THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica


   1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica

MORPHY, PAUL CHARLES (1837-1884), American chess player, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the 2 and of June 1837, the son of Alonzo Morphy (1798-1856) and his wife, whose maiden name was Le Carpentier. The father, the son of a well-to-do Spanish immigrant, was a prominent jurist and legislator and, like his brother Ernest, passionately fond of chess. Learning the moves from his father at the age of ten, Paul gave evidence of such extraordinary precocity that in less than two years he was able to defeat all the amateurs of his native city. While still at school he competed successfully with such strong players as Eugene Rousseau and the Hungarian master J. Lowenthal. He attended the Jesuit college of St Joseph at Spring Hill, Alabama, and applied himself to the study of the law, being admitted to the bar of Louisiana in 1858. During the autumn of 1857 he took part in the first American chess congress at New York, winning the first prize from sixteen competitors, including the well-known L. Paulsen. Morphy went to Europe in the spring of 1858 and entered upon a series of triumphs, both in regular matches and in blindfold play, that proved him to be one of the best players of the time. The winter of 1858-1859 was passed in Paris, where he was destined to gain his greatest triumphs, practically winning the championship of the world by beating Adolf Anderssen, champion of Germany, by a score of 7-2, with two games drawn. Another feat was his simultaneous blindfold match against eight strong French players, six of whom he defeated. At this time he was in his twenty-second year. Returning to the United States in 1859, he intended to establish himself in the practice of the law at New Orleans, but the outbreak of the Civil War frustrated these plans. His devotion to chess had already begun to affect his health. He spent the year 1863 in Paris, returning to New Orleans in 1864, but his health was now permanently impaired. He became insane, and at last he died in New Orleans in 1884.

See Exploits and Triumphs of Paul Morphy, by F. M. Edge (New York, 1859); Morphy's Games, edited by J. Lowenthal (New York, 1860); Paul Morphy, by Max Lange (Leipzig, 1881).