6 h4 in the French Defence

Edward Winter




C.N 8470 reproduced the obituary of Eugène Chatard published on page 229 of La Stratégie, September 1924:

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A game submitted by Dominique Thimognier (Fondettes, France):

Eugène Chatard and Edouard Pape – Lemarchand and L. Maurat
Paris, 12 April 1902
French Defence

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5 Nfd7 6 h4 c5 7 Nb5 f6

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8 Bh6 Qa5+ 9 b4 cxb4 10 Bxg7 b3+ 11 Qd2 b2 12 Rb1 Qxd2+ 13 Kxd2 Rg8 14 Nc7+ Kf7 15 exf6 Bd6 16 Nxa8 Nc6 17 Nf3 Nxf6 18 Bxf6 Kxf6 19 Rxb2 e5 20 dxe5+ Nxe5 21 Nxe5 Bxe5 22 Rb3 Bf5 23 Rxb7 Bf4+ 24 Kd1 Rc8

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25 Bd3 Bxd3 26 cxd3 Rc1+ 27 Ke2 Rxh1 28 Rxa7 Ra1 29 Nb6 Ke6 30 Ra6 d4 31 Nc4+ Kd5 32 Ra5+ Ke6 33 g3 Bb8 34 a3 Rb1 35 Ra6+ Kf5 36 Rb6 Rxb6 37 Nxb6 Kg4 38 a4 Kf5 39 Kf3 h5 40 a5 Bc7 41 Nc4 Bb8 42 a6 Resigns.

Source: with comments by Taubenhaus: La Stratégie, 20 June 1902, pages 182-183. A briefer set of notes by Taubenhaus was reproduced in Les Cahiers de L’Echiquier Français, issue 37 (September-October 1933), pages 152-153.

Mr Thimognier adds a remark by Arnous de Rivière about the 6 h4 gambit in L’Echo de Paris, 15 July 1901: ‘... il se présente un coup nouveau P4TR, imaginé récemment par M. Chatard; coup plus ingénieux que correct, amenant des positions intéressantes ...’

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Further to the consultation game given in C.N. 8554 which involved Eugène Chatard and began 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5 Nfd7 6 h4, we offer some historical notes on this opening, which was first mentioned in C.N. 345.

The most famous occurrence is in Alekhine v Fahrni, Mannheim, 1914, which is game 31 in Alekhine’s first volume of Best Games. He awarded 6 h4 an exclamation mark and commented:

‘This energetic move has been especially played in off-hand games by the ingenious Paris amateur, M. Eugène Chatard, and previously by the Viennese master, A. Albin.

It was during the present game that it was introduced for the first time in a Master Tournament.’

Alekhine’s note in Deux cents parties d’échecs (Rouen, 1936) was different:

‘Ce coup énergétique a été essayé depuis de longues années dans de nombreuses parties légères par l’amateur français Chatard. Le maître viennois A. Albin l’a aussi adopté dans deux parties vers 1900. Mais c’est dans la partie ci-jointe que le coup 6 h2-h4 a obtenu sa consécration internationale.’

It is unclear why Alekhine referred to two games played by Albin circa 1900, but Albin’s 89-move draw against Adolf Csánk at Vienna, 1890 is familiar nowadays and remains the earliest known example of 6 h4. After that move Warren H. Goldman wrote on page 89 of Vienna 1890 (Bamberg, 1983):

‘Familiar to present day players as the Alekhine-Chatard (Albin) Attack – but unknown as a separate and distinct variation in 1890!’

The game between Albin and Csánk, played in January 1890, was published on pages 95-97 of Deutsches Wochenschach, 16 March 1890 with notes by Caro and Csánk, but it was not the opening’s only appearance in the German magazine that year. Pages 395-396 of the 23 November 1890 issue had the following match-game, with notes by the winner:

Jakob Bendiner – Ignatz von Popiel
Vienna (Neue Wiener Schachklub), 4 February 1890
French Defence

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5 Nfd7 6 h4 h6 7 Qh5 c5 8 Nb5 Qa5+ 9 Bd2 Qb6 10 Qg4 g6 11 h5 g5 12 a4 cxd4 13 Nf3 Nc6 14 a5 Qd8 15 Qg3 a6 16 Nbxd4 Ndxe5 17 Nxc6 Nxc6 18 Bc3

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18...Bd6 19 Qg4 e5 20 Qa4 d4 21 Bd2 Bd7 22 Qb3 e4 23 Ng1 Qc7 24 Nh3 g4 25 Ng1 g3 26 f3 e3 27 Bxe3 dxe3 28 Qxe3+ Be6 29 Bc4 O-O-O 30 Bxe6+ fxe6 31 Ne2 Bb4+ 32 c3 Bxa5 33 Rh4 Bb6 34 Qxe6+ Kb8 35 Re4 Bf2+ 36 Kf1 Rd2 37 c4 Rhd8 38 Nc3 Nd4 39 b4 Nxe6 40 White resigns.

In the game heading, and elsewhere in the magazine although not in the index, White was identified as ‘S. Bendiner’.

Bendiner’s use of the move has seldom been noted, but even Albin’s involvement has often been overlooked, an example being on page 70 of Jacques Mieses’ Ergänzungsheft to the Handbuch des Schachspiels (Berlin and Leipzig, 1923), which had this note about 6 h4:

‘Von dem Franzosen Chatard stammend und von Aljechin in die Turnierpraxis eingeführt (Mannheim 1914).’

Later openings manuals often mentioned Albin, although not always accurately. Below is the first paragraph of the section on the ‘Albin-Chatard-Alekhine Attack’ on page 292 of Chess Openings Theory and Practice by I.A. Horowitz (New York, 1964):

‘This interesting continuation was first tested in the game Albin-Csank, Vienna 1897. Later, the move was investigated by the Parisian, Chatard, but it gained popularity only after Alekhine’s repeated adoption. Today this line is as important as the Classical Variation, but the struggle becomes more pitted.’

With regard to ‘repeated adoption’ by Alekhine, after 1914 he played 6 h4 in a number of simultaneous displays; in the Skinner/Verhoeven book see games 1361, 1367, 1848, 1859 and 1861. Moreover, Alekhine faced the move against Bogoljubow in a tournament game in Warsaw in 1942, and the following note appeared on page 264 of his posthumous book Gran Ajedrez (Madrid, 1947):

‘Este interesante ataque fué introducido por mí en Manerheim [sic] en 1914, habiendo sido desde entonces incorporada [sic] a la práctica de maestros.’

The Alekhine v Fahrni game was given on pages 395-396 of the November 1914 issue of La Stratégie with notes from the Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond. The Dutch magazine’s remark that 6 h4 was an innovation of doubtful value prompted La Stratégie to add an editorial note:

‘Pardon, cher Monsieur Schelfhout, la valeur douteuse n’est nullement établie, le coup est une des nombreuses innovations de notre vieil ami M. E. Chatard, qui sera certainement très sensible à l’hommage que le maître Alekhine a fait à sa sagacité en choisissant cette variante qu’il a connue lors de son séjour à Paris, à l’Echiquier (Continental).’

The final words refer to a société parisienne established at the Hôtel Continental in 1913. It was the venue for the first match-game between Alekhine and Edward (then Eduard) Lasker on 6 September 1913; see La Stratégie, April 1913, page 149; September 1913, page 360; October 1913, pages 404-405.

Between Albin’s use of 6 h4 in 1890 and the Alekhine v Fahrni game nearly a quarter of a century later, the move was seen occasionally. A game won by Mrs Fagan against Richmond, in the C division of the London Chess League Competition, was published on page 290 of the August 1897 BCM, White’s sixth move being described as ‘altogether unsound, but leads to a lively game’. The June 1899 BCM, page 265 had a game between T.F. Lawrence and E.O. Jones, annotated by Richard Teichmann, with no occasion specified. (See the feature below written by Walter Penn Shipley.) Pages 222-223 of the May 1909 BCM gave the bare score of Lawrence’s draw with J.F. Barry in the Anglo-American Cable Match. The following year Emanuel Lasker won a game in Buenos Aires against E. Zamudio; for the score, taken from page 78 of the Revista del Club Argentino de Ajedrez, 1910, see the 1976 and 1998 collections of Lasker’s games by K. Whyld.

Magazines were often confused as to the origins of 6 h4. For example, in his notes to a team-match game between W.H. Watts and D. Miller on pages 325-326 of the September 1915 BCM, R.C. Griffith wrote that 6 h4 was ‘introduced by Mr T.F. Lawrence’. In its January 1924 issue, page 18, the BCM published a letter from C.D. Locock containing statements on which we should welcome further information:

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The next item, the Walter Penn Shipley feature referred to earlier, comes from pages 114-115 of the July-August 1925 American Chess Bulletin:

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A detailed analytical article, ‘Die Aljechin-Variante der Französischen Verteidigung’, was published on pages 73-77 of the March 1926 Deutsche Schachzeitung:

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The German magazine’s analysis was summarized on pages 265-266 of La Stratégie, December 1926, but with a change of title: ‘De la Variante Chatard dans la Partie Française’.

The opening also received attention in the Arbeiter-Schachzeitung, January 1928, pages 13-14 and 20-21. See too pages 330-332 of Tarrasch’s Schachzeitung, 1 August 1933 and pages 479-482 of the Social Chess Quarterly, January 1935. The latter item is an article on 6 h4 by Vera Menchik entitled ‘How to Meet an Attack’. Page 497 of the October 1937 BCM had a brief note on the ‘Albin-Chatard Attack’ by G. Levenfish, from Shakhmaty v SSSR.

There was a detailed series of articles entitled ‘The Alekhine-Chatard Attack in the French Defense’ by S. Belavenets and M. Yudovich, translated from 64, in Chess Review, January 1938 (pages 20-21), February 1938 (pages 46-47), March 1938 (page 78) and August 1938 (pages 194-195). Pages 84-86 of the April 1939 Chess Review had further material on the opening, translated from Shakhmaty v SSSR and focussing on the reply 6...f6.

(8555)

See too ‘L’assault Chatard dans la Partie Française’ by S. Tartakower on pages 1643-1648 of L’Echiquier, 21 May 1932.



Latest update: 18 January 2015.

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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.