarno, thanks.  Actually my series was on Russian players leading up the Tschigorin.  Since it involved several hundred hours of research and deals with a subject that I've never seen tackled before in any depth, I'm thinking about redoing it as an article in maybe two parts instead of five. (shhh... but don't tell anyone)

    I know Genna Sosonko (I think it was in "Russian Silhouettes") related the story of how after a lecture Tal was asked if it was true that he was a morphinist (he was indeed addicted to morphine at that time) and  Tal answered no, he was a Tschigorinist.

  • 13 months ago

    Alchemos2011

    Great player and fantastic game. I put this video up just yesterday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPY_sgNqGHY

  • 13 months ago

    salowolf

    Can you read Butrimov's comment to 2. .. Bb7?

    "Obviously, it's bad for the Bishop to be posted here; as his action here is three times less".

    Smile

    Clearly, hypermodern ideas had not yet arrived by then.

  • 13 months ago

    adamstask

    great writing. thanks. Collateral material from your series on the Russian school of chess pre-Botvinnik. Fantastic writing.   And yes, from what I've read Botvinnik didn't at all create the Russian school of chess, but he did systematize and nationalize it under the soviet system.  There's a story from Tal; I forget where I read it. He was referred to as a "morphine-ite" by a journalist; was asked if the rumours were true. He answered that he didn't know about that, but that he was certainly a "Tchigorinite". 

  • 13 months ago

    davidmelbourne

    Wonder filled article;thank you Batgirl, once again.

  • 13 months ago

    batgirl

    "Why black cannot play Qf3 or pf3xR?
    The queen movement at that time (1884) were totaly diferent?"

    Double check.

  • 13 months ago

    06-jwagg

    Hugo, it's double check (the bishop as well)

  • 13 months ago

    hugoeustaquio

    Why black cannot play Qf3 or pf3xR?
    The queen movement at that time (1884) were totaly diferent?

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