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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paulsen vs. Morphy

Who studies Paul Morphy’s games anymore?  Why would you want to?   Morphy appeared out of nowhere, dominated the chess community for a moment then disappeared.  A lot of players think Morphy was the best player ever but I wonder how many of them have actually played over a lot of his games.

If you look at Morphy’s serious games it is apparent that he was the first modern player. Most people’s initial impression is that all Morphy did was develop his pieces rapidly and had great tactical skill.  But like all champions, there was more to his skill that that. Most of his published games are flashy wins but in truth, in his day his games were generally considered conservative side compared to the old masters.

Many of his games don’t look modern.  The reason is that he did not need to play positional chess because his opponents did not understand chess as well as he did.   The result was he preferred open positions because they resulted in quick wins for him.  But a quick look at a lot of his games also showed Morphy knew how to play positional chess as well as endings.

For example in 1857 in New York Morphy achieved a position similar to those arising from Hedgehog and Najdorf positions where he played ...Kh8 , ...g5 and ...Rg8. This game was an inspiration for Bobby Fischer in his game against Garcia in Havana 1966!

Morphy often took less than an hour to make all of his moves took much more...sometimes up to 8 hours.  This was in an era before time control.  Two of his opponetns, Löwenthal and Anderssen, said Morphy was hard to defeat because even if he got into a bad position, he knew how to defend.  Anderssen once said that after one bad move against Morphy one might as well resign and went on to add, "I win my games in seventy moves but Mr. Morphy wins his in twenty, but that is only natural..."

Bobby Fischer said Morphy had enormous talent and claimed Morphy had the talent to beat any player of any era if "given time to study modern theory and ideas".  Reuben Fine disagreed, stating if we examine Morphy's record and games critically, we cannot justify such extravaganza.”  British GM Raymond Keene concurred.  View Parts 2 and 3 on Youtube

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