Continued lessons in Romantic games: The Opera Game

Sep 1, 2012, 7:12 PM |

This next game features a legend in American chess: the great Paul Morphy. Morphy, even more than Fischer, is who comes to mind when I think of "chess madness": the apparent descent into paranoia and mental disorder that occasionally overcomes some of the greatest masters, and which some people consider to be partly caused by their obsession with chess. Morphy's rapid attacks and amazing combinations, combined with his risky style of play (Evans Gambit, anyone?) have earned him recognition comparable to Capablanca, Lasker, Andersson and the rest of the older players, when theory had not been developed as far as it has today.

The Opera Game is a classic example of the Romantic school of chess, favoring rapid development over conservation of material. It also features a line of defense that is now rarely played by high-level chess players: the Philidor Defense, wherein the e5 pawn is given support by the move 2. ... d6 - trapping black's dark-square bishop. It can be argued, therefore, that Morphy's opponents were definitely unprepared for his attacking style, given that they had hampered their mobility from the get-go. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful game and, like the others I have posted, features a beautiful queen sacrifice to clinch the game. Here it is, in all its glory: