Paul Morphy

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Paul Morphy
Morphy in Philadelphia, 1859
Full namePaul Charles Morphy
CountryUnited States
Born(1837-06-22)June 22, 1837
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 10, 1884(1884-07-10) (aged 47)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

Paul Charles Morphy (June 22, 1837 – July 10, 1884) was an American chess player. He is considered to have been the greatest chess master of his era and is often considered the unofficial World Chess Champion.[1] A chess prodigy, he was called "The Pride and Sorrow of Chess" because he had a brilliant chess career but retired from the game while still young.[2] Commentators agree that he was far ahead of his time as a chess player, though there is disagreement on how his play ranks compared to modern players.

Morphy was born in New Orleans to a wealthy and distinguished family. He learned to play chess by simply watching games between his father and uncle. His family soon recognized the boy's talent for the game and encouraged him to play at family gatherings, and by the age of nine he was considered to be one of the best players in the city. At just twelve years of age, Morphy defeated visiting Hungarian master Johann Löwenthal in a three-game match.

After receiving his law degree in 1857, Morphy was not yet of legal age to practice law and found himself with free time. At his uncle's urging, he accepted an invitation to play at the First American Chess Congress in New York City. After winning the tournament, which included strong players such as Alexander Meek and Louis Paulsen, Morphy was hailed as the chess champion of the United States and stayed in New York playing chess through 1857, winning the vast majority of his games. In 1858, Morphy traveled to Europe to play European Champion Howard Staunton. Morphy played almost every strong player in Europe, usually winning easily. The match with Staunton never materialized, but Morphy was acclaimed by most in Europe as the world's best player.

Returning to the United States in triumph, Morphy toured the major cities, playing chess on his way back to New Orleans. Returning to New Orleans in late 1859 at the age of 22, he retired from active chess competition to begin his law career.[3][4][5][6] Morphy never established a successful law practice and ultimately lived a life of idleness, living on his family's fortune.[7] Despite appeals from his admirers, Morphy never returned to the game, and died in 1884 from a stroke at the age of 47.


Early life[edit]

Morphy was born in New Orleans to a wealthy and distinguished family. His father, Alonzo Michael Morphy, a lawyer, served as a Louisiana state legislator, Attorney General, and a Louisiana State Supreme Court Justice. Alonzo, who held Spanish nationality, was of Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish ancestry. Morphy's mother, Louise Thérèse Félicité Thelcide Le Carpentier, was the musically talented daughter of a prominent French Creole family. Morphy grew up in an atmosphere of genteel civility and culture where chess and music were the typical highlights of a Sunday home gathering.[8]

According to his uncle, Ernest Morphy, no one formally taught Morphy how to play chess; rather, Morphy learned on his own as a young child simply from watching others play. After silently watching a lengthy game between Ernest and Alonzo, which they abandoned as drawn, young Paul surprised them by stating that Ernest should have won.[9] His father and uncle had not realized that Paul knew the moves, let alone any chess strategy. They were even more surprised when Paul proved his claim by resetting the pieces and demonstrating the win his uncle had missed.[9]

Childhood victories[edit]

After that incident Morphy's family recognized him as a precocious talent and encouraged him to play at family gatherings and local chess milieus. By the age of nine, he was considered one of the best players in New Orleans.[9] In 1846, General Winfield Scott visited the city on his way to the Mexican War and let his hosts know that he desired an evening of chess with a strong local player.[9] Chess was an infrequent pastime of Scott's, but he enjoyed the game and considered himself a formidable player. After dinner, the chess pieces were set up and Scott's opponent was brought in: diminutive, nine-year-old Morphy.[10] Scott was at first offended, thinking he was being made fun of, but he consented to play after being assured that his wishes had been scrupulously obeyed and that the boy was a "chess prodigy" who would prove his skill.[9] Morphy easily won both of their two games, the second time announcing a forced checkmate after only six moves.

In 1850, when Morphy was twelve, the strong professional Hungarian chess master Johann Löwenthal visited New Orleans.[9] Löwenthal, who had often played and defeated talented youngsters, considered the informal match a waste of time but accepted the offer as a courtesy to the well-to-do judge.

By about the twelfth move in the first game, Löwenthal realized he was up against a formidable opponent. Each time Morphy made a good move, Löwenthal's eyebrows shot up in a manner described by Ernest Morphy as "comique". Löwenthal played three games with Paul Morphy during his New Orleans stay, scoring two losses and one draw (or, according to another source, losing all three).[11]

Schooling and the First American Chess Congress[edit]


After 1850, Morphy did not play much chess for a long time.[9] Studying diligently, he graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, in 1854. He then stayed on an extra year, studying mathematics and philosophy. He was awarded an A.M. degree with the highest honors in May 1855.

He studied law at the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University) and received an L.L.B. degree on April 7, 1857. During his studies, Morphy is said to have memorized the complete Louisiana Civil Code.[12]

Not yet of legal age to begin the practice of law, Morphy found himself with free time.[9] He received an invitation to participate in the First American Chess Congress, to be held in New York from October 6 to November 10, 1857. He at first declined, but at the urging of his uncle eventually decided to play. He defeated each of his rivals, including James Thompson, Alexander Beaufort Meek, and two strong German masters, Theodor Lichtenhein and Louis Paulsen, the latter two in the semifinal and final rounds. Morphy was hailed as the chess champion of the United States, but he appeared unaffected by his sudden fame. According to the December 1857 issue of Chess Monthly, "his genial disposition, his unaffected modesty and gentlemanly courtesy have endeared him to all his acquaintances." In the fall of 1857, staying in New York, Morphy played 261 games, both regular and at odds. His overall score in regular games was 87 wins, 8 draws, and 5 losses.[13]


Morphy vs. Löwenthal, 1858
Engraving of Paul Morphy by Winslow Homer appearing in Ballou's Pictorial (1859)

Up to this time, Morphy was not well known or highly regarded in Europe. Despite his dominance of the US chess scene, the quality of his opponents was relatively low compared to Europe, where most of the best chess players lived. European opinion was that they should not have to make the journey to the United States to play a young and relatively unknown player, especially as the US had few other quality players to make such a trip worthwhile.[14]

The American Chess Association, it is reported, are about to challenge any player in Europe to contest a match with the young victor in the late passage at arms, for from $2,000 to $5,000 a side, the place of meeting being New York. If the battle-ground were to be London or Paris, there can be little doubt, we apprehend, that a European champion would be found; but the best players in Europe are not chess professionals, but have other and more serious avocations, the interests of which forbid such an expenditure of time as is required for a voyage to the United States and back again.[14]

— The Illustrated London News, December 26, 1857

Morphy returned to his home city with no further action. The New Orleans Chess Club determined that a challenge should be made directly to the European champion Howard Staunton.

Sir,—On behalf of the New Orleans Chess Club, and in compliance with the instructions of that body, we the undersigned committee, have the honor to invite you to visit our city, and there meet Mr. Paul Morphy in a chess match ...

... it was suggested that Mr. Morphy, the winner at the late Congress and the present American champion, should cross the ocean, and boldly encounter the distinguished magnates of the transatlantic chess circles; but it unfortunately happens that serious family reasons forbid Mr. Morphy, for the present, to entertain the thought of visiting Europe. It, therefore, becomes necessary to arrange, if possible, a meeting between the latter and the acknowledged European champion, in regard to whom there can be no scope for choice or hesitation—the common voice of the chess world pronounces your name ...[14]

— New Orleans Chess Club to Howard Staunton, February 4, 1858

Staunton made an official reply through The Illustrated London News stating that it was not possible for him to travel to the United States and that Morphy must come to Europe if he wished to challenge him and other European chess players.

... The terms of this cartel are distinguished by extreme courtesy, and with one notable exception, by extreme liberality also. The exception in question, however (we refer to the clause which stipulates that the combat shall take place in New Orleans!) appears to us utterly fatal to the match ...

... If Mr. Morphy—for whose skill we entertain the liveliest admiration—be desirous to win his spurs among the chess chivalry of Europe, he must take advantage of his purposed visit next year; he will then meet in this country, in France, in Germany, and in Russia, many champions whose names must be as household words to him, ready to test and do honor to his prowess.[14]

— The Illustrated London News, April 3rd, 1858
Morphy, 1859[15]

Eventually, Morphy went to Europe to play Staunton and other chess greats. Morphy made numerous attempts at setting up a match with Staunton, but none ever came through. Staunton was later criticised for avoiding a match with Morphy, although his peak as a player had been in the 1840s and he was considered past his prime by the late 1850s. Staunton is known to have been working on his edition of the complete works of Shakespeare at the time, but he also competed in a chess tournament during Morphy's visit. Staunton later blamed Morphy for the failure to have a match, suggesting among other things that Morphy lacked the funds required for match stakes—a most unlikely charge given Morphy's popularity. Morphy also remained resolutely opposed to playing chess for money, reportedly due to family pressure, although the Creole culture he was from did not have any stigma against gambling.[citation needed]

Seeking new opponents, Morphy crossed the English Channel to France. At the Café de la Régence in Paris, the center of chess in France, Morphy soundly defeated resident chess professional Daniel Harrwitz. In the same place and in an other performance of his skills, he defeated eight opponents in blindfolded simultaneous chess.[9]

In Paris, Morphy suffered from a bout of gastroenteritis. In accordance with the medical wisdom of the time, he was treated with leeches, resulting in his losing a significant amount of blood. Although too weak to stand up unaided, Morphy insisted on going ahead with a match against the visiting German master Adolf Anderssen, considered by many to be Europe's leading player. The match between Morphy and Anderssen took place between December 20, 1858, and December 28, 1858, when Morphy was still aged 21.[6] Despite his illness Morphy triumphed easily, winning seven while losing two, with two draws.[16] When asked about his defeat, Anderssen claimed to be out of practice, but also admitted that Morphy was in any event the stronger player and that he was fairly beaten. Anderssen also attested that in his opinion, Morphy was the strongest player ever to play the game, even stronger than the famous French champion La Bourdonnais.[citation needed]

Both in England and France, Morphy gave numerous simultaneous exhibitions, including displays of blindfold chess in which he regularly played and defeated eight opponents at a time. Morphy played a well-known casual game against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard at the Italian Opera House in Paris.

Hailed as World Chess Champion[edit]

Morphy in 1857, studio of Mathew Brady[17]

Still only 21 years old, Morphy was now quite famous. While in Paris, he was sitting in his hotel room one evening, chatting with his companion Frederick Edge, when they had an unexpected visitor. "I am Prince Galitzine; I wish to see Mr. Morphy," the visitor said, according to Edge. Morphy identified himself to the visitor. "No, it is not possible!" the prince exclaimed, "You are too young!" Prince Galitzine then explained that he was in the frontiers of Siberia when he had first heard of Morphy's "wonderful deeds." He explained, "One of my suite had a copy of the chess paper published in Berlin, the Schachzeitung, and ever since that time I have been wanting to see you." He then told Morphy that he must go to Saint Petersburg, Russia, because the chess club in the Imperial Palace would receive him with enthusiasm.[citation needed]

In Europe, Morphy was generally hailed as world chess champion. In Paris, at a banquet held in his honor on April 4, 1859, a laurel wreath was placed over the head of a bust of Morphy, carved by the sculptor Eugène-Louis Lequesne. Morphy was declared by the assembly "the best chess player that ever lived."[18] At a similar gathering in London, where he returned in the spring of 1859, Morphy was again proclaimed "the Champion of the World". He was also invited to a private audience with Queen Victoria. So dominant was Morphy that even masters could not seriously challenge him in play without some kind of handicap. At a simultaneous match against five masters, Morphy won two games against Jules Arnous de Rivière and Henry Edward Bird, drew two games with Samuel Boden and Johann Jacob Löwenthal, and lost one to Thomas Wilson Barnes.[19][page needed]

Upon his return to America, the accolades continued as Morphy toured the major cities on his way home. At the University of the City of New York, on May 29, 1859, John Van Buren, son of President Martin Van Buren, ended a testimonial presentation by proclaiming, "Paul Morphy, Chess Champion of the World". In Boston, at a banquet attended by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Louis Agassiz, Boston mayor Frederic W. Lincoln Jr., and Harvard president James Walker, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes toasted "Paul Morphy, the World Chess Champion". Morphy's celebrity drew manufacturers who sought his endorsements, newspapers asked him to write chess columns, and a baseball club was named after him.[citation needed]

Abandonment of chess[edit]

Having vanquished virtually all serious opposition, Morphy reportedly declared that he would play no more matches without giving odds of pawn and move.[20] After returning home in late 1859, he retired from active chess competition.[21][22][5][6] Morphy's embryonic law career was disrupted in 1861 by the outbreak of the American Civil War. His brother Edward had at the very start joined the army of the Confederacy, whereas his mother and sisters emigrated to Paris.[23] Morphy's Civil War service is a rather gray area. David Lawson states "it may be that he was on Beauregard's staff (Confederate Army) for a short while and that he had been seen at Manassas as had been reported" (Pride and Sorrow, pp. 268–9). Lawson also recounts a story by a resident of Richmond in 1861 who describes Morphy as then being "an officer on Beauregard's staff." Other sources indicate that general Pierre Beauregard considered Morphy unqualified, but that Morphy had indeed applied to him.[24] During the war he lived partly in New Orleans and partly abroad, spending time in Havana (1862, 1864)[25] and Paris (1863).[26]

Morphy was unable to successfully build a law practice after the war ended in 1865.[27] His attempts to open a law office failed; when he had visitors, they invariably wanted to talk about chess, not their legal affairs.[28] Financially secure thanks to his family's fortune, Morphy essentially spent the rest of his life in idleness. Asked by admirers to return to chess competition, he refused. He did attend the New York Tournament of 1883[citation needed] and met world champion Wilhelm Steinitz (who had tried unsuccessfully to get Morphy to agree to a match in the 1860s) in New Orleans, but declined to discuss chess with him.[29]

In accord with the prevailing sentiment of the time, Morphy esteemed chess only as an amateur activity, considering the game unworthy of pursuit as a serious occupation.[30] Chess professionals were viewed in the same light as professional gamblers. It was not until decades later that the age of the professional chess player arrived.[31]

Some authors claim Morphy "arranged women's shoes into a semi-circle around his bed,"[32] and that he died in his bath "surrounded by women's shoes".[33] Edward Winter contends that this is not chess history but merely "lurid figments" stemming from a booklet written by Morphy's niece, Regina Morphy-Voitier.[34] She wrote:

Now we come to the room which Paul Morphy occupied, and which was separated from his mother's by a narrow hall. Morphy's room was always kept in perfect order, for he was very particular and neat, yet this room had a peculiar aspect and at once struck the visitor as such, for Morphy had a dozen or more pairs of shoes of all kinds which he insisted in keeping arranged in a semi-circle in the middle of the room, explaining with his sarcastic smile that in this way, he could at once lay his hands on the particular pair he desired to wear. In a huge porte-manteau he kept all his clothes which were at all times neatly pressed and creased.

Because they were his own shoes, it is concluded that these "seedy anecdotes" (as Winter puts it) are untrue.

Morphy lapsed into a state of delusion and paranoia; he believed that he was being persecuted by his brother-in-law. His best friend Charles Maurian noted in many letters that Morphy was “deranged” and “not right mentally.” In 1882, his mother, brother and a friend tried to admit him to a Catholic sanitarium, but Morphy was so well able to argue for his rights and sanity that they sent him away.[35]


Morphy's crypt in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1
Morphy's gravestone

On the afternoon of July 10, 1884, Morphy was found dead in his bathtub in New Orleans at the age of 47. According to the autopsy, Morphy had suffered a stroke brought on by entering cold water after a long walk in the midday heat.[36] A lifelong Catholic, Paul Morphy was buried in the family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans, Louisiana.[37] The Morphy mansion, sold by the family in 1891, later became the site of the restaurant Brennan's.

Playing style[edit]

Morphy is chiefly remembered as a leading exponent of the Romantic school of chess, which focused on 1.e4 openings and dashing tactical and offensive play where opponents were often checkmated in under 30 moves. Morphy favored the usual chess openings of the day, particularly the King's Gambit and Giuoco Piano (when playing as White) and the Dutch Defense (when playing as Black). The Morphy Defense of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6) is named after him and remains the most popular variant of that opening, although he seldom used the Ruy Lopez when playing the white pieces. Morphy could play positional chess when required to do so; however, he was not enamored of it, and his closed games, while competently played, exhibit none of the imagination of his open games. He was openly critical of the Sicilian Defense and 1.d4 openings for leading to dull games,[citation needed] and the only known instance where he used a Sicilian Defense was a game against Löwenthal in 1858.[38] During his tour of Europe, he included a stipulation that all matches must feature 1.e4 e5 openings in at least half the games.[citation needed]

Morphy can be considered the first modern player.[39] Some of his games do not look modern because he did not need the sort of slow positional systems that modern grandmasters use, or that Staunton, Paulsen, and later Wilhelm Steinitz developed. His opponents had not yet mastered the open game, so he regularly played it against them; he preferred open positions because they brought quick success. He played open games almost to perfection but could handle any sort of position, having a complete grasp of chess years ahead of his time. Morphy was a player who intuitively knew what was best, and in this regard he has been likened to José Capablanca, who was also a child prodigy. Morphy played quickly; in an era before time control was used, he often took less than an hour to make all of his moves, while his opponents would need perhaps eight hours or more. Löwenthal and Anderssen both later remarked that he was very hard to beat, since he knew how to defend well and would draw or even win games despite getting into bad positions. At the same time, he was deadly when given a promising position. Anderssen especially commented on this, saying that, after one bad move against Morphy, one might as well resign. "I win my games in seventy moves but Mr. Morphy wins his in twenty, but that is only natural ..." Anderssen said, explaining his poor results against Morphy.[citation needed]

Of Morphy's 59 "serious" games—those played in matches and the 1857 New York tournament—he won 42, drew 9, and lost 8.[40]


Garry Kasparov held that Morphy's historical merit is realizing the relevance of 1) the fast development of the pieces, 2) domination of the center, and 3) opening lines, a quarter-century before Wilhelm Steinitz had formulated those principles. Kasparov maintained that Morphy can be considered both the "forefather of modern chess" and "the first swallow – the prototype of the strong 20th-century grandmaster".[39]

Bobby Fischer ranked Morphy among the ten greatest chess players of all time,[41] and described him as "perhaps the most accurate player who ever lived."[41] He noted that "Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent",[42] and stated that Morphy had the talent to beat any player of any era if given time to study modern theory and ideas.[43]

Reuben Fine disagreed with Fischer's assessment: "[Morphy's] glorifiers went on to urge that he was the most brilliant genius who had ever appeared. ... But if we examine Morphy's record and games critically, we cannot justify such extravaganza. And we are compelled to speak of it as the Morphy myth. ... He was so far ahead of his rivals that it is hard to find really outstanding examples of his skill... Even if the myth has been destroyed, Morphy remains one of the giants of chess history."[44]

Garry Kasparov,[39] Viswanathan Anand,[45] and Max Euwe argued that Morphy was far ahead of his time. In this regard, Euwe described Morphy as "a chess genius in the most complete sense of the term."[46]

Morphy is frequently mentioned in Walter Tevis's novel The Queen's Gambit and its 2020 Netflix eponymous adaptation, as the favourite player of the main character, a chess prodigy named Beth Harmon.


Here are Morphy's results in matches and casual games not played at odds:[47][48][49][50][51]

  • + games won; − games lost; = games drawn
Date Opponent Result Location Score Notes
1849−1850 Eugène Rousseau Won New Orleans c. 45/50 c. +45−5=0 casual
1849−1864 James McConnell Won New Orleans c. 8/8 +8−0=0 probably casual
1850 Johann Löwenthal Won New Orleans 2½/3 +2−0=1 casual
1855 Alexander Beaufort Meek Won Mobile, AL 6/6 +6−0=0 casual
1855 A.D. Ayers Won Mobile, AL 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1857 Alexander Beaufort Meek Won New Orleans 4/4 +4−0=0 casual
1857 James Thompson Won New York 3/3 +3−0=0 1st American Chess Congress, elim.
1857 Alexander Beaufort Meek Won New York 3/3 +3−0=0 1st American Chess Congress, q-final
1857 Theodor Lichtenhein Won New York 3½/4 +3−0=1 1st American Chess Congress, s-final
1857 Louis Paulsen Won New York 6/8 +5−1=2 1st American Chess Congress, final
1857 Louis Paulsen Won New York 3½/4 +3−0=1 casual
1857 Theodor Lichtenhein Won New York 2/3 +1−0=2 casual
1857 Alexander Beaufort Meek Won New York 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1857 Daniel Fiske Won New York 3/3 +3−0=0 casual
1857 Napoleon Marache Won New York 3/3 +3−0=0 casual
1857 Samuel Calthrop Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 Lewis Elkin Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 William James Appleton Fuller Won New York 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1857 Hiram Kennicott Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 Charles Mead Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 Hardman Montgomery Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 David Parry Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 Frederic Perrin Won New York 2/3 +1−0=2 casual
1857 Benjamin Raphael Won New York 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1857 James Thompson Won New York 5/5 +5−0=0 casual
1857 George Hammond Won New York 15/16 +15−1=0 casual
1857 John William Schulten Won New York 23/24 +23−1=0 casual
1857 Charles Henry Stanley Won New York 12/13 +12−1=0 casual
1857 Daniel Fiske, W.J.A. Fuller, Frederick Perrin Lost Hoboken, NJ 0/1 +0−1=0 casual
1858 Thomas Barnes Won London 19½/27 +19−7=1 casual
1858 Samuel Boden Won London 7½/10 +6−1=3 casual
1858 Henry Edward Bird Won London 10½/12 +10−1=1 casual
1858 Edward Löwe Won London 6/6 +6−0=0 casual
1858 Thomas Hampton Won London 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1858 George Webb Medley Won London 3/4 +3−1=0 casual
1858 John Owen Won London 4/5 +4−1=0 casual
1858 Johann Löwenthal Won London 10/14 +9−3=2 match
1858 Augustus Mongredien Won London 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1858 James Kipping Won Birmingham 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1858 Henri Baucher Won Paris 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1858 Paul Journoud Won Paris 12/12 +12−0=0 casual
1858 H. Laroche Won Paris 6/7 +5−0=2 casual
1858 M. Chamouillet Won Versailles 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1858 Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant Won Paris 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1858 Jules Arnous de Rivière, Paul Journoud Lost Paris 0/1 +0−1=0 casual
1858 Jules Arnous de Rivière Won Paris 6½/8 +6−1=1 casual
1858 Daniel Harrwitz Won Paris 5½/8 +5−2=1 match
1858 Adolf Anderssen Won Paris 8/11 +7−2=2 match
1858 Adolf Anderssen Won Paris 5/6 +5−1=0 casual
1859 Augustus Mongredien Won Paris 7½/8 +7−0=1 match
1859 Wincenty Budzyński Won Paris 7/7 +7−0=0 casual
1859 A. Bousserolles Won Paris 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1859 F. Schrufer Won Paris 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1859 Johann Löwenthal Drew London 2/4 +1−1=2 match
1859 George Hammond Won Boston 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1862 Félix Sicre Won Havana 2/2 +2−0=0 casual
1863 Augustus Mongredien Won Paris 1/1 +1−0=0 casual
1863 Jules Arnous de Rivière Won Paris 9/12 +9−3=0 match

Notable games[edit]

Morphy vs. Anderssen, 1858
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
f4 black pawn
g4 white knight
h4 white pawn
d3 white pawn
g3 black knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
h1 white rook
Position after 7...Ng3. Morphy now sacrificed his rook with 8.Bxf4.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to David Lawson, in Paul Morphy, The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, Mckay, 1976. Lawson says that Morphy was the first world champion to be so acclaimed at the time he was playing. Most chess historians, however, place the first official world chess championship in 1886, and so regard Morphy as having been the unofficial world champion when he soundly defeated Adolf Anderssen by 8 to 3 score with 2 draws. Morphy is considered the world's leading player between 1858 and 1860.
  2. ^ Sunnucks, p. 310
  3. ^ Kurtz, Michael L. (1993). "Paul Morphy: Louisiana's Chess Champion". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 43 (2): 175–199. JSTOR 4233011. (...) in 1858 and 1859, returning to America as the unofficial but universally acknowledged chess champion of the world. Then, just as suddenly, Morphy retired from active chess competition
  4. ^ Gobet, Fernand (2018). The Psychology of Chess. Routledge. p. [1]. After his return to Louisiana in 1859 at the age of 22, he totally stopped playing chess.
  5. ^ a b "Fischer's Top 10". Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. As is well known, Morphy gave up the game in 1859. Alt URL
  6. ^ a b c "Paul Morphy Timeline".
  7. ^ Kurtz, Michael L. (1993). "Paul Morphy: Louisiana's Chess Champion". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 43 (2): 175–199. JSTOR 4233011. (...) Then, just as suddenly, Morphy retired from active chess competition, spending the remainding of his life futifuly trying to establish a law practice in New Orleans
  8. ^ "Paul Morphy". October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Abbott, Karen (December 12, 2011). "A Chess Champion's Dominance—and Madness". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  10. ^ "Winfield Scott loses a match". March 26, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  11. ^ One of the games was incorrectly given as a draw in Sergeant's Morphy's Games of Chess (1957) and was subsequently copied by sources since then. David Lawson's biography (1976) corrects this error, providing the moves that were actually played. Geza Maroczy's biography (1909) also gives one of the games as a draw.
  12. ^ Edward Winter, Memory Feats of Chess Masters, Chess Notes 2764 & 2886
  13. ^ Garry Kasparov (2003). "Alexander the Fourth, Invincible". My Great Predecessors. Part 1. Everyman Chess. p. 36 (Polish edition). ISBN 1-85744-330-6.
  14. ^ a b c d Edge, Frederick (1859). The exploits and triumphs, in Europe, of Paul Morphy, the chess champion. D. Appleton & Company. pp. 6–22.
  15. ^ Reichhelm, Gustavus C.; Shipley, Walter Penn, eds. (1898). Chess in Philadelphia. Billstein & Son. Frontispiece.
  16. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Morphy, Paul Charles" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 869.
  17. ^ Fischer, Johannes (October 18, 2017). "50 games you should know: Morphy vs. Duke of Brunswick, Count Isouard". ChessBase. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  18. ^ "Paul Morphy Crowned". The Daily True Delta. Vol. XIX, no. 137. April 26, 1859. p. 4.
  19. ^ Géza Maróczy, Paul Morphy. Sammlung der von ihm gespielten Partien mit ausführlichen Erläuterungen, Veit und Comp., Leipzig 1909. Reprinted by Olms-Verlag, Zürich 1979.[page needed]
  20. ^ In a match between two evenly matched Masters, a pawn advantage is considered a winning advantage.
  21. ^ Kurtz, Michael L. (1993). "Paul Morphy: Louisiana's Chess Champion". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 43 (2): 175. (...) in 1858 and 1859, returning to America as the unofficial but universally acknowledged chess champion of the world. Then, just as suddenly, Morphy retired from active chess competition
  22. ^ Gobet, Fernand (2018). The Psychology of Chess. Routledge. p. [2]. After his return to Louisiana in 1859 at the age of 22, he totally stopped playing chess.
  23. ^ Thomas Eichorn, Karsten Müller and Rainier Knaak, Paul Morphy: Genius and Myth, 2003 ChessBase Gmbh, Hamburg, Germany
  24. ^ Taylor Kingston, Morphy: More or Less?
  25. ^ Andrés Clemente Vázquez, La odisea de Pablo Morphy en La Habana, La Propaganda Literaria, Habana 1893.
  26. ^ Jakov Neistadt, Shakhmaty do Steinitza, p. 184, Fizkultura i sport, Moskwa 1961 (Russian edition).
  27. ^ Kurtz, Michael L. (1993). "Paul Morphy: Louisiana's Chess Champion". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 43 (2): 175. (...) Then, just as suddenly, Morphy retired from active chess competition, spending the remainder of his life futilely trying to establish a law practice in New Orleans.
  28. ^ Sergeant 1957, p. 25.
  29. ^ Landsberger, Kurt (2002). The Steinitz Papers. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 39. ISBN 0-7864-1193-7.
  30. ^ Sergeant 1957, pp. 23, 29.
  31. ^ Even as their reputation improved, however, chess professionals found it extremely difficult (as they do today) to support themselves by chess alone.
  32. ^ Alex Dunne, 2010 Chess Oddities (Davenport, 2003), p. 144; Reuben Fine, The Psychology of the Chess Player, page 38; and Brad Darrach, In Time (February 17, 1975)
  33. ^ As referenced in Idle Passion, page 16 (New York, 1974).
  34. ^ Edward Winter, Life of Paul Morphy in the Vieux Carré of New-Orleans and Abroad (1926), p. 38
  35. ^ Neurology, psychiatry and the chess game: a narrative review
  36. ^ Obituary in the Times Democrat 1884
  37. ^ Louisiana Digital Library (December 13, 2020). "Tomb of Paul Morphy in St. Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans Louisiana in the 1930s". Louisiana Works Progress Administration of Louisiana. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
  38. ^ "Johann Jacob Loewenthal vs Paul Morphy (1858)".
  39. ^ a b c Kasparov, Garry (2003). My Great Predecessors, Part I. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-330-1.
  40. ^ Krabbé, Tim. "The full Morphy".
  41. ^ a b "Fischer's Top 10". Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Alt URL
  42. ^ "Speaking about Fischer..." November 4, 2006.
  43. ^ Jeremy Silman's Chess Page has comments from Fischer on Morphy
  44. ^ Reuben Fine, The World's Great Chess Games (New York, New York: Dover, 1983; reprint of 1976 edition), page 22-23.
  45. ^ "The Grandmaster on his ten greatest chess players". Archived from the original on November 20, 2003.
  46. ^ Beim, Valeri (2005). Russell Enterprises, Inc. Russell Enterprises, Inc. p. [3]. Morphy is commonly called the greatest chess genius of all time... If the distinguishing characteristic of genius is that it goes far ahead of the rest of its epoch, then Morphy was a chess genius in the most complete sense of the term
  47. ^ "Edo Ratings, Morphy, P.C."
  48. ^ Jeremy Spinrad, Collected results 1836–1863
  49. ^ C. Sericano, I grandi matches 1850–1864
  50. ^ Rogerio Caparrós, Paul Morphy, Partidas Completas, Madrid (1993)
  51. ^ "". pp. James McConnell. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  52. ^ "Louis Paulsen vs. Paul Morphy, New York 1857".
  53. ^ "Paul Morphy vs. Adolf Anderssen, casual game 1858".


  • Paul Morphy, The Pride and Sorrow of Chess by David Lawson, 424 pages; Mckay, 1976 – The only book-length biography of Paul Morphy in English, it corrects numerous historical errors that have cropped up, including Morphy's score as a child versus Löwenthal.
  • Sunnucks, Anne (1970). The Encyclopaedia of Chess. St. Martins Press. ISBN 978-0-7091-4697-1.
  • Frederick Milne Edge, Paul Morphy, the Chess Champion. An Account of His Career in America and Europe, New York 1859. Edge was a newspaperman who attached himself to Morphy during his stay in England and France, accompanying Morphy everywhere, and even acting at times as his unofficial butler and servant. Thanks to Edge, much is known about Morphy that would be unknown otherwise, and many games Morphy played were recorded only thanks to Edge. Contains information about the First American Chess Congress, and the history of English chess clubs in and before Morphy's time.

Further reading[edit]

  • Paul Morphy and the Evolution of Chess Theory by Macon Shibut, Caissa Editions 1993 ISBN 0-939433-16-8. Over 415 games comprising almost all known Morphy games. Chapters on Morphy's place in the development of chess theory, and reprinted articles about Morphy by Steinitz, Alekhine, and others.
  • The Chess Genius of Paul Morphy by Max Lange (translated from the original German into English by Ernst Falkbeer), 1860. Reprinted by Moravian Chess under the title, "Paul Morphy, a Sketch from the Chess World." An excellent resource for the European view of Morphy as well as for its biographical information. The English edition was reviewed in Chess Player's Chronicle, 1859.
  • Paul Morphy. Sammlung der von ihm gespielten Partien mit ausführlichen Erläuterungen by Géza Maróczy, Veit und Comp., Leipzig 1909. Reprinted by Olms-Verlag, Zürich 1979.
  • Grandmasters of Chess by Harold Schonberg, Lippincott, 1973. ISBN 0-397-01004-4.
  • World Chess Champions by Edward Winter, editor, 1981. ISBN 0-08-024094-1. Leading chess historians include Morphy as a de facto world champion, although he never claimed the title.
  • Morphy's Games of Chess by J Lowenthal, LONDON, 1893, George Bell & Sons. Probably reprint from c1860, features a short memoir, 1 page intro from Morphy with analytical notes from Löwenthal, including blindfold and handicap games.
  • Morphy's Games of Chess by Philip W. Sergeant & Fred Reinfeld, Dover, 1989. ISBN 0-486-20386-7. Features annotations collected from previous commentators, as well as additions by Sergeant. Has all of Morphy's match, tournament, and exhibition games, and most of his casual and odds games. Short biography included.
  • Morphy Gleanings by Philip W. Sergeant, David McKay, 1932. Contributes games not found in Sergeant's earlier work, "Morphy's Games of Chess" and features greater biographical information as well as documentation into the Morphy–Paulsen and the Morphy–Kolisch affairs. Later reprinted as "The Unknown Morphy", Dover, 1973. ISBN 0-486-22952-1.
  • The World's Great Chess Games by Reuben Fine, Dover, 1983. ISBN 0-486-24512-8.
  • A First Book of Morphy by Frisco Del Rosario, Trafford, 2004. ISBN 1-4120-3906-1. Illustrates the teachings of Cecil Purdy and Reuben Fine with 65 annotated games played by the American champion. Algebraic notation.
  • Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective by Valeri Beim, Russell Enterprises, Inc., 2005. ISBN 1-888690-26-7. Algebraic notation.
  • Life of Paul Morphy in the Vieux Carré of New-Orleans and Abroad by Regina Morphy-Voitier, 1926. Regina Morphy-Voitier, the niece of Paul Morphy, self-published this pamphlet in New York.
  • The Chess Players by Frances Parkinson Keyes, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy; 1960. A work of historical fiction in which Morphy is the central character.
  • Paul Morphy: Confederate Spy, by Stan Vaughan, Three Towers Press, 2010. A work of historical fiction in which Morphy is the central character.
  • "Paul Morphy A Historical Character" . Chess Player's Chronicle. Third Series: 40. 1860.
  • Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess by David Lawson, David McKay, 1976. ISBN 978-0-679-13044-4.
  • The Genius of Paul Morphy by Chris Ward, Cadogan Books, 1997. ISBN 978-1-85744-137-6.

biographical novelization of Morphy's life.

  • La odisea de Pablo Morphy en la Habana, 1862–1864 by Andrés Clemente Vázquez, Propaganda Literaria, Havana 1893.
  • Paul Morphy. Partidas completas by Rogelio Caparrós, Ediciones Eseuve, Madrid 1993. ISBN 84-87301-88-6.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by United States Chess Champion
Succeeded by