Giulio Cesare Polerio
by Bill Wall

Around 1550, Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) Polerio (Giulio Cesare da Lanciano) was born in Lanciano in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Polerio's nickname was l'Abruzzese (from Abruzzo — a region in Southern Italy).

In 1561 Ruy Lopez (pronounced Rue-y Lopeth) de Segura (1530-1580) wrote Libro de la invencion liberal y arte del juego del Axedrez. He wrote the book in response to Damiano's book. It contains 66 games.

In 1575, Polerio was traveled from Genoa, Italy to Madrid to inform the chess player Giovanni Leonardo di Cutri (1542-1597) that his fiancee had died. Polerio had been a faithful follower and servant (criato) of Leonardo. Polerio was with Leonardo when he defeated Ruy Lopez in a chess match in Madrid at the court of Philip II (1527-1598), King of Spain.

After the Madrid match, Leonardo and Paolo Boi (1528-1598) went to Portugal and eventually back to Italy. However, Polerio stayed in Spain for a few years.

Polerio took notes on chess and copied several chess manuscripts, playing strategies, and names of chess players and events.

In 1579, Polerio analyzed 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O, the Polerio Gambit, which was later called the Muzio Gambit by Jacob Sarratt (1772-1819) in 1828 in one of his chess books. In 1874, Dr. Antonius van der Linde (1833-1897) called the opening Polerio's Gambit in his chess book.

In 1580, the Spanish manuscript "L'Elegancia" was written.

In 1583, the Italian manuscript "L'Elegantia" was written.

In 1584, Ruy Lopez's book was translated into Italian by Giovanni Dominico Tarsia and printed at Venice by Cornelius Arrivabene. It was called Il Giuoco de Gli Scacchi. In 1655, it was translated into French and published at Brussels.

In 1584, Polerio returned to Rome and became the strongest chess player in Rome. He wrote a number of chess codices. Polerio became a member of the household (the palace called Torricella) of Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612), Duke of Sora (1579) and the illegitimate son of Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585), also known as Ugo Boncompagni. The Duke game him a rental in Giantro with the annual value of 300 scudi (crowns).

On August 7, 1584, Polerio wrote what is known as Codex A. A codex is a book handmade by binding parchment leaves together.

In 1584, Giovanni Domenico Tarsia translated the works of Ruy Lopez from Spanish to Italian. His book was called Il Giuoco de gli scacchi.

Around 1585, Polerio translated the works of Ruy Lopez from Spanish to Italian after seeing what a bad job Tarsia did in his translation of Ruy Lopez. This is known as Codex B.

Around 1590, Polerio wrote what is known as Codex C.

In the 1590s, Polerio was first to analyze the opening 1.e4 c5 (the Sicilian Defense). It was given its name by Greco in the 1600s.

On July 31, 1594, Polerio wrote what is known at Codex D. It consists of a number of games and 40 problems.

In 1604, Dr. Alessandro Salvio (1570-1640) published the Italian book "Il Puttino" in Naples, which mentions Polerio. Il Puttino (the little lad) is the nickname of Giovanni Leonardo from Cutro, Italy. Polerio was the faithful follower of Leonardo who traveled from Genoa to Madrid to deliver a message that Leonardo's fiancee had died.

In 1606, a priest named Don Geronimo (Girolamo) Cascio (1571- ) of Sicily, on his way to Rome, beat Polerio in a game of chess in the palace of Giacomo Boncompagni. After defeating Polerio, Cascio was given a position in the palace of Boncompagni at 250 scudi a year.

Around 1610, Polerio died in Rome, Italy.

Polerio's manuscripts included games by Leonardo, Boi, Ruy Lopez, Alfonso Ceron, Busnardo, and other Italian players. He wrote analysis on the Polerio (Muzio) Gambit, the Sicilian Defense, the Center Counter Defense, Two Knights Defense, Four Knights Defense, etc.

Around 1610, Codex E was written, but it may not have been written by Polerio.

In 1617, Pietro Carrera (1573-1647) added additional information to the book "Il Puttino" and had it re-published.

In 1620 Gioachino Greco (1600-1634) wrote manuscripts on chess traps.

In 1634, Dr. Alessandro Salvio (1570-1640) re-published the 1604 Italian book "Il Puttino" in Naples.

In 1723, a reprint of Alessandro Salvio's (1570-1640) book was published in Naples.

In September 1813, Jacob Henry Sarratt (1772-1819) translated Alessandro Salvio's 1723 reprint and published "The Works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez, and Salvio on the Game of Chess." On page 209, Sarratt wrote that Salvio got the opening 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O from Signor Muzio (the person was Mutio, not Muzio), who commonly defeated Don Geronimo Gascio with this opening. Sarratt then called it Muzio's Gambit, when it really was Polerio's Gambit. Also, Salvio never stated that he got this opening from Muzio. Sarrat provided a poor translation. Salvio wrote that Signor Mutio (not Muzio) d'Alessandro, a third class player in the Naples Academy, did see that Girolamo (Geronimo) Cascio, a priest from Piazza, Sicily, did play the move order, with the additional note that it was with free castling, also called "Italian method" of castling, where the White king ends up on the h1 square instead of the g1 square.

In 1821, A New Treatise of the Game of Chess, volume 1 and volume 2, was published by Sarratt's widow. It contained a 98 page analysis of the Muzio Gambit. It also stated that in Italy, you may have two Queens, but are restricted to Queens and not allowed to replace a pawn that reached the 8th rank with any other piece. This was the first book that included a comprehensive beginner's section.

In 1828, Sarratt's widow published volume 2 of "A New Treatise of the Game of Chess" and coined the term Muzio Gambit for 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O.

In 1843, George Walker translated "Il Puttino", which appeared in an article" The Light and Luster of Chess," by George Walker, in The Chess Player's Chronicle, Vol. 4, 1843, p. 215.

In 1874, Dr. Antonius van der Linde (1833-1897) published the first systematic investigation of Polero's seven known codices. It was published in a chapter called "Die Polerio-Manuscripte," in his book, "Das Schachspiel des XVI Jahrhunderts, Nach Unedirten Quellen Bearbeitet." (Chess in the 16th Century, With Unedited Sources).

Polerio's Codex A, titled "Questo libro e di Giulio Polerio Lancianese al suo commando e del' amici a presso del magnanimo Sig(no)r mio oss (equientissimo)" is Manuscrits Italients No. 955 (2669 supplement) in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. It is a rough 81-leaf note-book that consists of a number of openings and 67 problems. 53 of the problems were derived from Lucena. The manuscript was dedicated to Prince Giacomo Buoncompagni (1548-1612). The manuscript was written at various odd times and was incomplete. It also contains a translation of the first seven chapters of the second book of Ruy Lopez. It was dated August 7, 1584.

In 1850, Codex B was discovered by Antonio Fantacci in the Magliabechiana Library of Florence. The library is named after Antonio Migliabechi (1633-1714), a Florentine book collector. It is now in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence. It consists of a translation of Ruy Lopez with 32 original games. The discovery was noted in the Illustrated London News and in The Chess Player's Chronicle, vol. 15, 1854, p. 220. The manuscript is known as the Magliabechiana Classe XIX, codex 65, or "L'Elegantia, sottilita, verita della virtuossisima professione dei scacchi." It was perhaps written in 1583.

Codex C, "Trattato de' Scacchi di Giulio Cesare Polerio," was in the library of Prince Baldassarre Boncompagni-Ludovisi (1821-1894), in Rome. It is now in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Citta del Vaticano, Italy. The 150-leaf manuscript was dedicated to his patron, Prince Giacomo (Jacomo) Buoncompagni. It contains 98 openings, 12 endgames, and 38 problems with solutions. It is dated around 1590. The codex is known as Boncompagni no. 3.

Murray also mentions Toulouse Manuscript 766 that contains 49 openings and 40 problems, written in 1594. It is in Polerio's handwriting.

Codex D, "Ordini di giuochi degli scacchi indiversi modi," is the Manuscrits Italients No. 948 (8109-5) in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. It is dated July 31, 1594. It is dedicated to an unnamed patron. It consists of a 49 openings and 40 problems. This manuscript is an improved and corrected copy of the Toulouse manuscript. It is in Polerio's handwriting.

Codex E, "Giuochi di diversi valentissimi giuocatori," was an Italian manuscript that was in Florence until 1827, then it belonged to Gabriel-Eloy Doazan of Paris, but has disappeared since his death in 1865. It consists of about 130 openings and 6 endgames. As this manuscript speaks of Polerio as a great chess player, this may not be Polerio's own work. It is dated around 1630. The Doazan manuscript was described in the Palamede, vol 4, 1843. The manuscript was seen by von der Lasa in 1855. He extracted the games and wrote a pamphlet on it called Recueil de Parties d' Echecs, published in Brussels in 1855. (source: British Chess Magazine, vol 28, 1908, p. 230)

Codex F may be the work of Gioachino Greco written in 1623.

Codex G consists of 108 problems by an anonymous Italian.

By 1874, Polerio's Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O was known as the Muzio Gambit, and no longer the Polerio Gambit.

In 1894, another Polerio Codex was discovered by Joseph Abraham Leon (1861-1934) of London. Leon published "Forty-Six Games of Chess: by Giulio Cesare Polerio." This was a reprint of an article that appeared in the British Chess Magazine, August 1894, pp. 317-336. Polerio's manuscript was bound up with Giovanni Domenico Tarsia's Italian translation of Ruy Lopez (Venice, 1584), and Barozzi's Rythmomachia (Venice, 1572). The book originally belonged to Mr. Edward Cheney, a collector of miscellaneous Italian literature. The manuscript was unfinished. It contains no dedication, title, or problems.

In 1897, Baron Von de Lasa (1818-1899) examined the "L'Elegantia" codex and rejected the authorship of Polerio because it contained inconsistencies, which a player of Polerio's ability would have avoided.

In 1959, the Italian scholar Adriano Chicco (1907-1990) supported van der Linde's opinion that the "L'Elegantia" or XIX, codex 65 manuscript was written by Polerio.

In 1990, Chicco changed his opinion and did not think that Polerio wrote "L'Elegantia." All the other Polerio manuscripts were signed except this one. Also, "L'Elegantia" was written in sufficiently correct Italian, but all the other Polerio manuscripts were written in poor Italian.

In 1993, scholar Giovanni Baffioni (1920-1998) did a comparison study of Polerio's texts, handwriting, and word structure and concluded that Polerio's style was simple, synthetic, practical with a tendency to the essential, while the unknown author of the Italian "L'Elegantia" used diluted and extended language. He concluded that Polerio did not write "L'Elegantia." (source" Gianfelice Ferlito, The Chess Collector, Vol. XVI, 2007, pp. 14-18)

In 2005, the Spanish historian Jose Antonio Garzon Roger suggested that the priest and Spanish professional chess player Lorenzo Busnardo was the author of the Spanish "L'Elegancia."

In 2005, Alessandro Sanvito (1938- ) published further analysis of Polerio's codices in his book, "I codici scacchistici di Giulio Cesare Polerio e Gioacchino Greco."


Baffioni, Giulio Cesare Polerio Lancianese Maestro de Scacchi (XVI-XVII), 1993
Baffioni, Giulio Cesare Poleria — "L'Apruzzese" — Maestro de Scacchi Europeo (XVI — XVII), 1995
Leon, Forty-Six Games of Chess: by Giulio Cesare Polerio, 1894
Monte, The Classical Era of Modern Chess, 2014
Murray, A History of Chess, 1913
Polerio's chess games,
Sanvito, I codici scacchistici di Giulio Cesare Polerio e Giocchino Greco, 2008
Van der Linde, Das Schachspiel des XVI Juhrhunderts Nach unedirten Quellen bearbetetr, 1874
Walker, "The Light and Lustre of Chess," The Chess Player's Chronicle, 1843

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