THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                       Paul Morphy's childhood

 

 A lot is known about Paul Morphy's childhood, and a lot of it is still a mystery.
Much of what we know, we have learned from Charles A. Maurian, Morphy's childhood and life-long friend.
Many articles and interviews appeared in the New Orleans Times-Democrat and in the New Orleans Picayune.
We also have Eugene Rousseau, the strongest New Orleans player after Morphy and a close friend, to thank for insight,
as well as Judge James McConnell.

Maurian tells us:  "it's a well known fact that Paul was a chess genius when he was barely nine years old".

Morphy himself told Charles Stanley, at the American Chess Congress, that he had attended (at age 8) the Stanley-Rousseau chess match of 1845 (this match supposedly determined the first American chess champion) and that his Uncle Ernest acted as Rousseau's second.

Maurian gives us our earliest picture of Paul playing chess:

On a balmy summer afternoon Judge Morphy and his brother Ernest were seated on the back porch, which overlooked the long yard, playing chess. The game had bee a particularly interesting one, and lasted several hours, with the result that both armies were sadly reduced, though apparently still of equal strength. The Judge's king seemed in an impenetrable position and Mr. Morphy, after vainly checking and checking, wiped his perspiring brow and remarked that the game was a certain draw. Judge Morphy smilingly agreed with him and the pieces were swept aside to be reset for another trial. Now, little Paul, hardly out of skirts, had been an interested spectator to the closing stages of the drawn battle, and while the men were being replaced he astonished his elders by saying: "Uncle, you should have won that game."

Judge Morphy and Ernest Morphy looked at the boy and the former asked, "What do you know about it, Paul?" Paul, with the assurance of a born genius, asked leave to set the pieces in the final position, and, just to humor him, his father consented.  The boy faithfully and accurately arranged the men; and. then studying the board for only a moment, leaned forward and said: "Here it is: check with the Rook, now the King has to take it, and the rest is easy." And sure enough it was. The child had seen mate in an apparently impossible position, and the Judge and his brother simply stared at him, hardly able to express themselves in words.

 

In 1846, before the age of nine... The Evening Post relates this story:


Gen.Winfield Scott (famous hero of the Mexican War and first Commander-in-chief of the Union forces during the American Civil War) had many acquaintances there (at a chess club on Royal St. see note), some of them quite intimate, and knowing the habits of the members he repaired to their very comfortable rooms within a few hours after reaching the city. It may be said to have been one of his vanities as well. He was in the front rank of amateurs in his day....he turn to Chief Justice Eustis and asked whether he could play a game of chess in the evening...."I want to be put to my mettle!" "Very well," said Justice Eustis, "We'll arrange it. At eight o'clock tonight, if that will suit you."
At eight o'clock, dinner having been disposed of, the room was full. Gen. Scott, a towering giant, was asked to meet his competitor, a small boy of about 10 (actually, he was eight and a half) and not by any means a prepossessing boy, dressed in velvet knickerbockers, with a lace shirt and a big spreading collar of the same material.
At first Gen. Scott imagined it was a sorry jest, and his tremendous dignity arose in protest. It seemed to him that his friends had committed an incredible and unpardonable impertinence. Then Justice Eustis assured him that his wish had been scrupulously consulted; that this boy was....quite worthy of his notice, So the game began with Gen. Scott still angry and by no means satisfied. Paul won the move and advanced his Queen's rook's pawn. In response to the General's play he advanced other pawns, Next he had two knights on the field; then another pawn opened the line for the Queen, and at the tenth move he had the General checkmated before he had even begun to develop his defense. There was only one more game. Paul Morphy, after the sixth move, marked the spot and announced the movement for the debacle - which occurred according to schedule - and the General arose trembling with amazement and indignation. Paul was taken home, silent as usual, and the incident reached the end.
The few survivors of that era still talk of Paul Morphy's first appearance in public, but only by hearsay. Gen. Scott lived to wonder that should have ever played with the first chess genius of the century, or for that matter, of any other century.

 

From the New Orleans Times-Democrat :


...Well do we remember seeing him (Morphy) from the street playing chess with his grandfather, Mr. Le Carpentier, in the latter's counting room, situated in the lower story of his residence. The boy was small, and the ledgers or other of grandpa's commercial books had to be piled under him to enable him to sit at the required height to the table; and when we thus saw him we did not know, but learned afterwards, that the grandson was all the time giving grandpa the odds of a rook and beating him like Old Harry.

 

In 1850, Paul played the Hungarian master, Johann Jacob L÷wenthal and, while there has been some confusion about the results, it's generally believed that Morphy won all three games. Some believe one game was drawn. From Bretano's Chess Monthly:


Paul, he says, was a little fellow and stood up to the table. Mr. Morphy and his brother, Judge Morphy, the father of Paul, and Rousseau, were lookers-on. Lowenthal was one of the most noted and scientific players in the world, and a finished, courteous gentleman. He at first supposed that the game would be a bagatelle, but Mr. Morphy told me that as he, Lowenthal, got into the game and felt Paul's force, his startled look and upraised brows after each move of Paul's was perfectly ludicrous or as Mr. Morphy in his French vernacular expressed it, comique.




[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1847.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Morphy, Alonzo"]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 Qh4+ 4. Kf1 Bc5 5. d4 Bb6 6. Nf3 Qe7 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. Qd3 c6 9. Bxf4 d5 10. exd5 O-O 11. d6 Qd8 12. Re1 Re8 13. Ng5 Rxe1+ 14. Kxe1 Qe8+ 15. Kd2 Be6 16. Re1 Nbd7 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Rxe6
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1848.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Morphy, Alonzo"]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 f5 3. exf5 Nf6 4. Nc3 d5 5. Nxd5 Bc5 6. Nxf6+ Qxf6 7. d3 Bxf5 8. Nf3 Bg4 9. Bd5 c6 10. Be4 Nd7 11. O-O h6 12. c3 O-O-O 13. b4 Bb6 14. a4 a6 15. Qb3 Bxf3 16. Bxf3 g5 17. Be3 g4 18. Bxg4 Bc7 19. Bf3 Rhg8 20. Be4 Rg4 21. f3 Rg7 22. b5 axb5 23. axb5 Nb6 24. bxc6 Rdg8 25. Rf2 Qd8 26. Ra8+ Bb8 27. Bxb6 Rxg2+ 28. Rxg2 Rxg2+ 29. Kxg2 Qg5+ 30. Kh1 Qc1+ 31. Bg1
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1849.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Morphy, Edward"]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 d6 5. O-O Nf6 6. d4 exd4 7. cxd4 Bb6 8. h3 h6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Be3 Re8 11. d5 Bxe3 12. dxc6 Bb6 13. e5 dxe5 14. Qb3 Re7 15. Bxf7+ Rxf7 16. Nxe5 Qe8 17. cxb7 Bxb7 18. Rae1 Ba6 19. Ng6 Qd8 20. Re7 {...}
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1849.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Rousseau, E."]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 f5 4. d3 Nf6 5. O-O d6 6. Ng5 d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. Nc3 Nce7 9. Qf3 c6 10. Nce4 fxe4 11. Qf7+ Kd7 12. Qe6+ Kc7 13. Qxe5+ Qd6 14. Qxd6+ Kxd6 15. Nf7+ Ke6 16. Nxh8 exd3 17. cxd3 Kf6 18. b4 Be6 19. Re1 Bg8 20. Bb2+ Kg5 21. Re5+ Kh6 22. Bc1+ g5 23. Rxg5 {...}
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1850.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Morphy, Ernest"]
[Result "1-0"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O Bxc3 8. Nxc3 dxc3 9. Ba3 d6 10. Qb3 Nh6 11. Qxc3 Qf6 12. e5 dxe5 13. Rfe1 Bd7 14. Rab1 O-O-O 15. Ba6 Na5 16. Rec1 Bc6 17. Qxa5 bxa6 18. Qxa6+ Kd7 19. Rxc6 Qf5 20. Rxc7+ Ke8 21. Qc6+ Qd7 22. Rb8 Qxc6 23. Re7+ Kf8 24. Rxd8+ Qe8 25. Rdxe8# 1-0

 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1850.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Morphy, Ernest"]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. b4 Bxb4 6. c3 Bd6 7. d4 Qe7 8. Bg5 O-O 9. Re1 a6 10. Qc2 h6 11. Bxf6 Qxf6 12. Nbd2 g5 13. dxe5 Bxe5 14. Rac1 g4 15. Nxe5 Nxe5 16. Bb3 h5 17. Re3 h4 18. Rf1 Kg7 19. f4 Qb6 20. Rfe1 Ng6 21. g3 hxg3 22. hxg3 Rh8 23. Nc4 Qc5 24. e5 b5 25. Nd2 Rh3 26. Ne4 Qb6 27. Bxf7 Bb7 28. Nf2 Nxf4 29. Qf5 Rf8 30. e6 dxe6 31. Qxg4+ Kh8 32. Qxf4 Qc6 33. Qf6+ Kh7 34. Ne4 Rxf7 35. Ng5+ Kg8 36. Qxf7+ Kh8 37. Qf8#
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1850.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Lowenthal, J."]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. d3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Be6 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. d4 c6 11. O-O-O d5 12. Ne5 Bb4 13. Nxd5 Bxd5 14. Ng6+ Qe6 15. Nxh8 Qxe2 16. Bxe2 Kf8 17. a3 Bd6 18. Bd3 Kg8 19. Nxf7 Kxf7 20. f3 b5 21. Be4 Nd7 22. Rde1 Nf6 23. Re2 Re8 24. Bxd5+ cxd5 25. Rxe8 Nxe8 26. g3 g5 27. Kd2 Ng7 28. Ra1 a5 29. Kd3 Ke6 30. a4 b4 31. c4 Bc7 32. Re1+ Kd6 33. Re5 dxc4+ 34. Kxc4 Ne6 35. Rb5 Nf8 36. Rd5+ Ke6 37. Rc5 Kd6 38. d5 Kd7 39. Rc6 Bd6 40. Ra6 Ng6 41. Rxa5 Ne5+ 42. Kb5 b3 43. Ra7+ Kd8 44. f4 gxf4 45. gxf4 Nd3 46. Kc4 Nxf4 47. Rh7 Be5 48. Rxh6 Bxb2 49. Kxb3 Bg7 50. Rh7 Be5 51. a5 Nxd5 52. Rh5 Bxh2 53. Rxd5+ Kc8 54. Rb5 Kc7 55. a6
1-0


 


[Event "New Orleans"]
[Site "New Orleans"]
[Date "1850.??.??"]
[White "Morphy, P."]
[Black "Lowenthal, J."]
[Result "1-0"] 

1. e4 c5 2. f4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. d4 Bg4 6. Be2 Bxf3 7. Bxf3 Nf6 8. O-O Be7 9. Be3 cxd4 10. Bxd4 O-O 11. Nc3 Nc6 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Nxd5 Bxb2 14. Rb1 Bd4+ 15. Kh1 Rb8 16. c3 Bc5 17. f5 Qh4 18. g3 Qg5 19. f6 Ne5 20. fxg7 Rfd8 21. Be4 Qxg7 22. Qh5 Rd6 23. Bxh7+ Kf8 24. Be4 Rh6 25. Qf5 Qxg3 26. Rb2 Re8 27. Nf6 Re6 28. Rg2 Qxg2+ 29. Bxg2 Rhxf6 30. Qxf6 Rxf6 31. Rxf6 Ng4 32. Rf5 b6 33. Bd5 Nh6 34. Rf6 Kg7 35. Rc6 a5 36. Rc7 Kg6 37. Kg2 f6 38. Kf3 Nf5 39. Be4 Kg5 40. Bxf5 Kxf5 41. h4 Kg6 42. Rc6 Kh5 43. Kg3 f5 44. Rf6 f4+ 45. Kxf4 Bf2 46. Ke4 Bc5 47. Rf5+ Kxh4 48. Rxc5 bxc5 49. Kd5
1-0


 

 

Paul Morphy's School Days