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Of course, one more thing to consider in this relativistic morass is this: allegedly one reason that Kasparov was able to achieve a 2851 rating is because there was such a large pool of top players that it allowed such peaks to be reached. So (even if there had been a rating system extant back then) Morphy possibly could not have gotten all that high simply because there weren't that many GM-equivalent opponents during his era of play.
Harrwitz was arguably stronger than Anderssen at that time, making his omission somewhat spectacular.
It would be a difficult argument to sustain, though. We might could say it was inconclusive but in Anderssen's favor since the only specific we have to go on is the skittles match between Anderssen and Harrwitz played when Anderssen visited the Café de la Régence, while waiting for Morphy to get over his stomach flu, and became re-acquainted with Harrwitz, who was also originally from Breslau. They got into a friendly argument over who had won the most games between them in the past and decided to settle it over the board. The result of their six games was Anderssen 3, Harrwitz 1 and 2 draws.
Mathematically, I agree with tonydal. Everytime you add a player the effect of every other player is added in, widening the distribution. Thus ratings of the top players will always get better and cannot be compared through time. All that is evident is the distribution.
Not to sidetrack, and I'm not a mathematician, but didn't just the opposite happen in the case of Claude Bloodgood in prison, skyrocketing his own rating with a very tiny pool?
Morphy would get slaughtered if he were to play anyone around the 2500 strength today.
He'd be rated 2638 if the time period was 1870, but this is 2010, roughly 140 years after his era. I think his rating would be only equivalent to that of a FM today.
I would like to thank NM OmarCayenne and WGM Natalia_Pogoninafor putting in their opinions to this thread, since as masters themselves they enrich this thread with their experience.
Morphy clearly dominated the best chess players of his era. This is due in part to his profound talent with respect to chess. Chess is a game of the mind. He would do exceptionally well in any era that he was groomed in and have a corresponding rating. Chess is unlike physical activities. Mark Spitz could not beat Michael Phelps due to Phelp's superior physical prowess, if they had the same birthday. The the Superbowl winning Green Bay Packers of the 1960's could not beat the Superbowl winners of today which would out weigh them by 50lbs each player and have a significant height and speed advantage as well. Physical prowess in chess is irrelevant. Morphy's mind if developed in any era would do very well indeed in the game of chess against those contemporaries and have a corresponding rating. This is what I would expect, for what it's worth.
Tbh your one of those people when i said "I hate it when people have no clue/proof to back up their random opinions of Morphy's rating."
But anyway by claiming Morphy's rating is only 2300 (fide master level), than you are claiming that a 2300 lvl player would be able to beat Morphy 1/2 the time? I find that unfathomable becuase it would mean that the average fide masters would be able to play 10 game blindfold simuls which for the moment, except a rare few fide masters could even dream of this feat, since i know a few Gms who have told me that they can only play about 3 blindfold games at the same time while playing at a relatively decent strength.
But the ability to give blindfold simuls is not an accurate measure of one's overall strength. Pogonina goes over this saying a FM could not calculate as well and perhaps not have as much understanding but because of the FM's studies, he will have the advantage of opening theory and endgame technique which will serve as compensation... although (she says) Morphy would still have the edge, and so be somewhere around the IM level.
I have to take back what I said early on... I've always thought of Morphy as being around 2400-2500 (based on what others have told me) and for whatever reason when reading the OP wasn't thinking that 2600+ was a strong GM.
All ratings are a product of the population they represent. If I went back in time and beat 100% of the players, but I stayed the exact same skill level, I'd have a 2900+ rating, but no real improvement over how good I am today. Conversely, if Morphy were alive today, he'd have to contend with the powerhouses like Kasparov, Carlsen, Anand, Topolov, etc., but would have a much larger rating pool. As various posters have already pointed out (above), even at a moderate level of skill, all of the factors in consideration would tend to support the argument in favor of Morphy having at least GM status, if not cracking the top 100 as well. That said, anyone who looks at the numbers and tries to predict rating down to the 1's digit, is probably not being very realistic at the process. It's like trying to estimate the distance to the moon by simple geometry, and saying you know it down to the foot.
Many promising young prodigies hit walls and don't make it to 2700s much less 2800. How can you look at Morphy who never took chess seriously, never studied, and played for only a few years, and guess his potential?
No one doubts that if Morphy were born today and studied from age 5 that he'd be world class level. We're talking about time machine Morphy, a direct comparison of playing strength.
monkey aren't as evolved as humans, but humans wouldn't be here without monkeys
It's like saying Napoleon sucks as a general because he didn't know how to deploy nuclear weapons. If you took a modern grandmaster and magically erased from his knowldege, all the advances in chess since 1850, and made him play against Morphy in a match without seconds; I think most mordern grandmasters would be in deep trouble.
I could not agree more; the reverse is also true in that with his natural abilities, if Morphy had access to today's databases, and training, he would likely crush most of today's super GM's. There is no one today who is dominating his opponents the way Morphy did in the 19th century. Ability and knowledge are two different things; knowledge can always be obtained if one is willing to put the time in, but it is Morphy's ability that would enable him to surpass most of today's competition.
You, and others, I think, make a subtle error here: It is simply not easy to say "if morphy caught up with theory then..." because this statement seems to omit/forget/not realise is the fact that catching up with such knowledge would take a bloody lifetime! its not simply the case of giving him a few books to merely 'thumb through'.
There is no answer, of course. It is perhaps useful to remember that Morphy played only a few games in what modern players find key developmental years, the teenage years. He was concentrating on his studies, and in fact only embarked upon his brief chess career because even though he had passed the bar, he could not practice law in Louisiana until he was 21.
So he was dominating the chess world at Carlsen's age - when Magnus is probably best, but only marginally better than the next four on the list - without the benefit of GM tutors and top level competition from 13-18. Dominating it to the extent that the unofficial world champion (there was no official title then) went to great lengths to avoid playing him.
But on the other hand, Morphy's personality would likely have prevented him from being a dedicated professional chessplayer, so even if magically reborn in the modern era, the argument is probably moot.
Sounds like a great plot for a zombie movie
i think this thread is missing the point.
the main point is: paul morphy is the friggin' man when it comes to chess!
Botvinnik also said Morphy would do well today.
If you got morphy, drummed him through the importance of positional chess, showed him some modern games, gave him time to train, gave him access to modern databases for openings and computer programs for training etc., made him read some of the literature, then so long as his will to play chess was still intact, he'd surely have the raw talent to be a superGM, but raw talent is not all you need, nor is committment, nor is brilliant tactics. So it's hard to imagine. He would have whooped me though.
Given that Morphy quit playing chess in his own day (for a lawyer career in which he wasn't terribly successful), it's difficult to see how he would submit to the lifestyle and training regime of a modern top GM.
Are you aware that Morphy, at 19, was one of the most booked-up players in the world? (He was fluent in four or five languages and had studied chess material in all of them.) Like Capablanca, Morphy was a prodigy, but unlike Capablanca, Morphy had a ferocious appetite for chess study. Why Morphy quit chess is a mystery, but as far as I know it had nothing to do with a reluctance to study, and there's no reason to think he'd have had any trouble with the training regimen of a contemporary GM. There's every reason to think he'd be a theory monster, like Kasparov.
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