Napoleon and Tango
It was a clever hoax that has fooled the chess world for some time: a game Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly played in 1804 at Malmaison chateau, where he resided with his wife, Josephine. Napoleon’s opponent was Josephine’s “dame du palais” or lady-in-waiting, Madame du Remusat. There is no doubt that the two played chess against each other. “He did not play well, and never would observe the correct moves,” Remusat disclosed in her memoirs. The game later was revealed to be the creation of a hoaxter, not played by Napoleon and du Remusat.
The game itself is skillfully created. White’s first two moves show Napoleon’s love for horses and a disdain for opening theory. Black, on the other hand, plays the first three moves according to the principles of Francois-Andre Danican Philidor, who emphasized the power of the pawns. Born this day in 1726, Philidor not only was regarded as the best chess player of the 18th century but also was a talented musician, composing more than 20 operas. His chess reign lasted almost a half-century; he died Aug. 31, 1795. In the game, the Philidor pawns could have destroyed white’s horses. Instead, black allowed an elegant king’s hunt.
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