THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                Morphy's Challenges



encapsulation from David Lawson's Paul Morphy: the Pride and the Sorrow of Chess

Concerning Paul Morphy's challenges to France, England, the world at large of odds of Pawn & Move.

Fiske had written to Prof Allen in Jan. that Morphy was "About to offer Harrwitz a match at Pawn and Move and will make the same offer to any English player on his return to London." Until the Anderssen Match, Morphy had exempted Harrwitz from his "odds-to-all" rule from France, but now decided to silence the latter's pretensions. In the presence of witnesses, Morphy authorized a fellow American, probably James Mortimer, to propose to Harrwitz on his behalf a second match on the following terms: Harrwitz to receive the odds of Pawn and Move; the winner of the first of seven games to the victor, and the stake to be 500 francs, more or less as Harrwitz might choose.

The challenge was duly presented to Harrwitz on Jan. 3, 1859, but he declined an the grounds that Morphy had treated him badly. However, as the Era commented: "Considering the courtesy that Mr. Morphy had extended to each and all of his antagonists since he visited Europe, this is perhaps the most ludicrous excuse that could have been made for declining the challenge so boldly proposed."

Edge says that "Morphy felt so much desire to play this proposed match, that he even offered to find stakes to back his antagonists, but all to no purpose." As he is quoted in the New York Herald of January 30, 1859, St. Amant said he believed Morphy could "give pawn and move to any living player" and had hoped to witness such a contest between Morphy and Harrwitz. It was the general opinion that Harrwitz lacked the courage to accept Morphy's challenge. When he received Harrwitz's refusal, Morphy seemed to lose all interest at playing at the La Régence, and to have taken a positive aversion to chess.

Harrwitz now made an attempt to give La Régence players the same odds as Morphy, but without success. Morphy had given Budzinsky - a very strong Polish player, probably as strong as Laroche - the odds of Pawn and Move, winning five games to Budzinsky's one. Harrwitz offered him the same odds but the results were Harrwitz one, Budzinski three.

In January 1859, the Chess Monthly carried the following announcement:

Mr. George Walker publicly states that in his opinion, Mr. Morphy can give any player in England the same odds [as those offered Harrwitz] and urges Mr. Morphy to issue a challenge to that effect upon his return to the shores of Albion."

On January 7, 1859, Dr. Johnson, the Paris correspondent of the New York Times, reported that:

Mr. Morphy offers now to play Mr. Staunton, and give him a Pawn and a Move; but, of course, no player of Mr. Staunton's calibre would accept such an offer. Mr. Morphy, however, is justified, after the course of Mr. Staunton, in making such an offer, and he says to his friends, that he is sure he can beat him with that advantage.

Porter's Spirit of the Times of January 15, 1859 also carried the news of Morphy's challenge:

To silence all cavil in regard to the English Champion [Staunton], Morphy now offers to give him Pawn and Move, and play him for any sum he pleases."

George Walker, in Bell's Life in London of July 17, 1859 may have expressed the ultimate confidence in Morphy:

It is something for America to be able to say with truth "we have Paul Morphy a boy of twenty-two, who can give pawn and move to every other player in the world' And large as the world is, this, we, Bell's Life of London, honestly believe the BOY can do.

And so at the age of twenty-two, Morphy was internationally regarded as the strongest player in the world.

Edge, in his long dispatch of January 5 1859, to the New York Herald, was the first to announce that "Paul Morphy had declared that he will play no more matches with anyone unless accepting Pawn and Move from him." And perhaps he was not too presumptuous.

Brooklyn Eagle, January 1859

Brooklyn Eagle, January 1860