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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Morphy Miniature

Judge A.B. Meek
      Morphy’s opponent in this game was Alexander B. Meek (July 17, 1814 (Columbia, South Carolina) – November 30, 1865 (Columbus, Mississippi) a politician, lawyer, chess player, writer and poet who served as Alabama’s Attorney General in 1836.
       His ancestors on both sides were of Irish descent, and those on his father's side came from County Antrim, Ireland.  Meek graduated from the University of Alabama, A. B., 1833, and A. M., 1836, and received the honorary degree of A. M. from the University of Georgia, 1844.
       When the troubles with the Creek Indians occurred in 1836, he volunteered as ensign in the U. S. Army. During that same year, he was appointed attorney general of the state by Gov. Clement C. Clay to fill a vacancy, and held that position until the following winter.
       He was editor of the Flag of the Union, at Tuscaloosa, 1835-1839, and of the Southron, a literary magazine, 1839-1842. In 1842, Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick appointed him judge of the probate court at Tuscaloosa, and he held that position until 1845. During the latter year he was appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury by President James Polk, and became legal advisor of that department. After holding the office about two years, he retired with the commission of federal attorney for the southern district of the state, and was retained in that position until the close of Polk's term. He was associate editor of the Mobile Daily Register, 1851-1858; represented Mobile in the Alabama House of Representatives, 1853-1855, and as chairman of the committee on education, secured the establishment of a system of free public schools in the state.
       In 1854, he was appointed judge of the probate court of Mobile by Governor John A. Winston, and held that office until May, 1855; was elector on the James Buchanan ticket, 1856; and a representative in the state legislature and Speaker of the House, 1859-1861. He was a trustee of the University of Alabama, 1862-1864. He was author of The Red Eagle, 1855, Songs and Poetry of the South, 1856, Romantic Passages in Southwestern History, 1857; and an unfinished "History of Alabama"; and prepared a supplement to Aiken's Digest of Alabama, in 1842.
       Married: (1) in 1856, to Mrs. Emma Donaldson Slatter, of Mobile, the widow of Hope Hull Slatter; (2) in 1864, to Mrs. Eliza Jane Cannon, of Columbus, Miss., the widow of William R. Cannon, who was for a long time president of the Mississippi Senate. He had no children. Last residence: Columbus, Miss.
       In this game Meek plays a type of move frequently seen in games by amateur players who like to play sacrifices without regard to whether they are totally sound or not.  GM Ludek Pachman used this game in Modern Chess Strategy as an illustration of the dangers of trying to disturb the balance by means of a sudden attack when the opponent has not made any obvious errors.  He wrote that this wrong and so White’s sudden aggression was bound to achieve nothing. 
       This is not the view of modern players who will sometimes violate general principles if they feel they have some compensation.  This game also shows the necessity of relying on concrete calculation of variations rather than general principles.  As you will see, although Black does obtain a slight edge, Meek’s position was actually quite playable until his blunder at move 13.  We also see Morphy missing the best continuation on two different occasions and offering his opponent the chance to regain near equality. The game illustrates what often happens in annotated games…they are annotated by result when it is assumed the winner was in complete control and had it all figured out.  Of course these days all of us with an engine can be a critic, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the games.

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