Correspondence Chess Reminiscence N2


By Eric Ruch



1804 2004 : 200 years anniversary of Correspondence Chess


Two hundred years ago the first correspondence chess games on records were played in the Netherlands. There is no doubt that games have been played by correspondence before that date, but none of them seem to have been published in a journal or a chess book.  So far no CC games prior to 1804 have been discovered and this may still be true in the future.

The official start date of Correspondence Chess history is therefore 1804!



Friedrich Wilhelm Von Mauvillon


The man who played the first CC games known in history is Friedrich Wilhelm von Mauvillon (1774 1851). As his name indicates, von Mauvillon family came from France and immigrated to Germany. Jacob, Friedrichs father was a military instructor of William V of Orange, and he followed the King in the Netherlands where his son enlisted in the Dutch army.


In 1804, Friedrich Wilhelm was stationed in Den Haag and he played several CC games during his spare time, against another army officer in Breda. Von Mauvillon kept the scores of these games several years and published them only 23 years later.

There is no doubt that the regular postal service between different regiments in the Army was a key factor that enabled the development of these CC games.


At that time, Von Mauvillon was also playing OTB chess. On May 15th 1803, a chess club was founded in Den Haag, named the  Haagsch Schaakgenootschap  and Von Mauvillon was one of  the founding members with the well-known Elias Stein as President.


In 1827, Von Mauvillon retired from the active service as lieutenant colonel and started a new career devoted to chess literature. He wrote his famous Anweisung zur Erlernung des Schach-Spiels mit besonderer Rucksicht auf diejeningen denen das Spiel durchaus unbekannt ist ,  published in Essen in 1827.


But Von Mauvillon was not a very strong player, as can be seen from his CC games. In the introduction to his book (page vi) he writes


I cannot pretend that I am a chess master, I am only of average strength and I can only report what I have learned from one of the first chess master, E. Stein *) during a whole year when I played in the Club where he was president.


*) Elias Stein , was born in Vorbach (probably Forbach in Lorraine, E. Ruch) near Strasburg in 1748 and died in Den Haag in 1812. He was the strongest player in the Netherlands at the end of the 18thcentury and the beginning of the 19th century, but also one of the strongest players in Europe and his strength can be compared to that of Philidor and Stamma and other chess masters.


The Games of Von Mauvillon


The CC games played by Von Mauvillon have been published in his chess book in 1827. Chapter 11 of this book is devoted to the analysis of several games, and these CC games can be found in pages 373 to 375.

There are different versions of these games in the modern literature, some authors stating that only  two games have been played, some other given three games. There is another opened question:  which colors was playing Von Mauvillon in his games ? And were these games played against a single opponent or not ?


I have the chance to have this book in my library as a piece of CC history, and I can answer some of these questions.


The first game is preceded by an introductory text, that provided some insight to the game:


 Games played by the author in the year 1804, in garrison in Den Haag, with one of his friends in Breda by exchange of letters.* (The position of the pieces are indicated on Fig. 2 No 1. Tab 1. with the sole difference that Black has the position of White and the letter has those of Black in all three games.


* The author strongly protests, if one was thinking that he considers these games as master games, since he has found that they contain many mistakes. They are only published as really played games."




The historical page where can be found the first CC known CC game


As the reader will recognize himself, the games are of poor standard, and are only important from a historical point of view.

One can wonder why Von Mauvillon has published these games, among those played by Philidor and those played by correspondence between Amsterdam vs Rotterdam and Edinburgh vs London, both matches started in 1824. Maybe he just wanted to show to the reader the difference between master and average player since his book was mainly intended for beginners.


The introduction text clearly demonstrates that Von Mauvillon played his three games against the same opponent, but no clear indication is given concerning the colors.

At the end of the book, several tables are given to illustrate the most important positions reached during the games. Von Mauvillon refers to the following table:







































































The notation used by Von Mauvillon in his CC games is explained in the
upper left corner diagram


We have to consider that Black was playing at the bottom of the board, with the men on squares 49 to 64 and White on the top on squares 1 to 16 at the beginning of the game.


Black was playing first in the three games which was not unusual  at all, during those days. The first games starts:


   Black        White

1) P a 36       P a 28

2) P a 37       D a 19

3) P a 29       L a 30


which corresponds to 1.e4 e5 2.d4 Qf6 3.d5 Bc5 .


This rather unusual notation (in the early 19th century, the descriptive notation was much more usual, except perhaps in Germany) and the color inversion may be the cause of many transcription errors that can be found in the books that have reported these games.

Although there is no absolute certitude about the colors, one may suppose that Von Mauvillon has published his wins and that he played therefore first with Black.


Now the games!




Friedrich Wilhelm Von Mauvillon - NN  [C21]

(1), 1804


1.e4 e5 2.d4 f6 3.d5 c5 4.h3 d6 5.f3 xh3 6.gxh3 c6 7.c4 a5 8.c3 a6 9.a3 h6 10.d3 d4 11.a4 e7 12.d2 c5 13.xc5 xc5 14.e3 xe3 15.xe3 c5 16.b3 0-0 17.e3 g6 18.g1 f4 19.0-0-0 g6 20.d2 f4 21.f2 h5 22.b1 h4 23.g3 g6 24.d3 a4 25.e2 h7 26.a2 fb8 27.b1 b5 28.cxb5 xb5 29.d1 b6 30.b3 axb3+ 31.xb3 ab8 32.xf4 exf4 33.c2 g2 34.db3 xb3 35.xb3 xb3 36.xb3 e1 37.d1 d3 38.h4 g7 39.c3 e5 40.a4 d7 41.a5 b8 42.c4 a6 43.b5 b4 44.e5 xd5 45.exd6 c3+ 46.xc5 xd1 47.d7 1-0



Friedrich Wilhelm Von Mauvillon - NN    [C23]

(2), 1804


1.e4 e5 2.c4 c5 3.d3


This opening was surely not unusual to the players in 1804. In fact, this is the first opening analyzed by Elias Stein in his book   Nouvel Essai sur le jeu des Echecs avec des rflexions militaires relatives ce jeu  published in Den Haag in 1789.

In his notes, Stein indicated that he favors 3.c3 :

Although this move opens lines for your pieces, because it clears the diagonal for your Bishop and gives a square to your Knight and Queen, the move of the Queen Bishop Pawn was better.... 


3...f6 4.f3 c6 5.c3 d6 6.h3 a6 7.b4 b6 8.g4 e6 9.g5 xc4 10.dxc4 g8 11.h4 d7 12.a4 a7 13.a5 b6 14.b5 xa5 15.bxa6 xc4 16.e2 e7 17.g3 g6 18.h5 c6 19.f6



And in this position  19...0-0-0 ??? has been played.

It is rather strange that none of the players noticed that casting was illegal  and it is even more surprising that Von Mauvillon gives no explanation about this moves in his book, intended for beginner players!


The game went on:

20.h6 d5 21.d2 de4 22.gxe4 4a5 23.f3 d3 24.c4 xf3 25.xf3 xc4 26.c3 d3 27.xe5 4xe5 28.b5 d5 29.xa7+ xa7 30.e2 he8 31.e3 c4 32.hc1 exe3 33.fxe3 xg5 34.ab1 e6 35.f1 f6 36.h1 a5 37.a1 f5 38.f3 g5 39.xa5 bxa5 40.h5 g6 41.e4 fxe4+ 42.xe4 xa6 43.f5 g6 44.xg4 xh6 45.e4 a6 46.d3 a4 47.c2 a3 48.b1 a2+ 49 a1 -


Von Mauvillon indicates that the game continued over the board, but the moves were not written. Black made several mistakes allowing White to win some pawns. White drew the game but they should have normally lost it.




Friedrich Wilhelm Von Mauvillon - NN    [C26]

(3), 1804

Notes by L.C.M Diepstraten

Published in Tweehonderdvijftigjaar Correspondentieschaak in Nederland 1991 (page 45)


1.e4 e5 2.d3 d6 3.f4 h5 4.f3 f5 5.fxe5 fxe4 6.dxe4 dxe5 7.c4

7.xd8+ xd8 8.xe5 is more natural.


7...xd1+ 8.xd1 f6 9.c3 g4 10.e2 c5 11.h3

11.f1 c6 12.b5 0-0!


11...f2 12.f1 c6 13.e3 xe3 14.xe3 xh3 15.gxh3 xh3 16.f2 f8 17.b5 0-0-0 18.c3



18...a5 19.b3



19...a6 20.a3 b5 21.e2 c6 22.g5 d7 23.xf8 xf8 24.xh5 b4 25.b1

25.cxb4 xb4 26.e2 a5 27.f3 g4 28.xe5 xe2 29.xe2 e8 30.ac4



25...f1 had to be tried.


26.f3 bxc3 27.xc3 d4 28.h1 f8 29.e2 b7

29...xe2 seems better.


30.f3 c6 31.h7 g8 32.c4 f8 33.xg7 e8 34.d5 h5 35.xe5 f6 36.xc6+ xc6 37.xc6 xc6 38.e5 e8 39.d4 b6 40.a3

More convincing was: 40.d5+

A)     40...c6? 41.xc7+ b5 42.a4+ (42.c5# Eric Ruch.) 42...a5 43.c5+ etc.;

B)      40...b5? 41.xc7+


40...c5+ 41.c4 b5+ 42.xb5 axb5+ 43.d5 a6 44.e6 c4 45.e7 1-0



The beginning of the great Correspondence Chess story ....


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