Morphy's School Companion and Lifelong Friend.
By John A. Galbreath, New Orleans,
(from the American Chess Bulletin - Sept., 1911,
To paint a lily, or gild refined gold, is to do a vain thing; and very
much in the same category may justly be reckoned the attempt to write in
adequate words the biography of a really good man.
The subject of this sketch is one of those rare men who can truly be
summed up in a sentence as "a gentleman, and a scholar"; because he is a
man who morally and intellectually stands out from, and above, the
ordinary run of men, as Pike's Peak stands from the foot-hills.
CHARLES AMEDÉE de MAURIAN was born in the city of New Orleans on May 21,
1838, and is of distinguished French ancestry. His father was Judge
Charles A. de Maurian, for many years Judge of the Parish and City Civil
Court. His mother, before her marriage, was Miss Lasthenie Peychaud, a
native of France, and she had a most romantic history. Her parents went
from France to reside in Santo Domingo in her early childhood. Soon after
arriving in that island, the bloody revolution of 1799 broke out, and all
the white people were either killed or driven from the island. Among the
fortunate ones who made their escape were her parents and herself. They
made their way safely back to France; but in the confusion and hurried
departure to save their lives, her brother Amedée, then a very small
child, became separated from the rest of the family and was left behind.
He was cared for by a faithful slave, and was eventually brought to New
Orleans, where he grew to manhood. His fate was unknown to his family for
many years. The captain of a French vessel plying between New Orleans and
French ports, who had become acquainted with Amedée Peychaud, met Miss
Lasthenie Peychaud in France, and, struck with the similarity of names,
made inquiries- with the result that the long-separated brother and sister
were brought into communication, and Miss Peychaud came to New Orleans to
visit her brother. Among the party of Amedée Peychaud's friends who went
to the ship to receive the young lady on her arrival in New Orleans was
Judge de Maurian. It proved a case of love at first sight, and a happy
marriage soon followed. It is sad to relate that the death of Mrs. de
Maurian, immediately after the birth of her son Charles, at once
terminated her romantic life and forever deprived him of a mother's tender
From early childhood Charles was a playmate of the famous Paul Morphy. The
boys were nearly the same age, Paul being only eleven months the elder.
Whilst they were not actually related, their families were connected by
marriage, and the boys were constantly together, attending the same school
and indulging in the same pastimes.
Mr. de Maurian relates with much amusement that, when he was about eleven
years of age, he would frequently find Paul playing chess with his
grand-father, Mr. Lecarpentier. Paul was of diminutive stature, and, in
order to bring him up to the level of the table, it was necessary to place
a couple of large books in the chair. In this position, Mr. de Maurian
said, Paul would sit for hours, poring over the games with his
grandfather. At that time, Mr. de Maurian says, it was a matter of wonder
to him how the pair could take such great interest in a game which to him
presented no feature of apparent amusement. He ascertained from Paul
sometime after this period that the latter gave his grandfather the odds
of a rook, and it was seldom the old gentleman won a game.
In 1853, the boys were attending Spring Hill College, near Mobile, Ala.
and Charles was taken sick. Whilst recovering in the infirmary of the
college, time hung very heavily, and, in order to relieve the tedium, Paul
offered to teach him the game of chess, which Charles could not see any
interest in a few years before when he saw Paul almost daily playing with
his grandfather. He accepted Paul's offer, and thus learned the rudiments
of the game from the future great player. It is very probable that he is
the only person to whom Paul Morphy taught the moves, and it is certainly
a unique distinction to be the only living being who learned the game from
its greatest exponent.
Charles from the very outset developed a keen interest in the game, and
under the tutelage of his friend Paul made rapid progress. Their first
match was at the odds of the queen, which contest Paul won by one game.
The next match was at the odds of rook and four moves!- won by Paul. Then
followed a match at the odds of rook, pawn and two moves, won by Paul.
After this, as Charles developed and the odds became too formidable for
even the Great Wizard of the board, they played at the odds of rook, pawn,
and move. They played a match in the next progression at the odds of rook
and knight, which was also won by Paul, but by a narrow majority; and
then, by gradual, easy stages as Charles became more and more proficient,
they arrived at the odds of knight, which odds the invincible Paul
continued to yield his friend to the very last. Their last match at the
odds of knight terminated in favor of Mr. de Maurian, and Paul told him
then that he was too strong for the knight odds. It was their intention to
play at the odds of pawn and two moves; but Fate, that stern arbiter who
knows no distinctions, willed it otherwise. It is very probable, although
not absolutely sure, that the last game of chess Paul Morphy ever played
was with his lifelong friend; and, if it could be surely established as a
fact, it would be a most beautiful conclusion of the chess career of the
world's greatest chess player.
The first chess book Mr. de Maurian read was Chess for Winter Evenings by
Prof. H. R. Agnel, a book which has instructed and amused thousands of
Caïssa's votaries all over the world. His next book was The Chess Player's
Companion by Howard Staunton. An opinion of Mr. de Maurian concerning this
book may be appropriately mentioned here. He considers it one of the
finest collections of games in existence, and the instruction contained in
it not surpassed by any similar publication whatever. The book, however,
is not well known, strange to say, and is not therefore properly
Mr. de Maurian's first participation in a tournament was in 1858, when he
won first prize in the tourney of the New Orleans Chess Club. Since that
time he has participated in various local contests; but has never engaged
in a public contest outside of his native city. His standing as an amateur
player of the highest class has been established and maintained for half a
century; but during the past twenty years he has gradually retired as an
active player. His interest in the game, however, continues unabated. It
is the opinion of the writer of this sketch, formed many years ago after
meeting with many of the strongest Southern players, that Mr. de Maurian
is, Paul Morphy alone excepted, the very finest and best chess player the
South has ever produced. In courtesy and all the little refined amenities,
he is the ne plus ultra of a gentleman. Pity it is, there are so few like
Many examples of his play may be found in Geza Maroczy's book, Paul
Morphy; Sammlung der von ihm gespielten Partien, published by Veit
& Co., Leipzig, 1909. This book contains the last games he played with
Paul Morphy, and the reader may gain a fair idea of his strength by
playing over these games. Mr. de Maurian has met on even terms such
masters as Steinitz, Zukertort, Capt. Mackenzie, Tschigorin and others who
have visited New Orleans, and he has acquitted himself in these contests
with great credit; but he has always modestly refrained from blowing his
trumpet, although he had ample cause to do so if inclined. Let it be
remembered that these successes against masters of world-wide fame were
even terms, and then recall the fact that Mr. de Maurian never played with
Paul Morphy at less than a knight odds, and it will be better understood
why Mr. de Maurian is of the unalterable opinion that Morphy was head and
shoulders above them all, like Saul of Tarsus was among his fellows.
In 1869 Mr. de Maurian and Paul Morphy played their last series of games,
all at the odds of knight. Thirty-nine games were played, and it is almost
certain that the last of these games is the "Swan Song" of Paul Morphy, as
he was never known to play another; and in the circumstances which then
surrounded him, Morphy could not have been induced to play with any one
but his boyhood friend.
These games were played in four series, and their successive results were
First series, Morphy 6;de Maurian 3; drawn 2.
Second, " "
3; " "
3; " 0.
" " 7:
" " 10; "
Fourth, " "
0; " "
4; " 1.
These games are not in the ordinary collection of Morphy's games.
Mr. de Maurian has long been known as a chess student of vast erudition,
and his contributions to the literature of the game in the ways of essays
and notes have been so numerous and valuable that they would make a large
volume; but he has never written a book. His work has been one of pastime
and pure love of the game. He first edited a chess column in the New
Orleans Delta, a newspaper of this city during 1857-58, and has from time
to time made contributions concerning the game to various city
publications. He was a co-editor and one of the originators of the chess
column in the New Orleans Times-Democrat , begun in February, 1883,
and for many years contributed regularly to that still current column. He
was also one of the founders, and was the first president, of the New
Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club.
He was the owner of an extensive chess library, and, as may be readily
inferred, it contained many rare and valuable volumes. This library he
presented to the Howard Library, of New Orleans, several years ago. Among
the books is an autograph copy of Morphy's Games, which Herr J. Löwenthal
presented to Paul Morphy and which was presented by the latter to Mr. de
Mr. de Maurian was married on February 26, 1862, to Miss Marie
Meffre-Rouzan, and, as his wife is still living, the pair will celebrate
their golden wedding in a few months hence. May God long spare them.
Since 1890, Mr. de Maurian has resided in Paris, coming to the Crescent
City every two years, and spending the winter there.
In conclusion, the reader may be told that Mr. de Maurian has all his life
avoided ostentation of any kind, and it was only with the greatest
reluctance that he consented to allow the writer, as an old friend, to
write something about him, strongly admonishing against "laying it on too
thick". This itself is a pointed indication of the modest character of the
He entrusted his old friend with a very delicate undertaking, and, in
coming to the end, the writer realizes that, as stated in his exordium, he
has but essayed the impossible task of painting a lily.
Many competent critics pronounce this the best of the 1869 series:
[There follows a Morphy-Maurian game at
knight odds annotated by Reichhelm.]
WilhelmThe2nd further adds that Maurian died on Dec. 2, 1912, just a
bit over a year after this article was published. His obituary was in the
American Chess Bulletin was basically the same as the one form the
New Orleans Times-Democrat, which in itself was based on the
above article. However the American Chess Bulletin obituary contains the
"...he [Maurian] soon grew strong enough to have the odds of a Knight
only - and on these terms he and Paul Morphy played to the very end.
Apropos this last, Mr. Maurian was wont to relate, modestly, of
course, as was always his way, but humorously, too, how at the Paris
congress of 1867, the late Herr Rosenthal, then the French champion
and one of the leading masters in the grand tourney, had announced
that, inasmuch as Morphy had given the New Orleanian the odds of
Knight, he (Rosenthal) could yield him the half-Knight, i.e., the
games being alternately at Knight-odds and on even terms. Imagine the
surprised chagrin of the confident Frenchman when the resulting match
of fourteen games was won by Mr. Maurian, who had scored all the
Knight-odds parties and the majority of the even term-ones!" (American
Chess Bulletin, Jan.1913, page 11)