Charles de Maurian: Problemist

Charles de Maurian: Problemist

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     Charles de Maurian, well known as Paul Morphy's childhood and life-long friend, developed very quickly as a chess player.  He began learning the game from Morphy during the 1853-4 school year at Spring Hill College and was able to place first in the 1858 New Orleans chess tournament.  What isn't well known is that Maurian was also a decent problemist. Below are three of his compositions published in his chess column in the New Orleans "Sunday Delta"  and the last one is from the Clipper Problem Tournament of 1859.

I put the positions in the first four diagrams, with the solutions in the four below them.













Charles Amedée de Maurian

thanks to WilhelmThe2nd for this article


Morphy's School Companion and Lifelong Friend.

    By John A. Galbreath, New Orleans, La.
(from the American Chess Bulletin - Sept., 1911,  pages 196-200)

     To paint a lily, or gild refined gold, is to do a vain thing; and very much in the same category may justly be reckoned the attempt to write in adequate words the biography of a really good man.

      The subject of this sketch is one of those rare men who can truly be summed up in a sentence as "a gentleman, and a scholar"; because he is a man who morally and intellectually stands out from, and above, the ordinary run of men, as Pike's Peak stands from the foot-hills.

      CHARLES AMEDÉE de MAURIAN was born in the city of New Orleans on May 21, 1838, and is of distinguished French ancestry. His father was Judge Charles A. de Maurian, for many years Judge of the Parish and City Civil Court. His mother, before her marriage, was Miss Lasthenie Peychaud, a native of France, and she had a most romantic history. Her parents went from France to reside in Santo Domingo in her early childhood. Soon after arriving in that island, the bloody revolution of 1799 broke out, and all the white people were either killed or driven from the island. Among the fortunate ones who made their escape were her parents and herself. They made their way safely back to France; but in the confusion and hurried departure to save their lives, her brother Amedée, then a very small child, became separated from the rest of the family and was left behind. He was cared for by a faithful slave, and was eventually brought to New Orleans, where he grew to manhood. His fate was unknown to his family for many years. The captain of a French vessel plying between New Orleans and French ports, who had become acquainted with Amedée Peychaud, met Miss Lasthenie Peychaud in France, and, struck with the similarity of names, made inquiries- with the result that the long-separated brother and sister were brought into communication, and Miss Peychaud came to New Orleans to visit her brother. Among the party of Amedée Peychaud's friends who went to the ship to receive the young lady on her arrival in New Orleans was Judge de Maurian. It proved a case of love at first sight, and a happy marriage soon followed. It is sad to relate that the death of Mrs. de Maurian, immediately after the birth of her son Charles, at once terminated her romantic life and forever deprived him of a mother's tender care.

Charles A. de Maurian
New Orleans, La.

      From early childhood Charles was a playmate of the famous Paul Morphy. The boys were nearly the same age, Paul being only eleven months the elder. Whilst they were not actually related, their families were connected by marriage, and the boys were constantly together, attending the same school and indulging in the same pastimes.

      Mr. de Maurian relates with much amusement that, when he was about eleven years of age, he would frequently find Paul playing chess with his grand-father, Mr. Lecarpentier. Paul was of diminutive stature, and, in order to bring him up to the level of the table, it was necessary to place a couple of large books in the chair. In this position, Mr. de Maurian said, Paul would sit for hours, poring over the games with his grandfather. At that time, Mr. de Maurian says, it was a matter of wonder to him how the pair could take such great interest in a game which to him presented no feature of apparent amusement. He ascertained from Paul sometime after this period that the latter gave his grandfather the odds of a rook, and it was seldom the old gentleman won a game.

      In 1853, the boys were attending Spring Hill College, near Mobile, Ala. and Charles was taken sick. Whilst recovering in the infirmary of the college, time hung very heavily, and, in order to relieve the tedium, Paul offered to teach him the game of chess, which Charles could not see any interest in a few years before when he saw Paul almost daily playing with his grandfather. He accepted Paul's offer, and thus learned the rudiments of the game from the future great player. It is very probable that he is the only person to whom Paul Morphy taught the moves, and it is certainly a unique distinction to be the only living being who learned the game from its greatest exponent.

      Charles from the very outset developed a keen interest in the game, and under the tutelage of his friend Paul made rapid progress. Their first match was at the odds of the queen, which contest Paul won by one game. The next match was at the odds of rook and four moves!- won by Paul. Then followed a match at the odds of rook, pawn and two moves, won by Paul. After this, as Charles developed and the odds became too formidable for even the Great Wizard of the board, they played at the odds of rook, pawn, and move. They played a match in the next progression at the odds of rook and knight, which was also won by Paul, but by a narrow majority; and then, by gradual, easy stages as Charles became more and more proficient, they arrived at the odds of knight, which odds the invincible Paul continued to yield his friend to the very last. Their last match at the odds of knight terminated in favor of Mr. de Maurian, and Paul told him then that he was too strong for the knight odds. It was their intention to play at the odds of pawn and two moves; but Fate, that stern arbiter who knows no distinctions, willed it otherwise. It is very probable, although not absolutely sure, that the last game of chess Paul Morphy ever played was with his lifelong friend; and, if it could be surely established as a fact, it would be a most beautiful conclusion of the chess career of the world's greatest chess player.

      The first chess book Mr. de Maurian read was Chess for Winter Evenings by Prof. H. R. Agnel, a book which has instructed and amused thousands of Caïssa's votaries all over the world. His next book was The Chess Player's Companion by Howard Staunton. An opinion of Mr. de Maurian concerning this book may be appropriately mentioned here. He considers it one of the finest collections of games in existence, and the instruction contained in it not surpassed by any similar publication whatever. The book, however, is not well known, strange to say, and is not therefore properly appreciated.

      Mr. de Maurian's first participation in a tournament was in 1858, when he won first prize in the tourney of the New Orleans Chess Club. Since that time he has participated in various local contests; but has never engaged in a public contest outside of his native city. His standing as an amateur player of the highest class has been established and maintained for half a century; but during the past twenty years he has gradually retired as an active player. His interest in the game, however, continues unabated. It is the opinion of the writer of this sketch, formed many years ago after meeting with many of the strongest Southern players, that Mr. de Maurian is, Paul Morphy alone excepted, the very finest and best chess player the South has ever produced. In courtesy and all the little refined amenities, he is the ne plus ultra of a gentleman. Pity it is, there are so few like him!

      Many examples of his play may be found in Geza Maroczy's book, "Paul Morphy; Sammlung der von ihm gespielten Partien,"  published by Veit & Co., Leipzig, 1909. This book contains the last games he played with Paul Morphy, and the reader may gain a fair idea of his strength by playing over these games. Mr. de Maurian has met on even terms such masters as Steinitz, Zukertort, Capt. Mackenzie, Tschigorin and others who have visited New Orleans, and he has acquitted himself in these contests with great credit; but he has always modestly refrained from blowing his trumpet, although he had ample cause to do so if inclined. Let it be remembered that these successes against masters of world-wide fame were even terms, and then recall the fact that Mr. de Maurian never played with Paul Morphy at less than a knight odds, and it will be better understood why Mr. de Maurian is of the unalterable opinion that Morphy was head and shoulders above them all, like Saul of Tarsus was among his fellows.

      In 1869 Mr. de Maurian and Paul Morphy played their last series of games, all at the odds of knight. Thirty-nine games were played, and it is almost certain that the last of these games is the "Swan Song" of Paul Morphy, as he was never known to play another; and in the circumstances which then surrounded him, Morphy could not have been induced to play with any one but his boyhood friend.

      These games were played in four series, and their successive results were as follows:

                       First series, Morphy 6; de Maurian 3; drawn 2.

                       Second,         " "      3;         " "      3;      "    0.
                       Third,            " "      7;         " "     10;     "    0.
                       Fourth,          " "      0;          " "      4;     "    1.

      These games are not in the ordinary collection of Morphy's games.

      Mr. de Maurian has long been known as a chess student of vast erudition, and his contributions to the literature of the game in the ways of essays and notes have been so numerous and valuable that they would make a large volume; but he has never written a book. His work has been one of pastime and pure love of the game. He first edited a chess column in the New Orleans Delta, a newspaper of this city during 1857-58, and has from time to time made contributions concerning the game to various city publications. He was a co-editor and one of the originators of the chess column in the New Orleans "Times-Democrat," begun in February, 1883, and for many years contributed regularly to that still current column. He was also one of the founders, and was the first president, of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club.

      He was the owner of an extensive chess library, and, as may be readily inferred, it contained many rare and valuable volumes. This library he presented to the Howard Library, of New Orleans, several years ago. Among the books is an autograph copy of Morphy's Games, which Herr J. Löwenthal presented to Paul Morphy and which was presented by the latter to Mr. de Maurian.

      Mr. de Maurian was married on February 26, 1862, to Miss Marie Meffre-Rouzan, and, as his wife is still living, the pair will celebrate their golden wedding in a few months hence. May God long spare them.

      Since 1890, Mr. de Maurian has resided in Paris, coming to the Crescent City every two years, and spending the winter there.

      In conclusion, the reader may be told that Mr. de Maurian has all his life avoided ostentation of any kind, and it was only with the greatest reluctance that he consented to allow the writer, as an old friend, to write something about him, strongly admonishing against "laying it on too thick". This itself is a pointed indication of the modest character of the man.

      He entrusted his old friend with a very delicate undertaking, and, in coming to the end, the writer realizes that, as stated in his exordium, he has but essayed the impossible task of painting a lily.

[ What the article fails to mention is that after the death of his mother on July 4, 1854, Charles was raised by his aunt,  Marie Madeleine Zoé Cruzat Peychaud, known throughout New Orleans as simply "Tante Zoé"  (although his father, parish judge Charles Auguste Maurian lived until Jan. 18, 1858). ]




     Maurian died on Dec. 2, 1912, just a bit over a year after this article was published. His obituary in the "American Chess Bulletin" (separate from the above article) was basically the same as the one from the New Orleans "Times-Democrat,"  which in itself was based on the above article. However the "American Chess Bulletin" obituary contains the following:

"...he [Maurian] soon grew strong enough to have the odds of a Knight only - and on these terms he and Paul Morphy played to the very end.
Apropos this last, Mr. Maurian was wont to relate, modestly, of course, as was always his way, but humorously, too, how at the Paris congress of 1867, the late Herr Rosenthal, then the French champion and one of the leading masters in the grand tourney, had announced that, inasmuch as Morphy had given the New Orleanian the odds of Knight, he (Rosenthal) could yield him the half-Knight, i.e., the games being alternately at Knight-odds and on even terms. Imagine the surprised chagrin of the confident Frenchman when the resulting match of fourteen games was won by Mr. Maurian, who had scored all the Knight-odds parties and the majority of the even term-ones!" (American Chess Bulletin, Jan.1913, page 11)


     Annual Report By Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Howard Memorial Library, New Orleans. Published 1891:

     The chess collection which was given to the library several years ago by Mrs. Charles Maurian [ Marie Meffre-Rouzan Maurian ], but which up to now had not been catalogued, was put in order. There are nearly 300 of these volumes, including runs of several chess journals and containing, what is of especial interest in New Orleans, several books which had undoubtedly been in the library of Paul Morphy and which had been passed on to his friend, Charles Maurian.

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