Gioacchino Greco (1600-1634)
Gioachino Greco, also known as "Il Calabrese", was born around 1600 in Celico, which near Cosenza in Calabria. Calabria had already produced such players as Leonardo di Bono and Michael di Mauro. From his writing it's apparent that he wasn't well educated and likely came from a lower class family. Already in 1619, Greco started keeping a notebook of tactics and particulary clever games and he took up the custom of giving copies of his manuscripts to his wealthy patrons. In Rome Monsignor Corsino della casa Minutoli Tegrini, Cardinal Savelli and Monsignor Francisco Buoncompagni all received copies (of which there are extant copies, dated 1620 in the Corsiniana library in Rome, under the title, Trattato del nobilissimo gioco de scacchi). Despite his popualarity in Rome, in 1621 Greco took off to test himself against the rest of Europe leaving this paper trail as he went. In 1621 he left a fine copy of his manuscripts with Duke Enrico of Lorraine in Nancy. He traveled to Paris where he played Arnauld (Isaac) de Corbeville, Enrico di Savoia (the Marquis of St. Sorlin and the Duke of Nemours and Geneva) and others. He had apparently been quite successful because in traveling from Paris to England he was waylaid by robbers who divested him of 5,000 scudi, a supposedly princely sum. Finally making it to London, he beat all the best players. Sir Francis Godolphin and Nicholas Mountstephen were given copies of his manuscripts. While in London, Greco developed an idea to record entire games, rather than positions, for study and inclusion in his manuscripts. He returned to Paris in 1624 where he rewrote his manuscipt collection to refect his new ideas. He then went to Spain and played at the court of Philip IV. There he beat his mentor and the strongest player of the time (other than himself), don Mariano Morano. He finally returned to Italy where he was enticed to traveling to the New Indies, the Americas, by a Spanish nobleman. He seemingly contracted some disease there and died around 1630 (possibly as late as 1634) at the young age of 30 (34). He generously left all the money he earned at chess to the Jesuits.
Gioachino Greco stood head and shoulders above his comtemporaries, a feat seldom duplicated. David Hooper, in The Oxford Companion to Chess, states that Greco probably made up the games in his manuscripts. The question of whether he actually played the games or invented them is rather moot since if he invented them, he was perfectly capable of playing them.
Gioachino Greco never published a book yet his influence was felt beyond Italy and throughout Europe. In 1656 his manuscripts were published in London by Henry Herringman, the book to be sold at his shop at the sign of the Anchor in the lower walk of the New Exchange. The translation was prepared by Francis Beale with Peter Stent as engraver. It bore the cumbersome title:
A French edition, Le Jeu des Eschets; Traduit de l'Italien de Gioachino Greco Calabrois was printed in 1669 by Perpingvé in Paris and again in 1689 by Jacques Le Febvre in Paris
Here is an exerpt from The Royall Game of Chesse-play
Chap. VI. Observations in playing the game.
The second thing observable is to play your men in good guard of one another, that if any man you advance be taken, the adverse piece may be taken againe by the piece which guardeth yours : and to this purpose be (of all things) sure to have as many guards upon one of your pieces, as thou seest the enemy doth advance of his upon it.
Thirdly, that thy guardes be of lesse value than the pieces he assaileth withall, for then if either he or you begin to take you shall gaine something, if you finde you cannot well guard your piece, see whether you can advance some piece of yours in guard to take a better piece for so you may many times save your endanger'd piece.
Fourthly, never change piece for piece untill you get the advantage either by taking a Pawne or Noble man of his for nothing, or disordering a Pawne or two of his which is of very materiall consequence.
Fifthly, take great heed that you doe not choak up your own passage from advancing your men, and retiring on all occasions, but indeavour by all meanes to take that liberty from your adversary.
Sixthly, never play any man untill you have examined whether you your selfe are free from danger, and to that end upon every remove of your adversary, consider of what consequence the advancing and retreating of your adversary may prove, and indeavour (if it may be hurtfull) to prevent it before it be too late.
Seventhly, consider the maine designe of the game, which is as suddenly as can be to give check mate, that is as I said before, so to check the adversary King, as that he can neither take the piece checking, because it is guarded, not cause it to be taken, nor cover the check, nor remove out of check, which may be done severall wayes, so that sometimes by the losse of one or two of your great men, yea, sometimes of your Queen you may give an unexpected mate, as you may often observe in the following Gambetts : I shall therefore omit to discover unto you the manner of the surprizing the Rookes or a queen, or the making a new Queen, of which you shall have plentifull examples in the Gambetts.
Lastly, never let your Queen stand so before your King, as that your adversary may bring a Rooke or Bishop to check your King if she were not there, for then you will hardly be able to save your Queen, nor let his Knight come so safely, that he cannot be taken up to check your Queen and King or your Rooke, and King at one time, for then you will loose your Queen or Rooke, since the King must be forced to remove out of check.
Greco goes on to mention that a stalemate is a win for the player who is stalemated, and describes something called a "Blind Mate."
Greco also gave us a counter-gambit bearing his name:
The Greco Counter Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5
[Greco's analysis of the Greco Counter Gambit appeared in his very first manuscript, entitled Tratato del nobilissimo e militare esercitio de Scacchi nel quale se contengano molti bellisimi Tratti e la vera Scienza di esso Giuoco composto da Cioachino Calabrese, which he dedicated to the Duke of Lorena in 1617.