International Chess Federation
Friday, 19 Mar 2021 11:40
Centenary of the French Chess Federation

The French Chess Federation celebrates its centenary today. Jean Olivier Leconte sent us this article where he goes through «The long road to the French Chess Federation», as he titled it.

The first attempt to bring together French chess players in a single national association was mentioned in the magazine La Stratégie in 1874. The Chess Chronicler, Alphonse Delannoy, moved to England and wrote in a short article: 

"It will introduce us to the functioning of the association of chess players in this country; and who knows? Perhaps it will thus help us in the attempts which will be made to found a chess players association in France. "

Indeed, since 1857, British chess players have been united in the British Chess Association. The magazine La Stratégie then published an embryonic statute for a French Chess Players Association. A laudable attempt, but it will remain wishful thinking.

Source: BNF La Strategie 1874

In 1882, during the correspondence match between Paris and Vienna, an argument occurred between the best French players, because of a disagreement on moves to be chosen.

On one side Arnous de Rivière, Albert Clerc and Edward Chamier, and on the other Samuel Rosenthal. This incident created two distinct groups in French chess. Offensive words were said, and this deep crisis, in which resentments are emerging, does not favour the gathering of chess players in France. 

Nevertheless, Arnous de Rivière tried again and in 1887 the French Association of Chess Players and Other Combination Games was created.

Source: BNF - Gallica 
Extract from the newspaper "Gil Blas" of July 5, 1887, 161 rue Saint-Honoré corresponds to the address of the Café de la Régence

It is difficult to know if this French Association of players of chess and other combination games is the same one mentioned in the magazine La Stratégie in 1900:

«The session given on February 17 at the French Chess Association was also a great success. The hall was too small to accommodate all of the visitors who presented themselves. (…) ». But the association has not developed and it is difficult to find more information about it.

But the real impetus came in 1914 by Le Cercle Philidor de Paris and its founder Henri Delaire, also owner of the magazine La Stratégie, supported by the Union Amicale des Amateurs de la Régence (U.A.A.R.). Circles outside Paris follow this movement.

Thus, in January 1914, still in La Stratégie, Édouard Cavrel, Editor of the Chess column of the "Journal de Rouen", wrote a long article which began as follows: 

«A French Federation of chess players what it should be. Chess players associations have been founded abroad for several years. To speak only of those who work in England and in Germany, their action is as fruitful as their life is active. Successively transporting their annual congresses, sometimes to one city, sometimes to another, received with great solemnity by the municipalities, they attract and hold for a moment the public attention constantly requested elsewhere in our turbulent times; throughout the entire country, they rekindle the zeal of amateurs and help, we are convinced, to give rise here and there, especially among young people, vocations which were ignored.»

The Cercle Lyonnais des Échecs, an important association of chess players outside Paris, then proposed to organize the 2nd French Amateur Championship, after the first one in Arcachon in 1903, as well as a constitutive assembly of the French Chess Federation. 

The dates are initially set from July 13 to 19, then finally changed from Sunday, July 26 to Friday, July 31. A change of dates with dire consequences...

On June 28, 1914, occurred the Sarajevo attack on Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and events precipitate. The European governors then walk towards warlike sleepwalkers... to use the title of the book by Australian historian Christopher Clark, about the mechanism that precipitated the world towards World War I.

France decreed general mobilization on Tuesday, August 1, 1914. The constitutive assembly scheduled for that day was cancelled sine die.

It was not until peace had returned to the world that the idea of a French Federation of chess players came back, still at the initiative of the Cercle Philidor in Paris.

Source: La Strategie - March 1921 Thanks to Dominique Thimognier and Alain Fayard

On Saturday, March 19, 1921, the general assembly, constituting the French Chess Federation, took place as planned, this time in Paris, in the Brasserie / Taverne du Gymnase, 31 boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.

La Strategie - March 1921

« NEWS French Chess Federation

The initiative taken by the Cercle Philidor, and in particular by its secretary, Mr. Bourgeois, was finally crowned with success. In a first General Assembly which was held on March 19 at the Brasserie du Gymnase where a dozen organizations were represented, the statutes of 1914, slightly modified, were adopted unanimously and the Federation definitively constituted.

The committee for the first year is made up of:

President, H. Delaire.

Vice-presidents, J. Conti (Paris), R. Gaudin (Bordeaux) and Lavoipierre (Lyon).

Administrative secretary, C. Bourgeois.

Technical secretary, F. Lazard.

Treasurer, D. Bar.

Assessors, C. Degraeve (Lille), A. Fabre (Marseille), A. de Gaigneron de Marolles (Nantes), E. Michel (Strasbourg), G. Renaud (Nice), A. Sarrut (Algiers), T. Thomas (Le Havre), and Zani (Besançon).

The promoter of the Federation, Mr. Edouard Cavrel, of Rouen, had to decline all functions because of his health.

The registered office is located: 85, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, Paris Xe; Until the publication of a special bulletin, La Strategie will be the newsletter of the Federation.

The administrative secretary, Mr. C. Bourgeois, 18, rue Caffarelli Paris IIIe will respond to all requests for statutes; the treasurer, Mr. D. Barreau, 79, rue de Clignancourt, Paris XVIIIe collects the annual contribution of associations, isolated members and donors. 

We hope that all, chess societies, sections or clubs, isolated players, participating members and donors, in affectionate solidarity, will collaborate with eagerness in the common work founded with the sole concern of increasing the spread of the noble game; everyone will certainly think that the first administration needs to be supported and encouraged and that success can only be assured with the help of all. »

The information was officially published on May 22, 1921. The French Chess Federation was born!

Source: Gallica 
Extract from the Official Journal of May 22, 1921. Thanks to Alain Barnier

The author, Jean Olivier Leconte, would like to thank Dominique Thimognier, Alain Fayard and Alain Barnier for their contribution to this text.