Paul Morphy - Chess History Part 6 (Summary of Style and Play)
Morphy's chess play
Today many amateurs think of Morphy as a dazzling combinative player, who excelled in sacrificing his Queen and checkmating his opponent a few brilliant moves later. One reason for this impression is that chess books like to reprint his flashy games. There are games where he did do this, but it was not the basis of his chess style. In fact, the masters of his day considered his style to be on the conservative side compared to some of the flashy older masters like La Bourdonnais and even Anderssen.
Morphy can be considered the first modern player. Some of his games do not look modern because he did not need the sort of slow positional systems that modern grandmasters use, or that Staunton, Paulsen, and later Steinitz developed. His opponents had not yet mastered the open game, so he played it against them and he preferred open positions because they brought quick success. He played open games almost to perfection, but he also could handle any sort of position, having a complete grasp of chess that was years ahead of his time. Morphy was a player who intuitively knew what was best, and in this regard he has been likened to Capablanca. He was, like Capablanca, a child prodigy; he played fast and he was hard to beat. Löwenthal and Anderssen both later remarked that he was indeed hard to beat since he knew how to defend and would draw or even win games despite getting into bad positions. At the same time, he was deadly when given a promising position. Anderssen especially commented on this, saying that after one bad move against Morphy one may as well resign. "I win my games in seventy moves but Mr. Morphy wins his in twenty, but that is only natural..." Anderssen said, explaining his poor results against Morphy.
Notable chess games
- Louis Paulsen vs Paul Morphy, New York 1857, Four Knights Game: Spanish. Classical Variation (C48), 0-1 Morphy's queen sacrifice transforms his positional pressure into a decisive attack on Paulsen's king.
- Paul Morphy vs Duke Karl of Brunswick / Count Isouard, Paris 1858, Philidor Defense: General (C41), 1-0 The "Opera game" - a casual game against unexperienced opponents, but at the same time one of the clearest and most beautiful attacking games ever. Often used by chess teachers to demonstrate how to use time, develop pieces and generate threats.
- Paul Morphy vs Adolf Anderssen, Casual Game 1858, King's Gambit: Accepted. Kieseritsky Gambit Berlin Defense (C39), 1-0 Morphy loved open positions. In this game, one can see how he used to win in such positions.