THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                               Paul goes to France



On August 31 Morphy and Edge took the channel steamship to France, landing at Calais, from where they took a 10 hour train ride to Paris.

 Morphy was stricken with sea-sickness. Upon arrival in Paris on Wednesday, they ate and went to the Café de la Régence, not just for the chess history embodied there, but specifically to play Daniel Harrwitz , the Régence chess professional and one of the most renowned of the European players. Morphy and Edge didn't announce themselves but  just observed and learned Harrwitz was out of town and would return on Saturday. They returned the next day and Paul played some local talent including a match with M. Lecrivain at odds of a pawn and two moves, winning easily.
Saturday saw the arrival of Harrwitz. Morphy went against his usual custom of waiting to be challenged and asked Harrwitz if he would be interested in a match. Harrwitz acted reluctant to play a match but offered to play a casual game with Morphy. Harrwitz played the King's Gambit and won the game. He immediately accepted Morphy's challenge of a match.

They met on Sunday to make the arrangements. Harrwitz stipulated that there would be no seconds, an unusual condition in a match game, but Morphy wasn't concerned with details, only with chess. The stakes were set at 295 francs.

The match started on September 5th . Harrwitz won the first game. After the game, Harrwitz made an insolent and impertinent gesture by approaching Morphy, taking his hand and feeling his pulse! Turning to the crowd, he shouted, "Well, this is astonishing! His pulse does not beat any faster than if he had won the game!"

Harrwitz won the second game also. According to Edge Harrwitz started acting in a manner which said - "Oh, it takes very little trouble to beat this fellow."

Walking back to the hotel, Edge relates that after telling Morphy that those people who had placed bets favoring Morphy were becoming worried, Morphy replied, "How astonished all these men are going to be. Harrwitz will not win another game."

Did Morphy have his measure now? Or was Morphy setting him up all along. We'll never know for sure.

Morphy won the next three games.

Harrwitz's overbearing attitude changed. He pleaded ill health and requested a ten day postponement, which Morphy granted providing that upon resuming the match they play a game per day. However, Harrwitz continued to frequent the Café de la Régence during this time,  playing all comers...except Morphy. Even Staunton noted this in his chess column.

The match resumed on September 23. Morphy won that game. Harrwitz asked for, and was granted, another postponement.

During this postponement, Morphy gave his famous eight board blindfold exhibition at the Café de la Régence, a 10 hour ordeal, during which Morphy never left his chair nor partook in any food nor drink, yet appeared quite fresh and rested at the end.  His opponents were strong amateurs: Baucher, Bierwith, Borneman, Guibert, Lequesne, Potier, Preti  and Seguin.

Morphy won 6 and drew 2.

It must also be pointed out that there were about 50 players present in the room where the boards were - Morphy was in a separate room - and they gave advise freely to the contestants.... so, in effect, Morphy was battling the combined skill of 50 players.

Morphy had wanted to attempt 20 boards, but he was discouraged from doing so because of the belief that such a strain on one's mind would eventually cause irreparable harm.

(the games from Morphy's Paris Blindfold Exhibition )  

One of the contestants, Eugene-Louis Lequesne
(1815 - 1887), was a famous sculptor who was so impressed with Morphy that he created a marble bust of Morphy which was displayed at the Exposition des Beaux Arts, 1859

Morphy gave many blindfold demonstrations in his brief career. His own opinion of blindfold chess is a matter of curiosity. He totally dismissed it as mere entertainment, remarking, "It proves nothing."


The next morning, Sept. 28, Morphy awakened Edge at 7 o'clock and dictated the scores of all the blindfold games along with hundreds of variations .
On the 29th Morphy came down with a bad cold. He was to meet Harrwitz. Advised to postpone the match in his own favor, he said, "I would sooner lose a game than that anyone should think I had exhausted myself by a tour de force as some will do if I am absent at the proper hour.

(the match games of Morphy vs. Harrwitz)

Harrwitz demanded the games be continued in private. Wanting to get the match over, Morphy agreed despite the fact that it was Harrwitz who had insisted during the negotiations that the games be played in a public place. Game 7,  played on Sept. 29, was a draw and  "Morphy's feverish state told upon him, and he committed an oversight which lost him a rook, when within a move or two of winning. It was so stupid a mistake, that he immediately burst out laughing at himself. Harrwitz picked off the unfortunate rook with the utmost nonchalance, as though it were the result of his own combination, and actually told me afterwards, 'Oh, the game was a drawn one throughout'" - Edge.

Harrwitz stalled a few more days and upon resuming lost another to Morphy. Harrwitz then asked for another long postponement, but Morphy refused him this time. Harrwitz, on October 4th, sent a letter resigning the match.  Morphy  declined to accept the stakes and designated the winnings to be sent to Adolf Anderssen, his next opponent, who had to travel from Germany, to defray his expenses.



Paul waits for Anderssen