The Gambiteers Guild


Gevelsteen Wapen 1648 It is not clear from where the chess game originates. Some say Persia, others India. It is certain that the game was known in these areas, brought along by the caravan routes from east to west and has been known in India five centuries B.C. European chess finds its origin in the Moorish traditions in Medieval Spain. In the eleventh century it was the favourite time spending of the clergy, until the Church forbade its use. Under the Moors and Jews in Spain it flourished as before so that they can be seen as the preservers of the game. After two centuries the ban was released and practising was allowed to everybody. The picture at the Home Page shows a miniature from the Meliadus Manuscript (Granada, 1350) when Spanish Moors and Jews are playing chess together while two ladies are serving wine and tea, while the third one is playing music on the cithara.

The earliest names which survived until our times are those of Lucena and Damiano. Both lived in Spain around the year 1500, Lucena in the famous university city of Salamanca, Damiano in a less known part of Portugal. The oldest manuscript is from Lucena's hand and dates back to 1497. Not long thereafter, in 1512, Damiano had published a book, in which he gave numerous chess problems and described many openings and defences, all new at that time. He also seems to be the inventor of the suffocated mate.

One of these defences, the Potaissa Turda Defence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 was called by him the worst possible option and done with by the simple offer 3.Nxe5!. Over the next centuries to come there have been found other examples of this "Turd Position" as it was called later in Anglo-Saxon countries. The simple idea is a turd formation like e6+d5+c6 or e3+d4+c3, after which nothing can happen for many moves. Modern examples still exist in the Caro-Kann, the Meraner and with colours reversed for the weak-hearted ones the Colle. However, it must be stated that all those stuff is only played by the lesser talented masters, while another group of imaginative players keep the light burning.

In Italy about a century thereafter the Neapolitan player Salvio had been in contact with Spain's strongest player of that time, the famous Lopez de Segura (after whom the Spanish Opening or Ruy Lopez is named). Together with Polerio they formed the next generation who published a realm of new openings, amongst which so many gambits that still survive. They all refrained from weird ideas like the turd positions and advocated the opening of lines and files as soon as possible. Outside the above named openings, which adopted the turd position, there was a serious threat that it would infect other opening systems as well. Alekhine when confronted with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.Bxc6 bxc6 6.d4 f6 named this "one of the most promising defences of the Ruy Lopez". He was clearly joking.

Enkhuizen (Cornelis Springer) It was a time of gambits and anti-gambits, a time for the faint-hearted and the daring ones. Between those there is no compromise. Some people even started to adopt double turd positions: 1.d4 d5 2.e3 e6 3.c3 c6 and more gruesome: 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Bf5 3.c3 Nf6 4.f3 Nc6 5.g4 Bg6 6.h3. It became clear that the time was ripe to erect a firm wall against this practice. At so much dilettantism there had to be founded a Guild to protect the honour of the game. This has been done in 1648, when a Guild House was built, of which the gable stone still is the witness. Since then The Gambiteers Guild have brought forth many guild-masters and trained apprentices to master levels. Some of them wrote great works, like Philidor. Others produced ununderstandable chess books, of which Ponziani can be the clearest example with his book "Il giuoco incomprensibile degli scacchi (1769)".

The nineteenth century was the start of the greatest gambiteers of all times. Many gambits were elaborated since then, of which a list of more than 60 is to be found elsewhere on this site. Amongst them were many former members of the Guild, names like Charousek, Przepiorka, Jaenisch, Kieseritzky, Cochrane, Albin and Falkbeer. And of the latest century we have good memories of Spielmann, Bogoljubow, Farajowicz, Marshal, Estrin and Diemer. Because of the popularity of the Sicilian and King's Indian, a setback occurred in gambit play. Not because they should have been refuted, it was the swing of time that made most chess players following the general trend of positional play. Although always continuing to exist, The Gambiteers Guild had almost completely been forgotten.

Only in these modern times of turmoil, speed and chances there has been born a renewed interest in old values that had been hidden for centuries in the realm of gambits. The members of The Gambiteers Guild have taken up the task to bring into new light all the jewels and pearls that may come forth from these inspiring openings.