Upgrade to Chess.com Premium!

Petroff

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:

Although Petroff was 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 3 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 Petreff 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.
 

 
m

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    GHFvanderWulp

    Thanks Batgirl,

     

    I hope you have the reference to those Russian websites which include the "match" with Baranov. I'm slowly working through the book by Linder on Petrov but cannot find a reference to the match while skimming through it. If there was such thing as a match I believe it was rather a serie of sociable chess games as in the case of the match with Kopev. That one can be found in old Russian chess magazines and the Linder book.

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    Since Russian early chess is really far, far removed from most English language books, peridicals and such, almost everything had to be pieced together from tiny bits of information from 100s of sources. Since this isn't a scholarly work, but rather an attempt to paint a picture of early chess in Russia (in this segment focusing on Petroff), some of it is impressionistic rather than photographic.  I don't read Russian at all, but have spent a great deal of time perusing Russian sites with Google translator.  So, in many cases, in order to be able to tell the story, I had to hedge on verifying some data through multiple sources and went with what seemed most likely.  The Baranov match data came from Wade (actually second hand from Wade), but coincided with some arcane references I came across on a couple Russian language sites which lead me to be satisfied enough to include it.

  • 2 years ago

    GHFvanderWulp

    Batgirl,

    Thanks for your interesting articles on Russian chess! I'm interested in the early Russian chess players and Petrov/Petroff in specific. Could you share me some of your sources? I have been able to find only one source for the Petroff match with Baranov, namely the book "Russian Chess" by Wade. He does not give his source. None of the books by Linder I own or have seen give a score for the Baranov match although it is clear that they did play several games. The score for the match with Kopev is different in Linder's books than in most other sources. However Linder published a short biography written by Petroff himself giving that score. So it sounds reliable to me. I'll look into it again this evening.

    One other question: In the same short biography that I have by Petroff he writes about his most worthy opponent but only calls him the (or a, for Russian language uses no articles) Kalmykian Knight/Prince. Do you have any idea which player/VIP he is talking about?

    If you read Russian I could provide you with a scan of the biography if you do not already have it in your posession.

  • 2 years ago

    Sherlock__Holmes

    A guy I know has in his library this edition of Petroff's book , it is phototype edition 1977 year :

  • 2 years ago

    melvinbluestone

    Very good article on Petroff. Thanks. But this Salter guy!..... "What a futile thing chess is, what a futile thing everything is......"  Sounds like Salter could've used a trip to the phrenologist himself.

  • 3 years ago

    batgirl

    Thanks Eternal_Patzer, for pointing this out.  The review was quite a nice read, even the parts speculating on blindfold play, and compelled me to look for the actual tournament book by Minchin (who was secretary of the tournament) which turns out to be quite detailed. I only glanced through it, but since the London 1883 tournament has several historically intriguing elements, I plan to read the book more closely.

  • 3 years ago

    Eternal_Patzer

    @ batgirl - If you enjoy Salter's style of writing, you might like his book review of the games of 1883 London Tournament that I found on Google Books (URL below). (If you have already published this little item in your blog somewhere, apologies for the wasted bandwith)

    Very entertaining stuff, including some interesting speculations about blindfold chess and chess visualization skills that seem pretty advanced for an era in which people still took phrenology seriously. He does get a bit morose at the end.  

    "What a futile thing chess is, what a futile thing everything is.  Purposeless generations of men come and go and fill up their worthless time with this or that futility; and so it will go on until the ancient sun, grown cool, shall drop a curtain of darkness on the human race and nurture life no more." Exactly how I feel after blundering a piece! 

    http://books.google.com/books? id=73_lAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA392&lpg=PA392&dq=D.+M.+Salter+chess+history&source=bl&ots=9MoLawGTS0&sig=PIsCRZtcAdB8j-QQAvy4xevutL8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BfUpT8LYHsjY0QHw6qXkCg&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=D.%20M.%20Salter%20chess%20history&f=false

Back to Top

Post your reply: