Biography of Chess Player Paul Charles Morphy Part 3

About one of the greatest chess player Paul Charles Morphy, biography and history of the footnote figure.


Wizard of Chess

Morphy won five games from Paulsen and took first prize, $300. He also collected $3,000 in advance to write a chess column for the New York Ledger, various goblets, wreaths, and a tray on which was engraved a picture that a young photographer named Brady had taken of the match with Paulsen. Morphy's backers immediately sent a challenge to Howard Staunton. He was the most famous English player, and England was then the chess center of the world, comparable to Russia today. Morphy lingered in New York for a month, lionized and dined, and beating all comers with odds of a pawn and move. His victories were all but incredible. He played 100 games without odds during his New York stay, won 95, and lost only one tournament game, to Paulsen. He played 160 games with odds and won all but 36. When he had waited for a month and received no answer from Staunton, he returned to New Orleans.

New York chess enthusiasts were stunned by the revelation that they had the greatest chess player the world had ever seen.

Back in New Orleans after a leisurely trip down the Mississippi, Morphy found life dull. His family would not let him go to England, and he was not yet of age. His father had left an estate of $146,162.54, but Morphy did not have control of it. The New Orleans Chess Club raised a purse of $5,000 and challenged Staunton to play Morphy in New Orleans, promising him $1,000 for his expenses if he lost. Staunton replied that New Orleans was too far away.

Morphy's family, prevailed upon to let him go to England, finally gave its consent. An English tournament was being held in Birmingham in June, and Morphy planned to arrive as he had in New York, enter it, and then challenge Staunton on his own grounds, where he could not refuse. He left New Orleans hastily, caught the Arabia in New York, and arrived in Liverpool the day before his 21st birthday. But when he reached Birmingham, he found that the chess meeting had been postponed for two months.

He went on to London, where he got rooms in a hotel run by a retired German chess champion. He began to haunt the Divan, the most popular London chess club, later Simpson's but still Staunton refused to play him.

Morphy had been preceded to England by Frederick Edge, a swashbuckling newspaper-man who had made himself Morphy's private secretary and publicity man. Edge started filling the papers with communications signed "A Friend" or "An English Chess Player," accusing Staunton of outrageous duplicity and cowardice. Staunton was chess editor of the Illustrated London News. He was presently stung to publishing charges that Morphy was an adventurer without the financial backing he claimed, and hinted that he was a professional, not a gentleman.

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