Paul Morphy's Rating>2638


In your mind's eye, many distinctions are blurred. 


Morphy would have been the best out of them all. NO DOUBT!


What Anand said about Morphy when asked about his favourite players of all time :

"Another player from the century that I like very much is Paul Morphy. He too was an American and was caught in very similar circumstances. He just appeared from nowhere and it was only thirty or forty years later that people understood why he was so dominant. His understanding of chess at the point was at least forty years ahead of the rest of the world. For the era in which he lived the kind of chess he played was unbelievable."


Except Paul Morphy didn't come out of nowhere. He was known about, even across the ocean, since he was 12. What came out of nowhere was his nearly complete dominance of his competition. Not bad for an amateur.


Retrospective ranking is an interesting and attractive invention but the raw math it is enought to compare players of different times. There is no a scientistific tool to compare the strenght of play various great players. Who was better Morphy ,Capablanca , Fischer, Anand? Ranking doesn't answer the question.

I know Players like Capa or Morphy in their time adapted to their opponents. Morphy today would play differently .


Really, if you're going to make assertations, you should do your own research and not depend on me to suppy it.

Nevertheless, according to David Lawson (the first of several Paul Morphy games published overseas prior to the American Chess Congress):

The following game with Rousseau is the first Paul Morphy game to be published and it has become a part of chess history, Ernest Morphy sent it to Kieseritzky, together with a letter, and both were published in the January issue of La Régence as follows:

New Orleans October 31, 1849
Dear sir,
I send you herewith a game of chess played on the 28th instant between Mr. R. [Rousseau] and the young Paul Morphy, my nephew, who is only twelve.  This child has never opened a work of chess; he has learnt the game himself by following the parties played between members of his family.  In the openings he makes the right moves as if by inspiration; and it is astonishing to note the precision of his calculations in the middle and end game.  When seated before a chessboard, his face betrays no agitation even in the most critical positions; in such cases he generally whistles an air through his teeth and patiently seeks for the combination to get him out of trouble. Further, he plays three or four severe enough games every Sunday (the only day on which his father allows him to play) without showing the least fatigue.
                                             Your devoted friend
                                    Ernest Morphy


La Régence was published in France. France, as you may know, is across the ocean and Paul was 12.

"Perhaps a few old men in the New Orleans chess club were aware of him and thats about it."  apparently includes Eugene Rousseau who a few year prior was vying for the first US championship, and who was able to win only 5 out of 50 games against 11 year old Morphy between 1848-9 (one of the later losses was the above game).

As for the spread of fame after defeating Lowenthal, Lawson claimed:
"Henceforth his reputation extended beyond the circle of relatives and friends, and if, prior to this encounter, there had been doubtful Thomases who had misgivings about his genius, they certainly disappeared now.
     Such, indeed, was the confidence inspired by his victory over Löwenthal that certain gentlemen, with more enthusiasm than discretion, suggested to Judge Morphy the propriety his son to the International Chess Congress announced to take place in London in 1851."

That particular encounter wasn't heralded right away, but still, prior to the Congress, indicating (along with the invitation itself) Morphy was a well-known quantity: Lawson again: "In 1856 and 1857 the game appeared in the five following publications: in the Unites States, England, and Switzerland as it had been presented by Ernest Morphy in the New York Clipper, Staunton’s Illustrated London News, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Porter’s Spirit of the Times and the Schweizerische Schachzeitung."


After Morphy turned down the invitation to play in the first congress, Fiske wrote to Charles de Maurian the following letter, the contents of which plainly and clearly reveal Morphy's status in the American, and international, chess world:

Charles A. Maurian, New Orleans
Dear Sir:-- Mr. Michard sailed for New Orleans yesterday and will bring you the latest news in reference to the Great Congress…
The great question here, as well as throughout the entire North, is will Paul Morphy come?  In spite of the adverse belief of Mr. Michinard, we all hope that he will.  The bare announcement that he might be certainly expected would help on our subscription in this part of the Union more than all other circumstances combined.  Assure him that whether victor or loser, he would be the lion of the tournament, double the interest of the tournament and add largely to its respectability abroad.
    Let me beg you to state all these things to Mr. Morphy, and convince him that no other person has it in his power to do so much good to American Chess as he has, and that the entire community of chess players confidently expect it at his hands.
    Mr Hammond of Boston; Montgomery, Thomas, Elkin, Baldwin and Doughtery of Philadelphia; Montgomery of Georgia; Cheney of Syracuse; Calthrop of Connecticut, besides Stanley and others, of New York, will play in the tournament.  We were all much pleased with Mr. Michard’s vistit.  I only regret that I came in too late from the country to see much of him.
                                Daniel W. Fiske


You might also want to study the history of New Orleans. According to Thomas F. McIlwraith, Edward K. Muller in North America: the historical geography of a changing continent: "The Crescent City had risen by 1840 to 102,000 [population] and fifth among all American cities; it was almost precisely the size of Baltimore." (Compared to other American cities in 1840 -  Cincinatti with 46,000, Pittsburgh with 31,0000, Louisville with 21,000, St. Louis with 16,500,  Buffalo with 18,000 - twice the size of Detroit, Chicago with 30,000.)

arashi_star wrote:

K I have a theory that Paul Morphy's rating in todays standards, if he just happened to come from the grave and did about 5 rated tournaments, playing just like how he was in his prime from the 1800s his rating would be approx 2638, at least.  This is my proof...

his rating is at least 358 points higher than Eugene Rousseau 

at least 226 points higher than Louis Paulsen

at least 412 points higher than George Hammond

at least 457 points higher than John William Schutten

at least 320 points higher than Henry Edward Bird

and finally at least 257 points higher than Adolf Anderson..

and HIGHLY conservatively i estimated that this lot of masters today would have an average fide rating of todays standards of 2300, so 2300+338=2638 (338 is average amount of points he is higher than his "rivals." 

Btw i just had to post this becuase i hate it when people have no clue/proof to back up their random opinions of Morphy's rating. 

 So you are basically trying to calculate what would be Morphy's rating playing with nowadays masters using his performance against XIX centeury masters.

That just doesn't look valid. Your opinion seems as random as the ones you criticize.

What you tryied to do could perharps show what would be Morphy's rating in 1859, if they used something like the Elo rating back than. But even for this your method does not look trustfull.


I'm glad you can catch typos. Maybe you should be an editor.

The quote you Googled and, as you're quite aware, culled out from its context  first appeared in Fiske's Book of the First American Congress. The entire sentence, had you been more concerned with truth rather than whatever nonsense motivates you, is:  But few specimens of his skill had appeared in print. And notwithstanding his general high reputation, there were many, who from his youth and the small number of his published games, manifested much incredulity concerning his actual Chess strength and the probability of its standing the shock of the attack which would be made against it by the first players of America.

Which was my original contention: "What came out of nowhere was his nearly complete dominance of his competition."


You are now on my no-reply list.


Noughtylesu is making himself popular all over the place...


To notlesu

Only one game was published?  Wrong again.  His 1850 game with Lowenthal was published, both nationally and internationally in England and France, which was discussed by the readers, with one writing to Lowenthal asking if he had indeed lost to a 12 year old, prompting the rueful remark by Lowenthal about sometimes "losing to Rook players (Rook-odds players).  Your ignorance seems to be exceeded only by your arrogance.  Next time you post, do us a favor and know what you are talking about.


How sure are you about the above figures? I'm just a bit curious where in the hell did you get those. But I believe 19th century players average rating was 2250-2600. No 2700, because you can see at the caliber of their moves that they are not that accurate and they are prone to commit some grade school Chess players mistake/blunder. But anyway, nice article. We can debate all day long but who knows the real rating of those ancient players.


To notlesu

It takes a man to admit he's wrong and I noticed you can't do that.  You don't scare me in the slightest.  You are just a little boy in a man's world.


Hm yes, there seems to be two over-the-top positions here, one that he was completely unknown before the American Congress and the other that he was already very well-known. What seems likely is that there were reports and rumours about him but they were probably not widely noticed and/or fully believed by the general public. If someone wrote to a newspaper today telling stories about his 12-years nephew being a top-level chess player I doubt that he would receive much credit. Still, Staunton's reluctance to play him when he arrived to London seems to indicate that he at least had some "inside information."


I did read the posts and understood the point of contention. Okay, keep arguing about it forever if you want, I think that I have reached my conclusions.


Lol, I forgot I even made this thread.

I guess the only thing we can conclude for sure is that Morphy was much better than his rivals. Cool


Proof? That is not proof. Your arbitrary numbers mean nothing. To evaluate a persons strength, you look at the games they played, not "who is better than who" and being better than the average means nothing because of the Flynn effect, where the players get stronger every generation.


Btw i just had to post this becuase i hate it when people have no clue/proof to back up their random opinions of Morphy's rating. 

me too.


"Professor Arpad Elo assesses Morphy with a rating of 2690, sufficient in present-day terms to make him stronger than any player except the world champion and his challenger." [Play Better Chess with Leonard Barden foreword by Viktor Kornhnoi - published 1980.]

batgirl wrote:

Not to sidetrack, and I'm not a mathematician, but didn't just the opposite happen in the case of Claude Bloodgood in  prison, skyrocketing his own rating with a very tiny pool?

Claude Bloodgood is an excellent example of how a rating only tells you about the relative strength of players within the pool of players they regularly play against.  Bloodgood himself I believe had a rating before entering the prison system, but none of his opponents in prison had ever played in a USCF rated event.  Their initial ratings were calculated based on their scores against each other, and this one USCF rated opponent.  As he got stronger, his rating skyrocketed giving him the highest rating in the USCF, but because he wasn't playing any other USCF players apart from his fellow inmates, the rating had no meaning outside the prison system.

The Myanmar players are another more recent example.  Only one or two had ever played outside Myanmar, and few players from abroad ever travelled to Myanmar, so they ended up with another closed system.  They played against each other often, and the strongest players in the group found their ratings skyrocketing, but again those ratings had no meaning beyond the pool of players who were meeting each other.

When you go back in time, you get another complicating factor in that young players have a tendency to beat older players who have high ratings.  These wins stem at least in part from the declining strength of the older players, but they lead to the younger players having much higher ratings than you would expect, because the older players are no longer performing at the same level as their rating suggests.  This makes it nigh onto impossible to compare players of successive generations, let alone players seperated by several generations.

Sonas has made a real point of emphasizing that his ratings are meant to capture the relative dominance of players who met each other at a specific point in time.  The same though is true of Elo.  A rating is always just a reflection of your results against the players you meet rather than a measure of your playing strength.  One should not take a rating to be a measure of strength, but rather an indication of past performance against one's opponents whose performances are themselves also fluctuating.


why concentrate only in the opening which have been aided by computer aided and catalogue nowadays? just look at their tactics in the middle game and endgame...even kasparov and other GM are still in awe of the immortal games these old masters produced...

i check at contemporary players like reshevsky, botvinnik, others who have played form laskers,capablanca etc... and down to other very old masters now (portisch, korchnoi)and they can still perform even today...