THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                     Paul Morphy: Fair Play



The "Fair Play" Letter -- October 17, 1858


To the Editor of Bell's Life:
        Mr. Editor. -- It is a pity chess-players will not "wash their dirty linen at home." Among a few frivolous noodles to whom chess forms the staple of life, Mr. Morphy's jeremiads may assume an air of importance, but to the sensible men they sound ineffably absurd, while to those who take the trouble of looking a little below the surface they appear something worse. For what are the plain facts of the case? Mr. Morphy started for England, not to play a match with Mr. Staunton, for he was told the gentleman was too deeply immersed in business to undertake one, but to take part in a general tourney to be held in Birmingham. Upon arriving here he duly inscribed his name on the list of combatants and paid his entry fee.
        On hearing this, Mr. Staunton, in a spirit of what some may call chivalry, but which, looking at his utterly unprepared state for an encounter of this kind, ought more properly to be termed Quixotism, entered his name also. Well, what happened? On the mustering of the belligerents, Mr. Morphy, who had come six thousand miles to run a tilt in this tournament, was not present. In his place came a note to say particular business prevented his attendance. A message was dispatched, intimating that his absence would be a great disappointment, &c., &c. His reply was, that, understanding neither Mr. Staunton nor any other of the leading players would take the field, he declined to do so. A second message was forwarded, to the effect that Mr. Staunton was then in Birmingham expressly to meet Mr. Morphy, and that he and several of the best players were awaiting Mr. Morphy's arrival to begin the combats. To this came a final answer, to the effect that the length of time that the tourney would last prevented Mr. Morphy from joining in it, but he would run down in two or three days. Passing over the exquisite taste of this proceeding, and the disappointment and murmurs it occasioned, I would simply ask, If Mr. Morphy thought himself justified in withdrawing from a contest which he had come thousands of miles to take part, and to which he was in a manner pledged, upon pretences so vague and flimsy, what right has he to complain if the English player choose to withdraw from one to which he is in no respect bound, and against which he may be enabled to offer the most solid and unanswerable objections? In asking this, I beg to disclaim all intention of provoking a chess players' controversy, a thing in which the public takes not the slightest interest, and for which I individually entertain supreme contempt. I am moved to it only by spirit of
                                                                     Fair Play