How To Improve As A Beginner#2 - Learn from Morphy
Morphy against Johann Löwenthal

How To Improve As A Beginner#2 - Learn from Morphy


Good day to you all boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen!

Today I want to delve into the romantic era of chess, and extract some combinations and ideas, that are relevant even in this 'chess-engine sacrificial-snobbery' era. So, who is better to turn to than the legend Paul Morphy. I am sure many of you are aware of who this guy was, but for those of you who aren`t, I will give a short summary in the next two paragraphs.

In 1837 (22nd June), Morphy was born into a wealthy family of New Orleans. From a young age, and having had no tuition, he became an extremely strong player - a prodigy even, learning the game by watching his father and uncle play. At 12 years, he defeated a travelling Hungarian master (Johann Löwenthal), as seen in the main picture (Morphy is on the left). In 1857, Paul was cajooled into playing in the 1st American chess congress, taking place in New York, and he prevailed as the clear winner, easily winning all his games, against America`s best players. He was then declared the champion of America.

Morphy was so talented at chess and understood the game to such a degree, that he wasn`t interested at recieving prizes (he wasn`t money motivated), for example when he beat Löwenthal, he won a stake of $100, but in response, he presented Johann with a $120 valuable piece of furniture, since he knew that Johann had to make a living through chess. He was very generous it seems, and this was reflected in his sacrificial attitude in playing chess. His investments paid off. There is a sad ending though: Morphy retired his chess career young, without having another human on the planet, who could give him resistance in a game - Staunton hid away from the humiliaion of being anhilated by Morphy - his career in law never went anywhere, and he became unemployed, having lost interest in chess; he then went mad, and was found dead in his bathtub at the age of 47, having perished from a stroke.

This game was played blindfolded, in a simul, which adds to the impressiveness:

But first, before you see the game, I want to show you the amazing checkmate combination, try to figure it out for yourself. To improve, you must challenge yourself, and it is not an easy puzzle:

Hint: Checkmate is the most important aim, this comes above material, so don`t be afraid to 'sacrifice' pieces.


If you want to click on the little light bulb icon, on the bar along the bottom, then that is up to you, but it isn`t really in the spirit of 'romantic chess', which was about 150 years before chess engines became popular.


 Opening Ideas to take away

Concise summary
  • Don`t be afraid to sacrifice material, in order to gain an attacking position. Once you have sacrificed, you must then follow through right until checkmate - throw more wood on the fire!
  • Castle early in these e4 gambity openings, so you can get a rook to e1.
  • Develop rapidly, even at the cost of material, placing your pieces on the most aggressive squares.
  • In these structures, e5 is a great way to generate an attack on the kingside.
  • Prevent your opponent from castling; in the middle of the board, their king is much more exposed to attacks from all angles.
  • When there is no immediate win, bring in your reinforcements.
  • Checkmate is the ultimate aim. Don`t get fixated on the material difference; who cares if they are two pawns and a rook up, when their position is crumbling to dust.

I hope you have learned something, if not simply found this interesting. I know that I have definitely learnt, by looking at a game played by a chess mastermind.

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Until next time, bye!