Paul Morphy 1870
Morphy in his time was known for, among other things, his blindfold play, a skill he developed purposefully and gradually. Almost all chess players know of his famous blindfold simuls, particularly the 8-boards in Paris in 1858 and some know about his 8-board simul at Queen's College in Birmingham also in 1858 or his 8-board simuls at the London Chess Club and the St. George's Chess Club the following year, or even his 4-board simul at Philidelphia's Academy of Music for the benefit of the Mt. Vernon Fund or his 3-board blindfold exhibition in Cuba in 1864 during his return trip from Paris.
Here we are more concerned with Morphy's early interest in playing sans voir.
The first mention of Morphy playing blindfold when he beat his Uncle Ernest on his (Paul) 12th birthday, June 22, 1849, but not again until he played against Fr. Beaudequin at Spring Hill College in 1853.
On Oct. 10, 1857 during the American Chess Congress he played blindfolded against Louis Paulsen, as one of four players (the other three were sighted), who was giving a 4 board blindfold exhibition. Morphy handed Paulsen his only defeat. Paulsen later played against 5 boards in NYC, while on Oct. 20th, Morphy and Paulsen played two games against each other blindfolded in the High Bridge section of NYC with Morphy winning one and the other game abandonned. On November 19th Morphy beat Lichtenhein sans voir.
After the 1857 Congress, Morphy returned to New Orleans where, inspired by Paulsen, he developed his multiple blindfold game ability by playing two boards, then 3 boards in January.
New Orleans, January 25, 1858
Daniel W. Fiske, Esq.
My Dear Daniel,
From the moment of my arrival up to the present hour I have had,
as you may well imagine, but little leisure at my disposal. Even today
so much of my time is taken up that I can only hastily drop a line or two.
The New Orleans Chess Club is more flourishing than ever. It numbers
while I write more than thirty members, and ere another month will
have passed away, the number will have swollen to fifty or sixty.
The club now meets at the rooms of the Mercantile Library Association,
corner of Exchange Alley and Canal Street – the very heart of New
Orleans. I one night played two and on another occasion three
blindfold games simultaneously, all of which I won. The two rooms
were literally crowded, and the spectators much pleased and interested.
. . .
Your best friend,
In February and in March he played 4, 5, 6 and finally 7 boards on March 31st winning almost all of the games. It was announced that he would play 8 boards on May 2 but that seemed not to to have come to fruition.
While it's true that, according to Edge, Morphy once claimed, concerning blindfold chess, "It proves nothing," that doesn't seem to be his real conviction. In a letter to Willard Fiske dated May 30, 1858, Morphy wrote:
"I have seen no blindfold game of Paulsen's that justifies the
somewhat ridiculous praises that are bestowed upon him, and
while I admit that he may be able to play more games at one time
that I can, I claim that an impartial comparison between the
specimens of blindfold play we have both given to the public will
lend every true chess man to the conclusion that Paulsen is not
the American blindfold player."
...with his emphasis, as indicated by the underscores in his actual letter, revealing a certain jealousy of the attention Paulsen had been getting in that area.
The following game came from his 4 board exhibition in New Orleans on March 10, 1858.
"Of four games played on the 10th of March in three hours, he won
three and drew the fourth; in other cases he conquered all his four
opponents, which were chosen from among the strongest players of
the club" -Max Lange
"From New Orleans we learn that Mr. Morphy, upon his return home,
met with an enthusiastic reception from the players of the Crescent
City. He lately played, without seeing the boards, at one time two,
and at another three games at once, against strong players of the
New Orleans club. The rooms were literally crowded on both
occasions with interested spectators. Mr. Morphy won all the games,
and arrangements were in progress for another exhibition of the
same kind in which he was to play four blindfold games at once.
The New Orleans club had removed to larger and more convenient
quarters and was rapidly increasing in numbers."
- "Chess Monthly," March, 1858
"On the evening of Wednesday, March 10th, Mr. Morphy delighted
a large audience of New Orleans amateurs by playing four games
simultaneously without seing the boards. Since this occasion he
played at one time five and another six blindfold games simultaneously.
In the first case he won four and drew one game, and, in the second
instance, he came off conqueror over all his antagonists, who were
selected from among the best players of the city. These festivals of
Chess have drawn, on each occasion, throngs of spectators."
- "Chess Monthly," April 1858
From here Morphy announce Mate in five moves:
This game was from the 3 board exhibition in January:
From here Morphy announced mate in 4 moves:
From a 6 board blindfold simul in March, 1858:
After which, Morphy had mate in 5: