Paul Morphy as Chess Editor

Dec 24, 2010, 7:32 AM 5,124 Reads 5 Comments

This article far below was written by John Albert Galbreath.

But first, let's look at what vol. 1 of the American Chess Magazine in  1897 tells us about Galbreath:



The chess editor of the New Orleans Sunday States is well known to American chess players, his newsy, original style having made his department one of the best of the bright chess columns of the country.

Mr. Galbreath has been requested to play on the American team in the third match by cable for the Sir George Newnes Anglo-American Trophy, an evidence that his skill as a player is appreciated outside of the circle of strong New Orleans experts.

John A. Galbreath was born in Jefferson County, Mississippi, not far from Natchez, October 6, 1846, and will be fifty-two years of age on his next birthday. In the busy years which have elapsed since he arrived at a discretionary age, Mr. Galbreath has found time to become an authority on shooting and its appliances, an angler of skill, a journalist, and has held positions of prominence in political life. He is a Mason, a Pythian, an Elk, an Odd Fellow, and a Republican, and is a total abstainer from tobacco and alcoholic beverages. He says he smelled powder, heard the whistle of bullets and the roar of artillery as a Confederate soldier at the age of fifteen years, when it was not a gala day salute.
In speaking of his chess life, Mr. Galbreath remarks:
"I learned the moves of chess in 1867, and have ever since been a devotee of the game. Staunton's handbook was my first chess Dook. Have there been any published since that are great improvements on it? To me there is a charm about Staunton's books not possessed by any others, because of his exceeding ability as a writer. He had his faults, like all the rest of weak humanity, but no unprejudiced person will deny that English chess is more indebted to him than to all the other authorities put together. ''

from the American Chess Bulletin, Volume 6  1909 :

Paul Morphy as Chess Editor.

By J. A. Galbreath, New Orleans, La.

In the year 1880, Captain George H. MacKenzie came to St. Louis and resided there for a couple of years. The writer's headquarters were at that time also in St. Louis, and we were on quite intimate terms with the Captain, who was a most delightful companion. He was a great admirer of Morphy and our conversation frequently turned upon his wonderful exploits. Captain MacKenzie told us that Mr. John Cochrane, the celebrated English chess player, who for so many years resided in the East Indies in the service of the East India Company, was also deeply impressed with Morphy. Captain MacKenzie, it will be remembered, was himself stationed in Hindostan as a Captain in the British army.

Mr. Cochrane had in contemplation the publication of a book, "Loose Leaves of Indian Chess". In the course of a conversation with the Captain in Calcutta, in 1858, Mr. Cochrane said to him that he did not think that his book would appear during his life time, as he was then getting old and had too many cares of other sorts; but the material for the book was in hand, and that there was a young American (Morphy) who purposed coming over to Europe to tackle the strongest players, and if he beat them as he (Cochrane) thought he would, then Mr. Cochrane thought the best thing he could do would be to leave his book to Morphy for him to edit, together with one hundred guineas for expenses. How the ultimate consummation of this plan was prevented is fully explained by Morphy's absolute retirement from chess the next year.

Mr. Robert Bonner, the publisher of the New York Ledger, the great family story paper of those days, established a chess column in his paper and engaged Morphy as the chess editor at the almost princely salary, in those times, of three thousand dollars per year and paid Morphy the entire amount in advance to secure his services. It was Morphy's intention to publish the whole of the games of the Labourdonnais-MacDonnell matches with his annotations. He stated in the announcement that he considered these games the finest specimens of chess play extant. Morphy annotated about fifteen of the games in the Ledger. [Morphy actually annotated 31 games for the Ledger - sbc] The writer had these arranged in a little scrap book which he gave to an old friend many years ago. It has been stated by some one ignorant of the facts that Morphy never annotated a single game in the Ledger; but such a statement naturally belongs in the limbo of other false, or malicious, or utterly fabricated things. The following is here quoted and will prove of the greatest interest to chess players of all grades.

A REFLECTION BY MORPHY. A note on the LaBourdonnais-MacDonnell match:

"If there is anything to be regretted in connection with the. combats between these illustrious players, it is the pertinacity with which M'Donnell persisted in adopting, in two of the debuts which most frequently occur, a line of play radically bad. Against Such an adversary as Labourdonnais the disastrous effects of M'Donnell's early moves in nearly all of the Sicilian Games and Queen's Gambits could not be overcome, even by the very best after-play. The move of 2 KKt to B3, or still better, 2 P to Q4, are those now generally recognized as the best. The latter move is, indeed, so strong that it has gone far toward disabusing the public mind of that pernicious fondness for the Sicilian Denfense which was displayed during what may be called the period of close games, extending from about 1843 to some time after 1851. It was an epoch of uninteresting games and dreary analytical labors, and with the exception of the contests occurring between the great Prussian masters, afforded but comparatively few specimens of brilliant play. It should be a subject of rejoicing with every lover of the game that an age in which so much severe labor led to such unprofitable results, has passed away. There is now a visible tendency to cultivate a higher style of chess art—to substitute for the false taste which has so long prevailed a more elevated standard of excellence.


Finally, as a matter of historic interest, the only game wherein Morphy as second player adopted the French Defense is given. He was a lad of thirteen at the time this game was played. "The king to pawn one sneak", as Walker derisively styled the French Defense, did not appeal to Morphy and he subsequently ignored the opening.

The game and notes, written by Mr. Chas. A. Maurian, appeared in the New Orleans Times Democrat in the year 1844, shortly after Morphy's death.

In response to the inquiry of some of our correspondents whether Morphy ever adopted the French Defense in a game on even terms, we give the following little partie, which is the only one on record, we believe, wherein the great master made use of the debut in question. As will be seen his opponent on this occasion was that veteran of New Orleans, indeed of Southern chess, Mr. James McConnell, and the game was played about the year 1850:




Morphy versus Marache.

In order to dispose of accumulated matter held over on account of our special Morphy story last month, we must content ourselves for the present with the following' example of the Southerner's play in the First American Chess Congress held in New York in 1857, and the citation from Messrs. Veit & Co.'s collection, edited by Maroczy, is deferred for a little while.




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