Biography of Chess Player Paul Charles Morphy Part 4

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

INCREDIBLE FOOTNOTE ATHLETES

Wizard of Chess

Samuel Standidge Boden, whom Morphy considered the best of the English masters, remarked loudly in the Divan "with a Mephis-tophelian sneer" that Morphy would soon find his match. Morphy did get two games with Thomas Wilson Barnes in the Divan. These games with Barnes are staggering. Barnes was at the top of his form, playing much like Morphy himself. There are discrepancies in the record, but the experts do agree that Barnes won at least 6 games, at most 8, of the 26 played, sometimes beating the American almost as overwhelmingly as Morphy had won over his New York antagonists. The sequence of their games is not clear, but it seems Morphy won the first, lost the second in a whirlwind attack, then began to understand Barnes, and won the last 10 or 12 without a break. Barnes had the best record of any opponent against Morphy.

Morphy had learned something. He no longer won all his games in a few moves. It had been demonstrated that he could be beaten. A match was arranged with his old friend, Lowenthal, who had become a British subject. The first game was drawn, Morphy won the next 3, Lowenthal the next, until Morphy had won 9 games to Lowenthal's 3. Against Boden, there were 4 drawn games, Boden won 1, and Morphy won 6.

His quarrel with Staunton had reached the stage of a national scandal. Staunton was the best known of writers on chess. The Staunton chess set, now the standard design used every-where, was named for him, But he had virtually given up chess and had become a pioneer in Shakespearean research and an outstanding Shakespearean critic. The sudden appearance of a young and mysterious genius like Morphy baffled and dismayed him. He asked for time to get his game into shape, postponed the match because of his literary labors, and then became insulting. Finally, Lord Lyttelton, the head of the British Chess Association, stepped in to settle the dispute. He observed owlishly, "I conceive that Mr. Staunton was quite justified in declining the match," but he thought Staunton should have said so before Morphy came to England. And Lyttelton praised Morphy's conduct and character.

Morphy and Edge left for Paris in triumph. Morphy had become a world celebrity, and chess had become fashionable. The Duke of Brunswick attended his games and was pleased with his company at the opera; Prince Galitzin of Russia appeared at his room at the Hotel de Breteuil late one night, saying that he had heard of Morphy on the frontiers of Siberia. Morphy's bust was carved by a famous sculptor, and various beauties, identified only as the Duchesse de T. and the Baronne de L., made him welcome. (It was said that he was too gallant ever to win a game from a woman chess player.)

Early in December Morphy became dangerously ill. The nature of the illness is not known. although the greatest Morphy authority says it may have been influenza. By the second week of the month, he was unable to sit up. At this point, on Dec. 14, Adolph Anderssen, great chess master and professor of mathematics at the University of Breslau, arrived in Paris to take up a previous challenge by Morphy.

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