My Great Successors
Nov 8, 2011, 4:12 PM 9
Morphy was the first positional player who, unlike his Romantic rivals, understood the strategic basis for attack. He wrote nothing more than a few game notes and played fewer than seventy-five serious games. But his exploitation of open lines prepared the way for Steinitz's scientific treatment of closed positions and the era of modern chess.
Andrew Soltis (in Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess, New York, 1977)
Genius is a starry word; but if there ever was a chess player to whom that attribute applied, it was Paul Morphy.
Edward Lasker (in The Adventure of Chess, 2nd Edition, New York, 1959)
After the passage of a century, Morphy still remains the most glamorous figure that has ever appeared in the chess world.
Fred Reinfeld (in Great Moments in Chess History, Brancliff Manor, New York 1963)
Paul Morphy was a great chessplayer, a genius... Morphy, I think everyone agrees, was probably the greatest genius of them all...
In Paul Morphy the spirit of La Bourdonnais had arisen anew, only more vigorous, firmer, prouder... Morphy discovered that the brilliant move of the master is essentially conditional not on a sudden and inexplicable realisation, but on the placing of the pieces on the board. He introduced the rule: brilliant moves and deep winning manoeuvres are possible only in those positions where the opponent can be opposed with an abundance of active energy... From the very first moves Morphy aimed to disclose the internal energy located in his pieces. It was suddenly revealed that they possess far greater dynamism than the opponent's forces.
Reviewing the history of chess from La Bourdonnais to the masters of our day right up to Lasker, we discover that the greatest stylist was Morphy. He did not look for complicated combinations, but he also did not avoid them, which really is the correct way of playing... His main strength lay not in his combinative gift, but in his positional play and general style. Morphy gained most of his wins by playing directly and simply, and it is this simple and logical method that constitutes the true brilliance of his play, if it is considered from the viewpoint of the great masters.
How much more vivid, more rich does the figure of Morphy appear before us, how much clearer does the secret of his success and charm become, if we transfer ourselves in our thoughts to that era when he lived and created, if we take the trouble to study, only a little, his contemporaries! Then...in London and in particular in Paris, where the traditions of Philidor were still alive, where the immortal creations of La Bourdonnais and McDonnell were still in the memory, at that time, finally, when Anderssen was alive, and with brilliance alone it was hardly possibly to suprise anyone. The strength, the invincible strength of Morphy- this was the reason for his success and the guarantee of his immortality!
To this day Morphy is an unsurpassed master of the open games. Just how great was his significance is evident from the fact that after Morphy nothing substantially new has been created in this field. Every player- from beginner to master- should in this praxis return again and again to the games of the American genius.
A popularly held theory about Paul Morphy is that if he returned to the chess world today and played our best contemporary players, he would come out the loser. Nothing is further from the truth. In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today... Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived. He had complete sight of the board and never blundered, in spite of the fact that he played quite rapidly, rarely taking more than five minutes to decide a move. Perhaps his only weakness was in closed games like the Dutch Defense. But even then, he was usually victorious because of his resourcefulness.
There is no doubt that for Morphy chess was an art, and for chess Morphy was a great artist. His play was captivated by freshness of thought and inexhaustible energy. He played with inspiration, without striving to penetrate into the psychology of the opponent; he played, if one can express it so, "pure chess". His harmonious positional understanding the pure intuition would have made Morphy a highly dangerous opponent even for any player of our times.
Morphy can be regarded as the forefather of modern chess.
Originally published by myself in July 2004