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Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Trifles and Oddities 3

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The Charlemagne Chess men are a collection of 16 chess pieces alleged to have been given to the Saint Denis Abbey by Charlemagne (742-814). Modern experts consider the pieces date back to the 12th century. The pieces are now displayed at the Cabinet des Medailles, Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Legend has it that the chess pieces were offered to Charlemagne by Harun al-Rashid (763-809), caliph of Baghdad, on the coronation of Charlemagne in 800. In 1598, 30 chess pieces had been inventoried. 16 pieces were left after the French Revolution. The pieces are carved from elephant ivory.

Canute (995-1035) was the King of Denmark, England, and Norway in the 11th century. He may have learned the game of chess during a pilgrimage to Rome. A Danish saga mentions that in 1026, the king had a Danish earl murdered in a church when Earl Ulf (Wolf) overturned a chessboard after the King made a bad move and tried to take it back.

William Caxton (1420-1492) was the publisher of the second book to be printed in English, The Game and Playe of the Chesse, on March 31, 1474 in Flanders. It was reprinted in 1483 with woodcuts added. Caxton’s chess book was the first printed book in English to make extensive use of woodcuts for pictures. The book is a translation of Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobelium ac popularium super ludo scachorum (The Book of the Morals of Men and the Duties of Nobles and Commoners on the Game of Chess) by Jacobus de Cessolis (1250-1322). Caxton translated the book from a French version that was published in 1473. Caxton’s first book printed in English was the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, published a few months before his chess book.

Caissa (pronounced ky-EE-sah or ky-suh), is a mythical Thracian dryad portrayed as the goddess of chess and invented by the Italian bishop and poet, Hieronymus Vida (1485-1566) in 1527. His 658-line Latin poem, Scacchia Ludus (The Game of Chess) first mention Caissa. An earlier version of his poem, written in 1525, used the name Scacchia instead of Caissa. In 1763, Sir William Jones (1746-1794) re-used Vida’s character in his own poem called Caissa. In this poem, the god Mars falls in love with Caissa and presents the game of chess to Caissa in an attempt to win her affection.

The Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) is the oldest postal chess organization in America and second oldest in the world. It was founded in 1909. It publishes the largest correspondence chess magazine in the world, THE CHESS CORRESPONDENT, the oldest national magazine in the US. In 1909, the Correspondence Chess League of Greater New York (CCLGNY) was founded by a group of correspondence players who had been conducting postal chess tournaments since 1897. By 1917, CCLGNY and three other groups merged to create the CCLA. In 1940, the CCLA had the first numerical ratings of chess players.

In 1935 the US played England a 1,002 board correspondence match. It was stopped in 1941 when the British Government’s Board of Censors thought that the chess notation was some kind of code which offered too many opportunities for secret messages. At the time, there were 526 games finished. The US had won 223, lost 203, and drew 100 games.

Georges Cartier was the pseudonym for Dr. Savielly Tartakower (1887-1956) during World War II when he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Free French forces in London serving under Charles De Gaulle. The pseudonym had nothing to do with military secrecy – everyone knew Tartakower. The name was used because Savielly Tartakower was too hard to say and pronounce by his Free French collegues. During World War I, he was a Lieutenant in the Austrian army and was shot in the stomach.

Esteban Canal (1896-1981), born in Peru, was awarded the International Grandmaster title in 1977 at the age of 81. He won the champion of Leipzig in 1916 and won the Hungarian championship in 1933. He played board 1 for Peru at the 1950 Chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik. He spent most of his life after age 26 in Venice, Italy. The chess club in Venice is named after Esteban Canal.

The longest delay of a capture of a piece or pawn is 57 moves, played by Oscar Chajes and Ernst Gruenfeld, Carlsbad 1923. After 94 moves, only one pawn (the White King Rook Pawn) was captured. The game took over 15 hours and lasted 120 moves. Black would have checkmated White on the 121st move.

As late as 1561 castling was two moves. You had to play R-KB1 on one move and K-KN1 on the next move. The longest delayed castling in a grandmaster game is believed to be in the game Bobotsov-Ivkov, 1966 when White castled on the 46th move. Black had castled on his 5th move. Two other non-grandmaster games show castling on the 48th move.

Florencio Campomanes (1927-2010) was the first non-European elected FIDE President (1982-1995). He undertook doctoral studies in political science at Georgetown University in the early 1950s, but gave up his career to devote his life to chess. He tied for 2nd in the New York State Chess Championship in 1954. He won the Philippine national championship in 1956 and 1960. He was the top board for the Philippines in the 1960 Chess Olympiad and represented the Philippines in 5 Chess Olympiads.

In the 1980s, the Canadian representative to an international chess event got to the tournament by a track and field club (Scarborough Optimists Track and Field Club) that raised the money through bingo.

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