Paul Morphy - Chess History Part 6 (Summary of Style and Play)

Apr 25, 2008, 9:20 AM |


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

Image:chess zhor 26.png
Image:chess zver 26.pnga8 rdb8 ndc8 bdd8 qde8 kdf8 bdg8h8 rdImage:chess zver 26.png
a7 pdb7 pdc7 pdd7 pde7f7 pdg7h7 pd
a4b4c4d4e4f4 pdg4 nlh4 pl
a3b3c3d3 ple3f3g3 ndh3
a2 plb2 plc2 pld2e2f2g2 plh2
a1 rlb1 nlc1 bld1 qle1 klf1 blg1h1 rl
Image:chess zhor 26.png
Position from Morphy-Anderssen, 1858 after 7...Ng3. White now sacrificed his Rook by 8.Bxf4.