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- Chess History and Reminiscences - 2/38 -


de Cessolus (1275 to 1290) including translations by J. Ferron and Jean De Vigny, from which last named Caxton's book of 1474 was derived.

Lucena, Vicenz, Damiano, and Jacob Mennell appeared before 1520, Ruy Lopez in 1561, Polerio, Gianuzio, Greco, Salvio, Carrera, Gustavus Selenus and the translation of Greco, followed in the interval from 1561 to 1656.

I. Bertin 1735 and the six Italian works of the last century, were the principal which followed with Philidor's manifold editions, up to Sarratt the earliest of the nineteenth century writers.

Dr. A. Van der Linde, Berlin 1874, 1118 pages, 4098 names in Index, and 540 diagrams includes notice of Cotton's complete gamester 1664, and Seymour's complete gamester 1720, with editions of Hoyle's games from 1740 to 1871, in fact about one-fourth of Linde's book is devoted to the specification of books and magazines, mostly of the nineteenth century, even down to the A.B.C. of Chess, by a lady.

Poems have been written on chess, of which the most esteemed have been Aben Ezra 1175, (translated by Dr. Hyde) Conrad Von Ammenhusen and Lydgate's "Love Battle" in the fourteenth century Vida, Bishop of Alba 1525, Sir William Jones 1761, and Frithiofs Saga by Esaias Tegner 1825.

Of articles which have appeared during the last fifteen years, the Retrospects of Chess in the Times particularly that of the 25th June 1883, (the first on record) mark events of lasting interest in the practice of the game, which would well merit reproduction. Professor Ruskin's modest but instructive letters (28 in number 1884 to 1892), also contain much of value concerning chess nomenclature, annotation, ethics and policy combined with some estimable advice and suggestions for promoting greater harmony in the chess world.

The able article in Bailey's 1885, on chess competitions and the progress of the game, and that in the Fortnightly Review of December 1886, entitled "The Chess Masters of the Day," rank as the other most noteworthy productions of the last seven years' period in chess.

I regret that it is not in my power to produce the more extended work, for to bring that now submitted within assigned compass and cost, I have had to omit much that would be needful to render such a work complete, and to give but a Bird's eye view of chapters which would well merit undiminished space. Thus the complete scores and analyses of the matches, tournaments and great personal tests of skill and statistics of the game would be acceptable to a few, whilst the full accounts of individual players such as Philidor, Staunton, Anderssen, Morphy, Lowenthal, Steinitz, Zukertort, Blackburne and perhaps even Bird, (Bailey's and Ruskin's opinions) would be regarded and read with interest by many chess players.

Respecting the supposed first source of chess the traditional and conjectural theories which have grown up throughout so many ages, regarding the origin of chess, have not become abandoned even in our own days, and we generally hear of one or other of them at the conclusion of a great tournament. It has been no uncommon thing during the past few years to find Xerxes, Palamedes, and even Moses and certain Kings of Babylon credited with the invention of chess.

The conclusions arrived at by the most able and trustworthy authorities however, are, that chess originated in India, was utterly unknown to the Greeks and Romans, and was first introduced into Europe from Persia shortly after the sixth century of our era. In its earliest Asiatic form styled the Chaturanga, It was adapted for four persons, having four small armies of eight each. King, three pieces answering to our Rook, Bishop, and Knight, Elephant (Chariot or Ship,) and Horse, with four Pawns. The players decided what piece to move by the throw of an oblong die.

About 1,350 years ago the game under the name Chatrang, adapted for two persons with sixteen piece on each side, and the same square board of 64 squares, became regularly practiced, but when the dice became dispensed with is quite unknown.

It may not be possible to trace the game of chess with absolute certainty, back to its precise source amidst the dark periods of antiquity, but it is easy to shew that the claim of the Hindus as the inventors, is supported by better evidence both inferential and positive than that of any other people, and unless we are to assume the Sanskrit accounts of it to be unreliable or spurious, or the translations of Dr. Hyde, Sir William Jones and Professor Duncan Forbes to be disingenuous and untrustworthy concoctions (as Linde the German writer seems to insinuate) we are justified in dismissing from our minds all reasonable doubts as to the validity of the claims of the Hindu Chaturanga as the foundation of the Persian, Arabian, Medieval and Modern Chess, which it so essentially resembled in its main principles, in fact the ancient Hindu Chaturanga is the oldest game not only of chess but of anything ever shown to be at all like it, and we have the frank admissions of the Persians as well as the Chinese that they both received the game from India.

The Saracens put the origin of chess at 226, says the "Westminster Papers," (although the Indians claim we think with justice to have invented it about 108 B.C. Artaxerxes a Persian King is said to have been the inventor of a game which the Germans call Bret-spiel and chess was invented as a rival game.

The connecting links of chess evidence and confirmation when gathered together and placed in order form, combined so harmonious a chain, that the progress of chess from Persia to Arabia and into Spain has been considered as quite satisfactorily proved and established by authorities deemed trustworthy, both native and foreign, and are quite consistent with a fair summary up of the more recent views expressed by the German writers themselves, and with the reasonable conclusions to be deduced even from the very voluminous but not always best selected evidence of Van der Linde.

So much has a very lively interest in chess depended in modern times upon the enthusiasm of individuals, that the loss of a single prominent supporter or player, has always seemed to sensibly affect it. This was notably felt on the death of Sir Abram Janssens and Philidor towards the end of the last century, and of Count Bruhl, Mr. G. Atwood and General Conway in this. During the last 15 years the loss of Staunton, Buckle, Cap. Kennedy, Barnes, Cochrane and Boden, and yet more recently of such friends of British chess as F. H. Lewis, I. C. H. Taylor and Captain Mackenzie left a void, which in the absence of any fresh like popular players and supporters, goes far to account for the depression and degeneracy of first class chess in England.

Though the game is advancing more in estimation than ever, and each succeeding year furnishes conclusive evidence of its increasing progress, in twenty years more under present auspices, a British Chess Master will be a thing of the past, and the sceptre of McDonnell and of Staunton will have crumpled into dust, at the very time when in the natural course of things according to present indications, the practice of the game shall have reached the highest point in its development.

We miss our patrons and supporters of the past who were ever ready to encourage rising enterprize. None have arisen to supply their places. The distinguished and noble names we find in the programmes of our Congresses and Meetings, and in the 1884 British Chess Association are there as form only, and it seems surprising that so many well known and highly esteemed public men should allow their names to continue to be published year after year as Patrons, Presidents, or Vice-Presidents of concerns in which apparently they take not; or at least evince not, the slightest interest.

Of the score or so of English born Chess Masters on the British Chess Association lists of 1862, but five remain, two alone of whom are now residing in this country.

The British Chess Association of 1884, which constituted itself the power to watch over the interests of national chess, has long since ceased to have any real or useful existence, and why the name is still kept up is not easy to be explained.

It has practically lapsed since the year 1889, when last any efforts were made to collect in annual or promised subscriptions, or to carry out its originally avowed objects, and the keeping up in print annually, of the names of the President and Vice-President Lord Tennyson, Prof. Ruskin, Lord Randolph Churchill, and Sir Robert Peel seems highly objectionable.

The exponents of chess for the 19th century certainly merit more notice than my space admits of. After Philidor who died in 1795, and his immediate successors Verdoni and E. Sarratt, W. Lewis, G. Walker, John Cochrane, Deschapelles and de La Bourdonnais, have always been regarded as the most able and interesting, and consequently the most notable of those for the quarter of a century up to 1820, and the above with the genial A. McDonnell of Belfast, who came to the front in 1828, and excelled all his countrymen in Great Britain ever known before him, constitute the principal players who flourished up to 1834, when the series of splendid contests between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell cast all other previous and contemporary play into the shade.

The next period of seventeen years to 1851, had produced Harrwitz, Horwitz and Lowenthal from abroad, and Buckle, Cap. Kennedy, Bird and Boden at home, whilst the great International Chess Tournament of that year witnessed the triumph of the great Anderssen, and introduced us to Szen and Kiezeritzky, then followed a lull in first class chess amongst us from 1851 to 7, succeeded by a year of surpassing interest, for 1858 welcomed the invincible Paul Morphy of New Orleans, considered by some superior even to La Bourdonnais, Staunton and Anderssen the three greatest players who had preceded him.

In the year 1862 England's second great gathering took place and Anderssen was again victorious. In the four years after Morphy's short but brilliant campaign, a wonderful array of distinguished players had come forward, comprising Mackenzie, Paulsen, Steinitz, Burn and Blackburne, The Rev. G. A. MacDonnell, C. De Vere, Barnes, Wormald, Brien and Campbell. In another ten years two more of the most illustrious chess players appeared in the persons of Zukertort and Gunsberg, and we read of matches between Steinitz, Zukertort and Blackburne, for a modest ten pound note (see growth of stakes in chess).


Chess History and Reminiscences - 2/38

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