42. The first Dutch chess books
In the second half of the 18th c., Dutch chess players felt impressed by the guide written by François-André Danican Philidor in 1749, teaching his compatriots how to play chess. This book was a great example, the Dutchmen tried to make propaganda like he did it! In this way the Dutch chess literature was born.
Those enthusiastic writers on chess had a characteristic feature in common: they borrowed the terms which had to do with the promotion from draughts players, see for this process chapter 41. This borrowing proves, or at least suggests, influence from draughts on chess, influence we can find up to the first decades of the 20th c. In the 20th c. it is out of the question that there can be any influence from draughts on chess, as in those years chess has completely outstripped draughts. In three ways. First by the much greater number of Dutchmen who joined the Chess Federation. Secondly chess players were members of the higher middle class, included intellectuals, whereas he majority of the draughts players were coming from the lower middle class and the working class. Thirdly, the common man thought much of chess whereas he considered draughts as a simple game. I shall extensively discuss this sociological aspect in a later stadium
In the past, draughts was a pastime for all social classes, from the illiterate swineherd till kings and princesses. the paintings and drawings reproduced in “An iconography of draughts” (2019, authors Wim van Mourik & Arie van der Stoep) don’t give rise to any misunderstanding, neither do the historical materialistic investigations.
In chapter 41 I mentioned figures about the number of draught and chessboards in the belongings of the inhabitants of the small town of Weesp (in 1640 c. 3300 people [Koolbergen 1983:3-4]) plus surrounding area and the bigger city of Delft: 47 draughtboards against 3 chessboards. Researchers got these figures form the inventories made up by notaries and or their clerk after a decease of before a marriage.
Hans van Koolbergen did not find any 17th draughtboard. The first one appeared in 1700, property of a prosperous townsman [Koolbergen 1983:51]. He investigated c. 240 inventories from the period 1700-1780 [1983:8]. Harvest: 12 draughtboards. In 1760 15% of the rich townsmen possessed a draughtboard, 9% of the middle class and 55 of the farmers outside Weesp.
Thera Wijsenbeek classified the inhabitants of Delft in five groups, from poor to rich. Group 1 (poor): no draughtboard. Group 2 (lower middle class: 3 draughtboards. Group 3 (middle class: 7 draughtboards. Group 4 (higher middle class: 8 draughtboards. Group 5 (rich): 17 draughtboards.
G. Bakker Wzn. now and then noted the occupation of the owner of a draughtboard. Haarlem 1718: chirurgeon. Haarlem 1721: physician. Haarlem 1722: sheriff. Haarlem 1722: navigating officer of the Dutch East India Company. Wormer 1726: widow of a clergyman, remarried a burgomaster (mayor). Haarlem 1732: sheriff. The sheriff also had a chessboard with its pieces.
Dirck van Hoorn and his wife Jannetje Buckoy/Bekooy had at the Zeedijk in Amsterdam a toy shop (or was he a wholesaler?). In 1648, a notary made up inventory. In the upstairs room he noted between great numbers of toy birds, beads, 54 drums and much more 11 draughtboards and some “Jewish boards”, i.e. a kind of game of goose. Source www.amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief/stukken/kinderen/speelgoedwinkel/.
The writers of draughts books are from the better social class, of course. Ephraim van Emden (Amsterdam), a broker, published in 1785 “Verhandeling over het damspel” (Treatise on draughts). He occupied premises in the better districts of Amsterdam, for opposite the city hall and in the Kalverstraat, still a well-known street in the center of the city, at the to-do list of every sightseer. Pieter Curten (Rotterdam) published in 1804 “Verzameling van fraaye zetten op het dambord” (collection of nice combinations on the draughtboard). He was the manager of a Society for practicing Arts and Sciences, but the Registry of Rotterdam also noted his occupation as a forwarding agent, merchant and mathematician [Gaans, Riesenkamp, Smeenk & Stoep 1999:11-2].
The value of figures
Holland counted many more draughts players than chess players, figures are telling us. These figures, however, do not tell us anything about the position of chess and draughts. The words used by chess players around the promotion gave us information: chess was under the influence of draughts.
Influence from draughts is not only visible in the words chess players borrowed from draughts players but also from the chess literature: the writers of the first Dutch chess books guided their readers through the material by continually referring to parallels with draughts. I sketch the social context.
Orientation towards France
In the 18th c, Holland was strongly orientated towards France. In the better classes it became good manners to order clothes at the Paris fashion houses. The members of these classes conserved in French, and so that their children should master this beautiful language the called nursery governesses from France. They entertained their guests in the salon instead of in the drawing room, just like the French. Unfortunately, neither the parents nor their children could not forget that awful Dutch, as they had to give orders to the personnel: the cook, the maid, the gardener.
The Dutch writer Justus van Effen, who as a tutor of a prominent family from The Hague travelled to Sweden and England, published magazines in French, among which “Le nouveau Spectateur Français”. Following the Englishmen Joseph Addison and Richard Steele he set down the life of his fellow-Dutchmen, ridiculing them in a christian-moralizing way.
Next to magazines in French, the elite read French literature. The members bought their books in France.
Among those books were works on chess. In France chess had left behind the misery of the past, with Philidor as a leader. In Holland too chess players came to the fore. They translated Philidor’s work into Dutch, because it could not be excluded that some compatriots were somewhat overestimating their own knowledge of French.
Philidor’s book translated
In 1786 Kersteman translated Philidor’s 1749 book. He explained chess as a missionary would do it when he had to explain to the chief of a newly discovered tribe what a helicopter is: a big bird with rotating wings and a deafening cry. Well, Kersteman’s bird is draughts. The chessboard strongly looks like the draughtboard but it is 8×8 squares instead of 10×10 squares. Chess pieces do have the same color as draughts pieces, mostly white and black. The chess pawn is a kind of singleton in draughts: if the singleton arrives at the dam (promotion row) it is promoted to dam, and the pawn does exactly the same [Stoep 2007:80-1].
In the late 18th c chess of the readers Kersteman is himself addressing to an unknown game, I may conclude. The man like chess very much. In his Introduction he is speaking about “draughts, a game which is not more than a children’s game compared with chess”.
He was terribly irritated by “the mutilation done to chess”. What happened in France? A pawn is promoted to queen. When I played chess with my grandfather, we put a rook upside down on the board. And when we did not yet have a rook? A stiver? I don’t remember, it is too long ago. What did French chess players in Philidor’s time? They placed two pawns on one square. Tomfoolery there in Paris. “Influence from draughts players”, Philidor grumbled. Enough reason to pay full attention to this eminent chess player.
The relation between draughts and chess
At the end of the Middle Ages, Spanish chess players introduced a new queen, one with a wider range. Influence from draughts I argued (chapter 5). And the name for that queen was taken from the language of French draughts players (chapter 4).
Dutch chess players borrowed the names that had to do with the promotion of a pawn from draughts players. In France, Philidor was complaining about the influence from draughts on his game.
In a coming chapter more about influence from draughts on chess in other countries. For now, I draw your attention to the situation in post-medieval Germany, where the common citizen saw the 64 squares board as a draughtboard and never as a chessboard (chapter 36)
The more my research gets on, the clearer it becomes how the relation in the past has been: draughts the great board game, chess a humble game under the pressure of big brother.
In spite of the rise of chess, draughts remained very popular, the inventories prove it. A proof of another kind is the deed that was drawn up in Oosterhout in the southern province Brabant in February 1798. Jan van Raaij was a maker of draughtboards, buttons and purses. In May 1797, his wife Lientje travelled by boat to Holland to sell purses and draughtboards.
One of his staff members was Ploontje van Dongen. In July this Ploontje was seized by panic: she was pregnant. The father was her boss, she told everyone, in May he had violated her. He denied, whereupon she resigned. He was not yet rid of her, however. On February 17, 1798, after she had given birth to a son, she went to the court to claim 17 guilders and 18 pennies, an amount he owed her for making draughtboards and pieces. The child was taken into the family of van Raaij, but the church registered the boy as a child of Ploontje.
It is a pity we don’t know the type of board she made, a one-sided draughtboard or two-sided board for draughts and morris, like below. But this type seems to be typical for the northern parts of the Netherlands.