Morphy vs. Modern GMs



Paul Morphy is known as one of the greatest chess players in history.

However many people say that he would not have any chance against the modern brilliances of chess.

Nevetheless, GM Fischer does not agree with this at all, and he has said that no one could beat Morphy, even today.

So... What do you think?




This question seems to get asked a lot.


It's pretty clear that Morphy was brilliant, and exceptionally naturally talented (indeed, I think Fischer said that he was the most naturally talented player of all time). It's also pretty clear that understanding of and research on opening theory since Morphy's time has advanced a long way, so that would count against him.


I think the general consensus is that were he given a few months to study opening theory, and recent games, he'd stand a good chance against the best in the world. Whether or not he could be bothered is another matter (he didn't seem too bothered by the game even when he was playing it.)


Anyway, if we, or a future generation did somehow manage to time-port Morphy to 2008, I doubt he'd be content with playing chess - I don't know about you, but there're a lot more things I'd want to find out about.


heh, ok claypot :)

Well... Fischer is only one out of a lot of GMs that have said something about this though.


Morphy is my favorite chess player and ive done papers on him and stuff and if we timed port him to our generation he probably wouldnt want to play chess. He actually disliked the game which is quite funny. He retired when he was like 22 or something. He had an incredible record. He won like 88% of his games that they have on record.


Fischer liked him as well. In a t.v. interview Kasparov stated that he would have been even better but that the competition he had really didn't push him enough so he did not reach his full potential...A lesson for us all.


I think Capablanca and Morphy were both two of the greatest.


for sure Morphy was brilliant, but I'm 99% sure that he will lose a big majority of the games if he could play with the top players in the world right now, due to the fact that the opening theory nowadays is compeletely diffrent from the opening theory at the time that he lived.


Tony Dal,

I always got the impression that Morphy didn't persue the game with gusto because it was not really highly respected. I've read that during his time, chess was seen like cards. I'd imagine that status, or pride would be a compelling force. If chess had be precevied as something much greater than it was, would this have inspired the man. For example, I may have been the worlds best at extreme frisbee, but to be honest, my hearts just not in it, and as far as I know you don't get extreme Frisbee groupies :)


The purity of Morhpy or Capablanca's chess would and does pass the test of time. A brilliant player is a brilliant player no different now then 100+ years ago. Both would still be as good then as they would be now. Chess has not expanded that much unless you count the 0101 counters that plague(s) the game now. Both M & C would be roiling in their grave if they knew :(


I think that X3D Fritz would manage to find a way of escaping Morphy's Kings Gambit and Evans Gambit, don't you?


most GM's think morphy is the best of all time. the guy was a genius. apparently he was doing university level math at age 10. so all the new chess stuff that came after him would have been peanuts for him to absorb and digest. also based on his games, his rating is already around 2600. armed with new knowledge he would easily surpass that figure. so as fisher said, given a few months he would wipe out anyone dead or alive.


On the comments that Morphy did not apparently care too much for chess - it doesn't really surprise me.  Isn't it human nature to be less excited by things at which we are (already) masterful?  I thought changing a light-bulb was very exciting when I was 6 years old...


From what I recall, Morphy usually played very quickly also.  I don't think he put a lot of thought into most of his games, because he had such a good grasp of what was on the board.  He only spent about 8 minutes on his famous queen sacrifice against Paulsen, who then took an hour to reply.  I imagine that if Morphy buckled down and put some serious thought into each game, he could easily match the players of today.


i read the queen sac actually took 12 mins which was followed by another saying that this was an exceptionally long amount of time for him as he normally plays instantaneously. I think morphy would destroy in blitz.


Actually, I think Morphy liked chess. However, in a lecture, he stated that it should remain as no more than a hobby. This is not the same thing and times hardly allowed one to pursue being a chess professsional. Anyway, I imagine that once he ran out of competition it got less interesting for him. Just imagine if the only competition you found was 300 points weaker (assuming real ratings OTB).


Paul Morphy is to chess as Michael Jordan is to basketball


It's not just the opening theory which has developed since Morphy's time, it's the whole strategic approach to chess. Ideas such as exchange sacrifices, the dynamic potential of backward pawns, knights on the edge playing a useful role on the rim, etc, have been explored and expanded in great detail (Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy). I tend to think that if Morphy had to play Kasparov or Anand from the starting position he would almost certainly lose, but if he was placed into the middle of a game in an open tactical position he might well win.

Morphy against Tal would be interesting though!


Morphy was without a doubt a great player, but let's not forget that his most memorable games where against coffe house players, and nothing more. Todays GM's doesn't only have "theory" (as if that's a bid thing that doesnt work in "real" chess games somehow), they have a deeper understanding of the game aswell. Alot have changed since Morphys time, and if you look through all of his games, not just his wins, you find some really embarrasing games.

Have no doubt,Morphy was an exceptionall, but he wouldn't stand a chance against the huge names today.

On another note, this one is funny, cause this questions is raised now and then in every sport, would Jack Dempsey stand a chance today, would Muhammed Ali still be the greatest. Would insert random name of any fotball player, tennis player, or whatever sport you like and ask again. This even commes up in power lifting etc.

The fact of the matter is, almost all sports have changed so much the last 100 years, that a great one 100 years ago, probably wouldn't make it up to the best 100, no matter hos they outplayed their opponents of the time.

Btw Tonydal, wasn't it that Reshevsky got a family that forced him to take up a full time job that hindered him, not lack of love for the game? He didn't have the luxury of playing it as a proffesion, which ofcourse hampered his growth some. And he really should have done some opening theory so he could stop getting in time trouble by move 15. But I might misstake him for Fine now, I'm not sure.


I think it is a question of chess capacity.  Morphy's chess capacity (amount of information he could store in his brain - memory, with the natural attacking ability plus his amazing understanding of the endgame).

This has been spoken of before, but all things being equal (which is what I assume fischer was suggesting)...he would dominate in any generation the same as he did in his own.


Morphy would crush all oposition today!