|THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY The Birmingham Meeting|
The match with John Owen took place the week during which L÷wenthal was recovering from his illness. After the L÷wenthal match ended, Morphy's attention again focused on Howard Staunton and he wrote Staunton a brief note:
August 14, 1858
During the wait for a reply, Morphy played a series of games with Henry Bird, winning 10, losing 1 and drawing 1.
Staunton replied that he needed an extension to finish preparing, but Morphy, growing weary of his vagueness and wanted a definite answer:
Staunton left for the Birmingham meeting without replying.
Originally, Staunton had declared that he wouldn't enter the tournament but would be present to play to consultation and at odds games. While his motives can't be presumed, it's note-worthy that once he arrived at Birmingham (and learned that Morphy wouldn't be playing), he signed up to play.
One irony of this situation lies in the fact that Morphy publicly offered the Birmingham tournament as the reason for his trip to England. But everything points to the idea that the expected match with Staunton (and with other players) was his main reason. For whatever reasons, his family (which prior to Alonzo's death didn't seem too concerned about the custom of stakes since Ernest and Charles Le Carpentier both not only put up stake money but advertised for matches with Paul for stakes) had expressly forbidden Paul to play for stakes before allowing him to leave for Europe. Paul apparently felt compelled to use the tournament as his reason for going abroad, knowing that once away from his family he could exercise relative freedom to do as he wished. But Paul himself was against the idea of stakes which he considered a devise that reduced the nobility of chess. In order to satisfy this conflict, he devised the logical custom of returning the winnings in some form, apparently concluding that if he didn't keep the money, then he wasn't playing for stakes. Now that the tournament arrived, Paul realized he couldn't participate. In order for the match with Staunton to come off, he had to avoid any potential games against the man, casual or tournament, which could, in turn, be used as a further excuse for Staunton not to play. According to Edge, no matter what the outcome of any game with Staunton, Staunton could twist the result to his favor: "I have beaten Morphy, what's the use of further contest? or He has beaten me, I am consequently out of play. It would be madness to attempt a set match."
Morphy had offered to give an eight board blindfold exhibition at Birmingham. He also planned to arrive too late to be pressured into entering the tournament. The tournament had begun on August 24 and Morphy arrived on the evening of August 26. He was met again by Thomas Avery see note who arranged with Morphy to play J. S. Kipping see note, a couple games of chess. Morphy won both games, both Evan's Gambits, first as black, then as white. Outside the blindfold games planned for the following day [at Queen's College August 27, 1858], these were the only games played by Morphy at the Birmingham meeting.
Several strong players were there for the tournament. Among them were St. Amant and Ernst Falkbeer, the famous Austrian player. The event was won by Lowenthal, who was still recovering for his terrible match loss to Morphy.
Morphy had a surreptitious reason for attending the Birmingham meeting. Knowing that many of the movers and shakers of British chess society would be in attendance, he wanted to use this opportunity to gain a firm commitment for Staunton before such witnesses. When he finally met with Staunton in the courtyard of the college where he was walking with Lord Lyttelton, Thomas Avery and Mr. Wills. Staunton immediately took the initiative, asking for more time, citing his urgent business and his publisher's pressure, etc.
Morphy, exasperated, asked, "Mr. Staunton, will you play in October, in November, or December? Chose your own time but let the decision be final."
Staunton replied, "Well, Mr. Morphy, if you will consent to the postponement, I will play you the beginning of November. I will see my publishers and let you know the exact date in a few days."
Thinking he had accomplished something tangible, Morphy set off to the rooms in Queen's College where the blindfold exhibition would take place.
Concerning Morphy's incredible memory, Falkbeer, in the June 1881 issue of Brentano's Chess Monthly, had this to say:
The match with Staunton postponed yet again gave Morphy a window of opportunity to travel to France where he wished to play Harrwitz in Paris and possibly Anderssen in Germany.