MacMurray’s father was an alcoholic who died when he drowned after falling off a pier. His mother was a cleaning lady who lived in the slums of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Despite the odds of such a background MacMurray possessed the highest IQ ever recorded up to the early 1930s, earned a BA degree from the University of Chicago in eight and a half months, and a law degree from Columbia in one year. He was also a strong master.“Meckele” as he was generally known in New York chess circles was also an expert in languages and learned to speak Yiddish so he could frequent the Yiddish Theater. In 1935 to 1936 MacMurray completed his degrees from UC and Columbia, returned to New York and was married to his childhood girlfriend.
During the mid-1930s he played in several Manhattan chess clubs championships, always scoring well. Among his victims were Isaac Kashdan and Arnold Denker. Before leaving for Chicago to participate in the Western Chess Association Tournament Denker and MacMurray played a short warm-up match was drawn. Other well-known master who went down in defeat against MacMurray were Weaver Adams and I.A. Horowitz. In the US Open Championship of 1937 he shared third place with George Treysman and then in 1938 he scored a remarkable 10.5/11 in the Consolation Master’s section of the US Open after having narrowly missed qualifying for the finals.
In late summer in 1938, MacMurray was playing in the New York State Championship in Cazenovia when he began experiencing a worsening of nausea and stomach pains that were especially noticeable when he was laughing. At one point MacMurray was having dinner with Arnold Denker and the pain was so bad he had to leave the table and at Denker’s request, another tournament participant, long time master Dr. Joseph Platz, examined MacMurray who discovered a cancer in his stomach the size of a grapefruit. Just three months later on December 2, 1938, MacMurray died at age 24.
In this game MacMurray easily defeats veteran master Harold Morton of Providence, Rhode Island. Morton was born on January 19, 1906 and won the championship of New England many times. He won the Massachusetts Chess Championship in 1933, 1934, and 1935 and played in the 1936 US Chess Championship. On February 17, 1940, he died in a car accident in Iowa when he hit a truck. His passenger, I.A. Horowitz, survived. The two were giving simultaneous chess exhibitions throughout the country.