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Ernest Morphy, Chess King of New Orleans

  • batgirl
  • | Jul 17, 2013
  • | 4373 views
  • | 16 comments

     Ernest Morphy was Paul Morphy's uncle.
     Ernest Morphy was probably also young Paul's greatest admirer. Besides sending Paul's games (and his only chess problem) to various publications, in Europe as well as in America, Ernest also tried to arrange matches with the best chess players in America, though to no avail.

     "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" in its August 30, 1856 issue wrote:

CHESS CHALLENGE EXTRAORDINARY.
            --- Mr. Ernest Morphy of Moscow, Claremont County, Ohio, [Ernest lived in Ohio for a period of time] a very strong player and one of the most masterly analysts in this or any country, has written a private letter to a friend in this city, saying that he is desirous to get up a match, between the 1st and 31st of January next in New Orleans between his nephew, Paul Morphy, (as he writes, incontestably the superior of himself or Rousseau and who holds the sceptre of chess in New Orleans) and Mr. Stanley or Marache (and we presume any other players in the country) for $300 a side -- $100 to go to the loser (if Paul wins) to pay the expenses of the journey to New Orleans. Mr. James McConnell, attorney at law, New Orleans or Paul Morphy himself, may be written in regard to it. The proposition emanates from  Mr. Ernest Morphy,  who subscribes the $50 towards the purse.
 

 

     Below are some excerpts from several publications in 1874, the year Ernest Morphy died, while further down is an excerpt from a 1873 edition of the Dubuqe Chess Journal which featured Ernest Morphy and discusses his book, "Logic of Openings," which he apparently never finished before his death the following year. That article ended with 6 games of Ernest Morphy, 5 of which I had never seen referenced before and are probably not to be seen elsewhere. The one game, the first one listed, is a commonly seen game between Dr. A. P. Ford and Ernest Morphy. The reason for this is that Philip Sergeant, in his book "Morphy's Games of Chess,"  erroneously presented it as a Paul Morphy blindfold game.

     Before Paul usurped the throne, Ernest had been referred to as the "Chess King of New Orleans"  [see J. Löwenthal's "Morphy's Games of Chess," p.3]. It's only fitting that we first look at several games between the nephew and uncle. -

 

 




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 ___________________________________________________

Ernest Morphy     

 Ernest Morphy  

"Westminster Papers: A Monthly Journal of Chess, Whist, Games of Skill,"  1874.

   The death of Mr. Ernest Morphy, uncle of Paul Morphy, and himself a distinguished Chess player and analyst, is announced in the American Chess columns. Mr. Morphy died on the 7th March last, in the 67th year of his age. The following brief sketch of the deceased gentleman's career was contributed by his friend, General Tillson, to the Chess Record of Philadelphia.
   American Chess will miss, and mourn, a noted votary—Ernest Morphy, who died at his residence at Quincy, Illinois, on the 7th of March last. Mr. Morphy was born at Charleston, S.C., 22nd Nov. 1807.

   His father, Don Diego Morphy, was the Spanish Consul at that port, his mother was a French lady. In 1809 his father was transferred to New Orleans, where he permanently remained, and the subject of this sketch was raised and resided there until 1854, when he removed to Cincinnati, O., and two years after to Quincy Ill. His earlier family was Irish, the name of an ancestor, Murphy—a captain in the Spanish Royal Guard—having been changed to Morphy by Castilian tongues, and this spelling was retained. For over forty years Morphy's name has stood among the first in the Chess world. The compeer of Stanley, Rosseau [Rousseau], Schulten, Dudley, Kennicot, Sullivan, Turner, and all the leading players of the last generation. Second to Rosseau in his great match with Stanley, in 1843, for the American championship, he very nearly became the representative of Southern Chess, instead of Mr. Rosseau.  [Eugène Marsille Rousseau] The latter, it is well known, was enfeebled by sickness, below his proper force, which was so evident in the practice games played by him with Morphy that friends urged the substitution (their best play being so equal), but Mr. R.'s pride would not consent. The same result might have followed, but not so decisively. No player has left a better record of good games—of, at all times strong, accurate, even high play. Rarely what is called brilliant, he could dare, if he chose, and when he did, he most admirably, in play, adhered to a favourite maxim, " Never dodge your own errors."  If you find a line of play defective, generally, far better to stick to it than attempt correction. It is like changing front in the heat of battle. Later in life his interest in Chess, which never abated, led him to the analysis of the game, in which department we doubt if the country possessed his superior.
   But space cannot be given for the mention of his merits as a player, and they are known beside. It is pleasure to speak of him as the finished, courteous, considerate gentleman. Never ruffled, never weary, it was as great a satisfaction to be beaten by him as to win. And in the more important bearings of life, he carried the same graceful and admitted claim to the title of a true and honest gentleman.  

 

 

"The City of London Chess Magazine," 1874.  ed. W. N. Potter

     Mr. Ernest Morphy, uncle of Paul Morphy, died suddenly, from an apoplectic stroke at Quincy, Illinois, U.S.A. on the 7th of March .... in his 67th year.  Praise of the deceased gentleman comes in from all quarters.  That he was a player of the first rank is well known in the Chess world, and he showed himself almost, if not quite equal to Rosseau [sic] as the representative of the players of the Southern states of America, but the transcendant abilities of his celebrated nephew threw all transatlantic Chess reputations into the sahde, and the deceased having nutured his relative's budding genius had, like others, to retire into the second place.  It is something to be a fine Chess player, it is much more to be a well conducted member of society, leading a stainless life, and taking part in every good work.  Such an [sic] one was Ernest Morphy, if we may give him credit to certain resolutions of respect passed upon the occasion of his death by his co-religionists (he was Roman Catholic) at Quincy. These resolutions will be found in extenso in the Dubuque Journal for April.

 

"Dubuque Chess Journal,"  April, 1874.

     Died at Quincy, Illinois, on the 7th of March, of apoplexy, ERNEST MORPHY. The following from a local newspaper expresses the universal grief of all who knew him:
     Alas! that he who penned the kind-hearted lines to us on the 28th of
     Feb., should ere eight days, have passed from earth forever away :

IN MEMORIAM
Resolutions of Respect at the Death of Ernest Morphy.

     A special meeting of the members of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, and various societies connected with the same was held on Sunday last, to take action in regard to the death of their lamented fellow member, Ernest Morphy. After appropriate remarks by the Pastor Father McGirr and others, the following resolutions were adopted:

   Resolved, That it is with feelings of the deepest sadness and regret this congregation mourn the death of their most valued friend and fellow-member, the late Ernest Morphy, a most worthy Christian gentleman, whose unassuming piety and edifying life has made him for many years a shining example for their imitation, and to whose munificent donations, wise counsels and faithful supervision they feel they are in a very large measure indebted for their present new church, and therefore eminently entitled to be enrolled among "those benefactors who have so laudably witnessed their zeal for the decency of Divine worship, and proved their claim to our most grateful and charitable remembrance."

   Resolved, That the various societies of this church, of which he ever was an active and zealous member, have lost in him a generous friend as well as a most worthy associate, whose vacant place can never be filled and whose memory will ever be most warmly cherished, and that as a mark of their respect they will attend the funeral in a body.

   Resolved, That the members of this congregation collectively tender their deepest and most respectful sympathies to the afflicted family of the deceased, earnestly beseeching in their behalf all the consolations
of Divine Providence in theirsad bereavement, and assuring them that the deep debt of gratitude they owe to his most liberal, long-continued and ever disinterested services in their behalf will never be forgotten by the people of St. Peter's congregation."

 

"Dubuque Chess Journal,"   1873.

     Ernest Morphy was born at Charleston South Carolina,, on the 22nd of Nov. 1807. His father was Don Diego Morphy, Spanish Consul for that port, and his mother, a French lady, nee Louise Peire, Two years later his father having been promoted to the more profitable consulate of New Orleans, removed
with all his family to the Cresent City.
   Ernest Morphy's powers as a chess-player were fully established about the year1840, by the publication of several of his games in the serials of that time. Since then he has contributed games and articles successively to "Le Palemede," "New York Chess Monthly,"  "La Nouvelle Régence,"  "Le Sphinx,"  and quite recently to "La Strategie."
   It is now a fact, belonging to the history of Chess in America, that in 1847 he had the honor of expounding the principles of the Openings to his nephew, Paul Morphy, who  so well profited by these lessons, that he soon defeated — one after the other - the three players then reigning supreme in the New Orleans Chess Club, Eugene Rousseau, Ernest Morphy and A. P. Ford.
   In 1854, Mr. E. Morphy left New Orleans sojourned two years in Ohio, and finally settled in Quincy, Illinois, where we believe, he intends to spend the remainder of his days in peaceful retirement.
   But who ever knew a true lover ot Caissa to indulge in complete repose? Through the interesting columns of the Chess Record, we find that the veteran is actually engaged in publishing the results of his mature reflections on the openings of our noble game. At his hands the subject is treated in a manner at once novel and inviting, for it does away with that great multitude of superfluous book digressions, which ouly serve to throw confusion into the analyses.
   His LOGIC OF THE OPENINGS straightway gives to the student a distinct appreciation of the resources, first, as the attacking party and, next — as to the defence when in the position of second player.
   Mr. Morphy has also introduced a great improvement on the old-fashioned notation of many writers; e. g.
                                         SIGNS FOR THE PIECES:
                                   Call
                                        K - King.            Q - Queen.
                                        B - K's Bishop.   b - Q's Bishop. 
                                        C - K's Knight.    c - Q's Knight.
                                        R - K's Rook.      r - Q's Rook.
                                        Signs for the moves:
                                      x means take     means check.
                                        Signs for the results
                                      = equal opening   >  better opening
                                      ad.  advantage     W  wins.
                                      m3   mates in three moves.
 

     He regards the above as being in fact the English Notation with the only salient difference of the sign C, instead of Kt, for the piece Knight; the old appellation -KNIGHT-  being retained . . . the sign C is appropriate since Cavalier is an English word synonymous with Knight, that it avoids the repetition of two K's to designate the King and the Knight; moreover that the sign C corresponds also to the Italian CAVALLO, to the Spanish CAVALLERO, to the French CAVALIER, to the Portuguese CAVALLEIRO, etc.

    According to private correspondence between Mr M. and ourself, it appears that the theoretical department is to be followed by Games, Notes and Synopses, a supplement designed to introduce numerous attacks and defences inconsistant with the plan of the LOGIC, but nevertheless of much interest to the proficient amateur, in that he may resort to them on certain occasions. For example he can depart from the COUP JUSTE whenever his "vis-a-vis" shall prove, even very slightly unequal to him either in invention, or depth of purpose, or again in coolness of nerve, all qualities so indispensible in the combinations of the middle game.
     We give a few of Ernest Morphy's games contested at different periods of his life.

 

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Comments


  • 9 months ago

    maturner

    Thanks for the article.

  • 9 months ago

    darkener

    Finally, some masters played 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 ...

  • 9 months ago

    batgirl

    !!

  • 9 months ago

    jetfighter13

    solved the mate in 6 its beautiful

  • 9 months ago

    chessdoggblack

    Never knew this chess history. However, thanks for the notes and games on chess in New Orleans. I am a native New Orleanian, now living in Houston, Texas. I have visited Paul Morphy's grave often and have seen chess pieces on his grave stone. After hurricane Katrina, I hope that they have not been washed away. I shall contact city officials to make sure that his burial location remains respected and those chess pieces remain there. New Orleans as well the state of Louisiana and its chess commuinity, I am sure, deeply appreciate your insightful article (batgirl) on his uncle Ernest Morphy and USA "World Chess Champion" Paul Morphy of New Orleans. Cool

  • 9 months ago

    adamstask

    great and interesting article. Neither Morphy nor Capa came out of nowhere; they both grew up in chess families. Thanks for the great article and games. 

  • 9 months ago

    DrFrank124c

    Most interesting article. Never knew about Ernest. 

  • 9 months ago

    LaurenceGlazier

    Fascinating article; as Mozart had his lesser-known father (composer Leopold), this great chess artist had a mentor in the family. Have been looking at Morphy games recently and it's good to see some more. Also interesting to see an early reference to Caissa.

  • 9 months ago

    Morphylike

    Thanks for a great article.  Did not know of Paul's uncle.

  • 9 months ago

    batgirl

    Wow. Good eyes!

    Yep, it's the very same Edward A. Dudley. He was from Kentucky where he played Lowenthal, but later moved to Quincy, Ill.  Ernest Morphy, coincidentally lived in Quincy, Ill.  Dudley was considered one of the strongest players in the US in his time.  Lowenthal said he was the strongest he encountered (until he met little Paul).

  • 9 months ago

    dashkee94

    Just one more question: is E.A. Dudley the "Col. Dudley of Kentucky" that Lowenthal claims convinced him (Lowenthal) of the soundness of the Ruy Lopez?  

  • 9 months ago

    batgirl

    Ernest Morphy was a sometimes contributor to several domestic and overseas chess publications and, as such, earned a certain degree of reputation in his day as both a player and a theorist.  As most people know, he was Rousseau's second in his ill-fated match with Stanley for the stature of best player in the US.  Almost know one knows that he was writing a book, especially one that offered such a different approach to chess notation. I find it very telling that someone who played the games given in the "Dubuque Chess Journal," someone regarded as one of the better American players and someone held in certain regard by foreign players, could be handled so effortlessly by young Paul Morphy.  It's a little revealing about the state of chess in the 1850s and the intimidating impression Paul's games must have made on the chess world.

  • 9 months ago

    epoqueepique

    Thank you again, batgirl, for another great article! I especially liked the new signs for pieces... Even in chess where the Queen is omnipotent, her side's pieces get the lower case letters ;))

  • 9 months ago

    upen2002

    Please be relevant, helpful & nice

  • 9 months ago

    dashkee94

    Great post!  Having only seen a handful of Ernest's games (and none pre-Paul), these examples shown here help to separate the two and give a better understanding of what happened in the Morphy household, and in a way to aid in the understanding the evolution of Paul's style--you can see the bloodlines.  Paul adored his father, but he seemed to play chess in a way to impress his uncle, and Ernest definitely had chops.  Thanks again, BG.  You know the way to a Morphy fan's heart.

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