Morphy number

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Paul Morphy

The Morphy number is a measure of how closely a chess player is connected to Paul Morphy (1837–1884) by way of playing chess games.[1]

Morphy and Löwenthal

As of October 2019, there are very few known living players with Morphy number 3. Many ordinary players have a Morphy number of 6 or more.[2]


People who played a chess game with Morphy have a Morphy number of 1. Players who did not play Morphy but played someone with a Morphy number of 1 have a Morphy number of 2. People who played someone with a Morphy number of 2 have a Morphy number of 3, et cetera.

The idea is similar to the Erdős number for mathematicians, the Bacon number for actors, and the Shusaku number, the equivalent for the board game of Go.


Taylor Kingston states that the idea of the Morphy number may have originated in a June 2000 note by Tim Krabbé, who has Morphy number 4. Krabbé wrote "I once played an official game with Euwe, who played Tarrasch, who played Paulsen, who played Morphy."[2][3]

Morphy number of famous players[edit]

These are players who are important in making links for Morphy numbers.

Morphy number 1[edit]

Morphy is known to have played about 100 people, but all of the known links for players with Morphy number 2 go through the following five players.[1][4] A few years after the early lists of players were tabulated, it was discovered that Mortimer was Morphy's friend and he played casual games with him, so is MN1, so previous lists needed to be drastically revised to promote many players.[4][5] This is because Mortimer had a very long, if not particularly successful, career, including the Ostende-B 1907 tournament. This enabled many famous younger players to gain MN2. These include Mieses, Tartakower, Znosko-Borovsky, and Bernstein, who played beyond WW2, enabling still younger players to become MN3. Some Irish players could go through the Rev. Dr George Salmon, who played in one of Morphy's blindfold chess simultaneous exhibitions.[6]

Morphy number 2[edit]

Everyone in this group played someone in the group above. The Australian champion Frederick Esling achieved MN2 by beating Anderssen in an offhand game[7] and another Australian champion, Julius Leigh Jacobsen (1862–1916)[8] achieved MN2 by beating Bird in a casual match +4-2=1, enabling many Australian players of the early 20th century to achieve MN3.[9] The following are some of the most important players who have achieved MN2.[1]

Morphy number 3[edit]

Most of the masters in this group played several members of the previous group. This group includes some of the most important players for making connections to later generations. Botvinnik and Reshevsky played older masters such as Lasker and Janowski, had long careers, and played many younger players.[1] Najdorf was Tartakower's pupil and they played a number of published games together, and Najdorf played blitz right into his 80s, allowing many younger players to achieve 4. Smyslov and Keres had very long careers, so much younger players achieved MN4 by playing them. Gligoric also played Tartakover,[16] allowing many Yugoslav players to achieve 4. C.J.S. Purdy played Tartakower,[17] enabling many Australian players to achieve 4. Fairhurst, who played Tartakover,[18] was many times champion of Scotland, and later moved to New Zealand, so a number of players in these countries achieved 4 by playing him.

As of May 2022, living players with Morphy number 3 are Leonard Barden, Bernard Cafferty, Franciscus Kuijpers, Christian Langeweg, Aleksandar Matanović, Friðrik Ólafsson, Oliver Penrose, and Stewart Reuben.[4][19][20]

Morphy number 4[edit]

As of 2013 many of these players are still alive; a few (such as Anand and Short) are still active.[1]

Morphy number 5[edit]

As of 2013, many of the top grandmasters were thought to be in this group (along with a large number of lower-rated players).[1] However, several players initially thought to be in this group were actually MN4s;[44] for instance, based on playing Smyslov, who played Tartakower and Bernstein.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Your Morphy Number is Up, Taylor Kingston, The Chess Cafe, 2005
  2. ^ a b Playing the Morphy Number Game, Tim Harding, The Chess Cafe, 2010
  3. ^ Tim Krabbé - see item #67
  4. ^ a b c d Frederick Rhine, Fun with Morphy Numbers
  5. ^ Taylor Kingston, Morphy numbers revisited: the Mortimer effect,, 1 Oct 2014.
  6. ^ Paul Morphy vs George Salmon, Blindfold simul, 8b (1858) (blindfold), Birmingham ENG, Aug-27
  7. ^ Frederick Karl Esling vs Adolf Anderssen, Casual game (1878), Frankfurt
  8. ^ page on Julius Leigh Jacobsen
  9. ^ Hans Renette, H.E. Bird: A Chess Biography with 1,198 Games, p. 245, McFarland, 2016.
  10. ^ Played James Mortimer in the City of London Championship of 1910/11.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Played James Mortimer at Ostend, 1907.
  12. ^ "James Mortimer vs Frank Marshall (1900)".
  13. ^ Played James Mortimer in several City of London Championships from 1906 to 1910.
  14. ^ "James Mortimer vs Savielly Tartakower (1907)".
  15. ^ Mortimer played Sir George Thomas in the Canterbury 1903 and Brighton 1904 tournaments. Gino de Felice, Chess Results, 1901-1920, McFarland & Co., 2006, pp. 26, 37.
  16. ^ Svetozar Gligoric vs Savielly Tartakower, Budapest 1948
  17. ^ Cecil John Seddon Purdy vs Savielly Tartakower, Australia versus France Radio Match, 1946
  18. ^ Fairhurst v Tatakower games
  19. ^ Barden's comments to Tim Harding, Playing the Morphy Number Game Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine,, 2010.
  20. ^ Edward Winter, Chess Note 6614, June 11, 2010. Retrieved on September 15, 2010.
  21. ^ JM Aitken beat Savielly Tartakower at Southsea in 1949
  22. ^ "Emanuel Lasker vs Fedor Parfenovich Bohatirchuk (1925)".
  23. ^ "Groningen (1946)".
  24. ^ a b Defeated Edward Guthlac Sergeant in the 1960 British Championship
  25. ^ Jan Hein Donner vs Savielly Tartakower, Amsterdam (1950), Amsterdam NED, rd 15, Nov-30
  26. ^ "Groningen (1946)".
  27. ^ Čeněk Kottnauer played Tartakower at the Staunton Memorial Tournament, Groningen 1946.
  28. ^ a b Played Ossip Bernstein at the 1961 IBM Amsterdam tournament.
  29. ^ Boyd, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years. Princeton University Press, 1990, p. 259.
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Cecil Purdy vs Savielly Tartakower (1946)".
  32. ^ "Groningen (1946)".
  33. ^ "Groningen (1946)".
  34. ^ Eugene Aleksandrovich Znosko-Borovsky vs Wolfgang Unzicker, Lucerne (1949), SUI
  35. ^ Robert Wade played Savielly Tartakower twice, in 1951 (Staunton Memorial) and 1953 (Hastings). He also defeated Ossip Bernstein at the IBM Amsterdam tournament in 1961.
  36. ^ Played Eugene Znosko-Borovsky at Baam in 1947.
  37. ^ "Wade, Robert G - Adams, Michael 2008 , 6th Staunton Memorial , London ENG".
  38. ^ Bent Larsen vs Viswanathan Anand, Tournoi de Generations (1989), Cannes FRA, rd 6,
  39. ^ William Albert Fairhurst vs Lev Isaakovich Aptekar, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976
  40. ^ Bloom, Harold. The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020.
  41. ^ Walter Shawn Browne vs Paul Keres, Vancouver, 1975
  42. ^ William Albert Fairhurst vs Murray Chandler, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976
  43. ^ Maia Chiburdanidze vs Samuel Reshevsky, Vilnius (1978), Vilnius LTU, rd 4
  44. ^ a b c Morphy Numbers Revisited: The Mortimer Effect, by Taylor Kingston
  45. ^ Arthur Bisguier vs Benjamin Finegold, World Open (2000), Philadelphia, PA USA, rd 2, Jul-02
  46. ^ Robert Wade vs Nona Gaprindashvili, Reykjavik (1964), Reykjavik ISL, rd 9, Jan-26
  47. ^ Paul Anthony Garbett vs William Albert Fairhurst, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976
  48. ^ Florin Gheorghiu vs William Albert Fairhurst, Olympiad Qualifying Group 6 (1974), Nice FRA
  49. ^ Ewen McGowen Green vs William Albert Fairhurst, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976
  50. ^ Vasily Smyslov vs Vassily Ivanchuk, 55th USSR Championship (1988), Moscow URS, rd 9
  51. ^ Vasily Smyslov vs Gata Kamsky, New York Open (1989), New York, NY USA, rd 7
  52. ^ Vasily Smyslov vs Alexander Khalifman, 55th USSR Championship (1988), Moscow URS, rd 5
  53. ^ Vasily Smyslov vs Predrag Nikolic, 6th Vidmar Memorial (1985), Portoroz, rd 3
  54. ^ Judit Polgar vs Vasily Smyslov, Women-Veterans (1992), Aruba, rd 5
  55. ^ Vasily Smyslov vs Zoltan Ribli, October Revolution 60th Anniversary (1977), Leningrad URS, rd 15, Jul-16
  56. ^ Cecil John Seddon Purdy vs Ian Rogers, Sydney International Tournament (1979), Sydney, Australia
  57. ^ Valery Salov vs Vasily Smyslov, 55th USSR Championship (1988), Moscow URS, rd 4
  58. ^ Efim Bogoljubov vs Ortvin Sarapu, Oldenburg (1949), Oldenburg GER, rd 10, Jun-26
  59. ^ Alexey Shirov vs Vasily Smyslov, Keres Rapid Memorial (1996) (quick), Tallinn EST, rd 3
  60. ^ William Albert Fairhurst vs Vernon Albert Small, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976>
  61. ^ Peter Svidler vs Vasily Smyslov, Alekhine Memorial Open (1992), Moscow RUS, rd 4
  62. ^ William Albert Fairhurst vs Richard John Sutton, 83rd New Zealand Ch, 1976
  63. ^ "Veselin Topalov vs Arturo Pomar Salamanca (1992)".
  64. ^ Paul Keres vs John L Watson, Vancouver 1975

External links[edit]