Paul Morphy: the First Modern Player

  • GM Julio_Becerra
  • | May 6, 2009

What can I say about Paul Morphy that my readers don't already know? Imagine, my audience knows as much of the man as anyone can know which is unfortunately very little. Perhaps because the man, the chess player, appeared out of nowhere, captured the chess community unaware, dominated their theater, and then disappeared. All in two years!! Many chess fans see Morphy as the best player ever! Incredible!! In only two years, his approach towards chess was simply magical. Is there another similar example in chess? I don't think so! Is one article enough? Of course not!

Paul Morphy, "The Pride and Sorrow of Chess," was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 22nd, 1837 to a respectable, wealthy, and distinguished family in which his father, grandfather, elder brother, and Uncle Ernest all played chess, the last one being an excellent player. Morphy grew up in a chess atmosphere, a condition that is a key factor for the development of many great players. His uncle, Ernest Morphy, asserted that no one properly taught Paul how to play chess, and that he learned the rules by observing games between himself and Alonzo. In 1850, when Morphy was 12 years old, Johann Jacob Loewenthal, a very strong professional Hungarian chess master, visited New Orleans and at the command of his father decided to play a casual match with the prodigy. Paul won 2.5-.5 . It is remarkable how similar the beginnings of Morphy and Capablanca were.

After 1850, Morphy did not play cehss very often. He graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama in 1854. He was then accepted to the University of Louisiana to study law, and received an L.L.B. degree on April 7, 1857. It is said that he memorized the complete Louisiana book of codes and laws!

However, not yet of age to apply to be a lawyer, he found himself with some time to play chess. He received an invitation to participate in the First American Chess Congress, held in New York in the fall of 1857. He defeated each of his opponents, including the strong German master Louis Paulsen in the final match.

I will show you the most famous of Morphy's combinations from this tournament, a classic, and now one of the most famous positions in chess history! As homework, we have the only known problem created by Morphy! White to play and mate in 2. In my next article I will continue with his fascinating story.


Homework! Mate in 2!


  • 7 years ago


    enjoyment continues pure bliss

  • 7 years ago


  • 7 years ago


    To all that didnt find the stronger continuation that was mentioned to morphys. was 22...Rg2!! and win is forced only defense is 23.d4 but then black plays Rxh2 and mate next no stoping it . any other move on 23 for white looses after say 23.Qd3 23...Rxf2+ 24.Kg1 24...Rg2+! 25.Kf1 25...Rg1#       if 25 Kh1 then Rg1 stil mate because its double check and cant stop both so morphy did miss a faster finish but im no morphy and i only play speed games i would have never saw any of it playing fast... if i slowed down i could probably be pretty good lol

  • 8 years ago



  • 8 years ago


    got it.

    Ra6, if bxR, then b7#

    or after Ra6, any move (except rook takes), Rxa7#

  • 8 years ago


    Solo haces un movimiento de espera con la torre y la unica pieza que el oponente puede mover es el alfil, a donde sea que mueva deja sin defensa el peon,  enseguida tomas el peon dando jaque mate con la torre, mate en 2...Wink

  • 8 years ago


    homework was easy, if only school was like that..


  • 8 years ago


    Good article about a great player.

  • 8 years ago

    IM dpruess

    6...Nxe5 7.d4 attacking Bc5 and Ne5 is why black couldnt win a piece. But of course Nxe5 was an option.

  • 8 years ago


    hey guys, in the first game, on move number 6: Nxe5   why didn't black capture the knight back, with his knight?

  • 8 years ago


    Really cool

  • 8 years ago


    Homework:easy! Ra6,bxa6,b7#!

  • 8 years ago




  • 8 years ago


    rook to rook6, black has only two moves: takes rook with pawn then white plays pawn to n7 mate, or black moves his bishop and white takes rookpawn with rook mate.

  • 8 years ago





  • 8 years ago


    My bad.Foot in mouth Thanks to both "cryptic1" AND "Dylan_Jay_G_" for pointing out my blindness, on so.......many.......Levels.......LOL !Laughing

    ...actually, I've been rushing too much here at home on my part to read everything, so my apologies. (no wonder I suck at speed chess) Now, off to the gym...Cool

  • 8 years ago


    timmester, seems cryptic1 just pointed that out to you.

  • 8 years ago


    nice article

    puzzle not so hard :p

  • 8 years ago


    Thanks to bennutts929 for pointing out just how bad my glasses really are - that's a king on c8! (I am used to the non-3D graphics after years of that! LOL)

    So, new analysis (easier now) is:

    1. Ra6 ...Bishop moves ANYWHERE!

    2. Rxa7 mate     


    1. Ra6 bxa6

    2. c7 mate (the king protects this pawn)

  • 8 years ago


    and rab63 its not an easy puzzle my online rating is 1950 and i couldnt find it

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