Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy (1837-1884) was considered the first “Great American Chess Player” decades before the emergence of Bobby Fischer. His tactical and strategical thinking was considered advanced during his time. He was cognizant of the fact that an attack would merit success only if the pieces are properly developed with enough initiative. Accurate and effective development of the pieces is the key to conduct a successful attack.  When an attack is launched prematurely, the pieces lack coordination, incoherent and incapable of employing a successful onslaught against the opponent’s king.

I think a majority, if not all chess players have seen a game of Paul Morphy. His games provide solid fundamentals on how to launch a successful attack. It stresses that each and every piece has to work in harmony with one another. If we are to dissect his games, it would seem that Morphy gives emphasis on the immediate development of pieces. He tries to ensure the existence of coordination among his pieces while waiting for the correct time to attack. Morphy’s deep understanding of the importance of establishing an accurate positional basis for an attack revolutionized how the game is played. It created that paradigm shift where chess is viewed not just a mere game but a pursuit for intellectual perfection.

As I was reading the biography of Morphy it is really sad that like Steinitz he suffered from mental disturbances.  It is said that Morphy became depressed when a girl he intended to the court said “no” and insultingly described him as nothing but a “mere chess player”.  I can understand because chess is not a spectator sport unlike basketball, football, boxing or golf. The earnings of a chess player are of course, as expected, is below what those players in said popular sports are earning.  I can understand how difficult it is to get advertising and corporate sponsors in holding a chess event. But, it is the love for the game and the unexplainable allure of chess that makes it captives to continue pushing pieces. Chess is not really a means to earn money. It is meant to be a pleasurable undertaking.

At any rate, Morphy left behind games can be utilized as effective templates in effectively annihilating an opponent.  He is a master of the open lines.  He knows how to exploit the open lines with the use of pieces that were cohesively developed for purposes of attack.   The development of cohesive and well-coordinated pieces seems to be the priority in the games of Morphy. He has the natural talent to dispose of his pieces in the most effective manner for an attack.

This is perhaps the most popular game played by Morphy and every chessplayer is familiar with.  This was played in 1858 (Paris) and known as "A Night in the Opera".  I think all chess beginners have to consider this game as to where chess fundamentals are primarily honed. Here are my comments for this game:

[Event "Paris"]
[Site "Paris"]
[Date "1858]
 [White "Paul Morphy"]
[Black "Duke Karl / Count Isouard"]
[Result "1-0"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 {As can be seen from his games, Morphy intends to
create and exploit open lines even in the early stages of the game.} 3... Bg4
4. dxe5 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 dxe5 6. Bc4 {The bishop immediately aims at the f7
square.} 6... Nf6 7. Qb3 {Morphy shifted his queen attacking both the f7 and
b7 pawns.} 7... Qe7 8. Nc3 {Why would Morphy not take the b7 pawn? It would
necessarily result to the loss the black's rook.} 8... c6 9. Bg5 b5 {The Count
expects to drive away the bishop but to his dismay, Morphy sacrificed the
knight to create more open lines for an attack.} 10. Nxb5 cxb5 11. Bxb5+ Nbd7
{Now both black's knights are pinned by the bishop.} 12. O-O-O {By castling
queenside, the rook immediately exerts pressure on the d file, concentrating
the attack on the knight at d7.} 12... Rd8 {At this point, beginners are often asked what is white's best move? And this lays the basic fundamental of 
properly employing an attack.} 13. Rxd7 {The answer is Rxd7! The pin on the knights by the bishops are so strong making the exchange sacrifice the only correct move in the existing position.} 13... Rxd7 14. Rd1 Qe6 15. Bxd7+ Nxd7 16. Qb8+ Nxb8 17. Rd8# 1-0. (Created by Caissa's Web PGN Editor).

It is said that this is only chess game that Bobby Fischer took time to annotate. And while this game was played more than 150 years ago, the in-depth study of this game is essential in understanding the foundations in effectively employing an attack in the game of chess.

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