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Paul Morphy's Personal Chess Set

"Chess Life," Aug, 5, 1954


     The lady who first owned Paul Morphy's personal chess set was Morphys' friend, Léona Queyrouze who, in her essay, the First and Last Days of Paul Morphy, wrote:
      "But on the marble table stood the vast chess-board used by his father, long before his birth; a veritable heirloom, the battlefield upon which he achieved his earliest victories and triumphed over Löwenthal and other great Chess players. It was open and covered with chess-men; and in the midst of it stood the Black King, checkmated.
     Beside the board was the plain, square mahogany box, lined with faded green cloth, and in which the pieces were carefully replaced every night. Yes, the King of chess players was the antagonist of Paul Morphy, the only adversary worthy of Paul Morphy. That same chessboard and those same chess-men were given to me, after his death, by his mother and sister; and they saw, as they presented that token of affection to me saying:
     "You have always understood Paul, however peculiar he seemed to be; and he was very fond of you. We think that you have a right to what he liked best."
     With reverence I laid the pieces back into the box, and turned the little key which his fingers had so often touched. Whenever I gaze on that scarred board, worn out by innumerable contests, and on the castles with their shattered battlements, and the crownless Kings, I feel as though to lay my hand upon them were a sacrilegious act."

C.G. Fleming mentioned in the article was Cletus G. Fleming, Jr., a 1953 civil  engineering graduate of Tulane, where he played baseball, and later  member of the board of advisors at the Tulane University School of Engineering. He also has possession of the replica (created by New Orleans sculptor, Achille Perelli for the N.O.Chess and Checkes Club ) of the smaller version of Lequesne's bust of Morphy which was in the home of Edward Morphy.



Comments


  • 10 months ago

    alleenkatze

    Interesting articles concerning PCM's chess set and even more curious that the chess-men were described as "club size Staunton pattern".

    Certainly not the same pieces used during his many games against father and uncle or contest against Herr Löwenthal in 1850, although the board is attributed as used in his youth.

    Perhaps these pieces were a token acquired in London during 1858-59 instead of the desired Staunton match victory that surely would have been. 

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    "I think Batgirl has a crush on Paul morphy..."

    You're right, I do. So much so, I spell his name with a capital M.

  • 2 years ago

    snakehandler

    I think Batgirl has a crush on Paul morphy...

  • 2 years ago

    Grobzilla

    We appreciate any and all research you do on the arcane bits of our holy pursuit. Thanks, Batgirl!

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    I really have no idea.  I think Mr. Fleming is still among the living. I couldn't imagine him parting with it. I would think he must have photographed it, but I've never seen a photo.

  • 2 years ago

    Grobzilla

    So, does Fleming still have it?

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    I guess the owner shall forever remain unbehooved.

  • 2 years ago

    epoqueepique

    @Slous :" movie bios usually disappoint me because it's hard to show someone's life in two hours without resorting to the greatest hits of their timeline ("Madame Curie!  You've discovered uranium!") "

    Especially when the film gets it wrong ! Marie Curie isolated radium, not uranium... :)

  • 2 years ago

    Gaffneychess

    @slous

    Who the hell cares about most of the movies that come out?  If it's a compelling story people will watch.  Those are the best kinds of movies; ones that you don't think you would watch but the story grabs you and won't let go.

  • 2 years ago

    konhidras

    Is there a picture of it available? If there is please post thanks.

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Man, I wish I had that chess set. It would be like having the holy grail of chess. 

  • 2 years ago

    epoqueepique

    Thanks for another interesting chess story, batgirl!

  • 2 years ago

    epoqueepique

    Grobzilla I agree - With a little soft polishing the pieces would have shone the right way... A shame..

  • 2 years ago

    slous

    @dzindzifan  Well, I've thought about a Morphy movie.  There are three main issues to me: first, movie bios usually disappoint me because it's hard to show someone's life in two hours without resorting to the greatest hits of their timeline ("Madame Curie!  You've discovered uranium!") which unfortunately leaves no room for quiet moments which are often the most defining of someone's life; second, a miniseries that revealed the world of mid-19th century chess would be better suited to showing Morphy (a whole movie could be devoted to his 1st European trip, alone); and third — who the hell, apart from a sliver of chess fans, would care?

  • 2 years ago

    dzindzifan

    @slous Excellent!  What a great movie this would make ... something like the life story of Bobby Fischer with sort of a Morphy background story in parallel ... kind of like the Godfather Part 2 where you see the old / new in comparison.

  • 2 years ago

    slous

    Just in case you were secretly hoping for a comment only tangentially on-topic, I've always thought the best actor to portray Morphy onscreen would have been Matthew Broderick around the time he made War Games or Brighton Beach Memoirs.

  • 2 years ago

    Grobzilla

    Cool story.

    I personally wouldn't have cleaned them unless the pieces were in danger of dry rot and needed sealing, but very cool nonetheless.

    Long Live Morphy!

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