Correspondence Chess Reminiscence


By Eric Ruch


The Italian Rules


 The Italian rules date back to the end of the 15th century – mid 16th century when the centre of the chess world moves from Spain to Italy.

They differ from the modern chess rules by the “passar battaglia” and the free castling. The “passar battaglia” forbids to take a pawn en passant. The free castling allowed a player to directly move his king to h1 and his rook to e1 for instance when castling king side, or the king to  a1/b1 and the rook to b1/c1/d1 when castling queenside.

These rules were in use in Italy up to the end of the 19th century and it is generally considered that it was the Third National Chess Tournament held in Milano in September 1881 that definitively imposed the use of the international rules in Italy.

Many correspondence games have been played during the 19th century
 according to the Italian rules.


The game Berlin – Hamburg has been historically the first correspondence chess game played according the Italian rules. It is rather surprising that two German clubs used these rules, but this was probably due to the influence of the Ponziani’s treatise translated by V. Mosler “Das Schachspiels nach dem Italienischen des Autore Modenese”, Coblence in 1822.


Berlin - Hamburg [C54]

corr, 1834


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0

Hamburg used the free casting by playing the King on h8.



Berlin also used the free castling by playing his King on h1, although this will have no impact for the rest of the game


6...d6 7.Qe2 Qe7 8.Be3 Bxe3 9.fxe3 Be6 10.Nbd2 Bxc4 11.Nxc4 Rae8 12.Nfd2 £e6 13.h3 g6 14.Qf3 Nd8 15.Raf1 Nd7 16.b3 c6 17.g4 kg7 18.kh2 f6

and the game was agreed a draw in 83 moves. The free casting was not necessary and standard rules could have been applied.


The game played between Modena and Liverno, two italian cities, is much more interesting. I give here the annotations of Steinitz published in “the Fields” in 1879 and those of Count Cassoli one of the member of the Modena club published in the “Nuova Rivista degli Scacchi” in 1879.



Modena - Livorno [B22]

corr, 1877 - 1879


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3

The move 3.¤c3 followed by 4.d4 was suggested by Paulsen, and gives White a slight advantage. The text move is worth consideration because it eases white’s development.


3...Nc6 4.d4

4.Bb5 was perhaps stronger. 4...d5 (4...£b6 5.£e2 ¤f6 6.e5 followed by 7.0-0.) 5.¥xc6+ bxc6 6.£a4 ¥d7 7.d3 (7.¤e5 ¤f6 8.¤xc6? £b6) 7...c4 8.dxc4 dxe4 9.¤e5 with a good game.


4...d5 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5 £d6

The "Neueste Theorie" suggest  6...cxd4. This Queen move seems not necessary (F. Cassoli)


7.Qe2+ Be7 8.dxc5 Qxc5 9.0-0 -- 10.Re1



The free casting according to the Italian rules. According to most players, the possibility to move the Rook directly to e1 gives White a too big advantage

 (RR to enter such a game into Chessbase, you have to enter a null move by pressing Ctrl Alt 0 and White is for instance allowed two moves at the same time. Of course the numbering of the moves is no more correct)


10...Bg4 11.Be3

11.¥xc6+ was stronger, because after 11...bxc6 12.¥g5 Black had problems to castle.


11...Bxf3 12.Bxc5

12.Bxc6+ was still stronger. 12...bxc6 13.Qxf3 Qd6 14.Bd4 Qg6 (14...f6 15.£g4 followed by b4.) 15.Nd2 followed by Nb3 gives White the better game.


12...Bxe2 13.Rxe2 0-0-0 14.Kb8

Again the free castling.


15.Bxe7 Ngxe7 16.Nd2 a6 17.Ba4 Kc7

It was necessary to bring the King in the center (Steinitz). A good move to support the isolated pawn (F. Cassoli)


18.Nf3 b5 19.Bb3 h6 20.Ne5

It was better to play before 20.a4 and if 20...f6 to prevent ¤e5, 21.axb5 axb5 22.¤d4 ¤xd4 23.¦xe7+ ¢d6 24.¦ae1 ¤c6


20...Nxe5 21.Rxe5 Kd6 22.Rae1 Rd7 23.f4 g6 24.a4 Rb8

The best move (F. Cassoli)


25.axb5 axb5 26.g4 Rbb7 27.h4

27.Kg2 -- 28.Kf3 was better.



Black has well played this difficult ending, but the text move loosed a tempo.  (W. Steinitz).

It was better to play Kc5 (F. Cassoli)


28.Kg2 Kc5 29.Kf3 b4

Lose a pawn. 29...Nc6 was better  30.R5e3 (30.Re8 Re7 F. Cassoli.) 30...Na5 followed by b4 or Nc4.


30.Ba4 Nc6

Risky. 30...Rdc7 was better.



Winning a pawn, but White king side remains weak and this neutralizes the material advantage.



A very good move. 31...Rxb4? 32.Rc1+ lose a piece.


32.Bxc6 Kxc6 33.Rc1+ Kd6 34.Rc5 Rxb4 35.Rcxd5+ Kc6 36.Rc5+ Kd6 37.Rb5

37.¦c2 followed by  ¦5e2 to support the pawn provides no advantage (F. Cassoli)


37...Rb7 38.Rbd5+ Kc6 39.Rd2 Rb3+

Black’s defense is correct and White has to exchange a pair of Rooks. (W. Steinitz).

39...Rxb2 is a mistake 40.Rxb2 Rxb2 41.Re7 Rb7 (41...Rb3+ 42.Ke4 Rb4+ 43.Ke5 f6+ 44.Rxf6 Rxf4+ 45.Kxg6 Rxg4+ 46.Rh5 wins) 42.Rxb7 Kxb7 43.Ke4 Kc7 44.Ke5 Kd7 45.Kf6 Ke8 46.Kg7 h5 47.gxh5 gxh5 48.Kh6 and White wins (F. Cassoli).



40.Ke4 R7b4+ 41.Rd4 Rxb2 threatening ...Re2+ hindering White to hold the strong square e7.


40...Rxe3+ 41.Kxe3 Rb3+ 42.Ke4 Rh3 43.Ke5 Rxh4 44.Rg2 Kd7 45.Kf6 h5

The best move.

45...Ke8 46.f5

A) 46...g5 47.Kg7;

B) 46...h5 47.fxg6 fxg6 (47...hxg4 48.Re2+ wins.) 48.g5²;

C) 46...gxf5 47.gxf5


46.Kxf7 Rxg4 47.Rc2 Kd6 48.f5 gxf5 ½-½



Another interesting game has been played by Hamburg and Breslau (now Worclaw in Poland) in 1840.



Hambourg - Breslau (Worclaw) [C41]

Corr 1840

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Qe7  4.Nc3 c6 5.h3 h6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Be3 b5 9.Bb3 a5 10.a4 b4 11.Ne2 Be6 12.Ng3 Bxb3 13.cxb3 Qe6 14.Qc2 Nfd7 15.0-0-0 -- 16.Kb1 -- 17.Rc1

White’s free castling.




17...c5 18.Rhd1 g6 19.Rd5 Nc6 20.Ne1 Nd4 21.Bxd4 exd4 22.f4 Qb6 23.Nd3 f6 24.f5 g5 25.e5 Qb7 26.Qc4 0-0-0 27.-- Kb8 28.-- Rc8

Black’s free castling.



29.Rxd7 Qxd7 30.exf6 Qb7 31.Re1 Rh7 32.Re6 Rd7 33.Ne4 Qd5 34.g4 Qxc4 35.bxc4 b3 36.Ne5 Rdd8 37.f7 Kb7 38.Nf6 Rc7 39.Nh7 Rcc8 40.Ng6 Rd7 41.Re8 Rxf7

The game was stopped in this position, but White should have a winning position after 42.Rxc8 Kxc8 43.Nhxf8.


There are much less games where the “passar battaglia” rule had to be taken into
account and the following one played in 1877
between the Ferrera and the Modena chess clubs is one of them:



Ferrara - Modena [C54]

corr, 1877

( Annotations by Comte Fernandino Cassoli)


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Bf6 5.d3 d6 6.Qe2 h6 7.Be3 Bb6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.-- Re8

The free catling accoring to the Italian rules, but 8...£e7 was maybe better.


10.h3 Ne7 11.g4 Bxe3 12.Qxe3 Ng6 13.g5 Nf4 14.0-0-0 -- 15.Kb1 -- 16.Ka1

Again the free castling.


16...hxg5 17.Nxg5 Be6 18.Bxe6 Nxe6 19.Nxe6 Rxe6 20.Rdg1 Nh5 21.Nf1 Bf6 22.Ng3 Nxg3 23.Rxg3 Qf4 24.Rhg1 g6 25.Qxf4 exf4 26.Rf3 Rd8! 27.Rxf4 d5 28.exd5 Rxd5 29.d4 Rg5 30.Rf1 Kg7 31.a3 Rg2 32.d5 Rf6 33.Rb4 b6 34.Rc4 c5 35.b4

White cannot take en passant !



35...cxb4 36.axb4 Rfxf2 37.Rxf2 Rxf2 38.Rd4 Kf8 39.c4 Ke7 40.Kb1 Rf3 41.Kc2?

Better was: 41.c5 bxc5 42.bxc5 Rb3+ 43.Kc1 Rb8=


41...Rxh3 42.c5 Kd7 43.d6 Rh8 44.Kc3

A draw was maybe still possible after  44.Re4! bxc5! 45.bxc5 Kc6 46.Re7 Kxc5 47.Rxf7 Kxd6 48.Rf6+ Kc5 49.Rxg6=


44...Kc6 45.Kc4 bxc5 46.b5+ Kb6 47.Re4 Rh1 48.Re3 Rd1 49.Rd3 Rxd3 50.Kxd3 Kb7 0-1




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