Rousseau was born on
1731, when Rousseau was living near
According to Rousseau in Les Confessions, Book V:
“I made an attempt, though almost against my inclination, and after several efforts, having learned the moves, my progress was so rapid, that before the end of the first sitting, I gave him the rook, which in the beginning he had given me (rook odds). Nothing more was necessary; behold me fascinated with chess! I buy a chess board and a “Calabrois,” (Gioachino Greco, also known as Il Calabrese, wrote a book on chess) and shutting myself up in my chamber pass whole days and nights in studying all the varieties of the game, being determined by playing alone, without end or relaxation, to drive them into my head, right or wrong. After incredible efforts, during two or three months passed in this curious employment, I go to the coffee-house, thin, sallow, and almost stupid; I seat myself, and again attack M. Bagueret; he beats me, once, twice, twenty times; so many combinations were fermenting in my head, and my imagination was so stupefied, that all appeared confusion. I tried to exercise myself with Philidor’s book (L’analyse du jeu des Eschecs, first published in 1749) or Stamma’s book (Essai sur le jeu des echecs, published in 1737) of instructions, but I was still equally perplexed, and, after having exhausted myself with fatigue, was further to seek than ever, and whether I abandoned my chess for a time, or resolved to surmount every difficulty by unremitted practice, it was the same thing. I could never advance one step beyond the improvement of the first sitting, nay, I am convinced that had I studied it a thousand ages, I should have ended by being able to give Bagueret the rook and nothing more. That was time well spent! You will say; nod did I spend only a little in this way. I abandoned this first attempt to learn chess only when I no longer had the strength to continue. When at last I emerged from my room, I must have looked more dead than alive, which indeed is what I would soon have been if I had gone on like this much longer. Surely no one could disagree that such a mind, especially in the full ardour of youth, was unlikely to maintain for long a healthy body.
From Confessions, Book VII:
“I had another
expedient, not less solid, in the game of chess, to which I regularly
dedicated, at the Cafe Maugis (on rue Saint-Severin),
the evenings on which I did not go to the theater. I became acquainted with M. de Legal
(Philidor’s teacher and the best player in
Rousseau discovered that he loved chess, and for some months he was completely obsessed with it. He relied on intuition and not memory. Laborious attempts to memorize chess openings and combinations got him nowhere.
also tried to master draughts (checkers, usually on a 10x10 board and called
Polish Draughts) , but he was also a weak draughts
player. He often visited Manoury’s coffee house (Café Manoury
at the Place de l’Ecole, in which Manoury
ran from 1766 to 1787) to play draughts (chess was also played there). Manoury remembered
Rousseau and said about him: “J.J., there is no need to mention him more
precisely, whould have received two pieces if he
would have played against a strong player.
But he only wanted to play against players of equal strength, and in
despair that in this game he should always be a mediocre player and finally
said goodbye to droughts.” Manoury’s coffee house was mostly a gathering of draughts
players or chess players that were not welcome in the Café de la Regence. Manoury wrote a
book on draughts called Essai sur le jeu de Dames a la Polonaise. In 1785, Philidor pirated this book, which he
called Traite sur le jeu de Dames a la Polonaise. Philidor was also a strong draughts player
and played draugts in Manoury’s
1740, Philidor began to frequent the Café de la Regence, where he was taught
chess by M. de Kermur, sire de Legal
(1702-1792). Legal practically lived at
the Café de la Regence. For years he sat
in the same chair and wore the same green coat, taking large quantities of
snuff and attracting a crowd with is conversation and combinations. He had already established his reputation as
the best chess player in
In 1741, Rousseau met Therese Le Vasseur, a hotel servant girl. They stayed together the rest of their lives, but never married until 1768. They had five children, but he gave them all away to hospitals.
Rousseau often played chess (and perhaps draughts) with the French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713-1784). In 1742, they were first introduced to each other in the Café de la Regence (established in 1718 on rue Saint-Honore, Place de Palais-Royal), and Rousseau won most of his games against Diderot. An observer noted the following about Rousseau and his chess: “He mediates deeply between moves, but he plays with speed, which accords with his character.”
Diderot said of Rousseau: “Man strives for superiority, even in the smallest things. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who always beat me at chess, refused to give me a handicap to make the game more equal ‘Does it upset you to lose?’ he asked me. ‘No,’ I said, ‘but I would make a better defense, and you would enjoy the game more.’ ‘That may be,’ he replied. ‘All the same, let’s leave things as they are.
had been in
1743-44, Rousseau was a secretary to the French Ambassador Comte de Montaignu to
In 1744, Philidor played two players blindfolded simultaneously. The event was chronicled by the Chevalier de Jaucourt in the article on chess which he contributed to the great Encyclopedie of Diderot and D’Alembert, 1751-1765.
In 1745, Philidor helped Rousseau with the music for his first opera, Les Muses galantes. A biographer of Philidor concluded that Philidor provided a major contribution to it. Rousseau, however, wrote that Philidor came twice to work on the opera, “but he could not commit himself to laboring diligently for a distant and uncertain profit. He did not return again and I finished the task myself.” It took Rousseau three months to complete his score of the opera. The opera failed and was scoffed. The score of the opera has since disappeared.
In 1750, Rousseau won first prize for the best essay on the subject “Has the progress of the arts and sciences contributed to the purification or the corruption of morals?” Rousseau argued that it did not improve man in habits and moral.
1752, Rousseau wrote another opera called Le
Devin du Village (The Village
Soothsayer), which was performed for King Louis XV. The king liked it so well,
he offered Rousseau a life-long pension.
Rousseau turned down the offer.
Rousseau was then known as “the man who had refused a king’s pension.” Some sources say that Philidor gave great
assistance to Rousseau on this opera, but Philidor was abroad at the time, and
did not return to
1752, a company of Italian singers came to
1754, Rousseau returned to
In 1755, he wrote a second essay where he maintained that only the uncorrupted savage is in possession of real virtue.
Rousseau moved to a cottage near the
In 1760, Diderot wrote Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew). In it, he describes taking shelter in the Café de la Regence and watching chess being played. His book was first translated by Goethe and first appeared in German rather than French.
1762 Rousseau fled to
Rousseau enjoyed chess competition. One opponent who lost regularly against Rousseau at the Cafe de la Regence, even when Rousseau removed his rook was asked by Rousseau, “Does it wound you to lose?” Rousseau’s opponent replied, “Oh, no. It’s the inevitable result since there is such a marked disparity in our means of defense.” Rousseau replied, “Well, then, in that case let’s not change how we play; I like to win.”
In Book X, Rousseau described his encounters with Prince Conti. In June 1760, Rousseau played two games of chess against Louis Francois I de Bourbon (1717-1776), the Prince of Conti from 1727 to his death in 1776. The games were played at Rousseau’s apartment at Mont-Louis. Conti did not like to lose at chess and he played and lost two games against Rousseau. His entourage used to make urgent signals to Rousseau to start losing, but Rousseau kept on winning and said, “Monseigneur, I honor your serene highness too much not to beat you always in chess.” When someone suggested that Rousseau let Conti win occasionally, Rousseau replied, “What! I did give him a rook!” If a prince could not win against Rousseau without a rook, then he deserved to lose. Despite losing to chess all the time to Rousseau, Conti became a patron of Rousseau. Rousseau mentioned that Prince Conti had beaten the Chevalier de Lorenzi, who as a better player than himself.
In 1955, Irving Chernev published a game, Rousseau vs. Conti, Montmorency 1760 in his book, 1000 Best Short Games of Chess. The game (#649) was a Guioco Piano.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Qe7 5.O-O d6 6.d4 Bb6 7.Bg5 f6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 fxg5 10.Qh5+ Kf8 11.Bxg5 Qg7 12.f4 exd4 13.f5 dxc3+ 14.Kh1 cxb2 15.Bxg8 bxa1=Q 16.f6 Qxg8 17.Bh6+ Qg7 18.Bxg7+ Kg8 19.Qe8 mate.
this game was not played by Rousseau.
James Mason (1849-1905) also mentioned the game (game 90) between these
two in his book Social Chess (
Also in Book X, Rousseau mentioned his desire in Montmorency to play chess against two acquaintances, Ferraud and Minard. Rousseau lived in Montmorency from 1756 to 1762.
1765, Rousseau was said to have played chess against the Scottish philosopher David
Hume (1711-1776) while living in
Abbe Jean-Joseph-Therese Roman (1726-1787), wrote a
poem (des Echecs,
After Rousseau became famous, when he visited the Café de le Regence, police were sent to the Café to prevent the crowd from breaking the windows, so eager they were to see Rousseau playing chess attired in his fur cap and flowing Armenian robe, according to Friedrich Melchior (1723-1807), Baron von Grimm.
Voltaire (1694-1778) also played chess at the Café de la Regence, but Rousseau
and Voltaire may have never played chess against each other. They hated each other and always quarreled. Voltaire was in
Between 1765 and 1770, Rousseau wrote The Confessions, the first “romantic” autobiography. It was published several years after his death and has several references to chess.
later moved back to
In 1778, Rousseau moved to Ermenonville.
Rousseau died of apoplexy on
1810, Eugene Rousseau, a distant relative of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was born in
In 1839, Eugene Rousseau lost a 100-game match to Lionel Kieseritsky at the Café de la Regence.
In 1840, Eugene Rousseau played a few offhand games with Adolf Anderssen,
1841, Eugene Rousseau came to
In their second match in late 1841, Eugene Roussseau defeated Schulten with 7 wins, 4 losses and no draws.
In 1842, Eugene Rousseau drew a match with Benjamin Oliver wit 5 wins each and one draw.
1843, Rousseau defeated Schulten in a match in
In 1843, Marie Aycard wrote an article called ‘Jean-Jacques et le Prince de Conti,’ which appeared in La Palamede, pages 41-42. He said the game between the two had been written down by the chevalier de Lorenzi, a leading Italian player and chess instructor of the Prince.
1845, Eugene Rousseau played a match against the Englishman Charles Henry Stanley
(1819-1901), the secretary of the New York Chess Club, for the title of chess
champion of the United States, the first contest ever for this title and the
first organized chess event in the U.S.
The match was played for a stake of $1,000 (winner take all and no time
limit) at the Sazerac Coffee House in
In 1847, Paul Morphy, age 10, beat Eugene Rousseau in a game for the first time.
From 1849 to 1850, Morphy and Rousseau played over 50 games, and Morphy won most of them.
is the author of a dubious gambit, Rousseau’s Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
f5. Rousseau played this and lost
against Paul Mrophy (then aged 12) at
1850, Johann Lowenthal visited
1858, Eugene Rousseau returned to
In June-July 1867, Rousseau played
in an international tournament in
Rousseau died in
Annales de la Societe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Volume 3 (
Annales de la Societe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Volume 42 (
British Chess Magazine, February, 1900
British Chess Magazine, August, 1908 ‘Rousseau and Chess’ by H.J.M. Murray
Chernev, Irving, 1000 Games of Chess (New York, 1955)
Chess World, 1865 article on Philidor
Damrosch, Leopold, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Restless Genius (2005)
Diderot, Denis, Le Neveu de Rameau, 1760
Golombek, Harry, A History of Chess (
Henry, Rousseau (
G., Caissa’s Web (
N, Chess Pieces (
Le Palamede, 1836
Le Palamede, 1843
La Strategie, June 1908
La Strategie, December 1919, ‘Jean-Jacques Roussea et les echecs’ by Anatole Mouterde
James, Social Chess (
Metzner, Crescendo of the Virtuoso
Morley, John, Rousseau, (2008)
Reinfeld, Fred, The Treasurey of Chess Lore (New York, 1951)
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Les Confessions (1782)
Salzmann, J., The Chess Reader (New York, 1949)
Twiss, Richard, Chess (
Winter, Edward, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Chess http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/rousseau.html