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by George Walker
The Chess Player's Chronicle,  Feb. 1844
January 2006
A bit of background...

Howard Staunton vs. Pierre Charles-Fournié de Saint-Amant, 1843

      In 1843 Howard Staunton and Pierre Charles-Fournié de Saint-Amant played two matches. Staunton was the acknowledged champion of England and editor of The Chess Player's Chronicle while St. Amant was the champion of the Café de la Régence in Paris and the editor of Le Palamède.
     The first match, played from April to May for the nominal stakes of 1 guinea per game, was a short and somewhat informal affair, held in London, that St. Amant won +3-2=1.  Staunton challenge St. Amant to a more formal re-match. After much debate and acrimony, the terms were agreed upon only after Staunton acquiesced to nearly all of St. Amant's provisions. The 21 game match was held in Paris for £100 per side. With the engagement held in Paris, there were no allowances to cover Staunton's expenses and even though he won the match (+11-6=4), his winnings didn't cover his costs (it might be argued that he lost money in the short term, but eventually profited indirectly from the ordeal). One originality of this meeting was Capt. Harry Wilson's decision to time each of the players' moves (for the first 15 games, after which he had to return to England). Wilson's time study revealed that St. Amant used 3 hours to Staunton's one (Inexplicably, the English-language Paris newspaper,  Galignani's Messenger, chided Staunton for his slow play).
     The acrimony that foreshadowed this bout only exacerbated as the match proceeded. Even after the match, as St. Amant tried overtly to secure a rematch, but covertly to sabotage any possibility of one taking place, there seemed to be no relief from the off-the-board warfare.
     The significance of this match was never underestimated by the public. Since France and England were considered the major chess powers, the winner of the match was considered, by virtue of this opinion, the best of the best and effectively, though unstated, the World Champion.

     George Walker was a chess player, author, publisher and benefactor. Although he was one of Staunton's earliest promoters, their relationship see-sawed between friendship and animosity, primarily due to Staunton's acerbic pen. During one of their less bitter periods Walker contributed the following to Staunton's Chess Player's Chronicle.



        Since the playing of the great match between the two editors of the Chess Magazines, The Chess Player’s Chronicle, and Le Palamède, sufficient time has now elapsed for prejudice to evaporate-passion to cool Down - the song of victory to have passed away-the wail of the vanquished to be heard no more. The proper moment has then now arrived to present a few remarks, not so much on the match itself, as on the conduct of the French party under defeat; and this particularly as regards the Paris press.

        Certain paragraphs have therein appeared which we should long since have noticed, but we waited for the Palamède first, to see how far the vanquished champion, St. Amant, was connected therewith; for we cannot reasonably hold individuals responsible for newspaper remarks, unless subsequently by them sanctioned, if not altogether adopted. In the Palamède, then, we at length have the official bulletin of the battle, drawn up by M.  Delannoy, and on this we must now comment. M. D. writes in a hearty, enthusiastic tone, which we cannot too much admire. He loves his chief, and is proud to proclaim his respect and affection.

        His personal observations on Mr. S., the British champion, are passed in great freedom, but with all due courtesy. In all he writes, French politesse is never forgotten; and this is much. We admire the tone of M D.'s apostrophe to those French players who, it would seem, jealous of St. A.'s reputation, were delighted at his defeat. Do not these gentlemen see that strength is only in unity? Some one man in a club must take the lead for the sake of keeping things together. Can they set up a better chief than St. Amant? Not as regards his Chess play merely, but in respect of his urbanity, his general acquirements, his constant efforts to promote the cause. Without him, where would have been the Paris club at all? We doubt whether it would not long since have fallen to pieces, and the players would then be driven back to the cafes, the confined rooms, the holes and corners, from which St. A, and his friends redeemed them by hoisting the Chess flag at M. Vielle's.

        From M D’s spiritual article we gather this fact that the French do not admit the match to have been decisive, and wish it to be renewed. We are sure that Mr. S. himself wishes this as much as any one, but we are also quite sure that any other match must be played in London. Mr. S. cannot be again expected to go to Paris for six weeks, and has been strangely misapprehended should the French suppose he has ever made even half a promise to such effect, no such idea having ever crossed Mr. S.'s mind for one moment. Mr. S. we know would be happy to play a match here with any player who may present himself, preferring of course St. A. or M. Des Chappelles to all others as antagonists; the stake to be, we presume, the same as before, or increased, if deemed reasonable by mutual friends. The motto of Mr. S. is to play, not to talk, and we should be proud to see him now confronting any living player.

M Delannoy is critical on Mr. S.'s game, and this is all fair; but to use a metaphor which breaks down as you ride it places you in the mud indeed. Thus M. D. gravely tells us that our champion's game possesses the solidity of iron and steel, but wants the brilliancy of gold, the lustre of the diamond. We cannot, ourselves, imagine a better blade than one of Sheffield steel, and fancy every soldier would prefer it on the day of battle to the court sword of gold with its diamond hilt! The truth is, Mr. Staunton is the most brilliant player of his day, but the openings of the games left little room for brilliancy in this match. Indeed, in any future match we sincerely hope it may be stipulated that each party begins with the King’s Pawn two, and this to give greater scope on both sides, to the gold and diamond qualities of the combatants. In one or two points M. D. states, in mistake we are sure, that which is simply false, and for the correction of which he will be the first to thank us. He fancies that Mr. S., since the match was made, has been constantly practicing with our best players. Mr. S. never played a single game of the kind; his time is equally filled up with business matters as that of St. A., Mr. S. has never in his life played with the strongest men of the day as much as has St. A.; and we believe from this very circumstance that his game is yet capable of prodigious improvement. In Mr. S. we recognize a player worthy to succeed M’Donnell. Slow to receive, conviction, because careful and experienced, we long doubted the existence of the great excellence we now gladly admit. Mr. S. is the first player in Great Britain, and unequivocally stronger than St. Amant. M D. considers St. Amant was wrong to agree to play with English Chess-men. M D. does not know that St. A. pronounced our Chess-men, here, to be the best he had ever played with, because clear, well defined, and placed upon an extensive field of action. Had the match been longer, M D. feels assured St. A. would have won. We have read in Froissart, of the Burgundian knight, who came to London in quest of fame, and fought with Lord Scales, before Edward Longshanks. After breaking sundry lances they fought with battle-axes, and it was agreed they should continue the contest till one of them should confess himself defeated. After thumping one another about with their hatchets for an hour or two, they were brought to a stand by the spike of Lord Scales’s axe having pierced the visor of the Frenchman’s helm, so that the least additional thrust would have lodged it in his brain. The Englishman naturally hesitated to murder his gallant foe, and at the moment our king threw down the truncheon of peace to save a life. The French knight was affronted at the interference, and demanded a renewal of the combat. The question was referred to a court of honour, and gravely discussed Their decision was, that Mr. Burgundy was perfectly en regle in demanding the fight to recommence; but that in such case, parties must be placed exactly as they were when the king interfered, with Lord Scales’s axe at his forehead as before. The French knight declined this, and returned to Burgundy, doubtless considering himself an injured man. So with M. Delannoy. Let the players renew the match, recommencing at any one move of any one game, and let it be then seen what would be the result; otherwise all is mere matter of opinion. M Delannoy closes with an allusion, poetical enough, to Des Chappelles. May it inspire this mighty Chess chief with resolution to come to the rescue!

        In a subsequent page of the Palamède we have a letter from M. Lecrivain, which merits some attention, because he was one of St. A.'s umpires. He takes the ground already occupied by certain French papers. “The parties are now even, each has gained a match; the third, therefore, remains to be played.” We regret that party spirit prevents these gentlemen from drawing a just line between the five games played here last spring between Mr. S. and St. A., when we admit the latter most honourably won three to two; and the twenty-one games now played, of which Mr. S. won eleven, lost only six, and drew four; the present match being for two hundred pounds, the former for a sovereign! Mr. S., too, upon that occasion having declared himself to be unwell, and St. A. now throughout admitting he never himself played so hard in his life, and was never better disposed. But we wish the French papers had not gone beyond this. When Mr. S. had won all the first six or seven games running, his attention possibly relaxed, and very naturally so. At least, this is as fair to suppose as it is to admit St. A. could have made better openings, and that, in consequence, he did not at first play his full game. But when a game or two were won by St. A. what a shout was raised by the French press! In the National (or Debats) we read that the first half dozen games never count in a match! “It is only now (say they) that St. A. is beginning to play, and we have no fear of the result”- “We would as soon lose as win the first few games, and so would St. A."  Such was really the stuff gravely put forth by these learned scribes. At the close of the Palamède, we regret to see St. A. lauding Galignani [Galignani's Messenger] . He cannot, surely, have seen all which appeared in that paper. Galignani's notes on the games throughout were ridiculously one-sided; leaning towards France till they quite tumbled over. They are indeed too weak, as well as silly, to do more than raise a smile; but one assertion appeared in Galignani, which was a thumper indeed; and this was, that Mr. S. was a slower player than his rival. Never was grosser untruth penned. We are authorized by Mr. Wilson, Mr. S.'s umpire, to state, that he timed the moves played, and that throughout the match St. A. took just three hours to one. Now, we really admit it does not hence follow that it would be strictly right to say that St. A. is therefore slower than Mr. S. as three are to one; because when one player is much slower than his opponent, the latter has the advantage of working while his adversary is thus slowly labouring, and might, perhaps, be himself Compelled to take more time were his rival faster. We content ourselves, therefore, by simply asserting, that throughout the match St. A. took fully twice the time which Mr. S. used. We find no fault with playing slowly, and merely reply to a false assertion. St. A. is a very slow player; we think him none the worse for it, except that certainly throughout this match his great slowness made him look sometimes, as it were, at too much, and his calculations became so exceedingly refined, they broke down with their own weight. It is frequently a fault in Mr. S.'s game, that he plays too fast. In this match, had he played a little slower, he would assuredly have won two of the games he lost; the one is where he refuses to take the offered Queen, and the other the game in which each has King and four Pawns, and Mr. S. loses (as we have proved) by not taking Pawn. Had these two positions presented themselves to St. A., he would have booked them both from his greater slowness of play. If St. A.'s adherents found their opinions of his having been defeated solely through his bad openings at first, we may reasonably bring forth these two games as two we ought to have won. Had St. A. played from the first as well as he did at last, we are persuaded he would have been equally beaten, though he might have made a better fight, winning, perhaps, one or two more games. Mr. S. has proved himself the better player at every point. His last games must have been contested under a disadvantage equal to the loss of a Pawn in each; absent from home and England so long a time, anxious to return, and necessarily left in Paris without the presence of the friends on whom constant attendance he had counted.. Nothing can be better than the notes St. A. gives upon these games in the Palamède. He personally bears up under his defeat. now with the same manly spirit which sustained him in his heroic struggle at the last. No cavilling, no querulous complaint escapes him. The result of the match, however unfavourable as to Chess, is. highly honourable to him in a far higher point of view-honourable to him as a man and a philosopher. We ardently hope another match may be made up, to be played here the coming spring. It was rumoured that Des Chappelles would play, but only for a large sum, something like three hundred thousand francs. Des Chappelles is far above ever having sanctioned such an absurd statement. We must conclude by again deprecating all bickerings and personalities. Let the parties be again seated at the Chess-board; and let us thus personally have an opportunity of courteously greeting St. A., and such friends as he may choose to accompany him to London- By playing a game daily the match might be concluded in three weeks.

London, Feb. 1844.



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