The Stanley Random Chess Files - No. 3

The Nickio Gambit & German GM Otto Bolshnaut

In his last article, GM Topov introduced the great SR Chess grandmaster Antonio Pancris of Baden-Baden and his book "The Life and Games of Antonio Pancris". In this article he responds to some questions from a reader about the Nickio Gambit, and introduces the great German GM Otto Bolschnaut.

The following submission was received from a reader from Finland. Matt Damien writes:

I have a copy of "The Life and Games of Antonio Pancris" and it certainly holds a treasured position to the left of my bookcase. I would like to correct one minor misconception with regard to the Nickio Gambit. In his book, Pancris attributes the move to Nickio, citing a game played in 1795 against Alphonsus Cambio, during a match set in Peralta, a "small hamlet in the Tuscan hills of Italy" (apparently the only surviving game from that match, as noted by Pancris, but he doesn't provide the full score). According to GM Nemovic, the gambit was played a full 2 1/2 years earlier in a game between the brothers Edwin and Earle Scotswasche during an exhibition match by Claude Labour-Donnell against some of the strongest players of the day. Labour-Donnell won that match 18 wins, 17 losses, 1 draw. Edwin Scotswashe was also victorious, playing the white pieces, in the game against his brother -- which was played in an antechamber off the main hall. I suppose if Earle had won, we might be calling it the "Scotswasche Gambit" today.
In any case, I'm disappointed that Nemovic neglected to provide any sources for these claims, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. This is from an article of his in SR Chess Reporter, April 1998.

Thank you for that correction Matt! I have a great respect for GM Nemovic, but I have found more often that he neglects to provide proper documentation of his source material. For instance, his brilliant commentary from the 32nd German Championship of 1885 between GM Otto Bolshnaut and GM Wolfgang Plausch ("A German Waltz: Replaying a SR Chess Championship by the Rhine" in two volumes) is unmatched in terms of its analytical content. He argues very persuasively on page 385 (This is from the revised edition, reprinted by Groltzch Publishers) that the so-called novelty produced by the eventual winner Bolschnaut in game 25 and the decisive game 29 (infamous for when Bolschnaut ate copious amounts of bratwurst before the game, and unfairly distracted his opponent with the odour of garlic) was in fact also played by Claude Labour-Donnell in several exhibition games some 60 years earlier. Bolschnaut used the bishop pair to create a split-level attack, and was known to switch hands more often, but it seems that Nemovic is correct in attributing the idea to Labour-Donnell in the first place. But regrettably he provides no substantive documentation.

In an article by Mikko Scarlotti published in SR Chess Monthly in December 1925 (unfortunately this *excellent* magazine was no longer published after the papal injunction of 1932), a cogent case is made for the fact that many of Bolschnaut's novelties were not original. Scarlotti uses as source material the Berlin Codex, which is not widely available, but Stanley himself typically uses a copy for elevation at lunch hour. The elevation factor of Bolschnaut's game after the opening is known to be rather high, and perhaps corresponds to his remarkable winning percentage whenever he played the Bombaug variation when opening with white. Of course, this was until the Spanish GM Paco Suarez discovered a sound refutation to the split-level attack by retreating the rook, and crossing the bishop pair with an irregular bovine knight formation, to produce a rather remarkable stalemate.

I am particularly interested in Bolschnaut's aggressive style of play myself, since I often find my games often following his lines. At the recent international SR Chess Convention in Geneva, I was fortunate to speak with GM Edgar Mildew of Great Britain, who confirmed Scarlotti's hypothesis by referring to a relatively unknown casual game that Bolschnaut played early in his career against the French president at a tea party in Wales, while the rest of nobility was playing croquet and cricket. As a result, no official record of the game is extant, and all that remains to verify the historicity of Mildew's claim are some nearly indecipherable notes scribbled on a serviette by a serving girl. Despite this questionable source material, his case is convincing.

I'm interested if anyone has studied Bolschnaut's tendency to use his knights and pawns in the Viking Formation, when playing the Cartesian Gambit Declined in the Bombaug variation. The Viking Formation was particularly solid against Italian players, it seemed, who tended to follow the simpler Venice Defence (common at the time, but now never played because of knight weaknesses), and were more vulnerable to such attacks on the dark squares in an uncastled position. If anyone can provide any insights on this, I would welcome your thoughts for discussion.

SR Chess GM Gregory Topov

GM Topov continues to welcome feedback. In his next article he will introduce another famous SR Chess player, GM Victor Seignovich.

Posted Sunday - 2004-03-14 - 11:23:12 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
All Rights Unreserved - Loof Lirpa Publishing
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