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Paul Morphy - Chess History Part 3 (Europe)

Apr 22, 2008, 9:41 AM 0


Morphy goes to Europe

Morphy vs. Lowenthal, 1858
Morphy vs. Lowenthal, 1858

Soon after returning to New Orleans he was invited to attend an international chess tournament to be held in Birmingham, England in the summer of 1858. Still too young to start his law career, he accepted the challenge and traveled to England. Instead of playing in the tournament, however, he ended up playing and easily winning a series of chess matches against all the leading English masters except the veteran Howard Staunton, who was well past his prime, and who initially promised a match but eventually declined after witnessing Morphy's play.[4]

Staunton was later criticised for avoiding a match with Morphy. Staunton is known to have been working on his edition of the complete works of Shakespeare at the time, but he also competed in a chess tournament during Morphy's visit. Staunton later blamed Morphy for the failure to have a match, suggesting among other things that Morphy lacked the funds required for match stakes—a most unlikely charge given Morphy's popularity.

Seeking new opponents, Morphy crossed the English Channel to France. At the Café de la Régence in Paris, the center of chess in France, he played a match against Daniel Harrwitz, the resident chess professional, soundly defeating him.

In Paris, Morphy suffered from a bout of intestinal influenza. In accordance with the medical wisdom of the time, he was treated with leeches, resulting in his losing a significant amount of blood. Although too weak to stand up unaided, Morphy insisted on going ahead with a match against the visiting German master Adolf Anderssen, considered by many to be Europe's leading player. Despite his illness Morphy triumphed easily, winning seven while losing two, with two draws. When asked about his defeat, Anderssen claimed to be out of practice, but also admitted that Morphy was in any event the stronger player and that he was fairly beaten. Anderssen also attested that in his opinion, Morphy was the strongest player ever to play the game, even stronger than the famous French champion La Bourdonnais.

Both in England and France, Morphy gave numerous simultaneous exhibitions, including displays of blindfold chess in which he regularly played and defeated eight opponents at a time. Morphy played a well-known casual game against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard at the Italian Opera House in Paris.




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