Morphy-Lowenthal story, part three



North Atlantic, April, 1851

 He sat up in the deckchair, feeling better, but the shifting of the deck below his feet was something he could never get used to.  The warm sun had revived him somewhat and he asked a passing steward for some bread and sweet tea, the Marchands asked for coffee.  Facing the old couple, Löwenthal said, "I have played some chess in New York, but mostly I have played in the West; Cincinatti, Louisville, Lexington.  I observed some peculiarities of the play there.  The players of the United States have their own approach to the opening.  They play systems that are not played in Europe.   I am familiar with the Evan's Gambit, Philidor's Defense, and my favorite Russian Game, with which, as you know, I have beaten both Szén and Anderssen.  In North America they play King's Gambit almost to obsession, and they play the Spanish game, which they call the Ruy Lopez, far more than anywhere I've been; but they have done some unique analysis in these lines and are dangerous in them.  A certain Colonel Dudley of Kentucky convinced me to admit that the Spanish is more effective than previously thought, though overall I came out ahead in our match."

The steward brought the refreshments on a tray, distributing them to all.  Löwenthal continued: "The philosophy of play here is inclined to brilliant attack; most players have a severe hole in their approach to the game, focusing exclucively on clever assualts and sparkling sacrifices.  They have their problems, however, in neglecting the precision of their moves, and they are too passionate to have the patience to properly play the ending."  He sipped his tea and hesitated, waiting to see if it would stay down.  After a moment he continued.  "I bested all I met in America, all the time playing correctly or precisely, never being speculative.  Whenever I engaged in wild play, they were more than ready to exchange blows of equal power, games in which they were no way inferior to their European counterparts.  But when it comes to precision or subtleties, they all failed.  Their play reminds me of their policies--much power but little thought."

Erich grunted in agreement.  "They are too young a nation to be talented at the art of tact and diplomacy.  What you say about their play in patient positions comes as no surprise to me.  So many of their students to challenge rather than to think.  They call us old fools, that we in Europe would rather understand our facts than simply recite them."

Gerta laughed.  "Yes, papa, the young should always do as you say, and should always think the way you want them to."  She looked at Erich with a gentle, teasing look.  "They are a young nation, as you say, and they will grow to be whatever they will be.  These are people who didn't think like Europeans; that's why they went to America.  Is it any wonder that this child will not seek the approval of the parents?  We should be thankful that there is this ocean to seperate us from them.  Mexico had that little river only."

"Yes, mama, and we pray that it would never be crossed in the same manner. But I think that the troubles between they and the British are over, at least for now, and they are more distracted by the gold in California than by anything that occurs on the Continent.  Is that the way of them, Johann?  Does the glitter of gold distract them, the lure of easy riches; are they that shallow in charcacter in chess, as well?"

"Doctor, you are too strong a player to ask if one will be distracted by temptation during play.  All players have to deal with that sin in their own way.  But I understand your meaning; I think the penchants for gambits in America is a reflection of this obsession for the big strike, for hitting the mother lode, as they say.  But there is another reason for the poularity of these hitherto unknown lines of play from the West.  A very small, but none the less a very significant one."  He chuckled at their confusion.  "I had the pleasure of going to New Orleans during my trip, though the climate almost killed me.  You know I suffer the heat poorly, and there were two spells there where the air sat on my chest like lead.  And it stayed hot, even at night, and it simply drained me for several days; I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep.  The locals told me that that heathen chief  Pontiac called it 'the hot city.'  I shall never forget the heat of New Orleans."