Friday, December 22, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Balderdash

Not everything that I have discovered in my recent forays into historical research has been of enduring value.

For example, the "CHESS" column ("Conducted by A. G. Johnson") of The Oregon Daily Journal  of Portland, Oregon, for  October 25, 1914 (page 29) has the following
Of the many chess openings in vogue, two are particularly interesting because they are of American origin. The "Jerome Gambit" was first developed in Cincinnati about 40 years ago. S. A. Charles of that city made a thorough analysis of the opening and met with great success in playing the "Jerome" against prominent players. Even Steinitz, then in the zenith of his career as world's champion succumbed in his first attempt to defend the gambit. Although the opening is theoretically unsound, and involves the sacrifice of two pieces for two pawns, the adversary's king is displaced and drawn into the center of the board where all kinds of complications may arise. The following variation of the Jerome, which is rather favorable to white, reveals some of the possibilties of the gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.d4 Bxd4 9.Na3 Ne7 10.Qh3 Qf8 11.Nb5+ Kc5 12.Nxd4 Kxd4 13.Qe3+ Kc4 14.a4 with slight advantage to white.
Where to begin??

Of course, the Jerome Gambit was "first developed" 40 years before the ODJ column was written, by Alonzo Wheeler Jerome of Paxton, Illinois, having published his first analysis of the "New Chess Opening" in the April 1874 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal.

S. A. Charles, of the Cincinnati, Ohio, Chess Club, wrote opening analyses, first for the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, then later for the Pittsburgh Telegraph. It is in the latter newspaper that in 1881 he presented his examination of the Jerome Gambit, which later found itself in different chess magazines (e.g. the October 1881 issue of Brentano's Chess Monthly) and opening books (e.g. Cook's Synopsis of Chess Openings, 3rd edition, 1882).
In 16 years of researching and analyzing the gambit, I have not uncovered any game examples (or references) of Charles meeting "with great success" while playing the Jerome Gambit "against prominent players"- or any games of his with the gambit at all. I have found a half-dozen correspondence games where Charles defended against the Jerome Gambit - played by Alonzo Wheeler Jerome. Of course, it is possible that there is much more to be discovered, and I have missed it all, but, still...
By the way, it can be fairly said that Charles regularly acknowledged his games and exchanges of ideas with Jerome; it was only the passage of time that seems to have stripped the inventor's name from certain analyses of his invention.

I was absolutely gobsmacked by columnist conductor A. G. Johnson's contention that Steinitz, "in the zenith of his career as world's champion" actually "succumbed in his first attempt to defend the gambit." With all due respect to Blackburne, whose Queen sacrifice leading to checkmate is probably the best known repudiation of the Jerome Gambit, and to Emanuel Lasker, who - I recently discovered - summarily dispatched the Jerome Gambit in a simultaneous display, a loss by a reigning world champion (not to mention a defensive genius) to the Jerome would be one of the most amazing (and horrible) master games played to date. (There was a note in the Oregon Daily Journal that Johnson, after two years of work, was going to be stepping down after 100 columns, so there is always the possibility that his Steinitz story was a parting little joke; although it did not read that way.)

The analysis that Johnson presents in his column goes back to Freeborough and Ranken's Chess Openings, Ancient and Modern, 1st edition, (1889), although he is more likely to have had the 3rd edition (1903, reprinted 1905) lying around. The move 11.Nb5+ is an improvement over Jerome's 11.0-0 in his analysis in the January 1875 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal. The concluding evaluation, "slight advantage to white" is too modest - White has a forced checkmate in 6 moves. (It was Black's faulty 10th move that reversed his fortunes.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Historical Precedent

My historical discoveries continue...

From the Western Mail, Thursday, March 31, 1932 (page 12) chess column, noting
THE JEROME GAMBIT.A good specimen of the little-known Jerome Gambit, played at Norwich. 
[Move notation changed to algebraic; notes remain in the article's descriptive format; diagrams added - Rick]

Temple, W. - Thornton, F.
Norwich, 1932

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6

Black could interpose Kt when White would ch at Q 5 and then take B. This gambit is, of course, unsound, but productive of brilliant play against a weaker opponent.

7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Qf6


9.fxe5+ Qxe5 10.Qf3 c6

Weak. Kt to KB3 was the proper move.


White finishes prettily.

11...g5 12.c3 Qf6 13.Qg3+ Ke6 14.Rf1 Qe5 15.Qg4+ Ke7 16.Bxg5+ Ke8 17.Qh5 checkmate

[A couple of additions:

The game begins the same as Jerome - Shinkman, Iowa, 1874, (0-1, 21), according to the July 1874 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal (the earliest example that I have of Jerome playing his gambit) although in that earlier game Black varied with 10...Nf6.

The Temple - Thornton game had been anticipated. The Chess Player's Chronicle of November 10, 1886 (p. 116)  quoting from the "Leeds Mercury", gave identical moves, noting
A brilliant specimen of the Jerome Gambit, played on the 16th September 1886, between Messrs J Keeble and J W Cubitt, two strong amateurs of Norwich.
"All is new that has been forgotten."]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jerome Gambit History Tidbits

A few of my recent Jerome Gambit discoveries...

Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1884
Stumbling over the infamous Jerome Gambit game Amateur - Blackburne, London in the Australian Town and Country Journal (Saturday, March 21, 1885, page 31) I found another comment that supported 1884 as the year of the game (as if there needed to be more than Dr. Tim Harding's words from the English Chess Forum, which I presented in "Jerome Gambit: Dr. Harding Checks In")
We reprint from the Adelaide Observer...The following affair occurred to the great blindfold player a few months ago in London... 
But the best part was the columnist's comment on the stunning move 4.Bxf7+: "So early in the morning!"

Emanuel Lasker, columnist
The Evening Post: New York  from Wednesday, November 30, 1910, (page 11) had Emanuel Lasker's "CHESS AND CHESS PLAYERS" column, including the following news
...At the rooms of the Rice Chess Club in the Cafe Boulevard, the team representing the Temple Chess Club of the Baptist Temple of Brooklyn encountered the team Stuyvesant High School, and, although handicapped by the absence of two players, causing forfeiture on two boards, the Brooklyn players carried off the victory by the score of 3 points to 2... The Temple Chess Club players had the white pieces on the odd-numbered boards. The Jerome gambit, king's bishop opening, and French defence were adopted at the last three boards...
Although the copy of the paper is at times difficult to make out, it appears that Board 3 was a match between E. E. Brodhead of the Temple C.C. and Gadiowitz of Stuyvesant H.S., with Brodhead's Jerome Gambit carrying the day. I have not yet discovered the game.

It should be recalled that Lasker, responding to a letter to “Our Question Box” in the March 1906 issue of Lasker’s Chess Magazine had already said his peace about the opening 
No; the Jerome gambit is not named after St. Jerome. His penances, if he did any, were in atonement of rather minor transgressions compared with the gambit.

Emanuel Lasker, Simultaneous Exhibition 
The Observer (Adelaide) of Saturday, December 29, 1906 (page 49) has in its CHESS column, under CHESS NOTES, the following
Simultaneous Chess. - Lasker, playing at Pittsburg, Pa., lately, out of 28 games won 24, drew 2, and lost 2, a fine score of 25-3. The openings adopted were varied - Sicilian Defence 3, Centre Gambit 5, Petroff 1, Evans 4, Four Knights 2, Vienna 1, Jerome 1, King's Knight 1, King's Gambit 5, French 2, Allgaier 2 and only 1 Ruy Lopez.

It would seem that the source of Observer column was the October 18, 1906 (page 9) Pittsburgh Press article titled "DR. LASKER PLAYED 26 GAMES OF CHESS AT ONCE.  He Succeeded in Winning 22 of Them and Drawing 2." It is unclear why the two news reports differ in the number of games reported being played and won; and the Pittsburgh Press names 27 club members who were seated against Lasker, so apparently at least one board was covered by two players.

The Jerome Gambit (neither a win nor a draw for White) was played by E. H. Miller. (This is likely Emlen Hare Miller, who, a decade later, had a win [opening unknown] against Frank J. Marshall in a simultaneous exhibition.)

Of note
Before the contest began Lasker made an address on "The Game of Chess and the Game of Life," which was highly appreciated by his listeners.
How I would love to discover how Lasker defended against the Jerome Gambit!
Beware, chess students, the dreaded Jerome Gambit
The Telegraph (Brisbane) of Saturday, December 14, 1929, (page 13) had a "CHESS" column that gave the Jerome Gambit a greater sense of scariness than I had realized it had ever projected   
Chess students are early taught to watch out for the dreaded Jerome Gambit, an attack however that owes its success mainly to the inexperience of the attacked. Unsound it undoubtedly is, but white obtains a ferocious offensive requiring on the part of black the very greatest care. An ounce of practice, we are told, is worth a ton of theory, so the following game in the case isoffered. It is a win by the famous Blackburne with the black; of course it is not given to us all to be Blackburne...