Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mr. Fletcher's Gambits

I recently stopped by the website of the Bedford Chess Club, where I noted an interesting entry concerning "Mr. Fletcher's gambits", referring to  L. Elliot Fletcher's delightful book, Gambits Accepted, A Survey of Opening Sacrifices (1954).

The Bedford CC site has examples of 84 gambits that Fletcher covered, as well as 11 gambits that he had missed.

Interestingly enough, the site does not give the Jerome Gambit game that Fletcher provided, but includes the significant Sorensen - X, Denmark, 1888 (1-0, 27).
Fletcher quotes a club game for the Jerome; and none of the surviving games by Jerome himself were won by White. But apparently the Danish player and problemist Soren Sorensen showed an interest in the gambit. 
It is relevant to point out to Readers Sorensen's early article on the Jerome Gambit that was translated into a number of languages and was very influential in popularizing the opening.

I quickly emailed the Club secretary 
Dear Mr. Gill, 
I was delighted to come across your post on "Mr. Fletcher's gambits". A pleasant book I recall fondly, and hope your Club members appreciate as well. 
My own interest in gambits focuses on the Jerome Gambit, which I have researched for 15 years and maintain a blog about ( I was impressed that you substituted the Sorensen game for Mr. Fletcher's anonymous club game. 
As a small, niggling point, I wanted to mention that I have 7 Jerome Gambit wins by Alonzo Wheeler Jerome in my database (which also includes 9 losses, 2 draws and 6 incomplete games). They are out there, they just required some digging. 
By inference I conclude that you did not accept Eric Schiller's erronious contention in his "Unorthodox Chess Openings" (1998) that the famous Blackburne win (London, 1880) was against Jerome himself; just so. 
Best wishes, 
Rick Kennedy
I soon learned that I had contacted the wrong person. Still, it was great to hear back from Bedford 
Good evening. 
I have to own up to being the perpetrator of the games collection on the Bedford club site based on Elliott Fletcher's book. Given that since I discovered the book in my 'teens (half a century ago) I have had a predilection for dodgy gambits, I guess I should share your view of Fletcher's book as "delightful". Revisiting the book I did find his uncritical attitude to a lot of complete trash a bit annoying and at times his analysis is seriously ropey (the irritation only vents itself openly, I think, in the last note to game 21). 
I think I probably found the Sorensen game courtesy of your blog and apologise for the fact that I didn't look hard enough to find the White wins by Jerome. I am asking the webmaster to amend the noted to Sorensen-NN on the website accordingly. 
I didn't know that friend Schiller was claiming that Blackburne's victim was Jerome himself. Had it been, I think Blackburne might have mentioned the fact in his own collection of his best games; and the fact that Tim Harding finds no evidence for it is pretty strong negative evidence as far as I am concerned. I accept that Schiller is a far stronger player than I will ever be, but (like you, I think) I don't rate him as an author. 
Neil Hickman

It was easy to finish up with
Dear Mr. Hickman, 
I had a pleasant, good-natured chuckle at your comment that you found Fletcher's "uncritical attitude to a lot of complete trash a bit annoying" and that "at times his analysis is seriously ropey". Well put - and I agree. Nobody is likely to mistake "Gambits Accepted" for, say, Tartakower and Du Mont's "500 Master Games of Chess". Gary Kasparov's comment that "chess is not skittles" holds true for his portion of the chess world... 
Still, I am delighted at an actual, published  look (before the internet!) at amateur games by an amateur player. "Gambits Accepted" reminds me a bit of Rainer Schlenker's "Randspringer" - with weaker analysis, of course. 
I want to apologize for my snarky comment relating to Alonzo Wheeler Jerome's wins with his gambit. Finding them is not so easy, unless you're a bit of a fanatic (with too much time on his hands) like myself. 
I agree, if AWJ had crossed the pond to have his head handed to him by Blackburne in London in that famous Jerome Gambit game, Dr. Harding would have uncovered some trace of it. Certainly, over here, I have found no trace that the gambiteer ever even left the US. 
Thank you for your time. 
Best wishes,Rick 

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