The Colonel Moreau Chess Mystery

Edward Winter

Below is a digest of C.N. items relating to Colonel Moreau and/or players of the period with a similar name.

Mike Franett (Seattle, WA, USA) invites readers to supply information about Colonel Moreau, who lost all 26 of his games at Monte Carlo, 1903.

On page 5 of Emil Kemeny’s American Chess Weekly, 29 April 1903, it was stated:

‘Colonel Moreau, who finishes last is perhaps stronger than the score would indicate, but he is not used to Tourney play, and too old to stand the continuous strain.’

The ‘perhaps’ is decidedly unflattering. It is difficult to find firm biographical information about the dogged colonel. Pages 175-176 of La Stratégie, 15 June 1874 gave a victory by Rosenthal at queen’s knight odds against a player named Moreau, and page 229 of the June 1900 BCM described the opening 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nc6 as ‘a defence much exploited, if not invented by Mr C. Moreau, of London’. Who can help build on these jottings?


Page 16 of the January 1893 BCM had a paragraph which began: ‘Mr C. Moriau (champion) is a Frenchman, but does not look it.’ He joined the City of London Chess Club in 1875 but subsequently went to the United States and France, rejoining the London club in 1888. Mention was made of a blindfold performance by Moriau at the Metropolitan Chess Club, where he played two games in English, two in French and two in German. A portrait of him was given in the same issue of the BCM. He would appear to be the player referred to in the 1900 BCM quote given in C.N. 2434.


H.J.M. Smout (Leiden, the Netherlands) mentions that an article by C. Moriau on 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nc6, the opening referred to in C.N. 2434, was published on pages 44-48 of the February 1874 Deutsche Schachzeitung. Around that period the magazine had Moriau’s name several times, giving Lyons as his place of residence.


An additional comment on page 355 of A Chess Omnibus:

The list of 18 advance subscribers listed in Reinfeld’s 1935 book on Cambridge Springs, 1904 includes C. Moreau.

As regards his forename, page 47 of the February 1903 Wiener Schachzeitung (edited by Marco, a participant in the tournament) had ‘Ch. [i.e. Charles] Moreau’.

It was mentioned in A Chess Omnibus that the list of subscribers to Reinfeld’s 1935 book on Cambridge Springs, 1904 included ‘C. Moreau’, and here we add that our copy of Reinfeld’s book Thirty-five Nimzowitsch Games, 1904-1927 (New York, 1935) contained, handwritten, the subscriber’s name, C.A. Moreau:

reinfeld moreau

However, the list of subscribers on page 91 of Keres’ Best Games 1932-1936 (New York, 1937) by F. Reinfeld stated ‘C.L. Moreau’. Whether or not it was Colonel Moreau whom Reinfeld had among his subscribers is not known.

Page 51 of La Stratégie, 21 February 1903 stated that a Nice publication, Le Phare du Littoral, provided daily coverage of Monte Carlo, 1903 (results and games). Was any biographical information about Moreau included?

The 22 April 1903 issue of La Stratégie, page 113, announced Moreau’s recompense for his 26 defeats: 75 francs.


Many gaps and much confusion exist regarding Colonel [Charles?] Moreau and C[amille] Moriau.

Jerry Spinrad (Nashville, TN, USA) informs us that he first saw Moriau’s forename given as Camille in a chess article in the Australasian, 16 April 1892. He has now found Moriau’s exact date of death (24 November 1926), on page 4 of The Times, 14 January 1927:


In C.N. 2482 a correspondent referred to an article by C. Moriau about 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nc6 on pages 44-48 of the February 1874 Deutsche Schachzeitung, and we add here that a game with that opening was one of two annotated by Moriau on pages 42-43 of La Stratégie, 15 February 1872:


Charpine v Moriau: 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nc6 4 d4 Qh4+ 5 Kf1 g5 6 Nf3 Qh5 7 h4 Bg7 8 Nc3 h6 9 Nd5 Nf6 10 Nxc7+ Kd8 11 Nxa8 Nxe4 12 Be2 Ng3+ 13 Kg1 Nxd4 14 Kf2 Ndxe2 15 hxg5 Nxh1+ 16 Kxe2 Re8+ 17 Kf1 Ng3+ 18 Kf2 Bd4+ 19 Nxd4 Qxd1 ‘and mate next move’.

Moriau (blindfold) v Courtois: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 c3 b5 6 Bc2 Bc5 7 O-O O-O 8 d4 exd4 9 cxd4 Bb6 10 Bg5 h6 11 Qd3 Nb4 12 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Qd2 Nxc2 14 Qxc2 d6 15 Nc3 Be6 16 Qd2 Kg7 17 d5 Bg4 18 Kh1 f5 19 Qf4 Bxf3 20 gxf3 fxe4 21 Rg1+ Kh7 22 Qf5+ Kh8 23 Nxe4 Bd4 24 Ng5 hxg5 25 Rxg5 Bg7. ‘White announced mate in three moves.’

The games were introduced as follows on page 41:

‘... nous recevons de Lyon les deux parties suivantes, qui nous dévoilent un jeune Amateur, M. C. Moriau, doué de remarquables dispositions et certainement appelé à prendre, dans peu, une place honorable parmi les plus forts joueurs.’

Pages 146-147 of the May 1873 Deutsche Schachzeitung had a victory by C. Moriau over L. Bertrand (Lyons, 26 January 1873), whereas on pages 199-202 of La Stratégie, 15 July 1873 Léon Bertrand contributed an article in verse on a game lost by him to ‘Moriaud’. A further complication is that the 1875 volume of La Stratégie has a number of games by a player named Camille Morel. Finally, as regards the C.A. Moreau or C.L. Moreau mentioned in 1930s US sources (C.N. 4574) an addition is given below from page 270 of the December 1937 Chess Review:



A photograph opposite page 47 of the American Chess Weekly, 21 May 1903:

monte carlo

Larger version

We are grateful to the Cleveland Public Library for providing a high-resolution scan.

The photograph was omitted from the 1983 compilation/reprint by Edition Olms Zürich The Monte Carlo Tournament of 1903. According to pages 103-104 of that book (material originally published in the American Chess Weekly, 18 June 1903) the pairings on 14 February 1903 included Mason v Reggio, whereas the above caption, confusingly written in several respects, places them on different sides of the room.


Until now, no portrait of Colonel Moreau has been available, but Olimpiu G. Urcan (Singapore) has found the photograph below, reproduced here courtesy of the London Borough of Hackney Archives (photograph reference number D/S/1/3 no.3):



Readers are invited to compare the above portrait with the picture in the January 1893 BCM which was mentioned in C.N. 2439:


We wonder what to make of a comment about Colonel Moreau’s performance at Monte Carlo, 1903 (all 26 games lost) on page 109 of The Batsford Book of Chess Records by Yakov Damsky (London, 2005):

‘After this, the colonel broke all records by the number of gifts he received! Sarcastic spectators brought him (or even posted him) hens’ and quails’ eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, beads – in a word, anything shaped like a zero. Needless to say, each gift consisted of precisely 26 articles.’


A blindfold game from pages 102-103 of La Stratégie, 15 April 1893:



1 e4 e6 2 d4 d6 3 Bd3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 c3 Nge7 7 Be3 O-O 8 Nbd2 Qe8 9 Qe2 d5 10 e5 Nf5 11 O-O-O Nxe3 12 Qxe3 Ne7 13 g4 f5 14 g5 Qa4 15 Kb1 b5 16 Bc2 Qa6 17 h4 h5 18 gxh6 Bxh6 19 Rdg1 Kf7 20 h5 Rh8 21 hxg6+ Nxg6 22 Nh4 Bxf4 23 Nxg6 Bxe3 24 Nxh8+ Kf8 25 Ng6+ Kg7 26 Rg2 Bh6 27 Nf4+ Kf7 28 Rxh6 Bb7 29 Rh7+ Kf8, and White announced mate in four moves.


From John Townsend (Wokingham, England):

‘A 1901 census entry regarding 4 Holford Street, Clerkenwell, London, records that “Camille Morian” was a boarder there, a single man, aged 50 (National Archives, RG13/252, page 22). His occupation was entered as “Manufacturer’s Agent: ex-chess champion”. He was an employer, and was a French subject, born in Lyons.

The same man can be identified in the censuses of 1881 and 1911, despite vagaries in the spelling of his surname. In 1881, “Camille Moraiu” was a boarder at 177 Cold Harbour Lane, Lambeth, unmarried, aged 30, a commission agent, born in Lyons. (National Archives, RG11/618, folio 106). The 1911 census has “Camille Mooriau” as a visitor at 2 Athelstan Road, Margate, Kent, single, aged 60, a manufacturer’s agent for buttons and canvas, an employer, born in Lyons (National Archives, RG14/4496).

The National Probate Calendar supports the date of death of Camille Moriau which was reported by Jerry Spinrad in C.N. 9441, i.e. 24 November 1926. His effects amounted to £7,158 15s. 2d. An entry in the General Register Office’s on-line index of deaths for Camille Moriau (December quarter 1926, Barnet registration district, volume 3A, page 440) gives his age as 75.’


Latest update: 11 September 2022.

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