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The Berlin Pleiades

 

THE BERLIN PLEIADS.

Chess did not flourish at Berlin in the early part of the century. The Napoleonic times were too politically sad—the expression is Von der Lasa's—and after the great national uprising still too stern and serious for men to devote themselves to a game. If there were any players of a really high degree of skill, they were not remembered in the next generation. The oldest Berlin Chess Club was founded in 1803 ; and one of its rules, almost incredible as it would now seem, was that military men were excluded. Deschapelles, who visited Berlin four years later, declared that there was no member of the Club to whom he could not give the odds of a Rook. The Frenchman's reputation for blaque was at least as great as his Chess fame; and many of his statements, notably his assertion that he had acquired his whole force in four days from the time he learnt the moves, require to be taken with a large handful of salt. There may also have been stronger players outside the Club, whom he did not meet; and Mendheim was almost certainly among them. The works of Allgaier (Vienna 1795) and Koch (Magdeburg 1801) continued to be reprinted with improvements, and show that Chess retained some vitality, both in North and South Germany, throughout this gloomy period. At the close of it Mendheim himself brought out his first Chess book (Berlin 1814); but it was only a pocket volume of 60 small pages.
    
With the peace of 1815 came improvement, slowly however at first. It was long before Berlin rivalled the Chess fame of Deschapelles and Labourdonnais in France, or of Sarratt and Lewis in England. The old Club, which singularly enough called itself the Great Club, maintained the same exclusive principles; the original players went on sleepily playing with one another till they died off, and made no attempt to provide for a succession of young blood, or in any way to train the rising generation. We fancy we have heard, even in these more progressive days, of English provincial clubs content to vegetate after this fashion. Mendheim was not admitted to this Club as a full member, but only as a " standing guest," with what would now be called honorary membership. The correspondence matches of the old Berlin Club against Breslau and Hamburg, which are now almost the only records of its existence, were conducted by him single-handed. He founded, however, a younger club in 1828, and remained the leading spirit in it till his death in 1836. This club met in a pleasant locality called the Blumengarten (Flower Garden) which, has now long ceased to exist. It was here that, under Mendheim's training, the famous group of players were formed, known from their number as the Pleiads, who a few years later raised the Berlin school to a foremost place among the Chess centres of Europe. The period from 1837 to 1843 is indicated by Von der Lasa, in his Chess Recollections (Schacherinnerungen) as that in which they were at their zenith, culminating with the publication of the Handbuch in the latter year. We do not think that they produced any individual player quite equal to Labourdonnais at the beginning or Staunton at the close of this period, and their reputation was no doubt less widely diffused than that of the contemporary French and English champions. But not even London or Paris, so far as our knowledge of those times extends, could have boasted as many as seven stars of equal magnitude. None of them, it should be added, were Chess-players and nothing else. They were all men of liberal professions and of culture, qualified to adorn Berlin society at a time when it was much less military than at present, and when the tone was given to it by such men as King Frederick William IV, Alexander von Humboldt, and Bunsen. Several of them, as will be seen, were really remarkable for their intellectual gifts, and their varied acquirements. We shall first notice them in the order of seniority, and then touch upon the question, not easy to answer dogmatically, of their comparative Chess skill.
Dr Ludwig Erdmann Bledow (July 27, 1795 – August 6, 1846)Dr. L. Bledow, the doyen of the band, was born at Berlin in 1795, and was already a player of mature years and much experience at the beginning of the period we are now considering. To a knowledge of mathematics evinced by his employment as teacher in more than one public day school, he added an acquaintance with modern languages unusual even among his highly educated countrymen. Thus he was essentially a learned player, familiar with the Italian authors of the last century and the English school of which Lewis is the central figure; while these, the latter especially, were little known to his comrades. He amassed a fine Chess library in various languages, which Kossak notes in 1846 as one of the two best private collections then existing, the other being George Walker's. Both these were men of moderate means, and brought more skill than capital to the pursuit of book-hunting; and they have since been eclipsed by such magnificent collectors as Rinington Wilson the Yorkshire squire, George Allen of Philadelphia and, we believe, some other Americans. On Bledow's death his Chess books were, as we were informed by Staunton, first offered for sale in England ; but they found a more appropriate home in the Royal Library at Berlin. During his life-time he was in general chary of allowing others to see or borrow his treasures, treating his learning as something of a monopoly: he made an exception, however, in favour of Von der Lasa when editing the Handbuch. In other respects this great monument of Berlin Chess owed little to Bledow, as he was not much given to original analysis. He conducted many games by correspondence ; often spent his holidays playing in the German cities, such as Hamburg and Breslau ; and thus made the acquaintance of nearly all the leading players, at least of his own country. Of knight-errantry abroad in quest of opponents there is no mention. Being a man of social qualities and a good correspondent, his acquaintances often ripened into friendships which were well kept up : he became, we are told, the adviser of a large Chess public, was in request as umpire in matches, and was thus well qualified for the position he ultimately achieved, that of founder of the first German Chess magazine. He had made proposals to a Prague publisher as early as 1844 ; but it was not until July 1846 that the first number of the Schachzeitung appeared. In the following month he died, having long been in declining health. In the words of his friend Kossak, " he was permitted to pioneer the way for others by the opening number only, and then was torn from us for ever." His pet creation is now in its 41st year of uninterrupted prosperity : under a succession of able editors it has enjoyed the inestimable advantage of having always the same publishers (Messrs. Veit and Co., at first in Berlin, since 1859 at Leipzig). At the time of his death he had been for a short period President of the Berlin Chess Club, the same, we believe, which now exists : the old exclusive club having been reorganised about 1840 on a more liberal footing. His rank as a Chess master in practical play is rather difficult to decide. The contemporary estimate by Kossak, an intimate personal friend writing in the first moments of loss, certainly requires some abatement: he compares him to Labourdonnais, and says that " Bledow has died unconquered," naming most of the German masters of the day, and the Hungarians Szen and Lowenthal, as either his equals or his inferiors. Von der Lasa, whose modesty scarcely allows him to do justice to himself, nevertheless lets us see that there is another side to the question. Owing to the state of his health, Bledow had gradually withdrawn from serious play for some years before his death. In many cases his games do not represent the topmost strength of his opponents. Horwitz, Anderssen, Buckle had only played with him long before they culminated ; and as the superiority of Hanstein and Von der Lasa asserted itself more and more unequivocally he gave up playing with them and took refuge in odds-giving. Even in his best days there was, on the testimony of both these masters, a distinctly weak side to his play. He shone more in inventing ingenious attacks than in the defence of difficult positions; he generally evaded the King's Gambit by 2 B to B 4, and when he accepted it, defended it badly; he was brilliant, but given to setting traps, which gave rise to a comparison between his style and that of Greco. Only occasionally did he carry out far-reaching combinations with a continuity of execution (Consequenz) which reminded men of Anderssen or Labourdonnais. His physical endurance seems never to have been tested by long match games ; and there is, on the whole, sufficient evidence that he was not of the stuff of which the greatest players are made. As an interesting and important figure, however, in the Chess world he has claimed a rather disproportionate amount of our space.

Carl Schorn (October 16, 1803 – October 7, 1850)     The next in standing were the two painters, Schorn and Horwitz. It was only by courtesy, it would seem, or to make up the mystic number seven, that the former was reckoned among the Pleiads; he must have been on quite a different plane from the rest; but he was as much above Horwitz as an artist as he was below him as a Chess-player. Carl Schorn was born at Dusseldorf in 1802, and was at Berlin till 1839 or 1840, when he visited Italy and finally settled at Munich. There he died in October 1850, within a week of Hanstein, leaving unfinished a picture of the Deluge which he was painting for the art-loving ex-king Louis I. The obituary notices, we are told, paid a handsome tribute to his artistic powers ; but the writer in the Schalizeitung naturally treats of him only from the Chessplayer's point of view. After his morning's work in the studio he came every day to the Blumengarten to smoke a clay pipe of portentous length, to smash the smaller fry at Chess, to look on at the great men and occasionally try conclusions with them, and to enliven them all with the flashes of his wit and humour. His fun was ferocious on the surface, kind-hearted at bottom, and he never gave real pain. In his style of play, as in everything else, he was an original, insisting that Chess should be treated as an art only and not as a science (here the artist nature breaks out) and laughing at the learned pundits or " Chess Brahmins " as he called them. They held on their way unmoved, and the result was the Handbuch. In reality he had acquired by practice and observation, without book study, a very fair knowledge of the openings : his eccentric style broke down in the long run against a sounder method, but he sometimes scored off the champions and gave them " splitting head-aches " by his puzzling combinations. The Chess world of Berlin was poorer at his departure, occurring as it did nearly at the same time with that of Horwitz and the removal of Bilguer by death.

Bernhard Horwitz (1807-1885)     Of Horwitz's Berlin days little remains to be said, while of his later career our readers may have already heard more than enough. In 1837, when Von der Lasa first joined the Chess circle as a mere youth, he thought Horwitz inferior to Bledow, and soon was himself able to play up to him. But Bledow had then reached his full strength, while Horwitz, who ripened slowly, had not. He unquestionably improved during the first six or seven years after he came to England, and was in his best form from about 1849, the date of his second match with Harrwitz, till 1852, when he easily defeated Lowenthal. The short notice of him in the October Schachzeitung admits that he "developed into a champion of the first rank." We may be allowed to express a wish that Baron v. d. Lasa, the only living depositary of the old Berlin traditions, will favour the world with some fuller account of Horwitz's earlier days.

Karl Mayet (August 11, 1810 – May 18, 1868)     Mayet and Hanstein were cousins, brought up together and warmly attached throughout life ; both able men, yet contrasted in their physical and intellectual characteristics. Carl Mayet, the elder and long the survivor of the two (1810-1868), was of French descent; he was tall and slight with very handsome features, muscular and courageous ; and seems to have led a singularly happy and successful life. He entered the legal profession, and attained judicial rank ; but about 1860, finding that he could make a better provision for his family at the bar, he resigned his post and "once more pleaded before the bench on which he had sat as a judge." As a Chess-player, with many fine qualities he was much given to oversights, and often threw away advantages already obtained. He was a good analyst, and contributed to the original Handbuch the section on the Buy Lopez, an old opening which (strange to say) till taken in hand by the Berlin school was never thought to yield any attack worth speaking of! Memory, however, was not one of his strong points, and his own analysis often escaped him in actual play. He took part in the London Tournament of 1851, and was thrown out in the first round by Captain Kennedy. It may seem presumptuous to differ from Von der Lasa, who places Mayet almost on a level with the foremost Pleiads, and above Horwitz. Whatever may have been their relative scores in early days, Horwitz had not been standing still during the dozen years that had elapsed since he left Berlin, and at his best was, we cannot doubt, the stronger player. Mayet certainly shows to very little advantage in his published games, perhaps because he did not preserve them himself. But there is other evidence. "We are told on excellent authority that it was said of Mayet in Berlin when he was young, " he will be a great player ; " and when he was old, " he has been a great player." His reputation, like some others, had a past and a future, but no present. There is no record of achievements in public play, in the "past tense of the indicative mood " -which Mr. Potter so sturdily prefers to " the great might-have-beens."  As it is, we place him not among the second-rates but among the weaker first-rates. We have before now had occasion to insist that there are Masters and Masters.

     With Hanstein we reach a "bright particular star" in the constellation. He was a year younger than Mayet, and the cousins as mere youths were already ardent devotees of the game when in 1830 they made the tour of Switzerland in the company of a pocket chess-board. Wilhelm Hanstein was the son of a Lutheran clergyman, and found his vocation in the Prussian civil service. He died at the age of thirty-nine, the shortest life save one among the Pleiads ; but not, like Bilguer, too soon for the development of his powers. 
     Considerable pathos is thrown into the accounts of him by his admiring friends in the Schachzeitung for 1850 ; verse as well as prose is brought into requisition ; and the whole ends with an "apotheosis." He was small in person, with a fine intellectual head but a feeble frame ; and his whole life was a struggle against narrow means and ill health, sustained by the devotion of his friends who loved him for his brilliant gifts and attractive character. His official duties were laborious and exacting, and he had to be at the beck and call of a minister who showed some want of consideration. Yet he found time for the study of English, French, and Italian literature ; for the cultivation of his poetic talent, of which we printed a charming specimen in the December number ; for the pleasures of music and society; for an extensive correspondence and the joint editing of the Schachzeitung after Bledow's death. Of a number of pieces translated by him from Longfellow, one of his favourite authors, "The Twilight" is the only one published. To our mind it shows a power of rendering the simpler English ballad poetry into German of equal simplicity, closely yet not baldly, which we had thought peculiar to Freiligrath among recent German poets. As a Chessplayer Hanstein appears to have possessed every great quality : his style of play we are told was "slow and quiet"; and he showed himself a typical member of the Berlin school which produced the Handbuch. With originality fortified but not overlaid by learning ; with memory and observation for his own mistakes and those of others; with a preference for attacking openings and at the same time readiness to allow his opponent to choose the opening and patience in a difficult defence—he was just the man to enlarge the bounds of Chess theory by solid and lasting acquisitions. Novelties which a solitary worker like Jaenisch poured forth, profusely indeed but in a somewhat crude form, when tested by Hanstein and his associates in practical  play had the nonsense knocked out of them and thus in the end became "classical." In Hanstein the union of genius with sound judgment was complete.

Paul Rudolf von Bilguer ( September 21, 1815 – September 16, 1840)     The youngest of the Pleiads were the two whose names are most closely associated with the Handbuch. Paul Rudolph von Bilguer, its projector and principal author (though comparatively little of his work remains in the last edition) was born in 1815, and died before completing his twenty-fifth year. His friends and coadjutors testified their regard by giving him the sole credit of the great work: the title-page for some time ran "edited by Von der Lasa," but in later editions the name of Bilguer stands alone in its glory. He chose for his own especial province the Two Knights' Defence, and published an exhaustive monograph of fully 200 variations upon it (Das Zweispringerspiel im Nachzuye u. s. w.) The results are condensed in the Handbuch, and this chapter remains almost unaltered when nearly every other opening has been revolutionised. In Schachz. 1855 p. 13 Von der Lasa declares that he has known no one more highly or variously gifted for Chess than his departed friend. He excelled alike in practical play (including the blindfold game), book knowledge and original analysis. In this short life there was, it must be confessed, more promise than performance : none of Bilguer's published games appear to us quite to come up to the highest standard ; and, setting aside the phenomenal Morphy, we cannot but remember the great successes of Von der Lasa himself, of Buckle, Harrwitz, Blackburne, De Vere and Wisker at an equally early age. Bilguer came of a noble family, as the " von" shows, originally of Coire, Switzerland : his great-grandfather migrated to North Germany and was an army surgeon in the Seven Years' War. His father was a colonel, and Bilguer like Horwitz was a Mecklenburger by birth. He early showed talent, especially for mathematics, and would have chosen the law as his profession; but for family reasons he entered the army and became a lieutenant at eighteen. He was studying at the military college as a commissioned officer when, in 1837, he formed the acquaintance and soon the intimate friendship of Von der Lasa : he had then already acquired considerable proficiency at Chess. His other recreations were music, a taste often found among Chess-players, and literature ; and he contributed many reviews to the periodicals of the day. For several years he had suffered from lung disease, which ultimately carried him off; about a year and a half before he died he had to retire from the army invalided ; and his sufferings at the close were very great, but most patiently borne. In Arthur Marriott, who died at the same age and of the same complaint, we have perhaps lost an English Bilguer.

Tassilo, Baron von Heydebrand und der Lasa (October 17, 1818,  –  July 27, 1899)     Of the one still living member of this brilliant band considerations of good taste oblige us to speak with some reserve. Baron von Heydebrand und der Lasa, having long been a figure in the political and diplomatic world, has never sought to thrust his Chess personality into prominence or to furnish autobiographical details. He has merely authorised his successor in the Editorship of the Handbuch to publish the date of his birth, Oct. 17, 1818. Since he entered the diplomatic service in 1845, the Baron has seldom been resident at any of the great Chess centres ; and his career as a match-playing Master may be said to have then terminated. He played, it is true, a series of games with Staunton at Brussels in 1853, and won a majority : but Staunton himself had then been for a year or two en relraite as a past rather than an actual Master, and the games in question were played without a stake and not considered a match. We have always understood that the primacy of the Pleiads was regarded as shared equally between Hanstein and Von der Lasa, the claims of the two never having been tested by a set match. But we must allow ourselves the pleasure of quoting a remark of George Walker's from the preface to his Chess Studies: " Der Lasa ranks as the finest player of Germany, his game uniting the brilliant and the solid in the just proportions requisite to constitute real excellence."  When these words were written, in 1844, by one who had every means of judging from the published games of the period and who was moreover an excellent and (at least where foreigners were concerned) an impartial critic, the object of them had not completed his twenty-sixth year. He retired almost immediately afterwards, having not yet reached the prime of life but being still young enough to improve if his vocation had allowed him the opportunity of first-rate practice. With the exception of Morphy, we do not know of any Chess career more remarkable than this. As is well known, Von der Lasa continued to superintend the Handbuch down to the fifth edition, 1874, maintaining his position against young and able rivals as the first theorist of the day.

     Those who have followed us thus far will be prepared for the grouping of the Pleiads according to strength, on which we now venture. At the head stand Von der Lasa and Hanstein, the only two, as we think, who would now be reckoned to belong to the inner circle of the world's great players. Next to these we place Horwitz, taking him at his best and not as he was in his Berlin days, Bledow, and Bilguer as regards actual performance. We are willing to believe, on the authority of his friends, that this last youthful genius had the capacity for rising to the highest rank of all if he had lived longer and been blessed with stronger health: but we must distinguish between the actual and the potential. A step below these comes Mayet, and Schorn brings up the rear. May the last survivor of the Pleiads long continue above the horizon,
                                  
" Fair as a star when only one
                                    
Is shining in the sky."

[literature. Berliner Schacherinnerungen, by Von der Lasa, prefixed to his edition of Greco and Lucena, 1859. Life of Bilguer in Preface to Handbuch(omitted in the last edition). Obituary Notices of Bledow, Schachz. 1846 (extracts translated in C. P. C. same year) ; of Hanstein and Schorn, Schachz. 1850 (these three by Kossak); of Bilguer, by Lehfeldt, Schachz. 1852 ; of Mayet, by Von der Lasa, Schachz. 1868.] 
                                                            -Rev. William Wayte.
                                                             The British Chess Magazine 1886

 

note: the photos were not in the originial article and, except for that of v.d. Lasa and Bilguer, were extracted from wikipedia.

Comments


  • 5 years ago

    qixel

    The difficulty of acquiring Polish draughts is almost commensurate with that of learning chess. As a proof of this, the renowned Philidor, though he played Polish draughts for many years, and worked hard at the game, was never equal to those, like Chalon, of the first grade.

    Thanks, Sarah.  I've now added Polish draughts to the list of games I must play before I die.

    Amy

  • 5 years ago

    batgirl

    Well, Deschapelles played many games superbly.

    From Geo. Walker's Deschapelles, the Chess-King :

    "Chess-players ourselves, we shall dwell but lightly on M. Deschapelles acquirement and practice of other games; nor need we care for the charge of anachronism, incurred, we doubt not, justly, in our memoranda. Beginning with trictrac, a most difficult and complicated game, elder parent of backgammon, we record the fact, that M. Deschapelles is even now considered the first player in France; in which country trictrac is more played than in any other in Europe.

    As a billiard-player, M. Deschapelles suffers under the disadvantage of having but one hand; nevertheless, as a mere practical player, he is allowed to be of the third or fourth grade of force; and as a judge of the game is universally placed first in the kingdom. "M. Deschapelles knows the game better than any man in France," said, in our hearing, M. Eugene, the Kentfield of Paris at the present day.

    The mode in which Deschapelles acquired Polish draughts is very curious. For a long time this scientific game had been popular in France; its head-quarters being the Café de Manoury, from whence the amateurs of draughts were, however, at one time, temporarily expelled during the first French revolution, from their being a body of men at that time too poor in pocket to answer the purpose of a wealthy coffee-house keeper. During their wanderings in the desert, they settled for a time in an "entresol" near the Café de Manoury, and there the banner was pitched, under the heading of M. Chalon, the first player of Polish draughts at that time in France, and author of some curious printed problems on the subject. This gentleman was the successor of Blonde, Manoury, and others of the élite , and gave odds to all with whom he played, -- daily keeping the lists for hours against all comers. Deschapelles took it into his head to play Polish draughts. He walked one fine day into the sanctum, learned the moves and laws by looking on for half an hour, and then challenged M. Chalon to play. The latter gave the odds of two men, and they played thus daily for a few days, when the odds were diminished to one man. After a month, they were brought down to the half man; and at the end of three months M. Deschapelles challenged Chalon to play even. They did so, and the former was the Conqueror. Chalon wished to continue; Deschapelles declined, in the following pithy terms:-

    "I have looked through your game," said he, in his peculiarly quiet tone, "and I find but little in it. At one time, played by gentlemen, it might have been worth practising; but it is now kicked out from the drawing-room to the ante-chamber; and my soul is above the place of lacqueys. In three months I have become your equal, in three months more I could give you a pawn; but I renounce the pursuit, and bid you farewell. I shall never play draughts again!"

    This mode of speech may be termed gasconade, but it is characteristic of the man, and we can but view it as emanating from the simplicity of a Hercules, in the knowledge of his vast strength. Conscious pride is not boasting. The braggart is he who threatens that which he cannot execute. "M. Deschapelles boasts; but, then, the devil of it is, he acts up to what he boasts!" quoth M. Chalon, sententiously, as his conqueror walked forth from the arena.

    The difficulty of acquiring Polish draughts is almost commensurate with that of learning chess. As a proof of this, the renowned Philidor, though he played Polish draughts for many years, and worked hard at the game, was never equal to those, like Chalon, of the first grade. There were always draughts-players who could give Philidor odds; and this determined him, probably to confine himself to chess, in which, like the lion of the desert, or the eagle of the Alps, he reigned without a rival. The Polish draught-players have long since returned to the Café de Manoury, and the most skilful player there told us (in the flesh, some six weeks back ), that he should consider seven or eight years a reasonable time to be spent in getting up to the odds of one pawn!

    The best proof of M. Deschapelles transcendent skill in whist is, perhaps, to be gathered from the fact of his having won several thousand pounds at that game; on the interest of which he now chiefly lives. His fame as a whist-player is, indeed, European, and is echoed from the halls of the Travellers' and the Crockford's, to the salons of the German spas, in all of which M. Deschapelles is ranked as the first living whist-player. Since the breaking up of the Salon des Etrangers, he now chiefly plays in a private club. So great is the confidence of his followers, that we have been gravely informed a quarter of a million of money could be deposited to back any match of whist he might undertake; and this seems the less improbable, as we know of several wealthy bankers who are proud to enrol themselves on his list of devotees. A match was made some years back, between the British Lord G---- and M. Deschapelles, at whist, for two hundred thousand francs; but was stopped, ere commenced, by our countryman's just fear of the thing being viewed in Downing Street as infra dig. -- a consideration naturally influenced by the discovery that the money on the part of the French player was to be forthcoming in shares. It is understood that M. Deschapelles is at length about to favour us with the publication of his Treatise on Whist, on the manuscript of which, we know he has laboured at intervals during the last twenty years. Such a work will be indeed a treasure; and we are informed (and most cordially do we wish such annonce may be correct) that so comprehensive is the Treatise on Whist of M. Deschapelles, that it will run to an octavo of 800 pages! It is curious to see the veteran collect the cards with his ONE LEFT HAND, sort, play, and gather them in tricks. M. Deschapelles now plays shorts. From cards, pass we to their progenitor -- CHESS.

    It has been well said, "there is no royal road to learning"; but M. Deschapelles laughed the proverb to scorn, and arrived at the temple of Caissa by a path which we can only consider as first-speed "railroad". Endowed with so peculiar an aptitude for acquiring games, our hero did not learn, but seized on chess at once. By a sudden and mighty impress, he stamped it on his brain, and bore it ever afterwards, bodily, within him, perfectly developed in all its parts.

    "I acquired chess," said he to us, in the presence of fifty amateurs, "in four days! I learned the moves, played with Bernard, who had succeeded Philidor as the sovereign of the board; lost the first day, the second, the third, and beat him even-handed on the fourth; since which time I have never advanced or receded. Chess to me has been, and is, a single idea, which, once acquired, cannot be displaced from its throne, while the intellect remains unimpaired by sickness or age."

    At first reflection, it would appear ridiculous to say the greatest chess player of the age had acquired his skill in four days; but M. Deschapelles asserts it as a fact, and we are therefore bound to believe him. We heard a wag whisper, that, like the interpretation put by Dr. Buckland on the seven days of Moses, each day must have meant, at least, a year, or more; but we seriously protest against ill-natured scepticism. It is so delightful to sneer at enthusiasm, particularly on the part of the small-souled and envious! We view the brain of M. Deschapelles as a phenomenon, and not, therefore, to be measured by ordinary rules. Besides, his assertion, however startling, is really borne out by the extraordinary fact, with which Paris and London rang loudly at the time"


    To accentuate his claim that chess is a one-idea game that stays with you like riding a bicycle, Descapelles, who retired from chess in 1822, came out of retirement briefly in 1836 when he strolled into the Cafe de la Regence and challenged la Bourdonnais to a four game set of "pawns " which is a chess variant, Amy, invented by Sire de Legalle, where one side has no queen, but has 8 extra pawns in compesation. Descapelles beat the acclaimed greatest chess player in the world, the conquerer of M'Donnell, +2-1=1. A few days later he played the up and coming champion St. Amant 3 games, giving him Pawn & move, scoring +1-1=1.  Then he went back into chess retirement (during which time he wrote his Traite du Whiste ), only to come back out again briefly in 1842 to play St. Amant again, the man who would soon play Howard Staunton in essentially a world championship match in a five game set, in which he offered St. Amant varied odds, and won +3-2.



  • 5 years ago

    qixel

    batgirl wrote:

    I personally think that Deschapelles, that ultimate game player, was possibly the most facinating chess player of all time.

    It's interesting that you mention Deschapelles, because I had recently been reading Poe (and for some reason I often mix Morphy and Poe in my fancy as if they were somehow doppelgangers) and his comments in the introductory paragraphs of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" concerning the psychological distinctions between the play of whist and chess.  Deschapelles, as a devotee of whist, recalled to me this passage from "Murders":

    "Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what is termed the calculating power; and men of the highest order of intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous.  Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis.  The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess; but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all those more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind."

  • 5 years ago

    batgirl

    Thanks Amy.  I personally think that Deschapelles, that ultimate game player, was possibly the most facinating chess player of all time.

  • 5 years ago

    qixel

    I love your chess research because it often reminds me that an interesting chess world existed before Steinitz and even Morphy.  That's sometimes easy to forget.

    Amy

  • 5 years ago

    batgirl

    Copy from Wikipedia

    Definitely not. 
    If you had taken the trouble to read, you might have noticed that this is a reprint of an 1886 article by Rev. Wayte from the BCM with several of the pictures taken from wiki (as cited).

  • 5 years ago

    Checkmate1995

    Copy from Wikipedia

  • 5 years ago

    chessbibliophile

    Very rare stuff! I have not seen it even in chesshistory.com

    http://www.chesshistory.com/

  • 5 years ago

    batgirl

    James

    Thank you.

    While I have no intentions of writing a book - I'm neither a historian nor a writer - I am certainly very grateful for feedback, particularly positive feedback (I'm having a little difficulty writing since I don't work tomorrow and I've had a couple glasses of strong port wine, so please bear with me) and I do appreciate your words. Chess history is my passion and as I learn things, I like to share them with others who might also enjoy reading/learning about the same things. At chessgames.com I'm known as the Morphy girl (my handle there is SBC) and Morphy is indeed the main thrust of much of my interest since he he the fulcrum of 19th century chess, my main focal point.

    Anyway, thank you so much. I do need encouragement and yours was wonderfuly received.

  • 5 years ago

    Archaic71

    We are not worthy of the attention you lavish upon us Sarah.  I very much hope that you have a book in the works, it would be a shame to waste all of this research and effort on hacks like us . . . even though we certainly appreciate all of your work.  Between a treatise on a century of women in chess, the lessor known historical figures in chess (and the old clubs they smoked pipes in), and a really good handling of Morphy the man - I'd say you have at least three good books in you by now.  Better get cracking!

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