Playing the Odds
Games at odds were quite common in the 19th century for establishing a hierarchy and for allowing players of disparate skills to play together with interest and even for stakes. Sometimes the games are rather ponderous with the more skillful player gradually gaining equality and finally winning; sometimes the games showboat the odds-giver's tactical finesse. In either case it's always interesting to watch games in which heavy odds were given unfold.
Alexander McDonnell played, and lost to, La Bourdonnais in their historic match (actually a bundle of 6 matches) in 1834. McDonnell or M'Donnell, an Irishman living in London, was known for his slow, ponderous style and his complex, though often inaccurate attacks. Below he gives his unknown opponent Knight-odds.
The next series of gamesl involve Maj. Otho Ernst Michaelis and mostly Rook-odds. Now, Otho, also called Otto, Michaelis, while a career Army engineer, was also diverse enough to have had lengthy obituaries in "Photographic Times," "The Chronicle: A Weekly Insurance Journal," and "The Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers." As a youth of 16 he played four games against Paul Morphy who gave him Rood-odds. Morphy won 3, Michaelis 1. The first game is one of Morphy's wins - and although Morphy was a tactical magician, the game is one of the ponderous kinds.
The wonderful chess editor, Miron James Hazeltine wrote an essay about "The Morphy Rooms" where he often played (Hazeltine was a member of the NY Chess Club; the Morphy Rooms were located at the corner of Broadway and 4th St.) . The time is 1859-60. Otho Michaelis, still 16, played there also. Hazeltine describes him:
Below is a game from the Morphy Rooms in which Michaelis gives, in turn, Rook-odds to his nameless opponent.
In this last game Michaelis gives his opponent Queen-odds. Even Morphy failed when giving Queen-oods to CA Maurian when Maurian was still a novice. Otho, whose opponent seems halfway decent, wins with a very clever mating trap.