Bio of Paul Morphy


I thank you all for your immense amount of help. I will be posting my final draft and the grade I received after I turn it in and it is graded. Thanks again:)


It's said that Morphy was fluent in English, French, Spanish and German.  But this flies in the face of what Falkbeer said in his description of Morphy's memory: "Here was a man who attention was constantly distracted by countless demands on his memory and yet had perfectly retained for seven years all the details of a game insignificant in itself and moreover, printed in a language and description unknown to him. [having been published in the Berliner Schachzeitung, 1851]" - obviously maintaining that Morphy didn't speak German.

However, in college Morphy won honors, or premiums, for Latin, Greek, French and English (as well as Mathematics).  Still, his first loves were always Philosophy and Literature . He also spoke the Creole patois.  Generally considered a genius as well as a prodigy by his contemporaries as well as later generations, Morphy had the love for universal learning which is the hallmark of a Renaissance Man.  Morphy was a subject in R. M. Deven's One Hundred Great and Notable Events  - of the 19th century.



You might want to read George Walker's account of the Staunton-St. Amant fight called The Late Grand Chess Match.

John Cochrane, who lived in India but who played Staunton in many games during his return trips to England, claimed that he was able to remain friends with Staunton mostly due to the fact that he wasn't around him much. Staunton had a true gift for alienating people, and maybe part of his irrascibility was due to his health problems. But whatever his personality, he's been given the short stick by history and his brief dealings with Morphy has overshadowed all his great accomplishments.


Hi Batgirl,

Another terrific read! Thankfully the French literature can do nothing to contest the result of the 2nd match of Staunton against St. Amant.

Walker's article at one point suggests a truth in chess "to play" is better than "to talk". Again this seems to support the idea Staunton was a fighter.

It's refreshing that as someone so interested in history, you do not simply take things at face value. Having researched the area so well yourself, I find your enlightened perspective has done the same for me.

Thank you for sharing these terrific articles.



I feel you have done the same thing as batgirl (searching for a deeper truth) by questioning the habit of revering a chess icon in American history. As one of the articles batgirl posted said of Staunton, we are dealing with MEN. That means no walking on water! I find it much more revealing and realistic to look at the complexities of the lives of these historical figures from various sources of the time.

As for how you spoke of prodigies, you know chess is a demanding mistress! Therefore it makes a good deal of scientific sense to me that anyone showing natural talent has probably been training and has increased their pattern recognition of various positions and motifs.

At some point, however, the brain will be required to solve new and unorthodox problems. It is at this point I think an inkling of talent exists in EITHER the combination and reinterpretation of old ideas OR invention TO come up with new ideas. Forgive the caps, just used it to delineate the logic statement therein.



Paul Morphy, I think, was born with an amazing mind.



It should be noted that the (2nd) Staunton-St.Amant match was extremely acrimonious with both parties (and their cronies) publishing in their respective chess periodicals (the Palamede and the The Chess Chronicle) taunts, accusations and excuses. The match was followed by the secular press too. Epic poems were written. Staunton grasped and maintained the high ground by acceding to nearly all St. Amant's conditions (such as Morphy would later do for Staunton). However not everything about that match is clear and cut-dry.  St. Amant claimed he had a break-down as the match approached and had to be forced to play. He credited a certain French Lady (rumors were that it was Mme. Regnault Jean D'Angely, who would later be tight with Morphy in Paris - St. Amant himself would later become close to Morphy) with nursing him to mental health and ultimately revitalizing his confidence. The flow of the match seems to suggest some truth to this since Staunton was steamrolling St. Amant (in the first 8 games, Staunton won 7 and drew 1). The final 13 were more balanced with Staunton winning 4, losing 6 and drawing 3).  Staunton claims the his heart started giving him problems mid-match. Staunton, even after winning the stakes, 2500 francs  (which were devalued with the exchange-rate - 100 pounds sterling was agreed upon, but he was paid in francs which converted to 96.50 pounds sterling) lost money since the prize money didn't even cover his expenses, let alone his lost time.   

See Bill Wall's page for the games


Hi Batgirl,

Yes woman can help turn men into something greater than they are, or at least movies like the Luzhin Defense might have us believe that. I know I don't function well without a lovely woman at my side.

However, it is crucial to ask whether St. Amant made all the claims of his mental breakdown during the match or after. If the claims were made after, it would certainly give rise to suspicion.

Further, if one player does suffer a mental breakdown during a match, he is lost. This is not because he is less of a man, but rather that he cannot continue combat. If he's playing below his strength due to this mental damage, then that is his new level of play. He should therefore be considered to be out of the match and lost. That he has been devestated by either chess or other events is terrible, but knowing that ahead of time he should have avoided such a match. Suffering this failing during a match is a clear sign the player is losing, (eg Petrosian vs Fischer). It (health) must be included in the assertion of the overall strength of a player. Its awful to say because my health is rarely on par with others, but I dont claim it as a handicap. I am who I am. I play. I abhore excuses but have sympathy for those who suffer and understand it all to well.

We could qualify the statements above by saying that a true champion has staying power (e.g. Kasparov, Lasker, and Capablanca were dominant for years), but we could also say that certain players were strong enough to win against others on any given day. Such fair-weather players do exist, but they never enter the full burst of limelight (e.g. perfectionist Efim Geller). I guess part of being a champion, especially of the World, is staying there.




I was hoping to find the source, but haven't been able to locate it so far.
I believe St. Amant's excuse was published in the Palamede sometime after the match.  I mostly offered it up as an example of things often left unmentioned in such discussions. There's often more to things than the popular notions, even interpretations other than what's usually presented.  Whether St. Amant was exaggerating or not, who can say?  Who can say that Staunton really had a heart condition that seemed to have always affected him when he most needed an excuse? The possibility that either of these things could be true or false only makes the match even more interesting to me.  There's is more intrigue in this hazy lack of clarity than would be in mere facts.  Plus, I do like how Morphy hovers over the match like some augural specter from the future.

Here is my brief bio of Saint-Amant


Was morphy ever married?{}

Where can I find his family tree?


spoiler_alert wrote:

"... What exactly did the general say or do to convey this?  No only would that be compelling but establish your statement above wasn't merely hearsay. ..."

It has been a long time since I read about this sort of thing, but, if I remember correctly, exact details were not recorded in the original account.

Novagames wrote:

"Was morphy ever married? ..."

No Morphy marriage was mentioned in the obituaries.

ChessBlucher wrote 7 years ago:

I will be posting my final draft and the grade I received after I turn it in and it is graded.



  1. The bio is nice. A possible recommendation would be to include something specific about one of his games or about chess players and the times. Did Staunton and Morphy play common opponents that might indicate one or the other was the better player. USCF Chess Life Magazine has published a number of interesting articles about Morphy over the years with some interesting anecdotes. Above all be able to persuade your class and your grader that this person was "famous". A person in the mid 1800s might have been highly respected in some other endeavour but not ever risen to level of famous. Convince the reader of Paul Morphy's fame.
Nilocra_the_White wrote:
  1. ... Did Staunton and Morphy play common opponents that might indicate one or the other was the better player. ...

By the way, has ChessBlucher posted here since 2009?

kindaspongey wrote:

By the way, has ChessBlucher posted here since 2009?

I imagine he's settled down with kids of his own by now. happy.png


Interesting thread.


Good essay!

ghost_of_pushwood wrote:
kindaspongey wrote:

By the way, has ChessBlucher posted here since 2009?

I imagine he's settled down with kids of his own by now.

Maybe we should take him at his word that he would publish his paper and grade when he got it done .  Perhaps this means he is still retaking the class trying to pass. :>}