The Lion of Chess

The Lion of Chess

Jan 7, 2015, 12:00 AM |
23 | Chess Players

       A long, long time ago. . . in September of 1706 in Amsterdam to be exact, a man named Mr. Caze dated his manuscript on chess, "Instruction pour ce livre d'échecs : contenant les diverses manieres de jouer le gambit," in a letter of introduction to Charles, the Earl of Sunderland, to whom the manuscript of about 200 games, played in Paris, was presented.  The Earl, himself the author of an unspecified book on chess written in Latin, was also a frequent contestant with Alexander Cunningham, the historian and proponant of the defense in the KGA bearing his name (1.e4 e5  2.f4 exf4 Bc4 [or Nf3] Be7). There was another chess-playing Alexander Cunningham who appeared slightly later (who also played at the Hague, no less, and to whom the name of the defense had been attributed until the Caze's ms came to light in the 1912 "BCM").
     Now, all this may sound confusing, but hold on to your hats - it gets worse. There were two chess-playing men named Mr. Caze, both of whom played in Holland.  One M. de la Caze is mentioned on pages 63-65 in the 1754 book, "Mémoires pour servin à l'histoire de la République des Provinces-Unies"  by Aubrey du Mouriez  (Murray called him Aubrey de Marrier). He was a captain in the Dutch army who, as frequent opponent of his general, Prince Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625), usually beat the prince. Murray calls him Caze the Elder.  Caze the younger, about whom even less in known, wrote the manuscript which, among other things, explored the King's Gambit Accepted.  The ms also cleared up the confusion over which Cunningham the defense was named by telling us,  "Ainsi les Parties que V.G. joua contre Mr. de Cunningham, & que j'ecrivis pour lors, ne s'y doivent pas  trouver, quoy qu'elles soient extrement belles et curieuses."  Since only one Alexander Cuningham resided in Holland at that time, the better-known, second-mentioned Mr. Cunningham who didn't move to Amsterdam until 1710 was eliminated as the one mentioned by Caze as the namesake of the defense.

     Beyond the headache-inducing confusion above, Caze's document contains much more useful historical insights.

     Prior to Caze's manuscript, documents concerned with 'modern chess' were scarce and spread out over time. Lucena, at the end of the 15th century mentions the moves to the Cunningham Defense, while the 16th century writers, with the exception of Damiano, Ruy Lopez, Orazio Gianutio,and Polerio, wrote about chess metaphorically in epic poems. The 1600s which boasted Arthur Saul, Salvio, Carrera, and Greco, seemed to grind to a halt, chess-wise, mid-century. It would be about 50 years between the publication of Greco's mss in book form, the last significant chess document, and the presentation of Caze's ms to Lord Sunderland.  It would remain the most significant work for nearly another 50 years when Philidor published his "Analyse" in 1749.

     Unfortunately, at the present, Caze's ms seemly to only be available by visiting the John G. White collection at the Cleveland Public Library, but the information, though obtained mostly second-hand (Murray, i.e. plus various game transcriptions), seems fairly reliable.

      One of the great values of this document is the revelation of the names of some who must have been the better chess players of that time in Paris and examples of their styles and skills.  According to H.R.J. Murray: "We know the names of some of the players: Abbé de Lionne, Abbé de Feuquières, Mr. Jannisson, Mr. Maubuisson, Mr. Lafon l'ainé (senior), Mr. Lafon le jeune (junior), Mr. Roussereau, Mr. Morant, maitre de requétes, Mr. Pennautler, Mr. Auzout and Mr. Villette-Murcey. We will never know the  games of M. Nicolai, first president of the Tribunal in Paris."

                           Abbé de Lionne
     Very few of these players are easily  traceable.  One thread, however, that seems to tie them all together, besides chess, is a connection with the court of Louis XIV and the date 1680 (which I take as 'around 1680'). 
     The Abbé de Lionne, whose name gave me the title to this article, is one whom we know something about. Artus de Lionne, born in 1655, was the son the Foreign Minister of France for Louis XIV.  Artus was a priest and missionary who served in Siam and China. He died in 1713. The games in Caze's ms are dated 1680. Artus left for his first missionary trip in 1681, so the timing is right.

     The Abbé de Feuquières was  Philibert-Charles de Pas de Feuquières. Born in 1657, the son of Isaac de Pas, Marquis de Feuquières, lieutenant-general in the king's army, he earned his doctorate in Theology from the University of Paris in 1687 and was appointed Bishop of Agde in 1702, a position he held until his death in 1726.

                           Thomas-Alexandre Morant
     "Morant" almost certainly was Thomas Alexandre Morant (1642-1713), "marquis du Mesnil-Garnier, conseiller au parlement de Paris, maître des requêtes, Intendant du Bourbonnais,  puis Intendant et Commandant en Provence, 1st Président au parlement de Toulouse."

Mr. Villet-Murcey seems most likely to have been Philippe Le Valois, Marquis de Villette-Mursay (1632-1707), who eventually became vice-admiral in the French Navy under Louis XIV.  He also seems acquainted with the Abbé de Lionne and the Feuquières family.

Roussereau is  an unusual name, but one listed as being "Secretaire du Cardinal Mazarin" in the court of Louis XIV.

I found several "Lafons," but the most likeliest seems to be the father and son who operated wineries, Jacques-Alexandre Laffon de Ladebat (1719 - 1797) and his son, André-Daniel Laffon de Ladebat, born in 1746.

Pierre Louis Reich de Pennautier (1614-1711) was a financier français and "protégé par le cardinal de Bonzi," also in the court of Louis XIV.

      Another value to this ms is a certain insight into what was going on in chess at the time.  Caze had some misgiving's about the rules of chess and the King's Gambit itself.  Caze felt that the King's Gambit Accepted was drawish - White couldn't overcome Black's best defense.  Murray also tells us: "Twenty years' experience of chess had convinced [Caze] that there were two defects in chess, one arising from different positions  of the Queens, which he proposed to remedy by placing both Queens on the left of the King (the crosswise arrangement), the other arising from the advantage of the move, which he proposed to remedy by compelling the first player to begin by 1.e3."

     Caze also propsed to test his ideas through a correspondence match between London and Paris ("a certain time after the current war had ended"), playing two simultaneous games, each playing alternate colors.  The match never occurred, but, as Murray pointed out, it showed that chess players were gathering together for the specific purpose of playing chess.  It was also the first mention of the idea of team correspondence (I couldn't find another mention until  a century later when the Hague played Breda in 1804).

     The extant remains of the Caze manuscript contains 17 KGA games, they involve a limited number of players who played each other, sometimes individually, sometimes in consultation - so the document seems clearly to be an attempt at analyzing the opening. I've gathered as many as I could find and tried to clear up any discrepancies.

In the first 3 games, the Abbé de Lionne plays Lafon Le Jeune, Roussereau and Maubisson:

The next five games have Maubisson playing Murcey De Villette twice, twice against the older Lafon and once against the younger Lafon:

The following game has Roussereau playing the older Lafon:

While the following miniature shows the Abbé de Feuquières defeating Morant:

The final five games were all played in consultation:

"Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games" by Davi Levy
"A History of Chess" by H.J.R. Murray
ICCF "Amico," Sept./Oct. 2007 "Correspondence Chess Reminiscence No. 9" by  Erich Ruch

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