Three hundred years ago there lived in Val di Noto a man of the noble
family of the Boi Di Noto, a brave, severe, and pious lord. In the battle
of Seminara, under Fernando De Andrada, he gained his spurs, and fought
afterwards in the battle of Garigliano, at the side of the great Gonsalvo.
Having lost one of his arms, he then retired to his seat, near the rivulet
of Ciane, now called La Tisma, where he brought up his only son, Paolo, in
the fear of the Lord.
A Bohemian woman had predicted of him, that he would fight
with kings, and conquer kings, and that he would conquer even the devil.
Not the realization of the prediction, but its possibility was deliberated
upon, and, under the belief that Paolo would become a pope and a saint, he
was brought up for the church. Paolo himself, however, formed different
plans. A strong youth, of lively temper, with a wonderful memory and vivid
imagination, he was never quiet, and his thoughts went far beyond the
sacred book, and the balcony encircled with vines, down into the valley of
La Tisma, to her junction with the Anapus, then still farther to the sea,
and even beyond the sea, into all the countries of the world.
Sometimes he lay meditating in a thicket of papyrus-trees,
and dreamed of the Pyramids on the Nile, the sources of which he followed
up to the countries of the Negroes, hoping to find the king to be
conquered, even if he were black, and from thence to the infernal regions
there could be but one step. At another time he found himself in the town
of Siragosa, where his father had a house, in the island of Ortygia, near
the beautiful stream Alpheus, now called Oc-chio della Zillica, and then
it seemed to him that the escape from any cloister was but child's play,
for this water conducted him across the sea to the very country of Greece.
Thus dreaming, PAOLO grew up to adolescency.
" If the boy could but sit still," pondered the father,
and he thought he found in the game of Chess, which at that timestood in
high repute, especially in Sicily, the proper inducement. He was near the
goal, but nearer that of all hopes—a future and better life. Soon after
the first sorrow at the loss of his father had passed, the young eagle
tried his pinions.
Neither in Siragosa nor the rest of Sicily could he find
an adversary worthy of him; although two very strong players, Arimini and
Branci lived in Palermo, and Don Mattea Li Genchi in Termino, had a
He therefore fixed his regards upon Spain, where Ruy Lopez
stood in high honour with King Philip ; but before going there, he went to
Leonardo da Cutri, called Il Puttino, who had conquered Ruy Lopez, and
found him still of the same force. Henceforth the two were called the
Light and Lustre of the noble game.
Paolo then visited distant countries, and chance brought him even to
Hungary, and to the Turks, with whom he played while on horseback, from
memory, without seeing the board. The Turks of that time were less
stationary than those of our days, and, like the Arabs, were great
proficients in Chess; and many a pacha had his golden Chess-board, inlaid
with diamonds, hanging from his saddle-low. When among them, our Syracusan
played with several opponents at the same time. He was the first who,
without seeing the board, played three games at once, and at the same time
conversed with other parties upon different topics. In France, Catherine
de Medici, who was also an adept at Chess, showered favours upon him ; and
in Portugal he had the honour of having the King Don Sebastian for his
adversary, who soon afterwards perished, with his entire army, in Africa.
From Lisbon, Paolo went to Madrid, conquered both the
masters, Zerone and Lopez ; and although the Spaniards, who thought very
highly of Zerone's Chess work, would not recognize a difference between
the three players, King Philip himself decided the question. He gave
precedence to the Syracusan, not only before the two other masters, but
also before many of the proud knights of the Spanish court.
In Portugal, Paolo once won, in one day, 8000 scudis;
still, he never played for the sake of gain. He had ample means at his
command, and was always traveling ; and thus he refused a place of
considerable emolument that was offered to him in Madrid. An honorary
place, however, he might have accepted; and such a one, it seems, was
offered to him, as is proved by the autograph letter which the proud
Philip, the mightiest ruler of his lime in whose dominions the sun never
set, gave, in the year 1575, to our Syracusan, for Don Juan of Austria.
Paolo did not deliver this letter, but returned to Sicily,
and there wandered from town to town, from villa to villa, partly for his
own amusement, and partly for the sake of Chess. In vain he searched for
adversaries of his own stamp. Horatio Paterno, Baron di Biscari, was his
most successful opponent, and came nearest to him; to others he gave odds,
as Don Blasco Isfah, Baron di Siculiana; Antonio Luparello di Caltagirone,
and Giovanni Philip di Augusta. Besides these, many other masters are
named, but none could cope with the Syracusan. A stranger called one
evening upon Paolo, asked him to play a game, and beat him, but only by
means of sorcery, as Paolo clearly saw when he afterwards went through the
game. He determined at once upon following the stranger, whom he overtook
in Venice, where he found the senate and (he whole of the town in great
consternation. This stranger professed to be the King Don Sebastian who
was supposed to have perished in Africa, which put the republic in an
unpleasant position; besides, they had declared war with Parma and the
house of Braganza. The adventurer, among other proofs of his identity,
pretended to have been recognized by the Syracusan; but he, confessing to
a certain likeness between the stranger and the King, asked to play a game
of Chess, and armed with a consecrated rosary, and fortified by having
taken the sacraments, began the combat, which this time turned entirely to
his advantage. The false Sebastian sprang up in a rage and hastened away;
for the arts of the evil one were paralyzed, the impostor unmasked, and
the prophecy of the Bohemian woman verified.
Paolo Boi reached a happy old age. He not only overcame
Puttino, but as long as he lived he never found a master: he
held exclusively the sceptre of Chess.
When his hair was become white as snow, his body and mind
were yet strong and powerful; he still dressed in the style of young men
in the height of fashion, and had many peculiarities, but as many good
qualities. He was modest and generous, went every day to mass, often took
the sacrament, and always gave donations to the priests. His person was
well proportioned, his face handsome and lively, his conversation was
spirited, entertaining, and gay. His passion for traveling was ever the
same, and in some manner was the cause of his death. The Princess
Stigliano and her father, who both highly esteemed him, had invited him to
Naples; there he caught a cold when hunting, from the consequences of
which he died in his seventieth year. His body was buried in the church of
St. Francisco di Paolo; Prince Stigliano and many of the Neapolitan
nobility followed him to the grave.
Thus lived and died Paolo Boi, the Syracusan, the European
champion of the noble game.
Less varied and less romantic, but not less active and
less chivalrous, appears the as yet short career of the modern Paolo, the
transatlantic champion of our noble game, Paul Morphy. It is true he has
not as yet encountered all the different masters of world-wide fame, but
their number has also greatly augmented; nor is he, like his predecessor,
restricted to one hemisphere, for he has crossed the ocean in order to
challenge the celebrities of the other; and although, according to the
customs of the times, princely opponents were denied to him,* he has (what
in our times is considered far more), though scarcely of age, conquered
long-tried and victory-crowned magnates.
With daring, but justifiable confidence, he questioned the superiority of
the Old World over the New in regard to the noble game, and, not deterred
by the unwonted impressions of foreign nations and manners, he readily
undertook the practical solution of the question. Like the Syracusan, he
was not to find a conqueror, and but few equal to himself; like Paolo Boi,
he will henceforth in his more distant home hold an undisputed sceptre.
If his career appears more simple and sober, it is not his
fault, but that of time and circumstances. The activity of his person and
his gay amiability render him at least the equal of his predecessor in
chivalry; and the great advance Chess has made since in theory and in
practice, which requires, above all, long and profound study, makes his
merits the greater, especially when we consider his youth and his complete
knowledge of the theoretical part of the game, which, in our days, has
swelled to most voluminous dimensions.
Natural talent and innate genius, favoured by other happy
accidental circumstances, have directed his energies in the same channel
with the Syracusan. Like Paolo Boi, he received his first instructions at
the well-disposed hands of his father, and, like the former, the best
opponents of his native town soon ceased to be a match for him.
What may have been the happy day-dreams of the boy, when, twelve years
old, sitting in the Jefferson Academy at New Orleans, in the midst of his
studies, he called to mind his having beaten the day before the well-known
master, Eugene Rousseau, or his uncle, Mr. Ernest Morphy? What
presentiments of future triumphs must have passed through his mind when he
gathered his first laurels from the well-known Hungarian player, Herr
Lowenthal, while passing through his native town in the spring of 1850!
Then came a time of arduous study, of mastering all existing analytical
researches from the time he first entered Saint Joseph's College, in the
beginning of the year 1851, to his visit to the Great Congress of New
York, 1857, where he was to prove his acquirements before a large circle,
and lay the foundation-stone of his future fame.
We shall give his victorious career from that time in detailed accounts,
tell of his performances in New York and in New Orleans, and follow him in
his great Chess voyage over the Atlantic and through England to the
Continent. We shall conclude with a complete exposition of his peculiar
style of play, and with its influence upon the future theoretical
perfection of the game, illustrating the whole with games really played by
As to his personal merits apart from Chess, his career,
which has scarcely begun, offers but scanty matter.***
He has said of himself, that his life was as yet too short to give scope
for a biography—that the whole could be given in one sentence:
"Learned Chess at ten, conquered in the tournament at the age of twenty."
Born in Louisiana on the 22nd of June, 1837, he descends,
by his father's side, from a Spanish, by his mother's side, from a French,
family. This would, perhaps, explain the rare union of the two qualities
of French vivacity and Spanish grace which we find blended in him. Who
could fail to find out in his games this great vivacity ? and still all
eyewitnesses extol not only the elegance of his personal bearing and
graceful way of moving the pieces, but also his remarkable coolness and
collectedness in the most difficult positions and most changeful phases of
the game. At the moment of victory, however, his whole appearance becomes
enlivened, and whilst his shining eyes run over the different squares, he
explains with rapidly flowing words the blunders which have been made,
whilst with quickly moving fingers he' reproduces mentioned positions.
Of low and unsightly stature, and of darkish hue, only
those that can see below the surface of things will recognize in his
shining eyes, developed forehead, and amiable bearing, the extraordinary
being. Of a perfectly harmless character, of a truly noble and liberal
(taken in its classical sense) disposition, he possesses that chivalrous
spirit which, being founded on moral consciousness, allows no infringement
on one's dignity and self-respect, but, in opposition to arrogant
self-conceit, is in complete accordance with bashful modesty. This pure
and beautiful personal integrity will, probably, through the love of the
noble game, not only be preserved, but even be brought to a still higher
standard of perfection.
The first rudiments of Chess he learnt at the age of ten
years from his father, and after a year and a half he was enabled to beat
not only his father, but the far stronger brother of his father, Mr.
Ernest Morphy. He also won the majority of the many games he played with
Eugene Rousseau in 1849 and 1850; and of the three games he played with
Herr Lowentha;, he won two and drew one. During his sojourn in Spring
Hill, near Mobile, in Alabama, where he was a pupil in the College of St.
Joseph till the year 1854, he played with decided advantage against two
strong players, James M'Connel and Judge A. B. Meek. Afterwards he studied
law, and during the preparation for his future profession of a lawyer, he
was called to New York to the tournament by the proclamation of the great
Congress, where his genius procured him the highest prize and honours.
This triumph seems to have awakened in him the full consciousness of his
powers, and the concomitant wish for similar success and reputation in the
Old World. Not caring about distance or foreign manners, he has daringly
crossed the seas, entered confidently unknown Chess circles, and, like his
predecessor Paolo, with chivalrous feelings expecting chivalrous
treatment, he encountered renowned and redoubtable antagonists, and, by
defeating them, founded for himself a secure and world-wide reputation.
Thus he, more than any other, is decked with the chivalrous virtues of the
Italian master; and we may, in perfect truth, recognize without hesitation
the following parallel:
THE TWO PAULS
The first Paul took his course, three hundred years agone,
Across the sea to meet the sturdy knights of Spain ;
In mental arras arrayed, with true Chess armour on,
A score of haughty foemen by his brave hand were slain.
The second Paul o'er ocean's thousand leagues has sailed,
To joust with the chieftains of all the eastern world ;
History shall tell what bold foes before him paled,
And how from lofty thrones the kings of Chess be hurled.
* [If we are not mistaken, he has had
several princely opponents, amongst others, his Royal Highness Prince
Charles of Brunswick. —Translator.]
** [This is scarcely to be reconciled with what has been said in the
former page as to his chivalry equaling at least that of Paolo Boi.—
*** [This is scarcely to be reconciled with what has been said in the
former page as to his chivalry equalling at least that of Paolo Boi.—