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This is the story of the birth of modern chess – when the possibilities of chess as an art, a science and a sport all converged.
The point of convergence was a young boy from Louisiana named Paul Morphy. At a time when America was seen as a backwoods nation with little cultural history and even less intellectual impetus, at a time when chess was considered the exclusive property of a few European countries, at a time when the game was played successfully by a handful of men wizened by years, Paul Morphy, in the brief span of 19 months and with seemingly little effort, defeated conclusively every player he met.
While today few non chess players even know his name, he was one of the most famous celebrities of his time and within the hallowed halls of the chess playing community he is considered by some as the greatest chess player of all time.
But this diminutive, unassuming boy rose to fame almost out of nowhere and once he secured his place in history, he retired back into that hazy unknown, shunning the public eye, never again to play serious chess. Not only was he one of great practitioners of the game, but also one of it’s greatest enigmas. He’s been given the sobriquet, The Pride and Sorrow of Chess.
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Paul Morphy vs John Rhodes
Blindfold simul, 8b (1858) (blindfold), Birmingham ENG, Aug-27
King’s Gambit: Declined. Classical Variation (C30)
1. e4 Notes by J. Lowenthal 1… e5 2. f4 Bc5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. fe5 We consider 4 Bb5 to be also a good move at this juncture. 4… d5 The sacrifice of the Knight here is not advisable, as the variation appended will prove : 4…Nxe5 5 Nxe5 Qh4+ 6 g3 Qh4+ 7 qe2 Qxe4+ 8 d4 (Ng6+ though apparently a good move is not so; for after taking the rook the knight could not easily be liberated) Be7 9 Nf3 d6 10 Be3 Bg4 11 Nbd2 and we prefer the game of the first player. 5. ed5 Qd5 6. Nc3 Qd8 7. Ne4 Bb6 8. c3 Bg4 9. d4 Qd5 10. Nf2 Ne5 11. Qe2 It will be noticed that if White had instead played 11 dxe5, Black would have answered …Bxf2+ and so obtained a decisive advantage. 11… Bf3 12. gf3 Qf3 When Mr. Rhodes sacrificed the piece, he no doubt thought that after moving …Kf8 he could bring his queen’s rook with grat effect to e8 or he would hardly have dared to give up so much to so formidable an opponent. 13. Qe5 Kf8 14. Be2 Qc6 15. Rg1 f6 16. Qg3 g6 17. Be3 Re8 18. Kd2 Ne7 19. Bd3 Qd7 20. Ng4 Nd5 21. Rae1 Ne3 22. Re3 Qf7 23. Nf6 Re3 24. Qe3 Qa2 25. Qe8 Kg7 26. Nh5 Kh6 27. Qe3 Kh5 28. Qg5#
Materials used in research:
Paul Morphy: Pride and Sorrow of Chess by David Lawson
The Genius Of Paul Morphy by Chris Ward
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