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Friday, January 20, 2017

Napolean Marache...Another Player Who Deserves a Better Reputation

     Napoleon Marache is probably best remembered for losing a famous game to Paul Morphy, but his accomplishments merit a better memory than that! 
     Marache (June 15, 1818 – May 11, 1875) was born in Meaux, France and at an early age he demonstrated an aptitude for music, especially the violin. He was so fond of it that it was not unusual for him to spend 12 hours a day practicing. 
     In the latter part of 1831, when he was 13, his parents emigrated to New York City where he continued his study of music, but gave up the violin for the guitar and became so proficient that he gained a reputation as bring one of the best guitarist in the country. 
     Before leaving France Marache was a skillful at the game of Polish checkers. Polish checkers is also called continental checkers and is a variation of checkers (draughts) most played in continental Europe. It is played on a board of 100 squares with 20 pieces on a side. The pieces move and capture as in checkers, except that in capturing they may move backward as well as forward. 
     After arriving in the US, in 1844 at the age of 26 (!), he learned to play chess and immediately began collecting all the chess books that he could find. Within four weeks after learning how to play he was giving Rook odds to his teacher whom at the beginning was giving Marache Queen odds. Not long after, Marache became acquainted with a Mr. D. S. Roberts, a well known Brooklyn player, who at first gave him Rook odds, then Knight odds, and soon they were playing on even terms. Marache credited Roberts for having developed most of his chess ability.
     Within a year of learning how to play Marache began composing problems, the first one was 11 moves and was published in the Spirit of the Times. His problems were originally published under the initials N.O.K. While composing he did not neglect his study of the game and in a series of games against Roberts he scored +8 -3 =0. Shortly after his defeat of Roberts he defeated Charles Stanley, one of the strongest players in the country, in a match. 
     In the mid-1800s he was one of America's first chess journalists as well as one of its leading players. In 1866 he published one of the country's first books on chess, Marache's Manual of Chess, which also contained instructions on backgammon, Russian backgammon and dominoes. 
     In 1846, he became the first chess editor in America when he began publishing The Chess Palladium and Mathematical Sphinx. At approximately the same time Charles Stanley started The American Chess Magazine. Marache and Stanley were constantly feuding in print, Stanley calling Marache's magazine "a most ridiculous jumble of unintelligible nonsense" and "sixteen pages of soiled waste-paper". Was it sour grapes on Stanley's part as a result of his lost match or was he really right? Only three issues of Marache's magazine were published. But, Marache was not done as an editor. In the 1850s and 1860s he served as the chess editor or chess columnist for the New York Clipper, Porter's Spirit of the Times, and Wilkes' Spirit of the Times. In 1865, Marache wrote the chess section for a new edition of Hoyle's guide to games. 
     Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Paul Morphy traveled to New York to work on an annotated collection of his games with Marache acting as secretary and Charles A. Gilberg helping Morphy. Charles Gilberg (Camden, New Jersey July 17, 1835 - Brooklyn, New York, January 21, 1898) is not very well known, but he was a problem composer. 
     A partner in a major import company, he devoted much of his free time to composing chess problems. In all he composed about 300, mostly two and three movers. He was president of many American chess clubs, including the Manhattan Chess Club, the Brooklyn Chess Club and the New York Chess Association, which he also supported financially. 
     At his own expense Gilberg published a collection of 200 its problems titled Crumbs From the Chessboard. The book is out of copyright and can be downloaded from various internet sources should anyone be interested...just Google the title. His other problems were published in the American Chess-Nuts, a 452 page work containing 2406 problems by American composers. It's also freely available on the internet. 
     Gilberg also wrote a book on the Fifth American Conference (New York, 1880, won by George Mackenzie). They liked BIG books in those days...this one had over 500 pages with biographies of the players, annotated games and problems of composition competition. I found one internet source where this book was available, but the site requited registration. There may be others.
     As for the Morphy book, it never got published because prospective publishers asked for more games than Morphy submitted and he refused to supply them. 
     In 1855-56 Marache won the championship cup of the New York Chess Club and in 1856 he finished first in a sixteen-player tournament. Marache was good enough that in August of 1856, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper published a challenge issued by Ernest Morphy to either Stanley or Marache to play a match against his nephew, Paul Morphy, but neither player accepted the challenge. 
     In 1857, Marache was one of the sixteen leading American players who participated in the First American Chess Congress which was won by Morphy. Oddly, this was to be Morphy's only tournament! It was a knockout event and Marache defeated Daniel Fiske in the first round then lost his match against Benjamin Raphael and was eliminated. 
     Marache and Morphy did play five games in 1857 in which Morphy gave odds of pawn and move.  Morphy scored +3 -0 =2. 
     Marache, who for the last nineteen years of his life held a position in the Union Bank, died suddenly of heart disease on the morning of Tuesday, May 11, 1875 at his home in New York City.
     His opponent in this game was Daniel W. Fiske (November 11, 1831 – September 17, 1904) a university librarian and professor. He helped organize the first American Chess Congress in 1857 and wrote the tournament book in 1859 and edited The Chess Monthly from 1857 to 1861 with Paul Morphy. His scholarly volume, Chess In Iceland was used as source material by H. J. R. Murray for A History of Chess. Another manuscript, Chess Tales and Chess Miscellanies, also published posthumously, is an anthology covering chess life of the period including articles about Morphy, problems by Sam Loyd, and the history of chess. The game was actually pretty well played considering the enormous tactical complications that begin around move 24.

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