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Alexandre Deschapelles

Full name Alexandre Louis Honore Lebreton Deschapelles
Country France
Born March 7, 1780
World Champion c1800-c1820 (Unofficial)

Alexandre Deschapelles (March 7, 1780, Ville-d'Avray near Versailles - October 27, 1847, in Paris) was a French chess player who, between the death of Philidor and the arrival of Louis de la Bourdonnais, was probably the strongest player in the world. He was considered the unofficial world champion from about 1800-1820.

Family background

His parents were Louis Gatien Le Breton Comte des Chapelles, born in New Orleans (Louisiana) in 1741, and Marie Françoise Geneviève d'Hémeric des Cartouzières from Béziers in the south of France. Louis Gatien served as an officer in a dragoon regiment and later became through the influence of his close friend, the future admiral Latouche-Tréville, an officer in the royal household (Maison du Roi) with a number of rooms near the king's chambers in the château of Versailles.

Military career

It was decided that Alexandre should start a military career, and so he was sent to the renowned military academy at Brienne. As the influence of his patron Latouche-Tréville ceased in 1791 and terror began to reign in France, Louis Gatien decided to emigrate to Germany with his wife and two sisters of Alexandre. Soon after his father's emigration, Alexandre had to leave Brienne and to join the French Republican army. A soldier in Napoleon's army, Deschapelles lost his right hand in battle and was thereafter nicknamed "Manchot" (one-armed). He also received a massive sabre-wound down the entire length of his face, which caused the Phrenology enthusiasts of his era to suggest "cranial sabre-wounds" were responsible for his amazing chess skill.

Career as a player of chess and other games

Deschapelles had an incredible aptitude for games. Three months after learning the moves of Polish Draughts, he defeated the French champion of that game, and claimed to have learned all of his chess knowledge in just four days.

He was the teacher of Jacques François Mouret and later, about 1820, he accepted Louis de la Bourdonnais as a student. After his defeats of John Cochrane and William Lewis two years later, Deschapelles switched to playing Whist (the Deschapelles coup in Contract Bridge is named after him). Returning to chess competition in the mid-1830s, Deschapelles continued his trademark of always giving his opponents "odds" (see chess handicap).

Deschapelles reportedly once asked an opponent if they would play a game for stakes, to which they stated "My religion forbids me to play for money", Deschapelles replied "Mine forbids me to be absurd!"

Notable chess matches

Coat of arms

Given to his grandfather Louis Cézaire Le Breton des Chapelles, in 1760, by the French juge d'armes: "Un écu d'argent à trois palmes de sinople posées, deux et un. Cet écu timbré d'un casque de profil orné de ses lambrequins d'argent et de sinople."