Wednesday, January 2

Charles Maurian, 1838-1912

We report with deep sadness the death last month in Paris of Charles Maurian, well-known chess writer and editor, founding member and first president of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, lifelong friend of Paul Morphy, and stalwart knight of our royal game.

There must remain but few living players who can boast of having played Morphy; Maurian not only belonged to that select fraternity, but was almost certainly the only man on earth who could claim to have learned the moves of the pieces directly from the American genius, tuition which occurred during their student days at Spring Hill College in Mobile.  Maurian always received odds when playing Morphy, though these gradually decreased from Queen to Knight with the passing of the years and the concomitant increase in Maurian's playing strength.  In fact, over four series of games with Morphy played at Knight odds during 1869 - incidentally the last Morphy games of which there is any record - Maurian scored 20 wins against only 16 losses, with 3 games drawn, evidence enough of his playing strength.  It has been said that Morphy himself pronounced Maurian too strong for Knight odds after their final series finished decidedly in favor of the latter.  Games like the following lend credence to that judgment:

Maroczy's recent collection of Morphy's games contains many similar examples.           

Maurian, who as one of the leading lights in New Orleans chess circles was largely responsible for arranging the visits of many of the world's leading players to his city, often met these Masters in friendly contests over the board, and acquitted himself well against Steinitz, Zukertort, Chigorin, Mackenzie, and others.  We next present a game in which Steinitz, chasing a will-o'-the-wisp, sacrifices his Queen, only to see his hopes immediately dashed by Maurian's cool defense:

As a final example of Maurian's play we give this victory over Zukertort, achieved during the latter's visit to New Orleans in 1884, and commend the reader's attention to White's 32nd move; if Black should reply 32...Rd6, then  33.Ne7+ wins the Queen.

The deceased was well-known and respected as a chess editor, having conducted columns in the New Orleans Delta and, more recently, the Times-Democrat, and he appeared as a frequent contributor to other American chess periodicals.  An inveterate bibliophile, he possessed one of the finest chess libraries in America, a magnificent collection that now graces the shelves of the Howard Library of New Orleans after Maurian's donation of it to that institution several years ago, at the time  - if we recall correctly - of his permanent move to Paris in 1890.  Return visits to America every year or two thereafter allowed Maurian to refresh and renew old friendships, of which he enjoyed many.

The maxim "nihil nisi bonum" is wholly unnecessary in this instance, as we know of no one who could possibly speak ill of Charles Maurian: his open and friendly nature, his kindness, his modesty, his generosity, and his tireless efforts to promote the game he loved are well-known throughout the chess world, which is much the richer for his efforts, and much the poorer for his loss.  Let us be grateful for all the good he did, and strive to emulate him as best we can.

Charles Amédée de Maurian was 74 years old when he died on 2 December 1912.  Requiescat in pace, dear friend.

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