Jesus Christ and Paul Morphy

Jesus Christ and Paul Morphy

Nov 16, 2014, 12:48 PM |

The story goes,
"J. Oswald Sanders reports that years ago, Paul Morphy was the world’s champion chess player when he was invited by a friend to look at a valuable painting titled, “The Chess Player.”

In the painting, Satan was represented as playing chess with a young man, the stake being the young man’s soul. The game had reached the stage where it was the young man’s move; but his fears of checkmate was before him. There was no move he could make which would not mean defeat for him and so the strong feature of the picture was the look of utter despair on the young man’s face as he realized that his soul was lost.

Morphy, who knew more about chess than the artist, studied the picture for a time, then called for a chessboard and pieces. Placing them in exactly the same position as they were in the painting, he said, “I’ll take the young man’s place and make the move.” Then he made the move which would have set the young man free.

Source unknown"

(FYI: The chess writer, Edward Winter, questioned if this story was authentic or mere lore and legend which would be fitting because Paul Morphy was that in his own right. Mr. Winter investigation came to meeting the friends' family whom regarded this story as an event that which took place.)

The above painting by Moritz Reszch which is called The Chess Players, and aka, THE GAME OF LIFE, seems to agree with Bobby Fischer in some sense, of his famous quote, "Chess is life."

And so we have a young man depicted as playing a chess match against his adversary, the devil, where all looks hopeless, where defeat is imminent, and aghast his own soul is lost to the schemer. 


After all the devil must know chess right?!  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said in one of his short stories, "Amberley excelled at chess—one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind."


Any of you play chess like a devil? Just kidding.  

Can you relate to such a depicted painting where our lives become riddled with circumstances and experiences which seem to point to a battle against a formidable foe with mastery and tricks up his sleeve?  And in the midst of such times, it would take a miracle to survive such an attack!

In moments of peril, it is as though the devil is having his way with us. And the painting tells a story, maybe mine, maybe yours? Let's admit it, we all love a good story, especially where we hear of one winning against all odds!  But what if I told you, that perhaps you are not playing against the devil. Have you ever considered that you and I can be the opponent against God?? 

What if, and go with me now, you are playing both sides of the board, and trying to control the outcome of this game we call life? 

Yes, the devil is your adversary and longs for your downfall, or ahem, downplay. However, as life problems seem to come our way, there is a tendency, I see, to blame God as playing an unfair chess match against us. And those that would say they do not believe in such a being, would quickly pipe up and say in the same breath, if he did (exist), I would not want anything to do with Him. This just proves the point, we are often opposed to God.

What I want to propose is something you may have already deduced? If so, good for you.   


In life, as in chess, like it or not, the match will and always does come to an end. It can be short, while others are fortunate enough to get as far as an endgame.

And in this life, I think most of us desire to be akin to the chess master whom has a winning attack, rather than being the one whom is crushed.

To do that, one has to look at their position and evaluate what the potential moves are. 

People not indifferent to us are experts at doing things their own way, even if it is the wrong way. Some of us learn the hard way. Anyone?  Some feel like life is hell now, and that is related to what they have gone through, or going through. Deep down, they know, life is meant to be more than this. 

This should be no surprise, afterall, man does not just sin against God, but also against his fellow man! Perhaps if we compared ourselves to one another, we may even look pretty good! Not like the next guy, right?! But what is God's position about us is this?

The Bible gives this account of God's position concerning mankind,

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; " - Romans 3:23.

and also: 

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." - Isaiah 64:6 

If we were really honest with ourselves, we would see that we often do not want to do things God's way, because we think we know better or just do not want to!! That my friend, is sin. Sin is rebellion against God. That is man's position. Chess has rules to be followed, and you guessed it, so does the real world called life? I mean we just can not do whatever we want and expect no consquences. We can get ourselves into some real heated situations doing as we please, and may even find ourselves checked and mated in a position we never wanted to find ourselves in. 

The great chess genius Paul Morphy, may or may not have revealed the secret to Moritz Retzsch's Chess Player painting. But what looks hopeless, may be just that, and then again, Morphy comes and saves the day.  It is fair to say that chess players appreciate searching and finding the right move.

How about life?
The bad news is that without God, you are against Him, you are in a hopeless position where the devil is accusing you of sin. But God has not left us empty handed, and He being the mastercraftsman of life has not left you without an answer, a solution, if you will.

God has a position for you, a void, to be filled. "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16 

God came and demonstrated His love towards all of us by sending Christ Jesus to pay for our sins. For the wages of sin is death. Those that reject Christ remain in a hopeless confrontation, where the devil does indeed have an upper hand. For hell and damnation is the penalty for sin, for God is just and will not let sin go on for ever. And so God sent Jesus Christ, His only son to take the penalty for our sin, and hell awaits with it's mouth wide to swallow all that would go that way. But Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Paul Morphy in his heyday was just the man to point out the winning move of hope in the art of "The Chess Player."  This painting is relevant as it presents a lucid illustration of our present-day synopsis of the opposition we are up against.  It sometimes takes a chess genius to turn the game around from what seems inevitable. And it takes someone greater than ourselves to get us to see the truth, and what we are really up against. 

God has sent His Son for you and I, so that we may be reconciled to Him, to know Him, to know real love. And in this life there seems to be no end to people trying to crack and hack this life and tweak it to our own liking. But lets be honest, sin in us is a problem, and doing life our way is relentless where we keep coming up with our own solutions but never really getting any further ahead. Why? Because the answers we go for are superficial as they do not deal with the sin in us. Only Christ Jesus does that!
There is hope my friend. This is a solution, and it is a real one. Jesus has won the war so that you can be cleansed, washed clean of sin, to stand righteous in Him, and to overcome whatever comes at you.

God moved towards you, and now it is your turn.
Make the move. 
Repent of sin.
Turn to God.
Believe in His Son.
Jesus is Lord.
May He be yours.
God bless.

Ronnie O'Brien