Giulio Cesare Polerio

Giulio Cesare Polerio (c. 1550,[1] – c. 1610; reconstruction of places and dates by Adriano Chicco[2][3][4]) was an Italian chess theoretician and player.

Giulio Cesare Polerio
CountryKingdom of Naples
Bornc. 1550
Lanciano, Abruzzo Citra, Kingdom of Naples
Diedc. 1610
Rome, Papal States

Name affixes used for him are l'Apruzzese,[5] Giu[o]lio Cesare da Lanciano (Salvio/Walker[6]), and Lancianese,[7] because he was born in Lanciano, a town in the province of Chieti of the region Abruzzo of Italy. He died in Rome.

Chess playingEdit

"Sfida scacchistica alla corte del Re di Spagna" showing Giovanni Leonardo ("Il Puttino") at the court of Philip II of Spain, around 1575, painting by Luigi Mussini (1883). Games of Giò Leonardo, including those against Ruy López de Segura, are recorded in the Codexes of Polerio.

The first published mention of Polerio is from 1634 in Il Puttino by Alessandro Salvio.[8] It recounts an event that must have occurred around 1575. "Il Puttino, altramente detto il Cavaliere errante" is a nickname used by Alessandro Salvio for Giovanni Leonardo. According to Salvio, Polerio accompanied Giovanni Leonardo on his way to Madrid until Genoa.[9]

After returning to Rome around 1584,[10] Polerio became a chess player and writer in ordinary of Giacomo Boncompagni,[11] Duke of Sora and son of Pope Gregory XIII (born Ugo Boncompagni).

Polerio wrote a number of codexes in which a lively international chess dialogue is described involving the exchange of ideas among players in Italy, Portugal, and Spain. In these codexes, besides new ideas regarding chess openings, Polerio describes some of his own matches.

In Il Puttino, Salvio mentions that, starting in 1606 from "Città di Piazza", "Geronimo Cascio, on his way to Rome, beat Giulio Cesare (Polerio), companion of Il Puttino, the best in Rome,[12] in the house/court of his Excellence Giacomo Boncompagni, Duke of Sora."[13]

The Codexes of Giulio Cesare PolerioEdit

The first systematic investigation of the Codexes of Polerio was published by Antonius van der Linde in 1874.[14] The subject of the investigations by Van der Linde can be found at the Bibliotheca Van der Linde-Niemeijeriana, part of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands.

The current systematics of the Codexes of Polerio has been performed and published by Alessandro Sanvito in 2005.[15]

Impact of Polerio on chess history and theory (before 1874)Edit

The systematic organisation of overall seven Codexes, described and called A-G by Van der Linde, and attributed to Polerio in 1874, had major impact on the further description of chess history, and history of chess theory. A relevant part of the work of Van der Linde was to compare Codexes of Polerio and Gioacchino Greco even superfine. According to this investigation, most of the analytic work of Polerio was mediated outside of Italy, up to 1874, via Gioacchino Greco. More recent work by Peter J. Monté compiling game scores from all sixteenth and seventeenth century manuscripts reveals where Greco copied Polerio and where he carried the games further.[16]

Impact of Polerio on chess terminology (after 1874)Edit

Polerio DefenseEdit

The Polerio defense is one of the traditional responses to the Fried Liver Attack by black, attempting to force the bishop to an inactive square or trading until the bishop is captured, thus weakening White's attack. The moves to achieve this defense are as follows:

  1. [e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5]* d5 5. exd5 Na5!

*Classic Fried-Liver attack

Polerio GambitEdit

On p. 186 of "Das Schachspiel des XVI. Jahrhunderts" van der Linde wrote in 1874:

"D. Polerio-Gambit


1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. f2-f4 e5-f4: 3. Sg1-f3 g7-g5 4. Lf1-c4 g5-g4 5. 0-0! g4-f3: 6. Dd1-f3: e cosi ancor che habbia perso un pezzo resta con buonissima postura di poter uencere il gioco sapendo guidarlo à presso, il che sarebbe superfluo inogni modo se si uolesse mostrare la fine di tutti giochi, e per questo basta insino à un certo che, tanto che si conosca apartemente il uantagio del gioco, si come per la postura di dette giochi ogni giudicioso giocatore lo potrà facilmente cognoscere."[17])

... in modern terms:

"Polerio Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0! gxf3 6.Qxf3 +/−"

Exactly this move order was also found later even in a second Polerio Codex discovered and described by J.A. Leon in 1894.[18] Of note is that the position after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3 may be considered by most recent grandmasters as a forced win for White – provided that 5.0-0 would mean "free castling", i.e. bringing the White King from e1 to h1. Actually, Polerio did claim 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3 to be favourable for White although the white king of Polerio did stand, after 5.0-0, on h1 but not on g1 (i.e. castling as defined in our days).

However, in 1874, the move order 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0![19] was already occupied by the term "Muzio Gambit". This term derives from a translation of a work of Alessandro Salvio, supposedly the third book of the reprint of 1723, by Sarrat in 1813.[20] On page 209 Jacob Henry Sarratt (translated) and wrote:

"SALVIO states that the following Gambit was sent to him by Signor Muzio, ..."[21]

Actually, Alessandro Salvio never stated this. Rather, in the third book of the Il Puttino he wrote that Signor Mutio[22] d'Alessandro did see that Geronimo Cascio did play the move order (with free castling, also called "Italian method" of castling[23]).

Position after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0! gxf3 6.Qxf3 Position considered as favourable for White by Polerio in 1579/80. Exclamation mark added by van der Linde in 1874 calling this move order Polerio Gambit. Advertised by Sarratt in 1821 as Muzio Gambit.
Position after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5. "Italian (or free) castling", note the King on h1. Position reached in Cascio–N.N., as reported by Signor Mutio d'Alessandro to Alessandro Salvio and published by Salvio in 1634. See p. 217 ff. of the work of the Opera d'Autore Modenese.

With p. 165,[24] vol. 2, of the 1821 edition of A New Treatise of the Game of Chess the term Muzio Gambit was coined by Jacob Henry Sarratt. And with the latter work of Sarrat, in 1821 the modern theory of the "Muzio Gambit" with castling according modern rules started – an idea and a position already Polerio analysed in 1579/80.

Thus, Antonius van der Linde, changed the view on the historical development of the move order 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 in 1874, most notably in the last editions of the Handbuch. Thereafter, a trend can be seen to call this move order either with hyphenated terms such as Muzio–Polerio, Polerio–Muzio, or simply Polerio Gambit. Such a terminology is both in honour of Giulio Cesare Polerio and partially misleading since the major body of the theory of this opening was generated in the time span in-between 1821 and 1874. The number of games played by Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, and Wilhelm Steinitz[25] with 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 or 5.d4 in the time span 1821–1874 was already rather high. The rules for Chess opening nomenclature, and their historical development, should be taken into account while assessing van der Linde's claim of 1874 "D. Polerio-Gambit".

"Polerio Gambits and Variations"Edit

In 1874, Van der Linde suggested as well (p. 188) to rename the move order 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.h4 h6 6.d4 d6 7.Nc3 c6 8.hxg5 hxg5 9.Rxh8 Bxh8 10.Ne5!? into "Polerio's second Gambit". This suggestion is based on the observation that "im Handbuch (1864, S.. 366, § 3)" this move order is called "das Gambit des Calabresen". This is a rather interesting observation since in the "Handbuch" in its 2nd edition as of 1852, on p. 205 it is mentioned that the move order 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5 can be found "at the Calabrese". That's a rather wise wording since both 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5 and 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5, according to Codexes of Polerio, occurred in games of "Gio. Leonardo" (games 236–238, p. 190 in van der Linde). Both Giovanni Leonardo and Gioacchino Greco were from Calabria, the first from Cutro, the second from Celico.


  1. ^ Attempt of reconstruction of birth date also performed by Baffioni, 1993, See p. 18 "I Polerio a Lanciano,...", problem "'Libri baptizatorium, matrimoniorum, mortuorum'"
  2. ^ SANVITO, ALESSANDRO: I codici scacchistici di Giulio Cesare Polerio e Gioacchino Greco, Messaggerie Scacchistiche, ISBN 88-901525-8-3, Brescia, 2005
  3. ^ it:Adriano Chicco
  4. ^ Polerio's last sign of life was in 1606, see: MONTÉ, PETER JOANNES: The Classical Era of Modern Chess, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7864-6688-7, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2014), page 273
  5. ^ BAFFIONI, PROF. GIOVANNI: Giulio Cesare Polerio, l’Apruzzese, Maestro di Scacchi Europeo (XVI–XVII), Litografia Botolini srl, Lanciano, 1995
  6. ^ The Chess player's chronicle, The light and lustre of chess, by George Walker, 1843
  7. ^ BAFFIONI, PROF. GIOVANNI: Giulio Cesare Polerio Lancianese Maestro di Scacchi (XVI–XVII) Regione Abruzzo, Centro Servizi Culturali, Lanciano, 1993 or Polerio: codex (c. 1560–1580) in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, Manuscrits italiens no 955 (2669 suppl.) 81 leaves : Questo libro e di Giulio Cesare Polerio Lancianese
  8. ^ SALVIO NAPOLITANO, DOTTOR ALESSANDRO: IL PVTTINO Altramente detto, IL CAVALIERO ERRANTE DEL SALVIO , Sopra il gioco de'Scacchi, con la sua Apologia contra il Carrera, diuiso in tre Libri. IN NAPOLI, Nella Stampa di Gio: Domenico Montanaro. Con licenza de'Superiori, 1634
  9. ^ Salvio/Walker: "After prolonging his visit yet a few days, the Puttino then sailed for Spain, with Giulio Cesare da Lanciano, but passing Naples by the way, halted for a short space of time at Genoa. ... So Leonardo departed for Marseilles, leaving his friend and follower, Giulio Cesare, at Genoa, as a medium of correspondence with his secretly betrothed bride."
  10. ^ Sanvito 2005
  11. ^ in terms of the hand of Polerio: "Dedica a Iacomo Buoncompagno" (Codice Vaticano Boncompagni Ludovisi 3) see Baffioni, Lanciano, 1993
  12. ^ recalling the dates of life of Giovanni Leonardo, the sentence could mean that Salvio considered Polerio as the best player of Rome in 1606–07
  13. ^ see also Baffioni, 1993 (p. 12)
  14. ^ in Das Schachspiel des XVI. Jahrhunderts. Nach unedirten Quellen bearbeitet, Verlag von Julius Springer, Berlin 1874
  15. ^ SANVITO, ALESSANDRO: I codici scacchistici di Giulio Cesare Polerio e Gioacchino Greco, Messaggerie Scacchistiche, ISBN 88-901525-8-3, Brescia, 2005
  16. ^ Monté 2014, pp.439-530
  17. ^ reference made to C, Nr. 12 = nowadays 3 in Sanvito 2005, as well as "12. Gambitto." p. 87–88 in Baffioni 1993
  18. ^ (10,- (224)) or 6 according to Sanvito 2005.
  19. ^ The exclamation mark summarizes the general view on the move in about 1874, or 19th century in general.
  20. ^ The works of Damiano, Ruy-Lopez, and Salvio on the game of chess, by J. H. Sarratt, Damiano, Ruy López de Sigura, Alessandro Salvio, Printed for T. Boosey, 1813 Original von Oxford University
  21. ^ of note is that Sarrat on is reporting page 359 of the work of 1813 on several games from a treatises published 1769, all with "5. K to Rook's square". These games compare very well with those reported on p. 217 ff. of the work of the Opera d'Autore Modenese in 1769.
  22. ^ Muzio is a revision of the spelling occurring in the reprint of 1723
  23. ^ ref. for the usage of the term "Italian method of castling"
  24. ^ linked is actually the version of 1828, which is, however, nearly identical with the version of 1821, compare also the living dates of Jacob Sarratt
  25. ^ see e.g Steinitz vs. Anderssen, 1862