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1. Philidor and the Café de la Régence Chess Masters

§ 1. The Second Career of François-André Danican Philidor (1726–1795) as a Chess Player

Rain or shine, it is my regular habit every day about five to go and take a walk around the Palais-Royal.…If the weather is too cold or rainy, I take shelter in the Café de la Régence, where I entertain myself by watching chess being played. Paris is the world center, and this café is the Paris center, for the finest skill at this game. It is there that one sees the clash of the profound Légal, the subtle Philidor, the staunch Mayot; that one sees the most surprising combinations and hears the most stupid remarks. For although one may be a wit and a great chess player, like Légal, one may also be a great chess player and a fool, like Foubert and Mayot.[1]

Thus begins Denis Diderot’s famous work of indeterminate genre, Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew, 1760s). Whether considered a work of fiction or nonfiction, its opening passage certainly contains much that is true to life. The Café de la Régence was a real café, established in 1681 and later renamed for the Regency period, from 1715 through 1723, when it won great popularity. It was in fact widely regarded as the site of the best chess-playing in Europe, if not the world, from Philidor’s rise to prominence around 1740 until Labourdonnais’s death in 1840. And Diderot did indeed frequent the place.[2]

Several others among the philosophes, those eighteenth-century intellectuals who led the movement known as the Enlightenment, also entertained themselves there. Montesquieu perhaps, Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin very likely, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau most definitely paid regular visits during one period or another in their lives. Spectators assembled there in crowds after Rousseau became famous and the police had to station guards at the door to control them. For their part, the philosophes did not go to the Café de la Régence only to watch or to converse; they went to play chess.[3]

Portrait of Philidor. Courtesy of the John G. White Collection, Special Collections, Cleveland Public Library. Photograph by the Cleveland Public Library Photoduplication Service
[Full Size]

The “royal game” had been accepted for hundreds of years at face value, as just a game, an amusement, a diversion. The few who ascribed a deeper significance to it considered it a symbolic representation of war, an activity generally associated with the aristocracy, and the game itself was also generally thought to belong to the aristocracy. In the eighteenth century, however, intellectuals took an increasing interest in chess, so that by the end of the century it had become as much or even more their game than the nobility’s. The philosophes, who had a collective reputation for questioning everything, began to wonder whether there might be something in the game other than mere amusement or symbolic war.

Diderot appears to have been undecided on the matter, to judge from Le Neveu de Rameau. The Encyclopédie (1751–80), the great literary monument of the Enlightenment edited by Diderot and his friend d’Alembert, expresses the same uncertainty in its article “Échecs” (Chess). The author of the article, the chevalier de Jaucourt, concedes that some people,

struck by the fact that chance has no part in this game, and that skill alone brings victory, have regarded good chess players as endowed with superior minds; but if this reasoning is correct, how is it that one sees so many mediocre thinkers, indeed even a few near-imbeciles, excel at the game, while geniuses of all sorts have not been able to reach the level of a mediocre player?

Nevertheless, both Jaucourt and his editors must have felt that the game had some significance beyond its obvious entertainment value, otherwise why devote an article to it at all, and why admire people who excel at it, such as Philidor?

We have had at Paris a young man aged eighteen, who used to play two games of chess at once without looking at the boards, beating two players of better than average ability, to each of whom he could only give odds of a knight when playing with sight of the board, although he himself was a player of the first rank. To this feat may be added something that we witnessed with our own eyes: In the middle of one of these matches, an illegal move was deliberately made; after a rather large number of subsequent moves, he recognized the error and had the piece put back where it belonged. This young man is a M. Philidor; he is the son of a musician of some renown; he is himself a great musician, and perhaps the best player of Polish checkers there ever was or ever will be. This is one of the most extraordinary examples of the power of memory and imagination.[4]

The German philosopher and mathematician Leibniz, another representative of the Enlightenment, unhesitatingly recommended chess: “I strongly approve the study of games of reason, not for their own sake, but because they help to perfect the art of thinking.” [5] Thus, unlike Jaucourt, Leibniz did expect good chess players to be good thinkers. Philidor, perhaps misunderstanding him, wrote in the preface to his chess treatise: “I believe I have improved the theory of a game that many famous authors, such as Leibniz, consider a science.” [6]

Others believed that chess could teach morality. In a letter, Diderot drew attention to the chess master Légal’s maxim that when a misplay occurs, the rectification “in doubtful cases should always be against the player who might have been in bad faith.” Diderot did not credit the game as much as the player, however: “What is so frivolous that it cannot inspire a few serious reflections?” [7] While living in Paris, the didactic autodidact Benjamin Franklin composed a short essay entitled “The Morals of Chess” (1779). He asserted therein that playing chess was “not merely an idle amusement” but a constructive activity that fostered the virtues of foresight, circumspection, caution, and perseverance.[8]

Le Neveu de Rameau first appeared in print not in French but in German, in a translation made by the ennobled literary giant Goethe, who did not really belong to the Enlightenment, although his lifetime overlapped those of most of the philosophes. In one of his early dramas, he had a character say of chess that “the game is the touchstone of the intellect.” [9] These eighteenth-century intellectuals, whatever the diversity of their views on chess, all seem to have considered it more than just a game. Perhaps they could have reached agreement on the limited conclusion advanced by the salon aphorist Chamfort: “A good heart is not sufficient to play chess.” [10]

François-André Danican Philidor had two careers. His first career, in music, during which he played chess as a second occupation, accorded well with Old Regime French society. But when tastes changed and his career in music began a decrescendo, he composed a second career out of chess, which struck Old Regime society as a dissonance.

The Danican family acquired the name Philidor when François-André’s great-grandfather or great-uncle moved to Paris in the early seventeenth century and joined the orchestra of the French court, replacing a distinguished Italian oboist named Filidori. King Louis XIII, after hearing his new oboist play, is supposed to have remarked in delight: “I have found a second Filidori.” The Danicans adopted the royal compliment as a sort of title and subsequently supplied many musicians to the kings of France. François-André grew up in the ambience of the royal chapel, where he served as a page de la musique, studying music and singing in the choir. At the age of eleven he composed a motet that was performed in the cha-pel before Louis XV, who rewarded and encouraged him. The precocious composer wrote several more motets before he turned fourteen, when he retired from his official post. At that point he became self-employed, copying music and giving private lessons. He continued to produce motets and to have them performed at Versailles.[11]

Meanwhile, Philidor had discovered chess. His eldest son, who started to write his biography but did not get very far, passed along this anecdote:

At the age of six, he was allowed to join the children of Louis XV’s chapel. The musicians, while waiting for the king to arrive for [daily] mass, customarily played chess on a long table that was inlaid with six checkerboards. Philidor used to entertain himself by watching the games, to which he gave his entire attention. He had scarcely turned ten when one day an old musician, having arrived before any of the other players, complained to him of their lateness and expressed annoyance at not being able to begin a game. Hesitantly, Philidor offered to play; the musician responded first by laughing and then by accepting. When the game began the musician’s disdain for his young opponent soon gave way to astonishment. The game progressed, and it was not long before irritation appeared, quickly swelling to such proportions that the child, fearing the consequences of wounded pride, began to watch the door. He pursued his successful course of play, edged imperceptibly toward the end of the bench, and fled suddenly after advancing the winning piece and crying “Checkmate!” The old musician was left to curse his leaden legs and swallow his rage.

According to Philidor’s son, he rapidly surpassed all the other musicians. After he left the royal chapel in 1740, he began to frequent the Café de la Régence. At the time, according to Philidor himself, chess enthusiasts played in many of the cafés of Paris. But M. de Kermur, sire de Légal, held court at the Régence.[12]

Born around the turn of the eighteenth century in Brittany, Légal was the founder of the Café de la Régence dynasty. As we have seen, the narrator of Le Neveu de Rameau refers to him as “a wit and a great chess player”; the character “Rameau’s nephew” calls him, somewhat indirectly, a chess genius. For countless years he sat in the same chair and wore the same green coat, taking large quantities of snuff and attracting a crowd with his equally brilliant conversation and combinations. He had already established his reputation as the best in France when Philidor first walked into the Régence in 1740, and he continued playing into the 1780s, his own eighties, without ever having to acknowledge a superior, although he lost at least one match. Philidor persisted as Légal’s chess student for three years, during the course of which he increasingly neglected and finally lost his own music students. But by the end of this period he could hold his own against his master without having to accept odds. He also learned about blindfold play from Légal, who, however, apparently did not attempt it more than once or twice himself.[13] As the Encyclopédie attests, Philidor could soon play two blindfold games simultaneously.

Philidor traveled to the Netherlands in 1745 with the father of a child-prodigy harpsichordist in preparation for a series of concerts to be given there. The harpsichordist died suddenly, however, obviously putting an end to the whole project. But Philidor stayed on in the Netherlands anyway, playing chess and Polish checkers for stakes and giving chess lessons for a fee. Not only the Dutch supported him in this way; so too did some English army officers—noblemen, of course—who were on the Continent to play out the intricate endgame of the War of the Austrian Succession. It was undoubtedly the latter’s encouragement that prompted Philidor to go to England in 1747.[14]

In London, Philidor boosted his international reputation by winning two important matches. He defeated Sir Abraham Janssen, the top-rated English player, three games to one, and Philippe Stamma, a native of Syria and author of a well-known chess treatise published a decade earlier, eight games to one, with one draw. In 1748, Philidor returned to the Netherlands, where he composed his own chess treatise, Analyse du jeu des échecs (Analysis of the Game of Chess), and then in 1749 went back to London, where he published it. Again he bested Stamma, this time in the bookstalls. The number of copies of the Analyse that sold over the course of the next two centuries cannot even be estimated. All told, it has appeared in at least one hundred editions, in at least ten languages. And it sold well immediately, probably in large part because of its novel attempt to build a bridge between general principles of good play and the bare record of moves made in model games. Like previous writers on chess, Philidor provided both abstract theory and records of games, but unlike them he also annotated the records at key points in the games, telling his readers which possible moves at those junctures he judged good and which bad, and on the basis of what principles. In another break with tradition his book emphasized good use of one’s pawns, pieces relatively neglected in the royal game until then. In a revolutionary maxim Philidor wrote that pawns “are the soul of chess.” [15]

After perhaps two years’ residence in England, Philidor left to visit Germany, at that time an irregular checkerboard of more than a hundred independent principalities. Frederick the Great of Prussia welcomed him to Potsdam and observed some of his games, but the martial king, although a chess player, did not himself venture into the field against such a formidable adversary. It was there in 1751 that Philidor’s first-known three-game simultaneous blindfold exhibition took place. The mathematician Leonhard Euler, in nearby Berlin, unfortunately missed the entire visit, although he mentioned it in a letter, calling Philidor a great chess player and thereby giving posterity some idea of the latter’s international fame. Besides Frederick, at least two other German princes castled Philidor before he returned to England.[16]

He remained in England until 1754, when he at last went home to Paris, which, to the best of our knowledge, he had not seen in nine years. Although Philidor played a lot of chess during this long vagabondage, he did not entirely neglect music. We recall that he had set out from Paris to assist with a musical tour that ended before it started. The fact that he never played an instrument and that he apparently ceased singing after he left the royal chapel raises the question of what his role in the tour was supposed to have been. He may have been asked to do some arranging. Whatever the original plan, nothing indicates that he had anything to do with music while in the Netherlands. In Prussia, he was reported to have taken some lessons in counterpoint and studied the works of German composers. In England, he did some composition of his own. His son said that he managed to have one of his pieces performed in London in 1753, and that “the famous Handel gave it a benevolent welcome and found its choruses well-constructed.” [17] That same year he placed this curious notice in the 9 December issue of the London Public Advertiser:

Mr. Philidor begs leave to acquaint the public, that in order to justify himself of the calumny spread about town, that he was not the author of the Latin Music he gave last year, as likewise to convince the world that the Art of Music has been at all times his constant study and application, and Chess only his diversion, he has undertaken to set an Ode to Music, in praise of harmony, wrote by the celebrated Mr. Congreve.[18]

This public statement tells us not how Philidor actually lived but rather how he saw himself, or how he wanted to be seen, in his society. And it probably says as much about Western society in the mideighteenth century as it does about Philidor as an individual within that society. Scarcity of evidence prevents us from being able to make an independent assessment of the relative importance to Philidor of chess and music, in terms of, for example, hours spent or income derived, during his nine years as a knight errant. It is quite likely that Philidor supported himself, even comfortably, playing chess. It is also likely that chess occupied a good part of his waking day for large portions of that period. But whether or not it was in some objective sense his occupation, he did not consider it such. Some intellectuals might have gone beyond considering chess merely a diversion, to the point of considering it a useful or instructive diversion, but almost no one in the Western world could yet conceive of it as an occupation.

Philidor may also have earned money during those nine restless years by giving music lessons, copying music, or composing. But certainly chess more than music provided him with adventures, opened doors for him, and enabled him to see the world and learn about life, including musical life, outside of France; perhaps chess even supported further musical study and paid his bills while he composed. And if he thought of it only as a means to an end, he never suggested that he did not enjoy playing chess.

Chess players almost always staked money on their games in the eighteenth century. This was gambling, to be sure, but because chess engaged the intellect and reduced the role of chance to insignificance, it was a much more respectable form of gambling than most others. These two circumstances, money at risk and the absence of chance, made it a necessity for a stronger player to offer odds to a weaker player. In general, a player gave odds to his adversary by giving pieces, that is, by beginning the game with one or more of his own pieces removed from the board; by giving opening moves, that is, by allowing his adversary the first move and perhaps a free move preceding the first move; or by giving a combination of pieces and opening moves. The same scale of values of the pieces that is used today for the purpose of analysis had already been established in the eighteenth century for the purpose of giving odds. The scale runs, from the least valuable to the most valuable piece: pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen, and king, the last of whose value, by the rules of the game, is absolute. The opening move was and is considered to be worth some fraction of a pawn. One pawn and the first move constituted the minimum that Légal, his reputation established, or Philidor, having caught up with his master, ever gave to other players.[19]

This system may have developed in response to necessities within the eighteenth-century chess microcosm, but it also reflected the social macro-cosm of eighteenth-century France. French society, or at least its upper 10 percent of aristocrats, clergymen, large landowners, merchants, civil servants, and professionals, was acutely status-conscious. If a stronger player offered odds to a weaker player partly to draw him into a game, he also did it partly to maintain his own superior status. For the stronger player, it was considered more honorable to lose while giving odds than to win while playing without odds, which constituted an admission that the presumed inferior actually had the rank of an equal. Of course if the presumed superior player lost consistently while giving odds to the presumed inferior, eventually he had to give up his pretense, or at least his fortune. Or he could refuse to play his presumed inferior any longer when he saw a disturbing trend developing, and this does not appear to have been a particularly unusual course of action, or inaction, to take. Which may explain a 1787 reference to Légal and Philidor: “The last match these gentlemen played was in 1755 when the Scholar beat his Master.” [20] That is, the two best players in France, habitués of the same café, had not played each other for more than thirty years.

When Philidor, soon after returning to Paris from his nine years abroad, defeated his former teacher Légal in that last match of theirs, he became in all likelihood the best chess player in Europe. But during the next fifteen years he conducted a productive and successful career in music and we hear little about “his diversion.” Philidor stayed in Paris, wrote a long string of comic operas, and acquired a reputation as one of France’s leading composers. His success began with Le Diable à quatre (1756) and Les Pèlerins de la Mecque (1758), and peaked with Le Sorcier (1764), Tom Jones (1765, based on the novel by Henry Fielding), and Ernelinde (1767). Companies throughout Europe staged these operas.[21] He also married a musician. Angélique-Henriette-Elisabeth Richer sang, occasionally as a concert soloist, and played keyboard instruments. Her three brothers were all musicians, and one of them, Louis-Augustin Richer, had attained contemporary celebrity as a singer and singing master. Often Philidor’s wife, and sometimes one or more of his brothers-in-law, rehearsed his compositions for him so he could hear how they sounded, since he himself neither played nor sang.[22]

The beginning of this period in Philidor’s life coincided with one of the many civil wars of French cultural history. Its theater happened to be the opera, and since the invading forces championed an Italian form known as opera buffa, it was called the querelle des bouffons. Paris society cleaved into two camps, favoring either the French traditionalists or the Italianizing innovators. Led by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosophes generally sided with the latter.

Rousseau and Philidor were friends, at least for a short while. Philidor helped the philosophe with the music for his first opera, Les Muses galantes (1745). Rousseau reported that Jean-Philippe Rameau, the reigning monarch of French music and the uncle of “Rameau’s nephew,” said of the opera that “a part of what he had just heard was the product of a consummate artist, and the rest that of an ignoramus who knew nothing of music.” Rameau himself corroborated this report of his judgment. A biographer of Philidor, not surprisingly, concludes that Philidor’s contribution was the part singled out for praise by Rameau. Rousseau, in contrast, wrote that Philidor came twice to work on the opera, “but he could not commit himself to laboring diligently for a distant and uncertain profit. He did not return again and I finished the task myself.” Since the score of the opera has long since disappeared, the last word may have been had by the music historian who declined to judge between them, musing, “it would be interesting to know whose genius intermittently flashed.” [23]

In the querelle des bouffons, Rousseau won the biggest victories both on and off the stage. His second opera, Le Devin du village, composed with no help from Philidor, attracted legions of listeners and piled up four hundred performances between its début in 1752 and 1829. His pamphlet salvo of 1753, Lettre sur la musique française, provoked a huge outcry by targeting the “fictitious ‘style’” of the French: “To make up for the lack of song, they have multiplied accompaniments…[and] to disguise the insipidity of their work, they have increased the confusion. They believe they are making music; but they are only making noise.” [24] Contemporaries generally counted Philidor among the Italianizers, although in music he was not a theorist.[25]

From a later perspective, Philidor’s music seems ambiguous with regard to the querelle des bouffons, especially if one accepts Rousseau’s drawing of the battle lines. Rousseau associated the Italianizers with melody, “pure song,” and freedom from both affectation and ornamentation, and the French traditionalists with harmony, “style,” and artful accompaniment. F.-J. Fétis, a highly influential nineteenth-century conductor, composer, teacher, critic, and historian of music, judged that “Philidor showed himself to be a much more skillful harmonist than the [other] French composers of his time, and despite what has been said, he did not lack melody.” [26]

Rousseau had previously tried his hand at chess and, as in music, sought Philidor’s assistance early. In a passage whose echoes we will hear repeatedly, Rousseau confesses:

I made the acquaintance of M. de Légal, of a M. Husson, of Philidor, of every great chess player of the time, and did not become, for all that, any more skillful. Nevertheless, I had no doubt that in the end I would become stronger than all of them, and that was enough for me to keep me playing. I always reasoned in the same way about every foolish thing that infatuated me. I said to myself: Whoever is the best at something is sure of being well known and sought out. Let me be the best then, at no matter what; I will be sought out, opportunities will present themselves to me, and my natural abilities will make me a success.[27]

Diderot’s character “Rameau’s nephew” expresses a similar attitude toward chess and other activities:

Ah ha! There you are, monsieur philosophe. And what are you doing here among this crowd of good-for-nothings? Do you also waste your time pushing wood? (That’s how one scornfully refers to playing chess or checkers.)


No, but when I have nothing better to do, I entertain myself by watching those who push well.


In that case you are rarely entertained; leaving aside Légal and Philidor, the others don’t know what they’re doing.


And M. de Bissy?


He is to chess what Mlle Clairon is to acting: As players, they both know everything that one can learn.


You are difficult to please; I see you spare from criticism only sublime genius.


Yes, in chess, checkers, poetry, eloquence, music, and other nonsense of the sort. What good is mediocrity in those endeavors?[28]

Shortly after this exchange, “Rameau’s nephew” calls himself mediocre and says that he envies genius. It turns out that he once thought of himself as a genius but eventually ceased believing it.

The relentless drive to become the best that Diderot ascribes to a younger “Rameau’s nephew” and that Rousseau ascribes to his own younger self stands in sharp contrast to the wit and irony that most of the philosophes brought to their activities. Another striking and related similarity between the two youths, and again contrasting with the philosophes, is their idea that chess is equivalent to other arts, in the sense that it is worthwhile to devote one’s life to it and that a great chess player is comparable to a great artist. It has been argued that Diderot’s character “Rameau’s nephew” is in large part a caricature of Rousseau. Diderot and Rousseau were in fact introduced to each other in the Café de la Régence; perhaps they became acquainted across a chessboard, and perhaps Diderot chose this scene of their meeting as the setting for a satire of the opinions of his former friend and current enemy. Other commentators have interpreted the character “Rameau’s nephew” as one side of Diderot’s own personality.[29] In any case, if a few advanced thinkers such as Rousseau and “Rameau’s nephew” could consider making almost any activity at which one excelled a full-time occupation, Philidor still considered chess, though worth study, “only his diversion.”

In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the Age of Revolution began and Philidor’s music became passé, so he set up chess in its place. Europe’s first chess club may have been the one founded by a group of English players in 1770 in London. A second club appeared there four years later, whether in competition with or as a replacement of the first is not clear. In any case, it immediately acquired an aura of fashionability, attracting as members enlightened intellectuals, politicians, and aristocrats such as Edward Gibbon, Charles James Fox, and the marquess of Rockingham. In the early 1770s Philidor traveled to England twice. He undertook the first trip, at least in part, for the purpose of trying to secure the publication of an expanded edition of his chess treatise, which Diderot had helped him plan; the second for unknown reasons. A convergence of interests manifested itself in 1775 when the new chess club induced Philidor to cross the Channel and stay for the duration of the London season, February to June. He subsequently made a similar sojourn every year until his death in 1795. In exchange for his coming to London to provide them with first-rate competition, the English players arranged for him to earn, in addition to his honorarium, a comfortable living teaching, giving exhibitions, and publishing new editions of his book. He may also have taught music independently. All this enabled him to take money home to Paris for the support of his family.[30]

Thus, for the last twenty years of his life, Philidor spent from mid-February to mid-June in London playing chess and—until the Reign of Terror—from mid-June to mid-February in Paris giving music lessons and composing. He had less and less success with his compositions. No new works of his seem to have been performed in public in the four years from 1775 through 1778. In the latter year he composed music for Horace’s choral hymn Carmen seculare, the original music for which had been lost in antiquity. He managed to have it staged three times in London in 1779, three times in Paris a year later, and several more times in Paris in subsequent years; it received high praise from critics in both cities.[31] Through careful preparation, Philidor made the Paris premiere into a society event. He secured a hall in the Tuileries Palace; he chose a Wednesday, when no classes were held at the University of Paris; he sold tickets in advance; and he had a program printed up giving the text in both Latin and French. A contemporary chronicler reported before the concert:

M. Philidor is doing his best to excite the public, through his own efforts and those of his friends, to purchase tickets for the performance that he is putting on today; he has had one of his partisans write a letter, printed in the Journal de Paris, no. 17, in which the report of the prodigious success his Carmen sæculare had in the capital of England is reiterated; and he has gathered together the support of the three factions into which music lovers are divided.

The same chronicler reported after the concert that it had been attended by “a numerous and distinguished assembly,” who had listened to it “with sustained interest and often with outbursts of enthusiasm.” [32] Then passed another stretch of four years, 1781 through 1784, when again no new works of Philidor were performed. In the last decade of his life, he scored two more successes with a Te Deum (1786) and a comic opera, La Belle esclave (1787), but also several failures.[33] There is no evidence of his playing chess in Paris during this period, although the French players founded a club of their own in 1783. It met in some rooms of the Palais-Royal, a palace being renovated by the enlightened duc de Chartres—called “Philippe Égalité” during the Revolution—quite near the Café de la Régence.[34]

Philidor expanded his Analyse du jeu des échecs twice, doubling the original size of the book in 1777 and then redoubling it to two volumes in 1790, both times bringing out the new edition in London. The list of subscribers to the 1777 edition resembled the membership list of the London chess club in its social mix, although it contained French names as well as English. Among intellectuals, Diderot, Voltaire, Marmontel, and Gibbon subscribed for copies. The first expansion consisted mostly of endgame analyses. With these he took another long stride ahead of his predecessors. He specified whether the side with the material advantage would win or could only draw, if both sides played the best possible moves, for certain generalized advantages. For example, he said that a side having a rook and bishop left with its king, facing a side with only a rook and king, should win, whatever the placement of the pieces on the board, with the exception of a few extreme cases. He did this for many more kinds of advantage than his predecessors had done; he was usually correct; and for some of them, for example the rook and bishop against rook ending, he gave the definitive analysis. That is, he explained correctly how one can always checkmate with a rook and a bishop against a rook.[35] Incidentally, the piece that the anglophone world calls a bishop is known in France as a fou (jester)—scant difference, from the point of view of the anticlerical philosophes. The 1790 edition contained both more opening and more endgame analyses, as well as the records of some of Philidor’s recent blindfold matches.

Philidor’s music distinguished itself above all by its technical perfection. Musicologists return to this point again and again. Composition classes at the Conservatoire de Musique used his works as models for many years. The fact that Rossini praised Philidor’s music to the latter’s granddaughter perhaps shows nothing but social grace, but the nature of the praise is significant: “All composers make mistakes, and I count myself first; Madame, none have ever been found in the works of your illustrious grandfather; he never made any.” [36] André Grétry, Philidor’s successor as the leading comic-opera composer in France, struck more of a balance in his eulogy of his predecessor:

To invent something entirely new in the arts is impossible; but to add some new beauties to those already known is sufficient to succeed and to merit the title of genius. Philidor is, I believe, the inventor of that kind of piece which uses several contrasting rhythms; I had never heard such things in the theaters of Italy before coming to France. How easily the vigorous intellect of this justly famous and sorely missed artist could grasp difficult combinations is well known. He would arrange a succession of sounds with the same facility that he followed a game of chess. None could vanquish him at this game of combinations; no musician will ever put more power and clarity into his compositions than Philidor put into his.[37]

Did some common skill in fact connect Philidor’s achievement in chess with his achievement in music? Unfortunately, he himself left us no thoughts on so interesting a subject. A few other chess masters have also excelled at music: The mid-nineteenth-century Café de la Régence master Lionel Kieseritzky, a man of many talents, was an excellent amateur pianist, as was the Hungarian master Vincenz Grimm of the same era; Mark Taimanov, one of the top grand masters in the world in the early 1950s, was a concert pianist, and Vassily Smyslov, world champion in 1957–58, an opera singer.[38] Some sort of correlation seems to exist, although certainly not every great chess player has also been a great musician. Likewise probable appears an association between a particular kind of skill in chess and a particular kind of skill in music, but this, too, remains nebulous.

Philidor gave simultaneous blindfold exhibitions during his annual sojourns in London probably beginning in 1782. As far as we know, he had not given such an exhibition since 1751 in Potsdam, and never before in front of a paying audience. These performances, sponsored by the chess club, undoubtedly had the purpose of contributing to Philidor’s earnings and of adding another incentive to induce him to continue making his regular visits. The club advertised the events in the London newspapers, inviting the public to attend. Thirty-three people came to one of them, in 1787, and forty-three to another, in 1790, not counting club members. Several of the exhibitions attracted reporters.

Yesterday, at the Chess-club in St. James’s-street, Mr. Philidor performed one of those wonderful exhibitions for which he is so much celebrated. He played at the same time three different games, without seeing either of the tables. His opponents were, Count Bruhl, Mr. Bowdler (the two best players in London), and Mr. Maseres. He defeated Count Bruhl in an hour and twenty minutes, and Mr. Maseres in two hours. Mr. Bowdler reduced his game to a drawn battle in an hour and three quarters. To those who understand Chess, this exertion of Mr. Philidor’s abilities, must appear one of the greatest of which the human memory is susceptible.

After his début in 1782, Philidor gave at least two performances in 1783, at least one in 1787, at least two in 1788, at least four in 1789, and at least fifteen in the 1790s. In some of these matches, he played three simultaneous blindfold games; in others, three simultaneous games, two blindfolded and one with sight of the board; in a few of them, only two simultaneous blindfold games. To infer from the frequency and dates of the known exhibitions, they probably began as exceptional events and gradually increased in regularity up to a rate of once every two weeks during his annual four-to-five-month stay in London.[39]

Philidor approached these exhibitions almost as if they were athletic contests, putting himself through a sort of regimen in preparation for them. He invariably played at the same time of day and took care to eat only lightly before the event, reserving dinner until afterward. In fact, he regulated his diet for several days previously and refused to play on short notice.[40]

Considering his annual visits to the London chess club, the revisions of his chess treatise, and his blindfold exhibitions, Philidor was putting a lot more energy into chess than he had at any period of his life since the three youthful years he spent studying with Légal. He also increased his personal investment in it. He gave no odds in England, from the 1770s onward, of less than a knight. This was for ordinary games; the odds were reduced for blindfold play. A later Café de la Régence master observed: “He showed just as much superiority at checkers, but he did not stake as much of his pride on it as he did on chess.” [41]

Philidor, the composer of comic operas, had always struck his contemporaries as a bit too serious. He was so accustomed to deliberate thinking that for the most part jokes were lost on him. Instead, he became their target. One of his relatives liked to amuse himself at Philidor’s expense: “‘Mon Dieu, how I would like to have a carriage! I would seat myself at my window and enjoy watching myself drive by.’ ‘That’s stupid, my friend,’ Philidor said to him quite seriously, ‘you couldn’t be in your carriage and at your window at the same time; thus you couldn’t see yourself pass by.’” His principal occupations had a tendency to absorb him completely. He twisted his body continually whenever he was deep in composition or chess play, a habit his wife referred to as “playing the silk-worm.” [42]

His contemporaries did not find him an engaging conversationalist. An article on Philidor in a biographical dictionary of musicians that was published a few years after his death reported: “He had a reputation for lack of wit; thus Laborde, one of his greatest admirers, hearing him make a large number of trite remarks at a dinner party, extracted him from his embarrassment by interjecting: ‘See this man, he has no common sense; he’s all genius.’” [43]

Philidor was no boor, but neither did he take the trouble to cultivate the social graces beyond the point of simple politeness. This made him an exception among eighteenth-century French intellectuals. Most of his energy went into his composing and his chess playing. We hear very little about him amusing himself. He was happily married and seems to have been a conscientious and loving father to his children. He gave assistance generously to struggling young musicians.[44] But he also thought highly of his own powers and pushed himself to develop them.

Philidor’s seriousness and his commitment to chess intensified in tandem in his later years. He wrote to his wife in 1788: “There are astonishing panegyrics in all the newspapers, on the subject of the three blindfold games I played last Saturday; they say that the clarity of my thinking increases with my years; it is true that never have I had such a clear head.” The following year he wrote: “I have a great desire to prove that old age has not yet extinguished my genius.” And after another year, when he was giving blindfold exhibitions every two weeks: “I assure you that this does not tire me as much as many people would believe,” although a month later he admitted, “I am exceeding my strength at present.” [45] Undoubtedly his faltering career in music, its sharp contrast with his spectacular success in chess, and his need to earn money one way or another all contributed to the reorientation of his attention and pride toward the latter activity.

In its report of a simultaneous blindfold exhibition given in 1837 by a later Café de la Régence master, Labourdonnais, the newspaper La Presse naturally referred to Philidor’s exhibitions and mentioned that the spectators had paid a guinea per person to attend them. Philidor’s son replied in a letter to the editor that his father’s purpose had not been to make money. The controversy flared up again in a chess journal a decade later when it fell to Philidor’s grandson to defend his honor: “These matches, far from being the pretext for a benefice maintained by taxing the spectators at the rate of a guinea per person, were only engaged in by Philidor out of condescension for the members of the Chess Club, who pestered him relentlessly that they might enjoy such an astonishing spectacle.” [46] Reluctant as his descendants were to admit it, Philidor had become a professional chess player.

He himself had shown the same reluctance: “It is ridiculous that the composer of Ernelinde should be obliged to play chess for half of the year in England in order to keep his numerous family alive.” [47] Philidor had his moments of unhappiness and, while contemplating the decline of his once-glorious musical career, even bitterness. But everything indicates that he both enjoyed chess and relished his success at it. Regrets or no regrets, he dedicated himself to making a second career out of it. His arrangement with the London chess club anticipated in a striking way that of a twentieth-century tennis pro with a racquet club or a golf pro with a country club.

According to legend, the Café de la Régence became a favorite resort of Robespierre and other Jacobins, forcing out the devotees of the royal game for the duration of the Revolution. In February 1793 the revolutionary government declared war on England, where Philidor happened to be at the time. He found himself stranded there, first by the outbreak of war, then by the Reign of Terror that soon followed, and finally by the appearance of his name on a list of proscribed émigrés. The latter were people, theoretically aristocrats and their sympathizers, who had fled the country at various points in the course of the Revolution and were considered traitors by the revolutionaries. As might be expected of someone with friends among the philosophes, Philidor warmly approved the reforms of the early phase of the Revolution. When demonstrations erupted in the streets of Paris, he would call to his wife, “bring me my cane, I want to go out to watch the uprising.” But it is not likely that he supported the Terror, especially after it made him an exile from his home and family. Perhaps the Anglophile Philidor adopted, or was by nature predisposed to that belief in gradual change characteristic of the British intelligentsia. In 1790 he had expressed hope that France might become the model for British reforms, thus repaying the loan of liberal political ideas. In sum, there were many reasons for him to be heartbroken at the turn of events since February 1793. After living for almost three years in exile in London under ban of death, Philidor died there on 31 August 1795, just days before his family succeeded in having his name removed from the proscription list.[48]

Some years earlier, when he was beginning to give blindfold exhibitions, Diderot had written him a letter advising him to stop. Diderot and Philidor had been friends for many years, though not particularly close friends. Philidor tutored Diderot’s daughter in music. Their families visited each other frequently, especially when Philidor himself was away in London. Diderot’s letter points up the differences between the philosophe’s view of chess and Philidor’s, in the final period of the chess master’s life.

I am not at all surprised, monsieur, that in England all doors should be closed to a great musician and open to a master chess player; people are scarcely more reasonable over here. You will agree, nevertheless, that the reputation of Greco [a chess player] will never equal that of Pergolesi [a composer]. If you have played the three blindfold games without concerning yourself with remuneration, so much the worse. I would be more prepared to pardon you for these dangerous experiments if you were to earn five or six hundred guineas in making them. But to risk one’s reason and one’s talent for nothing; that is inconceivable. I have spoken of it to M. de Légal, and this was his response: “When I was young, I dared to play a single game of chess without sight of the board; and at the end of that game, my head was so exhausted that it was the first and last time of my life. It is madness to run the risk of becoming an imbecile through vanity.” When you lose your mind, will the English come to the rescue of your family? And do not assume, monsieur, that what has not happened yet will not happen. Take my advice, write some more of your excellent music for us, write it for many more years, and do not expose yourself again to the risk of becoming what so many are born, an object of scorn. At best, people would say of you: “There is Philidor, he’s nothing any more; he lost everything he had, moving little pieces of wood over a board.” [49]

Philidor did not become an imbecile, even though he continued the public exhibitions for more than a decade, in fact right up to the end of his life. Twenty years after Le Neveu de Rameau, Diderot was beginning to sound like an old philosophe. He contemplated the limits of the human mind while Philidor actively tested them. To the former, chess was still just a game; to the latter, it had become an occupation, a way of life, perhaps even a form of art. While Diderot approved of Philidor’s profiting by his exhibitions, the philosophe had in mind one or two highly lucrative performances, not a continuing series as part of a career in chess. Diderot had the perspective of a wide-ranging intellectual, Philidor the perspective of a professional chess master—maybe the first.

Incidentally, for many of his blindfold exhibitions, while Philidor, sightless, called out his moves, the person who executed them—that is, the person who pushed his pieces on the chessboards for him—was Jean-François Rameau, better known to Diderot and to posterity as the famous composer’s nephew.[50]

§ 2. Philidor’s Followers: Deschapelles, Labourdonnais, and the Dethroned Dynasts

While many Europeans who lived before the Age of Revolution had looked upon chess as merely a game, others had regarded it as a symbolic representation of battle. “Everyone knows that this noble and ancient game is a model of war,” asserted Philippe Stamma’s Essai sur le jeu des échecs (1737), echoing Gioachino Greco’s Jeu des eschets (1669) and Joseph Bertin’s Noble Game of Chess (1735), these three being the most important chess books of the second half of the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century.[51] The three books also agreed in referring to chess as a “noble game.” If playing chess was like conducting a war, and the people who conducted wars were noblemen, then chess was logically a noble game. And indeed, we have seen that English aristocrats serving as army officers in the Netherlands in the 1740s took chess lessons from Philidor. But the decline in the conception of chess as merely a game, exemplified by the biography of Philidor, was paralleled by a decline in the conception of chess as symbolic battle, similarly exemplified by the biography of Deschapelles. Both declines took place gradually from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, as increasing numbers of intellectuals encroached on the aristocrats’ pastime.

Alexandre-Louis-Honoré Lebreton Deschapelles (1780–1847), Philidor’s successor in the Café de la Régence dynasty, was both an aristocrat and an army officer.[52] Given his interest in chess and his place in French society, he might appear at first glance a social atavism. But even as late as the Napoleonic era, the aristocracy and the officer corps had not given up the game.

Pushed hard the wood,
From childhood on.
As young cadet,
On bivouacs,
Up mountain tracks,
On camels’ backs;
Behind the fray,
On palace tiles,
‘Cross countless miles,
On far-flung isles;
He pushed his Would,
He pushed attack,
Until at last,
The wood pushed back.
Napoleon’s secretary Bourrienne, his stepson Prince Eugène, his chief of staff Berthier—all, like the emperor himself, of noble birth—his cavalry commander Marshal Murat, and various of his generals likewise took to the microcosmic battlefield. Napoleon played badly, however, and no one else in his entourage particularly distinguished himself.[53]

Nor were all aristocrats and army officers reactionary; many, including both Napoleon and Deschapelles, had republican views and supported the Revolution. For Deschapelles, this represented a rebellion not only against society at large but also against his own community, and not only against his social class but also against his own family. Like Légal, Deschapelles was an aristocrat whose family had its roots in Brittany, one of the most counterrevolutionary of the former provinces of France. Deschapelles’s family emigrated from France rather than accept the new republic.

The chess master’s youth resembled Napoleon’s. Born near Versailles in 1780, he was sent as a boy to Brienne, in Champagne, to attend the collège there. In France a collège is a secondary school, generally a prestigious one; Brienne’s was reserved exclusively for sons of the nobility. Napoleon had attended the same school, graduating in 1784. Ten years later, with revolutionary France at war against most of Europe, the school closed and its students dispersed. Deschapelles joined the army and fought in the northern campaign, notably in the important battle at Fleurus. During that battle he suffered a saber wound in the head and lost his right hand. A regiment of Prussian cavalry subsequently galloped over him, he said, for good measure. In recognition of his bravery, he received the cross of the Légion d’Honneur at its first distribution, under the Consulate. Later, not only soldiers but also cooks, musicians, and mechanicians would be admitted into the Légion d’Honneur. Deschapelles’s injuries prevented him from pursuing what promised to be a successful career as a field officer. As soon as he recovered, he was transferred into military administration.

Deschapelles discovered chess while on leave in Paris in 1798. He happened upon the Café Morillon, where a lawyer named Bernard was holding court, surrounded by other refugees from the Café de la Régence. The revolutionaries had taken over the latter venue, as previously mentioned, sending into exile the advocates of ludic trials. Bernard had been one of the few players who had only had to accept odds of a pawn and the first move from either Légal or Philidor. He had also coauthored a chess treatise in 1775 and participated in the founding of the Paris chess club in 1783.[54] Deschapelles learned the game from Bernard and created a legend out of the process: “I acquired chess in four days. I learned the moves and played with Bernard, who had succeeded Philidor as the sovereign of the board. I lost the first day, the second, the third, and beat him even-handed on the fourth, since which time I have never either advanced or receded. Chess to me has been, and is, a single idea, which once acquired cannot be displaced from its throne while the intellect remains unimpaired by sickness or age.” Sometimes he said it took only three days. Otherwise he stuck to this account to the end of his life. One critic, drawing on contemporary apologetics for the biblical account of creation, suggested that it should be taken as a parable in which the four days stand for four years or four ages.

In his capacity as supply officer, Deschapelles accompanied the Grande Armée on its campaigns through Europe. Out of the 1806 campaign against Prussia came another story he used to tell about himself, subsequently published in the chess journal Le Palamède under the title “Supplément au bulletin de la bataille d’Iéna” (Supplement to the Bulletin of the Battle of Jena). Napoleon, a pioneer in the use of propaganda, regularly sent “bulletins” back to France from foreign battlefields. The bulletin from Jena described the French victory that marked the culmination of the Prussian campaign. After the battle, the French army marched directly to Berlin, and Deschapelles marched directly to the headquarters of its chess club. There he suffered two disappointments: The Germans were not in the habit of playing for stakes, and they refused to accept odds of a pawn and two moves. Their three strongest players did, however, agree to contend against him as a team. Deschapelles defeated them in both games played. Back in Berlin after the February 1807 Battle of Eylau, near the Baltic coast city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), he returned to the chess club. “I declared to them that I no longer wanted to play even with them, that it was time to give up the joke, and that I would not play another game without imposing odds on them.” He gave odds of a rook and won two out of three games, drawing the third. It was also around this time that he later claimed to have offered his “permanent challenge” to the world at odds of a pawn and two moves.[55]

A year and a half later Deschapelles found himself in the opposite corner of Europe in opposite circumstances. Spanish guerrillas forced a French army to which he was attached to surrender at Baylen. Taken from there to Cadiz, on the Atlantic side of the Straits of Gibraltar, he escaped and returned to France. Whether resentful of the failure of Napoleon’s regime to reward him according to what he felt were his merits, or of the humiliating treatment by Napoleon of the army that had surrendered, or of the behavior in general of that “liberticide,” he retired from public service and thenceforth refused to wear his Légion d’Honneur cross. In 1812, however, Marshal Ney arranged for him to be offered the post of commissioner of the government tobacco monopoly at Strasbourg, and he accepted it. There, during Napoleon’s brief return to power in 1815, known as the Hundred Days, Deschapelles helped to organize the resistance in the eastern part of France to the second invasion of the allies, a year after their first invasion and first expulsion of Napoleon. This does not necessarily mean that Deschapelles had converted to Bonapartism in the interim, even though he received a general’s rank: Many republicans, and opponents of the Bourbons of all kinds, joined in opposing this second, longer-lived restoration of France’s old dynasty by the allies.

After Napoleon’s second abdication, Deschapelles entrenched himself in the Café de la Régence and successfully defended his right to impose on all players the odds proclaimed in his “permanent challenge.” Meanwhile the young Louis-Charles de Labourdonnais was rising rapidly through the ranks. Deschapelles decided to commission him as his lieutenant but soon lost his ability to command him. When he could no longer compel him to accept odds, he withdrew in Labourdonnais’s favor, announcing, “in his hands the reputation of France is safe.” Deschapelles doubtless preferred to step down in a dignified manner rather than suffer overthrow by force. Moreover, his conquest of chess had brought him only modest fame and wealth. Thus, he retired from the game, sometime around 1824, when he could still claim to be its best player.[56]

The two leading British players came to Paris on separate occasions to test their strength against Deschapelles. John Cochrane made an extended stay in 1820–21 and engaged both Deschapelles and Labourdonnais in a round robin, receiving from the former his standard odds of pawn and two moves and going even against the latter. Cochrane lost to Deschapelles by an unknown score and to Labourdonnais six games to one. Labourdonnais, also receiving odds of pawn and two moves from Deschapelles, defeated his mentor seven games to none.[57] Then Cochrane managed to persuade Deschapelles to play without odds on the board, by accepting odds of two to one on the stakes for each game. The Scotsman won more than a third of these games, thus proving himself the better gambler if not the better chess player. Cochrane’s strength was in the openings, which Deschapelles readily conceded: “During the first twenty moves, I always had a bad game, and all the games I won were considered hopeless.” William Lewis arrived in 1821, and again difficulties arose in negotiating the terms of play. Eventually a temporary agreement was reached, Lewis accepting a pawn and one move from Deschapelles and winning at those odds one out of three games, with two draws. After this short series, however, they could not settle on terms to continue.[58]

For Deschapelles, chess represented just one stop on a tour of games. He actually took up Polish checkers first, but his interest in it lasted only three months. At the end of that period he addressed the following discourse to the Paris checkers champion: “I have looked through your game, and I find but little in it. At one time, played by gentlemen, it might have been worth practicing; but it is now kicked out of the drawing room into the antechamber; and my soul is above the place of lackeys. In three months I have become your equal, in three months more I could give you a man; but I renounce the pursuit, and bid you farewell. I shall never play checkers again!”

From checkers Deschapelles jumped to chess, and from chess to whist. Whist is a card game that is still played today but whose popularity has been eclipsed by its descendant, bridge. At some point Deschapelles also became a very good billiards player; at another, a master at backgammon. In whist, however, he seems to have found his game. He began to win substantial sums, allowing him at last to assume something like his rightful place in society, and eventually elevating him to the rank of rentier, someone who lives on the income from his investments, which in Deschapelles’s case amounted to thirty or forty thousand livres annually. He bought a “country house” on the outskirts of the Faubourg du Temple, a suburb of Paris, where he gave large luncheons. Afternoons and evenings he devoted to playing cards in town. Pierre-Charles de Saint-Amant, a younger Café de la Régence chess master who wrote a biographical sketch of Deschapelles, speculated that “chance” gave Deschapelles his financial success. “What was required for that was a less mathematical arena than chess, a game where…chance might permit weakness to sustain its hopes, and mediocrity its illusions.” Saint-Amant’s implication is that Deschapelles found more victims at whist than at chess, and victims willing to risk more money. The card players of that era do not appear to have rated themselves systematically the way the chess players did, so a claim of supremacy for Deschapelles at whist would be difficult to substantiate. He certainly made himself well known in clubs, cafés, and spas throughout Europe in the 1820s and 1830s. His career in cards culminated in the publication of his fragmentary Traité du whiste (Treatise on Whist) in 1839, and in the general adoption of a tactic of his invention, known to bridge players even today as “the Deschapelles coup.”

In the 1830s, Deschapelles’s thoughts returned to politics. He told a British chess enthusiast: “I am of no country. Show me a good man, and I will try to be his brother. But were I to choose, though I have never seen England, and understand not your language, I am more a Briton than anything else. I love your country, in the firm belief that your admirable political constitution gives to man all of the liberty which he is as yet sufficiently civilized to enjoy without running into licentiousness.” A democrat in principle, he envisioned himself a dictator. Or at least so the prosecutor claimed when Deschapelles was brought to trial following the Paris insurrection of June 1832. He had entangled himself in a small republican party known as the Gauls, one of many groups discontented with the outcome of the Revolution of 1830. Saint-Amant believed that Deschapelles, in his “disordered ambition,” had expected to be summoned to lead the government after a new revolution: “He believed himself called to the post of commander, of lawgiver; because of his superiority of intelligence, he judged himself destined for the top, one day or another.” [59] Deschapelles’s conceits were not as strange as they might appear, arising as they did out of the same heady milieu that produced the dreams of the comte de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Auguste Comte, and the other “prophets of Paris.” [60] He emerged from the episode unchastened by the memory of a month or two spent in jail and assorted bruises to his ego. Clinging to his pretensions, he wrote constitutions for refugees from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and various American republics to take back home from Paris with them. He distilled his political ideas into La Loi du peuple (The People’s Law), published in 1848, a few months after his death, when revolution again broke out in France, and in many other European countries as well.

Periodically, at long intervals, Deschapelles’s interest in chess resurfaced. This happened in 1836, roughly a dozen years after his retirement from regular play. One day he walked into the Paris chess club, apparently with no preparation, to challenge Labourdonnais. They played four games of “pawns,” a variant of chess invented by Légal in which one of the contestants plays without his queen, in exchange for which he begins with sixteen pawns, double the number with which he would ordinarily begin. Giving no odds, Deschapelles won two games, lost one, and drew one. A few days later, he played ordinary chess with Saint-Amant, one of the strongest players after Labourdonnais, giving his customary odds. Each of them won a game and a third was drawn. Deschapelles seemed to be proving his theory that chess is a “single idea,” acquired all at once and forever.[61]

That same year an article in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle dared to doubt the historical accuracy of his just-published “Supplément au bulletin de la bataille d’Iéna.” Offended, he responded by challenging England to a duel at chess, a challenge he made public in Bell’s Life, and by dispatching Saint-Amant as his second to London to arrange the terms. Specifically, he sought to battle England’s best player for the stake of £1,000. The negotiations began promisingly, but soon faltered for no apparent reason and were finally broken off by Deschapelles. Had he suddenly lost interest in chess again? Saint-Amant wrote later: “I accepted responsibility for taking his conditions to the English. The innumerable obstacles that he subsequently raised have always made me wonder whether he really wanted to undertake this rash attempt.” [62]

Deschapelles returned to chess just as suddenly in 1842, when he again played Saint-Amant. In five games at varying odds, all in Saint-Amant’s favor of course, Deschapelles won three and Saint-Amant two.[63] Additional encounters of the sort probably took place unrecorded.

At the end of his life Deschapelles adopted Candide’s point of view and retired to tend his garden. Literally. Growing fruit became his new game. His melons won prizes and were served at the table of King Louis-Philippe. The secretary of the London Chess Club summed up his interview with the éminence grise of serious play:

M. Deschapelles is the greatest chess player in France;

M. Deschapelles is the greatest whist player in France;

M. Deschapelles is the greatest billiard player in France;

M. Deschapelles is the greatest pumpkin-grower in France; and

M. Deschapelles is the greatest liar in France.[64]

New and old attitudes coexisted uneasily in Deschapelles. One could with equal justice describe him as an aristocratic dilettante or a professional gambler. He was a stickler on the matter of rank and a revolutionary republican. Perhaps his insistence on the strict observation of rank in chess—refusing to play without giving proper odds—was a compensation for his lost prestige as an aristocrat in increasingly republican times and for his own republican political views.

As a chess player he was a “natural,” having learned the game rapidly without ever formally studying it. He did not read chess books. His knowledge of the openings, the phase of the game most thoroughly analyzed in his day, was not at all up to contemporary standards. As a consequence he often got into trouble early, and from beginning to end he played very slowly. While others could open games mechanically, pursuing lines of development that had been established as sound, Deschapelles had to think out every move for himself, even the first ones. He was the last master to achieve the highest rank without the aid of accumulated knowledge. And of course he published nothing on chess himself. In these ways, he was a chess anachronism.

Nevertheless, Deschapelles did contribute to the future of the game. His condescension passed from champion to champion like a conqueror’s mantle, enlarging the popular image of great chess players. Like the young Rousseau, he felt that to be the best was the main thing; what to be the best at was not so important. Like the young Rousseau, but with more success, he cultivated one field after another. Again like Rousseau, this time the mature Rousseau of Du contrat social (On the Social Contract) and the Projet de constitution pour la Corse (Draft of a Constitution for Corsica), he felt that having become the best in a field made him a superior human being, qualified to dictate laws and social organization to an entire nation. This represented in a way a throwback to the ideas of the philosophes, who believed chess to be a useful or instructive game that taught skills applicable elsewhere. But Deschapelles did not make this argument. He played chess, as well as checkers, whist, billiards, and backgammon, because he liked games, because he could be the best at them, and because being the best at them made him, modestly, wealthy and well known. Through chess and the rest he acquired the social position to which his aristocratic birth no longer automatically entitled him.

The chessboard remained a battlefield, but from a symbolic one it had become a real one. To be sure, few died there. Many, however, in a country exhausted by more than two decades of almost continuous warfare, could see virtue in peaceful combat, and increasing numbers fought for laurels in that manner. And a “disabled” veteran officer, who refused to wear his military cross, proudly accepted for victories won on the chessboard real fame and real fortune.

Louis-Charles Mahé de Labourdonnais (1795 or 1797–1840) led a much less picturesque life than either Philidor or Deschapelles.[65] Essentially it consisted of playing chess and, for variety, writing about chess. Although born into the nobility, Labourdonnais never showed any serious interest in the military, or in anything else, really, other than chess. Chess he took very seriously, never regarding it either as a mere game or as a symbolic battle, but always as an end in itself.

Labourdonnais’s grandfather, Bertrand-François Mahé de Labourdonnais, had had a distinguished career as an admiral, serving as governor of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean in the 1730s and 1740s, capturing Madras from the British in 1746, and making an appearance as the benevolent governor of idyllic isles in the popular Rousseauist novel Paul et Virginie (1788). Appropriately for a young nobleman of such ancestry, Labourdonnais attended the prestigious Collège Henri IV in Paris. But within a few years of graduation, sometime around 1820, he strayed into the Café de la Régence. There he first learned the moves of chess, studied under Deschapelles, and was crowned king of the French players, all in the space of about three years. For a while he continued to live like the aristocrat he was born, dividing his time between Paris and the château he had inherited at St.-Malo. Gradually, though, chess took over his life. He traveled to London several times in the 1820s in order to test himself against the leading British players. In 1826, probably on one of those trips, he married an Englishwoman. He committed his last infidelity to chess the following year when he edited and published the memoirs of his grandfather. He himself fathered no children, only masterpieces of abstract strategy.

Labourdonnais and Deschapelles were the obverse and reverse sides of the same medal. After noting that they both died of hydropsy, Saint-Amant remarked: “But what a contrast in physique! Labourdonnais was large, fat, well-fed, sanguine; Deschapelles on the other hand was delicate, thin, sombre, and bilious. In one, there was intemperance of every sort, abuse of a strong constitution; in the other, abstinence and restraint in everything.” With regard to the latter, “One had to have seen his cold, calm, severe bearing, saturated with punctiliousness, to have a real conception of it. It was the last conversation of Socrates with his disciples, to judge by the attention and reverence with which one had to listen to him. At the least interjection, the slightest remark, he stopped, and did not begin again until total silence had been restored.”

Labourdonnais, in contrast, was described as Rabelaisian by the contemporary English chess enthusiast George Walker. The gourmand of his circle, Labourdonnais took trencherman honors at the luncheons given by Deschapelles at his Faubourg du Temple home.[66] In the Café de la Régence, he smoked cigars, drank heavily, and carried on boisterously, jok-ing, singing, gesticulating, and emitting bon mots—all the while piling up victories on the checkered board. Walker gives us an admirable illustration of the excesses of the romantic period:

His chess hours are from noon till midnight, seven times a week. He seems to be a species of chess-automaton, wound up to meet all conceivable cases with mathematical accuracy.…He would snatch a hasty dinner by the side of the chessboard, and in ten minutes be again enthroned in his chair, the hero of the hundred fights, giving rook, or knight, or pawn, as the case might be, to any opponent who presented; fresh as the dewy morn, and vigorous as though ‘twere breakfast-time.…I recollect that upon one occasion he played above forty games of chess at a sitting, with amateurs of every grade of skill.

Not only did Labourdonnais have great stamina, he also moved speedily and without hesitation; he combined intensive with extensive play. This was how he could steam through so many games in one session. Walker writes that Labourdonnais made holes “like a cribbage machine” in the margin of the chessboard, using pegs to keep track of the total. Another member of the Westminster Chess Club corroborated Walker’s characterization:

He played with marvelous rapidity, yet rarely made a mistake. “Tout ce que je demande,” he used to say, “c’est une petite position.” The moment he had got his petite position, his opponent’s doom was sealed. I could never play my best against him; his rapidity dazed me. Although talking and laughing all the time, no sooner had I made my move than his at once came down with a loud impact on the board, as though he meant to break it. I was fascinated, and fell an easy prey to the huge python.[67]

The foregoing accounts make it clear that the intimidation exercised by Labourdonnais was not confined to the chessboard. Able to decide on his own moves in a flash, he had little patience for more deliberate players. He expressed his impatience “by sundry very plain gestures and shrugs,” and even by drumming his fingers on the tabletop. When the game was going his way, he “talked and laughed a good deal”; when going against him, he “swore tolerably round oaths in a pretty audible voice.” Walker, by no means a Francophobe, complained that in his time the French chess players displayed little sportsmanship. When they lost a game, they shouted, threw the chessmen, and often failed to pay their wagers. When they observed a game, they commented on it freely, second-guessing the players and criticizing their moves out loud.[68] One may take it that Walker’s charges had some foundation, without necessarily accepting his implied comparison of national characters. Players in Britain, Germany, or Italy may or may not have been more polite. But whatever the case elsewhere, French chess circles clearly no longer recognized the social graces even as minor deities.

Labourdonnais played fast and accurately in part because he played a lot. In chess, speed and practice are mutually reinforcing: the more games one plays, the faster one’s decision making becomes; and the faster one plays, the more games one plays in a given period of time. Nowadays, all top contenders play “speed chess” as part of their training in order to learn recurring configurations through frequent exposure to them. Twentieth-century grand masters, it has been estimated, can distinguish “some 50,000 basic ‘building-block’ configurations—small groupings of pieces by which the board’s more complex structures are erected.” [69]

Labourdonnais played fast and accurately also because he studied. Unlike Deschapelles, he was abreast of contemporary opening and endgame theory. He read chess books and in 1833 produced one of his own, the Nouveau traité du jeu des échecs (New Treatise on the Game of Chess). Although several translations and a second French edition followed within a few years, his book is not very highly regarded. Perhaps it is because he did not introduce many new ideas or annotate his games very instructively. Unlike Philidor, Labourdonnais does not seem to have been good at communicating his knowledge. But there is no doubt that he had great knowledge and could apply it. Deschapelles was the last of the great pure improvisers and in his own time an exceptional case. After Philidor, codifying one’s knowledge in a book had become de rigueur for European players of the first rank. Many who were not of the first rank also published, and translations and reissues of the classic works began to proliferate as well.

The championship chess match was a creation of the nineteenth century. The eighty-five-game series, actually constituting six matches, that Labourdonnais and Alexander MacDonnell played from June to October 1834, has been generally regarded as the first championship ever since it took place: It was the first long series of games between two opponents each of whom had the reputation as the best in a circle of dedicated players. The fact that the opponents came from different countries and that the circles they represented became identified with those countries added to the interest and prestige of the event, making it not merely the first championship but also the first international championship. The British players invited Labourdonnais to London specifically for the purpose of staging the event, which soon attracted the attention of newspapers and the general public. Accounts of the outcome differ; collating them yields something on the order of forty-five wins for Labourdonnais and twenty-seven for MacDonnell, with thirteen draws.[70] Considering the number of games it encompassed, the length of time it lasted, and the competitive intensity it generated, this first championship must have been as grueling as any subsequent one. The daily sessions lasted from eleven A.M. or noon until six or seven P.M., after which MacDonnell often retired exhausted, sometimes “walking his room the greater part of the night in a dreadful state of excitement.” He died the following year of a kidney disorder at the age of thirty-seven. By contrast, Labourdonnais often spent the evening after a session playing more games against other opponents.[71] A prolific but now forgotten writer, Joseph Méry, celebrated the Frenchman’s victory in a long poem entitled Une Revanche de Waterloo (A Revenge for Waterloo).

Curiously, Philidor is generally considered to have been the first European chess champion, even though Labourdonnais won what is generally considered to have been the first European chess championship. Philidor won his unofficial posthumous title by playing a lot of chess outside of France and never meeting his equal. The second match to be widely recognized as a championship was again one pitting the best of Great Britain against the best of France, the Staunton–Saint-Amant match of 1843. Fully organized championships, with time limits for play and tournaments to determine challengers for an official title, began in the 1860s. Since then, such matches have been held every few years.

In 1836 Labourdonnais founded Europe’s first chess journal, Le Palamède, named for Palamedes, the mythical Greek inventor of the game. Labourdonnais’s deteriorating health forced him to suspend publication in 1840, but within a year of his death Saint-Amant revived it and kept it going through 1847. This experiment established the viability of the genre. Beginning in 1841, British enthusiasts could read Howard Staunton’s Chess Player’s Chronicle, which lasted until 1902. In Germany, the Schachzeitung (Chess Times), later called the Deutsche Schachzeitung (German Chess Times), began in 1846 and continues to this day, interrupted only by World War II. The longest unbroken run is probably that of the British Chess Magazine, which has been coming out regularly since 1881. Since these pioneers opened up the territory, two thousand more have appeared and, mostly, disappeared. In 1950 there were more than one hundred chess periodicals in print worldwide.[72]

One gambit that has been particularly successful for these publications from the first issue of Le Palamède to Advances in Computer Chess is the chess problem. In the most common of the various kinds of chess problem, the reader is presented with a chessboard situation, which may or may not arise in the course of an actual game, and challenged to use the white pieces to force checkmate on the black pieces in a specified number of moves, usually two, three, or four. Chess problems, unlike chess journals, were hundreds of years old, but they too began to multiply in the nineteenth century. Philidor’s Analyse du jeu des échecs contained no chess problems. Labourdonnais’s Nouveau traité du jeu des échecs contained sixty, although the author himself had composed only eight of them. Periodicals provided an ideal format for chess problems, since they could withhold the solution from the reader for a tantalizing space of time. In the new era signaled by the appearance of journals, it became possible to specialize in composing problems, just as it became possible to specialize in writing chess literature—poetry, short stories, biographical sketches, travel pieces, and the like on chess subjects. For example, P. A. d’Orville made his name as a composer of problems, and Joseph Méry, coeditor with Labourdonnais of Le Palamède, as a writer; neither distinguished himself as a player.[73]

Thus, during Labourdonnais’s reign as champion, several signs marking the onset of professionalization first appeared. The accelerating intensity with which chess has been cultivated in the Western world since then cannot be more strikingly illustrated than through the simultaneous blindfold exhibition. Such demonstrations of chess skill had lapsed since Philidor’s death in 1795, but Labourdonnais revived them in 1837. Attending a performance in the spring of that year “were peers, parliamentary deputies, generals, colonels, artists, men of letters; it was a convention.” That was how Le Palamède trumpeted the event, muting the disparity between Philidor’s frequent performances of three blindfold games at once and Labourdonnais’s mere two. But Labourdonnais began to play blindfolded only in the last few years of his life, and he seems to have been working up to three games just before his final illness.[74] More significant, since his revival of the exhibition, a continuous stream of performers has maintained it. Indeed, in terms of the number of games played at once, they have steadily escalated the level of achievement. A younger Café de la Régence master, Lionel Kieseritzky, played four simultaneous blindfold games in 1851. The American master Paul Morphy played eight in the Café de la Régence in 1858. Louis Paulsen, an American originally from Germany, played fifteen in 1859. After a succession of intervening record holders, Harry Pillsbury, yet another American, played twenty-one in 1902, with the added difficulty that all his opponents were top-ranked masters against whom he was competing in a championship tournament. Still later, an American originally from Belgium, Georges Koltanovski, a specialist in such feats, played thirty-four blindfold games simultaneously in 1937, fifty in 1952, and finally fifty-six in 1961 in San Francisco, winning fifty of them and drawing the other six.[75]

In the mid-1830s, Labourdonnais lost most of his fortune in a building speculation. The rest of it he spent on a luxurious holiday with his wife in the south of France. Only a loan from Captain Guingret, a fellow chess enthusiast, later commandant of the École Militaire and president of the Paris chess club, whom they happened upon, enabled them to return to the capital.[76] From that point forward, Labourdonnais had to live on his earnings at chess.

Unfortunately, both his earnings and his health soon went into decline. He was diagnosed as dropsical and submitted to twenty-one drainings in the space of eighteen months. In the last month of his life, December 1840, he traveled to London in the hope of improving at least his financial situation, if not his health. But after a few days he was too sick to appear in public and too poor to be able to afford either food or medical attention. The British players took up a collection so that he did not have to die literally in a garret. Like Philidor, he died in London; also like Philidor, he died on the verge of his deliverance. He had just been voted two pensions, one from the French government as a “man of letters,” for his contribution to culture, and another from the île de la Réunion, the largest of the Mascarenes still under French control (as it remains yet today), in appreciation for his grandfather’s service as governor there.

Maintaining the tradition of the Café de la Régence masters, Labourdonnais continued to give odds to the end. The Hungarian master József Szén arrived in Paris in 1838, and Labourdonnais measured his inferiority at a pawn and two moves. After imposing that handicap, the Frenchman proceeded to lose thirteen of twenty-five games.[77] Making even more questionable use of the principles of the Old Regime, Labourdonnais ranked himself above Philidor. Once in a conversation with the chevalier de Barneville, who was born a half-century before him and died after him, he asked:

“Let us converse a little about distant history, my dear chevalier; on what terms did you play with Philidor?”

“He used to give me a knight and a pawn.”

“I would have given, then, a pawn and two moves to Philidor?”


Brushing aside Barneville’s advanced age, all differences in styles of play, and all changes in the competitive environment, Labourdonnais concluded from the fact that he gave greater odds to Barneville than Philidor had given him that he, Labourdonnais, was the better player. The conversation continued:

“And how did you play against Jean-Jacques Rousseau?”

“I used to give him a rook.”

“He was a weak player then.”

“But on the other hand,” said the chevalier, “he had colossal pride, and the most frightful character of any chess player who ever lived.” [78]

Despite the vestige of rank-consciousness, Labourdonnais had abandoned his aristocratic and warrior heritage, or perhaps he had sublimated it into chess. He had lost, sold, or given away all of his inherited possessions. He never saw the Mascarenes.[79] He had no apparent talents or skills, and cultivated no interests or friendships, outside of chess. Chess provided almost his only connection to the world. His success at chess determined not just his career but eventually his whole life and his very identity.

In the 1840s, French chess lost not only Labourdonnais but also an important correspondence match and the second international championship match. In the previous decade the Paris players had twice defeated the London players in correspondence games, that is, games played by mail, necessarily lasting many months, in which the moves were decided upon through consultation among the members of a team. But the Paris players’ century-long tradition of superiority proved to be a dead letter in the mid-1840s, when they lost two correspondence games to the Budapest team of József Szén, the victor over Labourdonnais in 1838, Vincenz Grimm, the pianist, and János Löwenthal.[80] In 1843, Howard Staunton of England stormed the fortress of the Café de la Régence itself, defeating Saint-Amant there eleven games to six, with four draws, in the second match to be generally recognized as a championship. Staunton carried the flag of European chess back to London, where both Philidor and Labourdonnais had found their last refuge, and where the first international championship tournament, with not just two but a whole field of contenders for the championship, was to be held in 1851.

Saint-Amant had positioned himself to inherit the Café de la Régence throne and thus, presumably, to rule over French and European chess.[81] Born at the turn of the nineteenth century in his family’s ancestral château in Gascony, he moved to Paris in his early twenties and began to frequent the famous café. There he studied with the Alsatian master Wilhelm Schlumberger, who soon afterward sailed to America to become, in a mechanical disguise, one of the chess world’s first touring professionals. Saint-Amant steadily improved his game so that by the early 1830s he was second only to Labourdonnais, Deschapelles having long since retired. It was Saint-Amant who led the Paris club in its victories over the London club at correspondence chess. Labourdonnais’s death in 1840 made Saint-Amant the best active player in France and allowed him to become the editor of Le Palamède, still the only chess journal in Europe. His upward course continued in 1843 when he visited London and defeated Staunton three games to two, with one draw.

This “informal match” led to the “championship match” won by Staunton in Paris later the same year. The French players disputed this characterization of the two series of games, however. Toward the end of 1844, Staunton returned to Paris for a third match that would settle the matter for good, but he fell ill with pneumonia before it started and went home to England without having played a single game. The dispute flared up anew and then smoldered for years.[82] In their separate capitals, Staunton continued to focus on chess, while Saint-Amant, still at the top of his game, reduced his playing to once a week, allowing Staunton’s claim to be the international champion to accrue legitimacy. In the late 1840s Saint-Amant retired from chess altogether, returning to it only intermittently during the last twenty-five years of his life. He had always had diverse occupations, including secretary to the governor of French Guyana, journalist, actor, wine dealer, captain in the National Guard, governor of the Tuileries Palace, French consul in California, and author of several nonfiction books, none of them on chess. A popular man, he was known for his sociability and civility. In sum, he had neither an intense drive to cultivate his skill in chess nor an intense drive to promote himself.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Café de la Régence attracted players from every corner of Europe. Some sought only to joust with French knights on level ground. This wish was not always granted: Labourdonnais, as we have seen, imposed unreasonable odds on Szén, and Saint-Amant avoided the Hungarian altogether.[83] Other, bolder paladins took up permanent residence in the palace of the royal game. But the valiant foreigners scarcely even postponed, let alone prevented, the collapse of its battlements in the 1840s.

Aaron Alexandre, a Bavarian trained as a rabbi, arrived in 1793.[84] Gratified by the Revolutionaries’ policy of religious toleration he decided to become a French citizen. At first, he taught German for his livelihood, and made mechanical inventions and played chess as pastimes. Eventually, however, chess became his principal occupation. He set himself the task of making a complete survey of the openings that had been analyzed up to then, publishing his findings as the Encyclopédie des échecs (Encyclopedia of Chess, 1837). Then he made a survey of endgame analyses and a compilation of almost two thousand chess problems, which he published in London as The Beauties of Chess (1846). Both books set new standards of comprehensiveness for their specialties and showed Alexander’s great technical knowledge. In chess as in his other activities, he preferred erudition to performance.

Lionel Kieseritzky arrived in Paris in 1839 from Dorpat, Livonia (now Tartu, Estonia), in the Russian Empire.[85] As previously mentioned, Kieseritzky was an excellent amateur pianist and, an acquaintance later recalled, “through his active literary and artistic propensities, the social center, so to speak, of Dorpat; he staged dramatic and musical performances frequently and with great enthusiasm.” On the eve of his departure from his hometown he produced in a public garden a game of “living chess,” in which costumed people took the place of the chessmen. In Dorpat he had been teaching mathematics but once in Paris began to teach chess instead, giving lessons for a fee in the Café de la Régence. By the time of his arrival there he had already progressed to a level only slightly below that of Labourdonnais and about equal to that of Saint-Amant. In 1846 he visited London and engaged in a curious triangular match with Staunton and a German player named Harrwitz, each of the three playing the other two in simultaneous games, Staunton giving rook odds to both of the others, who played blindfolded; Harrwitz won his two games and Kieseritzky lost both of his. In 1849 Kieseritzky launched a new chess journal, La Régence, Saint-Amant having abandoned chess and allowed Le Palamède to expire in 1847. Kieseritzky invented a three-dimensional version of chess, but it failed to attract much interest. He played a lot of blindfold chess, including one simultaneous blindfold exhibition of four games, a new record, in which he called out his moves for each game in a different language, French, German, English, or Italian. In 1851 he again traveled to London, to participate in the first international championship tournament, where he was knocked out in the first round. A contemporary described him as “essentially a gallery player, dealing chiefly in fireworks against weak opponents.” [86] He cultivated chess as a spectacle intensively but did not cultivate chess as a skill comparably.

The careers of these relatively unsuccessful successors to the Café de la Régence dynasty signaled the end of an era. It had lasted roughly a century, from about 1740 to about 1840. What the Age of Revolution was to European society at large, the Café de la Régence era was to chess: the childhood of many of its most characteristic present-day institutions. The chess club; the chess journal; the international championship match; subspecialties such as imaginative writing on chess subjects, problem composition, and simultaneous blindfold exhibitions; the study and publication of systematic analyses as an essential part of mastering the game; and, in general, a commitment to chess commensurate with that to any art or science: These are some of the distinctive institutions of modern chess that took form during the Café de la Régence era. The glory years of the Café de la Régence, whose traditions prevailed until the new institutions established themselves, were indeed those of a regency.

Before the Café de la Régence era, it had been aristocrats who constituted the social group in Europe most identified with chess; during that era, it was intellectuals; since then, it has been quite simply professional chess players. Before that era, many Europeans regarded chess as a mere game; during that era, a useful or meaningful game; since then, a serious pursuit. Before that era, chess was played by some people as symbolic war; during that era, by many army officers as a pastime; since then, by many people as a real battle for fame and fortune.

In a broader societal context, out of the Café de la Régence period emerged the idea that chess greats are cultural heroes. A prominent French poet wrote that Labourdonnais had avenged Waterloo with his victory over MacDonnell in 1834. The French government bestowed a pension on Labourdonnais for his contribution to the national culture. Since then, becoming a great chess player has been regarded as a great accomplishment, without qualification. And one need not be a great chess player to justify taking a serious interest in the game: Playing chess has become a legitimate activity in and of itself. Prefaces to chess books no longer argue for the game as they once did, adducing such reasons as that it teaches military science or moral values. Arguments for chess, no longer deemed necessary, are no longer made. The development of the idea that playing chess is self-justifying ran parallel to or perhaps was an offshoot of the development of the idea of art for art’s sake. It reached its epitome at the end of the nineteenth century in the formula of Ernst Cassirer: “What chess has in common with science and fine art is its utter uselessness.” [87]

Simultaneous blindfold chess exhibition, given by Paul Morphy at the Café de la Régence. Courtesy of the John G. White Collection, Special Collections, Cleveland Public Library. Photograph by the Cleveland Public Library Photoduplication Service.
[Full Size]

In 1852 the Café de la Régence lost its original home on the place du Palais-Royal, where it had opened in 1681 as one of the first coffeehouses in Paris. It found temporary quarters on the rue de Richelieu for two years, then moved permanently to the rue Saint-Honoré, where it remains to this day, though under a different name.[88] The removal of the café from its time-honored location symbolized its removal from the history of chess. When the immortal American master Morphy gave a fantastic exhibition in the café’s new home in the late 1850s, playing eight blindfold games simultaneously, it was the visit of Morpheus, and the Café de la Régence has slept peacefully ever since.


All translations of quotations from other languages into English are the author’s unless otherwise noted.

1. Denis Diderot, Le Neveu de Rameau, in Oeuvres, ed. André Billy (Paris: Pléiade, 1951), p. 395. For help with the translation of all passages drawn from this work, the author consulted Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew, trans. Jacques Barzun (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964). [BACK]

2. Denis Diderot, Correspondance, ed. Georges Roth, 16 vols. (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1958), vol. 3, pp. 115–17, 357; vol. 4, p. 204; Madame de Vandeul [née Marie-Angélique Diderot, daughter of Denis Diderot], “Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la vie et des ouvrages de Diderot,” in Denis Diderot, Mémoires, correspondance et ouvrages inédits de Diderot, 4 vols. (Paris: Paulin, 1830), vol. 1, p. 21. [BACK]

3. George Walker, “The Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country 22, no. 132 (December 1840): 670–71. Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, Lettres persanes, in Oeuvres complètes, ed. Daniel Oster (Paris: Seuil, 1964), p. 80. Voltaire’s correspondence contains many references to his playing chess, mostly at Ferney. Ralph K. Hagedorn, Benjamin Franklin and Chess in Early America: A Review of the Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1958), p. 39. On the crowds who went to see Rousseau at the Café de la Régence: Louis Petit de Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets pour servir à l’histoire de la république des lettres en France depuis 1762 jusqu’à nos jours, 36 vols. (London: Adamson, 1777–89), vol. 5, pp. 133–34, 136; Jacques-Louis Ménétra, Journal of My Life, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, ed. Daniel Roche (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), pp. 182–83 n. 228. [BACK]

4. Chevalier de Jaucourt, “Échecs,” in Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers, ed. Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, 35 vols. (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1966–67; reprint of 1st ed., 1751–80), vol. 5, pp. 247–48. [BACK]

5. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Die Philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, ed. C. J. Gerhardt, 7 vols. (Hildesheim: Olms, 1960), vol. 3, p. 304. [BACK]

6. [François-]A[ndré] D[anican] Philidor, Analyse du jeu des échecs, new ed. (London: n.p., 1777), unpaginated pref. [BACK]

7. Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 4, p. 205. [BACK]

8. Benjamin Franklin, “The Morals of Chess,” in The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert H. Smyth, 10 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1905–7), vol. 7, pp. 357–62. [BACK]

9. Jacques Barzun, trans., pref. to Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew, p. 3; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Götz von Berlichingen” (1772–1773), in Der Junge Goethe, ed. Hanna Fischer-Lamberg, 6 vols. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1963–74), vol. 3, p. 211. [BACK]

10. [Sébastien-Roch Nicolas] Chamfort, Maximes et pensées, caractères et anecdotes (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), p. 148. [BACK]

11. Jean-Benjamin de Laborde, “Philidor,” in Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (New York: AMS, 1978; reprint of 1st ed., Paris, 1780), vol. 3, pp. 461–62; Richard Twiss, Chess, 2 vols. (London: Robinson, 1787–89), vol. 1, pp. 149–50; Ernst Ludwig Gerber, “Philidor (André Danican),” in Historisch-biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1966; reprint of 1st ed., Leipzig, 1790–92), 2 parts, pt. 2, cols. 126–27; J Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” incorporating the fragment “Biographie de Philidor par son fils aîné,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1 (January 1847): 3; F[rançois]-J[oseph] Fétis, “Philidor (François-André Danican),” in Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique, 2d ed., 8 vols. (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1870–75), vol. 7, p. 28; Julian Rushton, “Philidor,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980), vol. 14, p. 625. [BACK]

12. Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 4–5; Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 150–51. The chess master’s name is variously spelled Kermur, Kermeur, or Kermuy; his title, Légal, Legall, or Legalle. [BACK]

13. Diderot, Neveu de Rameau, in Oeuvres, pp. 395, 398; David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 181–82; Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 150–51, 165; Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 15, p. 294. [BACK]

14. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 154–55. [BACK]

15. Ibid., pp. 155, 157, 163. The title of the first edition of Philidor’s book was Analyze des échecs (London: n.p., 1749); most of the many subsequent French editions bear the title Analyse du jeu des échecs, which will be used here in reference to any and all editions in order to avoid confusion. A bibliography of the hundred-plus editions of this book may be found in Charles Michael Carroll, “François-André Danican Philidor: His Life and Dramatic Art” (Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1960), pp. 433–41. Philidor himself pointed out many of his innovations in the preface to the first edition of his book, which also contains the famous phrase quoted here. Discussions of the originality of the Analyse may be found in Jean Biou, “La Révolution philidorienne,” in Le Jeu au XVIIIe siècle: Colloque d’Aix-en-Provence (Aix-en-Provence: EDISUD, 1976), pp. 61–68; H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1913), pp. 866–67; Richard Eales, Chess: The History of a Game (New York: Facts on File, 1985), pp. 114–15. [BACK]

16. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 157–58; Gerber, “Philidor,” Historisch-biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, pt. 2, col. 127; Leonhard Euler and Christian Goldbach, Briefwechsel, 1729–1764, ed. Juskevic and Winter (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1965), pp. 336–37. [BACK]

17. Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 14, 7 (quotation); Laborde, “Philidor,” in Essai sur la musique, vol. 3, p. 462; Gerber, “Philidor,” Historisch-biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, pt. 2, col. 127; George Allen, The Life of Philidor: Musician and Chess-Player (New York: Da Capo, 1971; reprint of 1st ed., Philadelphia, 1863), p. 21. [BACK]

18. Quoted in Twiss, Chess, vol. 2, pp. 215–16. [BACK]

19. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 165–66. [BACK]

20. Ibid., p. 165. [BACK]

21. Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 120–26, 154–204, 301; Rushton, “Philidor,” in New Grove Dictionary, vol. 14, p. 628. Donald Jay Grout, in A Short History of Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), p. 491, says that they were produced in America as well. [BACK]

22. Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 9, 14; Michel Brenet, Les Concerts en France sous l’ancien régime (New York: Da Capo, 1970; reprint of 1st ed., Paris, 1900), pp. 241, 272, 294; Fétis, “Philidor,” in Biographie universelle des musiciens, vol. 7, p. 31; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 134–35. [BACK]

23. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les Confessions, in Oeuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond, 4 vols. (Paris: Pléiade, 1959–69), vol. 1, pp. 333–34; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 98–101; Henry Raynor, A Social History of Music, from the Middle Ages to Beethoven (New York: Taplinger, 1978), pp. 234–35. [BACK]

24. Raynor, Social History of Music, p. 236; Grout, Short History of Opera, pp. 254–59; Maurice Cranston, Jean-Jacques: The Early Life and Work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712–1754 (New York: Norton, 1982), pp. 262–88. [BACK]

25. Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 11, p. 38; Charles Burney, quoted in Frances Burney, The Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1768–1778, ed. Annie Raine Ellis, 2 vols. (London: Bell, 1907), vol. 1, p. 123; Mercure de France, January 1766, p. 212, quoted in Brenet, Concerts en France, p. 283; Raynor, Social History of Music, p. 240; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 116–17, 124; Rushton, “Philidor,” in New Grove Dictionary, vol. 14, p. 629. [BACK]

26. Fétis, “Philidor,” in Biographie universelle des musiciens, vol. 7, p. 30. [BACK]

27. Rousseau, Confessions, in Oeuvres complètes, vol. 1, p. 288. [BACK]

28. Diderot, Neveu de Rameau, in Oeuvres, pp. 397–98. [BACK]

29. Donal O’Gorman, Diderot the Satirist: “Le Neveu de Rameau” and Related Works: An Analysis (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1971), pt. 3, chap. 7, “The Caricature of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” and pp. 214–15; Arthur M. Wilson, Diderot (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 420. The two philosophes met in the Café de la Régence in 1742; Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 1, p. 27. Diderot later wrote that Rousseau “always beat me at chess”; Denis Diderot, “Salon de 1767,” in Oeuvres complètes, ed. J. Assézat and M. Tourneux, 20 vols. (Paris: Garnier, 1875–77), vol. 11, p. 127. [BACK]

30. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 160–64; Burney, Early Diary of Frances Burney, vol. 1, p. 123, including footnotes; “Autographes de Philidor,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 4 (April 1847): 172–78; Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 69–81; Murray, History of Chess, p. 863; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 230–31, 265–66. [BACK]

31. Brenet, Concerts en France, p. 343 n. 1; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 231–47; Charles Michael Carroll, “A Classical Setting for a Classical Poem: Philidor’s Carmen Sæculare, ” in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. Ronald C. Rosbottom (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1977), vol. 6, pp. 97–111; Rushton, “Philidor,” in New Grove Dictionary, vol. 14, pp. 628–29. [BACK]

32. Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, vol. 15, pp. 16–17, 25–27, 28–30. [BACK]

33. Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 248–64. [BACK]

34. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, p. 166; [Luc-Vincent] Thiéry, Guide des amateurs et des étrangers voyageurs à Paris, 2 vols. (Paris: Hardouin and Gattey, 1787), vol. 1, pp. 279–80; Robert M. Isherwood, Farce and Fantasy: Popular Entertainment in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 237. [BACK]

35. The example given is from Biou, “La Révolution philidorienne,” in Jeu au XVIIIe siècle, p. 66. It also appears in Reuben Fine, The World’s Great Chess Games, from Morphy to Fischer and Karpov (New York: McKay, 1976), p. 4. [BACK]

36. Carroll, “Philidor,” passim, e.g., p. 90; Rushton, “Philidor,” in New Grove Dictionary, vol. 14, p. 628; Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, p. 15. [BACK]

37. [André-Ernest-Modeste] Grétry, Mémoires, ou Essais sur la musique, 3 vols. (Paris: Verdiere, 1812), vol. 3, pp. 253–54. [BACK]

38. Ludwig Bachmann, Aus vergangenen Zeiten: Bilder aus der Entwicklungsgeschichte des praktischen Schachspiels, 2 vols. (Berlin: Kagan, [1920–22]), vol. 1, fasc. 5, p. 95; Adrianus Dingeman de Groot, Thought and Choice in Chess, trans. uncredited (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), pp. 361–70. [BACK]

39. The source of the quotation, from an unidentified contemporary newspaper: Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, p. 153. See also Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 15, pp. 293–95; Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 152–54, 167–70; vol. 2, p. 217; Richard Twiss, Miscellanies, 2 vols. (London: Egerton, 1805), vol. 2, pp. 105–8; “Chess,” London Chronicle, 28 May 1787, p. 507; Morning World, 28 May 1787, quoted in Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, p. 167; “Autographes de Philidor,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 4, p. 176; Allen, Life of Philidor, p. 79; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 266–75. [BACK]

40. “Autographes de Philidor,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 4, p. 176; Charles Tomlinson, ed., The Chess-Player’s Annual for the Year 1856 (London: Hall, Virtue, 1856), p. 160; Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 76 n, 77 n. [BACK]

41. Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, pp. 164–65; Pierre-Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant, editor of Le Palamède, footnote to Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, p. 15 n. [BACK]

42. Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 10–11; Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 58–59. [BACK]

43. Al. Choron and F. Fayolle, “Philidor (André),” in Dictionnaire historique des musiciens, artistes, et amateurs, 2 vols. (Paris: Valade, 1810–11), vol. 2, p. 142. [BACK]

44. Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 75–77, 53–57; Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 10–15. [BACK]

45. “Autographes de Philidor,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 4, pp. 174–78. For the translation of the first quotation: Allen, Life of Philidor, p. 81. [BACK]

46. A. Danican Philidor, “Les Joueurs d’échecs.—Philidor,” La Régence, 1st ser., 3, no. 4 (April 1851): 123. See also Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 79–81. [BACK]

47. Unpublished letter of Philidor, 10 February 1784, quoted in Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 277–78. [BACK]

48. Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, pp. 670–71; Jean Gay, Bibliographie anecdotique du jeu des échecs (Paris: Gay, 1864), p. 124; Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, pp. 8, 12; Twiss, Miscellanies, vol. 2, pp. 110–12; obituary of Philidor in the Times (London), 2 September 1795, p. 3; “Autographes de Philidor,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 4, p. 175; Allen, Life of Philidor, pp. 92–101; Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 283–89. [BACK]

49. Diderot, Correspondance, vol. 10, p. 158; vol. 11, pp. 37–39; vol. 15, pp. 293–95, 312. For help with the translation: Carroll, “Philidor,” pp. 270–71. [BACK]

50. “Chess Match at Mr. Parsloe’s, St. James’s-street,” Sporting Magazine 2, no. 1 (April 1793): 8; “Chess Club at Mr. Parsloe’s, St. James’s street,” Sporting Magazine 3, no. 5 (February 1794): 282. [BACK]

51. Philippe Stamma, Essai sur le jeu des échecs (The Hague: Van Dole, 1741; first published in Paris, 1737), p. 150; Gioachino Greco, Le Jeu des eschets (Paris: Pepingué, 1669), dedication page; Joseph Bertin, The Noble Game of Chess (London: Author, 1735), p. iii. [BACK]

52. There are two principal biographical sketches of Deschapelles: [Pierre-Charles Fournier de] Saint-Amant, “Deschapelles,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 11 (November 1847): 500–515; [George Walker], “Deschapelles, the Chess-King,” Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country 19, no. 111 (March 1839): 310–19. Two others contain some additional information: Anon., “Deschapelles,” in Biographie universelle et portative des contemporains, ed. A[lphonse] Rabbe, Vieilh de Boisjolin, and Sainte-Preuve, 5 vols. (Paris: Editors, 1836), vol. 5, pp. 149–50; Anon., “Deschapelles,” Cahiers de l’échiquier français, no. 21 (1st trimester 1930): 132–42. Unless otherwise noted, all information on Deschapelles in this section, including quotations, derives from the articles by Saint-Amant and Walker. [BACK]

53. [Joseph] M[éry], “Napoléon, amateur d’échecs,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 1 ([15 March] 1836): 12–13; Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, pp. 671–73. [BACK]

54. Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, vol. 22, pp. 305–6; Twiss, Chess, vol. 1, p. 166; [Verdoni, Léger, Carlier, and Bernard], Traité théorique et pratique du jeu des échecs par une société d’amateurs (Paris: Stoupe, 1775). [BACK]

55. [A.-L.-H. Lebreton] Deschapelles, “Supplément au bulletin de la bataille d’Iéna,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 1 ([15 March] 1836): 23–25; letter of Deschapelles published in Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 8 (15 October 1836): 292. [BACK]

56. Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, p. 682; George Walker, “The Battles of M’Donnell and de La Bourdonnais,” in Chess and Chess-Players (London: Skeet, 1850), p. 367. [BACK]

57. Anon., “Deschapelles,” Cahiers de l’échiquier français, no. 21, p. 135. [BACK]

58. Editor(s) of Le Palamède, “Défi entre M. Deschapelles et M. Lewis,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 9 (15 November 1836): 318–22. [BACK]

59. Saint-Amant, “Deschapelles,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 11, pp. 500–515; Walker, “Deschapelles, the Chess-King,” Fraser’s Magazine 19, no. 111, pp. 310–19; Joseph Gisquet, Mémoires de M. Gisquet, 3 vols. (Paris: Marchand, 1840), vol. 2, pp. 240–41. [BACK]

60. Frank E. Manuel, The Prophets of Paris: Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Comte (New York: Harper, 1965). [BACK]

61. “Club des Panoramas,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 3 ([15 May] 1836): 108; Walker, “Deschapelles, the Chess-King,” Fraser’s Magazine 19, no. 111, pp. 312–13. On the invention of “pawns”: Lardin, “Philidor peint par lui-même,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 1, p. 5 n. 1. [BACK]

62. Saint-Amant, “Deschapelles,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 11, pp. 500–515; Walker, “Deschapelles, the Chess-King,” Fraser’s Magazine 19, no. 111, pp. 310–19; Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 4 (1836): 147–48; no. 5, pp. 186–91; no. 6, pp. 208–16; no. 7, pp. 256–58; no. 8, pp. 292–94. [BACK]

63. “Chronique,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 2, no. 12 (15 November 1842): 233. [BACK]

64. Quoted in William Hartston, The Kings of Chess: A History of Chess Traced through the Lives of Its Greatest Players (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), p. 25. [BACK]

65. There are three principal biographical sketches, and they are quite sketchy, of Labourdonnais: George Walker, “Derniers moments de Labourdonnais,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 1, no. 1 (15 December 1841): 11–14 (trans. of “The Last Moments of Labourdonnais,” which first appeared in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle sometime in 1841); [Pierre-Charles Fournier de] Saint-Amant, “Mort de M. de Labourdonnais,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 1, no. 1 (15 December 1841): 15–19; Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, pp. 680–82. Three others contain little additional information: [first name unknown] Fayolle, “Labourdonnais (Mahé de),” in Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, 2d ed., ed. Michaud, 45 vols. (Paris: Desplaces, 1843–65), vol. 22, pp. 319–20; O. Koch, “Louis Charles Mahé de la Bourdonnais,” Deutsches Wochenschach und Berliner Schachzeitung 28, no. 1 (7 January 1912): 1–7; Anon., “La Bourdonnais,” Cahiers de l’échiquier français, no. 2 (2d trimester 1925): 35–45. Concerning the question of when Labourdonnais was born, Walker says the inscription on his gravestone reads “mort le 13 décembre 1840, à l’âge de 43 ans,” implying a birth year of 1797, while Saint-Amant says explicitly that he was born in 1795. Unless otherwise noted, all information on Labourdonnais in this section, including quotations of him, derives from the two articles by Walker and the one by Saint-Amant. [BACK]

66. Saint-Amant, “Deschapelles,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 7, no. 11, pp. 504, 509, 510. [BACK]

67. Auguste Mongredien, quoted in G. H. Diggle, “The Labourdonnais-MacDonnell Matches of 1834,” British Chess Magazine 54, no. 7 (July 1934): 281. [BACK]

68. Walker, “Café de la Régence,” pp. 677, 681–82; idem, “Battles of M’Donnell,” in Chess and Chess-Players, p. 372. [BACK]

69. Brad Leithauser, “Computer Chess,” New Yorker 63, no. 3 (9 March 1987): 48. [BACK]

70. Murray, History of Chess, p. 882, including footnotes. [BACK]

71. [Louis-Charles de Labourdonnais], intro. to “Une Partie d’échecs, poème par M. Méry,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 1 ([15 March] 1836): 26; [Pierre-Charles de Saint-Amant], “Labourdonnais et MacDonnell,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 4, no. 6 (June 1844): 265–66; Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, p. 681; idem, “Battles of M’Donnell,” in Chess and Chess-Players, pp. 364–84; Diggle, “La Bourdonnais-MacDonnell Matches,” British Chess Magazine 54, no. 7, pp. 277–86. [BACK]

72. Hooper and Whyld, Oxford Companion to Chess, p. 245; B. H. Wood, “Books about Chess,” in The Treasury of Chess Lore, ed. Fred Reinfeld (New York: Dover, 1959), p. 269. [BACK]

73. For three capsule accounts of the history of chess problems: Murray, History of Chess, pp. 870–72; Eales, Chess, pp. 205–7; Hooper and Whyld, Oxford Companion to Chess, pp. 256–59. [BACK]

74. [Joseph] Méry, “Deux parties d’échecs sans voir,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 2, no. 1 (15 March 1837): 5–8; George Walker, “Chess, without the Chess-Board,” Fraser’s Magazine 21, no. 123 (March 1840): 312; Joseph Méry, “Let-tre sur Philidor,” La Régence, 1st ser., 3, no. 5 (May 1851): 129–32. [BACK]

75. For a contemporary engraving of Morphy’s eight-game exhibition: David Lawson, Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess (New York: McKay, 1976), p. 133; Hartston, Kings of Chess, p. 47. On Paulsen’s fifteen-game exhibition: Anne Sunnucks, ed., The Encyclopedia of Chess (New York: St. Martin’s, 1970), p. 347. On Pillsbury’s twenty-one-game exhibition: Hooper and Whyld, Oxford Companion to Chess, pp. 37, 253. On Koltanovski’s exhibitions: Ridka Belkadi, Les Échecs, de l’initiationà la maîtrise (N.p.: Société Tunisienne de Diffusion, 1972), p. 279. [BACK]

76. “Revue,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 3, no. 12 (15 December 1843): 538–39. [BACK]

77. Murray, History of Chess, p. 885. [BACK]

78. Joseph Méry, “Les Joueurs d’Échecs—Le Chevalier de Barneville,” La Régence, 1st ser., 3, no. 4 (April 1851): 118. The chevalier Brisout de Barneville was born in 1747 and died in 1842; “Nécrologie,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 1, no. 5 (15 April 1842): 234. [BACK]

79. [First name unknown] Saint-Elme Le Duc, letter to the editor, Le Palamède, 2d ser., 4, no. 4 (April 1844): 167–68. [BACK]

80. On the Paris-London correspondence games: “Un Défi par correspondance,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 1, no. 1 ([15 March] 1836): 14–17; “Défi entre le cercle des échecs de Paris et le club de Westminster,” Le Palamède, 1st ser., 2, no. 1 (15 March 1837): 10–16. On the Paris-Budapest correspondence games: “Chronique,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 2, no. 11 (15 October 1842): 183; see also “Chronique” in many subsequent issues of Le Palamède, concluding with “Défi par correspondance, entre Paris et Pesth (Hongrie), commencé en novembre 1842,” Le Palamède, 2d ser., 5, no. 5 (15 May 1845): 202; 6, no. 2 (February 1846): 70–71. [BACK]

81. There are two principal biographical sketches of Saint-Amant: J[ean-Louis] Préti, “A la mémoire de M. de Saint-Amant,” La Stratégie 5, no. 12 (15 December 1872): 353–55; G. H. Diggle, “Pierre Charles Fournié [sic] de Saint-Amant,” British Chess Magazine 53, no. 10 (October 1933): 405–9; no. 11 (November 1933): 449–56. There is also quite a bit of information about him in the columns of Le Palamède, 2d ser. (1841–47), and in George Walker’s chess columns (1835–73) in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, especially the column of 24 November 1872, an obituary of Saint-Amant. [BACK]

82. Since Saint-Amant was the editor of Le Palamède and Staunton the editor of the Chess Player’s Chronicle, innumerable reports, letters, proposals, claims, challenges, charges, and countercharges were published in those two journals concerning the three matches, counting the two that were actually played and the one that was only planned. There was also one pamphlet, published by the English side: [Thomas J. Bryan], Jeu des échecs; historique de la lutte entre l’éditeur du “Palamède” et l’éditeur du “Chess Player’s Chronicle” (Paris: Tresse, 1845). [BACK]

83. Walker, “Café de la Régence,” Fraser’s Magazine 22, no. 132, p. 675. [BACK]

84. The principal biographical sketch of Alexandre is [Pierre-Charles Four-nier de] Saint-Amant, “Nécrologie: A. Alexandre,” La Régence, 1st ser., 3, no. 1 (January 1851): 3–13. [BACK]

85. There are two principal biographical sketches of Kieseritzky: F[riedrich] Amelung, “Lionel Kieseritzky,” Baltische Schachblätter, no. 2 (1890): 55–87 (including selections from Kieseritzky’s letters); Bachmann, Aus vergangenen Zeiten, vol. 1, fasc. 5, pp. 90–101 (chap. entitled “Lionel Kieseritzky”). There is also quite a bit of information about him in La Régence, 1st ser. (1849–51), edited by Kieseritzky himself. [BACK]

86. The source of the quotation: Rev. W. Wayte, quoted in Diggle, “Pierre Charles Fournié de Saint-Amant,” p. 408. On Kieseritzky’s four-game simultaneous blindfold exhibition: “Mélanges” and “Quatres parties jouées simultanément par M. Kieseritzky, sans voir les échiquiers,” La Régence, 1st ser., 3, no. 5 (May 1851): 135 and 149–54, respectively. On earlier simultaneous blindfold exhibitions given by Kieseritzky and his contemporaries: Henry Cohen, “Un Mot sur les deux parties jouées simultanément à Glasgow, par M. Harrwitz, sans voir l’Échiquier,” La Régence, 1st ser., 1, no. 11 (November 1849): 329–30. [BACK]

87. Quoted in Reinfeld, ed., Treasury of Chess Lore, p. xii. [BACK]

88. Jacques Hillairet, Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris, 2 vols. (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1963), vol. 2, pp. 217, 342, 426–27. [BACK]

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