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Reuben Fine - Paul Charles Morphy - December, 1943, Chess Review.

October, 2007

Thanks to my lovely friend, Deb, for supplying me this information.

A  New  Series  by  REUBEN FINE

The Great



Grandmaster Reuben Fine presents his own selection of outstanding chess classics. The background of each memorable encounter is described and the game fully explained. This monthly series is published by special arrangement with the author and with the David McKay Co Philadelphia, who will publish 100 of these games in book form.



     Morphy is unique.    In little more than a rear he became world champion by beating almost all his serious competitors----a feat which has never been equaled. More important, in a sense, is the fact that millions since have looked upon him as the greatest and most brilliant master of all time, the champion of champions.
    Paul Charles Morphy was born in New Orleans June 22, 1837, of a Spanish Irish father and a French Creole mother. Both his father and his uncle were enthusiastic chess players and at ten Paul was taught the moves. In two brief years he had improved so incredibly that he not only beat everybody in sight, but also defeated the well known expert L÷wenthal during a visit to New Orleans. Morphy is one of the three chess boy wonders who have become eminent in later life the other two are Capablanca and Reshevsky.
     School absorbed his attention until 1857, when he received a degree in law. Too young to practice in his native city, he devoted his time to travel and chess.    First stop was the American championship at New York, in 1851. There were sixteen competitors, mostly mediocrities, but one, Louis Paulsen, was among the strongest alive. Morphy won decisively. Then in June, 1858, he went to England, where he announced his willingness to play a match with any first class master. Money was no object, for his family was wealthy, Staunton was then English chess. Morphy's eagerness to meet Staunton, however, was matched only by the Englishman's desire to avoid a serious encounter, and a match could never be arranged. Morphy had to content himself with beating everybody else in sight, including his old antagonist L÷wenthal. His superiority was so crushing that he gave Rev. Owen odds of Pawn and move and did not lose a single game. From England Morphy went to Paris where he first swept Harrwitz out of the way and then in December, 1858, turned his attention to Anderssen, winner of the first modern tournament, at London in 1851, and generally regarded as the foremost master of the day. Again Morphy scored a crushing victory.
     At 21 Morphy was undisputed champion of the world. Back in New York, he was wined and dined. To his fellow Americans he was the hero of the hour, Here, inexplicably, the epic march 10 glory ends, and the tragedy begins. After the Anderssen victory, except for a minor match with Mongredien, Morphy withdrew completely from serious chess. Steinitz, Kolisch, Zukertort, Blackburne appeared while he was still young and healthy, but Morphy merely deepened his pathological aversion to the game which had made him immortal. Unable to make a success of his law career, partly because of the disturbed condition of the South after the Civil War, partly because people thought of him primarily as the chess champion, he slowly lost his mind.
     Most of the remaining years of his life were spent quietly with his family in New Orleans, where he died in 1884. That chess had something to do with his mild derangement seems probable. but the exact connection is harder to ascertain. The most likely explanation of the role that chess played in his mental life is this: Morphy was troubled by a peculiar dilemma, which has bothered many other great masters. Eminence in chess was a useless achievement to most of the people around him. Worse, he was afraid that people thought of him as a kind of freak, or at best as a kind of unusual gambler who had learned all the tricks. That is why Morphy always insisted so strongly on his amateur status. Once when an admirer paid him a compliment by calling him the professional chess champion of the world, Morphy objected most earnestly on the grounds that his father had left him $136,472.23 and that he had never accepted a penny for any chess activities (There is a rumor current that a girl refused him because she did not want to marry a mere chess player.)      Then, Morphy's great goal in life, we have repeatedly been told, was to be a prominent lawyer and he found that prospective clients gaped at the chess genius, but could not take the lawyer seriously. He must have reflected on how different the situation would have been if he had achieved casual prominence in some other field. Thus the twin delusions that chess was worthless, and that he could not do anything else, continually increased his isolation and finally led to loss of balance.
     While Morphy was still alive, a curious development occurred. It was obvious to all that he was the most successful master yet seen. But, not content with such faint praise, his glorifiers went on to urge that he was the most brilliant genius who had ever appeared. It was claimed that he had the most marvelous intuition any mortal was ever granted. That he won his games by combinations of incredible beauty, that he could have beaten any of his successors with ridiculous case. In short, Morphy became to millions the most gifted, the most dazzling, in every respect the greatest chess master of all time. But if we examine Morphy's record and games critically we cannot justify such extravaganza. And we are compelled to speak of it as the Morphy myth. Morphy's games fall into two categories. Of the 403 contained in Maroczy's book, only 55 are tournament or match games; the remainder are offhand simultaneous or odds games. Few of the 55 serious games, the only kind modern masters include in such collections, can by any stretch be called brilliant. He beat his major rivals because he had a clearer grasp of the essentials of position play. In fact, Morphy is the first who really appreciated the logical basis of chess. He could combine as well as anybody, but he also knew under what circumstances combinations were possible-and in that respect he was twenty years ahead of his time. Anderssen could attack brilliantly, but had an inadequate understanding of its positional basis. Morphy knew not only how to attack, but also when -and that is why he won. The tragedy is that when others, like Steinitz, who knew when, came along, Morphy refused to meet them. Even if the myth has been destroyed, Morphy remains one of the giants of chess history. His meteoric career together with the freshness and originality of his games will always continue to inspire all who love chess.

Paulsen vs. Morphy

It is, frankly, hard to find good Morphy games, comparable to those of, say, Alekhine, or Lasker.
The difficulty, as we have indicated, is that his opponents made such bad blunders. The following game, one of his most famous, is typical.

New York, 1857

    Louis Paulsen             Paul Morphy
         White                          Black

       1  P-K4                       P-K4
       2  Kt-KB3                  Kt-QB3
       3  Kt-B3                     Kt-B3
       4  B-Kt5                      
 . . . .   
An unusual opening at that time.
       4   . . . .                      B-B4 
Nowadays we know that 4 . . . B-Kt5 or 4 . . . . Kt-Q5  is better. We must remember that Morphy's main objective was always to secure free and easy development.
        5  0-0
5  KtxP is not so good here: 
5 . . . KtxKt;  6  P-Q4, B-Q2 is satisfactory for Black.
         5  . . . .                         0-0
         6  KtxP!
                      . . . .
         6  . . . .                         R-K1
         7  KtxKt                         . . . .  
 Obvious - and bad. 7  Kt-B3!  KtxP;  8  P-Q4, KtxKt;  9  PxKt gives White an advantage.
           7  . . . .                      QPxKt
            8  B-B4                    
. . . .

Here the obvious continuation is
8 . . . Kt-Kt5. The move is a natural for an Anderssen, or any other master whose main concern is the attack. But Morphy rarely begins an offensive until he has completed his development, a sufficient indication of the fact that he was a generation ahead of his contemporaries.
But the present situation is peculiar because it is an exception to the general rule - 8 . . . Kt-Kt5! leads to a forced win. On 9 P-KR3, KtxP;   10 RxKt, BxRch;   11 KxB,  Q-Q5ch decides. Best on 8 . . . Kt-Kt5 is  9 P-Q4, when  9 . . . BxP;  10 P-KR3, Kt-B3!; 11 B-KKt5, Q-Q3  

is the simplest way to preserve Black's superiority.
How does it happen that Morphy overlooks a forced win at such an early stage? The principle of development was such an enormous advance on the prevailing theory or, more correctly, lack of theory, that its mechanical application was enough to give him a significant advantage.
       7  . . .                 P-QKt4
While Morphy always made sure that his pieces were developed properly, he often showed little concern for his pawn position. The reason, of course, is that nobody in his day knew how to exploit a weak pawn structure.
It goes without saying that
8 . . . KtxP?? is a blunder:
9 KtxKt,  RxKt;  10 BxPch! wins for White.
        9  B-K2           KtxP
      10  KtxKt
Now  10  B-B3?  when KtxP!;
11  RxKt,  Q-Q5 is conclusive, for if  12  Q-B1,  QxRch;  13 QxQ,
R-K8ch; etc.
        10  . . .              RxKt
        11  B-B3
The prelude to a positional blunder which a Rook odds player would not be guilty of nowadays. After the obvious  11  P-B3 followed by  P-Q4.  Whit's game is preferable.
         11 . . .               R-R3
         12  P-B3?
Ignoring the hole completely.
12. P-Q3 was still good enough for equality.
          12 . . .            Q-Q6
Morphy wastes no time -  he knows that P-Q4 must be stopped.
          13  P-QKt4
White is in a bad way. If 13 R-K1, RxRch; 14 QxR, BQ2 followed by  . . . R-K1 maintains the pressure.
          13  . . .          B-Kt3
          14  P-Qr4
The only way he can get any freedom.
          14 . . .            PxP
          15 QxP           . . .

          15 . . .              B-Q2
Gives Paulsen a chance to get rid of the bind; perhaps Morphy had the pretty combination which follows in mind.
Objectively, however, 15 . . .BKt2 was the proper move since there is no adequate defense for White.
E.g. 16 R-R2, QR-K1;  17 Q-Q1,
B-R3;  or  16 B-Kt2, QR-K1; 
17 QR-B1, QxQP, etc. with an easy win in both cases.

          16  R-R2?
Loses neatly. After Q-R6 White would have been able to play P-Q4, solving most his problems.

          16 . . .            QR-K1
Threatening  . . . QxRch!
          17. Q-R6

Now he finally tries to liberate himself, but it is too late.
          17 . . .              QxB!!

An elegant conclusion.
          18  PxQ             R-Kt3ch
          19  K-R1           B-R6
          20  R-Q1
On move 20  R-Kt1, RxRch and mate in two follows.  20  Q-Q3, P-KB4!;
21 Q-B4ch, K-B1! would not have saved him either.

          20  . . .              B-Kt7ch
          21  K-Kt1          BxP dis ch
          22  K-B1            B-Kt7ch
Almost anything wins here, but the quickest was mate in four beginning with 22 . . . R-Kt7; 23 Q-Q3 (or
23 QxB, RxRP and mate next) RxBPch
and 25 . . . R-Kt8 mate.

          23  K-Kt1          B-R6 dis ch
Morphy chooses to win by material superiority. Instead 23 . . . B-K5 dis ch again leads to mate in a few: 
24 K-B1, B-KB4!;  25 Q-K2,
B-R6ch;  26 K-K1, R-Kt8 mate.
          24  K-R1            BxP
          25  Q-B1            BxQ
          26  RxB             R-K7

This time he does choose the quickest
          27  R-R1            R-R3
          28  P-Q4

At last!  The Bishop is freed in time to resign gracefully.
          28  . . .               B-K6


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