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The Intellectual Game

batgirl
Mar 31, 2008, 6:52 PM 6

 

 My special guest today is Charles Amédée de Maurian. Although he's been somewhat indisposed for nearly a century now, he hasn't lost a bit of his charm.

 

Most of you who know of him, probably recognize him as Paul Morphy's friend. They went to school together since they were little boys. They even lived on the same block and both their fathers were lawyers and judges.  Paul was Charles' senior by 11 months. He has the distinction of being the only person personally tutored by Morphy in chess, and a reluctant student at that. 

 

What many people don't know is that Mr. de Maurian has a chess pedigree all to himself.

 

In his time, he was considered the best chess player the South ever produced next to Morphy. He held his own, on even terms, against Steinitz, Zukertort, Tchigorin and Capt. Mackenzie. He edited a chess column in the New Orleans Delta,1857-58 and was co-editor of a chess column in the Times-Democrat starting in 1883.   He was one of the founders, and first president, of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club.  He moved to Paris in 1890, but returned to New Orleans several times between then and his death in 1912.

 

In one of those excursions to the Vieux Carré, Maurian had the opportunity to address a group, presumably of chess players:


  

                                       Lincoln Evening News 1902


"MODERN CHESS

     "A distinguished New Orleanian, Charles A. Maurian, who recently returned to his native city from Paris after an absence of seven years has been associated for thirty years or more with distinction with the intellectual game of chess. Mr. Maurian and Paul Morphy were classmates in the Jesuits' college near Spring Hill, Ala. The fame of Morphy as a chess player became worldwide .  . ."

when asked:

     "How does chess playing at present [1902] compare with that of Morphy's time?"

Maurian responded:

    "If you mean in point of interest, I think that there has been no change. Chess is as attractive now as it was years ago, but there has supervened a great difference in methods. Formerly a few professionals existed.  The eminent players were for the most part gentlemen of leisure who traveled throughout the world and gave battle to amateur players like themselves without expecting aught in return except glory and fame. Now the ranks of the professionals has enlarged and the Paul Morphys have been succeeded by the Laskers, the Pillsburys and other famous and I must say wonderfully skilled chess players.  Then came the era of chess tournaments which brought out a whole army of professional layers and made chess more of a scientific and calculating game than one of intellectual character."

 

Mr. de Maurian, you see, is here today to teach us all a lesson about history and how things change in form but remain the same in essence.  Just when I thought that computers and computer-trained players were changing the nature of chess from one of imagination to one of number-crunchings, I learn that de Maurian felt something very similar nearly a hundred years ago.

 

Let's give the man a hand.

 

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