Check to Napoleon

Check to Napoleon

Feb 25, 2012, 11:43 AM |

”Les échecs, c'est trop difficile que pour être un jeu, et pas assez sérieux  que pour être une science ou un art.” (Napoleon Bonaparte)

14 September 1812. The army of Napoleon reaches Moscow. He ran into a ghost town, uninhabited, with no supplies and burnet by the Russian themselves. On the embers of a city in ruins, without having received the surrender of the Tsar of Russia, Napoleon understood quickly that to stay there supposed the die of starvation and cold, so he set out the withdrawal immediately. The French soldiers, poorly equipped, had to travel hundreds of kilometres death of cold and hungry besieged by Russian army that take advantage of the knowledge of the terrain.
 Russian campaign, 1812

On arriving at the Beresina River, the disaster was total. The Russians had mined the bridge with gunpowder, and they exploded it when the French were going through while the Cossacks attacked from four sides   producing the slaughter, if they had proposed, the Russians could have totally destroyed the invading army and they would capture Napoleon himself, but they let them off. Napoleon crossed the Russian border on the way buck defeated for the first time in his glorious military career. More than 600.000 men got into Russian territory, and only 58.000 had returned.

  The army of Napoleon going through the Beresina, a little before the slaughter

The Russian Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov (1794-1867) was 18 when Napoleon invaded his country. He was chess player and author of studies and problems. He is remembered as the Gran chess master in Russia. He analysed (along with Carl Jaenisch) the Petrov defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6). His best known study is the withdrawal of Napoleon Bonaparte from Moscow, where it is shown how Russian cavalry expels Napoleon:

  Start position and and symbols shown

The black king represents Napoleon, located in Moscow (b1) The cavalry of the Cossacks begin to harass him.

1.Nd2+ Ka2 2.Nc3+ Ka3 3.Ndb1+ Kb4 4.Na2+ Kb5 5.Nbc3+ Ka6 6.Nb4+ 

  Position after 6.Nb4+

Here the white ones could have done the checkmate with 6.Qa8#. Remember though, that the Russians, allowed that Napoleon was withdrawal after crossing Beresina river (represented by the diagonal h1-a8).

From there the Russian cavalry expels Napoleon to Paris. (h8). 

8 ... Rc8 9.Ca7+ Rd7 10.Cb8+ Re7 11.Cc8+ Rf8 12.Cd7+ Rg8 13.Ce7+ Rh8 

  Position after 12...Rg8

14.Rg2#  With the movement of the Tsar Alexander, Napoleon is defeated.

The complete sequence of the study of Petrov :

From Petrov it has been kept up a spectacular game typically romantic move against Alexander Hofmann which; although there are some inaccuracies on both sides, it is worth enjoying it.

In the middle game the black ones changes a horse for 3 pounds and take advantage because the white ones expose the king unnecessarily to make a sudden attack. It is specially good the key move of attack and sacrifice 12...0.0!!

Napoleon as well as military, was also a lover of chess. He frequently visited the Café de la Regénce in Paris, where he spent a lot of hours.  european center of chess in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where the great chessplayers (Legal, Philidor, Deschapelles, La Bourdonnais, Saint Amant) alternated with the intelligentsia of the time (Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau) and politics (Robespierre, Talleyrand .) There is a long time kept a table with the inscription: Table où Napoleón, premier consul, joua aux Èchecs.

In fact he was not a very bright player, but even he had a little knowledge of the game theory, mainly with the openings, occasionally he got to bring his great strategy sense on the board.
An example is the game with Madame Remusat (main maid of his wife). In this game, Napoleon begins deploying the cavalry playing the same strategies used in the real battlefields.


   The chess game of Napoleon v.s. Madame de Remusat, painted by Hungarian Sandor Badacsonyi.
   The board position is the time when Napoleon looks the other way after giving 14.Qd3#  at the
   beautiful lady naked.

His passion for the chess made in 1809 he accepted to move to Viena to confront with the automaton “The Turk” where Napoleon lost the game (See the game in the article “The automata Turkish” published earlier).

In fact, with “The Turk” he used the called Napoleon opening ( 1.e4 e5 2.Qf3), an irregular opening that develops too much the Queen, exposing it to attack and it removes the natural square f3 for the knight.

When Napoleon was sent into exile in St. Helena Island, taking advantage of his fondness for chess was known and not arouse suspicion, his supporters sent him a chess set of pieces of ivory, which hid inside a detailed plan to escaped from the island. Napoleon would play chess with this many games, but failed to discover the secret hiding pieces. The officer will give them died during the trip and could not report its contents.

During his confinement in Santa Elena he played a lot of games against Marshal Bertrand, a loyal collaborator with whom he share the exile. In the next game, we can see the victory of a bold Napoleon that displays his forces rapidly at expense of sacrifices, against a defensive Bertrand, unable to respond to attack of the emperor.

  Napoleon playing against Marshal Bertrand in his exile on St. Helena. Their king is lying on the    
  ground, probably by a fit of temper after losing the game.

It must be said, too, that many historians have questioned the legacy of Napoleon's chess, claiming that the games actually attributed to him were invented later to praise his figure.

  Napoleon in full glory.                              Napoleon at the end. Checkmate.