THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                     Letter from Anderssen to Heyderbrandt Von der Lasa


This letter was written by Adolph Anderssen in Breslau to Heyderbrandt Von der Lasa in Brazil exactly one year after Anderssen's match with Morphy. As it's a private letter, Anderssen expresses himself freely. This can be compared with Max Lange's letter to Anderssen in December of 1858, prior to the match.


Breslau, December 31, 1859.

Mr. Von Heyderbrandt V. der Lasa
Minister Resident [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]

Dear Sir:
My most deep-felt thanks for sending me your latest work with which you again presented me in such
a friendly way. Even without your intention of dropping on the unsteady scales of public recognition
which now so decisively tends in the direction of the transatlantic master, a counter-weight in favor of
German chess mastery, your "Erinnerungen" [Lasa on historical chess, published 1859 -Lawson] will produce
this effect since the games recorded therein are preferable to the Morphy games in which faultless
accuracy can, after all, be found only on one side of the players on account of their being correctly
played by both parties. I fully agree with your opinion on Morphy as well as your disapproving of German
chess vanity. You are perfectly right: the Berlin Club should have acted with the dignity of a chess
academy whose duty it would have been to bring forward the talent and to support it rather than to
behave nobly and show coldness and lack of esteem. If the necessary steps had been taken at the
right time, Morphy very likely could have been induced to travel to Berlin. Later, however, when there
was already talk about arranging a meeting between him and myself in Paris, he declined an invitation
actually extended by the Leipzig (and Breslau) Club under the pretense ["because of" is probably the
intended meaning here] his having to return home in the near future.

   Whether you yourself who for years have kept aloof of all chess activities, could have fought the
American victoriously without further preparations, may, of course, be doubtful. Notwithstanding, your
strong self-criticism cannot possibly refer to your proper and true strength which, in order to be
revived, needs only some exercise. In any case you have evaluated correctly the miraculous talent of
the foreign master. I not only believe that deeper combinations and brighter sparks of genius are at
Morphy's disposition than were at Labourdonnais', but that in infallible calculation and soundness, he
even surpasses the latter. He who plays with Morphy must not only renounce every hope of concealing
even the subtlest traps, but he must also start with the idea that Morphy will clearly see through all, and
there can be no question of a misstep. On the contrary, if you see Morphy make a move that, at first
glance, seems to yield you a chance to get some advantage, examine it carefully, because you will find
that it is correct and that trying to take advantage of it will lead to disaster. But most fatal, when
opposed to him, is overconfidence on account of a better position and a strong attacking game. I
cannot describe better the impression that Morphy made on me than by saying that he treats chess
with the earnestness and conscientiousness of an artist. With us, the exertion that a game requires is
only a matter of distraction, and lasts only as long as the game gives us pleasure; with him, it is a
sacred duty. Never is a game of chess a mere pastime for him, but always a problem worthy of his
steel, always a work of vocation, always as if an act by he fulfills part of his mission.

   To the fight with me he gave also outwardly such a strict appearance of solemnity, that it took away
from it entirely the character of a gay occupation and it had as far as I am concerned something
oppressing, I would almost say strangling. The onlookers were forced to abstain even from the slightest
whispering - something unusual which to me was all the stranger as I am not aware of having been
ever disturbed, during the game, by those surrounding me by any act of conversation (except barking of
dogs and crying f children).

   It goes without saying that he himself likewise during a game does not utter any sound other than
Schach, to wit, really Schack, not Scheck, as the English players say. His figuring is, in general, not of
remarkable or even tiring duration: he always takes as much time as such a tireless and experienced
thinker requires depending on the position, but never makes the impression of useless and tormented
pressure or stress - an impression I occasionally had with Staunton. And in addition, he sits there with
his face so lamb-pious as if he wanted to convey the impression that he could not do any harm to a
child; but when he executes a move with an expression so really harmless and pretending tiredness,
one can always presume that he is just preparing the greatest meanness.

Altogether, he is not only a great chess player but also a great diplomat and all maneuvers which he
inaugurated in reference to me since his arrival in England had not other purpose than to lure me to
Paris and to burden me with the inconvenience of the trip. Likewise, I admired from the very beginning
as a very tactful diplomatic maneuver that he took to his bed when I arrived in Paris, and I have never
changed my mind about that. For that much I can assure you of: he did respect both of us, you as well
as me, and not a trifle at that. If I say did, i.e., Parfait defini: perfection praeteritum, this of course only
applies to myself, what the bell has tolled. Incidentally, I am not sorry about my trip to Paris, in fact I
have already announced my return there during the Easter vacations and have fixed irrevocably time
and hour of my arrival. Let us hope that then, when passing through Berlin, I shall have the pleasure, to
meet you, dear Sir, in person, and then I could add quite a lot, which can be better said than written, to
my short communication about Morphy

  Very truly yours
your obedient
A. Anderssen