chessgames.com found this passage in a
book called The Story of the Mountain: Mount Saint Mary's College and
Mount Saint Mary's College is located in Emmitsburg,
This excerpt is from the
Chapter 50: 1860-1861 (Civil War years)
Because it's written here doesn't make it true
anymore than because it flies in the face of common beliefs, it's automatically
false. It's just another view of Morphy...
|We begin our quotations from Dr. Moore by
presenting what he tells of student life in 1860: "Chess was the favorite
indoor game, whilst handball, tenpins, prisoners' base, townball (the
ancestor of baseball), the parallel bars and Flying Dutchman had their
votaries outside. Checkers and dominoes were tabooed, as beneath the plane
and dignity of Mountain intellectuality. A playing card, during the five
years of my pilgrimage I never saw. Chess, said to have been invented some
five thousand years ago, had many devotees at the Mountain in my time.
William D. Byrne of Brooklyn, '62, more familiarly known as ' Mickey Byrne,'
was the champion. Visiting ecclesiastics, military men and diplomats owned
up to his skill, and fought shy of it. His namesake, William Byrne (V. G.,
Boston), H. P. Northrop (Bishop of Charleston), J. J. Griffin, John A.
Watterson (Bishop of Columbus), John J. McCabe and J. J. Browne, all played
strong, sometimes brilliant games. . . .
"The name of Paul Morphy was always mentioned amongst the chess contingent
with becoming admiration and reverence. Only a few years had elapsed since
he had returned home victorious over all the mighty men of Europe, so that
his glory seemed to have reached away up into the dominion of the stars.
William Duncan ex-'65, then a student of the Seminary, afterwards a Jesuit
priest, knew Morphy well, both having been together for some time at Spring
Hill College. ' Morphy,' said he, ' was not alarmingly brilliant as a
student, and in book learning there were many of his class who surpassed
him. But when he turned his knights and bishops loose and into a hostile
contiguous territory, they cornered the king and all his courtiers in
marvellously short order.'
"Having heard of two great amateur chess-players of the South, who spent
rarely less than a day, sometimes a whole month, at one game, I was curious
to know something about the champion's methods. ' Before beginning,' said
Mr. Duncan, ' Morphy usually put his open hands up to his face so that the
tips of his fingers touched the hair line at the top of his forehead; then,
with a slow and deliberate motion downward, repeated a couple of times, he
swept the cobwebs from his brain and was ready. The length of time it took
to finish a game depended on his opponent; the faster he played the sooner
the battle came to an end, invariably to Morphy's credit, though he seemed
to move heedlessly and give his pieces away for nothing. It is to be
regretted the great chess prodigy did not realize the truth that in all
things human there is a limit beyond which it is unsafe to venture. Every
one who knows chess is also aware that to play five games simultaneously,
blindfolded at that, is to excite the envy and wrath of all the gods who
dwell on Olympus. This is precisely what Morphy did, and he paid for it.'
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