de Rivière

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Jul 14, 2009, 5:35 PM |
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Huddersfield College Magazine  1880

Jules Arnous de Rivière     . . .Do you see that old fellow in the corner, who is rather sarcastic-looking, an old fellow with snow-white hair (if the few thin silvery locks which fringe his bald crown may be so called )?  He is the doyen of the French Chess-board. Grown old under the shade of the Regence, he has seen and known all its celebrities ; nay, he has not unfrequently measured his strength with them notwithstanding the direful overthrows which he thereby sustained. But like the fabled Phoenix he derived new strength from his wounds, and emerged a new creature from his ashes, and his courage obtained for him from Labourdonnais the sobriquet of "The French Achilles"—"the Terror of Novices." His ample forehead indicates a well-stored brain, somewhat lacking, perhaps, in the matter of order, but still preserving freshness of recollection, the love of Chess, and the pugnacity and impetuosity of his younger days unmodified by the lapse of long years. He likes his laugh and his joke, and prefers to the society of his contemporaries that of the younger generation which he knows so well how to interest and amuse, and to the tastes and feelings of which he can so entirely adapt himself that he may well be described as an elderly young man rather than an old one. Not by any means a very strong player, he shines occasionally by the boldness and inspiration of his play, and is above all remarkable for his rapidity.
     Notwithstanding his half century's devotion to the Divinity of Chess, the game has never been to him anything more than a game—a recreation, but never a subject of serious study. Long intercourse with the world, an education of the first order, and much experience of men and things, have stamped his manners with a certain amenity which is eminently sympathetic. With his intimates, apart from the Chess-board, he passes for a right good fellow, an amusing companion ; but once let him enter the lists, and strange transformations take place. In success, nothing can equal the volubility of his language, the originality of his expressions—jests, sarcasms, broad anecdotes, burlesque comparisons, fun, cock-and-bull stories, are poured from his lips in a mingled tirade of English, Italian, French, Greek, and Latin, with a sardonic smile highly calculated, it must be confessed, to irritate his adversary. But let fortune cease to smile—talk, epilogue, and jest suddenly cease and are replaced by a silence as of the tomb. As difficulties increase so does his countenance overcloud more and more, his eyes flash fire, his gestures presage the coming tempest, which bursts at last in frightful din of men swept from the board with such violence that Knights lose their heads or ears, Kings and Queens their crowns, and the unhappy Pawns strewn in fragments on the floor complete the list of killed and wounded. Add to this paroxysm of fury a flood of voluble exclamations in highly unparliamentary language, and containing interjectional remarks far from consistent with the prohibitions of the third commandment, and the picture is complete. No doubt the storm once past subsides as quickly as it arose, and the good fellow and boon companion reappears, consoling himself by swearing never to touch Chess-board more ! an oath to be as regularly broken the very next day. Such is the part he has played these fifty years past.
     Courteous reader, are you alarmed on my account for the consequences I may incur from drawing such a portrait ? Do you see me incurring rebuke, perhaps abuse, or total demolition, for I am, after all, purblind and awkward Be not alarmed ! I know the original too well to fear such consequences. 'Tis but a portrait of myself!
     As a contrast to this portrait whose sombre tints are perhaps more likely to repel than to attract the reader's sympathy, but which my duty as a narrator compelled me to delineate impartially, let me present another which will certainly prove entirely pleasing, that of one of the greatest modern Masters of the French School, whose reputation is universal—a portrait which I have the more pleasure in drawing, in that the original, Jules Arnous de Rivière, is my excellent and faithful friend.
     His intelligent and mobile physiognomy, his frank and open expression, his manners denoting both lively parts and expansive benevolence, confer on his personality that nameless seductive charm which characterises the man of the world, and realises the ideal of a true French gentleman. The society of great artists, of great writers, and familiar intimacy with such men as PreVost Paradol, Doazan, Alfred de Musset, and the President of the Republic, M. Grevy, have contributed marvellously to the development of his fine natural aptitudes. At once a man of business and a man of letters, he shrinks from no labour, no effort, no obstacle, in order to obtain his object. "Patience and Will " form his motto. He possesses in a very remarkable degree the art of adapting himself to the tastes, the manners, and the habits, of those around him. Facetious with jolly fellows, he is never at a loss for a retort, and returns their bons mots with interest; grave in grave company, he can pose at will as a man of letters, a legislator, legist, diplomat, or financier. Among plain people he can himself be plain, humble, provincial, or, if need be, a clodhopper. He can talk war with the general, history with the historian, politics with the senator, education with the professor, religion with the monk or the bishop, truffles and champagne with the parvenu, and through all this variety and versatility there runs that spirit of brightness and conciliation which constitutes to me his peculiar charm.
     As a Chess-player he is pre-eminently distinguished by the elegance, finesse, and correctness of his play. Intimately acquainted with Morphy, whose esteem and friendship he had gained, he carried to perfection in the society of that phenomenal athlete his previous studies. I witnessed the opening of his career, and in those days gave him a few hints occasionally, but in no long time he surpassed his master. Aspiring even then to the highest rank, he sought his opponents among the celebrities, and suffered unmercifully at their hands, having many and severe wounds to show, but all maimed and bruised as he was, each defeat only stimulated his ardour and he began afresh with renewed spirit. The result has justified his perseverance, and the name of Arnous de Riviere stands inscribed in the annals of Chess beside those of Philidor, Deschapelles, and Labourdonnais.
     Unfortunately he has for the present withdrawn to his tent. Industrial enterprise absorbs his time and energies, and prevented his taking part in thegreat Paris Tourney of 1878.

     I trust the modesty of my original will not be alarmed by the terms in which I have attempted to sketch his portrait, and which but reflect my sympathies and express my gratitude for that uniform kindness of his towards me, which neither the lapse of time nor my misfortunes have impaired or changed.

 

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The Death Of Arnous de Rivière
BMC 1905

We learn with regret of the death of M. Arnous de Rivière who succumbed to an attack of influenza in Paris on September 11th [1905].  M. de Rivière was the doyen of French chess players—he was born at Nantes, May 4th, 1830. He learned to play chess when a boy but he practiced as an amateur until he reached the age of 40, about which time he began to contribute articles on the game to various Parisian journals. He visited England and encountered Barnes, Boden, Bird and Löwenthal. Of conti­nental masters he met Petroff, V. der Lasa, Hampe, Dubois, Kolisch, Neumann, Rosenthal, Tchigorin, Clerc, Journoud, Sittenfeid, Janowski and many others. He was one of the players who encountered Morphy, though his results with the grand master were scarcely as favourable as those achieved by Harrwitz Löwenthal, Boden, Barnes and others.
    
In matches he beat Löwenthal, in 1850, by 2to 0 ; in 1860, Barnes and Journoud, the former by 5 to 2, the latter by 7 to 2 and I draw. In 1885 he met Tchigorin in a match, winning 4 to the Russian's 5, and drawing one game. In the Paris Tournament of 1882-1883 he finished 2nd  (Clerc being first). In the Café de la Régence Tournament, of 1896, he was 3rd. His style of play was rather solid and cautious than brilliant.  He used to play at the Régence and at the Cercle Philidor, giving odds to most opponents.
    
As a writer on chess he contributed papers to La Régence, Gil Blas , L' Evénement, La Patrie, Echo de Paris, La Paix, La Vie Populaire, L' Illustration,, etc., and he wrote with Neumann, the book of the Paris Tournament of 1867. He was also the organizer of the Monte Carlo Chess Tournaments.  He took interest in billiards, salta and other games and puzzles, showing great ability in all his undertakings.
    
In stature he was tall and well built, and of a decided robust constitu­tion, full of humour and delicate sarcasm to his chess victims. He was a great admirer of England and British institutions in general.
    
M. de Rivière could relate many reminiscences of Morphy, whom he considered to have been the greatest genius in chess, past or present. He often used to say that, when Morphy was asked to account for his having lost 3 games to Harrwitz in succession, the reply was that it was desired to see all the resources of Harrwitz in the attack, and that, once Morphy knew all Harrwitz could do, he expressed his firm conviction that he would lose no more games to Harrwitz, a prediction which, as we all know, was verified to the letter, and by a series of match games probably superior to anything ever achieved over the board.